Ambereen Dadabhoy, "Shakespeare Through Islamic Worlds" (Routledge, 2023)


Shakespeare through Islamic Worlds (Routledge, 2024) investigates the peculiar absence of Islam and Muslims from Shakespeare’s canon. While many of Shakespeare’s plays were set in the Mediterranean, a geography occupied by Muslim empires and cultures, his work eschews direct engagement with the religion and its people. This erasure is striking given the popularity of this topic in the plays of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. 

By exploring the limited ways in which Shakespeare uses Islamic and Muslim tropes and topoi, Ambereen Dadabhoy, Associate Professor of Literature at Harvey Mudd College, argues that Islam and Muslim cultures function as an alternate or shadow text in his works, ranging from his staged Mediterranean plays to his histories and comedies. By consigning the diverse cultures of the Islamic regimes that occupied and populated the early modern Mediterranean, Shakespeare constructs a Europe and Mediterranean freed from the presence of non-white, non-European, and non-Christian Others, which belied the reality of the world in which he lived. Focusing on the Muslims at the margins of Shakespeare’s works, Dadabhoy reveals that Islam and its cultures informed the plots, themes, and intellectual investments of Shakespeare’s plays. 

In our conversation we discussed Shakespeare’s worldmaking and the social and political worlds of western Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Ottoman empires, famous plays, such as The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, and Othello, the figure of the “Moor,” and the threat of turning “Turk,” the intersection of race and geography in Shakespeare’s works, disrupting Anti-Muslim racism and Islamophobia through critical reading, and Muslim adaptations of Shakespeare.

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Kristian Petersen

Kristian Petersen is an Associate Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at

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