Greene's Selimus (1594): A Scourge of God to the Ottomans

Fahd Mohammed Taleb Al-Olaqi


The Ottomans were represented in the imagination of Elizabethan drama. However, the Ottoman Sultans were remarkably in demand on Elizabethan stage. Robert Greene's Selimus (1594) shows a real interest in exploring and understanding the psyche of the Ottoman Sultan. The play's pattern theme of patricide explores the unnatural characteristics of the Ottoman royal family. The dramatic scenes of the murderous actions are engaging in lawless incursion upon ancient historical claims. Selimus appears as a proud ambitious tyrant, polluted with the blood of his own brothers. The fraternal conflict forms the inevitable bloodshed in transferring power to descendants in the Ottoman Empire. Greene depicts Sultan Selimus as the scourge of God to the Ottoman House. He holds some philosophy which is contrary to Elizabethan ethical and succession rules. Greene's interpretation of his conflict in the domestic scenes is a significant acknowledgement of the settled nature of Turkish sovereignty, and indeed of its complexity, at his own days.


Selimus, Ottoman Empire, Turks, tyranny, Scourge,Bajazet, Tamburlaine, Elizabethan Drama

Full Text:



Al-Olaqi, F. M. T. (2017). ''The Uxoricide Legend of the Sultan and his European Wife in Elizabethan Drama'' Arts and Social Sciences Journal Volume 8, Issue 1:pp.1-8. doi:10.4172/2151-6200.1000240.

Al-Olaqi, F. M. T. (2016). "The Courageous Ottoman in Goffe's Amurath I (1619)" Advances in Language and Literary Studies, Vol. 7 No. 6; December 2016, pp. 168-176. DOI: 10.7575/aiac.alls.v.7n.6p.168.

Al-Olaqi, Fahd M. T. (2013), "The Oriental Other: Soliman the Magnificent in Kyd’s Soliman and Perseda." TRAMES, 17(67/62), 1, pp.35–54. DOI: 10.3176/tr.2013.1.02.

Al-Olaqi, Fahd M. T. (2012), "Marlowe’s Tamburlaine (1587) and Islamic Theology." TRAMES, 2012, 16(66/61), 2, pp.177–201. DOI: 10.3176/tr.2012.2.05

Armstrong, W. A. (1946). ‘The Elizabethan Conception of the Tyrant’, The Review of English Studies, 22/87, 161-81.

Bushnell, R. W. (1990). Tragedies of Tyrants: Political Thought and Theater in the English Renaissance. Ithaca, Cornell UP.

Belgasem, F. E. A. (2013) Representations of Ottoman Sultans in Elizabethan Times, Durham theses, Durham University. Available at Durham E-Theses Online:

Bevington, D. M. (1962). From Mankind to Marlowe: Growth of Structure in the Popular Drama of Tudor England. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard UP.

Biddulph, W. (1609, 1986). The Travels of certaine Englishmen. London, Printed for Th. Haveland.

Bisaha, N. (2004). Creating East & West: renaissance humanists and the Ottoman Turks. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press.

Boas, F. S. (ed.) (1955). The Works of Thomas Kyd. Oxford, Clarendon Press.

Burian, O. (1952). "Interest of the English in Turkey as Reflected in English Literature of the Renaissance" in Oriens 5, pp. 209-229.

Chew, S. C. (1965). The Crescent and the Rose. New York, Oxford University Press.

Cirakman, A. (2001). 'From Tyranny to Despotism: The Enlightenment's Unenlightened Image of the Turks', International Journal of Middle East Studies,33,4 9-68.

Clot, A. (1992). Suleiman the Magnificent: the man, his life, his epoch. London, Saqi. (Appendix 4, 'The law of fratricide').

Collomb, R. (2006).The Rise and Fall of the Arab Empire. Gloucestershire, Spellmount.

Dollimore, J. (1984). Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and His Contemporaries. Brighton: Harvester Wheatsheaf, p. 86.

Dimmock, M. (2005). New Turkes: Dramatizing Islam and the Ottomans in Early Mod¬ern England. Ashgate, Aldershot.

El-Deen, A. A. (1984). A Critical Edition of Thomas Goffe's The Raging Tyrke, or, Baiazet the Second (1631), Unpub. Diss. West Virginia: West Virginia University.

Fletcher, G. (1597). The Policy of the Turkish Empire. London, Iohn Windet for W[illiam] S[tansby]. eBook.

Levy, F. J. (1967). Tudor Historical Thought. San Marino, Huntington Library.

Goffman, D. (2004). The Ottoman Empire and Early Modern Europe. Cambridge, UP.

Henke, R. (2008). Transnational Exchange in Early Modern Theater (eds.) Robert Henke and Eric Nicholson, Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Huntington, Samuel P. (1993). “The Clash of Civilizations?”. Foreign Affairs 72, 3, 22–49.

Hutchinson, Dennis Wheatley, (1960). The Eunuch of Stamboul. London: Arrow Books.

Inalcik, H. (1973). The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300-1600, Norman Itkowitz and Colin Imber. New York: Praeger Publications.

Jacquot, J. (1953). ‘Ralegh’s “Hellish Verses” and the “Tragicall Raigne of Selimus’, MLR, Volume XLVIII, No.l, January, pp. 1-9.

Knolles, R. (1603) Historie of the Turkes. London, printed by Adam Islip, 1603; reprinted. eBook.

Levin, R. (1984). "The Contemporary Perception of Marlowe's Tamburlaine." Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England Vol. I: pp. 51-70.

Maquerlot, J. and Willems, M. (eds.). (1996). Travel and Drama in Shakespeare's Time. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Marlowe, Ch. (1980). Jew of Malta. In Christopher Marlowe: The Complete Plays, edited with an introduction by J.B. Steane. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd.,1969; reprinted, p.341-431.

Matar, N. (1999). Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery. New York, Columbia University Press.

Oueijan, N. B. (1996). The Progress of an Image: The East in English Literature. New York, Peter Lang.

Parry, V. J. (2003). Richard Knolles’s History of the Turks, ed. Salih Özbaran. Istanbul: Economic and Social History Foundation of Turkey, pp. 92-102.

Ribner, I. (1957).The English History Play in the Age of Shakespeare. Princeton, Princeton UP.

Ribner, I. (1955). ‘Greene’s Attack on Marlowe: Some Light on Alphonsus and Selimus,'' Studies in Philology 52.

Said, E. (2003). Orientalism. London, Penguin.

Senlen, S. (2006). “Ottoman Sultans in English Drama Between 1580-1660”. A.Ü. Osmanlı Tarihi Araştırma ve Uygulama Merkezi Dergisi Sayı 19/Bahar 2006. Ankara: Ankara Üniversitesi Basımevi, 2008, pp.399-405.

Sisneros, K. S., (2010). "Fearing the "Turban'd Turk": Socio-Economic Access to Genre and the "Turks" of Early Modern English Dramasand Broadside Ballads". Dissertations & Theses, Department of English. Paper 20. p.14-5

Tibbs, S. J. (2003). Lineages of Turkish power in early modern writing in English Newcastle University.

Valensi, L. (1990) 'The Making of Political Paradigm: The Ottoman Empire and Oriental Despotism' in Grafton, Anthony M. & Blair, A. (ed.). The Transmission of Culture in Early Modern Europe. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania University Press.

Vitkus, D. J. (2000). Three Turk Plays from early Modern England. New York, Colombia University Press.

Wann, L. (1915). "The Oriental in Elizabethan Drama" in Modern Philology XII, January, pp. 163-187.

Wheatcroft, A. (1993). The Ottomans. London, Viking, Penguin Books.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2013-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

International Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies

You may require to add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list’ If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox'. Otherwise, you may check your 'Spam mail' or 'junk mail' folders.