The play 'Ibrahim the Mad' follows the reign of Ibrahim I, the mentally unstable Sultan of the Ottoman Empire who reigned from 1640 until 1648. Ibrahim was placed on the throne after the death of his brother, Murad IV, probably by his mother, Kosem Sultan, who wanted to rule the empire by proxy. Murad IV had ordered him killed upon his own death, but Ibrahim had been allowed to live, probably because he was too mad to be a threat. Ibrahim had spent his entire life in the Golden Cage, a prison with unreachable stained glass windows, with a few deaf-mute servants and some harem girls, under the constant and reasonable fear that he would be put to death. When guards showed up to bring him to the throne, he refused to go, thinking it was a trick. Ibrahim's rule grew ever more unpredictable. He raised and executed a number of viziers, declared war on Venice, and brought the empire almost to collapse in a very short space of time. Eventually the Grand Mufti, with the permission of Kösem, led a coup to overthrow Ibrahim. He was deposed, sent back to the Golden Cage and later strangled.
The play opens with the terrified Ibrahim being coaxed out of his cell by his mother Kösem.