Theatre

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

lagos46_kopie-1.jpg
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.

Early Modern History, England, Portugal, Theatre

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

 

lagos46_kopie-1
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, 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)

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

Portuguese and Spanish history on the early modern English stage: ‘The Battle of Alcazar’ (Part 1)

Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines… O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshows.

Hamlet’s advice to the players. William Shakespeare, Hamlet (3.2.1-3, 7-10)

If you’ve heard of the play The Battle of Alcazar at all, you may have heard of it referenced as the butt of one of Shakespeare’s jokes in Hamlet – as one of those plays full of noise and dumb show, worthy of ridicule. Ben Jonson famously enjoyed a good scoff at such work too (see The Poetaster, 3.4.346-8). Even Ancient Pistol was a critic (2 Henry 4, 2.4.176).

George Peele’s The Battle of Alcazar may not have outshone its contemporaries for its poetic brilliance but it remains an important play, not least for its masterly use of visual effects (many of which would later become synonymous with Elizabethan theatrics: burning limbs, decapitated corpses, disembowellings, all flooding the stage with limbs, heads, gore, and blood). Peele transformed the use of a ‘dumb show’ by incorporating actors from the main plot alongside their presentation in the Prologue. The play also reveals something of the extent to which English audiences were aware of – and interested in – recent events in Portuguese and Spanish history, and the complex series of events initiated by a single day of battle in North Africa during 1578.

A certain level of snobbishness may surround the play for its theatrics and the quality of its verse, and knowledge of the events it portrays may have diminished in England over time, but for Tudor and Stuart audiences, a play detailing the events that led to the death of King Sebastian, and the annexing of Portugal to its all-powerful neighbour, was both timely and popular. As I hope to show in this and the following series of blog entries, Portugal was often a lens through which the English could contemplate their own relationship with Spain.

The early performance history of The Battle of Alcazar is sketchy but the play is likely to have been written in or around 1588/9. It was performed, most probably, by both Lord Strange’s Men and the Lord Admiral’s Men in the 1590s; Henslowe’s Diary may suggest it was performed on 20 February 1592, with a further 13 more performances, the last of which was on 20 January 1593. (On the debate surrounding the name of the play listed by Henslowe, see The Stukeley Plays, ed. Charles Edelman [Manchester University Press, 2005], p.23.) A version of the play was printed by William Jaggard for Thomas Pavier in 1605 (STC 23405). A playhouse ‘Plot’ also survives (British Library, MS. Add. 10,449, fol. 3. See Edelman, The Stukeley Plays, pp.21-2).

Historical background:  ‘The Battle of the Three Kings’

The Battle of Alcazarquivir was fought in northern Morocco, near Ksar-el-Kebir and Larache, on 4 August 1578, and was the result of a power struggle. The Moroccan Sultan, Abu Abdallah Mohammed II, had been deposed and replaced by Abd Al-Malik I (his uncle) in 1576. The new Sultan’s nephew had fled to Portugal, where he enlisted the help of King Sebastian.

The young Portuguese king listened to his petition favourably, seeing this as a crusading opportunity, something he had longed for in earnest for some time. It was also an opportunity to expand his dominions and trade relations in North Africa. Yet this proposed alliance needed help, if they were to succeed in any battle for supremacy. Over Christmas 1577, Sebastian met with his uncle, Philip II, at Guadalupe, to petition him for aid. Philip wanted no part and urged his nephew not to rush into something so rash while still so young (and without having yet fathered any heir to his throne). Philip did offer some assistance with manpower, transportation and supplies (even if some, questioning Philip’s intentions, have seen these as little more than a token gesture, thereby securing Sebastian’s fate). (See 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], p.98.)

So the young king embarked on his mission to aid the deposed sultan, setting sail from Lisbon in the summer of 1578 with an army of around 17,000 men (which included many of Portugal’s nobility), via Cadiz, then on to Morocco. Sebastian met with Abu Abdallah Mohammed II and his c.6000 Moorish solders at Arzila, and the vastly outnumbered men (Abd Al Malik had more than 60,000 in his army), marched on to their fate.

After almost four hours of intense combat, the Portuguese and the army of Abu Abdallah were defeated. Around 8000 of their men were dead – among them much of Portugal’s nobility who had joined their beloved king on this crusade; thousands were taken prisoner. Only around 100 men survived and fled. Abd Al-Malik also died during the battle but the news was carefully concealed by his men, who rallied and secured victory in his name. Abu Abdallah drowned in the river as he attempted to escape capture. Sebastian was last seen riding towards the enemy, and the subsequent stories surrounding his death and the whereabouts of his body after the battle were numerous. With the loss of Sebastian, Abd Al-Malik and Abu Abdallah, the battle quickly became known as the ‘Battle of the Three Kings’.

Abd Al-Malik was succeeded by his brother, Ahmad al Mansur, Sebastian by his great-uncle Henry, brother of his grandfather, King John III, who did not live long.  Sebastian’s uncle, Philip II, united the Iberian crowns in 1580, a Union which lasted until 1640. Philip claimed that Sebastian’s remains were found and removed to Portugal, where they were later buried in Jerónimos Monastery in Belém, Lisbon (only after the Union of Portugal and Spain). Many remained unconvinced that the heroic young king had died in battle, and giving rise to ‘Sebastianism’ (a topic for another blog entry).

Among those Europeans who joined Sebastian for the battle were not only Portuguese and Spanish troops but also Italians, Irish Catholics, German Lutherans, and Dutch Calvinists. (See A.R. Disney, A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire: From Beginnings to 1807, 2 vols. [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009], II, p.18.) Among them, also, was Thomas Stukeley, an Englishman.

Third son of Sir Hugh Stukeley (1496-1559), Stukeley was a mercenary who had fought in both France and Ireland. Happy to sell his military talents to the highest bidder, he gave his allegiance to Philipp II of Spain late in around 1569, and thought nothing of trading secrets about the land of his birth. He was offered command of three galleys by Don John of Austria at the Battle of Lepanto (7 October 1571). It is known that Francis Walsingham kept a close eye on him, Stukeley having alerted the Spanish Inquisition to the activities of an English spy, Oliver King. Stukeley became part of Spanish plans for the invasion of Ireland, and set sail with such a mission in 1578, only to reach Cadiz and be unable to proceed further, owing to the poor condition of his ships. It is at this point that he meets Sebastian, who offers Stukeley the opportunity to take up command in his army, as part of the expedition to Morocco. This is where Stukeley’s luck finally runs out: he is killed early on in the fighting, after taking a direct hit from a cannonball, which ripped of his legs.

In The Battle of Alcazar, Stukeley is portrayed as a renegade who spouts traitorous opinions, and whose arrogance and high opinion of himself exude on stage, as he struts about, speaking ill of his sovereign. Through him the audience confronts early modern ideas of nationalism and personal liberty. This is a world in which, Peele reminds us, disrespect for the land of one’s birth, and self-aggrandisement, can only lead to ruin. They witness what can happen to the traitor who – like Stukeley (in the play) – thinks that  ‘King of a molehill had I rather be / Than the richest subject of a monarchy’ (2.2.81-2).

The King of Portugal (a Catholic) respects the power and might of the Protestant sovereign. He also sees Stukeley’s ambitions in Ireland as futile, even though he cannot see the flaws in his own crusading scheme. When seeking his aid for his African mission, Sebastian plays to Stukeley’s inflated opinion of himself but he also warns him:

For Ireland, Stukeley? Thou mistak’st wondrous much,

With seven ships, two pinnaces, and six thousand men?

I tell thee, Stukeley, they are far too weak

To violate the Queen of Ireland’s right,

For Ireland’s queen commandeth England’s force.

Were every ship ten thousand on the seas,

Manned with the strength of all the eastern kings,

Conveying all the monarchs of the world

To invade the island where her highness reigns,

‘Twere all in vain, for heavens and destinies

Attend and wait upon her majesty.

Sacred, imperial and holy is her seat,

Shining with wisdom, love and mightiness.

(Sebastian’s advice to Stukeley, 2.4.98-110)

Sebastian’s powers of persuasion ultimately lead to Stukeley’s change of heart – and his downfall.

If honour be the mark whereat thou aim’st,

Then follow me in holy Christian wars,

And leave to seek thy country’s overthrow.

(Sebastian’s advice to Stukeley, 2.4.142-3)

As Eric Griffin has noted (‘”SPAIN IS PORTUGAL”‘, p.104), Peele agreed with John Foxe: just because you claim your act a crusade, it does not make it holy, nor does it guarantee success. By Elizabeth’s reign, the crusades were seen as problematic, hence Foxe affirmed, in his Acts and Monuments: ‘He that bringeth S. George or S. Denise, as patrons to the field to fight agaynst the Turke, leaveth Christ (no doubt) at home.’ (John Foxe, Acts and Monuments [London, 1570] STC 11223, p.872.) Stukeley, we note, swears his allegiance to St. George the moment he decides he is bound for Morocco (2.4.166). The man who puts his faith in saints and rejects his homeland is unlikely to fair well on the Elizabethan stage.

Staging the Battle

If The Battle of Alcazar was written in or around 1588/9, then it was written in a key moment for Anglo-Iberian relations. The Spanish Armada failed in 1588. In 1589, Francis Drake, John Norreys and Don António tried to provoke an uprising against King Philip, to remove him from the Portuguese throne. The action ended badly for both Portugal and England, resulting in huge financial losses for the English, and sounding the death-knell for António’s claim to the Portuguese throne.

The Union may have come into being but England’s allegiance remained with the Portuguese. (This, of course, also assisted them in ensuring continued trade with Morocco and the Ottoman ports.) As Jesús M. Garcia and Cinta Zunino Garrido have noted, ‘the conflict intensified the harsh hostility between Protestant England and Catholic Spain, on the one hand, and, on the other, it strengthened both the Anglo-Muslim and the Anglo-Portuguese alliances’. (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], p.75.)

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, surrounded by Islamic forces.

the conflict intensified the harsh hostility between Protestant England and Catholic Spain, on the one hand, and, on the other, it strengthened both the Anglo-Muslim and the Anglo-Portuguese alliances… 

In Part 2 of this blog, I will explore these Anglo-Muslim and Anglo-Portuguese alliances further. Part 3 will consider the reasons why English audiences became so fascinated by the fate of the Portuguese king (and with the demise of Stukeley).

END OF PART 1

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

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

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.htm http://purl.pt/14193