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  • Title: The Battle of Alcazar (Selection) (Modern)
  • Editor: Jessica Slights

  • Copyright Jessica Slights. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: George Peele
    Editor: Jessica Slights
    Peer Reviewed

    The Battle of Alcazar (Selection) (Modern)

    0.1From George Peele, The Battle of Alcazar (1588-89)

    [George Peele's The Battle of Alcazar is one of the earliest plays to stage multiple characters who are both non-white and Muslim, and it is often seen as the inaugurator of the stereotypical figure of the villainous Moor. The play recounts a series of internecine struggles for the throne of Morocco, focussing on the ruthless manipulator Mulai Hamet who tricks play's rather limp hero the King of Portugual into sending troops into Alcazar where both men are eventually killed. While Mulai Hamet's perfidy is associated persistently with his blackness, the play's representation of race, religion, and nationality is considerably more complex than a simple equation of blackness with evil, and, despite its shambling plot and its emphasis on pageantry rather than political subtlety, The Battle of Alcazar provides a useful window onto the intricacies of political, economic, and cultural exchange in the Mediterranean in the sixteenth century. The play's opening moments, excerpted below, set up its main plot, showing Hamet enact in dumbshow the murder of his two younger brothers and his uncle, thus establishing himself firmly as the play's central villain.]

    1Enter the Presenter

    Honor, the spur that pricks the princely mind
    To follow rule and climb the stately chair,
    With great desire inflames the Portingall,
    5An honorable and courageous king,
    To undertake a dangerous, dreadful war
    And aid with Christian arms the barbarous Moor,
    The Negro Mulai Hamet that withholds
    The kingdom from his uncle Abdulmelec,
    10Whom proud Abdallas wronged,
    And in his throne installs his cruel son,
    That now usurps upon this prince,
    This brave barbarian lord Mulai Molocco.
    The passage to the crown by murder made,
    15Abdallas dies, and designs this tyrant king
    Of whom we treat, sprung from the Arabian Moor,
    Black in his look and bloody in his deeds,
    And in his shirt, stained with a cloud of gore,
    Presents himself with naked sword in hand,
    20Accompanied, as now you may behold,
    With devils coated in the shapes of men.

    The first dumbshow

    Enter Mulai Mohammed and his son, and his two young brethren. The Moor showeth them the bed and then takes his leave of them, and they betake them to their rest. And then the presenter speaketh:

    Like those that were by kind of murder mummed,
    Sit down and see what heinous stratagems
    25These damned wits contrive. And lo, alas,
    How like poor lambs prepared for sacrifice
    This traitor king hales to their longest home
    These tender lords his younger brethren both.

    The second dumbshow

    30Enter the Moor and two murderers bringing in his uncle Abdelmunen. Then they draw the curtains and smoother the young princes in the bed. Which done, in sight of the uncle, they strangle him in his chair and then go forth. And then the Presenter saith:

    His brethren thus in fatal bed behearst,
    His father's brother of too light belief
    This Negro puts to death by proud command.
    Say not these things are feigned, for true they are,
    35And understand how eager to enjoy
    His father's crown this unbelieving Moor,
    Murdering his uncle and his brethren,
    Triumphs in his ambitious tyranny
    Till Nemesis, high mistress of revenge,
    40That with her scourge keeps all the world in awe,
    With thundering drums awakes the god of war
    And calls the furies from Avernus's crags
    To range and rage, and vengeance to inflict,
    Vengeance on this accursed Moor for sin.
    45And now behold how Abdulmelec comes,
    Uncle to this unhappy traitor king,
    Armed with great aid that Amurath had sent,
    Great Amurath, Emperor of the East,
    For service done to Sultan Solomon,
    50Under whose colors he had served in field,
    Flying the fury of this Negro's father
    That wronged his brethren to install his son.
    Sit you and see this true and tragic war,
    A modern matter full of blood and ruth
    55Where three bold kings, confounded in their height,
    Fell to the earth contending for a crown,
    And call this war The Battle of Alcazar.