Research

ARTS AND HUMANITIES AS HIGHER EDUCATION: an international research group and network, founder of Arts and Humanities in Higher Education journal

Many thanks to the Arts and Humanities as Higher Education blog for promoting my work on Anglo-Iberian relations and the history of propaganda.

Their showcase of my work undertaken via the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions is available here:

http://www.artsandhumanities.org/disciplines/history/20-years-of-marie-sklodowska-curie-actions/

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Theatre

Portuguese and Spanish history on the early modern stage: ‘The Battle of Alcazar’ (Part 4 – coming soon!)

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A detail from the only known representation of the Battle of Alcazar, which accompanies Miguel Leitão de Adndrade’s eyewitness account in his Miscelânea (1629). It depicts the outnumbered Portuguese army, surrounded by Islamic forces.

My previous blogs about The Battle of Alcazar have focused upon Peele’s plot and its history as a stage play (Parts 1 and 2), and on an examination of Stukeley as a ‘Cosmopolitan’ figure on the English stage (Part 3). The final entry is reserved for an examination of Thomas Stukeley the soldier, rather than on his dramatic representation. Understanding something of Stukeley the man – what motivated and moulded him – facilitates our understanding his controversial public appeal, and the reasons for his popularity as a figure on the English stage.

During my time as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Cambridge (2004-2007), I had the great pleasure of being a contemporary of Rory Rapple, who, at the time, was turning his PhD thesis into a book for Cambridge University Press. Martial Power and Elizabethan Political Culture: Military Men in England and Ireland, 1558-1594 (CUP, 2008) is a tour de force in historiographical analysis of early modern military men. My analysis of Stukeley – both in this blog and in my more detailed analysis of Stukeley in my forthcoming book (on representations of Portugal and Spain on the early modern English stage) – owes a great debt to Prof. Rapple’s work.

This month I will complete my contextual analysis of the actual events that provide the backdrop to The Battle of Alcazar. In the interim, EN3039 students at Brunel University can also find further materials on the Blackboard Learn page for The Muslim World Module.

My more detailed analysis of The Battle of Alcazar, as represented on the English stage, is reversed for my forthcoming book, Portugal and Spain on the English Stage, c.1580-1700. The manuscript is in preparation and will consider the following plays:

  • The Spanish Tragedy (Thomas Kyd)
  • Battle of Alcazar (George Peele)
  • The Island Princess (Thomas Kyd)
  • A Game at Chess (Thomas Middleton)
  • Believe as you List (Philip Massinger)
  • Don Sebastian (John Dryden)

The manuscript is expected to be completed in 2017.

Uncategorized

British Expat Communities in Portugal and Spain, Post-Brexit

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We are preparing to gather case studies and data on the experiences and concerns of British expats currently living in Portugal and Spain, in the aftermath of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. We intend to evaluate the impact the continued uncertainty is having on these communities, in the lead up to the expected triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March 2017.

BBC News (2 October 2016) Brexit: Theresa May to trigger Article 50 by end of March

If you are interested in taking part in this study, please contact:

elizabeth.evenden-kenyon@brunel.ac.uk

Data with be gathered via an online questionnaire (by invitation only). Any information provided can remain anonymous.

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Uncertainty faced by British Expats Post-Brexit in the news:

The Wall Street Journal British Expats Face Uncertain Future After Brexit

International Business Times British expats in Spain fear for future in adopted homeland post-Brexit

The Independent EU referendum risks British expats’ pensions, health care and public services

 

Early Modern History, Portugal, Research

Buçaco – the Palace, Forest and Convent

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Picture taken on our first night at the Palace; a balmy June evening

This week I’m staying at Buçaco Palace Hotel (Palace Hotel do Buçaco). I’d visited the Palace and its surrounding forest back in the summer of 2013, during a research trip to Portugal as part of my Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship. It has been a real treat to be able to stay here this week. (Not work this time; I’m actually on my honeymoon… I thought I’d blog about this wonderful place while in situ.)

The Palace was built between 1888 and 1907, having been commissioned by King Carlos I as a royal retreat. This neo-Manueline gothic building was the invention of the Italian architect Luigi Manini (who also acted as stage designer for the National Opera House), and certainly succeeds in evoking the beauty of the sixteenth-century design principles.

Manini did not live to see the project’s completion and was succeeded by Nicola Bigaglia, José Alexandre Soares and Manuel Joaquim Norte Júnior. This latter architect designed the Palace’s annex, the ‘Casa dos Basões (House of the Coat-of-Arms), and was also the architect of the famous ‘Café a Basileira’ in 120 Rua Garrett in Lisbon (first opened in 1905, in the Baixa Chiado district). The building was opened as a hotel in 1910.

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I’ve been sat at one of these tables, while writing much of this blog
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The reception area of the Palace

The interior of the palace is resplendent in its wealth of Neo-Manueline portals and stucco work, reminiscent of Manueline rib vaulting. It is also awash with spectacular tile panels (azulejos), created by Jorge Colaço. They depict scenes from works of great Portuguese literature (such as the writings of Luís Vaz de Camões and Gil Vincente), as well as key scenes from the Battle of Buçaco. The Battle of Buçaco was fought on 27 September 1810, during the Peninsular War, resulting in the defeat of French forces by the Wellington’s Anglo-Portuguese Army. Wellington stayed at the Carmelite convent in the lead up to the battle. The Palace is, in part, attached to the remains of the convent. Still an active community at the time of Wellington’s arrival in Buçaco, one of the monks resident at the time wrote an account of Wellington’s time situated amongst their community (detailed below).

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Scenes from the Battle of Buçaco:

Further azulejos at the Palace:

The surrounding forest (Serra do Buçaco) was first settled by Benedictine monks during the sixth century. It was subsequently administered by priests from Coimbra Cathedral. A papal bull of Pope Gregory XV (1623) declared that any women who entered the forest would be excommunicated; the same fate await any who sought to damage the trees. The barefoot Carmelites took over the area in 1628, building both a monastery and a wall to encircle their 105-hectare (250-acre) forest abode, the Convento de Santa Crux do Buçaco.

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The convent’s surrounding garden was intended to represent Mount Carmel (where the order was founded), as was as an earthly paradise. A series of chapels (representations of a Via Crucis) in the surrounding gardens were created in the seventeenth century. Part of the convent, including its chapel with Baroque altarpieces, remains to this day. The forest contains over 400 varieties of Portuguese trees, shrubs and flowers, and hosts around 300 species from former Portuguese territories, including specimens from Mexico, Chile and Japan, all introduced during Portugal’s great ‘Age of Discovery’. The perimeter wall of the forest (approximately 5km / 3.1 miles in circumference) is punctuated with a series of gates, which bear the text of the seventeenth-century papal bull forbidding women to enter the forest.

The forest and the monastery were eventually taken over by the Portuguese government in 1834, when monasteries were abolished across Portugal. In 1885, the dining hall, kitchen and library of the Palace, as well as some of the cells of the convent were demolished, and a new foundation stone laid. The Palace was erected in brick and then encased with local limestone, sandstone from Ançã, and marble from Vila Viçoca in Alentejo. Though first conceived as a retreat for the Portuguese royal family, the building has now spent the significant part of its existence as a luxury hotel, having been converted to public use after the Lisbon Regicide and subsequent coup d’état.

The trees of the surrounding forest have been the subject of literary and academic analysis from the seventeenth century onwards. The celebrated female Portuguese scholar and playwright, Bernarda Ferreira de Lacerda (1596-1644), dedicated her Soledades de Buçaco (Lisbon, 1634) to Felipe III. In 1768, an English botanist provoked a 200-year-long debate by claiming that one of the varieties of Cypress trees found in the forest had originated in Goa.

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The 1634 edition of Bernarda Ferreira de Lacerda’s Soledades de Buçaco

 

The convent

While much of the convent was destroyed to make way for the palace, sections of it do remain, not least its chapel and a number of the monks’ cells. The exterior is decorated in the Carmelite’s characteristic white quartz and coal-tar inlay, and the monks’ cells are each insulated with cork (much-needed protection against the cold throughout the winter months).

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Frei Sebastião da Encarnação

 

Paintings housed in the convent include this seventeenth-century painting of Frei Sebastião da Encarnação. There is also an impressive seventeenth-century painting of Dom João de Mello; these two pictures are part of a set of around 40 paintings throughout the cloister, which are all framed in cork and detail various depictions of saints and ascetics in the desert.

The central chapel includes a number of noteworthy pieces, not least those dedicated to holy women. The chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Milk was damaged by fire on Christmas Eve 2014, and the painting by the celebrated female artist Josefa d’Óbidos, of Mary offering milk to the baby Jesus was destroyed. (A copy is now in situ.)

 

 

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The (now lost) painting of Our Lady of Milk by Josefa d’Óbidos

The Via Crucis and the forest – the storm damage of 2013.

On 19 January 2013 (the year of my first visit to Buçaco) Portugal was hit by cyclone ‘Windstorm Gong’. More than 40 per cent of the forest was seriously damaged by the storm, and a number of buildings on the site suffered significant damage. Of the area’s 86 most precious trees, 10 were felled and six critically damaged.

The Via Crucis was also damaged in the storm. First introduced in 1644, these stations offer an idyllic setting in which to contemplate the Stations of the Cross. Those damaged in the storm are slowly being restored to something near their former glory but much remains to be done. The hard work and dedication of those tending the needs of the battered forest and the Via Crucis has been exceptional, and the dedication of those involved should not be underestimated or go unacknowledged. It has been a privilege to stay at the Palace this week; it has been a genuine joy to see the progress made in the salvage and restoration work undertaken in the surrounding forest.

 

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Restoration work continues in the forest
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Interior of one of the Stations
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Interior of one of the Stations
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Exterior
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Storm damage to the Hermitage on the Via Crusis
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Storm damage to a Station of the Cross
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Damaged interior
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The painstaking work of salvaging this Station continues
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Restoration of the Hermitage

Further Reading / viewing

The website of the Palace Hotel, which includes a brief history: http://www.bussacopalace.com/en/history.html

On the Battle of Buçaco: René Chartrand, Bussaco 1810: Wellington Defeats Napoleon’s Marshals (Osprey, 2009)

The Carmelite monk’s account of Wellington’s time at the convent is available for pdf download here: https://ia800306.us.archive.org/6/items/bussaco00cham/bussaco00cham.pdf

Bernarda Ferreira de Lacerda, Soledades de Buçaco: available for pdf download here: http://bdlb.bn.br/acervo/handle/123456789/259101 (via Biblioteca Digital Luso-Brasilieira)

Pùblico article about the loss of the painting by Josefa de Óbidos at Buçaco:  https://www.publico.pt/culturaipsilon/noticia/incendio-destroi-pintura-de-josefa-de-obidos-1618330

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Modern History, England, Portugal, Theatre

Portuguese and Spanish history on the early modern stage: ‘The Battle of Alcazar’ (Part 3)

 

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A detail from the only known representation of  the Battle of Alcazar, which accompanies Miguel Leitão de Andrade’s eyewitness account in his Miscelânea (1629). It depicts the outnumbered Portuguese army, surrounded by Islamic forces.

In his 2015 exploration of Early Modern Catholics, Royalists, and Cosmopolitans, Brian C. Lockey provides an important contribution to scholarly discussion of contemporary and modern perceptions of Thomas Stukeley and his motives. [Brian C. Lockey, Early Modern Catholics, Royalists, and Cosmopolitans (Farnham and Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2015, chapter 4: ‘Traitor or Cosmopolitan? Captain Thomas Stukeley in the Courts of Christendom’, pp. 185-209.]

Setting his analysis in a wider, contemporary framework, Lockey first considers Sir Francis Drake, noting how contemporary pamphleteers set Drake on a semi-heroic stage, equating his actions with nationhood: Henry Roberts’ Most Friendly Farewell to Sir Francis Drake (1585), for example, depicts Drake’s activities as ‘the natural product of English nationalism’ (Lockey, p. 184.) Such writings position the enterprises of Drake and his cohort within ‘an ideology of incipient nationhood’ (ibid.). They do so in order to incorporate their actions as part of a wider narrative about ‘the English’ – their principles, their motivations, and their actions – all of which are justified as godly. Lockey positions Stukeley within these Elizabethan narratives, therefore offering a more detailed portrayal of Stukeley than simply ‘Stukeley the pirate’ or ‘Stukeley the Traitor’. Such epithets, after all, negate any understanding of Stukeley within the complexity of early modern cosmopolitan exchange.

In 1563, Robert Seall produced a tribute to Stukeley entitled ‘A Comendation of the adve[n]terus viage of the worthy Captain M. Thomas Stutely Esquyer and others, towards the land called Terra Florida, in which he praised Stukeley as a seafaring hero. In his lifetime, then, depictions of Stukeley as a loyal servant to Elizabeth were available, even if their veracity remained open to question.

Doubts about Stukeley’s motives were inevitably voiced posthumously, often suggesting that they were ingrained within English circles even during his lifetime. William Camden, for example, insisted that he was known to be ‘a Ruffian, and a ryetous spender, and a notable boaster of himselfe’. [William Camden, The Historie of the Life and Reigne of the Most Renowned and Victorious Princesse Elizabeth, late Queene of England (London, 1630), Book 1, 6-12, cited Lockey, p. 186.] Others saw him as a fallen man, one who repented his trespasses just before his demise. Richard Johnson’s ballad about him being a case in point:

“… thus haye I left my contry deere,

To be so vildly murthered here:

eue in this place wheras I am not known.”

Richard Johnson, The Crown Garland of Golden Roses: Consisted of Ballads and Songs, ed. W. Chappell (London, 1842), 38; cited Lockey, p. 186.

It was after his voyage to Terra Florida that Stukeley defected to Spanish service, invalidating any possibility of a Drakeian narrative being extended to the Captain. Yet, as Lockey notes, both Peele’s The Battle of Alcazar and the anonymous The Famous History of the Life and Death of Captain Stukeley offer a surprisingly nuanced appraisal of his life and actions.

“Both portrayals refuse Stukeley a settled role within the narrative of emerging English identity, neither presenting him as exclusively English nor as the typical traitor to the English crown who might easily be excluded from any relationship to his native country.” (Lockey, pp. 186-7.)

Instead, Stukeley becomes a node in a network where religious and secular agendas meet, where authority is questioned and identity can be explored. He becomes ‘the product of a dialectical relationship existing between his English identity and the transnational or “cosmopolitan” identity that his Englishness enables.’ (Lockey, p. 187.)

The plays use Stukeleys’ very Englishness as a window by which to view the potentiality of the transnational Christian identity. He is at once both a traditionally-seafaring Englishman and a member of an international community of Christians, one not bound by language, land or shore. As such, he can be acknowledged by and incorporated into a wider Christian community – indeed, a wider English community, be it one dispersed through mercantile or military connections, or through self-imposed or enforced exile. He is hardly a man alone in the world and, as Lockey’s observations attest, he is not perceived as marginalised by movement either.

In The Battle of Alcazar, Stukeley himself acknowledges his cosmopolitan outlook:

“Lord Governor of Lisbon, understand

As we are Englishmen, so are we men,

And I am Stukeley so resolved in all

To follow rule, honour and empery,

Not to be bent so strictly to the place

Wherein at first I blew the fire of life,

But that I may at liberty make choice

Of all the continents that bounds the world.

For why, I make it not so great dessert

To be begot or born in any place,

Sith that’s a thing of pleasure and ease,

That might have been performed elsewhere as well.’  (2.2.26-36)

In the subsequent dialogue, the Irish Bishop claims that ‘We must affect our country as our parents’ (2.2.42), whereby reinforcing link between state and family. Stukeley rebuts his view succinctly: ‘Well said, Bishop, spoken like yourself / The reverent lordly Bishop of Saint Asses.’ (2.2.50-51) Stukeley emphatically denies the traditional political analogy of the state as familial, one where loyalty and deference to the head are mandatory. Stukeley’s voluntary exile may distance him from one unit but enables him to commune with others.

Ultimately, both plays display Stukeley’s actions as a form of defection. Even so, he is no renegado, no Christian turned Turk. He may align himself with Catholic monarchs but his final decision is to support England’s oldest ally, Portugal, is crucial to how we view him. As Peele in particular was at length to emphasise, Portugal rightly demanded the aid of its ally in its hour of need, particularly when the aggressor was Spain. (Peele had, of course, penned a lengthy poem around the same time he was composing The Battle of Alcazar, in which he reiterated such anti-Spanish sentiment: A Farewell Entitled to the famous and fortunate generalls of our English forces: Sir Iohn Norris & Syr Frauncis Drake Knights, and all theyr braue and resolute followers [London, 1589]).

Similarly, the anonymous author of Thomas Stukeley portrays Portugal’s claim for independence from Spain and legitimate. In that play, Dom Antonio appears at Dom Sebastian’s side, and sees his claim as heir to the Portuguese throne corroborated by the ill-fated Sebastian (19.69-70). In both plays, as Lockey identifies, Stukeley is presented as having ‘one foot in Portugal, a realm of his own choice’ while maintaining the ‘tip of his toe in the English polity as well’. (Lockey, p. 202.)

One of the reasons Stukeley remains so intoxicating a figure, therefore, is the ability of his stage incarnations to create such a viable, cosmopolitan identity. This dimension is key to understanding the complexity of his dramatic character, and why he maintains our interest: his previous decision to ally himself with Spain, in such a context, seals his fate; his commitment to the Portuguese, England’s allies, to an extent, redeems him.

 

Further reading / viewing

Charles Edelman (ed.), The Stukeley Plays: ‘The Battle of Alcazar’ by George Peele and ‘The Famous History of the Life and Death of Captain Thomas Stukeley’ (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005)

Jesús M. Garcia and Cinta Zunino Garrido, ‘”As we are Englishmen, so are we Men:” Patterns of Otherness in George Peele’s The Battle of Alcazar’ in Jesús López-Peláez (ed.), Strangers in Early Modern English Texts (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2011), pp.75-108

W.W. Greg, Two Elizabethan Stage Abridgements: The Battle of Alcazar & Orlando Furioso: An Essay in Critical Bibliography (Oxford: Clarendon, 1923)

Eric Griffin, ‘”SPAIN IS PORTUGAL / AND PORTUGAL IS SPAIN”: Transnational Attraction in The Stukeley Plays and “The Spanish Tragedy”‘ in Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, 10:1 [2010], pp.96-116

Andrew C. Hess, The Forgotten Frontier: A History of the Sixteenth-Century Ibero-African Frontier (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1978)

Brian C. Lockey, Early Modern Catholics, Royalists, and Cosmopolitans (Farnham and Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2015)

Hammood Khalid Obaid, Topicality and Representation: Islam and Muslims in Two Renaissance Plays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), chapter 1

David Trim, ‘Early-Modern Colonial Warfare and the Campaign of Alcazarquivir, 1578’ in Small Wars and Insurgencies 8:1 (1997), pp.1-34

Full text:

http://elizabethandrama.tripod.com/battle_of_alcazar.htmhttp://purl.pt/14193

Spoken word (extract in English):

The King of Portugal Describes His State (From The Battle of Alcazar)

 

 

Early Modern History, Portugal

Treasures from the Library at Alcobaça Monastery, Portugal (Part 1: Introduction)

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Part 1: Introduction

During a trip to Ushaw College Library (in Country Durham) this summer, I came across items from the collection once held at Alcobaça Monastery in Leiria, Portugal. I am now working on a journal article about one of the printed books from Alcobaça (one that also contains several leaves in manuscript), which now resides in the marvelous collection at Ushaw. While I undertake research into that beautiful monastery, its manuscripts, its printed books (and its curious hybrids), I thought I’d share with you some information about the monastery and, in subsequent posts, highlight some of the items known to have been once on the shelves inside Alcobaça’s magnificent library.

Early History of the Monastery

The town of Alcobaça is in west-central Portugal, near the Atlantic coast; eighteen miles south-west o Leiria, and sixty miles north of Lisbon. The town emerged as an agricultural society around its Cistercian monastery.

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The Cistercian order was founded by St Robert of Molesmes at Cîteaux, France, in 1098. Robert was of noble birth, born c. 1029 in Champagne, and entered the Benedictine abbey of Montier-la-Celle (near Troye) at the age of 15. As his spiritual journey progressed, he, like others, became disillusioned with the laxity of his order, and he eventually founded the new order, so that they could follow the Rule of St Benedict more closely. By 1115, a young monk called Bernard, also of Cîteaux, founded another monastery in Clairvaux. It was Bernard who adapted the structures of Gothic architecture as a ‘practical ideal for Cistercian structures’. [Randall J. Van Vynckt, ‘Alcobaça (Leirria, Portugal)’ in Trudy Ring (ed.), International Dictionary of Historic Places, Vol. 3: Southern Europe (Chicago and London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1995), p. 14.] Bernard saw church buildings not simply as the ‘house of God’ but ‘rather an oratorium, a place for the soul’s communion with God’. [Ibid.]

King Afonso I of Portugal (b.1105-d.1185; ruled from 1139) worked closely with English Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land throughout the 1140s, in order to conquer the Moslem areas of Portugal. He also encouraged resettlement throughout the land by financing and building new monasteries: the first were at Tarouca and Sever. Alcobaça monastery was founded in 1153, initially with at least 12 monks, under the leadership of Abbot Ranulphus.

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A quiet moment at Alcobaça, during my first visit (2012)

The monastic buildings were begun in ernest in 1178, dedicated in 1223, and its church consecrated in 1252. The complex was laid to the north of the church, which is Burgundian in its structural system and proportions. The architectural methods presented suggest French masters, since such techniques were not known in Portugal at that time. It is the largest surviving Cistercian church.

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The breathtaking interior of the church at Alcobaça

The monastery’s primary charge was to repopulate the region, and provide spiritual, social and economic support to that community. Life revolved around worship and agricultural work, cultivating the neglected land. The monks were known for collecting manuscripts that detailed methods for nurturing the land, and for seeking out botanical specimens that could be propagated in the region. Close to the Atlantic coast, the monastery also took an active role in the country’s seafaring activities, and took possession of a number of ports, first at Pederneira (its nearest), and then at Paredes, San Martinho, Alfeizerão, and Selir.

The monastery steadily began to build a community and a prestigious reputation, founding a second house at Bouro in 1174; a further 11 affiliates would follow. Yet the foundation was by no means secure at that time. The reconquest of what constitutes present-day Portugal was not complete until the mid-thirteenth century, and Alcobaça remained vulnerable, being located near to the Tagus river frontier between Portuguese territories and western edges of the Moslem an-Andalus empire. But by the close of the thirteenth century, Albcobaça had not only survived, it had thrived. Under Abbot Estevam Martins, it founded its first public school in 1269, teaching grammar, logic, and, of course, theology. During the reign of King Dinis (b.1261-d.1325; ruled from 1279), the monastery’s abbot, Martinho II, joined others of his rank in supporting the foundation of the University of Lisbon in 1290, which would later move to Coimbra in 1308.

A library was central to the monastery’s foundation, as was its scriptorium, which made significant contributions to Portugal’s literary tradition. It is particularly noted for its translations from Latin, Italian, and French from the mid-fourteenth and throughout the fifteenth century, and for its likely role in the development of the distinctive Portuguese style of prose that emerged during the fifteenth century. It is to Alcobaça’s rich collection of manuscripts that I will return in Part 2.

 

Suggested Reading:

Paulo Pereira, Monastery of Alcobaça (The national monuments of Portugal) (New York: Scala Publishers, 2007)

Randall J. Van Vynckt, ‘Alcobaça (Leirria, Portugal)’ in Trudy Ring (ed.), International Dictionary of Historic Places, Vol. 3: Southern Europe (Chicago and London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1995), pp. 14-18

 

Links:

Take a virtual tour of Alcobaça Monastery

The Monastery of Santa Maria d’Alcobaça: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Monastery Complex

Video: UNESCO/NHK Video about Alcobaça

About Ushaw College

Access to Ushaw College Library Collections

Early Modern History, England, Portugal, Propaganda, Spain, Theatre

Portuguese and Spanish history on the early modern stage: ‘The Battle of Alcazar’ (Part 2)

A detail from the only known representation of  the Battle of Alcazar, which accompanies Miguel Leitão de Andrade's eyewitness account in his Miscelânea (1629). It depicts the outnumbered Portuguese army, surrounded by Islamic forces.
A detail from the only known representation of  the Battle of Alcazar, which accompanies Miguel Leitão de Andrade’s eyewitness account in his Miscelânea (1629). It depicts the outnumbered Portuguese army, surrounded by Islamic forces.

Part 2

My earlier post (26/06/15) examined the historical context and content of George Peele’s play, The Battle of Alcazar.  In this post I will explore these Anglo-Muslim and Anglo-Portuguese alliances further, in terms of how they were presented on stage and to what purpose. [Part 3 will consider the reasons why English audiences became so fascinated by the fate of the Portuguese king (and with the demise of Thomas Stukeley).]

Staging Anglo-Muslim Relations and the Portuguese Alliance

In The Sultan Speaks: Dialogue in English Plays and Histories about the Ottoman Turks (2006), Linda McJannet notes how favourably the Ottoman Sultan described. He is ‘invoked as a great and just ruler; his name echoes no fewer than eleven times in the first scene alone, always accompanied by positive epithets (“Great” and “good” and “happy”). [Linda McJannet, The Sultan Speaks: Dialogue in English Plays and Histories about the Ottoman Turks (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), p. 84.]

Although he is not Christian, the play legitimises the Sultan’s right to rule by presenting him as ‘a virtuous counterbalance’ (McJannet, 2006, p. 84) to the evils of Catholicism and, more specifically, Catholic Spain. The Portuguese, like Abdelmelec, are presented favourably, as good, true men, supporting an individual’s legitimate claim for the Moroccan throne. Friends with one another, they are also the natural allies and trade partners of honest Englishmen.

Written at a crucial juncture in the history of Anglo-Spanish relations (around the time of the first Armada), Peele ‘remodels the conflict as pivotally epoch defining in order to question the validity – and very nature – of crusade in the wake of the relativity triggered by the magnifying consequences of the Reformation.’ [Matthew Dimmock, New Turkes: Dramatizing Islam and the Ottomans in Early Modern England (Aldershot: Ashagte, 2005), pp.17-18.] The action is positioned – and staged – at a key moment in Anglo-Ottoman relations, one which, for the English, became crucial in their campaign to thwart ‘Spanish ambitions in northern Europe’ (Dimmock, 2005, p. 18.)

The play enables “a re-evaluation and legitimization of the place of the Ottomans in this contested European space and the development of a strategy of conflation that allows the realities of England’s shifting position to be represented”. [Dimmock, 2005, p.18.]

The Battle of Alcazar resulted not only in the death of three kings but also in a significant increase in Spanish power and England’s decision to provide ‘refuge’ to the rival claimant to the Portuguese throne, Don António. Certainly, the succession crisis brought about by Sebastian’s death reverberated across English politics and foreign policy. Lord Burghley hastily prepared a genealogical table of the kings of Portugal shortly after Sebastian was killed, and he even acquired a detailed map of the battle, which provides valuable insights into how the English viewed both the events and the ramifications of their outcome. Since the closest contender for the throne – Sebastian’s ‘great uncle’, Henry – was an old man and childless, it is perhaps not surprising that the English were keeping a close watch on how events would unfold, while remaining sympathetic to the Portuguese as they were thrown into dynastic crisis. Don Antonio’s presence in the capital did much to create sympathy among the English for their ally, as did the many pamphlets produced at the time. [See Dimmock, 2005, pp.115-116.]

Pamphlet literature and drama came together to persuade audiences to support Portugal and repulse any opportunity to increase Spanish dominions. W.W. Greg’s pioneering work on the surviving prompt book for Peele’s play reveals the techniques employed to ensure that the audience’s sympathy lay with the Portuguese. [W.W. Greg, Two Elizabethan Stage Abridgements: The Battle of Alcazar & Orlando Furioso: An Essay in Critical Bibliography (Oxford: Clarendon, 1923.) The play opens with a ‘presenter’, who is dressed in the fashion of ‘a Portingale’, rather than the more traditional garb of a ‘chorus’. (Greg, 1923, p.51.) He guides the audience through the Portuguese perspective on the events depicted in the play. Standing at the front of the stage, he also stands at the vanguard of English attempts to construct a stronger, anti-Spanish coalition.

Lord Burghley, inevitably, kept close watch on how events unfolded and where lines of allegiance were drawn. In 1578 he received an extensive list of ‘advices’ from one Roger Bodenham, in which he laid out the benefits of forming strategic alliances against Spain. A well-travelled voyager, familiar with the negotiating table, Bodenham offered to aid negotiations with the King of Barbary. Accepting the friendship of ‘pagans’ (see Dimmock, 2005, p. 115) Bodenham (like others) warned, was preferable to conceding yet more power to the Spanish.

“The King of Spain, fearing nothing so much as intelligence between England and Barbary, has drawn the present King of Barbary to a covenant with him against the Turks.”

Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Addenda, no. 133 [undated, 1578?], ‘A discourse of Mr. Bodenham touching the designs of the King of Spain against England, and how they might be prevented’; cited in Dimmock, 2005, p. 115.

The English recognised the importance of using Portugal to thwart any attempts by the Spanish to increase their dominions via the seaboard or to use its ports to facilitate attacks upon their enemies. In the event, Lisbon was, of course, the point of departure for the failed Armada of 1588. The King of Barbary, Abd-al-Malik, similarly ruled in a ‘buffer state’, one seeking to balance Hapsburg and Ottoman power, while protecting its own interests first. [Andrew C. Hess, The Forgotten Frontier: A History of the Sixteenth-Century Ibero-African Frontier (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), p. 96.]

The representation of the Moorish characters in The Battle of Alcazar inevitably has to deal with presenting some Moors as good, some a bad. The succession debacle between ‘the Negro Muly Hamet’ (I.Prol.7) and his uncle, the ‘brave Barbarian Lord, Muly Mullocco’ (I.Prol.12) (or ‘Abdelmelec’), uses both their physical descriptions in the prologue and discussion of their parentage to establish their character traits. Hamet, for example, is the ‘Blacke king’ and the son of a ‘bondswoman, that was a Blacke Negro’ – his ‘blackness’ is clearly emphasised to signify his spiritual state; this is in direct opposition to the good and spiritually superior Abdelmelec. Abdelmelec’s right to rule is paralleled with Sebastian’s rights – and those of England’s preferred candidate for the Portuguese throne after the young king’s death. The message is clear: if you oppose legitimate succession – or, more accurately, England and Portugal’s preferred candidates in contested successions – then you are the enemy of both states, both on and off the stage. How Thomas Stukeley fitted into this complex web of shifting national stereotypes on an international stage will be the topic of Part 3.

Further reading / viewing

Charles Edelman (ed.), The Stukeley Plays: ‘The Battle of Alcazar’ by George Peele and ‘The Famous History of the Life and Death of Captain Thomas Stukeley’ (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005)

Jesús M. Garcia and Cinta Zunino Garrido, ‘”As we are Englishmen, so are we Men:” Patterns of Otherness in George Peele’s The Battle of Alcazar’ in Jesús López-Peláez (ed.), Strangers in Early Modern English Texts (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2011), pp.75-108

W.W. Greg, Two Elizabethan Stage Abridgements: The Battle of Alcazar & Orlando Furioso: An Essay in Critical Bibliography (Oxford: Clarendon, 1923)

Eric Griffin, ‘”SPAIN IS PORTUGAL / AND PORTUGAL IS SPAIN”: Transnational Attraction in The Stukeley Plays and “The Spanish Tragedy”‘ in Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, 10:1 [2010], pp.96-116

Andrew C. Hess, The Forgotten Frontier: A History of the Sixteenth-Century Ibero-African Frontier (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1978)

Hammood Khalid Obaid, Topicality and Representation: Islam and Muslims in Two Renaissance Plays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), chapter 1

David Trim, ‘Early-Modern Colonial Warfare and the Campaign of Alcazarquivir, 1578’ in Small Wars and Insurgencies 8:1 (1997), pp.1-34

Full text:

http://elizabethandrama.tripod.com/battle_of_alcazar.htmhttp://purl.pt/14193

Spoken word (extract in English):

The King of Portugal Describes His State (From The Battle of Alcazar)