White Skin, White Mask: Constructing Whiteness in Thomas Kyd's The Tragedy of Solyman and Perseda

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Criticism in early modern English drama has become increasingly attentive to how the ideologies of racial Whiteness are formed on the English stage. However, this scholarship has not yet considered how White supremacy is dramatically constructed against the male, Muslim, Ottoman, a figure who, I argue, would have been performed as phenotypically white on the English stage. By examining the racialisation of the Ottoman Soliman in Thomas Kyd's late sixteenth-century play The Tragedy of Solyman and Perseda, this article illustrates how anxieties around the Muslim character's white sameness are negotiated by fashioning the Whiteness, or fairness, of the Greek, Christian Perseda as ‘natural’, while correspondingly framing Soliman's whiteness as ‘artificial’. Kyd renders Soliman's whiteness in this way by drawing on early modern English cosmetic language, customs, and debates. By turning to the male Muslim Ottoman figure, this study extends understandings of how racial Whiteness was shaped in early modern English culture, by illustrating how White supremacy is developed out of a Muslim-Christian dichotomy and therefore in conjunction with Christian supremacy.




Moosa, H. (2023). White Skin, White Mask: Constructing Whiteness in Thomas Kyd’s The Tragedy of Solyman and Perseda. Renaissance Studies, 37(5), 665–684. https://doi.org/10.1111/rest.12890

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