The Successful Pyrate

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The Successful Pyrate is a play by Charles Johnson, first performed 1712, published 1713, dealing with the life of the pirate Henry Avery.

The Successful Pyrate is a romanticised dramatisation of two episodes contained in a pamphlet recently published concerning the career of the pirate Henry Avery: his capture of the Mogul Aurengzeb's ship Gang-i-sawai, allegedly carrying the Mogul's granddaughter; and a plot against him by his lieutenant De Sale and other pirates.

In the play, Avery goes under the name Arviragus, and has made himself a King in Madagascar. He captures the Indian princess Zaida and tries to force her to marry him, but she is in love with a young man named Aranes. There is an offstage fight and Aranes is reported killed; meanwhile, De Sale, who has confided to the audience that he plots to overthrow Arviragus and make himself King, ingratiates himself with Zaida.

De Sale's fellow plotters are bumbling incompetents and their plans are easily thwarted, followed by a comic trial scene. It is revealed that Aranes is Arviragus' long lost son, whom he recognizes from a bracelet, and that he is still alive, his friend Alvarez having died in his place. The plotters are executed and Aranes and Zaida marry.

The play is more comedy than anything else. The pirates are mostly fools, in particular Sir Gaudy Tulip, an aged and cowardly London beau; the Gang-i-sawai is, for no reason other than comic effect, carrying two European ladies, Tulip's ex-mistress and another pirate's ex-wife, who exchange tart comments with the men; the drunken conspirators and outrageously partial court are played entirely for laughs.