Tom Papeika wrote
>It has always been my impression that the references to "Mahound" are
>simply a device used by the medieval playwrights to conjur up an image of all
>that was considered evil (read anti-Christian) in the minds of the audience.
With all of this I agree, however the following statement:
>Remember, there were no Muslims (or Jews for that matter) in England at the
>time, so most medieval Englishmen have no personal experience with these other
>faiths. Like the various "oaths" repeated throughout the plays, I think the
>reference to "Mahound" is a rather formulaic way of portraying someone as evil.
There may not have been many Jews in England in the late Middle Ages, but
they were certainly there. Most of the principal towns had Jewish
communities, otherwise Chaucer's Prioress's Tale of Hugh of Lincoln would
have had little relevance. though it is set in Asia, the lineaments of the
tale are purely English, down to the singing school. Also one of the York
plays, The Death of the Virgin, has speaking parts specifically designated
Two Jews. Muslims, through the stories of the crusades, were a different
kettle of fish entirely.