Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Adam Rzepka

Committee Member

Lee Behlman

Committee Member

Melinda Knight


During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the religion of Islam was gaining notoriety in the western world. Islamophobic propaganda was spreading. There was a growing fear in Europe of forced conversion, and this fear was sparked by controversial new translations of the Quran. This fear inspired works of literature during that time period. One of the greatest playwrights in history to be influenced by the Islamophobic propaganda is William Shakespeare.

To understand how Islamophobia influenced Shakespeare’s plays in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, one must understand the magnitude of how controversial it was to translate the Quran from Arabic to western languages. The Quran was first translated from Arabic to Latin in 1143 as a way to convert Muslims to Christianity, with the goal of eradicating Islam. It was then retranslated again from Arabic to Latin in 1518. The Quran was then translated from Arabic to French in 1647 and then French to English in 1649. Even though Shakespeare may have been influenced only by the Latin translations of the Quran, because his plays were published on or before 1631, it is important to note these other translations because they illustrate the Islamophobic fears that westerners had during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the controversy regarding the discussion behind the publication of the translations of the Quran. This controversy magnified Islamophobia and spread throughout every European crevice. As is shown in Shakespeare’s plays, literature was not spared. Through the analysis of Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Titus Andronicus, and Othello, I argue that Islam was stigmatized during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as a religion that forced conversion, lacked morality, and promoted sexual deviancy.

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