“The fruit of a lifetime’s devotion to English and Persian literature – learned, lucid, and full of unexpected insights into the Elizabethans’ fascination with the brave new world of the orient and its impact on Shakespeare’s unique imagination.”
and the East
By Cyrus Ghani
No writer’s work has been studied
more closely or often than the plays of William Shakespeare,
that master of language and peerless explorer of the human
heart. Books about him number in the thousands, yet Shakespeare,
Persia, and the East brings a truly fresh perspective to his genius. In the three dozen plays he composed between 1590 and 1612, Shakespeare ranged far and wide in his imagination, setting some of his tales in places as varied as Denmark, Venice and Athens—while drawing on a rich array of imagery and lore from lands further east. This remarkable book by a lifelong student of Shakespeare Cyrus Ghani reveals how rich a source of inspiration those exotic Eastern realms were for the playwright.
Elizabethan England was especially fascinated
by Persia, whose deep-rooted culture was then flourishing
under the Safavid dynasty. An Englishman first visited there
in 1562, two years before Shakespeare’s birth. More
contacts between England and Persia followed, prompted by
hopes of a lucrative trading relationship and a possible
military alliance against the Ottoman Turks. A pair of English
adventurers, Anthony and Robert Sherley, spent years attempting
to establish these ties, not always scrupulously, and their
story was well known to England’s greatest dramatist.
To illuminate the creative uses Shakespeare
made of the East, this book first looks at the life of the
playwright himself, then at the dynasties that did so much
to shape England and Persia in that tumultuous age. Other
sections in the book profile key figures in the efforts to
forge a connection between the two lands, with particular
focus on the colorful Sherleys and their fatally ambitious
sponsor, the Earl of Essex—a great admirer of Shakespeare.
The final section of the book briefly describes the plays
and cites their many allusions to the East—testimony
that this literary giant was very much a man of his time.