"The Bagnios of Algiers" and "The Great Sultana"

"The Bagnios of Algiers" and "The Great Sultana": Two Plays of Captivity

Miguel de Cervantes
Barbara Fuchs
Aaron J. Ilika
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    "The Bagnios of Algiers" and "The Great Sultana"
    Book Description:

    Best known today as the author of Don Quixote-one of the most beloved and widely read novels in the Western tradition-Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) was a poet and a playwright as well. After some early successes on the Madrid stage in the 1580s, his theatrical career was interrupted by other literary efforts. Yet, eager to prove himself as a playwright, shortly before his death he published a collection of his later plays before they were ever performed. With their depiction of captives in North Africa and at the Ottoman court, two of these, "The Bagnios of Algiers" and "The Great Sultana," draw heavily on Cervantes's own experiences as a captive, and echo important episodes in Don Quixote. They are set in a Mediterranean world where Spain and its Muslim neighbors clashed repeatedly while still remaining in close contact, with merchants, exiles, captives, soldiers, and renegades frequently crossing between the two sides. The plays provide revealing insights into Spain's complex perception of the world of Mediterranean Islam. Despite their considerable literary and historical interest, these two plays have never before been translated into English. This edition presents them along with an introductory essay that places them in the context of Cervantes's drama, the early modern stage, and the political and cultural relations between Christianity and Islam in the early modern period.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0790-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxviii)

    Universally renowned as the author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616) also wrote multiple plays. He was eager to prove himself as a playwright and poet, since these were the most established measures of literary worth in his time. Cervantes had some early successes on the Madrid stage in the 1580s, yet his later plays never found an audience. He was less facile in the style of the new comedia, and the complexity and interest of his prose are somewhat flattened in his verse drama. In 1615, shortly before his death, he chose to publish a collection...

  4. The Bagnios of Algiers

    • Act I
      (pp. 3-30)

      [Enter cauralí, Captain of Algiers; yzuf, renegade; and four other moors, named first, second, third, and fourth moors.]


      Come quietly one by one, for this is the path and this is the village. Keep to the woods.


      Make no mistake, Yzuf, for an error may cost you your life.


      Don’t worry; have the people get their swords and torches ready.


      Have you decided from where we should attack, Yzuf?


      From the mountains, a place so impassable it is unguarded. As I said, I was born and raised in this land, and I know well its...

    • Act II
      (pp. 31-66)

      [Enter halima, Cauralí’s wife, and Doña costanza.¹]


      How are you, Christian?


      I am well, my lady; for I am fortunate to be yours.


      Clearly she who belongs to herself is better off. There’s no misfortune like not having freedom: I know it well, though I’m no slave.


      I was just thinking that, my lady.


      You’re wrong. I am oppressed simply by being tied to my husband.


      A wise woman makes a harsh husband gentle.


      Are you married?


      I might have been, had heaven willed it, but it did not.


      Your nobility...

    • Act III
      (pp. 67-98)

      [Enter the warden pasha and another moor]


      I won’t give up my share for ten escudos. Sit down, and don’t let anyone in unless they pay two full ásperos.


      On Christmas, as they call it, it came to twenty-five ducats.


      The Spaniards, for their part, are putting on a great play.¹


      They are Satans and very devils; they can do anything. Now they’re off to their Mass.

      [Enter vivanco, don fernando, don lope, the sexton, the father of the children; don fernando carries the Sexton’s breeches.]


      Here they are—I haven’t put them on. Earlier,...

  5. The Great Sultana

    • Act I
      (pp. 101-120)

      [Enter salec, a Turk, and roberto, dressed as a Greek, and an arab¹ behind them, dressed in a mantle of rough cloth; he carries many bits of oakum on a lance and, on the end of a quince branch, a piece of paper like a note, and a small candle lit in his hand; this arab goes to the side of the stage, without speaking a word, and then roberto says:]


      The splendor and majesty of this tyrant clearly extend beyond human power. But what apparition is this, his lance half covered with oakum? He seems an Arab by...

    • Act II
      (pp. 121-144)

      [Enter two moors leading madrigal, whose hands are bound behind his back, and with them the great cadí, who is the bishop and judge of the Turks.]


      As we told you, by information we obtained, we caught him in flagrante committing the great sin. The Arab woman is imprisoned, and since she knows she has no excuse, she’s confessed all her wrongdoing.


      Throw them into the sea¹ bound hand and foot, with weights to keep them from swimming. But if he turns Turk, marry them and set them free.


      Brothers, you may tie me up.


    • Act III
      (pp. 145-170)

      [Enter rustán and mamí.]


      Had the Sultana not recovered so quickly from her grave convulsion, she would have been left fatherless, and the elephant teacherless. She awoke, and loudly said: “What happened to my father? Woe is me! Where is my father?” her eyes searching all around for him. Without waiting for answers to such belated questions, the Great Signor ordered me to go remove the two tarasíes from the stake or the fire, guessing most exactly that the elder was the beloved father of his dearest jewel. I rushed to them and found them when the executioner was...

  6. Bibliography
    (pp. 171-176)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 177-177)