Strangers at home: The Sherley brothers and dramatic romance

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The Travels of the Three English Brothers, a collaborative play by John Day, George Wilkins, and William Rowley first performed at the Red Bull Theatre in 1607, stages the adventures of the three Sherley brothers Thomas, Anthony, and Robert, focusing in particular on Anthony's tour around Europe as the ambassador of Shah Abbas I of Persia. Anthony was seeking to bring Christendom and Persia into an alliance that would encircle the Ottoman Empire – a political programme deeply controversial in a London that enjoyed strong trade links with the Ottoman Porte.

Travels, which was commissioned by Thomas Sherley, sets out to influence public perception of the three brothers. Its defence of the Sherleys, this article argues, is fundamentally intertextual: the playwrights deliberately associate their heroes with preceding stage-heroes (often, the protagonists of plays staged at the Red Bull). Imposing generic principles on real historical narratives, Travels' playwrights shape the actions of the deeply individualistic Sherley brothers so that they resemble the undertakings of the patriotic heroes of popular dramatic romances such as Guy of Warwick and The Four Prentices of London. Not altogether successfully, they present the Sherleys as national heroes who deserve their countrymen's appreciation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)694-709
Number of pages16
JournalRenaissance Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • Sherley, romance, Persia, Travel


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