Title: The renegade in English seventeenth-century imagination.
Author(s): Matar, N.I.
Source: Studies in English Literature (Rice); Summer93, Vol. 33 Issue 3, p489, 17p
Document Type: Article
Subject(s): MUSLIM converts
ENGLISH literature -- Early modern, 1500-1700
Abstract: Discusses the depiction of Christians who had converted to Islam by English writers of the 17th century. Absence of moral or spiritual anxiety; Absence of divine punishment; Invention of retribution; Robert Daborn's Englishman turned Turk; Reconversion by Philip Massinger; John Evelyn's reprobate renegade.
Full Text Word Count: 7357
ISSN: 0039-3657
Accession Number: 9401272121
Database: MasterFILE Premier
* * *

In the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, English travelers to Ottoman territories were struck by the sight of Christians who had converted to Islam. These "renegado" Greek, Arab, Albanian, Italian, Spanish, French, and English Christians who had "renied" their religion not only saddened the visitor but frightened him too.[1] With the power of the Turkish army and navy on the rise, English travelers could not but reflect whether they too might one day find themselves subjected to the Muslims and forced or tempted to renounce their faith. Far away from the Ottoman borders, England was still not immune to attacks: throughout the 1600s, Barbary coast corsairs were sighted and engaged in the English Channel, in England, and in Ireland, and hundreds of English men, women, and children were captured and hauled to the slave markets of Algiers and Constantinople.[2] The conditions of slaves were brutal and in 1625, wives of captured seamen stated that their husbands were so wretched in Muslim captivity that they were about to "convert from their Christian religion"; ten years later, Secretary Coke reported that many of the English sailors who had been enslaved by Muslim pirates had turned Turk.[3] In the seventeenth century, conversion to Islam was a reality that many Englishmen had been forced to accept.

The strength of Islam, however, was not only military: it was also commercial. The Ottoman dominions provided ample opportunity for Christian Europeans of low social or financial rank to gain power and wealth; and multitudes willingly renounced their faith in pursuit of such goals. Indeed, in the Letters from the great Turke lately sent unto the holy Father the Pope in 1606, the Turkish leader boasted that his army had 30,000 Christians who "are the founders of our artillerie, and other Instruments of warre" and all of whom are "Renegados" fighting "in defence of our lawe, and with vs to conquer your country."[4] In Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy, a text that appeared in 1687 but allegedly described activities in 1638, the author referred to "the old Renegado of Dalmatia," an explosives expert in the service of the Grand Vizir, who was capable of doing "the Nazarenes considerable mischiefs, and procuring notable Advantages to the Musslmen."[5] The renegade was not only a traitor to Christ but to Christendom, and odious as the first treason was, at a time of rising Turkish might, the second was ominous.

Converts to Islam so grew in number that English as well as continental dramatists, hack writers, and poets felt the need to examine the renegade in their work. In England, the renegade developed into an important dramatic type: as there was a type of the Faustian, Machiavellian, and Moorish villain in Elizabethan and seventeenth-century literature, so would there be of the renegade. Unlike the other villains, however, the renegade was heinous because he was the enemy from within: he was no swarthy Moor or contorted Papist or necromancer but an average Englishman--a sailor, a trader, a traveler--who willfully renounced God and monarch and "turned Turk."[6] The renegade was an unexceptional person with nothing striking or fiendish about him. In 1583, Thomas Sanders described an English "boy" who arrived at the island of Jerba in North Africa, and "understanding that whosoever would turn Turk should be well entertained of the King's son, this boy did run ashore and voluntarily turned Turk."[7] The reason why the renegade became a notorious type in English writings was because his evil was so banal that it appeared in the rich and the poor, the common and the aristocratic, the young and the old.

Two factors worried English writers about the renegade. First was the absence of any moral or spiritual anxiety associated with the act of apostasy. Dramatists and travelers observed how Englishmen changed their religion for a whim or for a fortune, out of deliberation or for sexual desire. In All's Lost by Lust (16191620), a play attributed to William Rowley and Thomas Middleton,[8] Antonio was willing to "turne Turk, or Moore Mahometan" in order to satisfy his lust (II.vi.44-45); Thomas Baker, the English Consul to Tripoli, wrote in his diary for January 1681 the following account of an Englishman who "turned Turke":

William -- Gunner of ye Francis & Benjamin Pink about noone went into ye Castle, & presenting himselfe before the Dey Declared that hee was come to Turne Turk, and severall tymes uttered the usuall Words Whereby such Villaines are admitted into that accursed Superstition.

Baker was not going to condone apostasy from an Englishman and upon hearing the news, he went "into the Castle and Took him away from before the Dey and secured him aboard ship, like a Rogue as is, and Wilbee, doubtlesse."[9] The renegade treated religion not as a way to eternal salvation but as a way to material prosperity: apostasy was a means to a secular end. Renegades "never knew any god but their own lusts and pleasures," wrote John Rawlins in 1622, and "thought that any religion would serve their turns."[10]

Secondly, writers observed that the renegade, having given up his Christian faith, did not suffer subsequent divine punishment but happily prospered as a Muslim. Christendom was losing converts to Islam albeit Islam was consistently being vilified in polemical writings: from theologians to millenarians, from John Foxe to Thomas Brightman and Francis Bacon, there was a continuous attack on Islam as an evil religion which would be destroyed by God.[11] Nevertheless after centuries of stereotyping the Muslim, Englishmen still apostatized and lived happily in Muslim lands, some of them enjoying wealth and power. Renegades like the English pirates Samson and Edward became legendary at the end of the sixteenth century for their luxurious lives in Algiers. Other renegades became so adjusted to their new environment that when an English traveler or envoy met them, the only thing he could mention about them to distinguish them from other "Turks" was their place of origin or their former name. Thus the only characteristic which Thomas Sanders could add about an English renegade was that the latter, John Nelson, was "a son of a yoeman of our Queen's Guard"; John Dallam in 1599 wrote of "a Turke, but a Cornishe man borne"; and John Rawlins wrote of "Ramtham Rise; but his Christian name, Henry Chandler; and as they say, a chandler's son in Southwark."[12] When, in the Restoration, Charles II sent Captain Hamilton to ransom some Englishmen who had been enslaved in the Barbary coast, he was told that they did not wish to return to England because they were happy as converts to Islam: "They are tempted to forsake their God for the love of Turkish women who are generally very beautiful," explained the Captain.[13] For many Englishmen, Christianity was not attractive enough to rival Islam in its worldly advantages, and apostasy did not seem to demand much of them. That they had to give up their faith was a small price for the new life they could lead in Muslim land.

Against such a rising tide of conversion to Islam, some English playwrights and poets adopted a new strategy: instead of attacking Islam and the "Moor," they presented in their work a real or an invented renegade and described the horrid retribution awaiting him. Alternatively, they showed the renegade undergoing a spiritual change that resulted in his return to Christianity. The renegade was punished for his apostasy or converted back to his original faith: in both cases, writers demonstrated Islam's failure in retaining its converts and the Christian God's punishment of those who rejected Him.

Such a portrait of a punished or a reconverted renegade did not accord with the descriptions of prosperous renegades that appeared in the accounts of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century travelers. The renegade of seventeenth-century English literature was thus as much an invention of the imagination as the Faustian atheist, the Machiavellian malefactor, or the Moor. He was another type representing the villain in England's conflict with the antiChrist: as the Faustian necromancer represented the atheist of the new science; as the Machiavellian villain embodied all that Protestant Englishmen feared in Catholicism; as the Moor represented all that was "oriental" and alien to England, so did the renegade represent the internal evil that would bring about the collapse of Christendom. In this respect, the renegade was closest to the Faustian atheist because he was seen to have given up his faith for a "lie": as a convert to Islam, he was, in English eyes, without a God--an "atheist" as Sir Thomas Shirley and Sir Henry Blount confirmed.[14] No wonder that poets and dramatists were at pains to punish him even if by so doing they sacrificed truth.

The knowledge that some Protestant Englishmen were turning "Turke" led Robert Daborn in 1612 to write the first complete play about the topic.[15] A Christian turn'd Turke, or The Tragicall Liues and Deaths of the two Famous Pyrates, Ward and Danisker portrays the villainous career of the English renegade John Ward (along with the Dutch renegade Simon Danisker). In order to magnify the evil of Ward, Daborn sought a model of evil that was both unparalleled in heinousness and at the same time familiar to the English audience. And no better example presented itself to him than Christopher Marlowe's The Tragicall History of Dr. Faustus which had been written twenty years earlier. The choice of Faustus as a model for Ward is significant in showing the attitude which was developing in England towards renegades: in 1592 Faustus sold his soul to the devil; in 1612 Ward sold his to the Turk. Both the devil and Faust were fearsome in English eyes although by the Jacobean period the "bloody" Turk was obviously more hated than witty Mephistopheles. The Muslim had succeeded Satan as the embodiment of the anti-Christ. To turn to Satan or to Islam was tantamount to the same atheistic sin.

The climax of Daborn's play is reached when Ward actually undergoes the conversion rite in order to win the love of Voada, a Muslim woman. The "triviall ceremonies" of Ward's conversion are then presented on stage in a "dumbe shew," which to the London audience must have been both dazzling and horrifying. Again, Daborn recalled the scene in Dr. Faustus when, after signing the deed with the devil, the doctor watched a show of the deadly sins which awaited him. And as Faustus had willfully rejected the help of the good angel, so did Ward reject the plea of Christian Ferdinand: "Leaue but this path damnation guides you to" (line 1234). Ward refused, just as had Faustus:

Let those can hope a pardon care
To atone with heaven, I cannot, I dispaire.
(lines 1245-46)

Ward remained resolute in his decision and willfully underwent the ceremony of "turning Turke."

The "dumbe" ceremony began with the entry of flag carriers, followed by the Mufty, his "Priests," and then two knights:

After them Ward on an Asse, in his Christian habite, bareheaded. The two Knights, with low reuerence, ascend, whisper the Muffty in the eare, draw their swords, and pull him off the Asst. He layd on his belly, the Tables (by two inferiour Priests) offered him, he lifts his hand up, subscribes, is brought to his seate by the Muffty, who puts on his Turban and Roab, girds his sword, offers him a cuppe of wine by the bands of a Christian: Hee spumes at him, and throwes away the Cuppe is mounted on the Asse.

(lines 1268-78)

The ceremony ended, as one of the captains put it, when Ward "Turke[d] to the Circumcision" (line 1298). Later, the Jewish merchant Rabshake joked about Ward's ordeal: "Poore fellow, how hee lookes since Mahomet had the handling of him? hee hath had a sore night" (lines 1573-74).

Travelers who had witnessed such a conversion in the Ottoman empire graphically described its spiritual heinousness and physical goriness. They castigated the converts but elaborated on the procession which preceded the public confession of faith: there was revulsion at apostasy but writers realized that both the theater audiences in London as well as the general reading public derived perverse pleasure from the account. In 1603, Richard Knolles described the conversion rite in his seminal General Historie of the Turkes, and in 1610 George Sandys watched the converts on the Adha feast and wrote a detailed account:

We saw a sort of Christians, some of them halle earth already, crooked with age, & trembling with palsies; who by the throwing away of their bonnets, and lifting vp of their forefingers, did proffer themselves to become Mahometans. A sight full of horror and trouble, to see those desparate wretches that had professed Christ al their life, and had suffered no doubt for his sake much contumely and oppression: now almost dying, to forsake their Redeemer.[16]

The description of the conversion rite by Daborn revealed that Ward, like Faust, had freely and willfully chosen to renounce his faith. Travelers emphasized to their readers how Muslims distinguished in their celebration between the Christian who converted to Islam out of conviction, and another who did so in order to save his life or to scrap a debt. As early as 1570, the English public had learned that if a Christian converted for the latter purpose, he was not honored by the Muslims: in the translation of The Of spring of the house of Ottomanno, the "Bishoppe of the Grecian religion" converted but there was "no thing geuen unto him" because he had turned to Islam under duress.[17] If a person converted because he had killed a Muslim or blasphemed the Prophet, wrote the anonymous author of The Policy of the Turkish Empire in 1597, he was neither entertained in a procession nor was he honored with gifts, which, as in the case of Ward, were customary when a well-meaning Christian converted to Islam.[18] The ceremonial pomp which was afforded Ward on his conversion proved that he had deserted Christianity under no duress and out of self-interest.

Daborn draped Ward in evil because he wanted to show the consequences of apostasy. There was no redeeming quality in Ward, and much like Faustus in Marlowe's play, the renegade pirate met with a violent and fully deserved death-torn to pieces and thrown into the sea. This conclusion, however, was wishful thinking on the part of Daborn: as the play was being performed on the London stage, Muslim Ward was flourishing in the Barbary coast without undergoing divine or human punishment for his apostasy. Indeed, when William Lithgow the traveler met him in 1615, he marveled at his wealth.[19] That Daborn ended his play with this purely fictional episode shows the apprehension which prevailed in the English imagination about the practice of Christians converting to Islam and continuing to prosper. Ward was widely known in England to have attained power and wealth as a Moslem, and "the rumours of Ward's riches" were so attractive that they captured the imagination of adventurers.[20] Indeed, reports from the Barbary coast included the name of Sir Francis Verney--a member of the English nobility--as having joined Ward and turned Turk.[21] Daborn had to punish Ward even if the play blatantly defied truth.

On stage, Islam had to be defeated, and those who converted to it had to be destroyed. Daborn knew that little could be realistically done about Ward or any other Englishmen who "turned Turke": what was possible was to inject fear about the consequences of apostasy. If the English public could not be made to see the barbarism of Islam, at least it would see the divine retribution for rejecting Christianity. With similar intent, the poet Samuel Rowlands ended a short poem on Ward with a warning that God would certainly destroy the renegade. Like Daborn, Rowlands associated the act of apostasy with the Faustian turning to Satan, and he warned that God would punish the renegade by death and eternal damnation:

Gods fearefull Judgements (villaine) are at hand.
Deuills attend, Hell tier is prepar'd:
Perpetuall flames is reprobates Re-warde.[22]

For both Rowlands and Daborn, the renegade, like the Faustian atheist, was a formidable villain. But that villain would surely be vanquished by God.

Over a decade later, Philip Massinger drew on Spanish and English sources to dramatize the story of a Venetian renegade. The story allowed Massinger to present a play not about the punishment of a renegade, as with Daborn, but about the reconversion of the renegade. The Renegado, or the Gentleman of Venice was written in 1624 and was a popular play on the London stage.[23] In it, Massinger explored the non-"Tragical" fate of the renegade: while Daborn had shown the renegade's horrid death, Massinger dramatized the renegade's return to Christ; while Daborn frightened his audience away from Islam, Massinger showed that same London audience Christianity's victory over Islam. And as Daborn had falsified truth, so did Massinger.

The play is set in Tunis with Muslims and Catholic Italians as the chief protagonists. In order to link the action to England, Massinger introduced Carazie who had been "borne in England" (I.ii.22) and who was the eunuch slave of Donusa, niece of Sultan Amurath. There is no explanation how Carazie became a Muslim or a eunuch, but his plight resembles that of Greek and central European Christians whose children were taken by the Turks and raised to serve in the court or the seraglio. Carazie also fits the image of the renegade in Renaissance imagination by providing his Turkish mistress with information about Christendom, in particular about the status of women in England. The Ottomans knew little about the European "Infidels" and only through renegades like Carazie could they learn about the social and political organization of their enemy.[24] In this scene, Massinger criticized the audacity and libertinism of London wives, but also showed how crucial renegades were in providing their masters with information about their native countries. At the end of the play, Carazie escapes with the Christians and presumably returns to his original faith and country.

The renegade, however, after whom the play is named is Antonio Grimaldy who, like Ward, "turn'd Pirat" (IV.i.16) after he had converted to Islam and became so hateful of Christianity that he once snatched from a priest the Eucharist during Mass and "Dash'd it vpon the pauement" (IV.i.31-32). As events unfold in the play, Grimaldy repents and confesses his horrible sin, again in words that recall Marlowe's Dr. Faustus:

Looke vpward
I dare not, for should it but be beleeu'd,
That I (dide deepe in hells most horrid colours,)
Should dare to hope for mercy, it would leaue
No checke or feeling, in men innocent
To catch at sinnes the diuell here taught mankind yet.
No, I must downeward, downeward: though repentance
Could borrow all the glorious wings of grace,
My mountainous waight of sins, would cracke their pinions,
And sincke them to hell with me.

Unlike Faust, however, Grimaldy renounces Islam, begs forgiveness from the priest and returns to Christianity.

Massinger presented a happy ending to this renegade. He showed how Grimaldy returned to his faith, but also dramatized through the Vitelli-Donusa love affair how Christians originally became renegades. Donusa the Muslim fell in love with Vitelli the Christian. When she was apprehended in his arms by her coreligionists, she, as well as he, was sentenced to death. The only way she could save both their lives was to convert him to her religion: "I'll vndertake / To turne this Christian Turke, and marry him" (IV.ii. 150-58). But when Donusa tried to convert Vitelli, the latter so denounced the fallacies of Islam that Donusa was convinced of Christianity's truth. Instead of converting the Christian, the Christian converted the Muslim and made her an "apostata" (IV. iii. 158).

Massinger was accurate about Muslim punishment for inter-religious sexual relationships and the life-saving option of conversion. Indeed, throughout the Donusa-Vitelli episode, he was faithful to his Spanish source, Los banos de Argel. But unlike Cervantes, Massinger chose to "stage Donusa's conversion"[25] thereby showing the conversion of a Muslim to Christianity rather than what the English audience had been familiar with, the conversion of a Christian to Islam. With this dramatization, he confronted the crisis of apostasy which had bewildered English travelers and historians throughout this period: why did Christians actually convert to Islam? In Daborn's play, as Captain Hamilton also confirmed, the answer pointed to a Christian's love of a Muslim woman; Massinger used the same love motif and showed that even when a Christian fell in love with a Muslim, the former should and could resist apostasy. Where Daborn's Christian had given his faith for love, Massinger's would both preserve his faith and convert his Muslim beloved to Christianity.

The play ends as Vitelli baptizes Donusa and escapes with all the Christians and the Muslim converts to Christian lands. But as Daborn's ending had been fictitious, so was Massinger's: writings by English travelers and diplomats about renegades in the Muslim empire rarely described a Christian victory. Very few renegades were known to have converted back to Christianity while still in Muslim territory, and of those fewer would have lived to tell since the punishment for apostasy in Islam, as it was in Christianity, was death.[26] That Grimaldy repented of Islam while he was still in Tunis, and that Donusa converted to Christianity in the presence of the Muslim court, went against truth: "Of these or like [reconverts] very few are found," wrote the traveler Nicholas Nicholay in 1585. "We have few Examples," wrote Paul Ricaut about a century later, "of those Apostates who return from the Mahometan to the Christian faith; for none dares own such a Conversion but he who dares to dye for it."[27] And, very few apostates were willing to die for Christ.

In the play, Massinger showed his audience the superiority of Christianity over Islam. He introduced a theological discussion between Vitelli and Donusa just before her conversion in which he exposed Islam as a false religion and Christianity as God's true revelation. Such dialogue, however, between a Christian and a "Mahometan" with a subsequent Christian victory was absent from English polemical writings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Because Islam was culturally and militarily powerful, English writers could not resort to the responsa--the method with which Christians had refuted Jews during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.[28] It is significant that as much as seventeenth-century drama presented Christians in confrontational dialogue with Muslims, theological writings did not offer such debates simply because there was no religious discourse between Christians and Muslims in England. Only in Moghal India did such debates occur, or in Constantinople, or on the pages of William of Rubruck's thirteenth-century account of a journey to the east printed by Hakluyt at the end of the sixteenth century.[29] In the England of Massinger, there was no room for religious accuracy: the Church had to be triumphant both in England and inside the seraglios and palaces of Islam. The reconverting renegades were heroes of the faith.

For Vitelli to make and win an argument in the heart of Muslim territory was evidently a result of Massinger's borrowing from Cervantes. There was no support for such a situation in the travel literature or the historical chronicles of the time. "It would be," wrote Thomas Smith in 1678 after his journey into the Ottoman empire, "a piece of unwarrantable zeal and indiscretion (not to call it by a worse name) to upbraid them [Muslims] of their follies to their faces, without the least hope of success, and dispute with them in the Streets, and their Moschs." Smith continued that should any Christian do so, he would meet with death, but, it would he no martyrdom because that person would "without any just occasion, much less necessity, [have] brought his death upon himself."[30] What Vitelli did would have stood little chance of success; and such deeds, according to the experienced Smith, were outrageously rash.

That the renegade met with divine punishment in Daborn and repented in Massinger was material for public consumption and not a reflection of a seventeenth-century historical actuality. But the public did not mind the untruth: Massinger's play was a success and remained so until the Restoration when a polished version of it was prepared. The happy ending of the renegades was not changed, but Grimaldy was presented as a viler person than he had been in 1624: he used foul words and was quarrelsome, always ready to "draw his Scemiter."[31] Evidently, there was need to show quite explicitly the evil and immorality of the renegade.

Such a portrait of the reprobate renegade appeared in John Evelyn's The History of the Three late famous Imposters (1669). In the second part of this treatise, the author narrated "The story of Mahomed Bei, who calls Himself Joannes Michael Cigala; Being at the Writing hereof in the Court of England." Cigala was so dazzling a man but so deceptive about his apostasy that he captured the imagination of both court and city in September 1668.[32] As a result, Evelyn hastened to denounce him as a "monstrous" imposter and "a perfect Renegado." This alleged Bei, wrote Evelyn, claimed that he had converted to Christianity while dissembling Islam in order to serve the Christian cause in the Ottoman empire. But, Evelyn declaimed, the man had deceived the French king and the English monarch too: he had come "lately to England, [and] had the fore-head to present himself, and the Legend of his Life to his Majestie." The Bei, warned Evelyn, was a Christian who had apostatized to Islam to serve his own interests, and not as he claimed, to help his Christian brethren: indeed, Cigala had been "discovered" as an imposter by a Christian "Person of Great Quality" and by Pietro Cisii, a Persian convert residing in Rome. London, concluded Evelyn, should beware of the renegade by heaping on him the opprobrium he deserved.[33]

By the Restoration, the renegade was a familiar figure in the English imagination. John Dryden included such a figure in Don Sebastian, King of Portugal (1689). In that play, there is "Dorax, a Noble Portuguese, now a Renegade" who, as in Massinger's play, reassumes Christianity at the end.[34] The presentation of the renegade in Don Sebastian, however, is significantly different from the earlier and cruder portraits by Daborn and Massinger. Dryden presents Dorax as a man of moral virtue and stature: both while he was a renegade and after his conversion, Dorax remained a noble figure. The simplistic association of evil with renegade and good with Christian is ignored.

In the course of the subplot, Dryden turned to Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice for the elopement of the Christian Don Alvarez with the Muslim Morayma, daughter of the Mufti. As Shakespeare's Jewish heroine had converted to Christianity, stolen her father's jewels, and married a Christian, so did Morayma convert to Christianity, bring a dowry of jewels with her, and marry the Christian captive. The episode is a case of dramatic borrowing, but it reveals an important shift in English sensibility: by the end of the seventeenth century, the target for conversion to Christianity was not only the Jew but the Muslim too. With the rise of millenarianism in England, some writers proclaimed that the kingdom of God included Muslim converts: the kingdom of Christ would begin not after the destruction of the Turk, but after his conversion.[35] Significant in this context were the few cases of Jewish conversion to Christianity; English Protestants hoped for some analogous Muslim converts.[36] Morayma thus joined Jessica. On stage, converts from Islam dramatized Christianity's hoped-for success in winning souls even in the heart of Muslim land.

Such zeal on Dryden's part to expose the weakness of Islam should be set against the contemporary admiration of the Turks who were fighting the Catholics on the continent. Particularly after the Popish Plot scare, some "true Protestant Englishmen" hailed the Muslims because they believed that only the Muslims could protect them from the depredations of the Pope. In 1684, a dialogue was published between an English soldier who had volunteered his services to the Turks, and a "Teckelytish Mahumetan in the Turkish Camp." The anonymous author satirized the English Protestants, particularly the nonconformists, for their pro-Muslim zeal: evidently nonconformists were hailing the Protestant revolt in Hungary by Count Emmerich Tekeli against the Catholic Hapsburgs.[37] Although there is exaggeration and ridicule in the dialogue/broadsheet, there is also praise by the English volunteer of Turkish opposition to Catholicism. "Who would not be Circumciz'd for the Turk, that has been Anathematiz'd by the Pope?" he asked rhetorically. And reacting to the news of the Turkish failure against Vienna in 1683, the English soldier described how many Protestants "were damnably Discomforted . . . and denied their Christianity in favour of Turkism." At the end of the dialogue, the soldier expressed hope for closer ties between the "true Protestant Mahometan" and the Turk who is "a Civiler Person, a better natur'd Christian (as a Bricklayer said) then the old Gentleman at Rome."[38] However derogatory the dialogue was of the nonconformists, it revealed the pro-Turkish sentiment that prevailed in the wake of King Charles's Catholic leanings and of the prospect of an openly Catholic brother succeeding to the English throne.[39] For a Catholic writer like Dryden, whose plays and poems dealt with the Protestant-Catholic conflict, such pro-Islamic sentiments on the part of the Protestants were frightening: would Protestants push their admiration for the Muslims to its logical conclusion and "turne Turk"?

Dryden's play shares with Daborn's and Massinger's a consistent feature: from the Christian perspective on apostasy, the three plays end on a victoriously "happy" note. Indeed, writing about The Renegado, a nineteenth-century editor praised its moral vision as "favourable to the cause of virtue. The final influence of truth is seen in the conversion of Donusa; and the force of conscience in the reclaiming of Vitelli and the Renegado."[40] Evidently, for the seventeenth-century author as for the Regency commentator, to kill the renegade or to convert him was to demonstrate Christian victory not only in England but in the heart of Muslim land. And at a time when Christians were constantly being lost to Islam, there was desperate need to present such a make-believe victory on the seventeenth-century stage.

In order to magnify the heinousness of apostasy to the English audience, writers showed that the renegades not only renounced their Christianity but their Englishness too. The converts, it was noted, adopted Muslim manners and custom, particularly the wearing of the turban--a factor that undermined national identity and pride. To every writer on the Levant, the turban represented the most distinguishing characteristic of Turkish appearance so much so that John Locke referred to the Muslim people as the "turbanned Nations."[41] When Ward converted, Daborn had him replace the hat with a turban, and when Dorax converted back to Christianity, the stage directions read: "Re-enter Dorax, having taken off his Turbant and put on a Peruque, Hat and Crevat" (IV.iii, after line 380). Still preserved in Claydon Hall in England is the turban of the renegade Sir Francis Verney.[42] Paul Ricaut noted in 1679 that some renegade Englishmen, after returning home, reconverted to Christianity and "trampled their Turkish Tulbants [sic] or Sashes under their Feet" as evidence of their return to Englishhess.[43] To wear a turban was to be the enemy, both religiously and politically.

In seventeenth-century imagination, the hat-English and turban-Turk contrast captured the tension between the unwavering Christian and the renegade. Writers sought to present the renegade as the villain par excellence because he was a traitor to his culture, national identity, and God. Indeed, by leaving the church for the mosque, the renegade embodied the demise of Christendom and the seemingly inevitable progress towards the numerical supremacy of Islam: while Christians converted to Islam, Muslims did not redress the demographic imbalance and convert to Christianity. In 1600, the lawyer R. Carr lamented that "so many of our men" [abjure] "all Christian rites, becomes [sic] affectors of that impious Mahumetane sect, whilst on the other part we finde none or very few of those repayring vnto us."[44] In 1636, Henry Blount repeated the same view.[45] No wonder that in the verse and prose of the seventeenth century, the renegade was vilified to Satanic magnitudes.

To English playwrights and theologians alike, the renegade was the villain who preferred this world to the next, material advantages to spiritual truth, future prosperity to historical allegiance. He was despicable because he represented the facility with which Christendom could collapse from within: for the renegade, religion had neither depth nor passion and apostasy was as easy as changing headgear. As a dramatic type, the renegade did not serve to vilify Muslims, as the "Moor" had done, but to embarrass, reprimand, and warn Christians. Unlike other villainies in the popular imagination, however, apostasy pointed towards a fearsome historical inevitability: as Christianity had replaced Judaism, so would Islam replace Christianity. Because the renegade was proof of that ominous possibility, English writers either defeated or reconverted him. In the imagination of seventeenth-century England, Christianity could not but be victorious.


1 For the history of Muslim-English interaction, see Samuel C. Chew, The Crescent and the Rose: Islam and England During the Renaissance (1937; rprt. New York: Octagon Press, 1974), particularly sections V and VI in chap. 8, "The Throne of Piracy"; Bernard Lewis, The Muslim Discovery of Europe (New York: W.W. Norton, 1982); Paul Coles, The Ottoman Impact on Europe (London: Thames and Hudson, 1968); Ralph Davis, "England and the Mediterranean, 1570-1670," in Essays in the Economic and Social History of Tudor and Stuart England, ed. F.J. Fisher (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ; Press, 1961), pp. 117-38, particularly for the trade links; and my "Conversion to Islam in English Renaissance Thought," forthcoming in Durham University Journal.

2 On one occasion, Muslim pirates landed in Baltimore, on another penetrated the Thames estuary, and in 1640 were repulsed near Cornwall: see John B. Wolf, The Barbary Coast: Algiers Under the Turks, 1500 to 1830 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979), p. 216; and A Valorous and Perillous Sea-fight. Fought with three Turkish Ships, Pirats or men of Warre, on the Coast of Comewall (London, 1640).

3 Calendar of State Papers, Charles I, Domestic Series, 1625-26, vol. 1 (Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus Reprint Ltd., 1967), p. 516; Calendar of State Papers, Charles I, Domestic Series, 1634-35, vol. 7, pp. 68-69. See also The Negotiations of Sir Thomas Roe in the Embassy to the Ottoman Porte from the Year 1621 to 1628 Inclusive (London, 1740), the letter to King James: "By this your gracious work and goodnes many poore soules might be saved, who in desperation forsake the cross of Christ," p. 32; see also p. 36.

4 Letters from the great Turke lately sent vnto the holy Father the Pope and to Rodulphus naming himselfe King of Hungarie, and to all the Kinges and Princes of Christendome (London, 1606), sig. Bv. For the role of converts in the Ottoman administration, see Edward S. Creasy, History of the Ottoman Turks (London, 1854), p. 107; John Patrick Douglas Balfour, Lord Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries (New York: Morrow Quill Paperbacks, 1977), pp. 48-49; 116-17; 20611; and Lewis, The Muslim, p. 108.

5 Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy (London, 1687), p. 101.

6 I am using the words to mean conversion to Islam. But there were other meanings to the phrase in the seventeenth century: see Warner G. Rice, "'To Turn Turk'" MLN 46, 3 (March 1931): 153-54.

7 Thomas Sanders, Voyage of the Jesus to Tripoli in Hakluyt's Voyages, ed. Richard David (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981), p. 148.

8 William Rowley and Thomas Middleton, The Spanish Gipsie and All's Lost by Lust, ed. Edgar C. Morris (Boston: C.C. Heath, 1908).

9 Quoted in C.R. Pennell, ed., Piracy and Diplomacy in Seventeenth-Century North Africa (London: Associated Univ. Presses, 1989), p. 126.

10 John Rawlins, The Famous and Wonderful Recovery of Ship of Bristol called the Exchange, from the Turkish Pirates of Argier (London, 1622), rprt. in Stuart Tracts, 1603-1693, ed. C.H. Firth (New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1964), p. 255.

11 See Norman Daniel, Islam and the West (Edinburgh: The University Press, 1960) for the medieval period; Robert Schwoebel, The Shadow of the Crescent: The Renaissance Image of the Turk, 1453-1517 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1967); and Chew, The Crescent and the Rose, passim.

12 Sanders, Voyage of the Jesus to Tripoli, p. 148; for Dallam, see The Diary of Master Thomas Dallam, 1599-1600 in Early Voyages and Travels in the Levant, ed. J. Theodore Bent (London, 1893), p. 79; Rawlins, p. 270. See also the entry for 29 July 1637 in Calendar of State Papers, Charles I, Domestic Series, 1625-1649 vol. 23, where Captain William Ranborowe writes that he would "let the Alcado go ashore" to check whether the English fleet has "any Moors amongst the renegadoes. If they say they are Moors, I pray let them have them; if they say they be Christians, I pray keep them" (p. 742). The only way in which a Moor and a renegade could be distinguished was by their own admission. Otherwise, they were indistinguishable.

13 Wolf, p. 237.

14 Sir Thomas Shirley, Discours of the Turkes, ed. E. Denison Ross (London: Camden Society, 1936), p. 4; Sir Henry Blount, A Voyage into the Levant (London, 1636), p. 112.

15 See the edition of the play by A.E.H. Swaen, Anglia: Zeitschrift fur Englische Philologie, vol. 20 (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1898): 188-256.

16 Richard Knolles, The General Historie of the Turkes (London, 1610), p. 961; George Sandys, A Relation of a Journey begun An. Dom. 1610 (London, 1615), p. 56. Thomas Coryat attended a Jewish circumcision in Constantinople and remembered what Christian converts had to undergo. Circumcision was painful, he noted, especially for those of ripe years, "(as it too often commeth to passe, that Christians which turne Turkes) as at fortie or fiftie yeeres of age, doe suffer great paine for the space of a moneth" (Coryat's Crudities in Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes [New York: AMS Press, 1965], 10:428). See also Henry Blount, A Voyage, pp. 111-12.

17 Bartholomeus Georgievits, The Of spring of the house of Ottomanno and officers pertaining to the greate Turkes Court, trans. Hugh Goughe (London, 1570), Dii".

18 Anon., The Policy of the Turkish Empire (London, 1597), pp. 24r-v.

19 William Lithgow, Rare Adventures, p. 315, quoted in Chew, The Crescent, p. 361.

20 Quoted from the report of the Venetian envoy in Chew, p. 352.

21 Lady Frances Parthenope Verney, Memoirs of the Verney Family during the Civil War (London, 1892), 1:63-68. The nineteenth-century descendant tried to refute the conversion allegation about her ancestor.

22 "To a Reprobate Pirat that hath renounced Christ and is turn'd Turke," in The Complete Works of Samuel Rowlands, 1598-1628 (1880; rprt. New York: Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1930), 2: sig. B2. When T.G. wrote his account of a Dutchman who had become a powerful "Renegado Bashaw" in 1618, he showed the latter terrified at the knowledge that God would save the Christian, the Jew, and the Muslim, but not the apostate: The Glory of England (London, 1618), pp. 188-90.

23 Philip Massinger, The Renegado in The Plays and Poems of Philip Massinger, ed. Philip Edwards and Colin Gibson, 5 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 2:1-96, particularly pp. 2-4 for a survey of the Spanish and English sources; see also Warner G. Rice, "The Sources of Massinger's The Renegado," PQ 11, 1 (January 1932): 65-75. For an excellent study of this play, see Jack D'Amico, The Moor in English Renaissance Drama (Tampa: Univ. of South Florida Press, 1991), pp. 119-32.

24 Lewis, The Muslim, p. 128.

25 For Massinger's dramatization of Donusa's conversion, see Massinger, 2:4.

26 In G.P., Janua Linguarum: The Gate of Languages unlocked: or, A Seed-plot of all Arts and Tongues, containing a ready way to learn the Latine and English Tongue (London, 1647), the author explains in entry 722 that upon defeating a city, "traitors are drawn asunder with horses; renegadoes[*] [revolters] are impalled [gauched]. * That turne Turks." See also the execution of the two renegade bishops in Walter Raleigh, The Life and Death of Mahomet, The Conquest of Spaine (London, 1637), pp. 106-107.

27 The Nauigations, peregrinations and voyages, made into Turkie by Nicholas Nicholay . . . translated out of the French by T. Washington the younger (London, 1585), p. 71". Paul Ricaut, The Present State of the Greek and Armenian Churches (London, 1679), p. 287.

28 Christian-Muslim dialogue appears in England in the treatises which describe a Muslim converting to Christianity: but those "dialogues" invariably turned into one-sided attacks on Islam. See for instance, Meredith Hanmer, The Baptizing of a Turke (London, 1586); Thomas Warmstry, The Baptized Turk, or a Narrative of the Happy Conversion of Signior Rigeb Dandulo' (London, 1658).

29 The Travels of Sig. Pietro della Valle, A Noble Roman into East-India and Arabia Deserta Whereunto is Added A Relation of Sir Thomas Roe's: Voyage into the East Indies (London, 1665), pp. 475-77; for the diary of Dr. John Corel, see Early Voyage and Travels, ed. J. Theodore Bent (London, 1893), pp. 26872; William Woodville Rockhill, ed. and trans., The Journey of William of Rubruck to the Eastern Parts of the World, 1243-55 (London: Hakluyt Society, 1900), p. 234.

30 Thomas Smith, Remarks upon the Manners, Religion and Government of the Turks (London, 1678), pp. 32-33.

31 Bodleian Library, Oxford, MS. Rawlinson poet. 20, p. 9. For the history of the play during the Restoration, see Massinger, 2:8-9.

32 See the reference to him in Calendar of State Papers, Venetian, 1666-1668, vol. 35, 14 September 1668, p. 265. Significantly, Cigala is not described in the account as a renegade and there is nothing about him in the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series. See other references cited in The Diary of John Evelyn, ed. E.S. De Beer (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1955), 3:522.

33 John Evelyn, The History of the Three late famous Imposters (London, 1669), pp. 33-34.

34 John Dryden, Don Sebastian in The Works of John Dryden, 20 vols., ed. Earl Miner (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1976), 15:57-219:

35 See my "The Comenian Legacy in England: Eschatology and the Conversion of the Muslims," forthcoming in The Seventeenth Century.

36 Gilbert Burner, The Conversion and Persecutions of Eve Cohan (London, 1680), which described a widely publicized case of conversion; God's Covenant Displayed, by John Alexander, A Converted Jew, With a Prooemial [sic] Discourse of the Reasons of his Conversion (London, 1689).

37 Lord Kinross, p. 342.

38 Great News from Count Teckely, or An Account of some Passages 'twixt a True Protestant English Volunteer, and a Teckelytish Mahumetan in the Turkish Camp. Sent over by the Counts Secretary to a Brother in London (n.p., 1684). See also the first stanza of a poem by Alexander Tyler cited inJanuszJ. Tomiak, "A British Poet's Account of the Raising of the Siege of Vienna in 1683," Polish Review 11, 4 (Autumn 1966): 66-74.

39 For further nonconformist-Turkish rapport, see The Character of a Coffee-House (London, 1673): the nonconformist "holds it as part of his Creed, that the Great Turk is a very good Christian, and of the Reformed Church," p; 3; Heraclitus Ridens, At a Dialogue between Jest and Earnest, Concerning the Times, where "Mahomet, another Dissenting Rabbi affirms" his belief in the Presbyterian doctrine of Predestination (29 March 1681); and the analogy made between "Alchoran [and the] Solemn League and Covenant" (16 August 1681).

40 Philip Massinger, The Plays of Philip Massinger, ed. W. Gifford (London, 1813), 2:233 n. 3.

41 John Locke, Two Tracts on Government, ed. and introd. by Philip Abrams (London: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1967), p. 146; see also my "John Locke and the 'Turbanned Nations,'" Journal of Islamic Studies 2, 1 (January 1991): 6777.

42 Verney, 1:68.

43 Ricaut, p. 289.

44 R. Carr, The Mahumetane or Turkish Historie, containing three Bookes (London, 1600), p. 111v.

45 Blount, p. 113 mispaginated 133.



N.I. Matar is a Professor of English at Florida Institute of Technology. He is currently finishing a study of "Islam in the English Renaissance: 1558-1685."