Early modern, multicultural England: Literature and immigration in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England
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This dissertation challenges recent scholarship on the construction of Englishness and early modern national identity by examining the ways in which early modern writers addressed the issue of immigration from the continent into England. I emphasize literary manifestations of residual and emergent identities based on region, religion, and craft that were inclusive of immigrants but exclusive of specific sectors of English society. In chapter one I argue that as early as Mary I's reign, pageants, court interludes, and political tracts attempted to dissuade the queen from her anti-immigrant policies, and this advocacy for tolerance of diversity had its corollary in active resistance throughout England. Chapter two addresses a similar intervention on behalf of strangers, as I show that during Elizabeth I's reign, when immigration and anti-immigrant sentiment increased, writers like Thomas Dekker and Thomas Deloney wrote about not only tolerating but valuing the immigrant communities in and around London. In chapter three I assert thatWilliam Shakespeare, whose legal status and living arrangements led to close connections to London's immigrant communities, lobbied for the position of immigrants in London's moral economy in plays like Sir Thomas More and The Merry Wives of Windsor . In chapter four I analyze the marriage politics of the city comedies Englishmen for My Money and The Dutch Courtesan to show that gender undermines rather than reproduces English ethnic identity, indicating that local identities based on a shared sense of class interest, religion, craft, or neighborhood were more prevalent and important than those based on an emerging sense of national identity. Although drama plays a key role in my work, I bring plays into conversation with ballads, popular prose, libels, and legal documents to emphasize that England then as now worked through issues of multiculturalism.