Colonialism, politics, and romanization in John Fletcher's Bonduca; Jowitt, Claire
Studies in English Literature, 1500 - 1900   04-01-2003

Colonialism, politics, and romanization in John Fletcher's Bonduca

Byline: Jowitt, Claire
Volume: 43
Number: 2
ISSN: 00393657
Publication Date: 04-01-2003
Page: 475
Type: Periodical
Language: English

SEL 43, 2 (Spring 2003): 475-494

ISSN 0039-3657

This article explores the ways that John Fletcher's Roman play Bonduca engages with early-seventeenth-century British colonial ambitions. The play ends with the defeat of the Britons by a more powerful civilization and the establishment of the Roman occupation in the British Isles. The rout of the Britons described in this text might, initially, seem unpromising material for Fletcher to use to question the merits of contemporary colonial policies. Yet, through a series of resemblances between contemporary Virginia and pre-Christian Briton, between ancient British characters and contemporary or near-contemporary monarchs, and through the dramatization of questions concerning the benefits and drawbacks of "Romanization," this is exactly what the play achieves.1

The difficulties the Romans face in the hostile environs of pre-Christian Briton in Bonduca possess considerable similarities to those experienced by the British on the northern seaboard of America in the early seventeenth century. Furthermore, the internal differences in the camps, especially that of the Britons (where Caratach and Bonduca have antithetical styles of leadership), can be read in terms of the colonial policies of James I and his predecessor Elizabeth I. This article argues, then, that Fletcher's representation of the Britons works, simultaneously, in several ways. On one level, they represent indigenous inhabitants in a colonial terrain inevitably succumbing to the power and control of a more advanced civilization. At the same time, the factions within the Britons' camp, the personalities of rival leaders, and the attitudes of individual Britons to invasion and processes of Romanization, all act as ways of measuring the success or failure of the colonial policies and leadership of the current monarch and his immediate predecessor. The Romans represent an alien and hostile conquering force finally overcoming the Britons' independence but, at the same time, they also imaginatively stand in for the British in contemporary Virginia.

From the beginning of act I we are invited to think of Bonduca as a colonial text. Petillius, one of the Roman captains, discusses with his commanding officer the reasons why the Roman occupation of Briton is not secure. He suggests that the problems the Romans currently face-of ill discipline and lack of food-have "lost the Colonies, and gave Bonduca / (With shame we must record it) time and strength / To look into our Fortunes."2 Indeed, as we shall see, because of the difficulties the Virginia colony experienced in its dealings with Algonquian Indians in the early decades of the seventeenth century, the Romans' relatively easy defeat of the ancient Britons in Bonduca can be seen as a potent fantasy of colonial success in terms of current British ambitions. Yet, simultaneously, the rout of the Britons also represents the end of independence from foreign control. Hence, since these oppositional views are articulated by the text at the same time, Bonduca continuously questions their merits without offering easy solutions to the moral conundrum concerning whether the Romans or Britons possess more honor.3 As the ancient Britons represent native Americans in the play, the audience is invited to support their subjugation; as they represent "British" independence, their defeat is, of course, a mournful affair.

In the critical debate about Bonduca there has been disagreement concerning which of the warring sides is shown to deserve the victory. Until recently most commentators argued that in the military conflict between the ancient Britons and Romans, Fletcher consistently revealed the Romans to be more honorable, masculine, and virtuous.4 Paul Green, in particular, suggests, that although the play's structure presents alternate scenes in the camps of the two sides, the Roman characters are more numerous and more individualized than their British counterparts.5 Fletcher's apparent support for the Romans is read as the "impugning [of] the values of English society" as Fletcher "contrast[s] the heroic life of a soldier with the corrupt ease of what can readily be construed as the Jacobean court."6 However, Andrew Hickman persuasively argues that Fletcher's sympathies were not unequivocally on the Roman side.7 In Hickman's view, Fletcher presents his audience with a puzzle concerning which side possesses the most honor. The play "alludes to an ideal standard by which both sides have shortcomings" and these "ambiguous contrasts . . . become the subject of a catechism . . . which the audience is encouraged to answer."8 But, the mystery is impossible to solve since upon "meticulous inspection" the play's "facade[s] of antithesis . . . turn instead into ambiguous parallels."9 Building on Hickman's analysis, Ronald J. Boling and Julie Crawford have shown, respectively, that Fletcher's representation of Caratach should be recognized as satiric and that Caratach's vacillation to Rome at the end of the play-which casts doubt over his ability to serve Briton-can be seen as a reference to similar uncertainties concerning James's rule (based on anxieties about his relationships with male favorites and concerns over his Scottish or Catholic sympathies).10

Extending the analysis by Hickman, Boling, and Crawford, this article also argues that in Bonduca virtue is not located solely on the Roman side. However, the similarities between the situation of early-seventeenth-century Virginian colonists and Romans in Briton complicate a topical reading of Caratach's weaknesses as a reflection of James's monarchical inadequacies. Indeed, Caratach's, Bonduca's, and Hengo's attitudes to Romanization can be seen as an extended discussion of the relative merits of the colonial policy of the reigning monarch, the previous incumbent, and the hopes that had been vested in Henry, prince of Wales until his death. In other words, Fletcher's views are not as unequivocally hostile to James as Boling or Crawford suggest. In this play, as in other colonial dramas such as The Island Princess (1621) and The Sea Voyage (1622), Fletcher was, I suggest, persistently concerned with exploring larger questions concerning interactions between colonizer and colonized.11

Fletcher's Bonduca portrays the eventual triumph of Rome over Briton. Fletcher ignores documentary sources by marshaling three famous, but historically diverse, figures of British resistance against Rome into one play. Nennius fought Julius Caesar in single combat, and Caratach and Bonduca took part in different phases of the subsequent Claudian campaign against Briton.12 Bonduca opens with Bonduca, Nennius, and Caratach celebrating the successful defense of their homeland against Roman invasionary forces. The play then switches to the Roman army camp, and we see the hungry, war-weary Romans and discover that a Roman captain, Junius, has fallen in love with one of Bonduca's daughters, Bonvica. It is soon clear that there are as many divisions in the Roman camp as there are in the Britons': Penius, one of the commanders, fails to marshal his troops when the general requests them, and Roman foot soldiers break ranks to go foraging for food. When the Romans are caught by the Britons, instead of having them executed, as Bonduca desires, Caratach feeds and releases them. Furthermore, when Bonduca's daughter hears of Junius's love, she plans to lure him into their camp and ambush him. Caratach berates Bonvica and her sister for their lack of honor and again releases the Romans. When the forces finally meet, they do so in Roman battle formation since Caratach sees only this kind of warfare as "a Battell worthie of our winning" (III.v.64). Though fighting bravely, the Britons are defeated; Caratach and Hengo are forced into hiding while Bonduca refuses to submit to Roman rule and, with her daughters, kills herself. While in Caratach's care, Hengo is killed by the Romans and, in his grief, Caratach surrenders and the play closes with him about to depart for Rome as a "noble friend" (V.iii. 185).

The exact dating of Bonduca is problematic since the play was not printed until 1647 when the Beaumont and Fletcher Folio was published by Humphrey Moseley, though an earlier manuscript copy in the hand of Edward Knight, bookkeeper of the rung's Company from the late 1620s, also survives.13 Andrew Gurr dates the first productions of Bonduca as sometime between 1611 and 1614, when the King's Company performed it at the Globe and/or Blackfriars theaters.14 Most recent critics, then, date the composition of the play between 1609 and 1616, that is, after Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra (1606/7) to which Fletcher's play is thematically and structurally indebted. Indeed, Hickman argues for a date after the death of Prince Henry (November 1612), arguing that, like Shakespeare and Fletcher's The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613), Bonduca was designed through its representation of the character Hengo-described as "the hopes of Britain" (V.iii. 160)-as a tribute to the late heir to the throne.15

Such a time frame, then, makes the play coterminous with, or slightly later than, the setting up of two new British colonies between 34[degrees] and 45[degrees] north by James I under royal charter in April 1606.16 The more southerly regions within these latitudes were colonized under the control of a joint-stock company established in London who financed the first Jamestown voyage and sent three ships to America in December 1606. The founding and early years of the Jamestown Colony are documented in the surviving accounts of the first colonists which were speedily published both separately and in later editions of Richard Hakluyt's compendium and by Samuel Purchas in his continuation of Hakluyt's work. Captain John Smith, for example, who spent twenty-nine months between May 1607 and October 1609 in Jamestown, published three accounts of the first years, True Relation of Such Occurrences and Accidents of Note as Hath Happened in Virginia Since the First Planting (1608), A Map of Virginia published with Proceedings of the English Colony (1612), and General Historie of Virginia, New-England and the Summer Isles (1624).17

A vast number of texts that imagined and celebrated the Virginia project were published in Britain during the first years of the colony. William Symonds, for example, in his 1609 sermon about Virginia described the terrain as "a Land more like the Garden of Eden: which the Lord planted, than any part else of all the earth."18 Michael Drayton's 1606 ode "To the Virginian Voyage" argued that colonists could expect three overabundant harvests per year from Virginia since the soil was so "fruitfull," and that they should also expect to find "pearle[s] and gold."19 As is well known, many dramatic texts of the period include references to the Virginia project and use them to express support for or dissatisfaction with current colonial policies or their advocates. In the first edition of Ben Jonson, George Chapman, and John Marston's Eastward Ho (1605), for example, Seagull praises Virginia while simultaneously attacking the Scots, and hence implicitly the king, who are "disperst over the face of the whole earth" even into Virginia.20

In Fletcher's Bonduca the key problem the Romans face in their invasion of Briton is the adequate victualing of their army. At the beginning of the play the Roman troops are starving, arguing that they are too hungry to be able to fight:

For mine own part, I say, I am starv'd already,

Not worth another Bean, consum'd to nothing,

Nothing but flesh and bones left, miserable.


The troops' complaints are harshly and unsympathetically received by their commanding officers. Petillius, one of the captains to whom the troops complain (described in the dramatis personae as "somewhat wanton"), sarcastically advises the hungry soldiers to do as his own troops do and consume the indigestible:

Ye rogues, my Company eat Turf, and talk not;

Timber they can digest, and fight upon't;

Old matts, and mud with spoons, rare meats. Your shoes, slaves,

Dare ye cry out of hunger, and those extant?

Suck your Sword-hilts, ye slaves, if ye be valiant.

(I.ii. 105-9)

Fletcher here refers to the perennial problems of establishing and maintaining lines of supply for invasive and colonizing forces, and of maintaining discipline when food runs short. Petillius's unsympathetic response to the soldiers' plight does not represent the Roman command in a positive light. Indeed, just moments earlier he had been trying to cajole his fellow captain Junius out of his obsessive love for Bonduca's youngest daughter with promises of feasting and carousing with the general's "new wine, new come over" (I.ii.46). The soldiers' response-which is to desert their posts and forage for victuals in the Britons' camp-is certainly not supported by the text, but it is partially explained by the Roman command's lack of care for their foot soldiers.

The early years of the Jamestown colony were characterized by a chronic shortage of food which continued on and off until the colony was able to feed itself (which did not occur until the 1630s). In the first thirty years, then, starvation was a continual problem as the colonists had to await supplies sent from Britain to supplement their own crops or trade with the Algonquian or other groups of Indians for food. This concern over the maintenance of adequate food supplies is repeatedly revealed in both the instructions dispatched by the London administration of the Virginia Company and in the accounts of the early settlers themselves. For example, the stringent Lawes Divine, Moral and Martial were implemented in 1610 to control the recalcitrant colonial population who persisted in searching for gold rather than growing crops.21 Such behavior had led to what has become known as the "starving time" in Jamestown during the winter of 1609-10 where, when Sir Thomas Gates arrived in 1610 to relieve the colony, he was greeted by the pitiful sight of endemic malnutrition: "those wch weare Liveinge weare so maugre and Leane that itt was Lamentable to behowlde them for many throwe extreme hunger have Runne outt of their naked bedds beinge so Leane thatt they Looked Lyke anotamies Cryeinge owtt we are starved We are starved."22

Captain John Smith's 1612 account of his activities in Jamestown (Proceedings of the English Colony) rhetorically manipulated his survival skills-both to provide food for other colonists through successful hunting or trade and to manage his own hunger-as signs of his own superiority.23 Indeed, the Algonquians so esteemed Smith that "every other day brought such plenty of bread, fish, turkies, squirrels, deare, and other wild beasts, part they gave him as presents from the king; the rest, hee as their market clarke set the price how they should sell."24 Importantly, Smith's pre-eminence is both cultural, that is a reflection of European mastery, and individual, since Smith has special qualities that the other colonists do not possess and the Algonquians appear to recognize.

Access to food is essential to the plot of Bonduca. Judas and his cohorts desert their posts in order to satisfy their hunger. When they are captured during their foray, the reactions of different Britons to their plight act as indicators of their captors' relative moral standing. Bonduca and her daughters see their Roman prisoners merely as enemies, treating them like animals by putting halters round their necks. Bonduca intends to hang the Romans without feeding them after ordering her daughters first to "Torment 'em wenches" (II.iii.14). In the lines that follow, appetite for food is replaced by sexual appetite as the daughters tease the Roman soldiers with promises of sexual fulfillment prior to death (II.ii.17-32). The sexualized nature of this interchange (which reflects well on neither group) shows the way contact with women is associated with corruption and, ultimately, death in this play. When Caratach enters, he is disgusted by the treatment meted out to the soldiers by the women and swiftly orders that their hunger be satisfied with abundant "wine and victuals" (II.iii.57). Caratach's sense of honor demands that hospitality be offered to the Romans in order to ensure a good battle when the armies do meet. That such a policy is admirable does not seem to be questioned by the text. Though Caratach obviously does not seek a dishonorable "easie conquest of 'em" (II.iii.114; which the women seek through their plan to lure Junius and his cohorts into the camp), the military wisdom of Caratach's scrupulous conception of honor is questioned. First Nennius demands, "Are they not enemies?" (II.iii.37) and then Hengo asks Caratach whether the Roman soldiers he is so generously feeding share his conception of honor: "Do not the cowards eat hard too?" (II.iii.76). The idea that Caratach's generosity to enemies will not be matched when he, following the Britons' defeat, is starving, is prepared for by Nennius and Hengo's circumspection. Caratach blithely tells Nennius "I'll answer all, Sir" (II.iii.53), which indeed he does, though not in the way he intended. In different ways, then, both British leaders' attitudes to satisfying Roman appetites are shown to be misguided: Fletcher uses both Caratach's generosity with food and Bonduca's conflation of food and sex as indications of their respective inadequacies as military commanders and tacticians.

After the Britons' defeat, the lack of food is also crucial in bringing about Hengo's death and Caratach's final submission to Rome. Even though they are hidden in the hills of their own country, Caratach and Hengo are unable to feed themselves. Caratach expects that he will find stashes of food secreted by the "valiant charitie" of a "gentle Britain" (V.iii. 11). However, Judas and Macer appear to know the Britons' tactics, presumably through their foray into the Britons' camp earlier and Caratach's obliging treatment. Hence their baited trap-with meat and a bottle hung over a rock, "as though the Britains / stole hither to relieve him" (V.iii. 1-2)-is successful since Caratach believes it to be the action of some "blessed Britain" (V.iii. 100). The Romans' successful reading of their tactics here negates the advantages the Britons should expect to enjoy-better access to food supplies based on superior knowledge of the landscape and help from other indigenous inhabitants.

The difficulties both the Romans experience in the early scenes concerning the victualling of their invasionary forces, and the starvation Hengo and Caratach suffer at the end, are noticeably similar, then, to those experienced by the British in Jamestown during this period. George Percy describes the resulting desertion of colonists during the famine: "To eate many our men this starveinge Tyme did Runn away unto the Salvages whome we never heard of after."25 In terms of access to food, then, both Romans and Britons have similar problems. Fletcher, in his representation of starvation for both colonizer and colonized, is showing the unstable nature of the boundary between them. Indeed, Caratach who in the early scenes of the play had been so open-handed with supplies to his enemies, by the end of the play contemplates eating them as he offers Hengo "a Romane's head," provoking Hengo to reply "Good provision. / Before I starve, my sweet-fac'd Gentleman, / I'll trie your favour" (IV.ii.78-81). The Britons' threatened cannibalism is similar to that believed to be endemic among indigenous American inhabitants. More disturbingly, it resembles the recent outbreak among Jamestown colonists who turned cannibal in the starving time.26 Here Caratach and Hengo's contemplation of cannibalism encapsulates their liminal status as they simultaneously represent both colonizer and colonized.

Petillius and Junius find discipline impossible to maintain in the face of starvation; their troops leave their posts, and both captains become, at different points in the play, lovesick for Bonduca's daughters. Junius wants to marry Bonvica and by keeping an assignation with her almost misses the battle; Petillius finds himself sick with the "love-bots" (V.ii. 10) with admiration for the bravery of Bonduca's eldest daughter's death. Colonialists' desires for indigenous women were believed to represent a dangerous threat to the integrity of the colony since "going native" in such a way meant that the men's loyalties were likely to be divided. Such was the perception of the problem that in 1620 the Virginia Company in London was busily advertising for English women to be sent over to Virginia to be wives to the colonists (each woman would cost her prospective husband 150 pounds of tobacco).27 Furthermore, when the colonist John Rolfe was contemplating marriage to the Algonquian princess Pocahontas, he was clearly concerned whether the union was beneficial. Rolfe describes his feelings for Pocahontas in a letter to Sir Thomas Dale of early 1614 as "intangled & inthralled in soe intricate a Laborinth, that I was even awearied to unwynde my selfe therout" and expresses his worries concerning the consequences of miscegenation through "marrienge of straunge wyves."28

Rolfe obviously overcame his scruples with the help of "Almighty God whoe . . . opened the Gate and ledd me by the hande that I might playnely see and dircerne the safest pathes wherein to treade" since the marriage was designed to improve the cultural harmony between the colonists and Algonquians.29 As Ralph Hamor records in his account of the marriage (not published until 1625), "ever since we have had friendly trade and commerce."30 That Rolfe had the permission of the governor before undertaking a marriage with Pocahontas (and that James I was consulted) marks this particular union as different from the promiscuous intermingling feared by the colonial administrators and government. Nevertheless, Rolfe's soul-searching and the soliciting of opinions from notable concerned parties reveals the depth of the anxiety regarding marriage between people of different races. Certainly Junius and Petillius's feelings for Bonduca's daughters have detrimental effects on their military prowess, making their judgment uncertain and their valor questionable. Indeed, in or-der to shock Junius out of his intemperate desire for Bonduca's daughter, Petillius persuades the herald to read out a mock order from the general stating that "lovers must not come neer the Regiments, for fear of their infections" and "If any common soldier love an Enemie, hee's whipp'd and made a slave: If any Captain; cast, with losse of honors, flung out o'th'Army, and made unable ever after to bear the name of a Souldier" (II.ii. 58-62).

A Virginian context for this play is also suggested by the way in which the Britons are described by the Romans as able to blend in with their environment, take advantage of their superior knowledge of the terrain, and prevent the Romans from using their favored military tactics of open battle:

The hills are wooded with their partizans,

And all the valleys over-grown with darts,

As moors are with rank rushes: no ground left us

To charge upon, no room to strike . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

They are so infinite, so ever-springing,

We shall be kill'd with killing.

(I.ii. 192-8)

After the introduction in 1610 under Lord de la Warr of more aggressive instructions from the Virginia Company in London, colonialists' relations with native Americans were much more hostile and the Indians were frequently described as "treacherous" ("a daily daring treacherous people").31 Smith's description in the 1612 Proceedings of the English Colony of the origin of his Algonquian captivity shows the way the Indians were able to take advantage of their superior knowledge of the terrain, using sniping tactics to pick off his men rather than confronting them in open battle. When his boat became too large to travel up the Chickahominy River, Smith continued with two Englishmen and two Indian guides in a smaller canoe, leaving the boat in a safe place "out of danger of shot" and instructing the remaining men that "none should goe ashore till his returned." Despite Smith's command the remaining men disobeyed his orders, "went ashore" giving "both occassion and opportunity to the Salvages to surprise one George Casson, and much failed not to have cut of the boat and all the rest." Meanwhile, further up the river Smith and his companions also suffered from an ambush attack. While Smith and an Indian guide went searching for food, the two men he left guarding the canoe were "slaine (as is supposed) sleeping." Smith himself was captured not through lack of military prowess but because of the inhospitableness of the terrain ("slipping into a bogmire they tooke him prisoner").32

In Bonduca the Romans defeat the Britons precisely because the conflict is conducted under European warfare conventions of open pitched battle. As Petillius's speech quoted above makes clear, if the war continued without such a meeting, then the advantages of familiarity of terrain and superior numbers were all on the side of the Britons. It is only because Caratach obligingly insists on fighting using European standards of warfare, rather than relying on a slow conflict of attrition gradually wearing down the starving Romans, that the invaders are successful in their campaign. His adoption of Roman military tactics, which leads to defeat, shows the text questioning the merits of the process of Romanization. Like his later contemplation of cannibalism, Caratach's Romanization here shows the categories of colonizer and colonized-Roman and Briton or Briton and indigenous American-collapsing into each other. Bonduca and her daughters' rather more devious military tactics-which rely on deception, treachery, and attrition-in fact represent the only way that the Britons could have successfully defended their territory. Indeed, it is precisely these treacherous tactics which Judas, a Roman, employs in order to overcome Caratach by flushing out the starving Hengo with the baited snare.

The Romans' descriptions of the marauding Britons as "painted wasps" (Iii.215) also suggest an American context. Five engravings by John White of ancient British inhabitants (three pictures of body-painted Picts, two of Britons) were appended to White's pictures of Algonquian Indians. These were included in Theodor de Bry's 1590 edition of Thomas Hariot's A Briefe and True Reporte of the New Found Land of Virginia.33 The ancient Britons' art of body painting, which Fletcher refers to in Bonduca, was used by other contemporary commentators to indicate similarities between Native American cultures and those of the early inhabitants of Britain. Given Fletcher's link with Sir Henry Hastings-a keen supporter of the Virginia enterprise who was admitted as a member of the Company in 1612-it is tempting to speculate that Fletcher was well aware of the parallel.34

This play, then, asks important questions concerning whether the Romans or the Britons deserve to win the conflict and comes, I believe, to only a provisional conclusion. We are shown divisions within both camps-between Bonduca and Caratach on the Britons' side and between the Roman leader Suetonius and his tribune Penius, as well as between the leaders and the troops on the Roman side. These internal divisions are never binary in the sense that neither side is represented as wholly correct in its conception of "virtus." The ambivalence of these internal divisions mirrors the instability of the larger divide between the Britons and the Romans where honor is not shown as the exclusive moral property of either side. Furthermore, the fact that honor is so precariously balanced between the Romans and the Britons resembles the kind of descriptions colonists were producing about Native American culture in the Virginia colonies. Gabriel Archer's 1607 comment about the Algonquians captures this ambivalence well: "They are naturally given to trechery, howbeit we could not find it in our travell up the river, but rather a most kind and loving people."35 Similarly, as Peter Hulme points out, colonists were unable to understand gifts of food as simple kindness on the part of Algonquians but instead saw it as an example of endemic inconstancy that was just as likely to prophesy future attack as continued future support.36 Hence the conclusion to Fletcher's play-where Caratach is embraced into the Roman fold and he and Suetonius reach a sort of rapprochement of shared values and mutual appreciation-can be read as a kind of fantasy concerning accommodation between different cultures. Bonduca's final lines prior to her suicide foretell this positive cultural miscegenation: "If you will keep your Laws and Empire whole, / Place in your Romane flesh a Britain soul" (IV.iv. 152-3). Ostensibly, then, this is what does occur at the end of the play; but the neat ending does not answer the central issue of whether Romanization should be celebrated or mourned.

Throughout the play Caratach has been revealed to be the most consistently honorable character. Yet the idea that he might fulfill Bonduca's call for a "Britain soul" to strengthen "Romane flesh" is a misidentification if Britishness is associated with the maintenance of staunch independence from foreign interference (which is what Bonduca's policies represent). In fact, Caratach out-Romans the Romans in terms of honorable and civilized behavior. He consistently behaves with more Roman "virtus" than do the Romans; that is, he is more "soldierly, severe, self-controlled [and] self-disciplined."37 The conclusion of the play, then, where Caratach is embraced as "the valiant Britain" (V.iii. 174), "Excellent Britain" (V.iii. 178), and described as "the onely Souldier" (V.iii. 192) by the Romans would seem to harmonize all differences as he prepares, paradoxically, to be carried off to Rome in triumph to be treated as a "friend" (V.iii. 179). Yet the play encourages us to ask both whether Caratach should succumb so readily to a process of Romanization and what it might mean for the future of the Britons. Suetonius's and the other Romans' rhetoric of honor has not been matched by their actions in the play. For example, Judas's duplicitous murder of Hengo is tacitly condoned by the Roman commanders who take full advantage of Caratach's vulnerability in the wake of his nephew's death. Furthermore, the divisions and petty jealousy between the commanders Suetonius and Penius, as well as those between Junius and Petillius, prevent the audience from trusting in the integrity of Roman civilization. Caratach's transfer of allegiance to Rome at the end of the play presents the audience with something of a problem as he appears to be deserting his own culture for one which the audience is not convinced is superior. This ending, then, gestures toward anxieties concerning the ambiguous merits of "Romanization" and its effects on British national identity. Similar concerns are also raised if we read Bonduca as a political allegory about the colonial and foreign policies associated with James I, Elizabeth I, and the recently deceased Prince Henry, represented by the characters of Caratach, Bonduca, and Hengo respectively.

For the last section of this article I want to focus on the ways in which the gender of native British leaders relates to the play's ambivalent dramatization of whether Britain should be autonomous or acculturated to foreign ways. Bonduca has been seen as one of the most "subtly misogynist" of all the Beaumont and Fletcher plays.38 Sandra Clark, for instance, has argued that it concentrates on a male "world of honor and glory which is closed to Bonduca" and shows "the elimination of the woman who claims power and enacts violence," thus "reinforc[ing] values which are definitively gendered male."39 However, the topical allegory embedded in Fletcher's play complicates a wholly negative reading of Bonduca and her policies. Although for his representation of the Iceni warrior queen Fletcher rejected the more positive "victorious Conqueresse" tradition (shown for example in Jonson's Masque of Queenes and by Spenser in The Ruines of Time) and made his Bonduca militarily incompetent, nevertheless when compared to Caratach's transfer of allegiance to a Roman power that lacks integrity, Bonduca's staunch independence starts to appear more praiseworthy.40

Bonduca might be misdirected in her tactics since her gender precludes her from understanding military matters (Caratach berates her for "shameful" boasting about her previous victories and tells her, at various points, to go home and spin), but she bravely refuses to submit to Roman control even unto her death. Suetonius offers Bonduca anything ("Make up your own conditions" [IV.iv. 136]) if she will only not kill herself, but she taunts him with his fear of death, asserting that it is she who has the victory since she has no such fears (IV.iv. 140-53). As such, Fletcher's brave Bonduca represents a retrospective nostalgia for the military aggression associated in the second decade of the seventeenth century with Elizabeth and the defeat of the Armada in the 158Os.41 Though Bonduca's independent Briton fails in Fletcher's play, her policies do not possess the connotations of weakness associated in the second decade of the seventeenth century with the Jacobean Rex Pacificus. Caratach's surrender to Roman control can hence be seen as staging anxieties concerning James's maintenance of independence from foreign control.

Indeed, the resemblance between Elizabeth and Boadicea had been made explicitly in James Aske's celebration of Elizabeth's Armada victory Elizabetha Triumphans. In Aske's epic the bravery of "Voada, once England's happie Queene" is described as similar to Elizabeth's action of surveying her assembled troops at Tilbury.42 In Aske's text, Elizabeth-unlike Fletcher's Bonducaabdicates her right to speak directly to her troops. She authorizes her sergeant major to relate her words after she has departed and she is not present during the battle, thus, as Jodi Mikalachki argues, "protect[ing] her chaste persona from public military engagement, both active and rhetorical."43 In Aske's celebration, then, Elizabeth preserves her silence and chastity in the male military environment and her side emerges victorious. Fletcher's Bonduca, by contrast, interferes in inappropriate ways in activities to which her gender only gives her limited access. Though her indomitable spirit is admirable (signaled by the bravery of her suicide) her bellicosity and the active role she plays in the conflict result in defeat. Fletcher's representation of Bonduca should not be seen as a direct or unambiguous celebration of the late queen; rather it is only Bonduca's persistent refusal to compromise her own or her country's integrity in the face of invasion that is applauded and also acts as a contrast to Caratach's policy of rapprochement.

Both Caratach's and Bonduca's policies, then, are for different reasons inadequate in maintaining Briton's independence. Like James, Caratach embraces foreign values too easily and is too attached to preserving the peace rather than furthering his kingdom's interests. As Sir Henry Neville wrote In 1606, "the Kingdom generally wishes this peace broken, but Jacobus Pacificus I believe will scarse incline to that side."44 In the second decade of his reign, James's foreign policy was even further out of kilter with those courtiers and statesmen who wished to pursue policies of military glory, and the king was frequently attacked for attempting to preserve peace in Europe when, as a Protestant king, his subjects wanted him to be more aggressive against Catholic rivals.45 Caratach's rather too easy switch of allegiance to those that have proved his relations' enemies and murderers appears then as an analogy with a monarch that might seem to staunch Protestants to vacillate rather too close to Catholicism, the religion of Rome, and promote and favor his native Scots at the expense of English interests.46

Moreover, if Bonduca transgresses the limits of appropriate actions defined by her gender, so too does Caratach. In Bonduca military images are persistently described in homoerotic terms by the Roman commanders, but most noticeably by Caratach, who from the first scene onwards represents military conflict sexually and conflates admiration for Roman prowess with desire. For example, as Suetonius's army advances, Caratach marvels at the sight, describing it as though it were a beautiful male body: "Now I see the Body ... a handsome body, / And of a few, strongly and wisely joynted" and "see how bravely / The Body moves, and in the head how proudly / The Captains stick like plumes" (III.iii.34, 10-2). Caratach's desire for Roman militarism here is, like so much else in this play, ambiguous. On one hand it marks an abdication of the style of British independence represented by Bonduca's aggression specifically, and sniper tactics more generally. And his desires lead to defeat. On the other hand, it means that he is shunning the contacts with women, which the Romans continually assert result in weakness and military incompetence. For instance, Junius, when in love with one of Bonduca's daughters, describes his feelings as "the plague" and then corrects himself, because his situation is in fact more serious: " 'tis far worse; Hell" (II.ii. 10-1). Indeed, in the final scenes, behavior associated with women is represented as a military liability since such "female" behavior is what finally defeats Caratach. As Mikalachki observes, Caratach takes on a female, domestic role because "his whole concern . . . is the nursing and feeding of the boy Hengo."47 Caratach's tender behavior undermines his military prowess as he allows Hengo to attempt to retrieve the food they see left for them rather than going himself. Because he is male, Caratach should not be behaving as though he were a mother. As Coppelia Kahn argues, the demonstration of the "feminized private realm of emotion" is "inimical to manly virtue" in Roman plays, and hence Caratach fails.48 Indeed, his "female" emotions make him vulnerable with the result that when Hengo is killed he immediately capitulates to the Romans. Bonduca and Caratach demonstrably swap gender characteristics, but it makes neither of them an effective leader. The conflation of "masculine" and "feminine" behavior by Caratach and Bonduca is similar to the categories of Roman and Briton, as well as colonizer and colonized in the play. Just as the divide between Roman and Briton is shown to be unstable, the ambiguities of Caratach and Bonduca's gender behavior extend and intensify the other cultural ambivalences the play suggests.

Fletcher's character of Hengo, by contrast, does not transgress the boundaries of gender-appropriate behavior. Hengo is-like Caratach-militarily competent since, though young, he intimidates Judas into fleeing from the prospect of single combat and-like Bonduca-he refuses to acknowledge Roman superiority. Indeed, as Caratach says after Hengo's death, he represented the "hopes of Britain" (V.iii. 160) and should be seen as the "British soul" which the dying Bonduca asserted the Romans needed to preserve their empire. Hengo's untimely death in the play needs to be seen, then, as a tribute to Prince Henry, prince of Wales who was associated with Elizabethan Protestant imperialism and from the time of James's accession had been projected as the heir to England's military glory.49 According to Sir John Holles, in a letter written shortly after Henry's death, the prince's imperial interests had been revealed by his involvement in "all actions profitable or honourable for the kingdom [which] were fomented by him, witness the North West passage, Virginia, Guiana, The Newfoundland, etc., to all which he gave his money as well as his good word."50 The loss of Hengo, the "Royall graft" (V.iii. 161), represents the final defeat of the Britons' independence in the same way that Henry's death represented the loss of a royal sympathizer and figurehead for the war party opposed to James's pacific policy. If, as Gordon McMullan suggests, Fletcher was by the beginning of the second decade of the seventeenth century already firmly associated with Henry Hastings, fifth earl of Huntington-who frequently disagreed with his monarch over matters of religion and state-the coded criticism of James in Bonduca was likely to appeal to the earl.51

This play, then, dramatizes inter-related colonial issues as both the Romans and the Britons in Fletcher's Bonduca refer in different ways to the situation of the British in the early seventeenth century. The problems the Romans experience in their invasion of Briton are similar to the difficulties experienced by the Jamestown colonists. The divisions within the Roman camp and the Romans' lack of integrity make it very clear that imperial expansion is not a glorious affair and the Britons' defeat has more to do with the inadequacy of their leaders than innate Roman superiority. The Romans win the battle because Bonduca is militarily incompetent, Hengo is killed, and Caratach is acculturated. In effect, the Romans have to do very little themselves to win and even Penius's desertion does not seriously jeopardize the victory. As such, the Roman conquest of Britain is inevitable in the same way that the British colonial propaganda argued that American land and peoples would inevitably-if not unproblematically or gloriously-succumb to British control. Yet, on another level, this is also a deeply pessimistic play: the hopes of Briton are extinguished in more ways than one. Bonduca, the champion of an independent Briton, commits suicide; Hengo/ Prince Henry is dead; and the custodian of Protestant imperial ambitions is a Romanophile unable to preserve British autonomy. In a broader sense, then, these readings-situating the play in geographical, political, and "Roman" contexts-gesture to a larger set of anxieties concerning the extent to which independent British identity can be maintained in the face of contact with other cultures. The parallels between the British in America and the Romans in ancient Briton painfully, but inevitably, defeating the indigenous inhabitants show the difficulties of maintaining any form of separation between colonist and colonized. The fact that the ancient Britons in this play represent both indigenous inhabitants in colonized terrain and, simultaneously, the officers and leaders of a colonizing nation, reflects the unstable nature of, and difficulty of maintaining, boundaries between the two. The persistent cultural exchange between Romans and Britons in Bonduca points to contemporary anxieties concerning interactions between Virginian colonists and indigenous inhabitants and, at the same time, poses questions concerning whether a specifically British national identity can be maintained in the face of foreign "Roman" interference. In America will the British be able to preserve their cultural identity? Similarly in Britain will national identity be maintained? Fletcher does not provide a coherent answer to either question, but he shows the continued relevance of the Roman conquest to contemporary foreign and domestic policies.
The essay first explores the ways in which John Fletcher's Roman play Bondaca engages with early-seventeenth-century British colonial ambitions, particularly in relation to the Virginia colony. Secondly, the article focuses on the topical political allegory in the play. The leadership styles of the two Britons Caratach and Bonduca are read in terms of the colonial policies of James I and Elizabeth I. Fletcher's Britons and Romans are shown to serve multiple political functions as both groups are seen to represent aspects of contemporary British colonial concerns.

For helpful readings of earlier drafts of this essay I am grateful to Andrew Hadfield, Paulina Kewes, Tony Parr, Greg Walker, and Diane Watt. I am particularly indebted to Robert Jones for alerting me to a possible connection between Fletcher's Roman play and a colonial context.

1 In this article I use "Britons" to refer to the ancient British and "Briton" to refer to the geographical terrain disputed with the Romans, and "British" to refer to both individual leaders and the nation in the Renaissance. On the transition between an "English" national identity under Elizabeth and a "British" one under James see Curtis Perry, The Making of Jacobean Culture: James I and the Renegotiation of Elizabethan Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997).

2 John Fletcher, The Tragedie of Bonduca, ed. Cyrus Hoy, in The Dramatic Works in the Beaumont and Fletcher Canon, ed. Fredson Bowers, 10 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979-), 4:149-259, I.ii. 176-8. All references to Bonduca are to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text by act, scene, and line number.

3 On the politics of Romanization see Coppelia Kahn, Roman Shakespeare: Warriors, Wounds, and Women (London and New York: Routledge, 1997), pp. 1-26, 160-70. See also Clifford Ronan, "Antike Roman": Power Symbology and the Roman Play in Early Modern England, 1585-1635 (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1995); and Geoffrey Miles, Shakespeare and the Constant Romans (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).

4 See, for example, Paul Green, "Theme and Structure in Fletcher's Bonduca," SEL 22, 2 (Spring 1982): 305-16; Sandra Clark, The Plays of Beaumont and Fletcher: Sexual Themes and Dramatic Representation (New York and London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994), pp. 85-8; and Jodi Mikalachki, The Legacy of Boadicea: Gender and Nation in Early Modern England (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), pp. 103-5.

5 Green, pp. 306-7.

6 Green, p. 308.

7 Andrew Hickman, "Bonduca's Two Ignoble Armies and The Two Noble Kinsmen," MRDE 4 (1989): 143-71.

8 Hickman, p. 168.

9 Hickman, p. 169.

10 For topical readings of Bonduca see Ronald J. Boling, "Fletcher's Satire of Caratach in Bonduca," CompD 33, 3 (Fall 1999): 390-406; and Julie Crawford, "Fletcher's The Tragedie of Bonduca and the Anxieties of the Masculine Government of James I," SEL 39, 2 (Spring 1999): 357-81.

11 See Claire Jowitt, '"Her flesh must serre you': Gender, Commerce, and the New World in Fletcher's and Massinger's The Sea Voyage and Massinger's The City Madam," Parergon 18 (2001): 93-117; and Andrew Hadfield, Literature, Travel, and Colonial Writing in the English Renaissance, 1545-1625 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 254-64.

12 Boling, p. 395.

13 For more information, see Hoy's "Textual Introduction" in The Dramatic Works, 4:151-4; see also Bonduca, ed. Walter Wilson Greg (Oxford: Malone Society, 1951), pp. ix-x.

14 Andrew Gurr, The Shakespearean Stage, 1574-1642 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1980), p. 220.

15 Hickman, p. 143.

16 A copy of the first charter is reprinted in The Jamestown Voyages under the First Charter, 1606-1609, ed. Philip L. Barbour, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press/Hakluyt Society, 1969), 1:24-34. For recent accounts of the early years of the Jamestown Colony, see The Westward Enterprise: English Activities in Ireland, the Atlantic, and America, 1480-1650, ed. K. R. Andrews, Nicholas P. Canny, and P. E. H. Hair (Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Press, 1979); Louis B. Wright, "Colonial Developments in the Reign of James I," in The Reign of James I and VI, ed. Alan G. R. Smith (London: Macmillan, 1973), pp. 123-39; and J. Leo Lemay, The American Dream of Captain John Smith (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1993).

17 John Smith's works are reprinted in The Complete Works of Captain John Smith, ed. Barbour, 3 vols. (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1986). For discussions of John Smith's works and the similarities and differences between his accounts see Mary Fuller, Voyages in Print: English Travel to America, 1576-1624 (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995), pp. 85-140; see also Peter Hulme, Colonial Encounters: Europe and the Native Caribbean, 1492-1797 (London and New York: Routledge, 1986), pp. 137-74.

18 William Symonds, Virginia. A Sermon Preached at Whitechapel (London: J. Windet, 1609), p. 26. For a discussion of the divergent contemporary representations of Virginia, see Michael Zuckerman, "Identity in British America: Unease in Eden," in Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World, 15001800, ed. Canny and Anthony Pagden (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1987), pp. 115-59.

19 Michael Drayton, "To the Virginian Voyage," in The Works of Michael Drayton, ed. J. William Hebel, 5 vols. (Oxford: Shakespeare Head Press, 193141), 2:363-4, lines 21, 27.

20 Ben Jonson, George Chapman, and John Marston, Eastward Ho, ed. R. W. Van Fossen (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1979; rprt. 1999), III.iii.46. See Janet Clare, "Art Made Tongue-Tied By Authority": Elizabethan and Jacobean Dramatic Censorship, 2d edn. (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1999), p. 143.

21 See Zuckerman, pp. 115-59; see also Canny, "The Permissive Frontier: The Problem of Social Control in English Settlements in Ireland and Virginia, 1550-1650," in The Westward Enterprise, pp. 17-45.

22 George Percy, A Trewe Relacyon (1612), p. 269; qtd. in Fuller, p. 99.

23 See Fuller, pp. 85-140.

24 John Smith, Proceedings of the English Colony, in Works, 1:214.

25 Percy, p. 267; qtd. in Fuller, p. 101.

26 See Maggie Kilgour, From Communion to Cannibalism: An Anatomy of Metaphors of Incorporation (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1990), pp. 3-19.

27 David R. Ransome, "Wives for Virginia, 1621," WMQ, 3d series, 48 (1991), pp. 3-18.

28 John Rolfe, "Copy of John Rolfe's Letter to Sir Thomas Dale regarding His Marriage to Pocahontas," in Barbour, Pocahontas and Her Worid (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970), pp. 247-52, 247. See Hulme, pp. 143-7; see also Fuller, pp. 120-2.

29 Rolfe, p. 247.

30 Ralph Hamor, A True Discourse of the Present Estate of Virginia (London, 1615; rprt. New York: Da Capo, 1971), p. 54.

31 For further details see Hulme, pp. 163-8, 163; see also The Jamestown Voyages, 1:438.

32 John Smith, Proceedings of the English Colony, in Works, 1:212-3.

33 For a discussion of White's drawings and the similarities between early inhabitants of Britain and New World tribes see Hadfield, pp. 113-26.

34 For further details of the earl of Huntington's colonial activities and Fletcher's connection with the earl, see Gordon McMullan, The Politics of Unease in the Plays of John Fletcher (Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1994), pp. 203-6.

35 Gabriel Archer, "The Discription of the Now Discovered River and Country of Virginia," in New American World: A Documentary History of North America to 1612, ed. D. B. Quinn, 5 vols. (New York: Arno Press and Hector Bye, 1979), 5:276.

36 Hulme, pp. 163-4.

37 Kahn, pp. 11-15, 13.

38 Clark, p. 87.

39 Clark, p. 88.

40 For an analysis of representations of Boadicea in the period see Mikalachki, pp. 126-9; see also Simon Shepherd, Amazons and Warrior Women: Varieties of Feminism in Seventeenth-Century Drama (Brighton: Harvester, 1981), pp. 144-5.

41 Anne Barton, "Harking Back to Elizabeth: Ben Jonson and Caroline Nostalgia," ELH 48, 4 (Winter 1981): 706-31.

42 James Aske, Elizabetha Triumphans, in J. Nichols, ed. The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, 3 vols. (London: John Nichols and Son, 1823), 2:570-1.

43 Mikalachki, p. 128.

44 Nichols, 2:50.

45 For a consideration of the success or failure of James's pacific policy, see Alan G. R. Smith, The Reign of James VI and I pp. 3-8.

46 On contemporary concerns about James's attitude to Catholicism, see David Loades, Politics and Nation: England, 1450-1660 (London: Fontana, 1992), pp. 377-80.

47 Mikalachki, p. 105. Mikalachki sees this tender behavior as "an imaginative attempt to construct a native, masculine genealogy preceding directly from ancient Britain to the Saxon heptarchy, and excluding both women and Rome from the national past" (p. 105).

48 Kahn, p. 19.

49 See Roy Strong, Henry, Prince of Wates, and England's Lost Renaissance (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1986); see also Perry, pp. 153-87.

50 Qtd. in Strong, p. 8.

51 For further details of the earl of Huntington's politics and the connections between the Fletcher and Hastings families, see McMullan, pp. 15-27.
Claire Jowitt is a lecturer in Renaissance literature at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Copyright Johns Hopkins University Press Spring 2003