David Bruce: George Peele’s The Battle of Alcazar: A Retelling — Cast of Characters, Notes, Act 1: Prologue, Scenes 1-2



The Moor Muly Mahamet.

Muly Mahamet,his son. Called Muly, Junior in this book.

Calipolis,wife of the Moor.

Pisano,a Captain of the Moor.


Abdelmelec,uncle of the MoorMuly Mahamet, and rightful ruler of Morocco.

Mahamet Seth,younger brother of Abdelmelec.

Rubin Archis,widow of Abdelmunen, older brother of Abdelmelec.

Sonof Rubin Archis.

Celybin,a follower of Abdelmelec.

Zareo,a follower of Abdelmelec.

Calsepius Bassa, a Turkish Captain.

Abdil Rayes, a Queen.


Sebastian,King of Portugal.

Duke of Avero, a follower of Sebastian.

Duke of Barceles,a follower of Sebastian.

Lord Lodowick, a follower of Sebastian.

Lewes de Silva,a follower of Sebastian.

Christophero de Tavera,a follower of Sebastian.

Don Diego Lopez, Governor of Lisbon.

Don de Menysis, Governor of Tangier.

Other Christians:

Tom Stukeley, Captain of the Papal fleet.

Irish Bishop.

Hercules,an Italian in Stukeley’s service.

Jonas,an Italian in Stukeley’s service.


The Presenter.

Abdelmunen,oldest brother of Abdelmelec.

Two young Brothers of the Moor Muly Mahamet.

Two Murderers.



Moorish Ambassadors, Spanish Ambassadors and Legate, Boy, Soldiers, Messengers, etc.

A Queen.



  • Sebastian was King of Portugal from 11 June 1557 to 4 August 1578. He was born on 20 January 1554.
  • King Philip II of Spain reigned from 16 January 1556 to 13 September 1598.
  • King Sebastian of Portugal and King Philip II of France were related. Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, was the father of King Philip II and the grandfather of King Sebastian.
  • In 1578 Portugal’s King Sebastian invaded Morocco. The invasion ended in a disastrous defeat for Portugal.
  • The Battle of Alcazar took place on 4 August 1578.
  • George Peele makes the elder Muly Mahamet, who is ruling Morocco at the beginning of the play, a villain.
  • George Peele regards Abdelmelec, an uncle to the Moor Muly Mahamet, as the rightful ruler of Morocco.
  • The events of the play begin in 1576. Abdelmelechas re-entered Morocco in an attempt to take the crown away from the Moor Muly Mahamet. Abdelmelechas brought a large Turkish contingent with him.
  • The rulers of Morocco had the title of “Muly.” The title also was given to other male members of the royal family.
  • “Bassa” is an early form of “Pasha,” a title that Turkish military commanders often held.
  • Barbary is North Africa west of Egypt, but often George Peele’s characters use it to mean Morocco.
  • Genealogy and History:

Muly Xarif, an immigrant from Arabia, became the ruler of Morocco.

Muly Xeque, the son of Muly Xarif, succeeded him.

Muly Xeque had four sons. The eldest — the Moor Muly Abdallas — succeeded him.

When Muly Abdallas died, his three brothers were supposed to succeed him, in order of age: Abdelmunen was the next oldest, followed by Abdelmelec and then Mahamet Seth (the youngest).

Muly Abdallas, however, reneged on his promise and put his own eldest son (the Moor Muly Mahamet) on the throne beside him.

In 1574 Abdallas died and Muly Mahamet became sole ruler of Morocco, although Abdallas’ brothers had a better claim to the throne.

As the play opens, Abdelmunen is dead, and Abdelmelec is attempting to become the ruler of Morocco. In fact, he is the rightful ruler.

  • Dumb shows are brief pantomimed scenes. They are the scenes the author of this book asks you to imagine in the prologue of each chapter.
  • In the rhetorical device known as apostrophe, the speaker directly addresses a person who is not present.
  • In Elizabethanculture, a man of higher rank would use words such as “thee,” “thy,” “thine,” and “thou” to refer to a servant. However, two close friends or a husband and wife could properly use “thee,” “thy,” “thine,” and “thou” to refer to each other.
  • An excellent annotated edition of George Peele’s play can be read and/or downloaded free at elizabethandrama.org:


It is copyrighted by Peter Lukacs. If he had not written his annotated edition, I would not have written this retelling of the play.


— Prologue —

The Presenter says this to you, the audience:

“Honor, which is the spur that pricks the princely mind to follow rule and climb the stately chair that is the throne, with great desire inflames Sebastian, the young King of Portugal, an honorable and courageous king, to undertake a dangerous, dreadful war, and aid with Christian arms the barbarous Moor, the dark-skinned Muly Mahamet, who withholds the kingdom from his uncle Abdelmelec, whom proud Abdallas wronged, and in his throne installs his cruel son, who now usurps the position of this prince, this brave lord from Barbary: Muly Abdelmelec of Morocco.”

In other words, this play will be about King Sebastian of Portugal fighting on the side of the Moor Muly Mahamet, a usurper of the throne of Morocco, against the rightful King of Morocco: Muly Abdelmelec.

The Presenter continued:

“The passage to the crown was made by murder.

“Abdallas died, and granted power to this tyrant king — Muly Mahamet — whose story we will relate — sprung from the Arabian Moor, black in his look, and bloody in his deeds. And in his shirt, stained with a cloud of gore, he presented himself, with naked sword in hand, accompanied, as now you may behold, with devils coated in the shapes of men.”

Imagine this:

The Moor Muly Mahamet, his son, theMoor’s attendant, and some pages who attend Muly Mahamet stand together.The Moor Muly Mahamet’s two younger brothers arrive. Muly Mahamet shows them the bed, and then he and the others leave them, and they begin to sleep.

The Presenter continued:

“Some people are silenced by being murdered by kindred. Read onward and see what heinous stratagems these damned people contrive.

“Look, alas, this traitor-king sends these young lords, both of whom are his younger brothers, to their longest home — the grave — much like poor lambs prepared for sacrifice!”

Imagine this scene:

The Moor Muly Mahamet and two murderers bring into the bedroom his uncle Abdelmunen.

The two murderers then draw aside the curtains surrounding the bed and smother the two young princes in the bed.

After doing this in sight of Muly Mahamet’s shocked uncle — Abdelmunen — the two murderers strangle him in his chair, and then go forth.

In other words, the Moor Muly Mahamet murders some of his relatives to keep his throne safe. He murders his younger brothers in case they later become ambitious, and he murders his uncle Abdelmunen, who in fact should have become the ruler of Morocco after Muly Mahamet’s father died. Abdelmunen was naïve when he went with the Moor Muly Mahamet and two murderers into the bedroom.

Two other uncles are still alive who have a better claim to the throne than Muly Mahamet. This is the reason why:

Muly Xarif, an immigrant from Arabia, became the ruler of Morocco.

Muly Xeque, the son of Muly Xarif, succeeded him.

Muly Xeque had four sons. The eldest — the Moor Muly Abdallas — succeeded him.

When Muly Abdallas died, his three brothers — by a previous agreement — were supposed to succeed him, in order of age: Abdelmunen was the next oldest, followed by Abdelmelec and then Mahamet Seth (the youngest).

Muly Abdallas, however, reneged on his promise and put his own eldest son (the Moor Muly Mahamet) on the throne beside him.

In 1574 Abdallas died and Muly Mahamet became sole ruler of Morocco, although Abdallas’ brothers had a better claim to the throne. Muly Mahamet then murdered his two younger brothers and his uncle Abdelmunen.

The Presenter continued:

“Once his younger brothers were in the fatal bed behearsed, the dark-skinned Muly Mahametput to death by proud command his father’s brother, who innocently felt that he was safe with him.

“Don’t say that these things are feigned, for they are true.

“Do understand how, eager to enjoy his father’s crown, this unbelieving — non-Christian — Moor, murdering his uncle and his younger brothers, triumphs in his ambitious tyranny, until the goddess Nemesis, high mistress of revenge, who with her whip keeps all the world in awe, with thundering drums awakens the god of war, and calls the monstrous Furies — goddesses who punish those who murder relatives — from the steep rocks of Lake Avernus, located at one of the entrances of Hell, to wander and rage, and to inflict vengeance on this accursed Moor because of his sin.

“And now behold how Abdelmelec, the rightful ruler of Morocco and living uncle to this unhappy traitor-king, comes armed with the great aid that Amurath — Great Amurath, Turkish Emperor of the East — had sent for service done to Sultan Suleiman, under whose colors he had served in the battlefield.

“Abdelmelec had rendered this service after fleeing the fury of the dark-skinned Muly Mahamet’sfather, who had wronged his brothers and broken his agreement with them in order to install his son.”

Muly Mahamet’sfather was Muly Abdallas, who had made Muly Mahamet his heir to the throne instead of the oldest of Muly Abdallas’ brothers — Abdelmunen — as had been previously agreed.

The second oldest of Muly Abdallas’ brothers — Abdelmelec — had fled and served the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. He had served in the army of Selim II, the son of Sultan Suleiman.

Amurath, known now in history as Murad III, the son of Selim II, then aided Abdelmelec in his attempt to become the Muly of Morocco by giving him troops of soldiers.

The Presenter continued:

“Read on, and see this true and tragic war, a modern matter full of blood and sorrow, where three bold kings, confounded in their height, fell to the earth, contending for a crown.

“Call this war the Battle of Alcazar.”

— 1.1 —

On the frontier between Morocco and Algeria, military drums and trumpets sounded, and thenAbdelmelec, the Turkish captain Calsepius Bassa and his guards,and a Moor named Argerd Zareo stood together, along with some soldiers.

Abdelmelec was the rightful ruler of Morocco and was invading the country to take his rightful crown. Calsepius Bassa was the leader of the Turkish troops sent to support Abdelmelec. Argerd Zareo was a follower of Abdelmelec.

They had just arrived at the border of Morocco.

Abdelmelec said, “All hail, Argerd Zareo, and, you Moors, salute the frontiers of your native home.”

Referring to himself in the third person, he continued:

“Cease, rattling drums; and, Abdelmelec, here throw up thy trembling hands to heaven’s throne. Pay to thy God due thanks, and pay thanks to him who strengthens thee with mighty gracious arms against the haughty, arrogant usurper of thy right, the royal seat and crown of Barbary, Great Amurath, the great Emperor of the East.

“Let the world bear witness how I adore the sacred name of Amurath the Great.

“Calsepius Bassa, Bassa Calsepius, to thee, and to thy trusty band of men who carefully attend us in our camp, picked soldiers, comparable to the guard of Myrmidons who guarded Achilles’ tent, such thanks we give to thee and to them all, as may concern a poor distressed king, in honor and in princely courtesy.”

Achilles, the leader of the Myrmidons, was the greatest warrior in the Trojan War; he fought on the side of the Greeks against the Trojans.

Calsepius Bassa replied, “Courteous and honorable Abdelmelec, we have not come at the Ottoman Emperor Amurath’s command as mercenary men to serve for pay, but as sure friends, by our great master sent to gratify and to remunerate thy love, thy loyalty, and thy eagerness, as well as thy service in his father’s dangerous war, and to perform, in view of all the world, the true office of right and royalty.

“To see thee in thy kingly chair enthroned, to settle and to seat thee in the same, and to make thee Emperor of this Barbary are the reason the viceroys and sturdy janizaries of Amurath, grandson to Sultan Suleiman, have come here with thee.”

Viceroys governed lands conquered by the Turkish Emperors. Janizaries are elite Turkish soldiers.

Mahamet Seth, Rubin Archis, Abdil Rayes, and others arrived.

Mahamet Seth was Abdelmelec’s younger brother.Rubin Archis was the widow of Abdelmelec’s older brother, Abdelmunen, who was murdered by Muly Mahamet, the usurping King of Morocco. Abdil Rayes was a Queen.

Abdil Rayes said, “Long live my lord, the sovereign of my heart, Lord Abdelmelec, whom the God of kings has made fortunate! And may Amurath live long for this good deed!”

Seth said, “Our Moors have seen the silver moons wave in banners bravely spreading over the plain, and in these semicircles have descried, all in a golden field, a star to rise, a glorious comet that begins to blaze, promising a happy and fortunate outcome to us all.”

The silver moons were on the many banners of the Turkish soldiers.

In this society, astronomical events were thought to be omens, which could be either good or bad.

Rubin Archis, Abdelmunen’s widow, said to Calsepius Bassa, “Brave man-at-arms, whom Amurath has sent to sow the lawful true-succeeding seed in Barbary, which bows and groans under a proud usurping tyrant’s mace, right thou the wrongs this rightful king — Abdelmelec— has endured.”

Abdelmelec said, “Distressed ladies, and you dames of Fez, capital city of Morocco, you who are descended from the true Arabian Muly Xarif, my grandfather and the loadstar and the honor of our line, now clear your watery eyes, wipe your tears away, and cheerfully give welcome to these soldiers, my army of Moroccan and Turkish troops.

“Amurath has sent scourges by his men to whip that tyrant traitor-king away from here — Muly Mahamet, who has usurped the throne from us, and maimed you all.”

Abdelmelec then addressed his troops:

“Soldiers, since troops who fight on the rightful side of quarrels are successful, and since the men who manage them don’t fight in fear as traitors and their feres — that is, their companions — so that you may understand what arms we bear, what lawful arms against our brother’s son, the usurper, in the sight of heaven, even of my honor’s worth, truly I will deliver and discourse the sum of my family history.”

Using the royal plural, he said:

“Descended from the line of Mahomet, Muly Xarif — our grandfather — with much gold and treasure left Arabia and strongly planted himself in Barbary.

“Of the Moors who now metaphorically travel with us, our grandfather Muly Xarif was the first.

“From him, as well you know, was descended Muly Mahamet Xeque, our father, who in his lifetime made a perfect law, confirmed with the general voice of all his peers, that in his kingdom his sons should successively succeed.

“Abdallas was the first, the oldest of four.

“Abdelmunen was the second oldest.

“I was next oldest, and my brother Seth was youngest of all.

“Abdallas reigned for the rest of his life, but see the deviation he made from the agreement! He labored to invest his son — the Moor Muly Mahamet — in all, usurping the crown to disannul the law our father made and to disinherit us his brethren.

“And in his lifetime Abdallas wrongfully proclaimed his son to be king — his son Muly Mahamet who now contends with us.

“Therefore I crave to re-obtain my right that Muly Mahamet the traitor holds. He is traitor and bloody tyrant both at once, and he is the man who murdered both of his younger brothers.

“But on this damned wretch, this traitor-king, the gods shall pour down showers of sharp revenge.

“And thus to you a genealogy and history not to you unknown I have delivered, yet I did this for no distrust of loyalty, my well-beloved friends. Instead, I did it because keeping the reasons of these troubles fresh in your memory may so move your minds that you don’t think your lives or honors too dear to be spent in just and honorable battle to establish the lawful true-succeeding prince on his rightful throne.”

Calsepius Bassa said, “Just and honorable and no other than just and honorable we repute the cause that we eagerly undertake for thee, thrice-puissant and renowned Abdelmelec, and for thine honor, safety, and crown, we will unconditionally expose our lives and honors to all the dangers that attend our war. We all will do this as freely and as resolutely as any Moor whom thou most command.”

Seth said, “And why is my brother Abdelmelec, then, so slow to chastise Muly Mahamet with the fury of the sword? Muly Mahamet’s pride swells as he attempts to exert power and influence beyond his reach. Follow his pride with thy fury of revenge.”

Rubin Archis, a poet as well as a widow, said, “Of death, of blood, of vengeance, and deep revenge, shall Rubin Archis frame her tragic songs. In blood, in death, in murder, and in misdeed and wickedness, this heaven’s malice did begin and end.”

Abdelmelec said to her, “Rubin, these rites to Abdelmunen’s ghost have by this time pierced their way into Pluto’s grave below. Pluto, the god of the underworld, has learned of your husband’s death.

“The bells of Pluto roundly ring revenge. The Furies and the fiends conspire with thee. War bids me draw my weapons for revenge of my deep wrongs and my dear brother’s death.”

The Furies are three immortal goddesses of vengeance who punish especially those who murder relatives.

Seth said, “Don’t sheath your swords, you soldiers of Amurath, and don’t sheath your swords, you Moors of Barbary, who fight in right of your anointed king, but follow to the gates of death and hell, pale death and hell, to entertain his soul.

“Follow, I say, to the burning hellish river of Phlegethon, this traitor-tyrant and his companies.”

Calsepius Bassa said, “Heave up your swords against these stony strongholds, wherein these barbarous rebels are enclosed. The gods call for Abdelmelec to sit upon the throne of Barbary.”

Abdil Rayes said, “Bassa, great thanks. You are the honor of the Turks.”

She then said, “Go forward, brave lords, and go to this rightful war! How can this battle be anything but successful, when in us courage meets with a rightful cause?”

Rubin Archis said, “Go in good time, my best-beloved lord, and be successful in thy work thou undertake!”

— 1.2 —

The Moor Muly Mahamet,Calipolis (his wife), and their son rode their chariot into a valley north of Fez. Moorish attendants walked on each side of the chariot. Pisano, who was Muly Mahamet’s captain, was present with the Moor Muly Mahamet’s guards and his treasure.

Muly Mahamet ordered, “Pisano, take a company of our cavalry with an equal number of light-armed cavalry and soldiers armed with pikes, and with our treasure-laden wagon march away before us by the valley of Scyras and those plots of ground that lead the lower way to the city of Moroccus. Our enemies keep upon the mountain-tops, and they have encamped themselves not far from Fez.”

He and his troops were trying to escape from the nearby troops of Abdelmelec.

Muly Mahametthen said to his wife, Caliopolis, “Madam, gold is the glue, tendons, and strength of war, and we must see that our treasure may be transported safely.”

He then ordered the people who would guard the wagon, “Leave!”

Pisano exited with the treasure-laden wagon of treasure and some of the guards.

Muly Mahametthen asked his son, “Now, boy, what’s the news?”

Muly, Juniorreplied, “The news, my lord, is war, war and revenge, and, if I shall declare the details, things stay like this:

“Rubin, my great-uncle’s wife, who wrings her hands because of Abdelmunen’s death, accompanied with many high-ranking women of Fez in mourning clothes, near to Algiers encountered Abdelmelec, who directs his army, puffed up with Amurath’s aid, against your strongholds and castles of defense.

“The younger brother, Mahamet Seth, greets the great Calsepius Bassa, whom the King of Turks sends to invade your right and royal realm, and he basely begs all these arch-rebels to inflict revenge upon our family.”

Muly Mahamet said, “Why, boy, is Amurath’s Bassa such a bug-bear that he is marked to do this doughty deed?”

He then pretended to address Calsepius Bassa:

“Then, Bassa, lock the winds in prisons made of brass, send thunder from heaven, damn wretched men to death, and take on thyself all the offices of Saturn’s sons — the Olympian gods.”

The gods meant were Pluto, god of the underworld; Neptune, god of the sea; and Jupiter (Jove), who dispensed justice on the earth.

“Be Pluto, then, in hell, and bar the fiends, take Neptune’s force to thee and calm the seas, and execute Jove’s justice on the world.

“Convey Tamburlaine into our Africa here to chastise and to menace lawful kings.”

Tamburlaine was a bloodthirsty conqueror.

The Moor Muly Mahamet then pretended to address Tamburlaine, by whom he mockingly meant Calsepius Bassa:

“Tamburlaine, don’t triumph, for thou must die, as Philip, Caesar, and Caesar’s peers did.”

Philip was the father of Alexander the Great, another conqueror. Julius Caesar and many of his peers also fought wars, including civil wars.

Muly, Juniorthen mentioned some things that had occurred in Abdelmelec’s camp:

“The Bassa was grossly flattered to his face.

“Amurath’s praise was advanced above the sound upon the plains.

“The soldiers were spread out on the land, as were that brave guard of sturdy janizaries that Amurath had given to Abdelmelec.

“With this gift of soldiers, Amurath bade Abdelmelec to boldly be with them as safe as if he slept within a walled town whose citizens had taken themselves to their weapons, threatening revenge, bloody revenge, bloody revengeful war against you.”

The Moor Muly Mahamet said, “Leave, and let me hear no more of this.

“Why, boy, are we successor to the great Abdallas who descended from the Arabian Muly Xarif, and shall we be afraid of Bassas and of bug-bears that are raw-headed and bloody-boned?

“Boy, do thou see here this scimitar by my side?

“Since they begin to bathe in blood, let blood be the theme whereon our time shall tread. I shall make such slaughter with my weapon as our Moors shall sail in ships and pinnaces through the stream and deep bloody channels from the shore of Tangier to the gates of Fez.”

Pinnaces are small ships that often serve as messenger-ships between larger ships.

Muly, Junior replied, “And of those slaughtered bodies I thy son shall erect a huge tower like Nimrod’s frame to threaten those unjust and partial gods that to Abdallas’ lawful seed deny a long, happy, and triumphant reign.”

According to the Bible, Nimrod had attempted but failed to build a tower — the tower of Babel — that would reach heaven.

An alarm sounded, and a messenger entered.

The messenger said,“Flee, King of Fez, King of Moroccus, flee. Flee with thy friends, Emperor of Barbary. Oh, flee the sword and fury of the foes who rage as the lioness rages who rears up on her hind legs to rescue her younglings from the bear!

“Thy towns and holds by numbers basely yield and basely resign thy land to Abdelmelec’s rule.

“Amurath’s soldiers have captured thy wagon and thy treasure, and they have sworn thy death.

“Flee Amurath’s army and Abdelmelec’s threats, or thou and those with thee look to breathe your and their last here.”

Muly Mahamet said, “Villain, what dreadful sound of death and flight is this with which thou afflict our ears?

“But if there is no safety to abide the favor, fortune, and success of war, let’s leave in haste!

“Roll on, my chariot-wheels, restless until I am safely set in the shade of some unhaunted place, some blasted, blighted grove of deadly, poisonous yew or dismal cypress-tree, far from the light or comfort of the sun, there to curse heaven and he — and He — who heaves me away from here, and to sicken as if Envy were at Cecrops’ gate, and to pine with thoughts and terror of mishaps.”

The goddess Envy paid a visit to Cecrops’ gate and made Aglauros, one of Cecrops’ daughters, envious of her sister, whom the god Mercury loved. Aglauros attempted to keep Mercury from seeing her sister, and Mercury turned her into a stone statue.

The Moor Muly Mahamet thought that he would sicken with envy at the good fortune of Abdelmelec, and he would waste away with terrifying thoughts about the misfortunes that had and could happen to himself.

The Moor Muly Mahamet then said, “Let’s leave!”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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