John Mason, The Turke: A Worthie Tragedie (1610)

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This is one of a few examples of early modern female book ownership of a play. The name inscribed on the front flyleaf seems to be “Mary Willson,” and clearly an attempt was made at some point to remove the inscription. Not much is known about the playwright John Mason, who was a co-owner of Whitefriars Theater where this, his best known play, was performed by the King’s Revels Children, a boy company. It was part of a fashion for plays featuring the exotic figure of the “Turk.” While the play reproduces stereotypes of the evil and cruel Muslim, it also, Claire Jowitt has argued, provided complex reflections on Jacobean foreign policy.

Credit: Book in Boston Public Library. Images taken from Early English Playbooks, 1594-1799. Reproduced with permission.


Claire Jowitt, “Political Allegory in Late Elizabethan and Early Jacobean ‘Turk’ Plays: Lust’s Dominion and The Turke,”  Comparative Drama 36.3-4 (2002-03): 411-43.

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