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A “Three Tail’d Bashaw”

A “Three Tail’d Bashaw”

Bluebeard Takes a Turkish Turn

(p.51) Chapter 4 A “Three Tail’d Bashaw”
Casie E. Hermansson
University Press of Mississippi

In Charles Perrault’s French fairy tale, Bluebeard is not only mistaken for a pirate but also often described as a beturbaned Turkish tyrant. But it was only in the eighteenth century that Bluebeard became a “three tail’d Bashaw,” and he certainly did not get any of his eastern cast from Perrault. The Irish composer and tenor Michael Kelly commissioned George Colman the Younger, then manager of the summer theater the Haymarket in London, to write a libretto inspired by André Modeste Grétry’s opera Raoul Barbe Bleue (1789), which he saw in Paris in 1790. Colman came up with Blue Beard, or Female Curiosity! (1798), which was set in Turkey and firmly orientalized Bluebeard as Abomelique. The opera was a success, cementing an enduring parallel English tradition that depicts Bluebeard as a Turkish tyrant. This chapter also discusses two works that allude to the Bluebeard tale: William Godwin’s political gothic novel Caleb Williams, or Things as They Are and George Colman the Younger’s play The Iron Chest.

Keywords:   fairy tale, Charles Perrault, Bluebeard, Turkish tyrant, Michael Kelly, George Colman, André Modeste Grétry, opera, Raoul Barbe Bleue, Turkey

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