Muly Molocco

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Anon. >(1592)
George Peele? (1589)

Historical Records

Performance Records

Playlists in Philip Henslowe's diary

Fol. 7 (Greg I, 13)

Res at mvlomvrco the 20 of febreary ...................... xxixs
Res at mvlamvlluco the 29 of febreary 1591 ...................... xviijs
Res at mvlo mvllocco the 17 of marche 1591 ...................... xxviijs vjd
Res at mvlomvlucko the 29 of marche 1591 ...................... iijli ijs
Res at mvlo mvloco the 8 of aprell 1591 J. h-01-10--00... xxiijs

Fol. 7v (Greg I, 14)

Res at mvllo mvlluco the 17 of aprell 1591 ...................... xxxs
Res at mvlo mvloco the 27 of aprell 1592 ...................... xxvjs
Res 24li Res at mvlo mvlluco the 30 of aprell 159[1]2 ...................... lviijs
Res at mvllomvloco the 17 of maye 1592 ...................... xxxvjs vjd
Res at mvlemvloco the [22] 31 of maye 1592 ...................... xxiiijs

Fol. 8 (Greg I, 15)

Res at mvlemvloco the 13 of June 1592 .............................. xxs
In the Name of god Amen 159[2]3
beginnge the 29 of desembʒ
Res at mvlomulluco the 29 of desembʒ 1592 ...................... iijli xs
Res at mvlo mulocko the 9 of Jenewarye 1593 ...................... xxs
Res at mvlomvlco the 20 of Jenewarye 1593 ...................... xxs

Theatrical Provenance

"Muly Molocco" was performed at the Rose playhouse by Lord Strange's men in 1592 from 2 February through 13 June; it continued in the repertory for three performances the following winter, 29 December 1592 through 20 January 1593.

Wiggins, Catalogue (#918), who customarily backdates to 1591 the plays not marked "ne" in Henslowe's list for Strange's men in the spring of 1592, assigns "Muly Mulocco" to 1592 because its 14 performances suggest to him that it was "very near the start of its repertory life" when Henslowe began to enter performances at the Rose. See Wiggins, Catalogue #878, for a discussion of the dating of non-ne plays in the diary in 1592.

Probable Genre(s)

Foreign History (Harbage)

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

If "Muly Molocco" is a discrete play, now lost

Its sources are unidentified.

If "Muly Molocco" is The Battle of Alcazar

It is not a lost play. The definitive summary of sources for the extant play is in The Dramatic Works of George Peele, vol. 2; John Yoklavich, editor of The Battle of Alcazar, provides both a discussion of the sources (pp. 227-79) and a "Special Bibliography" of accounts of the historical battle (pp. 369-73). In The Stukeley Plays Charles Edelman discusses the sources also (pp. 10-16).

References to the Play

If "Muly Molocco" is The Battle of Alcazar

It is alluded to in the following plays by way of Calipolis, the wife of Muly Mahamet, the villainous Moor: 2 Henry IV, William Shakespeare; Satiromastix, Thomas Dekker; What You Will, John Marston; and Poetaster, Ben Jonson. Shakespeare's Pistol alludes to Calipolis and Hiren (of The Turkish Mahomet and Hiren the Fair Greek) in the same context (II.iv.156, 175); in Dekker's play, the same character (Tucca) alludes to Calipolis and Hiren, but in separate contexts (IV.1.150, IV.iii.243-4).

Critical Commentary

The identification of "Muly Molocco" as George Peele's The Battle of Alcazar begins with Malone (p. 290), who asserts that the diary entry "probably" referred to the play printed in 1594; he backs up his claim by citing a line from the Presenter's opening speech, which serves in part to name the upcoming characters, and which is the first instance in which Abdelmelec (uncle and enemy of Muly Mahamet, the Moor) is called Muly Molocco (Yoklavich, p. 296, 1.12). Collier agrees that Malone had identified the play "probably correctly" as Peele's (p. 21, n.1). Fleay, BCED considers the identification so correct that he does not give "Muly Molocco" its own entry; the title is added to the index-entry for The Battle of Alcazar, but in the item for the Peele play, "Muly Molocco" is not mentioned (2.154 #8). See Yoklavich for a more detailed history of the early ascription (pp. 218-19).

In 1908 Greg II calls the lumping "uncertain" (#2, p. 149). He thinks that it is "difficult to see how [Abelmelec's name] could become the title of the play as we have it" (#2, p. 149). He then provides a backstory in which the Admiral's men "lent [Battle of Alcazar] to Strange's while they themselves were travelling"; extending this supposition, he then offers two scenarios in which one company had "the altered version" while the other had "the full version." He isn't sure which version made the touring circuit, but he does place the one extant in the 1594 quarto in the Admiral's hands for a revival post-1594 (#2, p. 149). Over time, Greg's opinion evolves. In 1923, in Two Elizabethan Stage Abridgements, he returns to the vexed issue of play migration across company lines, raising "the chance of a play [from the repertory of the Admiral's company of 1586/7+] having been privately owned by Edward Alleyn" (p. 10). He does not have evidence that Peele's play was Alleyn's property, but he nonetheless considers whether The Battle of Alcazar was performed by Strange's men as "Muly Molocco" and decides that it was "more likely" to have been "a rival" than the same play by a different title (p. 11). Having rejected the identification of Battle of Alcazar with "Muly Molocco," Greg then offers another explanation for the presence of Peele's play in the Admiral's men's repertory during the years of Henslowe's diary (but not there recorded by that title): he identifies "Mahomet" in the Admiral's 1594 repertory as Peele's play (p. 12). He strengthens his argument by pointing out that Alleyn had indeed owned "Mahomet," which he sold to the company in August 1601. In a note, Greg whimsically constructs "a pretty story" in which Alleyn did loan the Peele play to Strange's men, who played it under the title of "Muly Molocco" (p. 12, n.1). In 1931, in Dramatic Documents from the Elizabethan Playhouses, Greg backs away from the identification of Peele's play with either of the Henslowe titles, characterizing previous scholarly attempts to do so as "not ... very successful" (p. 145).

Issues in the identification of "Muly Molocco" as a discrete play, now lost, or the extant Battle of Alcazar by George Peele:

Henslowe's title
By calling the play in the offerings of Strange's men "mvlomvrco" (variously spelled, and modernized here as "Muly Molocco"), Henslowe was pointing at one of the elder set of kings in the historical narrative that centers on the battle near Ksar El Kebir in Morocco in August 1578. This king is called Abdelmelec frequently in The Battle of Alcazar but twice he is called "Muly Molocco." According to Yoklavich, "Abdelmelec was almost always called 'Muly Molocco' in a large body of contemporary literature" (p. 222). The issue, therefore, is not who Muly Molocco was as a historical figure but whether Henslowe was calling the play by its title character, in which case "Muly Molocco" is likely a discrete play (now lost), or whether he was calling it by "one of the important characters" in The Battle of Alcazar but "certainly not the most prominent one" (Yoklavich, p. 222). Yoklavich, agreeing with Greg II (#2, p. 149), leans toward considering it "a rival of Alcazar" (p. 222). Bradley and Edelman, who support the identification of "Muly Molocco" with The Battle of Alcazar, argue that Abdelmelec is more important than Yoklavich grants as evidenced by the fact that his corpse—"set up in a chair on stage"—presides over the battle in Act V (Bradley 139) as well as by the fact that his fortunes are at the center of the extant play (Edelman, "Battle," 217). Manley and MacLean also accept the identification of "Muly Molocco" as The Battle of Alcazar (pp. 75-78); indeed, they drop Henslowe's title and substitute Peele's in discussions of the play in repertory (e.g., pp. 217-8).
Wiggins (Catalogue #918) is not persuaded by arguments that lump "Muly Molocco" with The Battle of Alcazar and/or "Mahomet." He conjectures its subject as "broadly the same" as Peele's play "but with a different emphasis." He rejects the argument that the Elizabethan theatrical marketplace could support only one play on a given subject; as an example of like-yet-different stories, he offers an alternative episode in "Muly Molocco" on the title character's "exile in Constantinople (to say nothing of the possibility of a substantial helping of fictional matter)."
Edward Alleyn's role
Scholarly decisions about "Muly Molocco" rely on the widespread assumption in theater history that Alleyn would have taken the leading role in any play in which he performed. Presumably, therefore, Henslowe chose to call "Muly Molocco" by this non-major character (rather than call it The Battle of Alcazar) because Alleyn, who was with Strange's men in 1592-3, played that role. Edelman appears to make this assertion in the claim that "by whatever title, it ["Muly Molocco"] was Alleyn's play” ("Battle," 216). Inconveniently for this argument, Alleyn is assigned the role of Muly Mahamet, the villainous Moor and nephew to Abdelmelec, in the extant Plot of The Battle of Alcazar (the role of Abdelmelec is assigned to Thomas Downton). It is certainly possible that Alleyn played the smaller part of the elder king in 1592 yet the larger part of the younger challenger at a later revival, but such a possibility strains conventional wisdom on the casting habits of the adult companies.

In terms of Alleyn's role, Manley and MacLean repeat Greg's "pretty little story" in Two Elizabethan Stage Abridgements and identify both play titles with that of "Mahomet" in the repertory of the Admiral's men in 1594 (see Greg's Two Elizabethan Stage Abridgements, p. 12, n.1). According to that story, Alleyn acquired The Battle of Alcazar during its maiden run with the Admiral's men (c. 1589-90); he then "would have loaned it to Strange's men in 1592 as Muly Molocco, and on rejoining his own company in 1594 have allowed them to revive it as mahomett" (Manley and MacLean, p. 77).

For What It's Worth

Henslowe's habits of assigning titles

Henslowe did occasionally enter performances of plays by their main characters even though the plays were known in print by another title. Two salient examples from entries for Strange's men in 1592-3 are "Jeronymo" and "the tragedey of the gvyes," generally believed to be The Spanish Tragedy by Thomas Kyd and The Massacre at Paris by Christopher Marlowe, respectively. Henslowe used the title, "Joronymo," again in January 1597. Scholars have presumed that this entry also was for The Spanish Tragedy, but the entry is attracting fresh scrutiny (see Syme). After all, Henslowe marked it with an "ne" (later erased). Much more often than not, his "ne" marked the stage debut of a play (though scholars traditionally have questioned Henslowe's consistency with this enigmatic mark, there is only one unmistakeable instance of his marking the revival of a play "ne": the "Tamar Cham" plays in May/June 1596). It may well be that the 1597 "Jeronimo" was a new play made out of the narrative complex that supplied also The Spanish Tragedy, The First Part of Jeronimo, and what Henslowe called the spanes comodye donne oracioe. Erasures are hard to date in manuscripts.

Company ownership

The Battle of Alcazar was published in 1594 with a title-page advertisement of the Admiral's men. In order to identify performances of that play under the title "Muly Molocco" in Henslowe's book of accounts, scholars must assume that Strange's men acquired the play from the Admiral's men c. 1590 (perhaps via Alleyn) and that it passed to the Admiral's men of 1594 in time for the revival for which the plot was constructed. Not many of the plays in the repertory of Strange's men can be documented as following a track from the earlier Admiral's to Strange's to the later Admiral's, but one can: Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta (if indeed the Admiral's men were its original owner). A second play, which made its debut with Strange's men, migrated to the 1594+ Admiral's men: The Massacre at Paris. Both companies also had a Friar Bacon play, but it is not clear which text/s these entries in Henslowe's diary represent.

Henslowe's diary and Peele's Battle of Alcazar

If neither "Muly Molocco" nor "Mahomet" is Peele's Battle of Alcazar as it is known by its 1594 edition and its surviving theatrical plot (1601?), then why is The Battle of Alcazar not in Henslowe's records given that the plot contains the names of players with the Admiral's men post-1594? One possibility is that the revival did not require expenses such as fresh costumes or properties. Yoklavich bases his skepticism in identifying either "Muly Molocco" or "Mahomet" as The Battle of Alcazar on the observation that "both the quarto and the playhouse document called the 'plot' bear the title The Battle of Alcazar, and there is no evidence the play was known by a nickname" (p. 223). A piece of evidence that cuts both ways is the Admiral's purchase of "Mahomet" from Alleyn on 22 August 1601. The coincidence of this purchase with the assigned date of the plot of Battle of Alcazar could mean that Henslowe considered the titles interchangeable; or, the absence of a payment for staging expenses for either play could mean that both were revived in some sort of serial or duplicate-narrative plan.

Works Cited

Bradley, David. From Text to Performance in the Elizabethan Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
Edelman, Charles. "The Battle of Alcazar, Muly Molocco, and Shakespeare's 2 and 3 Henry VI," Notes and Queries 49.2 (2002): 215-18.

— — —. The Stukeley Plays. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005. Google Books

Greg, W. W. Two Elizabethan Stage Abridgements: The Battle of Alcazar & Orlando Furioso. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1923.
— — —. Dramatic Documents from the Elizabethan Playhouses: Stage Plots, Actors' Parts, Prompt Books. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1931.
Syme, Holger, (2013), ‘Shakespeare and The Spanish Tragedy: A Challenge for Theatre History, Dispositio, 31 August.
Yoklavich, John, ed. The Battle of Alcazar, in The Dramatic Works of George Peele, vol. 2. New Haven: Yale University Press, 213-373.

Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; 4 March 2011; updated, 10 July 2020.