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“We are of the Sea!”

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Masterless Identity and Transnational Context in Daborne’s A Christian Turned Turk

image of Explorations in Renaissance Culture

The figure of the renegade has been widely discussed in the field of early modern literary studies, with scholars situating rogue behavior within discourses of race, religion, and nationalism. However, these perspectives have not adequately addressed how domestic discourses of class and labor also shaped representations of renegades. My paper fills this gap by paying particular attention to English anxieties about vagrancy, a domestic phenomenon that manifested itself in new forms abroad, among pirates, apostates, and other traitors operating outside the geographical boundaries of the English state. Specifically, I examine the figure of Captain John Ward in Robert Daborne’s play A Christian Turned Turk (pub. 1612), in order to demonstrate previously overlooked connections between Ward’s reputation and his actual background as a lowly fisherman and conscripted sailor. This paper, by closely examining how the play and its sources construct Ward as a masterless man, sheds new light on the neglected issues of class and labor in the construction of the early modern English renegade.

Affiliations: 1: University of Missouri, Kansas City,


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