‘To Aleppo gone’: From the North Sea to Syria in Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale and Shakespeare’s Macbeth
Author: Birns, Nicholas
Source: Exemplaria, Volume 24, Number 4, 2012 , pp. 364-384(21)
Publisher: Maney Publishing
Abstract:Syria is a referent both in Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale, in which Custance’s first husband is the ‘Sowdan of Surrye,’ and in Macbeth, in which the witches plot to scourge the husband of one of their nemeses, who is ‘to Aleppo gone.’ Both texts treat Syria and the northern reaches of Great Britain as complementary zones, in space as well as time. Such analogous representations of geographical and temporal distance permit a plausible linkage between the Man of Law’s Tale and Macbeth, adding to the growing conversation about links between Chaucer and Shakespeare. The geographical tableau common to both authors shows that they shared an awareness of Islamic and Christian otherness. In Shakespeare’s era, this otherness was complicated by Ottoman power and its impact on the split within Christianity. The Ottoman Empire’s strength further added to the sense, already evident in Chaucer, that ideas of geographical and historical otherness stemming from Christianity’s eastern Mediterranean origins proved vexing to ideas of English and European self-conception.
Document Type: Original Article
Affiliations: Eugene Lang College, The New School, USA
Publication date: 2012-01-01