Indography pp 197-207 | Cite as

“Does this become you, Princess?”

East Indian Ethopoetics in John Fletcher’s The Island Princess
  • Jeanette N. Tran
Part of the Signs of Race book series (SOR)


The Island Princess (1621) is a late Fletcherian tragicomedy that stages the historical encounter between a group of Portuguese soldiers and the play’s eponymous island princess, Quisara.1 Two Portuguese, Ruy Dias and Armusia, find themselves enamored with the beautiful princess, and the play follows the adventures that ensue as they vie for her hand. While in 1669 Samuel Pepys found the “pretty good play” to be noteworthy for its “good scene of a town on fire,” today The Island Princess maintains critical currency for its representation of the first East Indian/Moluccan protagonist on the English stage.2 In 1956, William Appleton argued that, in The Island Princess, “Fletcher has no interest in the friction between East and West. He uses the Indian locale merely for its novelty.”3 While Appleton’s dismissal of India’s presence appears almost comically extreme in this critical moment, contemporary scholars have yet to engage fully with The Island Princess as an active participant in the early modern discourses of the Indian, namely Indography.


Source Text Ethical Subject Fair Skin Historical Encounter Colonial Subject 
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  1. 1.
    All quotations from The Island Princess are from The Island Princess, ed. Fredson Bowers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cited in A. C. Sprague, Beaumont and Fletcher on the Restoration Stage (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1965), 49.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    William Appleton, Beaumont and Fletcher, A Critical Study. (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1956), 67.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Shankar Raman, Framing India: The Colonial Imaginary in Early Modern Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001);Google Scholar
  5. Ania Loomba, “‘Break Her Will, and Bruise No Bone Sir’: Colonial and Sexual Mastery in Fletcher’s The Island Princess,” The Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies 2, no. 1 (2001): 68–108;Google Scholar
  6. Michael Neill, Putting History to the Question: Power, Politics, and Society in English Renaissance Drama (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 313.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    De Bellan’s L’histoire (Paris: Jean Richer, 1614) first appeared in a French translation of Cervantes’s Novelas Exemplares, a volume that Fletcher knew well and took fables from for his other plays. Argensola’s primary source for Conquista de las Islas Maluca (Madrid: A. Martin, 1609) was Francisco de Dueñas’s “Relación y suceso del viaje que hizo Francisco de Dueñas al Maluco” and the “Relação Vasconcelos.” Despite our inability to determine what elements of the history are accurate (including his account of Quisara), Argensola’s Conquista is still considered the most extensive Spanish account of Malaku. See Leonard Andaya’s The World of Malaku: Eastern Indonesia in the Early Modern Period (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993), 19.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Eugene Waith, The Pattern of Tragicomedy in Beaumont and Fletcher (New Haven: Yale University Press), 1952.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Michel Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 237.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Foucault, The Use of Pleasure, Vol. 2: The History of Sexuality, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Vintage Books, 1990), 13.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jonathan Gil Harris 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeanette N. Tran

There are no affiliations available

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