The Renegado, or The Gentleman of Venice is a late Jacobean stage play, a tragicomedy written by Philip Massinger and first published in 1630. The play has attracted critical attention for its treatment of cultural conflict between Christian Europe and Muslim North Africa.
Performance and publication
The Renegado was licensed for performance by Sir Henry Herbert, the Master of the Revels, on 17 April 1624. It was acted at the Cockpit Theatre by the Lady Elizabeth's Men; when that troupe was merged or re-organized into Queen Henrietta's Men in the following year, 1625, the play remained in their repertory. The 1630 quarto was printed by Augustine Matthews for the bookseller John Waterson; it bears commendatory verses, including one by James Shirley. Massinger dedicated his drama to George Harding, 8th Baron Berkeley, a prominent literary patron of the day who was the dedicatee of Burton's The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) and Webster's The Duchess of Malfi (1623), among other works.
The 1630 quarto features a cast list for the play, making The Renegado one of the few plays in English Renaissance drama for which cast information exists. (Only five cast lists survive for the entire history of Queen Henrietta's Men. The others are for The Fair Maid of the West, Hannibal and Scipio, King John and Matilda, and The Wedding.) The actors and their roles were:
|Asambeg, Viceroy of Tunis||John Blaney|
|Mustapha, basha of Aleppo||John Sumner|
|Vitelli, a Venetian genleman, disguised as a merchant||Michael Bowyer|
|Francisco, a Jesuit||William Reignalds|
|Antonio Grimaldi, the Renegado||William Allen|
|Carazie, an eunuch||William Robbins|
|Gazet, servant to Vitelli||Edward Shakerley|
|Donusa, niece to Amurath||Edward Rogers|
|Paulina, sister to Vitelli||Theophilus Bird|
The play is set in Tunis, in what is modern-day Tunisia; the title character, the "renegado" or renegade, is Antonio Grimaldi, who has converted to Islam and become a pirate. The true protagonist of the play, however, is Vitelli, a Venetian gentleman; he has come to Tunis disguised as a merchant, in order to search for his sister Paulina, who has been captured by Grimaldi's pirates and sold into the harem of the city's Viceroy, Asambeg. Even in the harem, however, Paulina's virtue is protected by an amulet she wears around her neck; Asambeg is infatuated with her and treats her with respect. A Turkish princess named Donusa falls in love with Vitelli; when this is discovered, they are both imprisoned in the Black Tower. Donusa tries to convince Vitelli to convert to Islam and marry her, and so gain freedom for them both; Vitelli refuses, and in their ensuing conversation converts Donusa to Christianity.
The renegade Grimaldi falls afoul of Asambeg's bad temper, and his career as a pirate is finished. He experiences remorse for his past, and engineers the escape of Vitelli, Donusa, Paulina, and himself from Tunis back to Italy.
Nineteenth-century critics tended to interpret the play's positive portrayal of a Jesuit confessor as a sign of Massinger's own supposed Roman Catholicism. The play's inclusion of a eunuch character has also drawn comment.
Jowitt, in the early 21st century, reads The Renegado as a political allegory on the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Buckingham's failed trip to woo the Infanta Maria in the Spanish. Donusa and Vitelli are viewed as personifying Maria and the Prince. The ideological difficulties involved in their relationship can then be seen as raising doubts about the wisdom of such a match. Francisco's Jesuitical character is then an allegory of the Duke of Buckingham.
- Fuchs, Barbara. Mimesis and Empire: The New World, Islam, and European Identities. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004.
- Garrett, Martin. Massinger: The Critical Heritage. London, Routledge, 1991.
- Schelling, Felix Emmanuel. Elizabethan Drama 1558–1642. 2 Volumes, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1908.
- Vitkus, Daniel J. Three Turk Plays from Early Modern England: Selimus, A Christian Turned Turk, and The Renegado. New York, Columbia University Press, 2000.