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Monday, February 26, 2007

All's Lost by Lust

So, our "Holzknecht Redivivus" is in some serious need of rediviving. Basically, we proposed it about a year ago, and then never did anything about it. Well, I'm here to try and get the ball rolling, with a play Karl Holzknecht never even thought about including in his book: All's Lost by Lvst -- "Written by William Rowley," "Divers times Acted by the Lady Elizabeths Servants" (London, 1633). The play was probably written and performed around 1619.

Dramatis Personae

Roderigo -- The king of Spain
Muly Mumen -- "King of the Moores"
Zacharia -- a Moor
Medina -- a Spanish Duke
Julianus -- the Spanish general in the wars against the Moors
Jacinta -- his daughter
Antonio -- a "Don," "Lord of Barcelona"; he marries Margaretta, has an affair with Dionysia
Dionysia -- see above; Alonzo's daughter
Margaretta -- Pedro's daughter, affianced to Antonio at the beginning of the play
Fidella -- Margaretta's Moorish servant
Alonzo -- a knight, governor of a castle near the Moorish army at the play's opening
Piamentelli -- one of Roderigo's court
Pedro -- Margaretta's father; a poor man
Iaques -- "a simple clownish Gentleman," Pedro's son, "personated by the Poet"
Cloveele -- "a Rusticke"
Lothario -- a go-between, sent by Roderigo to pursue Jacinta
Lazarello -- Antonio's servant
Cob -- a page
Malaena -- a bawd

The play opens with Roderigo in pursuit of Jacinta, asking his pander Lothario whether she will "be woman" -- to which Lothario replies that Jacinta has threatened to stab herself rather than give in to Roderigo's sexual importunities. Roderigo says, fine, I have another way; he then calls to the other lords on the stage, inquires about an intended "hot invasion" of "barbarous and tawney Affricans," and appoints Julianus as his general against the Moors. Julianus accepts, and announces that he will leave his daughter Jacinta behind at court; Roderigo promises to protect her, since "We love Iacinta more then you must know."

A second plot entwined with this one: Antonio, a knight, is betrothed to Margaretta, the daughter of a poor man, Pedro; Antonio calls her a "beggar," while praising her virtues. But Pedro, Margaretta's father, is suspicious of this union, and suspects that Antonio's "gay outside" conceals "a ragged lining." The act ends with Margaretta and Antonio arriving together onstage, preparing to be secretly married by a friar, "one Benedicke."

After both Lothario and Malena fail to persuade Jacinta, Roderigo confronts her himself; but she resists his advances, insisting that lust and love are "an Antipathy as dissonant / As heaven and hell." Roderigo turns from persuasion to command -- "we speake a king to you, you must."

The scene shifts to a castle at the front, governed by Alonzo, who lives there with his daughter Dionysia; Alonzo describes his daughter as undaunted by life so close to an enemy army, saying that "Were there a band of buskind Amazons" here, Dionysia would be "formost" among them. Lazarello comments: "Why, heres a wench now, I had rather lie with her / Witt, then with the best piece of flesh in Christendome, / I could beget young Mercuries on her, with / The very conceit." Antonio is clearly still more struck with Dionysia.

At this point the Moorish army arrives and is promptly defeated, after an "Alarum." After the Moors beat a retreat, Antonio receives a letter from Dionysia, the very sight of which prompts Lazarello to convince him to abandon Margaretta, calling his marriage to her "A mistake in private." The act ends with Antonio and Dionysia exchanging kisses, and Antonio lamenting his "backe slid[ing]."

Jacinta is imprisoned by Lothario, being now "neither / Maid, wife, nor ... widow." She escapes, fleeing to her father, and Roderigo, fearing Julianus's response, orders him to stay away from the court but to send all his prisoners there.

The scene shifts to Margaretta, who has just learned of Antonio's marriage to Dionysia, and sends a letter to him by way of her brother Jaques, having been persuaded by her servant Fydella not to reveal her anger. In the following scene, Jaques (called "Clowne" in the stage directions and speech prefixes) arrives in the middle of an awkward conversation between Dionysia and a moping, anxious Antonio, who reads the letter and promises a response. The letter, it seems, congratulates him on his wedding, but asks that Margaretta may still be his "Concubine," secretly, twice a week. Lazarello, hearing this, proposes that he will slip into Margaretta's bed in Antonio's place. Antonio gives him his clothes and ring, to make the counterfeit take.

Julianus wonders why he's being kept from court, after his victories; then Jacinta arrives and reveals what has been done to her. What to do? "[D]oes Maiesty extenuate a crime?" Jacinta asks, and her father answers, "Augment it rather." After a fairly brief debate about treason and loyalty, Julianus sends for his prisoners -- "I have no friends / But these my enemies" -- and announces himself "a vowd foe" to Roderigo. The Spanish promise loyalty to him, and he then extends friendship to the Moors, asking them to join him in the fight against Roderigo. The Moorish king agrees, but demands Jacinta for a wife; Julianus responds, "Ile not compell her heart, wooe, win, and wed her."

Next we see a bed, with Lazarello in it, dressed as Antonio; Margaretta and her servant Fydella approach with a halter. They kill him.

Roderigo, in desperation, decides to open the doors of an enchanted castle that supposedly contains treasure with which he could pay an army, but about which an old prophecy threatens that when the castle is opened, Spain will fall. He opens the first forbidden door, and there is thunder; the second, and there is both thunder and lightning. At this point, he sees Julianus, Antonio, Alonzo, and the Moorish king arrive, in what seems to be a dumb-show-hallucination of his own deposition. The army of Julianus and Muly Mumen arrives two scenes later. In the intervening scene, Lothario persuades Jaques to hang him.

We then see Muly pursuing Jacinta exactly as Roderigo had, even using the same arguments ("I am thy King").

Margaretta arrives at court to turn herself in for the supposed murder of her husband, but Antonio then enters with Dionysia. He has been mortally wounded by one of Julianus's soldiers, but before he dies, he reveals everything that has happened, including the death of Lazarello. Dionysia moralizes his death for us ("Let every wise man take heed of too wives"). Margaretta then stabs herself and dies kissing Antonio's corpse, followed closely by Dionysia ("I must dye one day, and as good this day as another"). Muly calls this whole scene an "Excellent pastime."

Julianus enters, in the final scene, calling Muly a tyrant and condemning rebellion ("Tis the peoples sinnes that makes tyrants Kings"). Muly proposes a duel; in what follows, Julianus, trying to stab Muly, apparently mistakenly kills his own daughter, before Muly then stabs him -- after making fun of him for a little while. The play ends with Muly proclaimed king: "Let Chroniclers write, here we being our raigne, / The first of Moores that ere was King of Spaine."

  • At 2/26/2007 10:22:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    What a spectacular beginning to our redivived Holzknecht. The association of tyranny with the whole precontracted marriage and bigamy thing is interesting.


  • At 2/26/2007 05:07:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    An enchanted castle and a triple murder suicide? Sounds like a good play to me. I'll try to make good on my year-old promise to do one of these soon.


  • At 2/26/2007 07:36:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    Yeah, there's a lot of stuff to say about this play. I tried to keep it to just pure description of the plot, but ... well, it's bonkers. I should perhaps have said that the enchanted castle thing actually comes up right in the first scene, according to that principle of narrative economy whereby an enchanted castle mentioned in Act One has to be raided by Act Five. I'm wondering whether that weird take on the question of crown finances might have something to do with the publication of this play in 1633, 14 years or so after it was probably first on the stage.


  • At 3/02/2007 05:42:00 PM, Blogger bdh wrote…

    Inkhorn, would you be interested in doing an edition of the play?

    It's got all of the things that get students stirred up – bed tricks, naughty ethnic stereotypes, hinted necrophilia, bigamy, and murderous concubines.

    I'll start thinking about my contribution of A Christian Turn'd Turke...


  • At 3/03/2007 04:04:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    bdh: Sure, I guess, though it would pretty much bring the whole "anonymous blogger" thing to an end. Unless I published the edition as "edited by Inkhorn." There may even *be* a modern edition, conceivably -- I didn't check, just read the quarto.


  • At 3/03/2007 04:05:00 PM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    As for *Christian Turn'd Turke*: is that the play that wins the award for Most Awesome Stage Use of a Monkey's Tail?


  • At 3/04/2007 01:55:00 PM, Blogger bdh wrote…

    Not necessarily – maybe this post will *inspire* someone to prepare an edition of the play. Crafty, eh?

    And yes, most awesome stage use of a monkey's tail. Plus it's a pirate play. Arrrr.


  • At 12/11/2007 06:56:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    I just read this play and, wow, what a helpful summary, Inkhorn.

    I just have two quick things to add.

    First, in addition to Lady Elizabeth's Men performing the play, the title page also advertises, "And now lately by her Maiesties Servants, with great applause, at the Phœnix in Drury Lane."

    Second, the final confrontation between Muly and Julianus contains this act of cruelty. Because of an earlier command by Muly, Julianus has been blinded and Jacinta has had her tongue cut out. In the fight between Muly and Julianus, then, the Spanish general is blind, which is why Muly is able to hold Jacinta before him and how Julianus comes to stab her. It really is horrific and brutal.


  • At 12/11/2007 07:03:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Two more things: the play itself is pretty awesome. It definitely needs a modern edition--actually a lot of William Rowley's plays need them.

    Also, the playbook contains an argument, which has this odd description of Jacinta's rape and imprisonment: "Roderigo ... laying hold on this occasion, sends Iulianus as Generall against the African, and by his two evill Spirits, Lothario and Malaena) gets accesse to the Lady in her Fathers absence, but their Engines breaking, he ravishes her. The Dove being thus ruffled, is delivered out of one Falcons Tallons, to the gripe of another: Lothario is made her Keeper, whom Iacynta one day finding fast asleepe, takes the keyes of the Castle from him, & flyes to her Father in the Camp..."


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