By Frederick Burwick, Manushag N. Powell
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Additional resources for British Pirates in Print and Performance
The first deed of piracy in Johnson’s play is the capture of the Ganj-i-sawai, which carried an Indian princess. The abduction of an exotic maiden became more prominent in subsequent pirate plays than the capture of a treasure chest. Johnson also added to the plot an attempted mutiny led by the pirate captain’s lieutenant De Sale. Discussed in chapter 1, this subplot comes from the 1709 fictionalized account of Avery’s life, which in turn stole the stolen-princess plot from a 1708 version. Avery, under the name Arviragus, fails to coerce the Indian princess to marry him.
The playwrights and players will be reviewed in relation to the particular mode of drama and character with which they were most popularly associated. Pirates appeared in all sorts of plays, everything from musical comedy and harlequinades to seagoing gothic melodrama. All drama of the romantic period was musical drama, but there were vast differences in how the music might be deployed: sometimes to conjure mood, sometimes in dance and song, sometimes in the fulsome exposition of operatic performance.
When he first took his flagship, the swift-sailing and romantically named Fancy (formerly the Charles II of Spain), Avery released Captain Gibson and more than a dozen reluctant sailors, setting them safely ashore. Such relatively merciful proceedings are later echoed in the widely circulated testimony of Joseph Dawson, one of Avery’s men, about the Ganj-i-sawai: the pirates “put some Men aboard her, and plunder’d her. ”51 On the other hand, evidence unsurprisingly suggests that the actual victims felt differently.
British Pirates in Print and Performance by Frederick Burwick, Manushag N. Powell