Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 December 2019
This chapter focuses on dramatizations of what John Marshall identifies as the central issue of the early Enlightenment, religious toleration, also a crucial pillar of Whig ideology. Addison and Steele were both advocates of toleration, and their fellow dramatists were no less enthusiastic. I analyse John Hughes’s The Siege of Damascus (1718), a play that remained widely popular through the century, famous for its tense scene of religious testing. The play was based on the work of pioneering Arabist Simon Ockley and offers an object lesson in the way a respectful account of Arab history was put into wide circulation. Other plays that used Near Eastern settings, such as Aaron Hill’s Zara (1735) and James Thomson’s Edward and Eleonora (1739) shared Hughes’s tolerationist agenda. By contrast, I also present plays with a much more conservative perspective on religious difference, including John Brown’s Barbarossa (1754).