Actors Mufti Nassuf etc

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Anon. (probably 1614-1642)


Historical Records

Hill's List of Early Plays in Manuscript

Hill's List was compiled by the book collector Abraham Hill (1635-1721): "The list seems to have been Hill's record of the stock of some bookseller, set down between 1677 and 1703, but it is notable that nearly all the identifiable plays and playwrights of the list are Jacobean or Caroline" (Bentley, 5.1283). The list was transcribed by J.Q. Adams, who also added numbers for ease of reference. Adams's Record 34 runs as follows:
34 Tereus with a pastoral M.A
Actors. Agnostus Eupathus &c
Actors Mufti Nassuf &c

Sloane ms 2893 p190 Tereus.jpg

Theatrical Provenance

Unknown, but of the other play-titles on the list, ten can be associated with the professional theatre. The presumption, then, is that this play too came from that theatre.

Probable Genre(s)

Turk play
History/current affairs play

Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

The career of Nasuf Pasha, Grand Vizier of Constantinople, executed in 1614.

References to the Play

None known

Critical Commentary

The only discussions of this record prior to the Lost Plays Database are those of Adams and Bentley. Both list Record 34 as if a single play, and then consider the possibility that there might be two separate plays contained within it. Thus, Adams comments that the details of Record 34 are hard to interpret:

To me it seems likely that Hill is describing a single dramatic manuscript in two parts, and quoting the name of typical "actors" from both parts by way of illustrating each. (94)

The implication here is that the two parts are, firstly, a play about Tereus, and secondly, a pastoral, and that one should imagine a mufti somehow featuring in a pastoral, perhaps as comic relief. Similarly, Bentley discusses the problem under an entry for M.A.'s Tereus with a Pastoral (?), observing that "This rather enigmatic set of notes might indicate one play or two", or, again, one dramatic manuscript in two parts. Bentley adds: "neither Tereus nor any of the character names is familiar from other seventeenth-century records". (Bentley, 3.1)

Matthew Steggle uses an EEBO-TCP search to argue that "Nassuf" is likely to refer to Nasuf Pasha, Grand Vizier of Constantinople until his gruesome execution in 1614. Given this fact, Record 34 must in fact refer to more than one play. Steggle explores retellings of the Nassuf story in English, French, and Spanish sources of the early seventeenth century, concluding:
To sum up: the lost play here called Actors Mufti Nassuf &c featured, as a character, Nassuf, Grand Vizier of Constantinople in the reign of Ahmed I. It was therefore a play about near-contemporary Turkish history. Given the meteoric nature of Nassuf's rise and fall, it is hard to see the play as other than a tragedy culminating in Nassuf's violent death, in his own house, by strangling and knife.

For more on the other play(s) referred to in Record 34, see Tereus with a pastoral.

For What It's Worth

Works Cited

Adams, Joseph Quincy. “Hill’s List of Early Plays in Manuscript,” The Library 20 (19 39): 71-99.
Harbage, Alfred. "Elizabethan: Restoration Palimpsest", Modern Language Review 35 (1940): 287-319.
Steggle, Matthew. "A Lost Turk Play: Actors Mufti Nassuf &c (1614-42)", Ben Jonson Journal 19.1 (May, 2012): 45-64.

Site created and maintained by Matthew Steggle, Sheffield Hallam University: updated 08 Nov 2012.

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