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58 Pages

Introduction

William Percy’s Mahomet and His Heaven is an enigma. Its origins are uncertain, its textual history confused, its status as legitimate playtext doubted, its literary merit consistently denied. 1 Written by an apparently dissolute minor noble on the outer fringes of Oxford and London literary culture, it has proved easy to dismiss as an interesting but anomalous curiosity. As a consequence, the play remains largely unknown to all but a handful of specialists. While I hope that this edition, alongside other recent and forthcoming work, may go some way to rescue Percy and his text from an undeserved obscurity, this is not its primary purpose. From my first encounter with a microfilm copy at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford, I have been acutely conscious of the play’s importance for any consideration of early English mythologies of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, particularly as they were dramatised in the playhouse. In the wake of a recent re-evaluation of Christian/Muslim interaction that has questioned traditional assumptions about this crucial historical period, Mahomet and His Heaven can no longer be ignored. 2