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Rybczak, Emil. "Authorship of The Drummer; or, The Haunted House," N&Q, 63 (December 2016), 588–590.
Who wrote The Drummer (1715) has been disputed since the play first appeared in print anonymously. Thanks largely to Richard Steele's letter in an English edition of Addison's Works in 1722, it has usually been attributed to Addison. Mr. Rybczak educes from an advertisement in a pirated edition of the play published at The Hague around the same year that it was written primarily by William Harrison (1685–1713). The advertisement, by publisher Thomas Johnson, has been noted before, but Mr. Rybczak provides sensible possibilities regarding the conflicting statements of Steele and Johnson: Harrison wrote the play, perhaps based on an idea given him by Addison, who may have done some late editing. After Harrison's death, Addison passed the play along to Steele with a vague reference to an anonymous author that Steele mistook as a reference to Addison himself.
Beach, Adam R. "Global Slavery, Old World Bondage, and Aphra Behn's Abdelazer," ECent, 53 (Winter 2012), 413–431.
Abdelazer remains one of Behn's least discussed plays, and most readings focus on its representation of the Queen's monstrously intense and unrestrained desire for its eponymous hero. By contrast Abdelazer's desire for political power can appear tame, and his status as a slave incidental to the Queen's emotional enthrallment. Mr. Beach's essay restores the centrality of Abdelazer's status as slave and significantly alters our reading of what that means in the context of early modern global slavery, including both the Atlantic slave trade and the Islamic conquest in the Mediterranean. This essay not only enriches our reading of a play now likely to become essential to Behn's canon but also radically reframes Oroonoko. On both accounts, Mr. Beach's essay powerfully shifts our paradigms for understanding Behn's attitude toward historical and new forms of "human bondage" in the early modern period—and for understanding slavery in general.
The essay's opening paragraph announces this ambitious goal, noting the "skewed version of Behn as a figure who was primarily interested in Atlantic forms of human bondage." In fact, Behn "engage[d] [End Page 117] in a sustained exploration of slavery in the early modern Mediterranean, which demonstrates [her] interest in depicting Old World forms of human bondage." Moreover, her seventeenth-century audience shared this interest, her readers evincing "a nearly insatiable appetite for stories about the interplay between Christian and Muslim powers in the Mediterranean region." In contrast, "our critical ends" drive the current greater focus on her final novel and on the "forms of plantation slavery that shaped the New World." By giving "equal attention" to Oroonoko and Abdelazer—Mr. Beach argues—we can become "better critics of her representations of slavery" and achieve "a more comprehensive critique of slavery."
To realize this paradigm shift, Mr. Beach first reminds readers that Behn makes Abdelazer literally a slave while her source play, Lust's Dominion, only metaphorically refers to its lead character as such. Second, applying the work of Daniel Pipes, Mr. Beach argues that Abdelazer exemplifies a type of slave common in the Islamic Mediterranean world, the elite military slave. The royally born Abdelazer fits the model of those who, enslaved when young, were molded into loyal and well-trained soldiers. These slaves, through skill and connections, could achieve power that rivaled or exceeded their masters', essentially freeing themselves through what Pipes calls "ipsimission." Yet power did not translate into honor, as Orlando Patterson's work on slavery demonstrates, and much of Abdelazer's villainy can be reframed in terms of "the psychological complexities of the military slave who both is and is not part of the ruling elite of the society that promotes and controls him." Such complexities lend pathos to Abdelazer's plight and complicate a reading of slavery that associates it only with "material degradation" and not the psychological degradation of the military elite slave (the reason, Mr. Beach speculates, that so many critics refuse to recognize Abdelazer as enslaved).
More controversially, this reading sheds light on "the strange slavery" of Oroonoko...