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Shakespeare & Beyond

What lost Turk plays can tell us about Shakespeare’s England and about ourselves

Osman II
Osman II

The study of extant early modern plays is a painstaking business that moves along a fine line of conjectural and historicist study. With the advent of the Lost Plays Database in 2009, scattered primary and secondary materials have been brought into a searchable database. Yet, shortened references, ellipses, variant titles, and possible failures in the memories of the early modern authors of these materials still make it difficult to identify and analyze lost plays. This is even more valid for lost Turk plays, the extant ones of which resulted from a multifaceted tradition of the intersections of market economy and racism.


I can’t help wondering if the lost Admiral’s Men play ‘Vayvode’ (1598) was about Vlad Dracul, or Vlad the Impaler, Voivode of Wallachia, the at-least-nominally Christian ruler who was a foe of the Ottomans in the 15th century. He is believed to have been a major inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Thomas Mann — August 4, 2021