Printer Friendly

'Paradoxing' the alien: the Morisco in early modern English texts.

In late October, 1501, Catalina de Aragon, the daughter of the Spanish Catholic Monarchs King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, arrived in London to marry Henry VII's first-born son and heir, the ill-fated prince Arthur. After a formal engagement in August 1497 and a marriage by proxy in 1499, the Spanish princess had eventually come to England to be married to the sickly fifteen-year-old prince Arthur in November 1501. Catherine--as she would be called for the rest of her life--made a triumphal entry procession at Cheapside a few days after her arrival, which according to contemporary accounts produced an excellent impression on Londoners, to a great extent due to the presence of a spectacular and exotic retinue of musicians and dancers, including "trumpettes", "shalmewes", "minstrels", "sakbotes" and at least one acrobat (Habib 2008: 38-40). Indeed, Catherine's attendants were not only fascinating but also very numerous, apparently exceeding by far what had been agreed between both parties,-English and Spanish, before the engagement: the pre-marriage conversations apparently specified a retinue of not more than fifty attendants, and King Henry complained that Catherine arrived in London with around three times that number. (2)

But if Catherine's dignified entry proved a success with the commoners of London, her entry in the royal palace was seen in a different light by another kind of audience. Together with the King and his second son Henry (who would marry Catherine in 1509), the humanist Thomas More witnessed Catherine's encounter with Arthur in Whitehall, where she arrived accompanied by her attendants during the first days of November 1501; disturbed by what he saw, More described the scene to his friend, the English theologian John Holt, in a letter:3

The magnificent attire of our nobles aroused cries of admiration. But the Spanish escort--good heavens!--what a sight! If you had seen it. I am afraid you would have burst with laughter; they were so ludicrous. Except for three, or at the most four, of them, they were just too much to look at: hunchbacked, undersized, barefoot Pygmies from Ethiopia. If you had been there, you would have thought they were refugees from hell. (Roger 1961: 2-3)

From what we know and according to the Spanish monarchs, of the fifty attendants (one hundred and fifty or so, if we believe King Henry), only two (who were slaves) were black; however, More very graphically explains that he could only bear to look upon three or four of Catherine's attendants, suggesting that for him these alone were 'reasonably fair', the rest being either 'black' or at least 'non white'. Whatever we may think of the ethical standards of the author of Utopia, and although it is likely that Catherine had with her more than those two black attendants, it seems improbable that she travelled to (and arrived in) London with a retinue that was mostly of unspecified black origin. The ones that More found so very unpleasant, improper, and 'ludicrous' (and that he identified as "the Spanish escort") must have been dark, or olive-skinned Moriscos, the baptized Spanish Moors who, between the late 14th and the early 17th centuries, not only became in Spain an identifiable community (in terms of its demographic, social and economic weight) but were also strikingly visible as they were often given positions of relative importance by the Spanish aristocracy, either as slaves or free servants. (4) As the evidence of the Oxford English Dictionary shows, there was no specific word for More to use to identify them, and so he was undoubtedly registering the presence of some vaguely ideologized oriental or Moorish (and probably Spanish) 'appearance', as his racialist and negative description to Holt seems to demonstrate. In fact, he may have been recording the first ever appearance of Moriscos on English soil. To be sure, More's 'refugees from hell' could be adequately defined as aliens or strangers, following Lloyd Edward Kermode's clear taxonomy of 'the other' in Elizabethan England: according to this, 'aliens' (or 'strangers', as Kermode holds that both terms can be used indifferently) are persons from a 'foreign' country (the home country being England and Wales during Elizabeth's reign, and England, Wales and Scotland under James I); 'foreigners', on the other hand, are individuals from outside the city of London, those not being freemen (or guildsmen, who possessed voting and representation rights). Most aliens then were foreigners too, both being jointly considered as 'general outsiders', although the interests of the foreign English (non-Londoners in London, for instance) were far from those of continental strangers (Kermode 2009: 2). (5) However, although More appears to refer explicitly to the Spanish collectively in his letter, and clearly considers them as aliens, he seems to exclude the princess from his negative judgment:

Ah, but the lady! take my word for it, she thrilled the hearts of everyone; she possesses all those qualities that make for beauty in a very charming young girl. Everywhere she receives the highest of praises. (Roger 1961: 3)

More's criticism then is directed against almost all the Queen's attendants, whom he seems to find too 'Ethiopian' or, in other words, too Spanish, too Moorish, and too alien, while Catherine herself somehow appears to avoid his disapproval. Yet, More paradoxically twists again his description of the event to rebuke his fellow countrymen for a possibly excessive praise of this Spanish lady, and concludes his letter with the admonition: "but even that [i.e., to bestow on Catherine the highest of praises] is inadequate" (Roger 1961: 3).

In his seminal The Stranger in Shakespeare (1972) Leslie Fiedler explored the apparently contradictory attitude towards strangers expressed in Shakespearean drama, which simultaneously showed "a paranoia about blacks" and "sympathy for strangers" (Fiedler 1973: 182), remaining the locus "in which all the proverbial antinomies are confused" (Fiedler 1973: 183). In this paper I argue that the early modern English approach to aliens and strangers (as defined above) involves a complex and paradoxical dynamics of rejection and absorption. As my opening anecdote suggests, I will focus on a very specific category of vaguely identified aliens, namely the Spanish Moriscos, since it is they who are the protagonists of what I have called 'the paradox of the alien', or the act of 'paradoxing the alien'; (6) that is, Moriscos are representatives of both the alien-within, frequently encountered in early modern Europe, and of the alien-withinthe-alien insofar as they are simultaneously Spanish but also alleged crypto Muslims, as well as being, in a nominal sense, Catholic converts. (7) In my approach to paradox--today commonly understood as the reversal of common opinion, 'para-doxa' (8) or 'beyond convention'--I follow Peter Platt, who explores and defines paradoxical reasoning in Shakespeare and the early modern period as "an agent of action and change" (2009: 4). This is the epistemological move that operates on reality with the purpose of simultaneously accepting and rejecting it, and which also creates the kind of irresolvable uncertainty and doubt that early modern writers called 'contrariety' (Platt 2009: 1-16).

The Oxford English Dictionary informs us that it was Thomas More (as we saw, the author of the 'paradoxical' description of Catherine of Aragon and her Spanish retinue) who firstly used the term paradox in English to refer to an "opynyon inopinable" in his Second Parte of the Confutacion of Tyndal's Answere (London, 1533); Shakespeare also used the term in Hamlet to discuss the 'paradoxical' relation between beauty and honesty, emphasizing how paradox reversed given opinion: "This was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof" (1997: III, I, 115-116). And Thomas Hobbes (to give just a very superficial survey of the use of the term in the early modern period) defended paradox from the accusation of being a "felony or some other heinous crime", defining it as "an opinion not yet generally received" in his 1656 treatise entitled The questions concerning liberty, necessity, and chance (1841: 304). A modern judgement on the matter, following Hobbes, would probably see early modern paradox as far from being "paralyzing and ineffectual" (Platt 2009: 4), indeed would see it as helping to explain the attitude of 16th and 17th-century writers towards aliens, and more specifically towards the Moriscos who were beginning to appear in England at this time: such paradoxes contain opposites without trying to resolve them, startling the readers and audiences, expanding rather than excluding contradiction, and challenging conventions (Platt 2009: 2-8). (9)

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the earliest references to the term 'Morisco' in the English language are relatively unspecific (10) and occurred decades after More's slighting of the Spanish princess. For example, in the 1540 Voyage Barbara to Brazil the term 'Morisco' appears to be synonymous with 'Moorish' or 'Moroccan' in the sentence "master Roberte Browne delyvered unto Stone xxxj peces of Morisco golde". As we know, there was no distinctive Morisco currency as such, whereas the kingdom of Morocco, the land of the Moors, was recognised as a conspicuously wealthy economy. At around the same time the term 'Morisco' appears in the English translation of the 1551 travel narrative by the Venetian ambassadors Giosaffat Barbaro and Ambrogio Contarini, Travels to Tana & Persia, to refer to the customs of North African Moors and Persians within the context of the ambiguous political geography of the early modern period, when they describe "Sitteng vpon carpetts aftre the Morisco maner". The OED also informs us that 'Morisco' as a specific geographical location appears in English almost simultaneously but with considerably greater accuracy, with reference to north-western Africa, or modern-day Mauretania and Morocco, the locations from which the Moors (and especially 'Spanish Moors') were thought to come. Indeed, in 1531 the Aristotelian essayist Thomas Elyot in his well-known Book Named the Gouernour described how the "Noble Romanes, whan they were in Numidia, Libia, & suche other countrayes, which nowe be called Barbary & Morisco, in the vacation season from warres, hunted lions, liberdes, & suche other bestis" (1907: I, xviii).

By the late 16th century references to Moriscos begin to be used with greater precision, combining a reasonably well-documented knowledge of their role in Spanish contemporary politics with definitions that are sometimes clearly prejudicial, as in Matthew Sutcliffe's Briefe Replie to Libel (1600), (11) with a derogatory reference to: "Moriscoes and Negroes, and horseboies, and such Canalliary" (1600: B1v). Frequently, these references are also informed by an exotic orientalist perspective; for example, in 1605 Moriscos are linked to gypsies in R. Treswell's Relation of a Journey: "Diuers Gypsies (as they termed them) men and women, dauncing and tumbling much after the Morisco fashion" (1809: 434). (12) Finally, around 1645 William Atkins' A Relation of the Journey from St. Omers to Seville refers to "Those Moriscoes which in the yeare 1610 were by Philip the Third bannisht out of Andalusia and Granado in Spaine to the number of ninetie thousand" (2009: 247). (13)

As I noted above, in Aliens and Englishness in Elizabethan Drama (2009), Lloyd Edward Kermode has developed a complex and productive approach to the dramatic representation of aliens and foreigners in 16th-century England that I believe to be informed, implicitly at least, by the early modern culture of paradox. According to Kermode, Marian and earlier Elizabethan drama (what he calls the 'first alien stage') produced plays and non-dramatic texts that confirm the theoretical perception of an English identity that was over-determined by its explicit rejection of, and difference from, recognizable ethnic and cultural 'others'. However, late Elizabethan theatre (the 'second alien stage'), according to Kermode, produces Englishness "as an ideology of power built, paradoxically, around the alien within that is 'con-fused'". (2009: 6, my italics). In the transition from one 'stage' to another an objectified 'otherness' is incorporated into a dominant English culture to produce a hybrid identity. Kermode's emphasis on the need to identify a set of early modern plays that offer late Elizabethan constructions of identity 'around the alien', is reinforced by the work of the anthropologist Anthony Cohen, who by the 1990s had already emphasized the conceptual inadequacies of an approach to identity that focuses primarily on the exclusion of the 'other'. Cohen describes a more flexible dynamics between self and other that includes distancing from a set of characteristics (of aliens), but also implies associating with other sets of features (1993: 197-198). Considering the preponderance of criticism based on a binarist theory of selfidentity formation in the English early modern period, it seems necessary to assert that both Cohen and Kermode have brilliantly reintroduced and adapted a familiar Bakhtinian dialectic of the internalized opposition between 'high' and 'low' that Stallybrass and White had already developed, and to a certain extent popularized, in their seminal The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (1986):
   Repugnance and fascination are the twin poles of the process in
   which a political imperative to reject and eliminate the debasing
   'low' conflicts powerfully and unpredictably with a desire for this
   Other. (1986: 5)

According to Stallybrass and White, the 'top' not only simultaneously rejects and desires the 'low other', but also finds itself including its 'other' symbolically. In Barbara Babcock's words, "what is socially peripheral, is often symbolically central" (in Stallybrass and White 1986: 20). Interestingly, both Bakhtin and Babcock (and Kermode, and Stallybrass and White) introduce a concern with borders between self and other, and the high and the low, which reproduces the central Lotmanian notion of the 'semiosphere' as the abstract (although very real and material) space where semiosis takes place, and the also Lotmanian concept of the 'boundary' that comprises the outer limit of that space. Of course, the boundary in Lotman's semiosphere is an ambivalent concept in that it both separates and unifies; it is bilingual and polylingual, and it transforms (or 'translates') what is 'external' into what is 'internal' (Lotman 2001: 137). This implies a process of negotiating meanings and sanctioning specific discourses from outside the semiosphere along with decisions about whether to include them or not within authorised and legitimised discursive fields. But this process, in order to avoid reverting to some form of structuralist idealism, has to be explained as (in Voloshinov's words) an association of external discourses with "the vital socioeconomic prerequisites of the particular group's existence" (Voloshinov 1973: 13); in other words, I want to emphasize how the 'reception' of otherness is materially (not only symbolically) conditioned by the already existing discourse of 'Moorishness', a discourse which --only indirectly produced by Biblical exegesis--itself consists of a number of post-lapsarian narratives of the Muslim 'other' as non-English, non-European, non-civilized or non-Christian, but also as powerful, fearsome and admirable. It is in this sense that Moriscos externalize the paradoxical early modern approach to others that the actual evolution of the term 'Morisco'--as an index of social change--signals: after all, from a cultural and materialist semiotic perspective (and, interestingly, according to Voloshinov), words "have the capacity to register all the transitory, delicate, momentary phases of social change" (Voloshinov 1973: 13). The apparently exclusive relation established between 'us' and 'them' in many accounts of self-other encounters in the early modern period may, in the light of these approaches, acquire a different dimension, in that it directs attention away from a simplistic binarism of exclusion to forms of symbiosis or dialectical dynamics of the kind suggested by Kermode and Lotman.

Virtually unknown in the early 16th century, the vicissitudes of the Moriscos became a central matter of attention in England at least as early as 1568, when the Morisco Revolt (also known as the War of the Alpujarras), broke out. (14) Many records contained in the Calendar of State Papers (CSP) lodged at Simancas, covering the period 1568-1579, clearly manifest the English awareness of, and interest in, the potential geo-political role of the Moriscos. That role involved the capacity of the Moriscos to deplete Philip's military resources by forcing him to divide his attention between Flanders and the war in Granada. In addition, it furnished a comparison between their role as enemies-within, as pseudo-Christians within the Spanish realm, and the role occupied mainly by the Catholic minority in Elizabethan England. On 2 April 1569, four months after the beginning of the revolt and only a few weeks after it had escalated into a major conflict, the Spanish ambassador Guerau de Spes wrote to King Philip that:

not a day passes [in England] without some new tale being made up [by members of the Privy Council or counsellors of the Queen] to comfort the people; just as, recently, they cried up the rising of the Moriscos of Granada, as if it were some great thing. (CSP, 1894: 139)

A month later, on 9 May 1569, another letter to the King explains that:

They [i.e., Cecil and his party] also exaggerate greatly the rising of the Moriscos of Granada and other fibs and fictions which they publish everyday. They boast of the impossibility of your Majesty making war against them [i.e., the English] [...] I have given full information of the true state of things in Granada, but they will not believe me, and cry out that other provinces of Spain have risen against your Majesty, little knowing the fidelity of the Spaniards. (CSP, 1894: 145; 149)

The English clearly had a vested interest in Spain's defeat, or at least in her domestic distractions, which accounts for the ambassador's observation in the letter of 13 May 1570 that they (i.e., the English) "cannot hide their disappointment at the good news from Granada" (CSP, 1894: 245), when Don Juan de Austria had already changed the course of the war. Even some decades after these events, Francis Bacon in his Considerations Touching a Warre with Spain (1623-1624, published in 1629) still considered the Moriscos a major threat to Spain: "the Moors of Valencia expulsed, and their allies, do yet hange as a cloud or storm over Spain" (1629: 4v). In general, the Morisco revolt was regarded in England and Europe (Hillgarth 2000: 205-208) as an internal (although with an international dimension) and debilitating struggle between the two halves of an already hybrid culture, the product of an orientalization of Spanish identity that was already at work in the English and European imagination (Fuchs 2009: 4). This confusion and contamination ascribed to England's most feared--and perhaps most admired and hated--rival can be perceived in the discursive formulations of these issues widespread during the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

An updated revision of Richard Percyvall's dictionary of 1591, John Minsheu's A Dictionary of Spanish and English (1599) was the first of a series of Spanish and English dictionaries, and Spanish grammars, published between 1599 and 1623 by this self-styled "Professor of Languages in London". (15) Both Percyvall's 1591 edition and Minsheu's 1599 edition include various references to Moro ("a blacke Moore of Barberie, or a Negar that followeth the Turkish religion"), Mulato ("the sonne of a black Moore, and one of another nation"), Mestizo ("that which is come or sprung of a mixture of two kinds, as a black-Moore and a Christian, a mungrell dog or beast"), and interestingly from the point of view of the present discussion Morisco ("a blacke Moore made or become a Christian") (Minsheu [1599] 1623). Minsheu, and Percyvall before him, familiarized English readers and students of Spanish with the great diversity of hybrid subjects populating 16th and 17th-century Spain, individuals who were the product of certain 'mixtures' that would have shocked Thomas More a century earlier, but who were becoming increasingly visible as a consequence of European proto-colonial projects. I will deal later with the wider epistemological consequences of this concern with 'mixtures', but in terms of human taxonomy such was the English awareness of hybridization that by the mid-seventeenth century English readers had already been familiarized with many of the 'new' human types fashioned by the Spaniards in the New World, as Thomas Gage described in his New Survey of the West-Indies (1648), a travel narrative (the first ever by a non-Spaniard in the American colonies) in which he carefully defines 'Black-Moors', 'Mulatto's', 'Mestiso's', 'Indians', 'Criolios', and 'Simarrones', all of them being jointly categorized as 'Barbarians' (1677: front page, 122-124, 291-292).

For their part, Minsheu's texts seem to take for granted the degree of hybridization of Spain, to the extent that his observations contain few value judgments and a certain tolerance is detectable in his somewhat neutral definitions. Minsheu's primary object of study is language and grammar, and he seeks to emphasize the pleasure and delight to be obtained from learning Spanish, as well as from the location of the Latin etymologies of the language, and he exhorts learners and "any other Reader" (Dialogues, 1623: first page) to profit from the learning of Spanish, encouraging them to attain "the perfection of the Spanish Tongue" (Dictionary, 1623: first page).

However, Minsheu consistently reminds his readers of the hybrid ('symbiotic', I would call it) nature of the language. In this connection, it is noteworthy that the Dictionary of Spanish and English includes:

an Alphabeticall Table of the Arabicke and Moorish words now commonly received and used in the Spanish tongue, which being dispersed in their severall due places throughout the whole Dictionarie are marked thus [dagger]. (1623: first page)

Moreover, the companion work, Dictionarie in English and Spanish (1599), contains
   [A] briefe Table of Sundry Arabian and Moorish words usuall in the
   Spanish tongue: all which as they stand dispersed in their severall
   places in the Dictionarie, are marked with a long Crosse [... plus
   sections on ...] Arabick or Moorish words usuall in Murcia, and
   Arabick or Moorish words used in Portugall. (1623: 384)

This particular structure, in which 'the world of Spanish words' (to adapt a familiar early modern metaphor) is contained within the dictionary, could be explained as a cultural semiotic or more specifically Lotmanian instance of how semiospheric boundaries filter and translate various languages and discourses. This is represented orthographically in the Dictionarie through its simultaneous incorporation and marking off of those words with an Arabic origin.

Minsheu is also at pains to demonstrate the hybrid origin of the Spanish tongue. For example, in his Spanish Grammar of 1623, he postulates a mosaic of origins in which 'Biskaine' (the source of which was Caldean, he claims), 'Arabique' (which --he thinks--comes from Hebrew), and 'Catalan' (which, in Minsheu's account, is a kind of French and comes from Provencal), combine to provide the basis for the evolution of Spanish itself as both the prestigious final stage and the source ('mother tongue') of the current language:

The fourth is that which is now at this day commonly used and spoken thorow all Spaine, and is called Lengua vulgar, the mother tongue, otherwise Lengua Castellana, or Espanola, the Castilian or Spanish tongue. (Spanish Grammar, 1623: Mm3/1)

Minsheu then simultaneously and paradoxically incorporates Spanish into the realm of dignified objects of study, and at the same time constructs a cordon sanitaire that affirms the non-European nature of a substantial part of that language and culture. From a careful reading of his abundant linguistic writings, we may conclude that, paraphrasing his definition of the Morisco, Spanish seems to be for Minsheu 'an oriental language made or become European', and like the Moriscos, Spanish is and is not Muslim, is and is not Christian. This self-division is the foundation of paradox, the otherness that is lodged at the heart of the discourse of origins and that produces a homogeneous phenomenon, while at the same time pointing towards a constellation of marginal constitutive relationships that affirm the symbolic centrality of the Spanish language itself.

An increasing awareness of the mongrel composition of cultures and languages was undoubtedly present in the early modern period, partly as a consequence of the various contacts made between cultures through trade or conquest, and it is no surprise that linguists were especially aware of this. If Minsheu reproduces the hybrid nature of Spain and all things Spanish in the structure and disposition of his Spanish-English dictionaries, then we find a similar concern with English as a polyglot language and culture in the early modern period. John Florio (the author of the 1598 Italian-English dictionary A World of Wordes) describes in First Fruits (1578), through an Italian character, the English language in terms not dissimilar to those of Minsheu: "Certis, if you wyl believe me, it doth not like me at al, because it is a language confused, bepeesed with many tongues" (in Kermode 2009: 5). Kermode links this early modern allusion to English as a confusion of languages with the issue of English identity: like Minsheu's account of the origin of Spanish, it is not clear whether alien elements in language (French, Italian, or 'Duitch' in the case of English; 'Biskaine', 'Arabique', or Catalan in the case of Spanish) come after the creation of the language (or culture), or whether they are already present within the language (or culture). Minsheu and Florio appear to suggest both things. As Kermode explains, the belief in a dismissable alien body is less worrying than the alien presence within, since if the former is easily identifiable and is therefore vulnerable to repression, the reformation of the self-alienated individual can only take place within the self, through a process of internalisation that carries with it certain risks (2009: 24). Hence, the constant concern with hybridization that Minsheu and Florio express: while Minsheu seems to warn the student of "the Castilian or Spanish tongue" (Spanish Grammar, 1623: Mm3/1) against the oriental nature of that language, Florio openly criticizes the confusion (his term) that he finds in English, which his fictional Italian character does not like "at al" (in Kermode 2009: 5). (16)

As was to be expected, we find this same epistemological concern with linguistic hybridity in early modern drama, poetry and theoretical writing and criticism, now focusing on the polymorphous nature of literary forms. On the one hand, some authors inveigh against a potential gallimaufry, another mixture that 'degrades' the alleged 'purity' of literary, aesthetic or intellectual productions; on the other, we perceive a certain ambiguity about the possibility of introducing some breeches of decorum by allowing the mixing of types or styles, especially as they seem to be inevitable, to the extent that for many authors these generic mixtures appear to be acceptable. Sidney had a relatively open attitude regarding the mixing of literary types: "some poesies have coupled together two or three kinds; [...] but that cometh all to one in this question; for if severed they be good, then conjunction cannot be hurtful" (Klein 1963: 201). This is a position that Ben Jonson sustained in the prologue of the pastoral play Sad Shepherd (1641), where he argued in favour of introducing comic elements in a pastoral (Klein 1963: 371). More widespread, though, was the criticism of 'confusion', as in the extremely influential Scholemaster (1570) by Roger Ascham: "The confounding of companies, breedeth confusion of good manners both in the Courte, and euerie where else" (1570: 24). For Puttenham, there is an evident need to keep different things apart, be they the kind of business to attend (1970: 281), or the clothes to wear: "there is a decency of apparel in respect of the place where it is to be used" (1970: 284). Indeed, by 1668, Dryden's Essay of Dramatic Poesy proclaims the superiority of French drama over the English and the Spanish as the former respects the three unities and does not mix genres, as to his dismay English and Spanish playwrights do in tragicomedy (Gilbert 1962: 601-620). In any case, playwrights and poets seemed to have developed the epistemological perception that the state of the real world, no less, provided a good explanation for this literary mingling, as John Lyly states in the prologue of his allegorical comedy Midas (1589): "If we present a mingle-mangle, our fault is to be excused, because the whole world is become an hodge-podge" (Klein 1963: 203).

A similar preoccupation with hybrid cultural forms for which these kinds of intertextuality may stand as metaphors can be found in the non-dramatic work of the Elizabethan playwright and essayist Thomas Dekker; for example, in The Seven Deadly Sins of London (1606), Dekker seems to agree with Puttenham's criticism above when he satirizes one of the major social ills of his time, the "sin of Apishnesse" (or 'imitation', his fifth sin) (1885: II: 57-61), which he relates to the English fashion of picking styles from various nations, and associates with the more general sin of Pride:
   For an English-mans suit is like a traitors bodie that hath beene
   hanged, drawne, and quartered, and is set up in severall places
   [...] And thus we that mocke everie Nation, for keeping one
   fashion, yet steale patches for everie one of them, to peece out
   our pride, are now laughing stocks to them, because their cut so
   scurvily becomes us. (1885: II: 59-60)

For Dekker, true Englishness suffers from this hodge-podge of styles that he catalogues in his Seven Deadly Sins and in other writings such as A Strange Horse-Race (1613) or A Rod for Run-Awayes (1625). To be sure, Dekker was--in all likelihood--not explicitly referring to Moriscos when he made allusion to various processes of hybridization; yet, his overall concern with identities and otherness --as we will see when we deal with some of his dramatic writing--was certainly permeated by a clear awareness of the existence and significance of hybrids such as Spanish Moriscos.

Whereas public documents (like the CSP), or linguistic works, such as Minsheu's, that deal explicitly with diplomatic contacts, or with the origins of language, include various references to Moriscos, it is difficult to find clear and explicit references to them in the drama of the period. Evidently the visibility of these identities in early modern England was reduced because their political and cultural impact was relatively limited compared to that of, say, Spaniards or conventional Moors. However, there are some oblique references to Moriscos in several early modern plays, especially from the mid and late 17th century. The anonymous Lady Alimony (1659) (17) contains a secondary character called Morisco, who acts as the confident of Lady Platonick, along with two other marginal characters called Mor and Moris. Both Philip Massinger's The Parliament of Love (ca. 1624) (18) and Francis Fane's Love in the Dark (1671) introduce Morisco as the language of the Moors. In the former, Massinger's Clarindor makes a positive allusion to it: "I desird/ to heare her speake in the morisco tongue/ troath it is a pretty language" (1929: II, 329-331); Massinger is referring to the language of Beaupre, a servant of "darke Complexion" (1929: II, 306), and there are no further references to the Moriscos or their 'language'. Fane's play, however, abounds in linguistic, ethnic and socio-cultural references to Spanish Moors and Morisco language; thus, Morisco is the language of the supposedly black slave played by the malevolent Intrigo, who invents a fake language that passes as Morisco (1929: II, 425, 427, 454), and is physically described as a "better favour'd Moor than ordinary" as "his nose is not so flat as most of theirs, and he has not altogether such a black Mossy Pate" (1929: II, 345-346), although like all lustful Moriscos he "will make plaguy signs to a Woman" (1929: II, 398). Francis Beaumont's Cupid's Revenge (ca. 1615) refers to "Mad morisco's" (1615: II, i) to suggest hidden and wild danger, and it is this meaning that Shakespeare deploys in his account of Jack Cade in 2 Henry VI: in act three, scene one, York remembers the "headstrong Kentishman John Cade of Ashford", (1997: 356-357) whom he saw in the middle of the battle "capre upright, like a wilde Morisco" and who shook the darts off his thigh "as he [i.e., the Morisco] [shakes] his bells" (1997: 365-366). John Marston's What You Will (1607) alludes to the wit of the Moriscos (1633: IV, i); and, finally, Thomas Dekker's Match mee in London (ca. 1611)--significantly demonstrating an emphasis similar to that manifested in his prose writings--dramatizes the Morisco style as one of a number of foreign dressing fashions now contaminating England; in the dialogue between the King and Bilbo the merchant the following complaint occurs: "If they be blacke they are rotten indeed, sir doe you want no rich spangled Morisco shoo-strings" (1630: II). (19)

Interestingly, Dekker's Match mee in London is set in a corrupt Spanish court ruled by debauchery, and dramatizes how it is eventually destroyed by unbridled lust, something he had already explored, as we will see, in Lust's Dominion (ca. 1598-1599, pub. 1657). (20) Indeed, regardless of these briefreferences, there are indications that Elizabethan and Stuart playwrights were by no means unaware of the existence of these quintessentially hybrid figures, especially in the actual dramatizations and ideological transformations that these characters underwent in early modern plays. Thomas Dekker's Lust's Dominion dramatizes Moors in a Spanish context, suggesting that his concern here was with Moriscos. If William Rowley's later play All's Lost by Lust (ca. 1618-1620, pub 1633) signaled the historical beginning of Muslim Spain, (21) Dekker's play pointed to the final stage of a process that, almost exactly nine hundred years after the events dramatized in All's Lost by Lust, led the Spanish King to decree the final and complete expulsion from the kingdom of all 300,000 Moriscos, an event that would produce various responses from several European writers and rulers, from Cardinal Richelieu and Elizabeth I to English observers such as John Stevens (Hillgarth 2000: 200). Thus, although they are not specifically alluded to as such, Dekker's play seems to end with a decree that anticipates the historical expulsion of the Moriscos/Moors: "And for this barbarous Moor, and all his train/ Let all the Moors be banished from Spain" (1657: V, vi, 203-204).

The protagonist in Lust's Dominion is the son of the King of Fez, the Muslim Eleazar, whose origins--like those of Shakespeare's Othello--are difficult to pin down. Although he has traditionally been assumed to be a prisoner at the Spanish court ("captive" he says of himself at the beginning of the play, and later on he briefly explains the death of his father and his own capture at the hands of the Spaniards in Fez), the play appears to be actually addressing the figure of a Morisco: his evidently preeminent role and presence in the court, with total access to the Queen and the King, his apparent status and support, including absolute visibility in all state affairs, his cultural confidence and connections, his association with an orientalized Spanish habitus, together with the final explicit reference to the expulsion, can only be satisfactorily explained through the figure of the Morisco. Indeed, Eleazar's condition not so much as prisoner but rather as just another Spaniard or--more to the point--as a Morisco, seems to be reinforced by the probable earlier title of the play: Samuel Chew reminds us: "there is, in fact, no objection to Collier's and Fleay's identification of it [i.e., All's Lost by Lust] with The Spanish Moor's Tragedy for which Henslowe paid Dekker, Day, and Haughton in February 1600" (1937: 520).

Eleazar (like Shakespeare's Aaron in Titus Andronicus, or Iago in Othello) (22) manipulates reality through language by playing upon a community's vulnerabilities and, in Dekker's play, this weakness is the cardinal sin of lust. Lustful Eleazar is surrounded by lustful Spaniards (King Fernando, the Queen Mother--the 'lascivious Queen'--, and Cardinal Mendoza) all of whom are at least as wicked and vicious as he is. Indeed, lust--as the play states--functions as a metonymy for Spain, but whereas both Christians and Muslims in the play are evidently ruled by lasciviousness, it is the pernicious influence of the Morisco/Moorish enemieswithin (Eleazar and all his 'train') that seems to have 'contaminated' the Spanish court by having inoculated Eleazar's eroticism and the Moors' corruption and evil. The 'Spanish Moor' of the 1597 title is then not an oxymoron but a symptom of that condition, lust becoming a commonplace feature of 'otherness' for some early modern authors. Indeed, Thomas Gage in his already mentioned New Survey of the West-Indies (1648), echoes Dekker's concern with clothing as a signifier of excess and lust as distinguishing features of Spaniards and what he calls 'Moors':
   The attire of this baser sort of people of Blackmores and Mulatta's
   (which are of a mixt-nature, of Spaniards and Blackmores) is so
   light, and their carriage so enticing, that many Spaniards, even of
   the better sort (who are too prone to Venery) disdain their Wives
   for them. (1677: 124)

The play becomes more disturbing because it not only has an eloquent Moor located within a lustful Christian society, but it also insists that this state of affairs could obtain almost anywhere: in wealthy Barbary, with the Turk, in France, or in Portugal/Spain. In fact, [he] "can live there, and there, and there,/ Troth 'tis, a villain can live any where" (1657: I, iv, 16-21). The play manifests a barely repressed admiration for Eleazar's cunning, which--combined with the Spanish location--produces a semiospheric alien-within-the-alien, a 'villain' more threatening than the identifiable alien, as radical and unassimilable other, could ever be.

The evidence adduced so far does not consistently distinguish between the 'colour' of the figure of the Morisco and that of the Moor or the 'Ethiop;' yet it is conceivable that there were cultural if not visual distinctions made between different ethnic identities. In this sense, it seems reasonably clear that (as we have seen) the early modern perception of the Morisco renders the boundaries between national identities (or semiospheres) porous, which might account for the ease with which certain figures appear in assimilable form in the drama of the period. With this instability in mind, it is possible to argue that our understanding of Shakespeare's Othello (ca. 1604) may also profit from a 'Spanish' and more specifically 'Morisco' reading. In the wake of the seminal work by Barbara Everett in the 1980s, (23) recently augmented by that of Peter Moore (1996), Eric Griffin (1998 and 2009) (24) and, although differently focused, Grace Tiffany (2002), (25) it would seem logical to consider, in conjunction with the Muslim/African/Ottoman content of the play, a Spanish, or more precisely, a Morisco intertext for the play.

Basically, as Everett has already established, the attribution of Spanish names in Shakespeare's Othello (a play with a Venetian--i.e. Italian--setting) recalls Spain's centuries-long struggle with the Moors. To begin with, 'Iago' is the name of the villain of the play, which made Everett wonder why Shakespeare chose a non-Italian name for his villain, especially one which this villain would share with James I, the Stuart King before whom the play was to be first performed on 1 November 1604 at Whitehall. Interestingly, Shakespeare's villain is the namesake not only of King James but also of Sant-Iago the Moor-killer, Patron-Saint of Spaniards and alleged defender of an ethnically 'pure' Spain; moreover, another villain, Roderigo, shares his name, which is also Spanish, with two such preeminent Spanish characters as Rodrigo Diaz, El Cid, legendary hero of Spanish Christians fighting Islam, and Visigoth King Roderick, whose sin of lust caused the kingdom to fall into the hands of the Muslims in 711. All these coincidences, some of them potentially dangerous for the playwright (namely, the connection Iago/King James) suggest that a Spanish/Moorish subtext should be taken into consideration.

Equally concerned with a possible Spanish subtext in the play, Eric Griffin has also noted how 'Brabantio' may allude to 'Brabant', the Spanish possession in the Netherlands; how lasciviousness acts as an allusion to the alleged lust of the Spaniards (which takes us back to King Roderick, or Dekker's lustful Morisco Eleazar); or how the constant derogatory reference to Othello as the 'Moor' could be connected with moro, the term of abuse in early modern Spain, where Moors were the quintessential strangers (Griffin 1998: 71-73). In her 1994 "Acts of Naming and Spanish Subtexts in Othello" Lena Orlin has also argued in favour of the Spanish subtext of the play, explaining how:

[t]he Spanish name subsequently given the ensign in Othello, [...], provides a suprapsychological explanation of [...] why (to return to Cinthio) the Moor believes the ensign, otherwise "too foolishly", and murders his own chaste wife. (Orlin, 1994)

If Iago and Roderigo may be linked to Spain, so may Othello. Indeed, the Venetian General's background can furnish a link to Hassan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan, better known to early modern Europeans as Giovanni (Johannes or John) Leo Africanus. Al-Wazzan, or John Leo, was the author of Della descrittione dellAfrica, a text originally published in Italian in 1550 and first translated into English in 1600 by John Pory as the quite popular and authoritative Geographical Historie of Africa, which was once considered one of the indirect sources of Othello. John Leo was born in Nazari Granada around 1491, and lived through the conquest of the city in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs, leaving Granada with his family in 1497 just a few years prior to the first expulsions of the Moriscos. (26) From Granada he went to Fez, and from there he travelled through Muslim Africa, until he was taken prisoner by Sicilian pirates and presented as a 'gift' to Pope Leo X, under whose influence he converted to Christianity.

As early as 1973 Geoffrey Bullough had already pointed out the similarities between Othello's life narrative as told by himself in I, iii, 128-158 and John Leo's account of his own life as retold by Pory: both historical personage and fictional character share not only their uncertain origins and wandering lives full of dangers, but also their conversion, their ascent in the power structures of their respective societies and their new allegiances (Bullough 1973: 208). Furthermore, as Jonathan Burton has recently argued, both seem to be "in need of establishing the credibility of [their] adopted subject-position[s]", that of converted-Christians (Burton 2005: 235), and in order to purchase this new-Christian identity both secured their own space within the Christian semiosphere at the expense of their Moorish self. (27) Leo's narrative can be linked to an increasing early modern awareness of the existence of Moors and Muslims in England, a context into which the Moroccan embassage that visited London in August 1600 can be inscribed as it seems to play a major role: it introduced, just as Leo's life and Othello's tragedy did, the possibility --unprecedented for Londoners--of proximity to the simultaneously dignified and repulsive Moor, a subversive vision of enemies-within that Habsburg Spain's politics had emphasized by means of the several expulsions and revolts of Spanish Moriscos; interestingly, we know that the Moroccan ambassador Abd-el-Ouahed ben Massaod took with him an Andalusi or Morisco translator.

Bearing this in mind, we may argue that Othello, like Dekker's Eleazar, has some obvious connections with Spanish Moors, who at the time had been at least nominally been converted to Christianism and were known as Moriscos. This Othello, read in this Spanish and Moorish light, appears as a new Christian, travelling throughout the Mediterranean, exiled from an uncertain place but clearly connected to Spain and various things Spanish. Furthermore, Shakespeare's adaptation of Giraldi Cinthio's 1565 Gli Hecatommithi (the seventh story in the third decade) incorporates, all through the play but especially in Act One, the attempted Ottoman invasion of Cyprus as a dramatic motive that triggers the action through a continuous sense of impending danger. Shakespeare was here introducing a reference to the Fourth Ottoman-Venetian War (1570-1573), a conflict that was a direct consequence of the Morisco revolt of 1568-1571. (28)

Focusing on the Morisco as a paradoxical figure who internalises the values and customs of a culture to which he is alien allows all of the strands that the foregoing discussion has identified to be drawn together, and it adds an ethical and an ethnic dimension to our understanding of Shakespeare's play. Thus, we can identify a distinctly Renaissance moral and ethical economy operating here that feeds directly into our discussion of Moriscos as prototypically hybrid figures, a meeting point of a number of early modern ethnic, moral and religious stereotypes and the embodiment of the above-mentioned porous boundaries of the early modern Christian/European semiosphere. The Morisco--as we have seen above: from More to Minsheu, or from Gage to Sutcliffe--was not only reasonably well-known in early modern England but the object of a number of paradoxical definitions, as being simultaneously skilful and resourceful, hateful to look at and brave, nonChristian, non-white and barely human, but vaguely European; this apparent confusion, however, ultimately had to do with their aforementioned hybridity and uncertain status in Habsburg Spain, which was included in the definitions and references to both Moriscos and Spaniards in Elizabethan and Jacobean England. This ambiguity and inner contradiction--stemming from the Morisco's split identity--closely resembles many of the defining features of Shakespeare's Moor of Venice, the Venetian who killed the turbaned Turk within himself: if early modern states were increasingly repressing enemies-within through a vague criticism of 'mixtures' and 'confusions', both Othello (and to a certain extent Eleazar) and Moriscos are quintessential enemies-within, walking paradoxes in their simultaneous conflation of 'us' and 'them', so useful at times but so laden with fear for 17th-century Spain and England. What Shakespeare's Othello dramatizes, and the Moriscos embody, is the conflict-ridden status of the emergent early modern state, with its complex and diverse identity conflicts: "That's he that was Othello: here I am" (2006: V, ii, 282).

This link, which may be largely lost to us today, may be partially based on the English early modern image of Spain (for which the Moriscos were greatly responsible) as an inherently divided community, a society undergoing a crisis of identity, as much the consequence of an external gaze as the product of her inability and unwillingness to abandon the Moorish habitus that marks it off as simultaneously European and Oriental, just as Minsheu's segregated dictionary clearly suggests. Even more significant to a reading of Shakespeare's play, the Moriscos, like the Spanish conversos, became Europe's 17th-century paradigmatic representatives of split identities, uncertain allegiances, and conflict-ridden integration and assimilation, roles which are of central importance in relation to current approaches to Othello. (29)

It is also in this sense that Shakespeare's Othello may be amenable to a 'Spanish' or 'Morisco' reading, since vulnerability is evidently a central feature of the Spanish Moriscos and of the play's main character, as Eldred Jones was one of the first to note in his seminal Othello's Countrymen (1965: 97-105). It was also Jones who first approached Othello's case as that of an "honourable murderer" (1965: 87-93): apart from the obvious connotations of such a self-definition of Othello in a play so complexly informed by the concept of honour (interestingly one of the two early modern Spanish obsessions together with that of purity of blood), Shakespeare's play dramatizes a confrontation between early modern cliches about Moors (including Othello), and a problematization of those self-same commonplaces, leaving to the audience the potential resolution of that apparent contradiction. This is what Jones actually identifies as the paradox lying at the heart of the tragedy, which he calls the "double antithesis" of the play: Iago as both soldier and villain and Othello as both Moor and noble hero (1965: 110-117). This paradoxical construction of alterity (Jones's double antithesis) is based on historically specific social and political questions that directly affect semiospheric relations with others such as Othello, and have to do with Venice and her political and economic role in the early modern Mediterranean: her reliance on external military support, her economic preeminence, her identity as a 'republic', and her geographical location as the meeting point of East and West (the so-called 'Venetian myth'). The Moriscos, as we saw, fulfill in Spain a similar social and economic role to that of Othello (and other aliens) in Shakespeare's Venice: as Caro Baroja has clearly explained, the reasons why they were not expelled earlier have to do with their central economic function within Habsburg Spain as cheap and efficient labour force, and with geopolitical reasons of state derived from Spain's need to keep a certain balance in her relations with the Kingdoms of Morocco and Fez, and the Ottoman empire (1991: 37-58). The Moriscos were also simultaneously included and excluded, assimilated and marginalized, defined and carefully categorized, basically in late 16th and early 17th -century Spain, but also in other European locations such as England, as I have suggested above; hence the evident links that the play seems to provide between the figure of Othello and that of a Morisco.

A diversity of early modern texts represent and reproduce complex and sophisticated negotiations between early modern culture and the figure of the Muslim or Moorish other. The catalogue of characters include Dekker's Eleazar or Shakespeare's Aaron, Morocco, and the Moor of Venice, and in most cases they foreground paradox and contradiction, two indicators of an ideology struggling to cope with, and to absorb, phenomena that challenge existing national, cultural, and linguistic assumptions. It is the same paradoxical approach to aliens that characterizes the mixture of admiration and repulsion that we find in Minsheu's or Florio's definitions, or the concern with the inevitability of cultural 'contamination' that becomes evident in Dekker's writings. It is also the same feeling of horror manifested by Thomas More as he observed the attendants of the Spanish princess, a feeling strangely aligned with an admiration that he eventually contained when he met Catherine. We know that whereas Henry VII expelled most of Catherine's dark-skinned Spanish musicians, he proceeded to hire some of them for his personal service, so impressed was he by their skill and talent. (30) Spanish Moriscos, well known in Elizabethan England, were basically civil monsters, hybrid subjects who performed the function of mediation typical of the Lotmanian boundary and who acted as an intermediate link between oppositional groups. Indeed, they tragically embody the irresolvability of the early modern paradox: aliens who are neither white nor black, Christian but yet Muslim, Spanish and in spite of that (or precisely because of it) non-Europeans, frequently characterized as "mongrel dogs or beasts".

Works cited

All references from early modern editions correspond to copies held at the Folger Shakespeare Library. In the case of English titles, the Short Title Catalogue (STC) reference is provided.

ASCHAM, Roger. 1570. The Scholemaster. London. STC (2nd ed.) 835.5.

ATKINS, William. (1645). 2009. A Relation of the Journey from St. Omers to Seville. In Murphy, M. (ed.) Camden Fifth Series 3: 195-288.

BACON, Francis. 1629. Considerations Touching a Warre with Spain. London. STC (2nd ed.) 1126.

BEAUMONT, Francis. Ca. 1615. Cupid's Revenge. STC (2nd ed.) 1667.

BEST, Steve and Allon WHITE. 1986. The Politics and Poetics of Transgression. London: Methuen.

BULLOUGH, Geoffrey (ed.) 1973. Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare. Vol. 7. New York: Columbia U.P.

BURTON, Jonathan. 2005. Traffic and Turning. Islam and English Drama. Newark: University of Delaware Press.

CABRERA DE CORDOBA, Luis. 1857. Relaciones de las cosas sucedidas en la corte de Espana desde 1599 hasta 1614. Madrid: Imprenta de J. Martin Alegria.

CARO BAROJA, Julio. (1957) 1991. Los moriscos del Reino de Granada. Madrid: Istmo.

CATHCART, Charles. 2001. "Hamlet Date and Early Afterlife". Review of English Studies 52 (207): 360-375.

CHEW, Samuel C. 1937. The Crescent and the Rose. Islam and England during the Renaissance. New York: Oxford U.P.

CICERO, Marco T. (1942) 1960. De oratore, Book 3. Paradoxa stoicorum. Trans. H. Rackham. London: Heinemann (Loeb Classical Library).

CINTHIO, G. Giraldi. 1566. De gli hecatommithi. Vinegia: Appresso Girolamo Scotto.

COHEN, Anthony P. 1993. "Culture as Identity: An Anthropologist's View". New Literary History 24: 195-209.

DEKKER, Thomas. (ca. 1598-1599) 1657. Lust's Dominion, or the Lascivious Queen. London. ESTC R7118.

--. (ca. 1611). 1630. Match mee in London. London. STC (2nd ed.) 6529.

--. 1885. The Seven Deadly Sins of London. In Grossart, Alexander B. (ed.) The Non-Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker. 5 volumes. London: The Huth Library.

ELYOT, Thomas. (1531) 1907. The Book Named the Gouernour. New York: Dent and Dutton.

EVERETT, Barbara. 1982. "Spanish Othello: The Making of Shakespeare's Moor". Shakespeare Survey 35: 101-113.

FANE, Francis. 1671. Love in the Dark. ESTC R16385.

FIEDLER, Leslie. 1973. The Stranger in Shakespeare. London: Croom Helm.

FUCHS, Barbara. 2009. Exotic Nation. Maurophilia and the Construction of Early Modern Spain. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

GAGE, Thomas. (1648) 1677. A New Survey of the West-Indies: Or, The English American his Travel by Sea and Land. London. STC R13282.

GILBERT, Allan H. (1940) 1962. Literary Criticism. Plato to Dryden. Detroit: Wayne State U.P.

GRIFFIN, Eric. 1998. "Un-sainting James: or Othello and the 'Spanish' of Shakespeare's Globe" Representations 62: 58-99.

--. 2009. English Renaissance Drama and the Specter of Spain. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

HABIB, Imtiaz H. 2008. Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500-1677: Imprints of the Invisible. London: Ashgate.

HASTINGS, Francis. 1598. A watch-word to all religious, and true hearted English-men. London. STC (2nd ed.) 12917.

HILLGARTH, J.N. 2000. The Mirror of Spain, 1500-1700. The Formation of a Myth. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

HOBBES, Thomas. (1656) 1841. The questions concerning liberty, necessity, and chance. London: Charles Richards.

HUME, Martin A.S. (ed.) 1894. Calendar of Letters and State Papers Relating to English Affairs Preserved principally in the Archives of Simancas. Vol II Elizabeth 1568-1579. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

JONES, Eldred. 1965. Othello's Countrymen. The African in English Renaissance Drama. London: Oxford U.P.

KERMODE, Lloyd E. 2009. Aliens andEnglishness in Elizabethan Drama. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.

KLEIN, David. 1963. The Elizabethan Dramatists as Critics. New York: Philosophical Library.

KRISTEVA, Julia. 1991. Strangers to Ourselves. Trans. L. Roudiez. New York: Columbia U.P.

Lady Alimony, or, The alimony lady. London. 1659. ESTC R11749.

LOTMAN, Juri M. 2001. Universe of the Mind. A Semiotic Theory of Culture. London and New York: Tauris.

MARLOWE, Christopher. (ca. 1604) 1986. The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Dr Faustus. In Abrams, M.H. et al. (eds.) The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: Norton: 814-865.

MARSTON, John. (1607) 1633. What You Will. Tragedies and comedies collected into one volume. London. STC (2nd ed.) 17472.

MASSINGER, Philip. (ca. 1624). 1929. The Parliament of Love. W.W. Gregg, (ed.) London: The Malone Society and Oxford U.P.

METZGER, Mary Janell. 1998. "'Now by my Hood, a Gentle and No Jew': Jessica, The Merchant of Venice, and the Discourse of Early Modern English Identity". PMLA 113 (1): 52-64.

MINSHEU, John. (1599) 1623. A Dictionary of Spanish and English. London. STC 19621B.

--. (1599) 1623. Dictionarie in English and Spanish. London. STC 19621B.

--. (1617) 1978. The Guide into the Tongues and A Most Copious Spanish Dictionary. A facsimile reproduction. New York: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints.

--. 1623. A Spanish Grammar. London. STC 19621C.

--. 1623. Pleasant and Delightfull Dialogues. London. STC 19621C.

MOORE, Peter. 1996. "Shakespeare's Iago and Santiago Matamoros" Notes & Queries 43 (2): 162-163.

MURPHY, G.N. 1964. "A Note on Iago's Name". In Slote, B. (ed.) Literature and Society. Lincoln: Nebraska U.P.: 38-43.

ORLIN, Lena. 1994. "Acts of Naming and Spanish Subtexts in Othello". <http://www.>. Accessed September 20, 2011.

PENNELL, C.R. 2005. Breve historia de Marruecos. Madrid: Alianza.

PERSONS, Robert. 1599. A temperate ward-word to the turbulent and seditious Watch-word of Sir Francis Hastinges, knight. Antwerp. STC (2nd ed.) 19415.

PLATT, Peter. 2009. Shakespeare and the Culture of Paradox. London: Ashgate.

PUTTENHAM, George. (1589) 1970. The Arte of English Poesie. Cambridge: Cambridge U.P.

ROGER, Elizabeth (ed.) 1961. St. Thomas More: Selected Letters. New Haven and London: Yale U.P.

ROWLEY, William. (ca. 1618-1620). 1633. All's Lost by Lust. London. STC 21425.

RUIZ MAS, Jose. 2011. "The Image of the Great Turk after the Ottoman Conquest of Famagusta and Marc Antonio Bragadino's Martyrdom". In Lopez-Pelaez, Jesus (ed.) Strangers in Early Modern English Texts. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang: 171-189.

SHAKESPEARE, William. (ca. 1600) 1997. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In Greenblatt, Stephen et al. (eds.) The Norton Shakespeare. New York: Norton and Oxford U.P.: 1668-1756.

--. (ca. 1603) 2006. Othello, the Moor of Venice. Michael Neill (ed.) Oxford: Oxford U.P.

--. (ca. 1591) 1997. The Second Part of Henry VI. In Greenblatt, Stephen et al. (eds.) The Norton Shakespeare. New York: Norton and Oxford U.P.: 213-287.

SUTCLIFFE, Matthew. (1592) 1600. Briefe Replie to Libel. London. STC 23453.

TIFFANY, Grace. "Shakespeare and Santiago de Compostela". Renascence 54 (2): 2002: 86107.

TRESWELL, R. (1605). 1809. Relation of such things as were observed to happen in the journey of the right Honourable Charles Earle of Nottingham. London. STC 24268. In Oldys, William. and Thomas Park (eds.) The Harleian Miscellany. Vol. III. London: White and Murray: 424-447.

UNGERER, Gustav. 2008. The Mediterranean Apprenticeship of British Slavery. Madrid: Verbum.

VOLOSHINOV, Valentin N. (1929) 1973. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Seminar Press, Harvard U.P and Academic Press. < voloshinov/1929/marxism-language.htm> Accessed June 20, 2011.

WILSON, Richard. 2007. Shakespeare in French Theory: Kings of Shadows. New York: Routledge.


Universidad de Jaen


(1.) Research for this paper was funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovacion (Proyecto de Investigacion Fundamental): Research Project FFI2009-13165. I am deeply grateful to the Folger Shakespeare Library for kindly granting me access to the primary sources appearing in this article. A preliminary version of this work was presented at the 22nd International Conference of the Spanish and Portuguese Society for English Renaissance Studies (SEDERI) held at the UNED (Madrid) in March 2011. John Drakakis and Ali S. Zaidi read earlier drafts, and--as always--I profited from their illuminating observations; my warmest thanks go to Primavera Cuder for her invaluable assistance when preparing this article.

(2.) According to Gustav Ungerer, Catherine's female attendants alone amounted to almost sixty people. King Henry refused to maintain the apparently excessive accompaniment and expelled some dozens, some of whom were absorbed by the English court to be employed as musicians, while others appeared to have settled in Northern England and Scotland (Ungerer 2008: 96-97; Habib 2008: 38-40).

(3.) I am very grateful to my colleague the Morean scholar Eugenio Olivares for making this episode, and the corresponding letter, known to me.

(4.) Whereas according to the Oxford English Dictionary 'Muslim' merely refers to a follower of Islam, and 'Moor' in the early modern period could be either a natural from Northern Africa (ancient Rome's Mauretania) or one of those North African Muslims who in the 8th century conquered "Spain" (sic), the term 'Morisco' specifically refers to baptized Spanish Moors (many of them crypto-Muslims) in the late middle ages and the early modern period, especially between 1492 (conquest of Granada, the last Muslim stronghold on the Iberian peninsula) and 1609 (when 300,000 Moriscos were forced to leave Spain by Philip III's edicto de expulsion). According to the Treaty of Granada (1492) Muslims from Granada would be allowed to maintain their religion, speak Arabic, and keep their properties and customs, but by the late 1490s Spain's Catholic monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand renounced those terms and started, through Cardinal Cisneros, a policy of repression which included the burning of books in Arabic, the expropriation of land and houses owned by Muslims, and the severe punishment of those Muslims who did not renounce Islam and were baptized nevertheless, which produced the first Morisco revolt easily put down by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella between 1499 and 1501. By that year Islam was no longer a tolerated religion in the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. Conversions followed, and although most of the Moriscos secretly kept their Muslim faith, Charles V did not interfere with this situation in any significant manner. Some decades later Philip II decided to implement again a policy of repression by applying the regulations passed (but never enforced in practice) in 1526 (the so-called Pragmatica) and as of 1 January 1567 Moriscos suffered heavier taxation, social, religious and economic prohibitions, administrative barriers, and all kind of abuses. As soon as these new regulations came into effect, the Moriscos (led by Fernando de Valor, from an aristocratic Morisco family in Granada) declared war on Philip II and Habsburg Spain in December 1568, the so-called Morisco Revolt, or the War of the Alpujarras, which finished in 1571 with the total defeat of the Moriscos at the hands of Philip's half brother Don Juan of Austria. The whole community was enslaved and dispersed to several other Spanish regions, only to be expelled from the kingdom by Philip III, in the early 17th century, on the grounds that they could not be integrated (Caro 1991: 37-59; 160-203).

(5.) Between the status of a true born Englishman and the alien was the 'denizen', a permanent resident with rights of residency and work, whose status was requested from the crown and granted through an individualized letter (Kermode 2009: 3).

(6.) I have adapted the phrase "paradoxing the orthodox" from Peter Platt, who took it from Joel Fineman to refer to the function of early modern paradox in Shakespeare's plays and sonnets; see Platt 2009: 4.

(7.) Whereas, as we saw, most Moriscos remained crypto Muslims, some did indeed convert to Christianity. Yet, both groups would be known, both in Spain and England, as 'Moors'. This complex nature of Moriscos had another major consequence for their fate outside Spain: since--nominally at least as they had been baptized--Moriscos were Christian, on religious grounds they could not be shipped to non-Christian lands, and many were initially sent to France (Marseilles) and Italy (Livorno and Venice). From these locations many went to Northern Africa, where they received an unequal welcome: some were received as 'Christian' invaders, and consequently were rejected and abused there again, especially since they were not considered to be true Muslims (indeed, they had been baptised, spoke poor Arabic, and practised an 'imperfect' Islam) (Pennell 2005: 128-29, 143). Others were luckier, and Tunisia, for example, received more than 100,000 Moriscos who settled and prospered in a few decades. Sale or Tetuan, in Morocco, were almost totally populated by Moriscos (in the case of Sale, most were from the southwestern Spanish location of Hornachos).

(8.) The Greek etymology of 'paradoxa' "suggests a reversal of common belief or convention" (Platt 2009: 2). In Paradoxa stoicorum Cicero explains that paradoxes "sunt... admirabilia contraque opinionem omnium" ("are surprising and go against the opinion of the majority", my translation, 1960: 257). This emphasis on contradiction and surprise as characteristic features of paradox in its Greek and Roman (stoic) classical origins, although central in any definition of the term does not exhaust it: paradoxes underline identity or equivalence between contraries, which links them to other rhetorical devices reflecting cognitive approaches to reality. Indeed, by resisting the resolution of the contradiction paradoxes are close to deconstruction and Derridean 'undecidables' (Platt 2009: 4-6).

(9.) Platt has interestingly argued that the notion of paradox helps establish a solid link between Renaissance thought and poststructuralism (based on a shared interest in, and "a fascination with doubleness, undecidability and radical ambiguity" (2009: 6); Richard Wilson has recently explored the connections between Shakespeare and French poststructural thought in Shakespeare in French Theory: Kings of Shadows.

(10.) Apart from Spanish, which was the first European language to use the term 'Morisco' (as early as 966), French shows early appearances of the term; we know, for example, that the term 'Morisco' denoting "a Moor subject to the Christian King of Spain" dates from 1478, whereas the first ascription of this term "denoting a Moorish woman" is from 1611, a coincidence which inevitably links this first appearance of 'Morisco' with the 1609-14 expulsion of almost 300,000 Moriscos from Spain by Philip III. In 1620, with most Moriscos already outside the realm of the Spanish Habsburgs as a consequence of the expulsion, the OED registers the term in English as denoting "a Moor subject to the Christian King of Spain".

(11.) Sutcliffe's was a response to a libel by the pro-Spanish Jesuit Robert Persons, A temperate ward-word (1599), itself a reply to Sir Francis Hastings' A watch-word to all religious, and true hearted English-men (1598).

(12.) Treswell wrote about the Moriscos in his account of the activities of the English ambassador in Spain in his "Relations of such things as were observed to happen in the journey of Charles, Earl of Nottingham, his majesty's ambassador to Spain 1604". It must be noted that the Harleian edition explains in a footnote that 'Morisco' in this sentence should be understood as 'Moorish'.

(13.) This is a travel narrative full of adventures and encounters with strangers and aliens: the story of English Catholics travelling from Flanders to Spain, who were harassed by Flemish sailors and captured by Moroccan (and probably Morisco) corsairs from Sale.

(14.) This conflict would end in 1571. Although as we saw there was a previous year-long uprising, the Albaycin Revolt (1499-1500), which was brutally repressed by the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, the Morisco Revolt (1568-71) was the confrontation that captured the attention of the English (and of most western Europe) as a potential distraction for Phillip II's Spain.

(15.) Apart from this 1599 dictionary, other works by Minsheu are A Spanish Grammar (1623); the Pleasant and Delightfull Dialogues (1623); and his relatively popular Guide into the Tongues & A Most Copious Spanish Dictionary (1617).

(16.) George Puttenham in The Arte of English Poesie also warned against what he called 'the mingle-mangle' or 'Soraismus', "when we make our speech or writings of sundry languages using some Italian word, or French, or Spanish, or Dutch, or Scottish" (252).

(17.) The latest EEBO-ProQuest edition of the play (2011), however, attributes it to Robert Greene, and the EEBO database gives Greene's collaborator, Thomas Lodge, as author.

(18.) The source text, on which the Malone Society edition is based, is incomplete.

(19.) Marlowe's Doctor Faustus makes what might be a passing reference to Moriscos: "As Indian Moors obey their Spanish lords" (I, I, 122): although it has traditionally been interpreted as an oblique reference to the natives of the New World (or 'Indians') and their submissiveness to Spanish conquistadores, we may take it in the opposite sense: note how the term 'Indian' is applied to the Muslim Eleazar in Lust's Dominion (1657: III, iv; IV, iii).

(20.) Although the play's first edition of 1657 attributed the authorship to Christopher Marlowe (at least three of the four extant copies do so, including the one I have consulted at the Folger Shakespeare Library), today it is widely considered to be by Thomas Dekker, and probably William Haughton and John Day, although some authors also include John Marston as an additional co-author. On authorship and dates, see Cathcart (2001).

(21.) Actually, in his seminal The Crescent and the Rose, Samuel Chew claimed that All's Lost by Lust was composed as a consequence of attention being drawn in England to Spanish Moriscos: "The expulsion of the last Moriscos early in the seventeenth century recalled to mind the circumstances in which the Moors had obtained their first entrance into Spain" (1937: 518).

(22.) Besides these two, in The Crescent and the Rose Samuel Chew also relates Eleazar (although not for his loquacity) to "two Moslem slaves in Christian hands, the unnamed Slave in Davenport's The City Night-Cap and Mulleasses (a Christian born) in Mason's The Turk" (1937: 521).

(23.) To my knowledge, the first link between Iago's name and Saint James (or Sant'Iago) was G.N. Murphy's "A Note on Iago's Name", as early as 1964, although Barbara Everett was the first to call for a Spanish reading of Othello.

(24.) For these and a few other authors, the Sant/Iago reference is paramount for a correct understanding of the play, promoting a reading of Othello in the context of Anglo-Spanish relations and the Muslim/ Ottoman threat in the Mediterranean (in which Venice and the Habsburg Empire had so much to say).

(25.) Here Tiffany, by means of an analysis of Othello's divided self and through the figure of the racialized unintegrable Other, has arrived at the split personality conflicts of Spanish Jews in the early modern period (which she evidently also connects with Shakespeare's other Venetian play, Merchant). See also Metzger 1998.

(26.) As we saw, the first expulsions were preceded by forced baptisms en masse, dispossessions, tortures, the burning of books and various prohibitions.

(27.) However, this is a charge that some authors have recently and convincingly denied in the case of John Leo (Burton 2005: 233-256).

(28.) Indeed, Selim II decided to conquer Cyprus precisely because he knew the Spanish Habsburgs would not react, as Philip II was focusing his strength on putting down the Morisco revolt; in fact, right after this conflict ended, Philip agreed to lead the Holy League at Lepanto (1571), although Cyprus was never recovered for Christendom. For a full account of the Wars of Cyprus (15701571), and more specifically of the siege of Famagusta, and an analysis of its impact on English literature, see Ruiz Mas' "The Image of the Great Turk after the Ottoman Conquest of Famagusta and Marc Antonio Bragadino's Martyrdom".

(29.) Everett introduces additional evidence of the links between Spain and Othello. Some of this is clearly metadramatic: Iago and his connection with the figure of the Spanish picaro, or the links between the comic dimension of Othello and Italian learned comedy, which included the figure of the Spanish braggart soldier, frequently fused with the role of the deceived husband. Some other evidence relies on the socio-historical, ideological and political conditions of production of the play: Othello's composition at precisely the time in which the English seem to have been asked to aid the Moriscos from Valencia (1605, according to Luis Cabrera de Cordoba 1857: 240); the excessive concern with honour, arguably the best known Spanish trait of character in the early modern period; or the centuries-long Spanish struggle against Islam (1982: 104-109).

(30.) In all likelihood at least one John Blancke/Blak, originally part of Catherine's retinue, became a popular figure with both Henry VII and Henry VIII. This black trumpeter appears in the Westminster Tournament Roll (1511) (commissioned for the birth of Henry VIII's son) proudly wearing a turban (Habib 38-40).

Received: 20 July 2011

Revised version: 1 December 2012
COPYRIGHT 2012 Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Lopez-Pelaez Casellas, Jesus
Publication:Miscelanea: A Journal of English and American Studies
Date:Jul 1, 2012
Previous Article:La traicion Edenica en la literatura arturica: consideraciones sobre la identidad de la pareja en Le Morte Darthur de Thomas Malory.
Next Article:The postmodern gender divide in the Bob Dylan Biopic I'm Not There.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |