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A character in the play "The widdow Ranter": Semernia, a Native American queen, with two black pageboys. Mezzotint by W. Vincent.

Vincent, William, active 17th century.
Date
[1690?]

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Free to use with attribution CC BYCredit: Wellcome Collection
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Identified by Chaloner Smith (loc. cit.) as the actress Anne Bracegirdle in character. She may be playing the role of Semernia, the Native American queen, in Aphra Behn's play "The widdow Ranter" (1688-1689). She wears a headdress of feathers and pearls, earrings, a necklace, and bracelets and a fringed dress. She holds a fan of feathers and is attended by two black boys, of whom one holds her train and the other a parasol over her head. In the background is a landscape with a river and hills, supposed to represent the "sevana" (savannah) of Virginia. She is described in the Dramatis personae as "Indian Queen, call'd Semernia, belov'd by [Nathaniel] Bacon" (edition published in Lon don by James Knapton, 1690). In Act V scene 1 she appears disguised as a male Native American warrior and is killed by Bacon: previously she appears in female dress, as here. Less likely (as there is no suitable scene in the play) is the interpretation of Chaloner Smith (loc. cit.) , who identifies her as the title character in The Indian queen, a play by Sir Robert Howard and John Dryden, which was first performed in 1664: it was set in Mexico "The widdow Ranter, or, The history of Bacon in Virginia was probably written in 1688, first performed in late 1689, and published in 1690. It is a highly fictionalized drama of Bacon's Rebellion of 1676 in Virginia, when Nathaniel Bacon (c.1640-1676), commander of a volunteer force of Indian fighters, succeeded for several months in overthrowing the government of Sir William Berkeley, who had declared Bacon a rebel and refused to countenance or commission his actions against the Indians. Mrs. Behn's play casts Bacon as a classical hero, motivated by "Honour", and in love with an Indian princess. A variety of supporting characters present a less-than-flattering picture of colonial life and mores. The title character, the young and wealthy widow Ranter, puts on mens clothes and fights in several battles. The work ends tragically for Bacon, the Indian princess Semernia, and the Indian king Cavarnio; but comically and happily for everyone else. Its treatments of race, class, gender, rebellion, cross-dressing, sexuality, and miscegenation make it full of interest for a wide range of students of early America"--Paul Royster, Electronic texts in American studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, online December 2018

Publication/Creation

[London] : J. Smith ex, [1690?]

Physical description

1 print : mezzotint

Lettering

The Indian queen. W. Vincent fe.

Language

  • English


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You can use this work for any purpose, including commercial uses, without restriction under copyright law. You should also provide attribution to the original work, source and licence.

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) terms and conditions https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0

Credit

A character in the play "The widdow Ranter": Semernia, a Native American queen, with two black pageboys. Mezzotint by W. Vincent. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY


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