Covering a wide variety of plays from 1550–1600, including Shakespeare's second tetralogy, this book explores moral, historical, and comic plays as contributions to Elizabethan debates on Anglo-foreign relations in England. The economic, social, religious, and political issues that arose from inter-British contact and Continental immigration into England are reinvented and rehearsed on the public stage. Kermode uncovers two broad 'alien stages' in the drama: distinctive but overlapping processes by which the alien was used to posit ideas and ideals of Englishness. Many studies of English national identity pit Englishness against the alien 'other' so that the native self and the alien settle into antithetical positions. In contrast, Aliens and Englishness reads a body of plays that represent Englishness as a state of ideological, invented superiority – paradoxically stable in its constant changeability, and brought into being by incorporating and eventually accepting, and even celebrating, rather than rejecting the alien.
• Takes an original stance on a popular topic by subtle analysis of the relationship of the English with their nearer neighbours (including Welsh, Irish and Scots) rather than more exotic 'others'
• Provides detailed readings of both individual and also groups of plays, including Shakespeare's second tetralogy
• Reads less well-known plays against canonical works, demonstrating that the issues of the alien were widespread across writers, theatres and audiences with various political and personal agendas
1. Introduction: aliens and the English in London
2. Discovering the alien in Elizabethan moral drama
3. Accommodating the alien in mid-Elizabethan London plays
4. Incorporating the alien in Shakespeare's second tetralogy
5. Being the alien in late Elizabethan London plays