This Jacobean tragic-comedy by Philip Massinger explores the cultural conflict between Christian Europe and Muslim North Africa experienced when the two began to travel and trade in the early modern period. The play is peopled with merchants and pirates and the somewhat convoluted plot involves conversions between both faiths, disguise, kidnap and clandestine marriage. The play is one of many of the period exploring the tantalising and sometimes threatening "other" world of other religions and cultures and as such is studied alongside more familiar plays such as Othello and The Merchant of Venice. Michael Neill explores the themes as well as the pure theatrical joy of this fast-paced play, putting it in its historical context as well as discussing how it resonates with modern audiences and readers today.
Michael Neill is a Professor at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.