Abdelazer is a captive Moor living at the court of King Philip of Spain, who had killed his father some years earlier. Abdelazer seeks revenge, and becomes the lover of the Queen. Together, they poison King Phillip, and also murder the young King Ferdinand.
Abdelazer and the Queen try to disinherit Prince Philip, the rightful heir. Another Moor, Osmin, warns the Prince and Cardinal Mendozo to flee. During subsequent battles, Mendozo (who is in love with the Queen) abandons Philip and is even persuaded to falsely admit to being Philip's father.
Abdelazer betrays the Queen and has her murdered by one of his henchmen. He courts and tries to rape Princess Leonora (she is saved by Osmin), but rapidly falls from power. The Queen is killed, and Abdelazer is captured with Osmin's help. Mendoza repents, Philip ascends the throne, and Abdelazer is killed.
Comparison with source material
Behn's version of the Queen is more powerful, domineering and unrepentant than her counterpart in Lust's Dominion.
Lusťs Dominion relies on the racist stereotype of the lustful, scheming, and bloodthirsty Moor, and closed with the new King Philip ordering the expulsion of all the Moors from Spain because of their supposed wickedness. However, Behn minimises and complicates this stereotype. She gives the character of Osmin a larger and more positive role, which helps 'to balance the villainous Abdelazer'm and makes the most evil of Abdelazer's henchmen white.
The rondeau was used by Benjamin Britten as the theme for his set of variations The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946). It was also used as the theme of the television series The First Churchills (1969), as the intro song for Intellivision video game Thunder Castle (1986), and may be heard as dancing music at the Netherfield ball in the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice. The Britten arrangement is used as a recurrent motif in the 2012 film Moonrise Kingdom.
- "Z" is Franklin B. Zimmerman's catalogue of Purcell's works.
- Thomas, Susie (Spring 1998). "This Thing of Darkness I Acknowledge Mine: Aphra Behn's "Abdelazer, or, The Moor's Revenge"". Restoration: Studies in English Literary Culture, 1660-1700. 22:1: 18-39 (p. 19, 21, 23, 25).
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