the Annotated Popular Edition of






by George Peele

First Published 1594


Featuring complete and easy-to-read annotations.


Annotations and notes © Copyright Peter Lukacs and ElizabethanDrama.org, 2019.
This annotated play may be freely copied and distributed.


of Alcazar, fovght
in Barbarie, betweene Sebastian king
of Portugall, and Abdelmelec king
of Marocco. With the
death of Captaine

An it was sundrie times plaid by the Lord high
Admirall his seruants.

Imprinted at London by Edward Allde for Richard Bankworth, and are to be solde at his shoppe in
Pauls Churchyard at the signe of the
Sunne. 1 5 9 4.


Introduction to the Play

The Usurper and His Supporters:

     In The Battle of Alcazar, George Peele recounts one

of the oddest military expeditions in European history, the

The Moor, Muly Mahamet.

failed 1578 invasion of Morocco by a ragtag army led by

     Muly Mahamet, his son.

Portugal's King Sebastian. Sebastian was a young man with

Calipolis, wife of the Moor.

a dream of bringing a Crusade into Africa, but whose com-

Pisano, a Captain of the Moor.

bination of obstinacy and lack of experience produced a

national catastrophe, matched in its results perhaps only

The Rightful Ruler and His Supporters:

by the Scottish defeat at Flodden.

     No one can pretend that Alcazar will ever rank among

Abdelmelec, uncle of the Moor, and rightful ruler

the greatest of Elizabethan dramas, but the story is intriguing

     of Morocco.

enough to keep the attention of any reader.

Muly Mahamet Seth, younger brother of Abdelmelec.

Rubin Archis, widow of Abdelmunen.


     Son of Rubin Archis.

Celybin, a follower of Abdelmelec.

     The text of the play is taken from Alexander Dyce's

Zareo, a follower of Abdelmelec.

1874 edition of The Battle of Alcazar, cited below at #3,

Calsepius Bassa, a Turkish Captain.

but with some of the original spellings from the 1594 quarto

Abdil Rayes, a Queen.


The Portuguese:


Sebastian, King of Portugal.

     Mention of Dyce, Bullen, Yoklavich and Edelman in the

Duke of Avero, a follower of Sebastian.

annotations refers to the notes provided by each of these

Duke of Barceles, a follower of Sebastian.

editors in their respective editions of this play, each cited

Lord Lodowick, a follower of Sebastian.

fully below.


Lewes de Silva, a follower of Sebastian.

     Mention of Bovill, Bowen and Julien refer to modern

Christophero de Tavera, a follower of Sebastian.

authors who wrote about the battle.

Don Diego Lopez, Governor of Lisbon.

     The most commonly cited sources are listed in the

Don de Menysis, Governor of Tangier.

footnotes immediately below. The complete list of

footnotes appears at the end of this play.

Other Christians:

     1. Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online.

Tom Stukeley, Captain of the Papal fleet.

     2. Crystal, David and Ben. Shakespeare's Words.

Irish Bishop.

London, New York: Penguin, 2002.

Hercules, an Italian in Stukeley's service.

     3. Dyce, Rev. Alexander. The Dramatic and Poetical

Jonas, an Italian in Stukeley's service.

Works of Robert Greene and George Peele. London:

George Routledge and Sons: 1874.

Appearing in the Dumb Shows:

     4. Bullen, A.H. The Works of George Peele, Vol. I.

Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1888.

The Presenter.

     5. Bowen, Marjorie. Sundry Great Gentlemen: Some

Abdelmunen, oldest brother of Abdelmelec.

Histories in Historical Biography. London: John Lane,

Two young Brothers of the Moor, Muly Mahamet.


Two Murderers.

     6. Bovill, E.W. The Battle of Alcazar. London: the


Batchworth Press, 1921.

     8. Julien, Charles-André. John Petrie, translator. History

Moorish Ambassadors, Spanish Ambassadors and

of North Africa. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970.

Legate, Boy, Soldiers, Messengers, &c.

     24. Yoklavich, John, ed. The Battle of Alcazar. From

A Queen.

The Life and Works of George Peele, Vol. 2, Charles T.


Prouty gen. ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961.

     25. Edelman, Charles, ed. The Stukeley Plays. Man-

chester: Manchester University Press, 2005.


Prelude I:

Sebastian, the Portuguese Crusader King

     On 20 January 1554, a male heir to the Portuguese crown was born in the royal palace at Lisbon; the boy's Portuguese grandfather, John III, was king of Portugal. The father of the boy, the feeble heir apparent João Manuel, aged 16, had died less than three weeks before his son's birth. The boy's mother was Catherine of Austria, sister of the Spanish King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

     The infant was christened Sebastian, and he immediately became the "centre of the hopes of the Portuguese", since, as the only living heir to the throne, he was "the sole life that stood between them and absorption into the fearful power of Spain."5

     Sebastian's mother, the Hapsburg Catherine, returned to Spain to serve her father, leaving Sebastian to be raised by his grandfather (the king) and his wife, Queen Catalina.

     On John III's death in 1557, Sebastian, now aged 3, became King of Portugal, and his grandmother assumed the regency of Portugal. A popular queen, Catalina, after a long power struggle, was forced to retire by the dead king's brother, the Cardinal Henry, who took over both the regency of the nation and the responsibility for raising his grand-nephew Sebastian.

     Thanks to Henry, Sebastian was surrounded by Jesuits, which resulted in the young boy, completely deprived of female companionship, developing an unconditional devotion to the church and a thorough distaste for the company of women. Sebastian grew to be a handsome young man, despite the presence of the famous Hapsburg chin, and was physically powerful thanks to a fanatical dedication to physical exercise.

     Generous and truthful by nature, and carrying no streak cruelty, Sebastian was nevertheless "obstinate, headstrong and gloomy",5 living a life of severe austerity.

     Once in his majority, Sebastian developed an obsession to go on a Crusade in Africa, and return the continent to its historical belief in Christ. Luckily for him, Portugal still possessed several fortresses on the coast of Morocco, and so, in 1574, he brought a troop of soldiers with him to one of those possessions, Tangiers, to test the waters. After receiving a "triumphal welcome" in this coastal city, and having his imagination fired by the easy capture of some lazy Moroccan ships, Sebastian returned to Lisbon and began preparations to lead a full-blown Crusade into Morocco.

     Sebastian's opportunity to fulfill his dream appeared to receive a shot in the arm when, in 1578, he was approached by the recently deposed Sultan of Morocco, who promised the young king wealth, power and influence in Morocco if he would only help the ex-Sultan to regain his throne...

     The information in Prelude I was adopted from Some Essays in Historical Biography, by Marjorie Bowen (1928).5

Prelude II:

Morocco's Saadian Dynasty.

     The actual history of the Saadians' rise to power, as well as the story of the succession of the Moroccan crown, is a little more complicated than Peele has presented.
     A combination of two factors led to the rise of Morocco's Saadian dynasty:
     (1) the Portuguese in the early 16th century controlled a number of coastal fortresses, and
     (2) Morocco's ruling family - the Wattasids - had only an infirm grip on the land.
     The Saadians, a clan which had migrated from Arabia some four centuries prior, were chosen by the people of southern Morocco to lead a holy war against the Portuguese. A Saadian named Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Rahman was appointed commander of the Moroccan forces.

     On the death of al-Rahman, command was passed to his son Ahmad al-A'raj, who, helped by his brother Muhammad al-Asghar, successfully drove the Portuguese out of their fortress at Agadir in 1541, which in turn caused the Portuguese to further abandon Safi and Azenmour.
     Around this time, Muhammed defeated his brother (who retired from public life) in a power struggle, and took over the Saadian forces.

     The successes over the Portuguese had brought the Saadians great prestige, and it was inevitable that they would begin to seek control of all Morocco; numerous battles spread over many years finally brought them success, and the Saadian Sultanship can be dated to their capture of the Moroccan capital Fez in 1557.
     The Saadians, however, established their capital in the pleasant climes of Marrakesh.

     The Saadian leader, who had in the meantime changed his name to Muhammad al-Shaik, faced a number of problems in governing Morocco; primary among them were (1) the continued presence of the Portuguese along the coast, and (2) the presence of the Turks in neighbouring Algeria - the Ottomans controlled all of North Africa up to the frontier of Morocco. Indeed, in 1557, the Turks managed to assassinate al-Shaik, even carrying his head back to Constantinople.

     Historian E.W. Bovill tells us that that there were two customs when it came to the succession to the throne in Morocco: one was that at the death of the current Sultan, the crown should pass to the eldest living male member of the royal family; and the second was that he who became king should murder all his potential rivals.

     Muhammad al-Shaik had four sons. Upon his death, rule passed peacefully to the eldest, Mulay al-Ghalib, and historian Charles-André Julien writes that civil war was avoided when his three brothers left Morocco, taking refuge with the Turks; and that in fact, two of the brothers, Abd al-Malik (our play's Abdelmelec) and Ahmed al-Mansur, travelled to Constantinople to serve Suleiman, the Sultan of the Ottomans.
     Bovill, however, writing earlier, follows the older tradition, reporting that al-Ghalib did in fact kill off all of his rivals, except for his two half-brothers, Abd al-Malik and Ahmed al-Mansur, who had been raised in Turkey.

     In 1574, al-Ghalib died from an illness. His son, Mohammed (our play's Muly Mahamet) also peacefully assumed the throne of Morocco, but his uncles, still serving the Ottomans, and rightly believing the crown belonged to them, petitioned the Ottoman Sultan to give them an army with which to travel to Morocco and oust the usurper Mohammed.

     The Sultan gave Abd al-Malik his army. Our play begins in 1576 as Abd al-Malik is re-entering Morocco with a large Turkish contingent to wrest the crown away from Mohammed.

A. Good vs. Evil in Alcazar.

     Readers may wish to note that from Alcazar's very first speech, Peele makes it clear that he wants his audience to view Muly Mahamet (Mohammed) as a villain, and his uncle Abdelmelec (Abd al-Malik) as the rightful ruler of Morocco. Sebastian is also treated mostly as a hero, and the Christian characters generally avoid the author's condemnation.

B. Omissions in the Original Text.

     Because Alcazar is a relatively short play, many editors have suggested that the only surviving original edition, the 1594 quarto, is a truncated version of the play as it must have first been performed.
     Reduced as it may be, it actually does not appear to contain any continuity problems or butchered speeches or lines which are any worse than those that can be found in the quartos of many other plays of the era.
     The most significant omissions of Alcazar's quarto are those pertaining to the Dumb Shows - the staged pantomimes performed at the beginning of each Act - which are largely missing stage directions; see Note C below for the important discussion about the Dumb Shows.
     Generally, the quarto contains its share of individual lines which may be misprinted, but in general, where obvious emendations were made to the original text by Dyce, we have incorporated those changes without comment; where an emendation suggests an interpolation by Dyce or any other editor, however, we point it out.
     A smattering of representative examples of other fixes suggested by Dyce, such as those which attempt to repair short lines or lines in which the meter is imperfect, are also incorporated into the annotations.

C. The Miracle Document and the Dumb Shows

     The most single obvious set of omissions from the 1594 quarto are those pertaining to the Dumb Shows that take place in the prologue of each Act: specifically, (1) the stage directions that provide the action to be presented in a given Dumb Show, and (2) the spoken narration accompanying each Dumb Show, are largely absent from the quarto.
     However, there has survived a miraculous document from the late 16th century that gives a hint as to content of some of these omissions: a piece of paper known as the Plot, or as we shall call it, the Theatrical Plot of The Battle of Alcazar.
     The Theatrical Plot is a skeletal outline of the "entrances and exits of the characters, together with any such directions as would require the attention of the prompter of call-boy."20 The plots hand-written "in two columns on a piece of paper mounted on pasteboard, and have a hole cut near the top to enable their being hung on a peg in the playhouse."20
     Incredibly, there are in existence fragments of only 7 such Theatrical Plots; and the Plot for Alcazar is the only one in existence for a play whose script is also extent.20
     Alcazar's Theatrical Plot appears to been written for a revival of the play that took place perhaps in 1598, a few years after the quarto was printed (1594); it is badly decomposed, and in parts only fragments of the instructions remain.
     In a few cases, the Theatrical Plot provides specific and unambiguous instructions which helpfully supplement the stage directions of the quarto; where such information has been added to this edition, it is set off by pointed brackets (‹ ›).

D. Settings, Scene Breaks and Stage Directions.

     The original 1594 quarto of The Battle of Alcazar was divided into five Acts and multiple scenes, which organization we follow.
     As was the usual case in printed plays of the 16th century, no scene settings are provided in the quarto; all scene locations in this edition of Alcazar are the suggestions of the editor.
     Finally, as is our normal practice, some stage directions have been added, and some modified, for purposes of clarity. Most of these minor changes are adopted from Dyce.

E. Annotations in Italics.

     It may be said that George Peele, in writing Alcazar, remained true to the facts of the battle's history as they were presented in contemporary accounts.
     Because the details of this story are so innately fascinating, we have included in the annotations observations which, at appropriate points, present to the curious reader extended historical context and biographical information.
     The important thing to note is that these annotations will be italicized, to indicate that they present supplementary information that need not be read to understand the play itself.
     Unless otherwise noted, all the historical commentary is adopted from E.W. Bovill's excellent history of The Battle of Alcazar.6





First Published 1594



Enter the Presenter.

The Presenter: as was common in the earliest Elizabethan dramas, the play begins with an actor (sometimes called a Chorus) who appears on stage to introduce the story. In The Battle of Alcazar, look for the Presenter to appear at the start of each Act.


Honour, the spur that pricks the princely mind

1-2: the desire for honour motivates (pricks) kings, or


To follow rule and climb the stately chair,

     those with ambition to become kings; prick also refers
     to the kicking of a horse with a spur, making this a fine
     metaphor with which to "kick off" the play.
         stately chair = ie. throne.

With great desire inflames the Portingal,

3-5: honour has particularly inspired the King of Portugal,


An honourable and courageous king,

     Sebastian I, to go to war.

To undertake a dangerous dreadful war,

         Portingal = Portuguese; Portingal was a common
     alternate spelling for Portugal.


And aid with Christian arms the barbarous Moor,

6-15: The Back-Story: see the note at line 20 for an explanation of this complicated back-story; one wonders if an audience was actually supposed to follow any of this.
     The main point to get from this introduction is that the villain Muly Mahamet is the present ruler of Morocco, but his uncle, the good guy Abdelmelec, is the one who should be king.
     6-7: Sebastian intends to go to war to overthrow the cruel ruler of Morocco, Muly Mahamet.
     barbarous = heathen or cruel.1
     Moor = the term
Moor was used to describe those people native to north-west Africa, especially the region corresponding to modern Morocco.

The negro Muly Hamet, that withholds

7: negro = Bovill tells us that by tradition, Muly Mahamet was said "to have inherited the dark skin from his slave mother, and was therefore known as El-Mutuakel, the Black Sultan."
     The OED notes that in the 16th century, negro was used to describe dark-skinned people in general, which included Moors.
     Muly Hamet = Muly is the title assigned to the rulers of Morocco; Hamet is an abbreviation for Mahamet, and refers to our play's villain, Muly Mahamat, the present ruler of Morocco.


The kingdom from his uncle Abdelmelec,

Whom proud Abdallas wronged,


And in his throne installs his cruël son,

That now usurps upon this prince,


This brave Barbarian lord, Muly Molocco.

12: Barbarian = ie. from Barbary, the name Europeans gave to all of North Africa west of Egypt, but here meaning simply Morocco.
     Muly Molocco = ie. Abdelmelec.4

The passage to the crown by murder made,


Abdallas dies, and deigns this tyrant king;

= grants;1 the quarto mysteriously prints deisnes here,
     which Edelman emends to deigns.

Of whom we treat, sprung from th' Arabian Moor,

15: Of whom we treat = ie. "who's story we will tell".
     sprung from th' Arabian Moor = descended from the progenitor of the present first family of Morocco, a man who, according to the play's genealogy (see Act I.ii), was the great-grandfather of Muly Mahamet, and grandfather to Abdelmelec; see the note at line 20 below.


Black in his look, and bloody in his deeds;

16: Black in his look = dark-skinned, again referring to
     Muly Mahamet's complexion.
         16-17: bloody…gore = an allusion to a terrible deed
     which Muly Mahamet is about to perform.

And in his shirt, stained with a cloud of gore,

= ie. both literally and morally stained.


Presents himself, with naked sword in hand,

Accompanied, as now you may behold,


With devils coated in the shapes of men.

20: ie. the two murderers of lines 44-45.

Our Play's Moroccan First Family:
in Peele's genealogy, the first member of the present royal family of Morocco was Muly Xarif, an immigrant from Arabia, who apparently also became the ruler of Morocco.
     His son Muly Xeque succeeded him. Xeque had four sons, the eldest of whom was Abdallas, who became king at Xeque's death. By prior agreement, on Abdallas' death, his three brothers were supposed to succeed to the throne, the next in line being Abdelmunen; the other two brothers were Abdelmelec (the third oldest), and Mahamet Seth, the youngest.
     Abdallas, however, reneged on the compact, installing his own eldest son (it appears he had three), our play's Muly Mahamet, on the throne alongside him. Thus, when Abdallas died, Mahamet automatically assumed sole rule of Morocco, depriving Abdallas' brothers of the Sultanship that rightfully belonged in turn to them.
     This family history is recounted again by Abdelmelec in Act I.i.




The Dumb Shows: early English dramas sometimes began with a brief pantomimed scene, which could present events preceding the action of the play (as here), events that occur between scenes, or even, as in the later scenes, allegorical presentations of events that will be played out fully in the succeeding Act.

Enter the Moor Muly Mahamet, his Son, the


 Moor's attendant, and Pages to attend the Moor.

Enter to them the Moor's


two young Brethren: the Moor Muly Mahamet

= brothers.

shows them the bed, and then takes his leave


of them, and they betake them to their rest.

The First Dumb Show: the Muly Mahamat is Sultan of

Morocco, and our play's villain; in the Dumb-Show, he is shown, with his son, graciously offering a place to sleep to two of his (Mahamet's) younger brothers.
     Some of the stage directions in this edition of the play are supplemented by instructions adopted from Alcazar's Theatrical Plot; such added directions are set off by pointed brackets (‹ ›); see Note C in the Introduction to the play.


And then the Presenter speaketh.


Like those that were by kind of murther mummed,

34: Dyce's tentatively approves a 19th century commentator's suggestion that this line should appear immediately after line 20 rather than here.
     by kind of murther mummed = killed, and thus silenced, by their relatives (kind); throughout the play, with the exception of line 13 above, murder is written with a th, the more common spelling until the mid-17th century.

Sit down and see what heinous stratagems


These damnèd wits contrive; and, lo, alas,

36: wits = meaning "people", but carrying a negative
     connotation regarding their mental faculties.1
         lo = behold.

How like poor lambs prepared for sacrifice,


This traitor-king hales to their longest home

38: This traitor-king = ie. Muly Mahamet.

These tender lords, his younger brethren both!

         hales…home = ie. "sends to their deaths".


         longest home = eternal residence, to be occupied
     after death.




Enter the Moor [Muly Mahamet], and two

Murderers, bringing in his uncle Abdelmunen:


then they draw the curtains, 

and smother the young Princes in the bed:


which done in sight of the uncle [Abdelmunen],

they strangle him in his chair, and then go forth.

The Second Dumb Show: with the goal of securing his


throne from usurping relatives, Muly Mahamet murders first his own two younger brothers, and then his uncle Abdelmunen (who, as the oldest brother of Mahamet's father Abdallas, rightfully should have succeeded to rule on the death of the latter).
     go forth = ie. exit the stage.

And then the Presenter saith.


His brethren thus in fatal bed behearsed,

= a fabulous word, and George Peele original.


His father's brother, of too light belief,

= the sense is, Uncle Abdelmunen had been naively tricked into accompanying Muly Mahamet into the bedroom along with the young princes, ignorant of his own imminent death.

This negro puts to death by proud command.

= ie. Muly Mahamet.  = with a negative connotation.


Say not these things are feigned, for true they are;

56: Say not = suppose, understand: an imperative to the
         feigned = invented, made up.

And understand how, eager to enjoy


His father's crown, this unbelieving Moor,

= infidel, meaning a Moslem or non-Christian.1

Murthering his uncle and his brethren,

= brethren should be pronounced in three syllables here:


Triumphs in his ambitious tyranny;

Till Nemesis, high mistress of revenge,

61-62: the goddess of vengeance, Nemesis travelled the


That with her scourge keeps all the world in awe,

     world seeking crime to punish, and was often portrayed,
     as here, carrying a whip (scourge).

With thundering drums awakes the God of War,


And calls the Furies from Avernus' crags,

64: the Furies = goddesses with the appearance of monsters; the job of these three sisters was to punish those who committed certain crimes, such as murder or disobedience to one's parents, by bringing perpetual misery to them.10
     Avernus' = Avernus was a lake located in Campania, and is cited here due to the belief that it was situated at the entrance to Hades; its vapours were so poisonous that any birds that attempted to fly over it quickly fell to their deaths.9 The connection of the Furies to Avernus seems to be an invention of Peele's. Edelman suggests that Avernus is used to mean Hades.
     crags = steep rocks.1

To range and rage, and vengeance to inflict,

= roam, wander; note the word-play of range with rage;
     such intra-line word-play was a signature of Peele's.


Vengeance on this accursèd Moor for sin.

= ie. his crimes.

And now behold how Abdelmelec comes,


Uncle to this unhappy traitor-king,


Armed with great aid that Amurath had sent,


Great Amurath, Emperor of the East,

For service done to Sultan Solimon,


Under whose colours he had served in field,

69-72: while the sequence of events is not clear from the text, it appears that Abdelmelec had long ago left Morocco for Turkey (see the note below at line 73), and put himself in the service of the Ottoman Sultan.
     Now, Abdelmelec has appealed to Murad III (here called Amurath), the present Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, for assistance in his (Abdelmelec's) project to overthrow Muly Mahamet, and take the crown for himself. The Sultan has agreed to help Abdelmelec, in recognition of the latter's having served in the army of his father, Selim II (wrongly identified in line 71 as Soliman, ie. Suleiman, who was actually Amurath's grandfather).

Flying the fury of this negro's father,

73: "fleeing the rage of Mahamet's father, the Muly Abdallas"; it appears that Abdelmelec left Morocco for Turkey to escape his brother Abdallas upon the latter's ascending the throne, perhaps out of fear for his life, when it became apparent that Abdallas was not going to honour the agreement by which his (Abdallas') brothers (Abdelmunen, Abdelmelec and Seth) were supposed to succeed him.


That wronged his brethren to install his son.

Sit you, and see this true and tragic war,

75-76: the Presenter again explicitly addresses the audience.


A modern matter full of blood and ruth,

= calamity or sorrow.1

Where three bold kings, confounded in their height,

= brought to ruin from the height of their glory.


Fell to the earth, contending for a crown;

And call this war the Battle of Alcazar.

= properly El-Ksar el-Kebir, or Alcazar-quivir; Alcazar is stressed on the second syllable: al-CAZ-ar.
     The battle for supremacy in Morocco was fought on 4 August 1578, some 10 years or so before Peele wrote this play. The battle is known by Arab historians as the Battle of the Oued el-Makhazin, or "Battle of Three Kings", the reasons for which shall presently become clear.8



The Real Abdelmelec (Abd al-Malik) Serves the Ottomans: when the Moroccan king Muhammad al-Shaik died in 1557, the eldest of his four sons, Mulay al-Ghalib (our play's Abdallas), assumed the throne without a struggle, in part because his three brothers left Morocco to live in Turkey in the Ottoman Empire, which at the time was ruled by the Sultan Suleiman (reigned 1520-1566); two of the brothers (Abd al-Malik and Ahmed al-Mansur), in fact, served in Suleiman's army, and then stayed to further serve the Sultan's son, Selim II (reigned 1566-1574), at Suleiman's death, as well as his grandson Murad III (reigned 1574-1595).
     In 1574, al-Ghalib died from an illness. His son, Mohammed (our play's Muly Mahamet) peacefully assumed the throne of Morocco. Abd al-Malik, however, decided the time was ripe to move in himself and make a bid for the throne, which by tradition rightfully belonged to him as the family's eldest living male.
     Abd al-Malik asked for, and received, the military assistance of the current Ottoman ruler, the Sultan Murad III, to help him with this project (the Sultan, who already controlled all of the North African coast east of Morocco, of course sensed here an opportunity to extend his own zone of influence to the Atlantic Ocean).
     Our play's storyline, in which Muly Mahamet murders his uncle and brothers to secure the throne for himself, is a fiction designed to create for the play a clear villain - Mahamet - and an honourable pretext for Abdelmelec to return to his homeland to restore the crown to its rightful place - on his own head.

The information in this annotation is adopted from Charles-André Julien's History of North Africa (1952), pp. 223-7).8


The Frontier Between Morocco and Algeria.

Sound drums and trumpets, and then enter

Entering Characters: Abdelmelec is the eldest living uncle

Abdelmelec, Calsepius Bassa and his Guard,

of Muly Mahamet; Abdelmelec has been in exile in Turkey

and Zareo, a Moor, with Soldiers.

since his own eldest brother Abdallas assumed the throne of Morocco at the death of their father. Abdelmelec is returning to Morocco at the head of an army of Turkish soldiers, who are commanded by a Turkish military captain, or commander, Calsepius Bassa.
     Abdelmelec's goal is to seize the throne of Morocco from his nephew, Muly Mahamet, who was wrongfully installed as king by his father Abdallas, and who really wrongfully secured his crown by murdering his own two younger brothers and his uncle Abdelmunen, who should by all rights have become king when Abdallas died (this according to the earlier family agreement that Abdallas' brothers should succeed to the crown on Abdallas' death).
      Note that Calsepius is the Turkish commander's name; Bassa was an early form of Pasha, the highest official title which could be conferred by the Ottomans, and which was often given to military leaders.1
     Zareo is a follower of Abdelmelec, but his exact identity has been a source of confusion (see the note below at line 1). The quarto identifies him as a Moor, and he appears to be Abdelmelec's highest ranking lieutenant.


Abdel.  All hail, Argerd Zareo; and, ye Moors,

1-2: All hail, Argerd Zareo = line 1 actually appears in the


Salute the frontiers of your native home:

quarto as follows:
          Alhaile Argerd Zareo and yee Moores,

Dyce assumed that Argerd is Zareo's given name, and punctuated the sentence accordingly.
     The modern editor Charles Edelman suggests that by "Argerd", Argier is meant, and thus Abdelmelec is "clearly saluting the city of Argier".
     Edelman further asserts that despite the fact that no reference is made in the text to Zareo's race or nationality (other than the stage direction here which labels him a Moor), Peele intended Argier to be understood to be Zareo's native home (line 2).
     The problem with this interpretation is that Abdelmelec is clearly telling the Moors of his party (as much as he is Zareo) to salute their "native home"; furthermore, in the 16th century, frontiers was used primarily to refer to the border region of countries, not cities.
     We do not propose to solve this literary Gordian's knot, but have chosen to retain Dyce's punctuation, even as we leave it to the reader to decide what to think of this line.
     Moors = the exact identity of the Moors is also in question, but we will assume they are native Moroccans who, living outside of their homeland since the ascendency of Muly Mahamet to the Moroccan throne, have joined Abdelmelec in his quest to oust the former; line 2 does suggest, after all, they have been away from home for a long time.

Cease, rattling drums; and, Abdelmelec, here

3-7: Abdelmelec addresses himself; the name Abdelmelec


Throw up thy trembling hands to heaven's throne,

     is stressed on its first and third syllables: AB-del-MEL-ec.

Pay to thy God due thanks, and thanks to him


That strengthens thee with mighty gracious arms

Against the proud usurper of thy right,

7-8: "against the arrogant usurper - Muly Mahamet - of your


The royal seat and crown of Barbary,

     right to the throne of Morocco."
         Barbary = the name Europeans gave to all of North
     Africa west of Egypt, but here Abdelmelec means simply

Great Amurath, great Emperor of the East:

9: Amurath is the name of the Ottoman Emperor, today known as Murad III.
     East = the quarto prints world here, but Dyce no doubt correctly emends this to East, so that this line matches - almost exactly - line 66 of the Presenter's speech above; as Dyce observes, the type-setter or transcriber of the play likely accidently inserted world here, his eye "having caught that word in the next line."


The world bear witness how I do adore

The sacred name of Amurath the Great. −


Calsepius Bassa, Bassa Calsepius,

To thee, and to thy trusty band of men

13-14: a body of janizaries, elite Turkish troops, had been


That carefully attend us in our camp,

     assigned to act as Abdelmelec's personal guard.

Picked soldiers, comparable to the guard

15-16: Abdelmelec equates his Turkish guard to the soldiers


Of Myrmidons that kept Achilles' tent,

who were commanded by Achilles, the greatest fighter of his era, in the Trojan War. The Myrmidons were a tribe which had settled in Thessaly in Greece.7
     comparable = usually pronounced, as here, with four syllables in Elizabethan verse.
     kept = attended, ie. guarded.1

Such thanks we give to thee and to them all,


As may concern a poor distressèd king,

18: Abdelmelec modestly means himself here.

In honour and in princely courtesy.


Cals.  Courteous and honourable Abdelmelec,

Calsepius Bassa: the commander of the Ottoman troops was actually a Venetian renegade named Ramdan, and his lieutenant was a Corsican (unless otherwise noted, all italicized annotations, which present the actual facts of our history, are adopted from Bovill).6


We are not come, at Amurath's command,

As mercenary men, to serve for pay,

= meaning "as mere".


But as sure friends, by our great master sent

To gratify and to remunerate

= repay.


Thy love, thy loyalty, and forwardness,

= eagerness.

Thy service in his father's dangerous war;

27: Abdelmelec had long ago fled Morocco for Turkey, serving successive Sultans until the time was ripe for his return to Morocco.
     The present Ottoman Sultan Amurath is granting military assistance to Abdelmelec in return for the latter's many years of service to the Ottoman Sultans, beginning with (according to the text) Amurath's father, Selim II (who is mistakenly identified at line 34 below as Soliman, or Suleiman, who was actually Amurath's grandfather), and then Amurath himself.
     his father's dangerous war = likely a reference to the war fought between the Ottomans and Europe over Cyprus from 1570-3; the war culminated in the Battle of Lepanto, a massive naval engagement in which the Christian alliance crushed the Ottoman fleet. Here Abdelmelec was captured and brought to Spain, from where he escaped and returned to Constantinople.


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,


To make thee Emperor of this Barbary,

Are come the viceroys and sturdy janizaries

33-34: viceroys = governors or vice-kings who served as rulers of lands which had been conquered by the Ottomans and incorporated into the empire.
     janizaries = soldiers of an elite body of Turkish infantry, originally formed in the 14th century; the OED's original 1901 entry for janizary asserts that the troop "was composed mainly of tributary children of Christians."


Of Amurath, son to Sultan Solimon.

34: as noted above, Amurath's father was actually Selim II;
     Solimon, ie. Suleiman, was his grandfather.

Abd al-Malik's Army: Abd al-Malik's invading Ottoman forces consisted of 6000 soldiers armed with an early type of portable firearm called an arquebus or harquebut, 1000 zouaves and 800 spahis or cavalry; this Turkish army was to be supplemented with an additional 6000 native Moorish horsemen who wished to join the rebellion.


Enter Muly Mahamet Seth, Rubin Archis,

Entering Characters: Muly Mahamet Seth (whom we

Abdil Rayes, with others.

shall refer to as Seth) is the brother of Abdelmelec; Seth


has gathered from within Morocco an army of Moors inclined to fight against Muly Mahamet, and brought them to the border to join up with Abdelmelec and his Turkish forces.
     Rubin Archis is the widow of Abdelmunen, the slain brother of Abdelmelec and Seth. She is accompanied by other noble women from the capital city of Fesse (ie. Fez).
     Abdil Rayes' identity has confused editors. Though assumed by 19th century commentators to be a male, Rayes has been recognized by modern editors Yoklavich and Edelman not only to be female, but in fact to be the same character as the mysterious Queen who appears briefly in a later scene.

Rayes.  Long live my lord, the sovereign of my heart,


Lord Abdelmelec, whom the god of kings,

The mighty Amurath hath happy made!

= fortunate.


And long live Amurath for this good deed!


Seth.  Our Moors have seen the silver moons to wave

44-45: Seth's arriving Moorish army has noted the countless

In banners bravely spreading over the plain,

standards (banners) of the Turks, which are so numerous that they cover the plains they are occupying; Seth is poetically acknowledging the generous assistance of the Turks in his brother's cause.
     The silver moons are the crescent moons that were a symbol of the Ottomans, sewn into the banners.
     wave = the quarto here prints wane, a word used to describe the diminishing in size of the visible part of the moon, but there is no reason to describe the moons as waning on the Turk's banners; rather, in light of the facts that n's and u's (which were used for v's) were frequently inverted in our old texts, Dyce reasonably emends wane to wave.
     over = pronounced in a single syllable: o'er.


And in these semicircles have descried,

= again, the crescent moons.  = perceived, seen.

All in a golden field, a star to rise,

47: the Ottoman flag contained a star within the horns of
     the crescent moon.


A glorious comet that begins to blaze,

48-49: Seth describes the star in the Ottoman flag as a

Promising happy sorting to us all.

     comet; comets were always viewed as omens, usually
     bad ones, though here Seth sees it as an affirmative sign,
     representing the ascendance of Abdelmelec.
         happy sorting = a successful outcome.1


Rubin.  Brave man-at-arms, whom Amurath hath sent

51-55: as the widow of Abdelmunen, Rubin is rightfully
     bitter over the murder of her husband by Muly Mahamet.


To sow the lawful true-succeeding seed

52: in this interesting planting metaphor, Rubin alludes to
     the return of the throne to the branch of the family that
     rightfully should rule Morocco.

In Barbary, that bows and groans withal

= therewith.1


Under a proud usurping tyrant's mace,

Right thou the wrongs this rightful king hath borne.

= ie. Abdelmelec.


Abdel.  Distressèd ladies, and ye dames of Fesse,

= "you other high-ranking ladies from Fez"; the ladies are likely refugees whose husbands were opponents of Muly Mahamet.
     ye = plural form of you.
dames = wives of nobles lords.
     Fesse = alternate spelling for Fez, the capital of Peele's Morocco; the Saadians actually made their capital in Marrakesh.


Sprung from the true Arabian Muly Xarif,

58-59: Muly Xarif, Abdelmelec's grandfather, had immi-

The loadstar and the honour of our line,

     grated to Morocco from Arabia. We are about to be
     treated to another head-spinning distillation of the ruling
     family's history.
         Sprung = descended.
         loadstar = guiding star, one that shows the way.1


Now clear your watery eyes, wipe tears away,

And cheerfully give welcome to these arms:

61: Abdelmelec's army, now consisting of Moroccan and
     Turkish troops.


Amurath hath sent scourges by his men,

= whips, a metaphor for the mission of the Turkish soldiery.

To whip that tyrant traitor-king from hence,

= here.


That hath usurped from us, and maimed you all. −

= perhaps by executing all of the ladies' husbands.

Soldiers, sith rightful quarrels' aid

65-66: sith rightful…are = "since armies that fight for a
     legitimate cause can expect victory".
         sith = common variation of since.


Successful are, and men that manage them

= lead, command.

Fight not in fear as traitors and their feres,

= companions, a favourite Peele word; note the wordplay
     of fear and feres.


That you may understand what arms we bear,

What lawful arms against our brother's son,


In sight of heaven, even of mine honour's worth,

70: words with a medial 'v', like heaven and even, were
     often pronounced as monosyllables in Elizabethan verse,
     the 'v' essentially omitted: hea'n, e'en.

Truly I will deliver and discourse

71-72: Truly…of all = Abdelmelec will summarize his
     family's history, though more for the audience's sake
     than the soldiers.


The sum of all. Descended from the line

72-73: Descended…Xarif = Xarif is an alternate spelling

Of Mahomet, our grandsire Muly Xarif

for shariff, a name which was applied to the descendants of the prophet Muhammad. We may note here that this family is referred to today as the Saadian dynasty.
      Julien notes that the Saadian's alleged lineage from the Prophet is uncertain (p.222); it was common for aspirants to any Islamic throne to add legitimacy to their claims by asserting their descent from Muhammad.


With store of gold and treasure leaves Arabia,

= ie. a good supply.  = ie. left; note how Abdelmelec moves
     back and forth between the present and past tenses as he
     tells his tale.

And strongly plants himself in Barbary;

75: the ancestors of Abdelmelec and Muly Mahamet
     had actually arrived from Arabia in the 12th century,
     settling in southern Morocco.


And of the Moors that now with us do wend

= travel.

Our grandsire Muly Xarif was the first.


From him well wot ye Muly Mahamet Xeque,

78: well wot ye = ie. "as you all know"; wot was an ancient and commonly used word meaning "to know'.
     78-82: Muly…succeed = Abdelmelec's father, Muly Mahamet Xeque, who was next in line to the Sultanship, had established, with the general agreement of all involved, the succession for the crown upon his death, specifically that his four sons should rule in turn, the eldest one alive of course always at the helm; this way, the Sultanship was to remain with the brothers so long as any of them were alive, before passing on to any of their sons.

Who in his life-time made a perfect law,


Confirmed with general voice of all his peers,

That in his kingdom should successively

= Abdelmelec skips over explaining exactly how either his
     father or grandfather took over the crown of Morocco.


His sons succeed. Abdallas was the first,

Eldest of four, Abdelmunen the second,

= the quarto printed faire here; Dyce's emendation to four
     is accepted by all the later editors.


And we the rest, my brother and myself.

Abdallas reigned his time: but see the change!

85-88: initially, Xeque's plan was followed, as on his death the eldest brother Abdallas peacefully became the ruler of Morocco; but Abdallas decided to install his own son, Muly Mahamet, on the throne, rather than follow the agreed-to succession plan.


He labours to invest his son in all,

To disannul the law our father made,


And disinherit us his brethren;

= brothers, pronounced as a trisyllable: BRE-ther-en.

And in his life-time wrongfully proclaims


His son for king that now contends with us.

Therefore I crave to re-obtain my right,


That Muly Mahamet the traitor holds,

= while sometimes Mahamet is pronounced as here with
     three syllables, more often it will be pronounced as a
     disyllable (MA-'met).

Traitor and bloody tyrant both at once,


That murtherèd his younger brethren both:

94: Muly Mahamet's assassination of his two younger brothers and uncle Abdelmunen - who should have been next in line to the throne on the death of Abdallas - was described and acted out in the Prologue to the first Act.

But on this damnèd wretch, this traitor-king,


The gods shall pour down showers of sharp revenge.

= showers is pronounced in one syllable here: show'rs.

And thus a matter not to you unknown

97-98: And thus…delivered = ie. "but you already knew


I have delivered; yet for no distrust

     all that."

Of loyalty, my well-belovèd friends,


But that th' occasions fresh in memory

Of these encumbers so may move your minds,

= burdens or troubles.


As for the lawful true-succeeding prince

Ye neither think your lives nor honours dear,


Spent in a quarrel just and honourable.

100-4: "I tell you all these things so that you will not feel

     your lives and honour are too valuable to lose in my
     cause, which is just and honourable."


Cals.  Such and no other we repute the cause

That forwardly for thee we undertake,

= eagerly.


Thrice-puissant and renowmèd Abdelmelec,

108: Thrice-puissant = thrice-powerful; thrice was
     commonly used, as here, as an intensifier.
         renowmed = renowned; the word was more frequently
     spelled with an m in the 16th century.

And for thine honour, safety, and crown,

= security: pronounced in three syllables: SA-fe-ty.3


Our lives and honours frankly to expose

= freely, unconditionally.2

To all the daungers that our war attend,

111: daungers = dangers, which was more commonly


As freely and as resolutely all

     spelled with an au until late in the 16th century.

As any Moor whom thou commandest most.

         our = Dyce emends this to on.


Seth.  And why is Abdelmelec, then, so slow

115-8: Abdelmelec's brother Seth is anxious to get moving.


To chástise him with fury of the sword

= ie. Muly Mahamet.

Whose pride doth swell to sway beyond his reach?

= exert influence.


Follow this pride with fury of revenge.

118: in the quarto, the word then appears after pride; we
     follow Bullen in removing it for the sake of the meter.


Rubin.  Of death, of blood, of wreak, and deep revenge,

= vengeance.

Shall Rubin Archis frame her tragic songs:

121: "it is of these topics Rubin will sing."


In blood, in death, in murther, and misdeed,

= wickedness, sinfulness.1

This heaven's malice did begin and end.

123: Rubin may at this point sing a lament which did not
     make it into the quarto.


Abdel.  Rubin, these rites to Abdelmunen's ghost

125-6: Abdelmelec assures Rubin that notice of the murder


Have pierced by this to Pluto's grave below;

of her husband Abdelmunen has reached Pluto (the Roman god of the underworld) by now.
     by this = ie. by this time.
     Pluto's grave = metaphor for hell or Hades.

The bells of Pluto ring revenge amain,

= with full force.2


The Furies and the fiends conspire with thee;

= the goddesses of vengeance; see line 64 of Act I's

War bids me draw my weapons for revenge

     introductory scene.


Of my deep wrongs and my dear brother's death.


Seth.  Sheath not your swords, you soldiers of Amurath,

= "do not put away".

Sheath not your swords, you Moors of Barbary,


That fight in right of your anointed king,

But follow to the gates of death and hell,

135-6: ie. "pursue Muly Mahamet to the gates of Hades".


Pale death and hell, to entertain his soul;

Follow, I say, to burning Phlegethon,

= Phlegethon was one of the rivers of Hades, but it was
     comprised of fire rather than of water.


This traitor-tyrant and his companies.

= forces.


Cals.  Heave up your swords against these stony holds,

= fortresses.

Wherein these barbarous rebels are enclosed:

= savage or uncultured, though Calsepius' use of bar-


Called for is Abdelmelec by the gods

     barous might be offensive to his Moorish listeners,

To sit upon the throne of Barbary.

     since they are of the same race, indeed same family,
     as the rebels he is referring to.


Rayes.  Bassa, great thanks, the honour of the Turks. −

= ie. "thou who art".


Forward, brave lords, unto this rightful war!

How can this battle but successful be,


Where courage meeteth with a rightful cause?


Rubin.  Go in good time, my best-belovèd lord,

Successful in thy work thou undertakes!



The Real Abdelmelec: historians generally give Abd Al-Malik high marks for his character and abilities: Bowen writes that he "was an able statesman, a valiant soldier, an experienced general, a man of lofty understanding, remarkable culture, a wise, just and humane spirit."
     Bovill writes that though he served as Morocco's king for only two years, Abd al-Malik "proved himself to be one of the most enlightened rulers the Moors ever had", that he had "a diverse and possibly extensive knowledge of European affairs", and that he spoke Spanish and "could converse in Italian", even hiring English musicians for his court.


A Valley North of Fez

Setting: suggested by Edelman, based on the sources.

Enter, in his chariot, the Moor [Muly Mahamet],

Entering Characters: Muly Mahamet is, at least for the

[Calipolis,] and their son, Moors attendant

moment, the Sultan of Morocco; he has fled Morocco's

on each side of the chariot. › Pisano, his captain, 

capital due to the approach of Abdelmelec's superior army.

with the Moor's Guard and treasure.

     Calipolis is Mahamet's wife; their son we shall denote as Muly Jr. We note here that the quarto does not list Calipolis as a stage-entrant, but was added by Dyce (see the note at line 8 below).
     Pisano is an Italian military commander serving Muly Mahamet.


Muly.  Pisano, take a cornet of our horse,

= a company of cavalry.


As many argolets and armèd pikes,

2: As many = ie. along with an equal number of".
     argolets = light-armed cavalry, perhaps carrying bows and arrows.1
     armed pikes = soldiers armed with pikes; a pike was a weapon comprised of a long pole with a pointed steel head; pikes were the most common form of weapon carried by European soldiers, as the OED notes, until the 18th century.

And with our carriage march away before

= ie. the wagon in which Mahamet's treasury is carried.


By Scyras, and those plots of ground

= Sugden suggests the plain of Azgar is meant here, "on the west coast of Morocco", but no such plains can be found on a map. The context suggests Scyras lies in a valley, surrounded by mountains.

That to Moroccus lead the lower way:

= perhaps referring to the imperial city of Maroco (modern Meknes), located about 33 miles west of Fez. Mahamet is trying to escape from Abdelmelec's forces, who are camped near-by (see line 7 below).


Our enemies keep upon the mountain-tops,

= a disyllable here: EN-'mies.

And have encamped themselves not far from Fesse. −



8: in the quarto, lines 8 and 9 are printed as a single, 12-syllable line; Dyce assumes that Muly Mahamet is addressing his wife here, and hence adds Calipolis to the list of those who just entered the stage. Bullen, however, wonders if the author's intent was to personify gold as Madam Gold (removing the comma after Madam), a sort-of Anglicized version of Lady Pecunia, the personified praise of money.

Gold is the glue, sinews, and strength of war,

= sinews are tendons, suggesting strength; in ancient Rome,
     Cicero called money the sinews of war, in that no ruler
     can keep an army going without it.1


And we must see our treasure may go safe. −



[Exit Pisano with the treasure and some of the Guard.]

13: stage direction added by Dyce.


        Now, boy, what's the news?

15: Mahamet addresses his son, who, according to the


     sources, was actually only 12 years old.25

Muly Jr.  The news, my lord, is war, war and revenge;


And, if I shall declare the circumstance,

= details.

'Tis thus.


Rubin, our uncle's wife, that wrings her hands

= ie. "my" (the royal "we").  = ie. great-uncle Abdelmu-

For Abdelmunen's death, accompanied

= "because of" or "over".


With many dames of Fesse in mourning weeds,

= upper class women.  = clothes.

Near to Argier encountered Abdelmelec,

23-25: "at the border of Morocco and Algiers (Argier),


That bends his force, puffed up with Amurath's aid,

     met up with Abdelmelec, who directs his army, which

Against your holds and castles of defence.

     is swollen in size with the soldiers of the Turkish Sultan
     Amurath, against your fortresses (holds) and castles."
         24-25: bends...against = the idiom bend against
     means "to direct against".1


The younger brother, Muly Mahamet Seth,

= usually, as here, a disyllable: MA-'met.

Greets the great Bassa that the King of Turks


Sends to invade your right and royal realm;

And basely beg revenge, arch-rebels all,


To be inflict upon our progeny.

= family, though progeny usually referred to one's de-
     scendants.1 Bullen prefers "race".


Muly.  Why, boy, is Amurath's Bassa such a bug

= bug-bear, object or word meant to frighten.

That he is marked to do this doughty deed? −

= valiant or spirited,1 used ironically.


Then, Bassa, lock the winds in wards of brass,

34-43: Mahamet mocks the Bassa Calsepius: his speech suggests the Ottoman commander is taking on a Herculean task, one so impossible that in order to accomplish it he will need to assume the powers of the gods.
     wards = prisons or fortresses;1 the allusion is to Aeolus, the god of winds, who kept the winds confined in a cave when they were not permitted to blow on the surface of the earth.9

Thunder from heaven, damn wretched men to death,

= ie. control the thunder and lightning as does Jupiter above.


Bear all the offices of Saturn's sons,

36: "take on the jobs of all the Olympian gods, who were the
     sons of the ancient god Saturn"; Mahamet goes on to
     name the three major Olympian deities.
         Bear = emended from the quarto's Barre by Dyce.

Be Pluto, then, in hell, and bar the fiends,

= god of Hades.


Take Neptune's force to thee and calm the seas,

= Neptune was the god of the sea.  = power.

And execute Jove's justice on the world,

= alternate name for Jupiter, the king of the gods; one of his
     functions was guardian of the law.10


Convey Tamburlaine into our Afric here,

= Tamburlaine (properly Timur, 1336-1405) was the manic and blood-thirsty conqueror whose empire comprised most of western Asia; he of course had been the subject of two immensely popular plays by Christopher Marlowe.

To chastise and to menace lawful kings: −

= Muly Mahamet has himself particularly in mind here.


Tamburlaine, triumph not, for thou must die,

= Mahamet jeeringly addresses Calsepius by the conqueror's name.
     42: Dyce notes that in Marlowe's Tamburlaine, Part II, the final words spoken in the play by the conqueror are "For Tamburlaine, the scourge of God, must die."

As Philip did, Caesar, and Caesar's peers.

43: ie. "as everyone dies sooner or later".
     Philip = probably meaning Philip II of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great), a conqueror in his own right, who had taken control of all the Greek city-states by the time of his death.


Muly, Jr.  The Bassa grossly flattered to his face,

45: ie. Seth obviously or transparently flattered Bassa Cal-


And Amurath's praise advanced above the sound

     sepius to his face.4

Upon the plains, the soldiers being spread,


And that brave guard of sturdy janizaries

= excellent.

That Amurath to Abdelmelec gave,


And bad him boldly be with them as safe

50: ie. with the janizaries serving him directly, Abdelmelec's
     personal security is assured.
         bad = bade, past tense of "bid".
         with them = Dyce has emended the quarto, which
     prints to them here.

As if he slept within a wallèd town;


Who take them to their weapons, threatening revenge,

= ie. themselves.

Bloody revenge, bloody revengeful war.

45-53: Yoklavich approvingly quotes an earlier editor, who


called this speech, "a mere jumble of participial and relative clauses, [which] are clearly impossible as they stand. Probably something has been cut…"

Muly.  Away, and let me hear no more of this.


Why, boy,

Are we successor to the great Abdallas

57: Are we successor = the quarto prints Are we successors here, but Dyce correctly changes the last word to the singular, as Mahamet is using the royal "we" here, referring only to himself.
     Abdallas = the quarto incorrectly prints Abdelmulec here; I have accepted Bullen's emendation to Abdallas.


Descended from th' Arabian Muly Xarif,

And shall we be afraid of Bassas and of bugs,

= bug-bears: see line 32 above.


Raw-head and bloody-bone?

60: the two compound words in this line were commonly
     paired, as here.
         raw-head = a bug-bear, comprised of a skull, per-
     haps with a body whose flesh has been stripped away.1
         bloody-bone = another term for a bug-bear.1

Boy, seest here this semitarie by my side?

= ie. scimitar, the short, curved, pointed sword with a
     single edge, typically assigned to characters of Turkish
     or Middle Eastern origin.1 The modern spelling did not
     become common until the turn of the 17th century.  


Sith they begin to bathe in blood,

= since.

Blood be the theme whereon our time shall tread;


Such slaughter with my weapon shall I make

As through the stream and bloody channels deep

= that.


Our Moors shall sail in ships and pinnaces

= small ships, which acted, for example, as messenger ships
     in the company of larger ships.1

From Tanger-shore unto the gates of Fesse.

= 16th century spelling of Tangier, a major port city held
     by the Portuguese, located on the northern shore of
     Morocco at the Strait of Gibraltar.


Muly, Jr.  And of those slaughtered bodies shall thy son

= meaning himself; Elizabethan characters, especially in
     Peele's works, often spoke of themselves in the third


A huge tower erect like Nemrod's frame,

70: huge tower = Dyce emends huge to the two-syllable word hugy, a common poetic alternative to huge; Dyce notes that hugy appears elsewhere in the play; tower is pronounced as a one-syllable word.
     Nemrod's frame = Nimrod, the "mighty hunter before the Lord" (Gen. 10:9), ruled a kingdom which included the city of Babel; Nimrod was said to have instigated the construction of Babel's famous tower (frame).11

To threaten those unjust and partial gods

= unfairly biased.


That to Abdallas' lawful seed deny

= ie. legitimate successors.

A long, a happy, and triumphant reign.


An alarum within, and then enter a Messenger.

= call to arms, as a warning of danger, or disturbance.1,2


Mess.  Fly, King of Fesse, King of Moroccus, fly,

= flee.


Fly with thy friends, Emperor of Barbary;

O, fly the sword and fury of the foe,


That rageth as the ramping lioness

= ie. like.  = rearing on her hind legs.

In rescue of her younglings from the bear!


Thy towns and holds by numbers basely yield,

= despicably submit.

Thy land to Abdelmelec's rule resigns,

= surrenders.


Thy carriage and thy treasure taken is

84-85: Pisano, who left Mahamet at line 13 above, was,

By Amurath's soldiers, that have sworn thy death:

     along with the treasury, captured by enemy troops.


Fly Amurath's power and Abdolmelec's threats,

Or thou and thine look here to breathe your last.

= "those who accompany you"; thou and thine was a


     common expression.

Muly.  Villain, what dreadful sound of death and flight


Is this wherewith thou dost afflict our ears?

But if there be no safety to abide


The favour, fortune, and success of war,

Away in haste! roll on, my chariot-wheels,


Restless till I be safely set in shade

Of some unhaunted place, some blasted grove

= blighted or cursed wood.


Of deadly hue or dismal cypress-tree,

= an obsolete spelling of yew,1 which is deadly because
     it is poisonous.25

Far from the light or comfort of the sun,


There to curse heaven and he that heaves me hence;

= "carries me off from here": note the extensive alliteration
     in the line.

To seek as Envy at Cecropè's gate,

99: an allusion to a myth that is strange even by ancient standards: Vulcan, the lame blacksmith god, tried to rape Minerva, the goddess of war and wisdom, but she fought him off; during the struggle, some of his semen dripped onto her leg, which she wiped away; the semen fell to the earth, which then gave birth to Erechthonius.
     Minerva, wishing to keep the child a secret - she had a reputation of being a virgin to uphold - placed Erechthonius in a chest, and gave the chest to the daughters of Cecrops - the three sisters Agraulos, Pandrosos, and Herse - to watch over, with instructions never to open it.12
     They opened it anyway. Minerva, appalled that her secret had been discovered, blamed Agraulos, and hatched the following plot: Mercury, the messenger god, had fallen in love with Agraulos' sister Herse; Minerva ordered the goddess Envy to plant in Agraulos' heart unmitigated jealousy of her sister's good fortune, which Envy did. Agraulos, now bitter, tried to block Mercury from entering Herse's room. Mercury, for Agraulos' trouble, turned her into stone.13
     seek = though the myth referred to here is easily identifiable, the exact meaning of line 99 remains unclear; the word in the quarto is seeke, which could mean (1) "pursue with hostile intention" or persecute; (2) resort or pay a visit to; or (3) at a loss, puzzled as how to act;1 Dyce emended seeke to sick, meaning "sicken".
     Cecropes = a trisyllable word: Ce-CRO-pè. The name appeared as such in a 1581 translation of Seneca's plays.


And pine with thought and terror of mishaps:

= waste away.  = the quarto prints the here, emended by


     Dyce to with.



The Battle to Overthrow Muly Mahamet: "Mulai Mohammed and his army rode out from Fez to engage his enemy but the battle was lost before it was joined. By a subtle combination of threats and bribes and a well-organized fifth column, Abd al-Malik had already ensured the betrayal of his adversary. As the two armies met, Mohammed was deserted by his Andalusians, Spanish Moors who had fled to Africa where they had for long provided the Moorish armies with their best troops. In March 1576 Abd al-Malik entered Fez unopposed..." (Bovill, p. 23).


Alarum within, and then enter the Presenter.


Now war begins his rage and ruthless reign,


And Nemesis, with bloody whip in hand,

2: as he did in the play's opening monologue, the Presenter
     describes Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, carrying a

Thunders for vengeance on this Negro-Moor;

= ie. Muly Mahamet.




Enter above Nemesis; enter Three Ghosts. ›

7: Nemesis enters onto the balcony at the back of the stage.



Nor may the silence of the speechless night,

10-11: night is interestingly described as the architect of
     crimes, because villains act in the dark to hide their evil
         speechless = silent.

Dire architect of murthers and misdeeds,

= Dyce has emended the original words which appears here,


Of tragedies and tragic tyrannies,

     Divine architects.

Hide or contain this barbarous cruëlty


Of this usurper to his progeny.

= clan or family.


[Three Ghosts cry "Vindicta!"]

16: the three spirits are those of Muly Mahamet's slain victims, namely his two younger brothers and his uncle Abdelmunen.
     This stage direction appears in the quarto.


Hark, lords, as in a hollow place afar,

18-20: the sense is that the shrieks of the ghosts have a

The dreadful shrieks and clamours that resound,

     spooky echoing quality.


And sound revenge upon this traitor's soul,

         Hark = "listen closely".
         lords = the Presenter addresses the male members
     of the audience.
         hollow place = a common collocation, used some-
     times to describe a cavity such as a pit or room, here
     probably referring to a cave.1
         resound = echo;1 note the wordplay of resound in
     line 13 and sound (meaning "cry out") in line 14.

Traitor to kin and kind, to gods and men!

= traitor to family and nature, although kind could also
     mean "family"; this clause appeared in identical form
     in the 1561 play Gorboduc.


Now Nemesis upon her doubling drum,

= echoing or resounding.1

Moved with this ghastly moan, this sad complaint,

= emotionally affected.  = lament.


Larums aloud into Alecto's ears,

24: sounds a warning into the ears of Alecto, one of the three goddesses of revenge known as the Furies. Note the unusual, but not unique, use of larum (a word related to alarm) as a verb.

And with her thundering wakes, whereas they lie

= awakens.  = where.3


In cave as dark as hell and beds of steel,

26-27: Peele describes the Furies as living in a cave, as dis-

The Furies, just imps of dire revenge.

pensers of justice (just), and as the children (imps) of revenge.
     beds of steel = Peele has borrowed this phrase from an earlier English work (see the note Act IV.ii), but as Edelman notes, beds of steel is itself a borrowing of the
Furies' iron beds mentioned by Virgil in Book VI of the Aeneid.


"Revenge," cries Abdelmunen's grievèd ghost,


Lying down behind the Curtains, the three Furies,

30: the Furies are presumably lying down on their beds of

one with a whip, another with a bloody torch

     steel (line 26); curtains at the back of the stage are


and the third with a chopping knife. ›

     pulled back to reveal the Furies.24


And rouseth with the terror of this noise

These nymphs of Erebus; "Wreak and revenge"

35: These nymphs of Erebus = ie. the Furies, who reside in Erebus, the dark area below the earth, through which the souls of the dead pass on their way to Hades.10 Later, at Act IV.ii.84, Peele mistakenly describes the Furies as the daughters of the primordial god Erebus.
     Wreak = avenge.


Ring out the souls of his unhappy brethren.

= ie. cry or call out.  = ie. Mahamet's murdered brothers;
     unhappy = unfortunate.

And now start up these torments of the world,


Waked with the thunder of Rhamnusia's drum

= Rhamnusia is an alternate name for Nemesis.

And fearful echoes of these grievèd ghosts, −


Alecto with her brand and bloody torch,

40-42: the Presenter describes the individual attributes of the Furies as they appear on-stage, though these attributes historically actually applied to all three.
         brand = torch.

Megaera with her whip and snaky hair,

41: all three Furies were said to have snakes entwined in
     their hair and around their arms and waists.14


Tisiphone with her fatal murdering iron:

= ie. chopping knife.

These three conspire, these three complain and moan. −

= lament.


Thus, Muly Mahamet, is a council held

To wreak the wrongs and murthers thou hast done. −

= avenge.


By this imagine was this barbarous Moor

46f: the Presenter explains how the plot will have advanced
     before Scene I begins.
         By this imagine = "imagine that during this time".

Chased from his dignity and his diadem,

47: Mahamet has lost his dignity and his crown; perhaps the
     second his should be removed for the sake of the meter.


And lives forlorn among the mountain-shrubs,

And makes his food the flesh of savage beasts.

= ie. "for his".


Amurath's soldiers have by this installed

= ie. "in this intervening time".

Good Abdelmelec in his royal seat.

= the author goes out of his way to indicate that his sym-
     pathies lie with Abdelmelec.


The dames of Fesse and ladies of the land,

In honour of the son of Solimon,

= ie. the Ottoman Sultan Amurath, the (grand)son of Sulei-


Erect a statue made of beaten gold,

     man the Magnificent.

And sing to Amurath songs of lasting praise.


Muly Mahamet's fury over-ruled,

= overcome or overthrown.

His cruëlty controlled, and pride rebuked,

= curbed.


Now at last when sober thoughts renewed

58-59: finally, having gotten over his despair, Mahamet is

Care of his kingdom and desirèd crown,

     ready to do what he has to do to regain his throne.

By messengers he furiously implores

     of Portugal, to request the help that, according to the


Sebastian's aid, brave King of Portugal.

     Presenter, he had been offered, and rejected, once be-
         he furiously implores = ie. Muly Mahamet vehe-
     mently begs;3 in the quarto, imployes appears as the
     last word of the line, which Dyce has emended.

He, forward in all arms and chivalry,

= ie. Sebastian.  = eager or inclined to engage.1


Hearkens to his ambassadors, and grants

= listens.  = ie. Mahamet's.

What they in letters and by words entreat.

= plead for.


Now listen, lordings, now begins the game,

= a very old expression, sometimes with thus or here in

Sebastian's tragedy in this tragic war.

     place of now.




A battlefield Near Fez.

Alarum within, and then enter Abdelmelec,

Entering Characters: the victorious Abdelmelec, with

Muly Mahamet Seth, Calsepius Bassa,

his brother Seth and Turkish guard (the janizaries), who

with Moors and Janizaries.

are led by Calsepius Bassa, enter the stage.

     At the end of this stage direction, the quarto prints and the Ladies; we follow Dyce in having the "Ladies" enter at line 35 below.
     Alurum = call to arms.


Abdel.  Now hath the sun displayed his golden beams,


And, dusky clouds dispersed, the welkin clears,

= sky.

Wherein the twenty-coloured rainbow shews.

= ie. multi-.  = shows.


After this fight happy and fortunate,

= synonym for "fortunate".


And Victory, adorned with Fortune's plumes,

6: a common image of personified Victory and Fortune. In
     the early 17th century, Philip Massinger frequently used
     the expression plumed Victory.

Alights on Abdelmelec's glorious crest,

= lands on.  = helmet.


Here find we time to breathe, and now begin

= rest (after the exertions of battle).

To pay thy due and duties thou dost owe


To heaven and earth, to gods and Amurath.

= here and in line 14, heaven is pronounced as a mono-

     syllable (hea'n), but as a disyllable in line 23 below.


[Sound trumpets.]


And now draw near, and heaven and earth give ear,

Give ear and record, heaven and earth, with me;


Ye lords of Barbary, hearken and attend,

Hark to the words I speak, and vow I make

= ie. "and listen (hark) to the vow I make".


To plant the true succession of the crown:

Lo, lords, in our seat royal to succeed

19-22: Abdelmelec provides for the succession: Seth will


Our only brother here we do install,

     inherit the throne after he dies.

And by the name of Muly Mahamet Seth


lntitle him true heir unto the crown.

Ye gods of heaven gratulate this deed,

23-24: if the gods accept Seth's appointment as heir, then 


That men on earth may therewith stand content!

     Morocco's citizens will be less likely to dispute his
     succession; the two lines hint at the civil violence that
     normally accompany the death of a ruler as multiple
     claimants vie for the crown.
         gratulate = welcome, hail;1 hence, approve.

Lo, thus my due and duties do I pay

= the quarto here prints duetie is done, I paie; I have


To heaven and earth, to gods and Amurath!

     accepted Dyce's correction.


[Sound trumpets.]


Seth.  Renowmèd Bassa, to remunerate

= renowned.  = reward.

Thy worthiness and magnanimity,


Behold, the noblest ladies of the land

Bring present tokens of their gratitude.


Enter Rubin Archis, her Son, Abdil Rayes, and Ladies.

Entering Characters: Rubin Archis, we remember, is the grieving widow of the slain Sultan Abdelmunen. Abdil Rayes is not named in the scene, but Yoklavich and Edelman identify her as the "Queen" to whom the quarto mysteriously assigns the speech at line 46.


Rubin.  Rubin, that breathes but for revenge,

37: Rubin describes herself as living for the sole purpose
     of avenging her husband's murder.


Bassa, by this commends herself to thee;

= presents.2

Receive the token of her thankfulness:

= in the quarto Resigne, emended by Dyce.


To Amurath the god of earthly kings

40-44: Rubin offers her son to serve Amurath, the Ottoman

Doth Rubin give and sacrifice her son:

= hand or give over, surrender.


Not with sweet smoke of fire or sweet perfume,

42: Rubin plays on the word sacrifice.

But with his father's sword, his mother's thanks,


Doth Rubin give her son to Amurath.


Rayes.  As Rubin gives her son, so we ourselves

46-50: Abdil Rayes perhaps hands over some gold jewelry
     as she speaks here.
         we ourselves = the royal "we".

To Amurath give, and fall before his face.

= Rayes appears to prostrate herself before Calsepius.


Bassa, wear thou the gold of Barbary,

And glister like the palace of the Sun,

= glisten.  = common expression to describe the sun.


In honour of the deed that thou hast done.


Cals.  Well worthy of the aid of Amurath

Is Abdelmelec, and these noble dames. −


Rubin, thy son I shall ere long bestow,

= before.

Where thou dost him bequeath in honour's fee,


On Amurath mighty Emperor of the East,

That shall receive the imp of royal race

= scion of a royal family, referring to Rubin Archis' son.


With cheerful looks and gleams of princely grace. −

This chosen guard of Amurath's janizaries


I leave to honour and attend on thee,

King of Morocco, conqueror of thy foes,


True King of Fesse, Emperor of Barbary;

Muly Molocco, live and keep thy seat,

= the second and final time Abdelmelec is called by this
     name in the play.


In spite of fortune's spite or enemies' threats. −

= even in the face of.

Ride, Bassa, now, bold Bassa, homeward ride,

65-66: Calsepius is returning home; note that the scene
     ends with a rhyming couplet.


As glorious as great Pompey in his pride.

= a disyllable.  = famous Roman general, slain in the great
     civil war.



Mahamet Escapes Abdelmelec's Grasp: though successful in ousting Mohammed, Abd al-Malik was unable to pursue his nephew because his Turkish troops refused to go further until they received their pay. Abd al-Malik had no choice but to borrow the money from the merchants of Fez, but by the time this was accomplished Mohammed had long escaped into the Moroccan hinterland.
     After paying off the Ottoman troops, Abd al-Malik sent them speedily on their way home.