David Bruce: George Peele’s The Battle of Alcazar: A Retelling — Act 3: Prologue, Scenes 1-4

— Prologue —

The Presenter said:

“Lo, thus the brave courageous King of Portugal has drenched himself in a lake of blood and gore, and now he prepares in full haste with sails and oars to cross the swelling seas, with men and ships, and with courage and cannon-shot, to set this cursed Moor in his fatal hour.

“And in this Catholic cause King Philip the Second of Spain is called upon by sweet Sebastian, who overindulging in the prime time of his youth on ambitious poison, dies thereon.

“By this time the Moor has come to Tangier, a city belonging to the Portuguese.

“And now the King of Spain promises with holy face, as favoring the honor of the cause, his aid of arms, and he swiftly levies men to serve as soldiers.

“But nothing less than King Sebastian’s good,he intends; at Guadalupehe met, some say, in person with the King of Portugal, and he attempted to arrange a marriage of his daughter with King Sebastian.

“But beware ambitious wiles and poisoned eyes! There was neither aid of arms nor of marriage, for King Sebastian went on his way without those Spaniards.”

Imagine this:

Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance, appears. The three Furies bring to Nemesis scales in which to weigh the guilt or innocence of some of the principal players in this historical event. The three Furies then bring in some of the principal players, including Stuckeley and the Moor Muly Mahamet.

— 3.1 —

King Sebastian, some lords, Lewes de Silva, and the ambassadors and the legate of Spain met together in the Royal Palace in Lisbon, Portugal. Lewes de Silva had just returned from Spain, where he had carried letters from King Sebastian asking for King Philip II’s assistance in fighting a war in Morocco to make the Moor Muly Mahamet the King of Morocco again.

King Sebastian said, “Honorable lords, ambassadors of Spain, the many favors by our meetings done from our beloved and renowned fellow-king, Philip the Catholic King of Spain, tell us therefore, my good lord ambassador. Tell us how your mighty master is minded to propagate the fame of Portugal.”

The first Spanish ambassador said, “To propagate the fame of Portugal and to plant the religious truth of Christianity in Africa, Philip the Second, the great and powerful King of Spain, for the love and honor of Sebastian’s name, promises the aid of arms, and he swears by us to do your majesty all the good he can, with men, munitions, and supply of war, of proud Spanish soldiers, in King Sebastian’s aid, to spill their blood in honor of their Christ.”

The Spanish legate said, “And farther, to manifest to your majesty how much the Catholic King of Spain favors this war with Moors and Muslim men of little faith, the honor of your everlasting praise, behold, to honor and enlarge thy name, he offers his daughter Isabel to link in marriage with the brave Sebastian; and to enrich Isabel, Sebastian’s noble wife, his majesty promises as her dowry to resign the titles of the Moluccas Islands, which are also known as the Spice Islands, that by his sovereignty in the west Indies he commands. King Philip vows to give to King Sebastian these favors with unfeigned love and zeal.”

King Sebastian said, “And may God so deal with King Sebastian’s soul as justly as King Sebastian intends to fight for Christ!

“Nobles of Spain, the strongholds our renowned fellow-king, Philip the king of honor and of zeal, offers to me by you the chosen orators and envoys of Spain are not so precious in our account as is the peerless dame whom we adore, his daughter, in whose loyalty consists the life and honor of Sebastian.

“As for the aid of arms he promises, we will expect and thankfully receive those arms at Cadiz, where we will stop as we sail along the coast.”

King Sebastian said to himself, “Sebastian, clap thy hands for joy, honored by this meeting and this match.”

He then said out loud, “Go, lords, and follow to the famous war your king; and may his fortune be in all such as he intends to command arms in right.”

In other words, let King Philip II of Spain’s luck and fortune be as good as his intentions.

Everyoneexcept Stukeley and the Duke of Avero exited.

Stukeley said, “Sit fast, Sebastian, for by your so doing that, God and good men will labor for Portugal!”

Stukeley felt that the best thing for King Sebastian to do would be to stay at home in Portugal, for as he would next say, he didn’t think that King Philip II of Spain would keep his promise to render aid to Sebastian’s military expedition.

He continued, “For the King of Spain, lying with a double face, flatters thy youth and eagerness, good King Sebastian of Portugal.”

He then addressed King Philip II in an apostrophe, “Philip, whom some call the Catholic king, I much fear that thy faith will not be firm, but will disagree with what thou have promised.”

The Duke of Avero said, “What, then, shall become of those men of war, those numbers of Spanish soldiers who multiply in Spain?”

Both men were aware that King Philip II of Spain was raising an army.

Stukeley said, “The King of Spain has a use for them and their supplies.

“The Spaniard, who is himself ready to embark, here gathers to a head like a pus-filled boil ready to burst, but I fear all too surely that Flanders shall feel the force of Spain.”

The Spanish soldiers would be used to fight a war in northern Europe rather than assisting King Sebastian in northern Africa.

Stukeley continued, “Let the King of Portugal fare as he may or can, for the King of Spain intends to expend no powder on the Moors.”

The Duke of Avero said, “If kings do dally so with holy oaths, the heavens will right the wrongs that they sustain. The kings will be punished for so lightly disregarding the holy oaths that they have made.”

He then addressed King Philip II in an apostrophe, “Philip, if these forgeries be in thee, assure thyself, king, it will light on thee at last.

“And when proud Spain hopes soundly to prevail,

“The time may come that thou and thine shall fail.”

— 3.2 —

Abdelmelec, Mahamet Seth, and Zareo talked together in Fez, the capital city of Morocco. A train of attendants was present.

Using the royal plural, Abdelmelec said, “The King of Portugal, led with deceiving hope, has raised his army, and received our foe — the deposed Moor Muly Mahamet — with honorable welcomes and regard, and has left his country-bounds, and comes here to Morocco in the hope of helping Mahamet to a crown. The King of Portugal hopes to chase us away from here, and plant in our place this dark-skinned Moor, who clads himself in a coat of hammered steel armor to heave us from the honor we possess.

“But, because I myself have been a soldier, I have, in pity for the King of Portugal, sent secret messengers to counsel him.”

King Sebastian of Portugal would disregard those messengers.

Abdelmelec continued, “As for the aid of the King of Spain, which the Portuguese hoped to obtain, we have dispatched our letters to their king, Philip the Second, to request that in a quarrel so unjust, he who is called the Catholic king would not assist a reckless Christian prince: Sebastian.

“And, as by letters we are let to know, our offer of the seven strongholds we made he thankfully receives with all conditions, differing in his mind as far from all his words and promises to King Sebastian as we would wish, or you, my lords, desire.”

Just as Stukeley and the Duke of Avero had thought, King Philip II of Portugal would not keep his word to assist King Sebastian. Instead, he had accepted Abdelmelec’s bribe.

Zareo said, “What remains to be done, then, but for Abdelmelec to beat back this proud invading King of Portugal, and chastise this ambitious dark-skinned Moor with a thousand deaths for a thousand damned deeds!”

Abdelmelec said, “Forward, Zareo, and all you manly Moors!”

In an apostrophe, he addressed the King of Portugal, “Sebastian, see in time about thyself: If thou and thine who are misled thrive amiss, guiltless is Abdelmelec of thy blood.”

— 3.3 —

Don de Menysis, who was the Governor of Tangier, met with his captains in the Portuguese-held fortress at Tangier. Otherswere present.

Don de Menysis said, “Captains, we have received letters from King Sebastian ordering that with signs and evidence of respect and friendship we entertain the King of Barbary, the Moor Muly Mahamet, who marches toward Tangier with his men, the poor remainders of those who fled from Fez when Abdelmelec won the glorious day of battle and installed himself in his imperial throne.”

The first captain said, “Lord governor, we are ready to welcome and receive this unfortunate king who has been chased from his land by angry Amurath, and if the right rests in this vigorous Moor, bearing an unvanquishable princely heart, a noble resolution then it is in brave Sebastian our Christian king to aid this Moor with his victorious arms, thereby to propagate religious truth and plant his springing praise of God in Africa.”

The second captain said, “But when will this brave Sebastian arrive to unite his forces with this manly Moor, so that both in one, and one in both, may join in this attempt of noble consequence?

“Our men of Tangier long to see their king, whose princely face, like the summer’s sun, gladdens all these closest parts of Barbary.”

Don de Menysis said, “Captains, he comes toward here at full speed, using both top sail and top-gallant sail, all in brave array.

“On the twenty-sixth day of June, he left the bay of Lisbon, and with all his fleet he happily arrived at Cadiz in Spain on the eighth of July, waiting for the aid that King Philip the Second of Spain had promised.

“And for fifteen days he there remained aboard, waiting for when this Spanish force would come, nor did he step ashore, as if he were continually sailing on the sea.

“But the King of Spain, who meant and intended nothing less, pretended to experience a sudden fear and anxiety that necessitated him to keep his own country safe from Amurath’s fierce invasion, and to excuse his promise to our king, for which he stormed as great Achilles did long ago while lying for lack of wind in Aulis’ gulf.”

Ancient Greek ships met at the gulf of Aulis before sailing to Troy. Achilles, the greatest warrior of the Trojan War, was impatient at the delay caused by lack of the wind needed to sail to Troy.

Don de Menysis continued, “And King Sebastian hoisted up his sails and weighed his anchors, and hitherward he came, and looked to meet this manly Moor whose cause he undertakes.

“Therefore we go to welcome and receive, with cannon-shot and shouts of young and old, this fleet of Portuguese and troop of Moors.”

— 3.4 —

At the Portuguese-held city of Tangier, trumpets sounded, and small cannon discharged their cannon-shot as King Sebastian, the Duke of Avero, Lord Lodowick, Stukeley, and others met the Moor Muly Mahamet, Calipolis, their son, and others.

King Sebastian said, “Muly Mahamet, King of Barbary, we are well met, and welcome to our town of Tangier after this sudden shock and unlucky war.

“Welcome, brave Queen of Moors. Repose thee here, thou and thy noble son.

“And, soldiers all, repose you here in King Sebastian’s town.

“Thus far in honor of thy name and aid, Lord Mahamet, we have adventured, to win for thee a kingdom, to win for ourselves fame, and to win performance of those promises that in thy faith and royalty thou have sworn to King Sebastian of Portugal.”

The Moor Muly Mahamet had promised to make King Sebastian the overlord of Morocco if he would help him defeat Abdelmelec.

King Sebastian continued, “And thrive it so with thee as thou do mean, and mean thou so as thou do wish to thrive!”

In other words, may you thrive if you intend to keep your promises, and may you not thrive if you do not intend to keep your promises.

King Sebastian continued, “And if our Christ, for whom in chief we fight, hereby to enlarge the bounds of Christendom, will favor this war, and, as I do not doubt, send victory to land upon my helmet, then, brave Moor, I will promote thy kingly son, and with a crown of pearl and gold adorn thy temples and enrich thy head.”

The Moor Muly Mahamet said, “Oh, brave Sebastian, noble King of Portugal, renowned and honored always may thou be, the conqueror over those who menace thee!

“May the hellish prince, grim Pluto, god of the Underworld, with his mace violently drive my soul down to hell, and with this soul let him drag down to hell this son of mine — the honor of my house — unless I perform religiously the holy vows that I have made to give to thee that which I have promised thee!

“And so that thy lords and captains may perceive that my mind is in this matter free from duplicity and is in this matter pure — as pure as is the water of the brook — my dearest son to thee I pledge: I hand him over to you.

“Receive him, lord, as a hostage to ensure I will keep my vow, for even my mind presages to myself that I shall behold Abdelmelec captured and then dragged like a slave along this running river shore: a spectacle to daunt the pride of those who climb aloft by force, and not by right.”

Muly Mahamet’s son said, “Nor can it otherwise befall the man — Abdelmelec — who keeps his seat and scepter all in fear, who wears his crown in the eye of all the world, a crown known to have been gotten by theft and not by inheritance.

“What title, then, has Abdelmelec here to bar our father or his progeny from the throne?

“Right royal King Sebastian, have no doubt or fear about helping us, an action agreeing with your wholesome Christian laws.

“Help, then, courageous lord, with hand and sword, to clear my father’s way, whose obstacles are lawless men; and for this deed all of you shall be renowned, renowned and chronicled in books of fame, in books of fame and characters of brass, of brass — nay, of beaten gold.

“Fight, then, for fame, and you will find the Arabian Muly Mahamet here adventurous, bold, and full of rich reward.”

Stukeley said, “Brave boy, how plain this princely mind in thee gives evidence of the height and honor of thy birth! I have well observed thy eagerness — which being offered by your majesty, no doubt the quarrel, opened by the mouth of this young prince impartially to us, may animate and hearten all the army to fight against the devil for Lord Mahamet.”

King Sebastian said, “True, Stukeley; and so freshly to my mind has this young prince recalled the wrong done to his father that in good time I hope this honor’s fire, kindled already with regard of right, bursts into open flames, and calls for wars, wars, wars to plant the true-succeeding prince.

“Lord Mahamet, I take thy noble son as a pledge of honor, and I shall treat him so.

“Lord Lodowick, and my good Lord of Avero, see that this young prince is conveyed safely to Mazagan and is there accompanied as befits him best.

“And to this war prepare you more and less,

“This rightful war, that Christians’ God will bless.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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