Reflection of Africa in Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama and Poetry

Author: Mangum, Anne
Explores literary allusions to Africans against the background of 16th and early 17th century English political values, adding to scholarly knowledge of English priorities during this period of rapid colonization and participation in the slave trade. It examines the lyric poetry of Sidney, Shakespeare, Daniel, Donne, Edward Herbert, Jonson, et al. Dramas include Titus Andronicus, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Tamburlaine the Great, Dr. Faustus, Masque of Blackness, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, and Oroonoko. The conclusion examines influence on late 20th century values.


"Readers acquainted with Kim Hall's Things of Darkness will find that Mangum's book treads faIniliar ground. Her avowed purpose, "to suggest a paradigm of predominant attitudes toward the African" (1) during early modern times, has in fact received considerable study by literary scholars in recent years. Mangum draws liberally from an impressive number of such sources, firmly situating her discussion within contemporary critical discourses of race and gender ... Mangum should be lauded for her thoroughness ... Rounding out the volume are an introductory chapter providing the historical and methodological context of the work, a concise summary-style conclusion, a thorough, useful index, and a list of works consulted. Scholarly readers will undoubtedly find that this book, when considered as a whole, is largely indebted to the earlier critical and historical analyses of the literary discourses of race and gender that it rehearses. Nevertheless, this compact and often incisive work offers an excellent general introduction to the subject, and it provides an abundance of references for those who wish to pursue further study. Mangum responsibly and meticulously situates her argument within the cultural and historical context of early modern England as she explores not simply the conflation of skin color with spiritual and aesthetic beauty, but also royal imperialist, linguistic, and nationalist agendas; geographical tropes of blackness and the female body in an age of expanding exploration, colonization, and slave trading; and the binaries of black/white and male/female. By combining poetic works and dramatic works, Elizabethan texts and Jacobean texts, Mangum also provides a useful framework for considering authorial discourses of race and otherness in the context of a range of social pressures exerted by the Crown, the patron, and the coterie, public and print audiences of the day." - Sixteenth Century Journal

“This is a most valuable study of a serious and important subject. Dr. Mangum’s clear and objective analysis of material frequently clouded by rationalization is a welcome contribution toward the understanding of vexed and vexing material. The presentation of historical matter to undergird the consideration of various writers and their works is especially helpful. The author’s subject is the treatment of the black African and black itself in Elizabethan and Jacobean literature. Shakespeare in particular is shown to rise above prevailing opinion (exemplified by Elizabeth’s banishment of all “Blackamoors” from her realm) as he moves from Aaron’s unabashed evil to the nobility of Othello. There is, of course, much else of value in this book. Those who read it will be enlightened, informed, and enriched.” – George B. Hallett

Table of Contents

Table of contents:
Introduction: Early-Modern England Africa
1. The African on the Elizabethan Stage
2. Elizabethan Poetics of Blackness
3. The African on the Jacobean Stage
4. Jacobean Poetics of Blackness
5. Early-Modern Tropes of Blackness
Bibliography; Index