Sir William Davenant's American Operas.
If morale representations may be allowed [...] the first Arguments may consist of the Spaniards' barbarous conquests in the West Indies and of their severall cruelties there exercised upon the subjects of this nation: of which some use may be made. (1)
Near the end of the Puritan Interregnum, Davenant followed through on his proposition, writing and producing two operas set in America: The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru (1658) and The History of Sir Francis Drake (1659). He later recycled both pieces as acts in The Play-house to be Let (1663).
Davenant's operas were written and produced at a critical juncture in England's colonial history: Oliver Cromwell's Western Design, an imperial initiative to seize Hispaniola in the Caribbean, had recently failed, and the reasons for its failure were being publicly debated in 1656 and 1657. (2) Among the most prominent texts to appear in support of Cromwell's foreign policy was John Phillips's The Tears of the Indians (1656), a translation of Las Casa's Brevissima relacion de la destruycion de las Indias (1552). Phillips, John Milton's nephew, prefaced his translation with a dedication to Cromwell and an address to Englishmen in which he praises Cromwell's endeavours and calls for support for future actions against the Spanish in the New World.
Phillips's Tears of the Indians is often cited as one of Davenant's sources. Views on the relationship of Davenant's work to Cromwell's foreign policy, however, are divided. As early as 1662, Henry Herbert, the Caroline Master of the Revels, claimed that Davenant's operas were intended to propagandize for Cromwell's initiatives:
Sir William Davenant [...] wrote the First and Second Parte of Peru [sic], acted at the Cockpitt, in Olivers tyme, and soly in his favour; wherein hee sett of the justice of Olivers actinges, by comparison with the Spaniards, and endeavoured thereby to make Olivers crueltyes appeare mercyes, in respect of the Spanish crueltyes; but the mercyes of the wicked are cruell. (3)
More recently, Susan J. Wiseman, although she does not specifically address the Western Design, finds that Davenant's Interregnum operas 'can, at points, be linked fairly closely to Cromwell's foreign policies of the later 1650s'. (4) Furthermore, the 'colonialist representations of both The Cruelty of the Spaniards and Francis Drake [...] call up memories of a heroic Protestant past and avoid issues of contemporary domestic import' (p. 198). This apparent displacement of political controversy leads Wiseman to conclude: 'Roman Catholic Spaniards are defined against good Protestant English but no question is raised about whether the good Protestants are monarchic or republican Protestants' (p. 197). For her, 'the discourses of colonial conquest engulf the pressing questions of nationhood'.
Janet Clare reads the ideological import of Davenant's Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru quite differently. Rather than finding an echo of Cromwellian policy, Clare argues that Davenant's Cruelty of the Spaniards is 'ideologically and aesthetically distanced from Cromwell's colonial enterprises' primarily because it eschews the overt providentialism that characterizes the Puritan apologetic. (5) Thus, Clare concludes, Davenant's Cruelty of the Spaniards must have had a mainly nostalgic message for the temporizing royalists in the audience: 'To those who tolerated the Commonwealth in the hope of a royalist restoration, the appeal of Davenant's masque would have resided not in the futuristic vision of English colonial domination but in its representation of the modus vivendi of a pre-Civil War people.' (6) For Clare, questions of nationhood, most specifically interpretations of recent national history, engulf and make irrelevant the issue of colonial conquest.
In this essay, I shall argue that the discourses of colonial conquest and nationhood in Davenant's operas are intertwined, rather than mutually exclusive. Whereas Wiseman notes only compatibility between Davenant's plays and Cromwell's foreign policy, I wish to indicate the dissonances that exist: most prominently, Davenant's avoidance of Cromwell's overt providentialism. Yet I also wish to avoid taking Davenant's departure from Cromwellian ideology as a reason for dismissing the colonial import of his operas: instead, I urge that, in dialogic fashion, Davenant's operas seek to reformulate the logic by which English empire in the New World might be validated. According to Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of the dialogic imagination:
The word, directed toward its object, enters a dialogically agitated and tension-filled environment of alien words, value judgments and accents, weaves in and out of complex interrelationships, merges with some, recoils from others, intersects with yet a third group: and all this may crucially shape discourse, may leave a trace in all its semantic layers, may complicate its expression and influence its entire stylistic profile. (7)
Davenant's representations of the Americas and England's role there merge with, but also modulate, ideas from the colonial apologetic that developed in support of the Western Design. Davenant condemns the Spanish, as do the supporters of the Western Design, and depicts, in Cromwellian fashion, the English as defenders of Native American interests. (8) Yet Davenant presents the basis for England's New World imperialism in ways that attempt to address contradictions and shortcomings in the Puritan discourse. In place of its heavy and explicit providentialism, Davenant emphasizes the 'honour' and 'fame' at stake in the imperial endeavour, and allows readers and viewers to infer the divine destiny of the English nation from its heroes' actions. As such, his operas would have held appeal for Puritans as well as the temporizing, and later restored, royalists in his audiences.
To understand English colonial discourses, one must begin with Spanish imperialist apologetics. For English writers of the Restoration, Spanish colonial discourse was notoriously declarative: Spanish ceremonies of possession typically centred on the performance of a text, the Requirimiento (composed in 1512), from which Spanish rationales for conquest were read before uncomprehending Native Americans, inanimate objects, or even from the bows of ships. These declarations of divine mission proceeded, and were considered to legitimate, military invasion. (9)
The Requirimiento begins by establishing the Pope as God's chosen ruler on earth, and claims Spanish possession of a large portion of the New World by virtue of the Pope's donation. If Native Americans fail to accept the Pope's authority in this and other matters, 'and wickedly and intentionally delay to do so', the performer of the Requirimiento certifies that:
with the help of God, we shall forcibly enter into your country and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of their Highnesses; we shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do all the harm and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey, and refuse to receive their lord, and resist and contradict him; and we protest that the deaths and losses which shall accrue from this are your fault, and not that of their Highnesses, or ours, nor of these cavaliers who come with us. (10)
In this document, the Spanish present themselves as divine agents; if the Native Americans resist submitting to Spanish authority, they resist the will of God, and therefore may be destroyed with impunity. The cause justifies any and all actions.
Of course, the English interpreted Spanish imperialism quite differently. Condemnation of Spanish imperialism, both its practice and its apologetic, stands at the centre of the promotion of Cromwell's Western Design. (11) According to the English, the Spanish were motivated only by greed, and committed atrocious cruelties that indicated they were the agents of the devil's, not God's history. Phillips, in his letter 'To all true Englishmen' (which prefaces his Tears of the Indians), cites 'Politick Interest and Avarice' as Spanish motives for colonization (A7v) and observes that, in his work, Englishmen can:
now read of Christians, the Professors of a Religion grounded upon Love and Charity, massacring, where there was no cause of Antipathy, but their own obstinate Barbarism; as if because their Wickedness had so far transform'd them into Devils, they were resolved to deface the image of God, so innocently conversing among them. (12)
The Puritans not only condemned Spanish cruelty but also asserted themselves in place of the devilish Spanish as the true agents of God's history: in his dedicatory epistle to Cromwell, Phillips observes that it is 'apparent, how well your Highness doth observe the will of the most High, using Your vast Power and Dignity onely to the advancement of his Glory among the Nations' (A3v-A4r). Phillips goes on to urge that the English are fulfilling God's will by attacking the Spanish in the West Indies:
And now, O men of England, let me ask you but this Question; Whether you, that for these many years have had the Honour to be the Patrons of Religion; whose Charity hath still relieved, and whose Power hath still defended the Cause of the Oppressed at home and abroad; whether you can withdraw your Assistance from this Great Work, and deprive your selves of that Birth-right which you seem to have among the Nations, God still continuing the Management of his Justice in the hands of our most Fortunate and Lawful Magistrate, whom he hath rais'd up, as his Great Instrument, to revenge the Blood of that innocent People. (B3r-B3v)
Phillips gives English colonization of the West Indies religious urgency: God demands this 'Great Work' and has chosen Englishmen to perform it. It is configured, too, as a 'Charity': Native Americans are in need of English protection from the devilish Spanish who persecute them.
The English Puritans, in promoting their own cause, thus reproduce an essential feature of the Spanish apologetic for empire. It has often been noted that the justification for the Western Design was overtly providentialist. (13) In developing his foreign policy, Cromwell had turned to New England Puritans for help in interpreting God's will. In 1651 he asked John Cotton, 'What is the Lord a doinge? What prophesies are now fulfilling?' Cotton replied that 'to take from the Spaniards in America would be to dry up Euphrates'. (14) Cotton's allusion to Revelation 16. 12 was commonly understood to mean that, by establishing a foothold in the Caribbean, the English would be able to disrupt the flow of gold to Spain. The reference to Revelation also indicated that the Puritans interpreted the Western Design as a significant event in the latter stages of God's eschatological history. (15)
The English Puritans, like the Spanish who performed the Requirimiento, thought of colonization in top-down fashion: God ultimately provides authority and ensures the success of the endeavour. To put it another way, the providentialism of the English Puritans was, like the Spanish variety, deductive in its logic. While the Spanish tended to use providentialist language most prominently to justify conquest, the English Puritans often relied upon their alliance with God to ensure not only the legitimacy but also the success of their endeavour. Phillips, for example, states that he is 'confident that God, who hath put this Great Designe into Your [Cromwell's] Hands, will also be pleased to give it a signal Blessing' (A5v-A6r). This Puritan faith in their participation in providential history was ultimately a factor in the failure of the Western Design. As Karen Kupperman puts it, 'the sense that the [English] nation was participating in the working-out of God's purposes also led to underplanning of the campaign; it was assumed that God would make up all deficiencies' (p. 99). A good example of this assumption is noted by David Armitage: 'The council of state signalled the godliness of the [Western] Design with cruel impracticality' by sending Bibles instead of supplies to languishing forces in the Caribbean (p. 540).
The English expedition against Spanish America in 1654 was a disastrous failure. After sustaining considerable losses, the defeated English fleet 'limped on to take Jamaica, where disease, exacerbated by inadequate and inappropriate supplies, mowed the forces down' (Kupperman, pp. 96-97). Because the Puritan apologetic had taken such a starkly providentialist form, the failure of the Design was ideologically perplexing. Some chose optimistically to emphasize the English success in capturing Jamaica. (16) Others, though, including Cromwell, tried to ferret out the reasons for this divine 'rebuke' and 'reproof ' (Armitage, p. 541). Sir Henry Vane's A Healing Question (1656) posits that Cromwell's own sin was the reason for the failure of the Western Design (Armitage, pp. 544-45). Robert Sedgwick, on the other hand, suggests in letters to John Winthrop Jr, Cromwell, and Thurloe, that the English troops had not been godly enough to perform God's work. Sedgwick furthermore points out the seeming inconsistency in propagating a godly society by attacking others in the fashion of cruisers and privateers. He writes that 'the practice gave the English a bad name among the very Indians and slaves they said they were coming to protect, making them seem to be spoilers only, and ruining the grand design for which they embarked' (Kupperman, p. 97).
It was in this atmosphere of questioning, doubt, and blame that Davenant wrote and produced his operas. That Davenant was interested in the real possibilities of American colonization is evident from his brief involvement in colonial administration in the years prior to writing The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru and The History of Sir Francis Drake. In September of 1649, Charles II, who was trying to assert his imperial authority and thwart rebels overseas by commissioning royalists to offices in the colonies, appointed Davenant Treasurer of Virginia. Part of Davenant's commission was to retrieve artisans from French prisons and transport them to the colonies, where their skills were badly needed. In February 1650, prior to his departure for America, Davenant's appointment was changed to lieutenant-governor of Maryland; with this new assignment for Davenant, Charles II hoped to keep in check Lord Baltimore, who in his estimation did 'visibly adhere to the Rebells of England'. In May 1650, Davenant set out for the colonies, but his ship encountered a frigate under the command of Captain John Green, who had a privateering commission from Parliament, and Davenant's company surrendered without a fight. (17) Prevented from making his journey, Davenant was left to imagine affairs in the colonies. In The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru, written and produced eight years after his failed attempt at traversing the Atlantic, Davenant, like those who supported the Western Design, fashioned an apologetic for English conquest, largely by condemning Spanish imperialism and depicting the English as the rescuers of Native Americans. (18) Davenant's denunciation of Spanish imperialism aims at exposing the obvious discrepancy between the declared mission of the invasion and the experience, or history, of it. The Peruvians are the agents through whom Davenant probes the corruption and hypocrisy that characterize the Spanish colonial enterprise.
Much of the opera's development concerns the Peruvians' changing perspective on the Spanish invaders. Initially overcome with wonder, they both fear and adore the Spaniards, and, marvelling at the great distance they have travelled across a dangerous sea, consider the Spaniards to be divine. (19) The Peruvian perspective soon alters, though, as they witness the outrageous cruelties, such as the roasting of an Indian prince on a spit (p. 111), that the Spaniards commit against Native Americans and English mariners alike. (This dramatic scene is probably indebted to the illustrations that accompanied Phillips's translation, among which are several depictions of Native Americans being dismembered and roasted alive by Spaniards.) The Peruvians, always closely observing and interpreting Spanish actions, move through responses of wonder, adoration, fear, and horror, and arrive finally at a meditation on man's irrational cruelty: unlike beasts, men murder 'Not having use of what they kill' (p. 112).
The Peruvians thus may be said to evaluate the Spanish imperialist project in reverse: whereas the Spanish deduce the justness of their actions from a general providential authority, the Native Americans read those actions inductively and arrive at a condemnation of the general invasion. Through this process, the providentialist hoax is exposed, as the Peruvians indicate when they ask, 'What Race is this, who for our punishment | Pretend that they in haste from Heav'n were sent, | As just destroyers of Idolatry?' (p. 111). In the final entry, the Peruvians reflect on their own hermeneutic process:
We on our knees these Spaniards did receive
As Gods, when first they taught us to believe.
They came from Heaven, and us o're heights would lead,
Higher than e're our sinful fathers fled.
Experience now (by whose true eyes, though slow,
We find at last, what oft too late we know)
Has all their cous'ning miracles discern'd:
'Tis she that makes unletter'd mankind learn'd.
Establishing Native American competency as reasoners and interpreters of experience is central to Davenant's imperialist apologetic: in addition to exposing Spanish hypocrisy, the Peruvians affirm the virtues of the English imperialists who arrive in the final 'Entry' of the opera. Davenant follows Phillips and Sedgwick in representing the English as defending Native Americans from the persecutions of the devilish Spanish. Anthony Pagden recently has argued that the English never represented themselves as heroic conquerors 'simply because there was nothing which took place in [...] British America about which such stories could be told' (Lords of All the World, p. 66). Davenant circumvents this difficulty by inventing history: the routing of the Spanish in Peru by English troops. As Davenant explains in the stage directions:
These imaginary English Forces may seem improper, because the English had made no discovery of Peru, in the time of the Spaniards first invasion there; but yet in Poetical representations of this nature, it may pass as a Vision discern'd by the Priest of the Sun, before the matter was extant, in order to his Prophecy. (pp. 112-13, italics reversed)
The justification for the fictitious history concludes with optimism for the future: the Priest of the Sun sees the matter before it is 'extant', which implies that the English will sometime rout the Spanish in the New World.
The English do not declare their mission to the Native Americans, as the Spanish do: instead, their exemplary actions speak for themselves and, by presenting a stark contrast, assist the Peruvians in arriving more fully at an understanding of Spanish corruption:
When first the valiant English landed here,
Our reason then no more was rul'd by fear:
They streight the Spaniards Riddle did unfold,
Whose Heav'n in caverns lies of others Gold.
The play concludes by prophesying the fall of the Spanish New World empire and projecting English colonial desire onto the colonized: the Peruvians paradoxically invite the English to 'sit and rule as our guests' (p. 114). Davenant thus not only imagines English empire supplanting the Spanish, but, more importantly, transforms the logic by which that imperialism is sanctioned: his futuristic vision of English colonial domination promises that the heroic actions of the English will validate the godliness of the project. (20)
Scholars have suggested that Cromwell's initiative in the West Indies was in many respects a throwback to Elizabethan foreign policy. Evincing similar hatred of the Spanish, Cromwell in parallel fashion replicates the stance that there should be 'No Peace Beyond the Line'. (21) Davenant, too, looks to Elizabethan precedent, finding not only applicable foreign policy, but also a hero for his second American opera, The History of Sir Francis Drake. Davenant's Drake displays most prominently the virtue of 'honour' and the motive of 'fame'; from his actions, the heroic destiny of the nation may be read. (22)
In his ode 'To the Virginian Voyage' (1606), Michael Drayton, in typical Elizabethan fashion, represents the English imperialist venture in a heroic vein. (23) Drayton positions honour as a principal motive in his promotion of the voyage:
You brave Heroique Minds,
Worthy your Countries Name,
That Honour still pursue,
Goe, and subdue,
Whilst loyt'ring Hinds
Lurke here at home, with shame.
Drayton certainly looks for the venture to the New World to yield wealth: Virginia is described as a place of fruitful abundance, and Drayton directs the venturers 'To get the Pearle and Gold' (l. 21). Drayton, though, is also interested in the less tangible profits of heroism, and these considerations frame his discussion of the material rewards of colonization:
And in Regions farre
Such Heroes bring yee foorth
As those from whomWe came [...]
Thy Voyages attend,
Whose Reading shall inflame
Men to seeke Fame.
(l. 55, l. 67)
In his History of Sir Francis Drake, Davenant weaves prominently with this heroic 'dialogic thread'. Elaborating on the virtues of English imperialists pointed to in the conclusion of The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru, (24) Davenant remakes Drake the raider into an honourable conqueror who liberates Native Americans and Symerons (Maroons) from their Spanish oppressors. (25) In this second American opera, Davenant gives Drake's heroic qualities universal, rather than culturally specific, validation. The Englishmen, Symerons, and Peruvians, allied against the Spanish, value the same qualities in each other's behaviour. Drake Senior and his son, for example, have high praise for Pedro, a leading Symeron:
DRAKE JUNIOR Pedro in sev'ral forms has all
That ev'ry where we merit call.
DRAKE SENIOR Wary in War as Chiefs grown old;
And yet in suddain dangers bold.
Civil and real too in Courts;
Painful in bus'ness and in sports.
Of course, Drake receives the greatest compliments; as in the Cruelty, the honour of Englishmen is inductively determined and declared by others. The Symeron King compares Drake to the sun in the extent of his travels and influence, telling Drake, 'by thy deeds all Climes acknowledge thee' (p. 91). Drake modestly resists such flattering interpretations of his own history:
So narrow is my merit wrought,
That when such breadth you thus allow my fame,
I stand corrected and am taught
To hide my story, and to shew my shame.
As in the Cruelty, the virtue apparent in the English adventurers causes Native Americans to voluntarily submit themselves to English authority. The Peruvians declare that 'The Lord of the Sea is welcome to Land, | And here shall command | All our Wealth, and our Arms' (p. 94). The foundation of English empire is seemingly independent of English self-representations, from rhetoric itself. The illusion is achieved by means of a ventriloquist trick: Davenant throws his own imperialist voice, making it appear to issue from the mouths of others.
In Davenant's History of Sir Francis Drake, honour is readily recognized across cultural and ethnic lines, but traverses class lines less easily. While Drake has high praise for leading Symerons, he is appalled when a group of common Symeron soldiers break from noble codes of conduct by capturing an innocent Spanish bride. Drake is outraged and resolves to battle with his own allies if she is not immediately released. (26) For Drake, her seizure threatens to plunge the allies' endeavours into illegitimacy:
Arm! Arm! The honour of my Nation turns
To shame, when an aZicted Beauty mourns.
Though here these cruel Symerons exceed
Our number, yet they are too few to bleed
When Honour must revengeful be
For this affront to Love and me.
Order is restored when the equally offended Pedro ensures the release of the unharmed bride and vouches that no further offences will occur. The episode concerning the captured bride implicitly contrasts Drake with Spanish conquistadors, whose Requirimiento sanctions attacks on women and children; the episode illustrates, too, how class divisions, by providing scapegoats, can serve as a means of dealing with the brutalities of imperialism.
The common English soldiers and mariners under Drake, though they do not jeopardize the venture with untoward actions, constitute a threat in that they misrepresent the significance of the raid on the Spanish mule train. A counterpoint of two discourses runs through the entire History: while the dialogue of Drake and other leaders continuously revolves around abstractions such as honour, fame, and beauty, the English soldiers and mariners are fixated on their own enrichment. Drake clearly separates himself from their gold lust in the final Entry:
That treasure which I now would make your Prize:
Unworthy 'tis to be your chiefest aim.
For this attempt is not for Gold, but Fame.
Drake also points to the danger that future historians may confuse his noble purposes with base plundering: 'Those who hereafter on our Legend look, | And value us by that which we have took, | May over-reckon it, and us misprize' (p. 102). (27)
In 1596, Sir Walter Ralegh also divided colonial motives along class lines in his depiction of Guiana:
The common soldier shal here fight for gold, and pay himselfe in steede of pence, with plates of halfe a foote brode, wheras he breaketh his bones in other warres for provant and penury. Those commanders and Chieftaines, that shoote at honour, and abundance, shal find there more rich and bewtifull cities, more temples adorned with golden Images, more sepulchers filled with treasure, then [sic] either Cortez found in Mexico, or Pazzarro in Peru: and the shining glorie of this conquest will eclipse all those so farre extended beames of the Spanish nation. (28)
The common soldiers seek wealth only; the commanders and chieftains, by contrast, seek 'honour' and 'glorie' as well as 'abundance'. In Davenant's play, the division is even starker: the honour and fame of the endeavour eclipse all remunerative concerns, rather than standing on equal ground with them.
The desire for gold corrupts Spanish imperialism, and, according to some critics, the Western Design; Davenant's Drake makes clear that gold must not be allowed to undermine the honour of future English New World initiatives. Davenant's idealization of Drake involves an attempt to deal with what Kupperman has identified as an ideological conflict in the Western Design: the desire to found a godly society by means of plundering the Spanish of their wealth (pp. 75, 77, 97-98). The desire for gold, potentially a corrupting element in any imperial apologetic, is handled in Davenant's operas by means of class distinctions. Certainly the English, in exploring and settling America, intend to enrich themselves, but the project itself must be propelled and ratified by higher aims. In Davenant's imperial discourse, base ambitions (plunder, cruel revenge) are projected onto the lower classes, internal 'others' who must be kept in check. Distinctions of class seem more prominent than distinctions of ethnicity or culture, although Drake finally singles out the English for their natural valour:
If English courage could at all be rais'd,
By being well perswaded, or much prais'd,
Speech were of use: but Valour born, not bred
Cannot by art (since being so,
It does as far as Nature go)
Be higher lifted, or be farther led.
Declaration effects nothing: only the actions of the imperialists signal (to persons of quality) the compatibility of the enterprise with God's providential design. Pedro can thus prophesy, from his knowledge of Drake's past, that Drake will be the first Englishman to sail the South Seas: 'If Prophesie from me may be allow'd, | Renowned Drake, Heav'n does decree | That happy enterprize to thee' (pp. 95-96).
According to Bakhtin, no utterance avoids entering into dialogue. At the time that Davenant wrote his operas, the Americas and English empire were objects especially open to dispute. Davenant's representations, then, must be understood in terms of their interaction with other, alien representations:
The word, breaking through to its own meaning and its own expression across an environment full of alien words and variously evaluating accents, harmonizing with some of the elements in this environment and striking a dissonance with others, is able, in this dialogized process, to shape its own stylistic profile and tone. (p. 277)
In some respects, Davenant's operas 'harmonize' with Cromwellian foreign policy: the vision of supplanting the cruel and devilish Spanish, and liberating Native Americans, is a common accent. Yet clearly there is dissonance also, most notably in Davenant's avoidance of overt and deductive providentialism to sanction English empire. In place of this providentialism, Davenant substitutes a heroic discourse of honour and fame, and these ideals, woven into his representations of the Americas and English empire, form a significant part of Davenant's 'stylistic profile'.
Davenant thus redirects English imperialist discourse at a time when the Puritan apologetic for the Western Design had suffered a serious blow, along with the Puritan colonial effort itself. Essential qualities of Davenant's apologetic include the recruitment of the interpretive abilities of Native Americans for the purposes of 'unbiased' validation; an emphasis on honour and heroism; and a division of the imperial goals and methods of the upper and lower classes. Imperialist apologetics must always appear to be founded in something other than one's own utterance, whether it be God, Nature, or universalized virtues. For the Puritans supporting the Western Design, God's design for history stood behind their words about England's colonial future. Davenant certainly also viewed his country as carrying out God's providential plan, but in his representations of the Americas he foregrounds different topoi and suggests a different logic in fashioning an apologetic for English imperial presence. (29)
(1) Quoted in Janet Clare, 'The Production and Reception of Davenant's Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru', MLR, 89 (1994), 832-41 (p. 834); see Mary Edmond, Rare Sir William Davenant: Poet Laureate, Playwright, Civil War General, Restoration Theatre Manager (New York: St Martin's Press, 1987), pp. 129-30, for a discussion of the circumstances in which this statement was made, and a dating discrepancy.
(2) See David Armitage, 'The Cromwellian Protectorate and the Languages of Empire', The Historical Journal, 35 (1992), 531-55 (pp. 539-50), for discussion of responses to the failure of the Western Design).
(3) The Dramatic Records of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, 1623-1673, ed. by Joseph Quincy Adams (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1917), p. 122. See Clare, 'Production and Reception', p. 833, for discussion of Herbert's comment. Of course no 'Second Part' of The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru is known; presumably, Herbert has in mind The Cruelty of the Spaniards and The History of Sir Francis Drake, which is designated as 'Part I' on its title page; however, no Part ii of Drake is known.
(4) Susan J. Wiseman, '"History Digested": Opera and Colonialism in the 1650s', in Literature and the English Civil War, ed. by Thomas Healy and Jonathan Sawday (Cambridge, New York, and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 189-204. (p. 190).
(5) Clare, 'Production and Reception', p. 836. 'Any suggestion of English intervention as divinely prescribed is eschewed' in Davenant's Cruelty (p. 835).
(6) Clare, 'Production and Reception', pp. 840-41. Clare gives compelling reasons for terming Davenant's Cruelty a masque.
(7) Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, ed. by Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), p. 276.
(8) See A Manifesto of the Lord Protector to the Commonwealth [...] Wherein is shewn the reasonableness of the cause of this republic against the depredations of the Spaniards, Latinized and perhaps written by Milton, in Wilbur Cortez Abbott, The Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, 4 vols (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1945), 111, 878-91. Spanish cruelty is addressed throughout the manifesto; the role of the English as avengers of Native
(9) See Patricia Seed, Ceremonies of Possession in Europe's Conquest of the New World, 1492-1640 (Cambridge, New York and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 69-99, for a discussion of the theories and practices associated with the Requirimiento.
(10) Quoted from a translation in Lewis Hanke, History of Latin American Civilization: Sources and Interpretations, 2 vols (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967), 1, 125.
(11) Karen Ordahl Kupperman, 'Errand to the Indies: Puritan Colonization from Providence Island through the Western Design', William and Mary Quarterly, 45 (1988), 70-99 (pp. 91-94).
(12) John Phillips, The Tears of the Indians: Being An Historical and true Account of the Cruel Massacres and Slaughters of above Twenty Millions of innocent People [...] (London, 1656), B2v, my italics. Phillips identifies Spain with the devil elsewhere in the letter, noting the 'devilish Cruelties of those that called themselves Christians' and the 'Satanical Scope of this Tyrant [Spain]' (B1v, B6r, my italics).
(13) See, for example, Armitage, 'The Cromwellian Protectorate', pp. 536-38; Blair Worden, 'Providence and Politics in Cromwellian England', Past and Present, 109 (1985), 55-99; Anthony Pagden, Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France c.1500-c.1800 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995), p. 74; and Kupperman, 'Errand to the Indies'.
(14) Quoted in Kupperman, 'Errand to the Indies', p. 91.
(15) Armitage, 'The Cromwellian Protectorate', pp. 537-38.
(16) Edward Doyley, A Narrative Of the Great Success God hath been pleased to give His Highness Forces in Jamaica, Against the King of Spains Forces (London, 1658); Cornelius Burroughs, Rich Newes from Jamaica: Of Great Spoyl Made by the English, Upon the Enemy, Both by Land, &Sea (London, 1659); Edward Doyley, A Brief Relation of a Victory [...] in the Island of Jamaica, against the Forces of the King of Spain (Edinburgh, 1659).
(17) See Mary Edmond, Rare Sir William Davenant, pp. 103-04, and Arthur H. Nethercot, Sir William D'Avenant: Poet Laureate and Playwright-Manager (New York: Russell & Russell, 1967), pp. 251-65. Edmond also notes the existence of a commission dated 3 June 1650 in which Davenant is appointed to the Council of Virginia. The Council was charged with the duty of fortifying the colony against possible rebellions against the royalist governor, Sir William Berkeley.
(18) For a historical perspective on the Black Legend, see The Black Legend: Anti-Spanish Attitudes in the Old World and the New, ed. by Charles Gibson (New York: Knopf, 1971) and William S. Maltby, The Black Legend in England: The Development of Anti-Spanish Sentiment, 1558-1660 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1971).
(19) Davenant, The Play-house to be Let, in The Works of Sir William D'avenant (London 1673; repr. New York and London: Blom, 1968), p. 110. All quotations are from this edition; in the absence of line numbers, page numbers only are given.
(20) J. M. Armistead, 'The Occultism of Dryden's "American" Plays in Context', The Seventeenth Century, 1 (1986), 127-52, has observed that Davenant shows a modified sense of the Renaissance theory of Providential design: 'a general confidence that heaven's hand is behind earthly phenomena and that, in the long run, history is purposeful, does not generate a full-blown metaphysics' (p. 132). I suggest that Davenant's providentialism may also be contrasted to Cromwell's variety.
(21) See Abbott, The Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, iii, 891-93; Timothy Vennig, Cromwellian Foreign Policy (New York: St Martin's Press, 1995), pp. 71-90.
(22) In his The Play-house to be Let, Davenant places The History of Sir Francis Drake as Act III before The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru (Act IV), even though Drake was written second and concerns a chronologically later event. Davenant may have arranged them this way because the story of Drake concerns the defeat of a Spanish mule train only, and is therefore a rather limited venture (even though Drake points to himself as example for future English venturers) while The Cruelty of the Spaniards in Peru symbolically depicts the collapse of the entire Spanish empire in America and the imminent domination of the English in the New World.
(23) Quotations are from Michael Drayton, The Works of Michael Drayton, ed. by J. William Hebel, 5 vols (Oxford: Blackwell, 1961), 11, 363-64.
(24) Wiseman observes that Davenant's Cruelty 'draws on the mythologisations of the English as conquerors in South America established around Drake, Raleigh and others' ('History Digested', p. 194).
(25) Likely sources for Davenant can be found in the collection Sir Francis Drake Revived. Who is or may be a Pattern to stirre up all Heroicke and active Spirits of these Times, to benefit their Countrey and eternize their Names by like Noble Attempts [...]. (London, 1653). This collection includes four accounts, among them a reprint of Philip Nichols's Sir Francis Drake Revived (London, 1626).
(26) In the anonymous Voyages and Travels Of that Renowned Captain, Sir Francis Drake, Into TheWest-Indies, And Round about the World (London, 1652), another possible source for Davenant, Drake is credited with protecting captured Spaniards 'from the Fury of the Symerons' (p. 5) and guarding 'three Spanish Gentlewomen that had lately been delivered of Children' from any 'Out-Rage' his men or the Symerons might commit (p. 8).
(27) Daniel Defoe offers another perspective on such 'misprizing' of Drake's voyage in his Essay Upon Projects (London, 1697):
Nothing's so partial as the Laws of Fate,
Erecting Blockheads to suppress the Great.
Sir Francis Drake the Spanish Plate-FleetWon,
He had been a Pyrate if he had got none.
(28) Sir Walter Ralegh, The Discoverie of the Large, Rich, and Bewtiful Empyre of Guiana [...], ed. by Neil L. Whitehead (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), p. 194.
(29) I wish to thank the Oklahoma Foundation for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities for providing grant support for this research.
<ADD> RICHARD FROHOCK OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY </ADD>
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|Publication:||The Modern Language Review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2001|
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