Spoyle of Antwerpe and the Black Legend of
Linda Bradley Salamon
Linda Bradley Salamon. "Gascoigne’s Globe: The Spoyle of Antwerpe and the Black Legend of Spain". Early Modern Literary Studies 14.1/Special Issue 18 (May, 2008) 7.1-38 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/14-1/article6.htm>.
- As a
military officer and a government agent, George Gascoigne had direct access
to the action and the passion of his times; his taste for analysis and
desire for fame as a writer allowed him to enter a geopolitical discourse
that grew, in part, around the wars of religion in the Low
Countries in which he participated. Gascoigne’s construction of
the world beyond England
culminates in The Spoyle of Antwerpe (1576), his account of
the sacking of that city by troops of the Habsburg Empire who, in history
as in his telling, gratuitously killed, raped, and looted their way
through a defeated populace.
Gascoigne’s stay in Antwerp
was his last, but not his first, visit to the continent. Across his oeuvre, the
“forraine coastes” (I, 345) begins with anxieties about
unknown yet stereotyped Others; it ends in open-ended curiosity about, and
support for, England’s emerging endeavors to reach Cathay by
“voyage…strange” (1). But Gascoigne’s entire
imaginary of the globe – contingent as it is on his experiences and
on the different voices he employs – falls under the dark shadow of Spain.
English representation of Spain in the 1570s was constituted from many
sources, including powerful recent memories of Philip II’s desire for
dominance of England and of deadly pursuit of Protestant leaders under
“bloody” Mary, as well as uneasy awareness of the current
dominance of Spain both in the Habsburg Empire and in the New World, with
all its imagined riches.
Especially potent was the empire’s determination to maintain
its dominance in the Low Countries by crushing Protestant-sponsored
insurgents; Gascoigne bore intermittent witness to five early years of
events in that four-decades-long struggle, a revolt that was initially
personified for him, as for many, as a duel between the Protestant
stalwart William of Orange and the severe Duke of Alba (2). English memories and fears on all
these scores were inflected by an emergent tradition of literary discourse
in the new world order. Behind
Gascoigne’s direct impressions and assessments looms the increasing
circulation of images of Spaniards on every front as especially, indeed
spectacularly, cruel and treacherous: the grand narrative of the Black
Legend, a complex mix of fact and propaganda. For audiences from the sixteenth to
the twenty-first centuries, this discourse gives fuller resonance to The
Spoyle of Antwerpe, which
both draws upon it and
contributes to its cultural work. In this article, I sketch the
rise of the Black Legend, outline Gascoigne’s
representations of the world beyond England, and present The Spoyle as a confluence of the two. A measure of Gascoigne’s
ability to create propaganda
through his text, I suggest, lies in its high rhetoric: he can describe, narrate, analyze, assess, and
even condemn through shifts in tone and lexicon that subtly and gradually make his meaning plain.
The Black Legend
scholars use the term Black Legend to signify the essentializing, negative
discourse that, beginning in the Early Modern era, conflates Spain’s military and governing
conduct in the Old World with her
practices of conquest and colonization in the New. The existence of powerful
antihispanist sentiments based on hostile, sometimes scandalous anecdotes
was recognized in Spain
itself no later than Francisco de Quevedo’s 1604 España Defendida (3). At that point, Spaniards had
already been constructed by their opponents as cruel, dishonest, greedy,
arrogant, bigoted, and sometimes licentious. The phrase ‘Black
Legend’ itself was coined in 1912 by journalist Julian
Juderías y Loyot (1877-1918), who sought to counter
post-Enlightenment assumptions about Spaniards as ignorant and
intellectually backward – in effect, positioned outside European
culture – by tracing the roots of this bias. The designation
‘legend’ clearly raises questions of truth-claims in a text,
and the qualifier ‘black’ presupposes calumny. Yet as a modern anthologizer notes,
“a legend is a story that someone else believes” (4). Juderías and most subsequent
scholars consider the originary text of the full-blown leyenda negra to be Fray
Bartolomé de Las Casas’s widely read Brevissima Relacion (1551), literally A Very Brief Relation of the Destruction of the Indies. This sincere text was readily
usable for propaganda, as is evident in the English title of the
seventeenth-century translation by Milton’s Puritan nephew John
Phillips: The Tears of the Indians:
Being an Historicall and True Account of the Cruel Massacres and
Slaughters of Above Twenty Millions of Innocent People.
Casas and such other Spaniards as Franciso López de Gómara,
in Historia General de las Indias y
La Conquista de Méjico (1552), and Augustín de
Zárate, in Historia del Descubrimiento y Conquista del
reported in appalling detail the abjection of Mexican and South American
indigenes across the preceding half-century (5). To be sure, Las Casas’s
project was not slander but critique of the lifelong servitude to Spanish
landholders, just short of slavery, to which the Indians were relegated,
and of the violent abuses to which that encomienda system led.
Spanish cruelty and barbarism reached always-already status in the
engravings of the Grands Voyages collected
by Theodor De Bry in a multi-volume publication often called America (6). The images that accompany Milanese
adventurer Girolamo Benzoni’s Historia
del Nuevo Mundo, reprinted in De Bry’s volume 4, illustrate
scenes that range from Balboa’s elegantly dressed, disdainful
Spanish troops slaughtering naked Panamanians using dogs, to De
Soto’s soldiers racking, and amputating the hands and feet of,
Floridians who would not – because they could not – tell the
location of gold mines. The
sexual impropriety that finds its way into the Legend probably originated
in reports of Spanish relations with indigenous women, which the English
particularly abhorred; Francis Drake’s chaplain, Francis Fletcher,
reprehends not only Spanish whoredom but “the filthiness of
Sodom” (7). While these New World texts might
not seem directly relevant to the sacking of Antwerp, some of Las
Casas’s images of Spanish soldiers’ conduct are (suitably
edited) prescient of Gascoigne’s Spoyle.
The Spaniards with their horses, their spears, and their lances, began to commit murders and strange cruelties. They entered into Towns, Boroughs, and Villages, sparing neither Women nor children. . . . They layed wagers such as [who] with one thrust of a sword could paunch or bowel a man in the middest, or with one blow of the sword should most readily and deliverly cut off his head. . . . They made certain Gibbets long and low, and setting to fire burned them all [alive] that were fastened. (8)
the seeds of the Black Legend – to borrow Gascoigne’s master
metaphor – lie in accounts of early-sixteenth-century tyrannous
conduct by the Aragonese in Naples and Rome and in gathering rumors about
the Inquisition institutionalized by their Catholic Majesties Ferdinand
and Isabella, including a report (which rapidly reached England) that
Philip II meant to turn the inquisitors loose on Protestants in the Low
Countries (9). One of the
most potent textual representations of the Legend was published only four
years after The Spoyle of Antwerpe by Gascoigne’s
sometime-military commander, Stadhouder
William (the Silent) of Nassau, prince of Orange, leader of the reformist forces in the Low Countries from 1573. After his official sovereign,
Philip II, pronounced a formal proscription against him that set a price
on his head, William published an Apologia (1580), a spirited defense
punctuated with irony, that joins his own grievances with reports from Las
Casas’s Brevissima Relacion,
then newly published in Flemish.
While excusing the previous, Ghent-born emperor Charles V, William
points to his Spanish subjects as wicked, angry, cruel, ambitious, proud,
and malicious men who “know well how to slander and traduce, when by
the grace of God they have been unable to harm with poison and sword, or
receive with promises, or beguile with vain hopes” (10). William asserts that the Spanish
leaders in the Netherlands,
led by Philip,
condemned all of you [Netherlanders] to death, believing that your condition was no different from that of beasts. They acted as if they had the power to massacre you in the way that they have massacred in the Indies, where they have caused over 20 million persons to die miserable deaths and have wiped out a land thirty times the size of the Low Countries. There they have committed such horrible excesses that all the barbarities, cruelties, and tyrannies ever perpetrated before are only games in comparison to what has happened to the poor Indians. (11)
This early flowering
of the Legend, although propaganda with no attempt at impartiality, matches
Gascoigne in content and, in part, in tone. The resonance is not surprising: William
is the prince whom Gascoigne lionizes in The Fruits of Warre.
there is no doubt that the Black Legend reached English discourse long
before the first translation of Las Casas in 1583. In a time of ideological anxiety,
created in part by the growing array around the globe of Others with
inexplicable “customs” and practices, word traveled as fast as
a ship could. The Legend
inflamed the open war between England
and Spain in the 1580s,
including the English raid on Cadiz
and fear of the Armada. It
echoes in the voice of Richard Hakluyt (1584), propagandist for New World
colonization, who helped to fuel the early-seventeenth-century competition
over the settling and commercial exploitation of the Americas (12).
And it still
resonates in the tone of John Maynard Keynes’ remark, in 1926, that
classical economics “conquered England
as completely as the Holy Inquisition conquered Spain” (13). Recent
Anglophone interest in the Legend began with William S. Maltby’s The Black Legend in England; The Development of Anti-Spanish
Sentiment 1558-1660 (1971); it has been revived by J.N.
Hillgarth’s comprehensive The
1500-1700; The Formation of a
Myth (2000) and by the collection Rereading
the Black Legend: Racial and Religious Discourse in the Renaissance
twenty-first-century readers, the concept of the Black Legend needs to be
inflected by two decades of scholarly exploration of the gaze of a subject
upon an objectified Other. In The Spoyle, Gascoigne looks hard at
the suffering of a defeated populace, just as De Bry’s images show
the disdainful Spanish gaze at abjected natives. Scholarly studies of the Early
Modern encounter with different national groups, especially beyond Europe, have pointed to the role of the eye-witness
initially exemplified in the Histories of Herodotus, who emphasizes
the importance of travel in grasping the world, with the ferocious
Scythians as his object.
Michel de Certeau first explicated Herodotus’s use of
rhetorical gestures, including a mediating figure who witnesses and
interprets the exotic Other, to create a textual space that gives
“credibility” to the writer’s own
“testimony” (14). Stephen Greenblatt, reading
Mandeville and building on Certeau, has theorized the authoritative role
of eye-witnessing as, first, a form of representative seeing, then a
discursive principle in Europeans’ linguistic possession of the
western hemisphere (15). In these terms Gascoigne is a
witness to atrocity whose words carry weight in the global demonization of
personal knowledge of the rudiments of the Black Legend is signified from
the opening paragraph of The Spoyle of Antwerpe onwards (16). In a neat paralipsis he hypothesizes, “If I were disposed to write
maliciously agaynst the vanquishers: their former barbarous cruelty,
insolences, Rapes, spoyles, Incests, and Sacriledges, committed in sundrie other places, might yeeld mee sufficiente
matter without the lawful remembrance of this their late strategeme”
(590; emphasis added). The
“other places,” while left mysterious, were surely in the
news; the entire extended sentence is incidental to Gascoigne’s
discussion of the events at
yet highly potent. The list of
iniquities that Gascoigne sets down, moreover, suggests a broad-based
critique far beyond the military conduct that might provide legitimate
background for his narrative.
“Insolences,” “Incests,” and
“Sacriledges” are acts of social misbehavior, sexual
immorality, and religious violation that give the Legend its blackness,
while the all-purpose “barbarous cruelty” evokes the savagery
of conquistadores in the
. Gascoigne acknowledges that
“manyfolde light tales…engendred by feareful
…rehersals” are – to use Greenblatt’s term –
in mimetic circulation; while declining to echo such tales in his truthful
report, he nevertheless enters their discursive field. In doing so, he stresses the
authority of his personal observation to confirm his truth-claims. In the opening clause he points to
“the piteous spectakle” (590) he saw at
. As the confrontation
approaches, “I was enforced to become an eyed witnes of [the Spanish
forces’] entry and all that they did” (592); “let me
also say a litle of that which I sawe executed” when he leaves the
safety of the English House on word of Spanish success “to see the
certainty thereof” (594).
As he emphatically saw, the sack was all too certain.
The World According to
did not represent Spaniards in The
Spoyle on an empty mental map.
To be sure, he was no world traveler: at the opening of The Fruits of Warre (Dulce Bellum Inexpertis) he
confesses “howe unexpert I am in feates of warre/….I have nor
bene in Turkie, Denmarke,
yet in Colch, to winne a Golden fleece” (I, 141). The concession is telling,
together with its implication that one need not be Jason to know something
of the world. Seeking the
equivalent of a golden fleece, with luck through royal preferment, was a
constant preoccupation of the perennially debt-ridden Gascoigne. Toward that end, fashioning himself
more as poet than soldier in 1572, Gascoigne wrote two long poems and a
brief one that implicate his construction of nations and races other than
the familiar English (17). They vary in source:
“Gascoigne’s Voyage unto Hollande”
is based on experience, while “Gascoigne’s Counsel to
Wythipole” and A Devise of a
Maske draw upon his imagination, fueled by reading and the common
culture in which he moved. The
tone of “Counsel” is blithe, and A Devise uses violence for entertainment like a modern horror
movie; “Voyage,” on the other hand, is chillingly real,
preparing the ground for The
Spoyle. All three can be
characterized as xenophobic; hostility to
Spain, although sometimes by
sidelong glance, appears in all.
relatively slight “Counsel to Wythipole” is friendly advice in
“dogrell rime” (I, 344) to a young acquaintance taking his
first trip to the continent; its effect is subversion of the emerging
Grand Tour. Foreigners,
Gascoigne warns generically, are thieves: “Beware therefore where ever that thou go (I, 345,
emphasis added),” although “Italyan hands” are particularly ready to lift the
“heavie pursse” and “billes of credit” (I, 345)
that an English bumpkin carries.
The three gravest dangers, however, are poison, pride, and an
unspeakable ‘P’ (presumably prostitution) that leads to
“piles and pockes.”
Gascoigne points to three opportunities for poisoning; food, the
most plausible, is by allusion an Italian weapon, but the other two
possibilities are more pointed:
Some may present thee with a pounde or twaine
Of Spanishe soape to washe thy lynnen white:…
Some cunning man maye teache thee for to ryde,
And stuffe thy saddle all with Spanishe wooll…
As both thy legges may swell thy buskins full. (I, 346)
Without the Black
Legend, imagining soap and saddle-padding as vectors for poison would be
paranoid. Pride, in
Gascoigne’s view the poison of the mind, turns out to be exhibited
chiefly when Englishmen imitate foreigners’ attention to hairstyles, male
cosmetics, and “outlandish” tailoring. The worst models are Italians – by
allusion to Devils incarnate, Roger
Ascham’s well-known epithet (18) – but one
should also avoid “brave Mustachyos
turned the Turky way” and hats
“made on the Flemmish blocke” (I, 346).
Gascoigne moves from material commodities to the body itself, however, his
warning is sharpest, and the culprits for the spread of syphilis are
Spanish buttons can infect
Kings, Emperours, Princes and the world so wide,
And…those sunnes do mellowe men so fast
As most that travayle come home very ripe. (I, 347)(19)
The creed of the
loyal-hearted Englishman (I, 345) will help Withypole, properly warned, stand
fast against these foreign dangers and come home unscathed. In this little piece of provincialism,
the limits of Gascoigne’s experience “abroade in forayne
lands” (I, 346) lead to stereotyping, especially the blackening of Spain
source of poison and disease.
1572 Gascoigne also imagined A
Devise of a Maske to help celebrate a double wedding that was
While the narrator/actor is a dauntless English boy, the
masque’s heroes (dictated by the name of the wedding’s host,
Lord Montacute, and the prior purchase of lush Venetian costumes) are
Italian soldiers and sailors who rescue the lad from captivity. The boy, as his tale goes, had
accompanied his father on a voyage of financial venture that ended at the
1571 siege of Famagusta,
the Turks, who killed his father and seized him; only the great Christian
victory at Lepanto released him.
Beyond their “strange
attire” (I, 76)
(apparently acceptable, for this special purpose) the Venetians of the
masque exhibit no other characteristics of their race but naval skill,
aversion to Capulets, and the use of gondolas (I, 83, 84).
the significant foreigners in A
Devise are the ultimate Other for sixteenth-century Europe:
the Ottoman Turks. Gascoigne
represents these foes in terms as nightmarish as he can summon, drawing
upon the “fame which blewe about the world so wyde”:
Howe that the Christian enemye, the Turke that Prince of pride,
Not only are
Christians sent to swim with the fishes, but when the Turks take Famagusta they
flay the governor alive, make him kiss the ground at General Mustapha’s
feet, cut his ears off, and hoist him aloft to public view (I, 80) (20). The
blasphemous and “cruell Turke,” the audience learns, seeks to bring
all Christians under the yoke, ravishes maidens and wives, but is particularly
given to “the fowle abuse of boyes in tender yeeres” (I, 78) like
the Ganymede who describes this tyrant (21). Every conceivable danger to the Christian
body is conjured here, to be defeated only by ferocious warfare, vividly
described. Once “Christ gave
his flocke the victory” (I, 82) at the battle of Lepanto, revenge comes
swiftly to the Turk who had enslaved our narrator:
Addressed had his power, to swarme uppon the Seas,…
And that he made his vaunt, the greedy fishe to glut,
With gobs of Christian carkasses, in cruell peeces cut. (I, 76)
His head from shoulders cut, upon a Pike dyd stand,
The which Don John of Austrye, helde in his triumphant hand (I, 82)
– for every remaining pasha to view
with fear. Notably for my argument,
the victorious Venetian fleet includes numerous Spanish vessels and Spanish
generals, and the bloody avenger Don Juan is in fact the bastard son of Charles
V and half-brother of Philip II; in an attempt to contain his aggression Philip
next assigned him to the Netherlands as Alba’s replacement, where he was
“completely discredited” by the siege of Antwerp (22). In Gascoigne’s representation,
Turks and Spaniards – alike proud, cruel, tyrannical, vengeful,
lascivious – have been sutured together in reciprocal violence, just as
William of Orange named Alba “the Moorish tiger-beast” (23). Under
that cloud, five years later, came the sack of Antwerp
contrast to the happy ending, home in England, of the fictionalized Devise, “Voyage unto Hollande” records
Gascoigne’s disastrous sailing in March, 1572 from Gravesend to
Brill, site of his initial experience in the Low Countries (and the first
clash in a renewed Dutch revolt) (24). Nearing the Dutch shore at low
tide, his ship – despite prayers and psalm-singing – ran
aground. While some took to
the lifeboats and in due course drowned, Gascoigne and his companions, he
reports, were eventually saved by Englishmen waiting on the pier. A vivid narrative of the shipwreck
and its aftermath is framed by angry exploration of its immediate cause and,
at the end, resentful denunciation of the scavenging that followed and of
the smug Dutch culture that the Englishmen found in Brill. The ship’s pilot, previously
unknown to the [English] master whom Gascoigne excuses, is “a
Dutche, a Devill, a swadde,/ A foole, a drunkarde, or a traytour”
(I, 356). After the wreck,
Gascoigne accuses, the pilot fled in a small boat “full
fraught…/ With pouder, shotte, and all our best araye” (I,
361). Taking war-fighting
ordnance is, to Gascoigne, treason – the act of a Pilate, not pilot,
perhaps even a Judas.
the ship was foundering, moreover, Dutchmen on the nearby pier did
nothing, leaving Gascoigne to denigrate in thundering anaphorae,
drunken Dutchmen standing there even still,
For whom we came in their cause for to fight,
For whom we came their state for to defende,
For whom we came as friends to grieve their foes,
They now disdaynd (in this distresse) to lend
One helping boate for to asswage our woes. (I, 360)
These are the
good burghers for whose liberty the English may give their lives. Once landed, Gascoigne’s opinion
of the Dutch race does not improve; stuffed with butter, beef, and beer, they
make bombastic soldiers, weak at heart, who can only brag that the Spanish
siege of Haarlem has not succeeded – yet (I, 361-62). He rails against Dutch spying and
dissembling, including secret Catholic masses, and trails off into standard
Protestant agitprop about nuns as whores and brothel-keepers.
Gascoigne’s suspicions about that inadequate Dutch pilot – and
in high poetic dudgeon – he opens up the vocabulary of the Black
What knew wee if Albaes subtill brayne
(So to prevent our enterpryse by treazon)
Had him subornde to tice us to this trayne…
This must we thinke that Alba would not spare
To give out gold for such a sinfull deede. (I, 356)
Alba: a name that
signifies “the Butcher of Flanders” (25). Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, third
Duke of Alba, was a famous and successful military commander when, near the end
of a long career, Philip II initially made him military captain-general in the
Low Countries; within four months he also became governor-general and served in
one or both posts from 1567 to 1573.
His haughty Castilian image is frozen in time and horror in Pieter
Breughel’s “Massacre of the Innocents,” calmly watching
imperial soldiers kill a Netherlandish village’s children – a
visual representation of the Black Legend.
Alba’s royal assignment was to stamp out [indistinguishable] rebellion
and heresy in the northern provinces; he fulfilled it, establishing a lasting
reign of terror in the first two years, with a new Council of Troubles
(“of Blood,” to the populace) that solicited denunciations from all
comers, condemned almost 9000 people, executed more than a thousand, and
confiscated arms, property, and wealth.
He managed to put down the revolt only until William of Orange assumed
leadership. Gascoigne heard the
worst about Alba and introjected it into “Voyage,” where he is characterized
by financial subversion of weak allies (26). The events described in the poem (while
exaggerated by emotion and the demands of alliterative rhymed quatrains)
clearly record Gascoigne’s experience, and he ventilates in recollected
fear and anger. In
Gascoigne’s construction, then, a shrewd man will keep Italians,
Dutchmen, and Turks at arm’s length, but the Spaniards are the ultimate
corrupting, demonic enemy.
- I need
to note that Gascoigne’s view of the world is not entirely
xenophobic. At a less visceral
level, even in “Voyage” he promises “when riming sporte
is spent” to provide a more deliberate report of the state of Holland, illustrated
in empirical “Cartes, in Mappes, and eke in Models made” (I,
363). This approach from
practical intellect is not unique, and it is driven in part by his eager
interest in mercantile ventures.
The farthest reach of Gascoigne’s imagination of the global
landscape is dated April 12, 1576; a prefatory epistle to Sir Humphrey
Gilbert’s Discourse of a Discoverie for a New Passage to Cataia,
it is probably intended to aid in Gilbert’s quest for patronage or
partnership for the voyage.
With this gesture Gascoigne moves into the ambit of the West
Country adventurers who explored the New World
with trade, monopolies, plantations, and profits in mind (27). He
expresses pride in his privateer-kinsman Martin Frobisher, who was seeking
the Northwest Passage (and gold mines),
and he asserts that he himself persuaded Gilbert to publish the pamphlet
as “a matter whereof no man hath heretofore written
particularly” (II, 565) – signs of his pursuit of the whole
(Gilbert, among those who saw Holland
as a major bastion against Spain,
had been principal general in the unsuccessful – and unremunerative
– summer campaign in the Low Countries
in 1572.) Gascoigne privileges Gilbert’s collection of “the
Tables of Ortelius [presumably the well-known cartographer and
atlas-maker of Antwerp, Abraham Ortelius], and… sundrie other Cosmographicall
Mappes and Charts”
(II, 564); attempting to confirm the accuracy of Gilbert’s
navigational conjectures, he has learned that “a great learned man
(even M. Dee) doth seem very well to like of this Discoverie,
…the which he declareth in his Mathematical preface to
(II, 565). Such expertly
vetted directions are cautiously promising, and Frobisher had in fact set
out for the
New World. Of Cathay
Gascoigne says nothing, but in these advanced circles of empirical
knowledge and global profit-seeking, he moved into a new world
indeed. Then he went to Antwerp.
Antwerp and Its Rewards
political situation in the Low Countries
that Gascoigne first entered in 1572 was complex. In 1477, a dynastic marriage had
brought the seventeen provinces (modern Netherlands,
Belgium, and Luxemburg,
as well as current Artois, French
Flanders, and slivers of the Rhineland) under the official control of the
Holy Roman Empire; when Emperor Philip I married the daughter of Ferdinand
and Isabella in 1496, Spain
was added to the sprawling mix.
Embattled on all sides in 1548, Charles and his Diet granted the
newly-united provinces of the Netherlands a significant
degree of independence. His
son Philip II, who never set foot in the Low Countries until 1549 when he
was 22, acceded to the throne of Spain and its Netherlandish
provinces upon Charles’s sudden abdication in 1556. Eventually
Philip chose to crack down in the north: re-centralized rule, new taxes,
new military garrisons, new constraints upon the prized liberties and
privileges of local nobles, and of course persecution of Protestant
heretics. A formidable political and military power nearing its apogee, Spain
intended to dominate.
1567 onward, however, successive waves of Netherlandish rebellion
challenged the “tyrannical” policies and practices of an
absentee ruler. William of
Orange claimed that he worked only for “the liberation of a good
people who are oppressed by a wicked nation” (28),
but the revolt was in many respects a civil war – between two
religions, at least two linguistic communities, wealthy and poor,
loyalists and rebels – with all the bitterness that civil war
brings. Although political
analysis is not Gascoigne’s purpose, he grasps some of what is at
stake. He sees the difference between Dutch and Walloon (with little use
for either); he knows Maestricht and Liege
have remained loyal to Philip; he recognizes the presence in the imperial
army of both Germans and Austrians (“high Almaynes”) and
Spaniards; he assumes the provinces have suffered “longe susteyned
injuries and yokes of untollerable bondage…of theyr tyrannies”
(590-91). Bondage would not
last forever: the early phase of this protracted conflict finally ended
achieved virtual independence as a Protestant state in 1609 –
ironically, in the Truce of Antwerp (29).
mid-sixteenth century, Antwerp was a city
of 80,000, the bustling mercantile center of northern Europe in daily
commerce with Spain and
Italy and –
through their Mediterranean ports – with Africa, the Ottoman world,
and Asia. Although the Netherlandish
political capital was Brussels, Antwerp was the “wealthiest city in the
nation” and the gateway to “the richest and most influential
province” of Brabant (30). With
its Beurs, or bourse, established in 1531 and
prominently cited by Gascoigne in The
Spoyle, it handled not only money but as much as 75% of the
import/export traffic in the Low Countries; it is no wonder that the
English Merchant Adventurers, accompanied by an observer like Gascoigne,
were drawn there. Antwerp could also
boast of 150 schools, a century-old schoolteachers’ guild, and two
Sunday schools to bring literacy to quotidian craftsmen and laborers. “By 1561, [the French
publisher Christopher Plantin] had created the largest printing house in Northern Europe” (31);
between 1500 and 1540 the printing industry had already produced some 2250
editions in eight languages, only half of them in Latin. Vernacular books are, of course, a
harbinger of Protestantism (32). Private prosperity supported some
three hundred artists by 1560, along with an early, thriving art market;
for public occasions the city magistrates employed five professional
musicians to compose, and to play, festive songs. In 1576, in short, this economic
and cultural center was a rich prize – whether for the Estates
General (the representative assemblies of the various Low
Countries provinces hoping to recover hegemony from the
heavy-handed Spanish) or for rampaging soldiers intent on plundering its
wealth. As Gascoigne’s
biographer C.T. Prouty has noted (33), the
great wealth of the city was its undoing.
- Antwerp was also a
military center: after 1568 it had a grand new citadel, the pride of the
Duke of Alba with a tactless statue of him subduing rebels at its center (34).
Domination could not be more clearly signaled. Gascoigne was on the scene not as a
soldier but as a commissioned agent of Secretary William Cecil and the
first director of intelligence, Sir Francis Walsingham (35).
Residing in the English merchants “safe house,” he
could maintain surveillance on
commercial as well as politico-military affairs; his report
eventually earned him 20 pounds from the Crown. On his assessment, the
events of November 4-7, 1576 were the culmination of a series of
skirmishes in Spain’s
attempt to regain full hegemony over Antwerp,
its hinterland, and the province
of Brabant beyond.
As The Spoyle opens, imperial
forces controlled the residential/commercial city from Alba’s
adjacent “Cytadell” with a garrison of sufficient size and
ordnance that the citizens were functionally besieged.
Maltby drily notes, “it is necessary to recall that [the Black
Legend] is a legend and not a myth.
It sprang, as legends do, from actual events” (36). In
The Spoyle of Antwerpe Gascoigne
provides the most detailed, factual account of the sack available. But in 1576 the power relationship
between England and Spain
was still completely asymmetrical; thus Gascoigne presents a narrating
persona that is, like his nation, a cautious, often alarmed, but politic
observer. After all, the
outcome of the Dutch revolt was unpredictable, and neither Gascoigne nor England
could afford to commit to the losing side (37). Gascoigne’s earlier
skepticism of all foreigners naturally informs his report, as well. But his outrage at the imperial
troops’ conduct at Antwerp
transcends any other concern; he allows himself to judge and to condemn,
thereby adding to the Black Legend.
order to maintain a semblance of detached persona, on my reading Gascoigne
layers The Spoyle in three registers
of prose, distinct in style and tone, that move from neutrality to outrage
at the Spanish forces. Here I
follow Lance Butler’s use of the term “register,” which
draws upon Bakhtinian heteroglossia.
Such a register is a style of writing – diction, syntax and
sentence structure, level of abstraction or formality, use of imagery and
idiom, emphasis on nominal vs. verbal
constructions and first- vs. third-person
assertions – suited to the particular tone and form of expression
appropriate in a given situation. (To Early Modern scholars,
“decorum” is obviously salient.) Registers are, although largely
conventional, not immutable; the writing practices of a specific period
shape the range of possibilities for their time. Within a specific text presented to
the interpretive community of a given era, registers can readily be
distinguished from one another as vocalized by different personae or
points of view. Clash in
asserts, “constitutes, ipso
facto, a culture’s self-analysis”; visible shifts in
register, moreover, give “an extra semantic charge to what
follows” (38). In this vein, I contend, Gascoigne
uses modulated registers in order to tell the truth about what he has
seen, yet to maintain a politic third-personal distance from what are in
fact expressions of shock and sorrow far beyond his soldier’s
factual presentation. Given
this careful self-censorship, the three layers written into The Spoyle of Antwerpe are not
sequential but interleaved, creating some ambiguities; to discern
Gascoigne’s full representation of Spanish violence and cruelty
requires unpacking all three.
most accessible layer of The Spoyle
is Gascoigne’s military reportage of the culminating battle and the
events that led up to it (39). In these sections, the narrative is
written in declarative sentences (or at least clauses) that are relatively
short and crisp: “The Castle thondred with shot at the towne: but it
was a very mysty day, so that they could neither finde their markes very
wel, not yet see how the streetes ends were entrenched” (592). One key to this layer is empirical
measurement. Gascoigne reports
elapsed time, the numbers of soldiers on both sides and of the squadrons
in which they were arrayed, the size, location, and composition of the
defenders’ trenches and barricades, and the numbers killed on each
side – all with great precision. Moreover, he names the home-bases
and the leaders of each company in what I surmise to be the core
intelligence he is providing to Burghley and Walsingham to augment the
knowledge of the Royal Council about the Low Countries’
situation. To underscore the
integrity of his truth-claims, he is careful to distinguish between what
“I have hearde credibly reported” (593) and “that which I sawe
executed” (594; emphasis added), and twice (593, 597) he points to
Spanish officers as his sources.
In this layer of prose, Gascoigne holds anecdotes to a minimum,
limits them to his personal experience, and uses them to make specific
points, sometimes with hyperbolic humor. Hastily fleeing Walloon troops, for
instance, “having their leaders formost…bare me over
backwardes, and ran over my belly and my face, long time before I could
recover on foote,” when “another flocke of flyers came so fast
that they bare me on my nose, and ran as many over my backe, as erst had
marched over my guttes” (595).
There is no need for further comment on indiscipline, panic, and chicken-like
tone of this journalistic layer is laconic; adjectives are few and
descriptive only; rhetorical devices – or even gestures – are
absent or spare. And verbally,
little direct distinction is made between the Spanish forces and those of
the Estates General. An
extended example of this narration will permit comparison with other
[imperial] Horsemen and footemen, which came from Maestrecht and Lyere, came through a village on the east side of the town called
Burgerhout, about ten of the clock
before noone, as before
sayd: The Governour and estates being thereof advertised,
sente out presently parte of their Horsemen and Footemen to discover
and take knowledge of them: But before they could issue out
of the gates, the Spanyardes were passed on the South[east] syde
of the towne dyche, and entred at a gate which standeth on the
Counterscarfe of the castle yeard, called the Windmil porte:
there entred the Horsemen, and al the footemen, saving the high
Almaynes, who marched round about the Castle, by a village
called Keele and trayling their pikes
on the ground after them, came
in at a small Posterne on the Brayes by the River, and on
the [west] side of the Castle. (593)
Even without the
sketch map that Gascoigne planned to enclose with his report, the pattern is
easy to discern: movement, counter-movement, [outwitted] attempt at
reconnaissance, flanking maneuvers.
Care is taken to locate the reader in space and time, and visual detail
helps paint the scene, but Gascoigne offers no heuristic commentary.
- It is
important to note that in his reportage, Gascoigne reflects a
soldier’s realism about the consequences of victory. He silently assumes that
soldiers’ pay is highly unreliable, and that the spoils of a
conquered town are part of the compensation to which troops may have a
justified sense of right (40). In this context the literal
plundering of Antwerp
would be an expected, albeit unhappy, fact of life. Thus “the heate of the
pursute was yet such, that they coulde not attend [to] the spoyle, but
passed on in chase to the new towne” (595) indicates only the speed
of the victory, not disapproval of its normal consequence. It is the fury, the wretched excess
with which recompense was taken that is wrong. Gascoigne also readily acknowledges
that unburied corpses and probably even hot-blooded rape are “such
anoiance, as commonly happen both in campes & Castels, where martiall
feates are managed” (596-97).
As Jeremy Black has warned, we must recall that violence was
endemic in early modern
Europe; he quotes
Michael Howard’s mordant remark that in the sixteenth century war
was a seasonal form of hunting (41). But the imperial troops’
behavior in Antwerp
far exceeded any conceivable expectation.
second register of prose in The
Spoyle – significantly, the tone and diction with which
Gascoigne introduces the whole treatise – is one that I shall call
judgment, a quality much prized in humanist pedagogy. In this layer Gascoigne assesses the
“great calamitie” that he has seen and heard, speculates on
the causes behind it, and claims his own purpose for writing. Whatever he has told the Council,
now he intends to “publish a
true report thereof…for the benefit of my countrie” (590; emphasis added). In his judgments for a larger
audience, he promises an even-handedness that will correct the rumors that
have been circulating, so that mistakes made on both sides of the conflict
may offer a warning from which the English can learn – the standard
purpose of “exemplary history” that goes back at least to
Plutarch. “To that ende,
all stories and Chronicles are written: and to that ende I presume to
publishe this Pamphlet: protestyng that neither mallice to the one syde,
nor parciall affection to the other, shall make my pen to swarve any jote
from truth of that which I will set down” (590). In this layer of the text the
first-personal voice moves from constructing knowledge to invoking ethics;
Gascoigne expresses value-judgments in a diction that is more highly
colored and consciously – if a bit mixedly –
metaphorical. He hopes his
words can shine as “a Lanterne of light beetween two perilous Rockes:
That bothe amendyng the one, and detestynge the other, wee may gather fyre
out of the
and Hunny out of the Thystle” (590). His tone, although more elevated
than in the narrative layer, aims at calm detachment.
by his narration of events, Gascoigne’s judgments gradually
emerge. To explain the astoundingly
rapid victory of the Spanish, almost chorically he cites the “good
order” with which the disciplined imperial troops perform. “To speake wythout
parciality: I must needs confesse, that it was the greatest victory, and
the roundlyest executed, that hath bene seene, red, or heard of, in our
age: and that it was a thing myraculous, to consider, how Trenches of such
a height should be entred, passed over, and won by both Footemen, and
Horsmen” (595). And he
notes the “valure” (593) and “manly corage” (599)
that may make the “Spanierds…the best & most orderlye
Souldiours in the world” (597), an opinion widely held at the
time. For an experienced
soldier who knows the rival examples, this is condign praise, even if
repetitious and tinctured by miracle.
The Spanish simply have the superior army – not least,
because they won.
- On the
other side, the rebel forces may have been overconfident in the strength
of their barricades (594). Worse, no plans had been made to resupply them
with powder and shot or with fresh men. “For those which came to
supplye & relieve the trenches, came stragling and loose: some
…came very fearfully: and many out of their lodginges, from drinking
and carousing” – predictably, the Netherlanders are
over-supplied with “Dutch courage.” Equally predictably, the lesser
nations on the rebel side, Gascoigne sarcastically observes, quit at the
signs of a rout: “Almaynes…(when they spied the Spanyards) did
gently kneele down letting their Pykes fall, and crying Oh lieve Spaniarden, lieve Spaniarden”
As an ultimate cause of failure, the rebels lacked
“sufficient Generals & directors” (594); a surprising
number of the leaders escaped unscathed or were safely captured, and
“I heard of none that fought stoutly, saving onely the said Counte de Egmont” (596). Even to a modestly
experienced soldier like Gascoigne, that is to say, the causes for the
outcome are so obvious that he can indulge in judgmental rhetoric. The scattered Netherlandish forces
stood little chance against the well prepared, relentless Spanish.
that one nobleman in the Estates’ forces was effective, and the common soldiers did fight hard: “The Wallonnes, and Almaynes, which
served in the Trenches defended al this while very stoutly…many of
them in this mene while being slayne and hurte” (593). Against the charge of inadequate
logistical provision, moreover, I want to set Gascoigne’s own insistence
on the overdetermined intent, preparation, and even provocation of the
Spanish-led attackers. At the
outset he proffers a key opinion: “the sacking & spoyle of
ANTWERPE hath been (by all lykelyhoode) longe pretended by the Spanyerds: And that they have done nothing
els but lien in wayte
continually to fynde any least
quarrell to put the same in execution” (590; emphasis
added). Thus a month before
the battle, the garrison fired “certayne Canon shot out of the saide
Castle, and slew certayne innocent [civilian] soules;…Thinking
thereby to harden the harts of the poore Flemynges, and to make them take
[Armes] for theyr just defence: whiles [the Spanish] therby might take
occasion to execute theyr unjust pretence” (591). Spaniards steadily pushed the
outside of the acceptable strategic envelope. Although the Antwerp city fathers
perceived the “cruell entent of the Spanyerds,” they had no
chance to stock up: Spanish troops at a new fort on the river, closer to
the coast, fended off the ships bringing “al manner of Grayne and
victualles, for the sustenance of the said towne” and burned all the
surrounding fields “to the intent that ANTWERPE might lack
provision” and “so terrified the poore people as they durst
not bringe theyr commodities to the same” (591). Using the standard siege tactics
that dominated sixteenth-century warfare, the purposeful imperial
juggernaut left the citizens with little possibility for defense except
relief by an extraordinary force.
The city itself, meanwhile, “did yet remayne quiet, and entred
not into any martiall action” (591) – the Antwerpers did not
respond to provocation, and they offered none. Thus even before the sack the
Spanish appear to have practiced state-sponsored terrorism.
short, try as he may for even-handed impartiality, Gascoigne undermines
his own judgment of causes. He
must have found it difficult to accept superior Spanish strategy as
sufficient explanation for the debacle that followed the brief battle,
since he raises the stakes dramatically by introducing a higher judge in
rhetorically potent positions near the beginning and the end of his
report. At the outset, he
briefly notes that “wickednesse used in the sayde towne” of
event is “a sufficient cause of Gods so just a scorge and
Plague” (590) as the slaughter and rape. After the sorry story has been
told, more tellingly, “I must needs attribute [the sack] unto Gods
just wrath…furiouslye kindled and bent against…the inhabitants
for their iniquitie…synnes, and prowde enormyties” (599)
– sins that go unnamed despite Gascoigne’s attention to detail
at every other point in the text.
In making Spanish troops God’s agents rather than their own,
thus rhetorically reducing them to tools, Gascoigne subverts to some
degree his praise for their valor and order. The piety of the invocation is
further undercut when, in the very next sentence, Gascoigne-the-soldier
repeats his blame of the Walloon soldiers for headlong flight yet
apparently redeems the leaderless “inhabytantes [who,] having none other order appointed, but to stande
everye man armed in readynes before his doore, they dyed there (many of
them) fighting manfully”
(599; emphasis added).
Attribution of disaster to God’s wrath at iniquity,
especially “proud enormities,”
is an anti-urban trope about the destruction of cities for their pride
– a kind of de casibus urborum
– that recalls laments for
(43). But in the face of war crimes
Gascoigne is uncomfortable with such one-sided theodicy. In the end, he states prominently,
“I leave the skanning of [Spanish] deedes unto God, who wyll bryddle
theyr insolencie, when hee thinketh good and convenient” (599). The notion of leaving future
vengeance for losses in war to God is Augustinian; nevertheless, the
defeat of the Armada, a decade in the future, springs to mind.
third, epideictic layer of The
Spoyle of Antwerpe is Gascoigne’s textual refraction of the
scandalous Black Legend in a rendering of the killing and looting that
followed the battle. In these
sections first-personal narration itself is almost effaced by omniscient
declaration. Long, sonorous
sentences are constructed of balanced clauses in parataxis; more frequent use of alliteration (“wicked
windes of wilinesse & wrath” (591)) recalls the poet behind the
soldier. Yet the diction is
simple, which makes its presentation of horror all the more
representation of the “pittifull massacre” is achieved by
gradual escalation of
register, through successive sentences, to a hieratic pitch
(596). First, the numerical
facts: “In this conflicte there were slayne sixe hundred Spanyerds or
thereaboutes: And on the Thursday next following, a view of the dead bodies
in the town being taken: it was esteemed at 17,000 men, women, and
children.” The contrast in body-counts is left to speak for
itself. Next, the judgment,
frankly (if carefully) controverting his earlier praise: “as
[Spanish] vallyaunce was to be much commended, so yet I can much
discommende their barbarous cruelty.” Then the outraged report of
neither spared age, nor sexe: time nor place: person nor countrey:
profession nor religion: yong nor olde: rich nor poore: strong nor
feeble: but without any mercy, did
tyrannously tryumphe when there was
neither man nor meane to resist them: For age and sex, yong and
old, they slew great numbers of yong children, but many moe women
more then fowerscore yeares of age: For time and place, their
furye was as great ten dayes after the victory, as at the tyme of
their entry: and as great respect they
had to the church
and churchyeard,…as the Butcher hath to his shambles or
person and Country, they spared neither friende nor foe: Portingal nor
Turke. (596; emphasis added)
And they acted
not only “when the chase was hotte” but also “when the blood
was colde.” As the antitheses
build, the ruthless, indiscriminate killing sounds more and more like legendary
Spanish practice around the world.
The single metaphor in the passage has its own impact: the Latin word
for “butcher” – carnifex
– also means “executioner.”
account of the dead (which is hyperbolic in numbers alone) is the first in
a string of almost incantatory paralipses
in which Gascoigne re-introduces his own voice, now as disciplined orator
rather than witness: “I forbeare,” “I list not to recken,”
“I set not downe… neither doo I complaine” (596). Despite the praeteritio, he does describe the horror of men burned alive
in their armor, a vision that provides a bitter anatomy lesson. The paralipses all point to the material consequences of massacre:
unburied corpses, whether drowned, burned, or stabbed. Bodies pollute the streets, corrupt
the air, and infect the survivors.
The destruction goes beyond bodies, however, to the vengeful
elimination of an entire society through its archive. The catalogue of ostensible
self-restraint ends with a serious complaint: “I may not passe over
with sylence, the wylfull burning and destroying of the stately
Townehouse, & all the monuments & records of the Citie”
(597). When Gascoigne later
asked some Spanish officers why they ordered the town hall burned, they
answered that evil plans had been made there, “as though it were
just that the stockes & stones should suffer for the offence of
men. But such is their
obstynate pride and arrogancie” (597) – the legendary,
remorseless character of Spanish aristocrats.
this ultimate layer of his text Gascoigne uses anecdotes without either
eyewitness or attributed source, an absence of inscribed authority that
makes them sound like set pieces ready-made for “the great
representational machine” (44) of the Black
Legend. To all the killing, an
anecdote told in a final paralipsis
not only adds rape but embroiders it with special, sacrilegious horror:
“their shamful rapes & outragious forces presented unto sundry
honest Dames & Virgins. It
is a thing too horrible to rehearse, that the Father and Mother were
forced to fetche their yong daughter out of a cloyster (who had thether
fled as unto Sanctuary, to keepe her body undefyled) & to bestowe her
in bed betweene two Spaniards, to worke their wicked and detestable wil
with her” (597) – violating virgins from sanctuary is evil,
but the doubling of villainous rapists is particularly lubricious. This story alone might
“fetche brynish teares out of the most craggy rocke” (590).
and rape are, of course, joined to pillage. As the material spoils of war are
taken, an anecdote depicts an innocent English victim’s attempts to
placate his tormentors:
A poore English marchant (who was but a servaunt) having once redeemed his Masters goods for three hundreth crownes, was yet hanged untyl he were halfe dead, because he had not two hundreth more to geve them: and the halter being cut downe, and he commen to him selfe againe, besought them on knees with bytter teares, to geve them leave to seeke & trye his creditte and friendes in the Towne, for the rest of theyr unreasonable demaund. At his retourne because he sped not (as indeede no money was then to bee had) they hong him again outright: and afterwards (of exceeding curtesie) procured the Friars Minors to burie him. (597)
The sarcasm of that last parenthesis underlines the hypocrisy
of the entire performance: burial is completely inadequate relief for the
abjection of the poor man’s desperate efforts. This sensational tale was so affecting
to audiences that when Gascoigne’s report was dramatized as A Larum for London or the Siedge of Antwerpe
(1602), it was the central plot-point (45). Gascoigne speculates that five thousand
of the dead were slaughtered simply because they could not meet the price
demanded for their lives. Plunder
is the end that, for the imperial troops, justifies any means whatsoever, with
special ferocity toward common men.
the end, a story that Gascoigne tells from his own knowledge (rare in this
register) adds to the flavor of class warfare: “the day before I gat
out of the Towne I sawe three poore soules murdred in my presence, because
they were pointed out to be Wallons: and it was well proved immediatly
that one of them was a poore artyficer, who had dwelt in the Towne eight
yeares before, & never managed armes, but truely folowed his
occupation” (597). This
claim has a special ring of truth, since from Alba onwards the burgher and
artisan classes bore the brunt of Spanish punishment. In paratactic summary, “The
ryche was spoyled because he had: & the [far more numerous, hence
plural] poore were hanged because they had nothing” (596). The pillaging finally reaches the
house of the English merchants, Gascoigne’s hosts, who –
despite the safe-conduct they had been granted and the neutrality they had
maintained – are forced to “raunsom” the house from
potential firing with jewels, plate, and 12,000 crowns (598). Perhaps as a consequence, Gascoigne
brings crimes of sex and of property together in a virtually racist sneer:
“for every Dom Diego must
walk jetting up & downe the streetes with his harlotte by him in her cheine and bracelettes of
gold” (597) – a classic moment of scorn for victorious,
newly enriched conquerors fawned upon by collaborating women. No matter how victorious, Spaniards
have lost all dignity.
The Spoyle of Antwerpe rhetorically and materially, as I have done,
gives only glancing attention to a constituting theme of the wars in the
Low Countries, hence of the Black Legend: religious difference. On this score, aside from naming
Spaniards the scourge of God, Gascoigne’s caution prevails. His condemnation of the massacre
invokes the right (and by implication, the wrong) kind of Christian
conduct: “when God geveth a great and myraculous victory, the
conquerours ought to have great regard unto their execution… When the
blood is cold, and the fury over, me thinkes that a true christian hearte should stand content with victory, and
refrayne to provoke Gods wrath
by sheadding of innocente blood” (596; emphasis added). Gascoigne’s only pointed
comment along sectarian lines notes that, during the sack, “the
Jesuites must geve their ready coyne: and all other religious houses both
coyne and plate…for all their hipocriticall boasting of the
catholique religion” (596).
For in the end what matters most is commerce: “their daily trade in spoiling hath made
them the cunningest ransackers of houses, and the best able to bringe a
spoyle unto a quicke market, of
any Souldiors, or Mastertheeves that ever I heard of” (599; emphasis
has been left without money or
treasure, “neither creditte nor pawne” (599), and the
Bourse has literally become a casino (597).
Religion has no special salience. Although the wars in the
Netherlands would continue, with England as a frequent participant until
James I made peace in 1604, the geopolitical contestation between the
English and the Black Spanish would ultimately play out in the search for
wealth and power in the Americas,
still to come.
- The Spoyle of Antwerpe, says
Prouty, is “the finest extant example of Elizabethan
reporting”; with greater detachment, Maltby calls the text
“the most circumstantial account of the tragedy” which –
although (perhaps accidentally) raising the death toll from 7,000 to
17,000 – “reflects a large measure of historical truth” (46). In
this major source for both Elizabethans’ understanding of their
Spanish opponent and modern historical writing, Gascoigne observes the
sack keenly and narrates his observations closely, with telling details
and anecdotes. As a soldier,
he evaluates military tactics and misconduct; less consciously, he
provides modern readers with the commercial context for Antwerp’s attractiveness –
to the English for mercantile traffic, to the Spanish for savage
plunder. The Spoyle moves well beyond journalism, however. With Gascoigne’s thought
structured by his long-standing suspicion of foreigners, especially
Spaniards, he uses well-calibrated, rising rhetoric to editorialize in
condemnation of the plunder, rape, and slaughter of a defenseless
citizenry. Reproving the inhumanity
of Spaniards’ conduct, Gascoigne has made them Other than civilized
[Protestant] Europeans. A
general statement about the proper conduct of any war lies not far beneath
the surface. But the specific
meaning of this report is clear.
As Gascoigne’s language gathers power, he has no need to
invoke an ominous Catholic Inquisition; theft of material goods and
destruction of mortal, unresisting bodies are sufficient to castigate
Spanish soldiers in this vigorous contribution to the Black Legend.
Gascoigne, The Complete Works, ed.
John W. Cunliffe (Cambridge, UK, 1907), vol. II, p. 563. All quotations from
Gascoigne are taken from the two-volume Cunliffe edition; within my text I cite
volume and page except for The Spoyle of
Antwerpe where – for brevity – I assume vol. II and cite page
only. I have expanded contractions
of n and y and normalized v to u.
I use “
interchangeably with “Low Countries”; Gascoigne calls the modern
silently including Zeeland and
For biographical details on Gascoigne I rely on C.T. Prouty, George Gascoigne (New York, 1942); for
historical information about the Low Countries, on the work of Early
Modern military historian Geoffrey Parker and of
scholar William Maltby. I was introduced to the Black Legend by
Maltby’s pioneering work; Elliott’s comprehensive view of the
Atlantic rivalry is invaluable.
3 William Maltby, The
Black Legend in England
(Durham, NC, 1971), p. 3.
4 Charles Gibson, ed., The
Black Legend: Anti-Spanish Attitudes in the Old World
and the New (New York, 1971), p. 3.
5 On his recall from Peru,
the accountant Gómara “was made superintendent of the royal
finances in Flanders” (J. M. Cohen, The
Discovery and Conquest of Peru (Harmondsworth, UK, 1968), p. 6); his
dedicatory epistle to Philip II is dated Antwerp,
March 30, 1555. Scholars, including
Maltby, remark on the irony of the Black Legend’s origins lying in texts
by Spanish writers, but the only possible observers of the 15th-century
“conquests” were Spaniards. Gómara’s much-reprinted
work was translated into English in 1578, Zárate in 1581.
6 Copies of the original Grands
Voyages (1590 and after) are rare; the most accessible introduction to De
Bry’s work for modern readers is Michael Alexander, Discovering the New World (New York, 1976), which is copiously
7 On indigenous women, see John H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World (New Haven, 2006), pp. 82-83; on sodomy, see
Maltby, Legend, p. 30.
8 Maltby, Legend, p.
9 Maltby, Legend, p. 31; cf.
Henry A. Kamen, The Duke of Alba (New Haven, 2004), p. 80.
10 Gibson, p. 10.
11 Gibson, pp. 46-47.
12 In the 1770s St. John de Crevecoeur, the “American
Farmer,” unfavorably compares gaudy, delirious Latin American churches
with Quaker meeting houses and Peruvians’ enslavement of
Indians with William Penn, who “treated the savages as his brethren and
friends” (Elliott, p. 403).
13 Paul Krugman, “Who Was Milton Friedman?,” The New
York Review of Books, 54.2 (2007), p.27.
14 Michel de Certeau, Heterologies,
trans. Brian Massimi (Minneapolis,
1985) p. 68; “scare” quotation-marks Certeau’s.
15 Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous
1991), pp. 122-30.
16 In addition to Las Casas’s work, long circulated in
Spain and almost certainly known in the Low Countries, Gascoigne could well
have read the De Orbe Novo Decades (1525) of Italian humanist Peter
Martyr (Pietro Martire d’Anghiera, Latin secretary to Ferdinand
and Isabella) on Spanish activity in the New World, which was partially
translated into English in 1555.
For Gascoigne’s knowledge of Spanish conduct in Europe, one source
might be Roger Ascham’s A
Report of Germany (1553), in which the greatest villain is Don Pedro de Toledo,
the viceroy of Naples
when it was ruled by the Aragonese.
His reign is cruel, rapacious in “exactions of money without
measure,” corrupt because suitors are admitted to his presence
“by favour or money,” arbitrary, and lacking in transparency (III,
23-24). For confirmation that
Gascoigne knew Ascham’s work well, see Linda Salamon, “A
Face in The Glasse,” Studies in
Philology, 81 (1974).
17 I use the concept
of “race” as an early sign for ethnicity through physical
difference that has been elucidated by current medievalists; see Thomas
Bartlett, “Medieval and Early Modern Concepts of Race and
Ethnicity,” and the entire issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 31 (2000) in which his elegant essay
appears. Gascoigne refers to the
Italian race (I, 82) and the Dutch race (I, 361) with similar implications of
18 Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster, in The Whole Works, ed. J. A. Giles (London
, 1864), vol. III, p. 156.
19 The first
historically recorded epidemic of syphilis in Europe occurred in 1494-’95,
when French soldiers and mercenaries, returning from sacking and raping in
Naples, were attacked by Spanish troops. The hypothesis – given the
timing – that Columbus’s sailors
brought the bacterium from the New World and
transmitted it through prostitutes is vigorously discussed by historians,
epidemiologists, and physical anthropologists. See Alfred W. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange (Westport, CT,
as this degradation sounds, Gascoigne’s account accords well with four
contemporary Venetian reports of Lala Mustafa’s treatment of the defiant
governor Bragadino, one of which – by an eye-witness who was himself
taken prisoner at Famagusta – was translated into a sixteen-page English
pamphlet that Gascoigne evidently knew (Robert Ralston Cawley, “George
Gascoigne and the Siege of Famagusta,” MLN 43 (1928), pp. 296-300).
The Turk’s head on a pike is probably also accurate. For a clear account and assessment of
the battle at Lepanto, see Andrew Wheatcroft, Infidels (New York,
2004), pp. 18-21, 26, 343. The
construction of cruel Turks in the masque is somewhat balanced by a more
neutral, even positive image of Islam in the “Moors” of The Steele Glas (II, 153).
This anxiety may refer not only to rumored Turkish use
of catamites but to growing English awareness of Ottoman practices like
circumcision and castration—especially, perhaps, of such treatment for
Christian youths who became favored cadres of the sultans’ regime through
devsirme, the “tax” of
promising young boys exacted from the conquered Balkans and raised to be
janissaries (crack soldiers) or Ottoman bureaucrats. Gascoigne’s Devise is cited as one of the earliest captivity narratives by
Nabil Matar, the founder of recent English-Ottoman studies.
22 Geoffrey Parker, The Dutch Revolt (Ithaca,
1977), p. 179. Ironically, Don Juan
arrived in Luxemburg only on the first day of the sack, but his reputation
23 J. N.
Hillgarth, The Mirror of Spain, 1500-1700 (Ann Arbor, 2000), p. 315. Italian and French Catholics, as well as
Dutch and German Protestant circles, were convinced that Spain
deeply imbued, by its history, with Muslim (and Jewish) beliefs (Hillgarth, pp. 129,
313-14). “In the British and
French political imagination,…by acting as they had in America, the
Spaniards, like the Turks – with whom they became increasingly identified
in eighteenth-century Europe – had only destroyed those whose ends they
should have been protecting” (Anthony Pagden, Lords of All the World (New Haven, 1995), pp. 87-88). For a sixteenth-century example of the
discursive displacement of Turks by Spaniards, see Linda Salamon,
“Blackening “the Turk” in Roger Ascham’s Report of Germany” in Rereading the Black Legend, ed. Margaret
Greer, Walter Mignolo, and Maureen Quilligan (Chicago, 2007), esp. pp. 284-89.
After five years of relative quiescence, a band of
Calvinist exiles (Gueux de Mer, or
“Sea Beggars”) seized Brill in April, 1572 as a foothold for
further raiding; Alba’s new taxation helped spur many to join them
(Kamen, pp. 103-108).
Kamen, p. vii.
Alba has always been a portentous figure – his
“name…used to quiet unruly children for generations” (William
Maltby, Alba (Berkeley, 1983), p. xi)
– but until recently under-analyzed.
See also the extensive work of Parker. “Most recent books in Spanish
about the duke…tend to be frankly hagiographic” (Kamen, p. 192).
Given the general hostility of Gascoigne’s
representation of the Spanish as an entire race in The Spoyle, I need to point to their role in The Fruits of Warre, where his attitude is much more
ambivalent. “Thoughe my minde
abhorreth/ All Spanish prankes” (I, 176) has a ritual quality, and he
treats specific Spanish peers as honorable opponents: Alba simply directs
fierce attacks (I, 160), Valdés offers Gascoigne a safe-conduct (I,
166), and Licques treats him graciously as prisoner of war (I, 174-76). Subsequent events at
Antwerp affected his opinion drastically.
Elliott, pp. 24-25.
Gibson, p. 43.
For Antwerp, see Maltby,
Legend, p. 55; for Brabant, see
Geoffrey Parker, Phillip II (Chicago, 2002), p. 5.
Parker, Revolt, p.
In 1569, Alba ordered a “simultaneous swoop on
all the bookshops of the Netherlands”
(Parker, Revolt, p. 107); at least five
hundred books deemed heretical were publicly burned in Tournai. All information in this paragraph not
otherwise attributed is drawn from Parker’s Dutch Revolt.
Prouty, p. 94.
Prouty, pp. 64, 94-95; John W. Cunliffe, “‘The
Spoyle of Antwerpe’ (1576),” MLR
6 (1911), p. 9. “By
1572…Walsingham had already perceived [William of] Orange as an
instrument given by God to ‘entertain’ Spain; without him ‘a
dangerous fire had ere this time bin kindled in our home’”
(Hillgarth, p. 311). Gascoigne is
secretive about his role: “I was in…Antwerpe upon certaine private affaires of myne owne” (592).
pp. 10-11. English and French
[Protestant] support of the Dutch rebellion followed multiple examples of
Spanish sectarian excess: destruction of an early Lutheran community in Seville (1557-’58), slaughter of two Huguenot
colonies in Florida (1566), annihilation of
Sir John Hawkins’s fleet off Veracruz
(1568). See Parker, Philip II, p. 117, Maltby, Legend, pp. 32-34.
The version of The
Spoyle published within a month of its delivery includes – together
with errata – a preface
“To the Reader” that hastens “to advertise thee, that these
outrages and disordered cruelties done to our nation, proceeded but from the
common Souldiers: . . . So that I
hope…the king, their Maister, will take such good order for redress
thereof, as our countrymen in the end, shall rest satisfyed with reason, and
the amytye betweene our most gracious Soveraigne and him, shal remain also firm
& unviolate” (589). In
case Philip prevails, no Spanish gentleman-officer will stand accused.
Lance Butler, Registering
the Difference (Manchester, UK, 1999), pp. 84, 196. For Butler on Bakhtin, see pp. 79-81, 93, 107-10;
on decorum, pp. 26-28. Bakhtin
discusses heteroglossia in “Discourse in the Novel,” esp. pp. 265,
271-72, 281-85 in Michael Holquist’s collection The Dialogic Imagination (Austin,
1981); the concept extends readily to non-fiction prose. Bakhtin illustrates his conception
primarily in Dostoevsky; Butler
analyzes register in Iris Murdoch, John Fowles, Johnson, Pope, Thackeray, R.L.
Stevenson, T.E. Lawrence, and – extensively – in Hardy and Becket.
The first modern scholar to examine The Spoyle of Antwerpe as a literary
text was William E. Sheidley; in his sound introduction to the work, “
George Gascoigne and The Spoyle of
Antwerpe” (War, Literature, and
the Arts 8 (1996),) he is most effective on its presentation of
Gascoigne’s personal experience as actor and interpreter.
The payment of soldiers’ wages in the sixteenth
century was erratic and almost always in arrears; often they were not paid
until an entire campaign was over (see Geoffrey Parker, The Army of Flanders and the Spanish
Road, 1567-1659 (Cambridge, UK
2004), pp. 154-56). For the
multinational forces under Spanish control in the Low Countries, this problem
was particularly pressing; although Gascoigne does not cite it, chronic
underpayment was a significant cause of the imperial soldiers’
“Mewtinyes” (591) and determination to plunder the rich pickings of
Antwerp. Mutinies – with
wages as a major grievance – had already occurred in the
in 1573, ’74, and ’75.
The Origins of War in Early Modern
(Edinburgh, 1987), pp. 1, 5.
Although Gascoigne comes down hard on
obviously-overmatched Walloon troops for retreating in chaos, he observes one
heroic leader on the Netherlandish side: “At last, a Wallon Trumpeter on
horsback (who seemed to be but a Boy of yeres) drew his sworde, and layd about
him crying, Ou est que vous eufuiez
canaille? faisons teste pour le
honeur de la patrie. Wherewith,
fyfty or three score of them turned head, and went backewardes toward the
Bource” (594). No nation
is completely contemptible.
S. M. Pratt, in “Antwerp and the Elizabethan Mind,” MLQ 24 (1963), pp. 56-59, proposes a
“genre of alarm” based on this concept. After The Spoyle appeared, use of Antwerp’s
destruction as a warning to rich, proud London
was taken up from balladeers to Nashe, Stow
and Deloney (Pratt, pp. 54, 56-57).
The most immediate source is Peter Morwen’s 1558 translation of
Joseph Ben Gorion’s History of the
Latter Times of the Jews’ Commonweal. But Gascoigne does not limit his
evocation of God’s punishment to Netherlanders: the Spanish in their
insolence (599) are also warned to “refrayne to provoke Gods wrath by sheadding of innocente
blood” (596; emphasis added).
It is worth noting that Erasmus, among reformers from Wycliffe at least
to Luther, regarded the Ottomans as God’s scourge upon Christianity,
whether for Catholic error or for the schism between Protestant and Catholic
(Norman Housley, The Later Crusades
(Oxford, UK, 1992), pp. 132-33, 412-25).
In Crusading and Warfare in Early
Modern Europe (Ashgate, 2001), Housley specifically analyzes
Erasmus’s Consultatio de
bello Turcis inferendo
(esp. pp. 268-273). In this vein,Gascoigne once again links
Spaniards to Turks.
Greenblatt, p. 145.
Prouty, p. 238; Maltby, Legend, pp. 51-52.
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