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Tag: Thomas Sampson

Black Skin – 16th Century English Literature

Ieremiah, in The Bible and Holy Scriptures, i.e. the Geneva Bible, trans. William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, Thomas Sampson (Geneva, 1560):

Can the blacke More change his skin? or the leopard his spottes? (then) maieye also do good, that are accustomed to do euil. (13.23)

Thomas Elyot, Bibliotheca Eliotae (London: Thomae Bertheleti, 1542): Aethiopem lauas, thou washest a Moren, or Moore, A prouerbe applied to hym that praiseth a thyng that is nought, or teacheth a natural fool wisdom. This prouerb grew of one that bought a Mooren, and thynkynge that the blackness of his saynne happened by the negligence of his fyrste mayster, he ceased not to wasshe the Mooren continually with suche thinges, as he thought wold make him whyte, by the which labour and washynge he so vexed the poor slave, that he brought him into a great sickness, his skynne remainynge styll as blacke as it was before.

Misogonus (Kettheringe: Laurentius Bariwna, 1577):

[Cac.]  I am, by my country and birth, a true Egyptian; I have seen the black Moors and the men of Cyne. My father was also a natural Ethiopian. I must needs be very cunning, I have it by kind. (3.3)

Duarte Lopes, A Report of the Kingdome of Congo (London: John Wolfe, 1597): 

The inhabitantes of this coast, which dwell betweene these two points, are of colour blacke, although the Pole Antarctike in that place be in the eleuation of thirtie and fiue degrees, which is a very strange thing: yea the rude people that liue among the most colde mountains of the Moore  are blacke also. This I write of purpose, to aduise and moue the Philosophers  and such as search the effectes of nature, that they would fall into their deepe contemplation and speculation, & thereupon teach vs, whether this blacke colour be occasioned by the Sunne, or by any other secrete and vnknowne cause: Which question I for this time doe meane to leaue vndecided. (188)

Richard Barckley, The Felicitie of Man (London: R. Young, 1631): 

Black is no deformitie among the Moores. (28)

Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine the Great, Part II (London: Richard Jones, 1590):

“Tech.  And, mighty Tamburlaine, our earthly God, Whose looks make this inferior world to quake, I here present thee with the crowne of Fesse, And with an hoste of Moores trainde to the war, Whose coleblacke faces make their foes retire, And quake for feare, as if infernall Ioue, Meaning to aid them in this Turkish armes, Should pierce the blacke circumference of hell, With vgly Furies bearing fiery flags, And millions of his strong tormenting word. (1.6)”

William Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus (1593-94), in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997):  

[Aar.] “O how this villainy Doth fat me with the very thoughts of it! Let fools do good, and fair men call for grace, Aaron will have his soul black like his face. (3.1.202-05)”

George Peele, The Battell of Alcazar (London: Edward Allde for Richard Bankworth, 1594): 

“Enter the Presenter.    Honor the spurre that pricks the princely minde, To followe rule and climbe the stately chaire, With great desire inflames the Portingall, An honorable and couragious king, To vndertake a dangerous dreadfull warre, And aide with christian armes the barbarous Moore, The Negro Muly Hamet that with-holds The kingdome from his vnkle Abdilmelec,Whom proud Abdallas wrongd, And in his throne instals his cruell sonne, That now vsurps vpon this prince, This braue Barbarian Lord Muly Morocco. The passage to the crowne by murder made, Abdallas dies, and deisnes this tyrant king, Of whome we treate sprong from the Arabian moore Blacke in his looke, and bloudie in his deeds, And in his shirt staind with a cloud of gore, Presents himselfe with naked sword in hand, Accompanied as now you may behold, With deuils coted in the shapes of men. (A2)”

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (1596-97), in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin, 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997):

 “[Serv.]  There is a forerunner come from a fift, the Prince of Morocco, who brings word the Prince his master will be here to-night.”


Por.  “If I could bid the fift welcome with so good heart as I bid the other four farewell, I should be glad of his approach. If he have the condition of a saint and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me. (1.2.124-31)”

George Chapman, The Blinde Begger of Alexandria (London: J. Roberts for William Iones, 1598):

 Enter a messenger. Arme arme my Lord, my Lords to instant armes,Foure  mightie kinges are landed in thy coast, And threaten death and ruine to thy land, Blacke Porus the Aethiopian king, Comes marching first with twentie thousand men.”

Attributed to Thomas Dekker, Lust’s Dominion (ca. 1600), ed. Francis Kirkman (London: Francis Kirkman, 1657):

 Eleaz. I cannot ride through the Castilian streets But thousand eies through windows, and through doors Throw killing looks at me, and every flave At Eleazar darts a finger out, And every hissing tongue cries, There’s the Moor, That’s he that makes a Cuckold of our King,there go’s the Minion of the Spanish Queen; That’s the black Prince of Divels. (1.1)”

King Port.  “Poor Spain, how is the body of thy peace Mangled and torn by an ambitious Moor! (4.1)”

Phil. “And for this Barbarous Moor, and his black train, Let all the Moors be banished from Spain! (5.6)”

Source: Black Skin in Early English Literature 

Source: Black Skin on the Elizabethan Stage

“By the later Middle Ages, Europeans used the word “Saracen” as a pejorative term for any Muslim. However, there was also a racial belief current at the time that Saracens were blackskinned. The Muslims didn’t take this insulting name lying down, however. They had their own none-too-complimentary term for the European invaders, as well. To the Europeans, all Muslims were Saracens. And to the Muslim defenders, all Europeans were Franks (or Frenchmen) — even if those Europeans were English.”

Citing Szczepanski, Kallie. “Who Were the Saracens?” ThoughtCo, Jul. 5, 2018,