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This is page 11 of a 13 page article. Go to previous page. Go to Introduction.

III. Thomas Doughtie: the Motion Picture - Fictive Histories and Imperialist Fictions Edit

There is something about the Doughtie affair which makes historians inevitably slip into the spinning of imaginative discourse. As we have witnessed, many authors exaggerate or stretch the actual details of the story. For example, while it was true that Doughtie, as revealed in his will, had a profit motive for undertaking the voyage, it is unfair to portray him as desperately money-grubbing. His will also reveals that he had no need for money – that unlike most men of his age (or ours!) he avoided debt and in fact loaned funds to multiple people. So it is hardly fair to say that he followed Essex to Ireland as “part of that collection of minor aristocrats and younger sons” (he was certainly the eldest son, and had already come into his inheritance) and evoke the quote “martial men presently bear no price” (Coote 81). Martial men are rarely wealthy, but property is always a good investment, and until he was summarily deprived of it, Doughtie had a good head for business. Doughtie’s refined behavior is also exaggerated, perhaps to establish a contrast with the rough-hewn Drake, perhaps in the vein of anti-intellectualism which permeates the Drake-Doughtie narrative: “Drake himself, with his yeoman’s background, although formerly very friendly towards him, had evidently convinced himself that this softly spoken, articulate man was not to be trusted” (Roche 64). Perhaps Doughtie was articulate, but based on the evidence of the trial documents, he was hardly “softly-spoken.” An even more common exaggeration is Doughtie’s legal acumen: “Now Doughty was not only an educated, articulate gentleman, but a lawyer, such a lawyer as few could master, according to Parson Fletcher,” (Sugden 109). This is a misreading of Fletcher, who says that Doughtie was “not behind many in the study of the law for his tyme,” (Drake 63 Fletcher note). There is a world of difference between saying that someone is a promising law student or a top-flight lawyer. Doughtie was never called to the bar; nevertheless, he lost a rather significant case.

These misrepresentations seem relatively benign compared to the authors who make up parts of the story prejudicial towards Doughtie. We have already examined reports of Doughtie as Spanish agent, Doughtie attempting to sail away with one of the ships, Doughtie convincing Cuttill to arrange a mutiny at Seal Bay. There are also spiteful little details added for the simple purpose of making Doughtie petty and dislikable (for the late 20th-early 21st century audience, stylish evil is admirable; expendable villains are marked by incompetence and lack of finesse). For example, Ronald inserts the detail that Doughtie continued to harangue Drake while he was mourning the death of the two men killed on the first day at San Julian (218). Not only is there no evidence of this, but by this time the Doughties were on the Elizabeth, her crew was forbidden to speak to them. Unless the pair were planning to convince the anchor to desert, it scarcely seems likely.

The distortions of Thomas Doughtie seem to follow fashions. A review of popular biographies of Drake (and a few historians who really should have known better) reveals that it is possible to attribute a date to most published accounts by analyzing the behavior of Drake and Doughtie in the story. Repentant gentleman Doughtie and trusting, honorable Sir Francis is the seventeenth century version; scheming, manipulative mastermind Doughtie and intrepid, heroic Captain Drake is the nineteenth century version; petty, bragging, inept Doughtie and bloodthirsty, controlling pirate Drake is the twentieth century adaptation of the tale (eighteenth century accounts are few, but are, in general, skeptical of the necessity of Drake’s actions - see Johnson, Kenrick). These authors seem wholly unconscious that they are portraying Drake and Doughtie as the hero (or antihero) and villain that the zeitgeist demands. The methodology of distortions is consistent as well – the seventeenth century author will repeat the beautiful lie, the nineteenth century one will ignore or misread inconvenient evidence, generally arguing that the source is untrustworthy if it is critical of Drake, the twentieth century one, far more sophisticated, includes meticulous amounts of evidence while ignoring or altering the context of that evidence.

In the latter category there are several common tactics. One is recounting the tale beginning in Plymouth, using details from Ned Bright’s story while not identifying them as alleged testimony instead of fact. The reader is then biased to believe that Doughtie intended mutiny from the very beginning. This tactic is employed by Bawlf, Sugden, and Ronald, among others. Of course, the inconsistencies and improbabilities in the story are ignored while retaining the general atmosphere of discontent and hinted sedition. Another common tactic is the misrepresentation of the order of events. Usually, incidents that allegedly happened on the Swan are placed on the Pelican instead, or even before the fleet reaches Africa. Stephen Coote’s biography of Drake is archetypical in following this formula. This allows for an escalating series of events; thus Sugden can say that on the Swan Doughtie was “…singing his familiar song, promoting his own authority at the expense of Drake’s,” (105). In fact, the song Doughtie was singing on the Pelican was “the General hath his authority from her highness the Queen’s majesty and her Council such as hath not been committed almost to any subject afore this time,” (qtd. in Corbett 235). Upon scrutiny, these distortions create contradictions in the narrative – Temple has the Doughties “interfering with the men” during their imprisonment on the Elizabeth (xxxiii), doubtless in semaphore. Sugden places Doughtie’s talk with Ned Bright in his cabin while he is captain of the Pelican. We can place this story contextually because Doughtie, Drake and Bright are all on the Pelican together, which means it must have happened before Doughtie took the Mary. But even if this subtle detail of chronology is overlooked, surely it must be plain that Doughtie would hardly say to Ned Bright that he “loved and made account of” the carpenter after he had made false report to Drake that Doughtie had stolen from the prize.

Rearranging the chronology is not only used to create a sense of an ever-escalating threat from the Doughties. Changing the context in which they were spoken also completely alters the meaning of some of Doughtie’s statements. For example, to say, “I’m an investor in this voyage, and Drake owes his preferment to me,” sounds insufferably boastful and a bit provocative coming from the captain of the fleet’s flagship, but in its original context – when Doughtie was a virtual prisoner, surrounded by enemies and denied food – it has a completely different implication. Another tactic, perhaps fair, but a rhetorical maneuver nonetheless, is to introduce a non-sequitur passage lauding Drake in the midst of a problematic scene with Doughtie. Sugden finds it meet to extol Drake’s “relative humanism” to the indigenous peoples he meets between binding Doughtie to the mast and bringing him up for trial (106). The unspoken implication is that this kindly soul would not undertake the condemnation of his former best friend lightly.

But perhaps the most interesting category of fictive history is when the writer makes an imaginative leap from documented facts into narrative storytelling. Take, for example, the website of the Nicasio Historical Society of Marin County (who demonstrate their historical acumen by stating that it was John, not Thomas, Doughtie who was killed at San Julian): “It is said that as the head fell to the sand on that cold and desolate South American beach, with the blood dripping at the neck freezing into scarlet icicles, Drake lifted it high on his sword and said, ‘Loo, this be the end of traitors.’” This story is not only fictionalized, but the sheer physical improbability of it taxes belief. Even Doughtie’s sympathizers can’t resist the urge to embellish the tale: “Huts were built on the island, the seamen doing the work while the gentlemen watched, and Drake had Doughty closely guarded. Several of the ship captains cast sympathetic glances towards Doughty,” (Sanderlin 65). The real winner in this category is E.F. Benson, who in his 1927 biography of Drake, attempts an apologia for Drake’s belief in witchcraft which spins into the third person limited point-of-view: “Could it be that he [Drake] was carrying with him some malignant controller of the elements, who, by his incantations, was responsible for these adversities? He began to brood over that…Or it was night, and for coolness he lay on deck. His brother was there by him and neither could sleep for the heat…as he grew drowsy, the two threads of thought, separate hitherto, began to weave themselves together, and now he was broad awake again…” (119). Not only does Benson propose to tell us the facts of the narrative, he will show us how Drake felt about these events. This is the work of a literary author, not a historian.

But these fictive histories have a long pedigree, for the first author of fanciful narratives concerning Thomas Doughtie is Francis Drake. By the time he captures the sniveling hildago Don Francisco de Zárate, Drake has completely rewritten the incident, at least for the benefit of his involuntary guest. It is worth examining in detail Zárate’s description of the incident, told to him during a dinner amongst Drake’s officers, surreal with its silent formality. In this version, Doughtie has objected to the danger of the voyage, arguing that the fleet should return to the North Seas for the sake of plunder instead of progressing on a voyage of discovery. This account surfaces in many later retellings of the Doughtie affair, but it is worthy of note that none of the accusations against Doughtie have him directly challenging the purpose of the voyage. Indeed, it would be strange for him to do so if he were one of the major originators of the original plan, and given the innocuous nature of many of the charges against him, it would seem strange that such a controversial assertion would not have been duly recorded by his detractors.

According to Zárate, Drake’s response is swift. He has Doughtie put in irons below deck, imprisoned only long enough to substantiate the lawsuit against him, and beheaded. Drake is at pains to tell Zárate that it was what service to his queen demanded, and shows the hildago his “commission;” considering that the courtier was unlikely to be able to read English, he apparently takes Drake at his word. At the dinner, Drake speaks “much good about the dead man,” a far cry from his earlier tendency to employ Doughtie’s name as an example of a properly-punished malefactor whenever he wished to intimidate his men into compliance. Cummins charitably interprets this as an indication that Drake felt "troubled" about Doughtie's death (110). Zárate discovers later that John Doughtie is at the table during this dinner, and it is he who observes that during the 55 hours he is on Drake’s ship, Doughtie is watched and not allowed to leave the vessel. One can only imagine the bile John Doughtie felt at hearing Drake’s revisionist history. Zárate ends his account with a statement of debatably ironic intent: “I managed to ascertain whether the General was well liked, and all said that they adored him.”

Another story is told by Juan Pascal, a Portuguese sailor Drake tried to press into service as a pilot, a somewhat different tale. He recounts that Drake consistently frightened his captives into compliance by telling them that he would behead them, that he had, in fact, done so to one of his own officers for “a minor act of insubordination,” (Kelsey 170). To Drake, the Doughtie narrative had become fluid, a piece of propaganda he could use to manipulate both his crew and his prisoners.

More fictive histories circulate when the events become known overseas. A letter from the Spanish ambassador Mendoza alleges the improbable idea that Drake beheaded Doughtie himself (Froude 85). This might be more understandable if the rumor had come from one of the prisoners Drake attempted to intimidate, as it would make Drake seem that much more heartlessly formidable. But the story seems to come from Captain Wynter. Perhaps Wynter wished to impress Drake’s might to the Spaniards, or perhaps the story was simply mistranslated.

The earliest printed version of the Doughtie affair in Stow’s Annales does not even reveal the name of the gentleman in question, and The World Encompassed follows suit. Perhaps there is an eye towards sparing the reputation of a good family, or perhaps avoiding the appearance of slander, or fear of provoking an open conflict. Camden gives the surname correctly, but believes that the afflicted man is John Doughtie, as earlier discussed. He also places the jury at 12, which is what might be expected, rather than the curious number of 40 given by The World Encompassed. These facts, along with the further contents of the text, would seem to indicate that Camden compiled his tale from rumors and various secondhand sources. His report is, on the whole, sympathetic. He describes Doughtie as “Ioannes Doughteius vir gnavus et animosus” (the usual translation is “an industrious and stout man,” but the phrase could have many nuances - “a valiant man (or soldier), industrious and bold” makes more sense in the context of Doughtie’s life) and “the next unto himself [Drake].” Camden’s description of Doughtie’s offenses is curious: “And indeed, the most indifferent in the Fleet judged that he had dealt seditiously, and that Drake cut him off as an emulator of his glory, whilest he regarded, not so much whom hee excelled in glorie for Sea-matters, as who might equall him,” (1580 section 20). The phraseology stresses the rivalry of the two men, and implies that even though Doughtie’s actions were judged seditious, nevertheless, Drake put him down out of fear his own talents might be equaled by Doughtie’s. Camden may be the first author to read rivalry into the story, but he is hardly the last. Thomson sees Drake as resentful of Doughtie’s social standing (108); Gibbs attests that in many areas, Doughtie had the advantage of Drake (39). Coote takes the other tactic, claiming that Doughtie resented Drake’s “personal stature and force of personality,” (93). Neither possibility seems illogical, but the source documents show no indication of jealousy on Doughtie’s part (although he is certainly hyper-conscious of his own status), whereas Drake’s sensitivity about the degree to which Doughtie helped him might be interpreted as a certain insecurity.

But there were more serious rumors in circulation, namely that Drake had functioned as the hired assassin for the Earl of Leicester. “Leicester’s Commonwealth” is the first to print the accusation; in fact, it appears in 1589, before any published version of Drake’s story. This previously unnoticed chronology hints that in the absence of any official version of the circumnavigation, the Doughtie affair had become the subject of ugly speculation. “Leicester’s Commonwealth” is primarily interested in tarring Robert Dudley, and most of its allegations range from hearsay to slander. But the veracity of the text is not of concern here, rather the fact that it either reports or creates a vicious rumor about Drake: “We hear also of one Doughty, hanged in haste by Captain Drake upon the sea, and that by order (as is thought) before his departure out of England, for that he was over-privy to the secrets of this good Earl,” (28). The details are wrong – Doughtie was neither hanged nor was the action “in haste.” It is also unclear which Doughtie is meant – Camden had the wrong brother, after all. The owner of one of the manuscript copies would seem to insert his own interpretation. “Of the Inner Temple,” is added after Doughtie’s name, and there is a note in the margin: “Doughty, this man I knew and was acquainted with; he was with the Earl of Essex at his death and afterwards entertained by my Lord of Leicester” (British Library, Harleian MS. 4020, fo1. 43). This certainly sounds very sinister; however, there are many reasons why Doughtie would be “entertained” by Leicester in the course of his employ with Hatton, and it seems unlikely that Doughtie would travel all the way to Dublin on short notice (the acuteness of the attack of dysentery became apparent on the 8th of September – Essex was dead on the 22nd). The records of Essex’s death are explicit, and do not place Doughtie at his bedside; furthermore, the letter from the Earl on the 18th of September instructs that Doughtie be paid what he is owed “if he have it not alredie” (Camden 6). If Doughtie were present, why would this be an open question? And since the instruction is repeated pretty much verbatim in the list of the Earl’s debts upon his decease, Doughtie was not present to confirm the debt. He most surely would have done so, considering that the Earl's debt is listed in his will of 6 September 1577.

“Leicester’s Commonwealth” is neutral in its attitude towards Doughtie, but by the next century, the rumor has become much more sinister, perhaps embellished with details escaping from the accusations at Thomas Doughtie’s trial. The curious poem, “Leicester’s Ghost,” (1641) half an apologia, half a condemnation of Leicester, has Leicester defending his actions in the afterlife. He implies that Doughtie did himself kill the Earl of Essex, and defends the use of Drake to rid himself of an inconvenient loose end:

But what reward should such a man expect,
Whom gold to any lewdness could entice?
Our turn once served, why should not we reject
So vile an instrument of damned vice?
What if he were dispatched in a trice:
Was it not better this man's blood to spill
Than let him live, the world with sin to fill?
I doubted lest that Doughty would bewray
My counsel, and with others party take,
Wherefore, the sooner him to rid away,
I sent him forth to sea with Captain Drake,
Who knew how to entertain him for my sake;
Before he went, by me his lot was cast;
His death was plotted and performed in haste.
He hoped well, but I did so dispose
That he at Port Saint Gillian lost his head,
Having no time permitted to disclose
The inward griefs that in his mind were bred.
We nothing fear the biting of the dead!
Now let him go, transported by the seas,
And tell my secrets to th' Antipodes.

The Doughtie affair, and the questions surrounding it, must still have been well enough known into the seventeenth century that the Earl of Rochester can casually allude to it as an example of corrupted jurisprudence in “Portsmouth’s Looking Glass.” Lambasting the Duchess of Portsmouth for her political intrigues worked upon the king, Rochester says that under her influence, “He made the Jury come in Booty/ and for your Service, would hang Doughty.”

Obviously, if these rumors got back to the Drake family, they would be disturbing indeed. But the lack of a convincing explanation of exactly what happened between the two former friends surely provided a breeding ground for just this sort of damaging talk and idle speculation, so much so that Drake’s relatives felt it necessary to counter with a damaging rumor of their own. As the story is usually recounted, at a dinner at the home of William Hawkins, his brother-in law Henry Whitaker, receiver of the Port of Plymouth, apparently tells Rev. John Walker that when drunk, Doughtie blurted out that he “lived intimately with the wife of Francis Drake” to Drake himself. Walker is the chaplain of the ship Edward, and at another dinner, one taking place on the Edward, he repeats this gossip to Richard Madox, who reports it in his diary. The conversation, significantly, does not take place until June of 1582, after Mary Drake is already dead (Kelsey 110).

This piece of gossip is taken very seriously by some Drake biographers, who then claim sexual jealousy is a viable motivation for the death of Doughtie. For example, Whitfeld argues that in order for the rumor to have been credible, Doughtie would have to have known and spent time with Mary Drake (56). But when? Certainly not when the two men were in Ireland together, and afterward it is unlikely that Doughtie would pay a call on his friend’s wife alone, without a proper introduction. Doughtie’s acquaintance with Mary Drake would have to be from a time when both Doughtie and Drake were in England together, but while Doughtie was advancing himself at court, Drake was occupying his time in a partnership with Hawkins as an importer of currants from the Mediterranean (Kelsey 75). An additional obstacle is that Doughtie had little reason to visit Plymouth at any point Drake would have been absent – Doughtie’s life was centered around the court at London. Finally, the scenario is made more unlikely (although certainly not impossible) considering that during this period Doughtie was likely preoccupied with his own fiancée/new wife. Sugden questions whether the allegation is logical in the context of the Doughtie affair, and notes that it does not seem to fit the manner in which the explicitly documented quarrel between Drake and Doughtie played out (112).

The story persists because there is a certain literary satisfaction to it. Killing a rival in a jealous rage is a motivation that all can understand. However, the story of the rumor, as thus recounted, is a fiction in itself. Returning to the diary of Madox, the actual account is considerably different from the way it is usually represented. Madox’s entry goes on to say – of Doughtie – “When he later realized his error and feared vengeance, he contrived in every way the ruin of the other, but he himself fell into the pit: he is accused of lese majeste because he said that councilors could be corrupted by gifts” (Donno 184). In other words, the account is not attempting to explain Drake’s actions, but Doughtie’s. It is interesting that the story would be perpetuated by Drake’s own family. To the Elizabethan man, being known as a cuckold was no small matter. Rationalizing Doughtie’s mutinous acts through such a challenge to Drake’s manhood implies that there must have been considerable doubt that Doughtie betrayed Drake even in Drake’s own family. It is also clear that the story is not well-informed; according to Cooke, the charge of lese majeste as produced by Ned Bright was rejected, and Doughtie was condemned for his rash statements on the Swan. Of course, the rumor of Doughtie’s liaison with Mary Drake, whatever its veracity, has the added advantage of quelling another undertone lurking between the lines of the story; if Doughtie and Drake fell out over a woman, then no question need be raised of Doughtie’s “Italianate” habits.

In The World Encompassed, The second Sir Francis Drake employs the opposite tactic from the proceeding narratives - in every sense. Taking the high road, he refuses to sully the reputations of his protagonists. He makes both men appear larger than life, stainless paragons of virtue playing out a curious scene of tragedy. His version of Doughtie comes ready-made; he has access to the martyrdom narrative of Fletcher, and most likely of Cooke. But neither of these accounts is at all flattering to Drake, the subject of this “official” version of the story. Sir Francis the Younger thus creates a version of Drake out of childhood memories and chivalric imagination, a Drake who is the hero of a narrative which is primarily romantic in tone if not in substance.

The Doughtie of The World Encompassed is a character stricken with remorse at the revelation of his misdeeds. He begs the assembled company to take action against him, “that he might not be compelled to enforce his owne hands against his own bowels, or otherwise to become his owne executioner" (65). The company is astonished at this turn of events; according to this account, Doughtie was a popular man, well-liked and generous. But it is Francis Drake’s reaction that is most noteworthy, “...yet the generall was most of all distracted, and therefore withdrewe himselfe, as not able to conceale his tender affection...” and so he impanels a jury of 40 men to decide the case for him. Doughtie is, of course, judged guilty, and Drake responds by giving him a choice of being taken back to England, abandoned in South America, or execution. The alternate solutions proposed by Doughtie and rejected by Drake are, in this narrative, proposed by Drake and rejected by Doughtie, a complete inversion. For Doughtie is desperate not to be left amongst the heathens, “feeling, in his owne frailtie, how mighty the contagion is of lewde custome,” (66). How different a picture than the Doughtie we know from Cooke and Fletcher, a man whose religious conviction at the moment of his death awed the company! Doughtie also rejects a return to England, claiming that no one would want to accompany him – another inversion of the actual events – and that even if he did, the shame of the return was too great for him. He is deaf to the pleas of his companions, stridently insisting that only execution will do, and requesting only that he be allowed to take communion and die a gentleman’s death.

The description of the last meal of Thomas Doughtie in The World Encompassed is particularly florid: “...they dined, also at the same table together, as cheerfully in sobriety, as euer in their liues they had done aforetime: each cheering vp the other, and taking their leave, by drinking each to the other, as if some journey onley had beene in hand,” (Drake 67). In comparison to Cooke, the description of Doughtie’s execution in The World Encompassed is far shorter. The emphasis is shifted from Doughtie’s actions to the relationship between Drake and Doughtie.

An objection might be raised to the idea that this is a romantic narrative. Yet the language, the passion, the emphasis is clearly such, especially in Drake’s descriptions of his feelings for Doughtie. This tendency to romanticize will become even more extreme in some nineteenth century Drake-Doughtie narratives. This is a love story, and perhaps it is a failing of our own culture that we are unable to envision passionate love without a sexual denouement. It is impossible to determine whether the sexual element in this narrative, or in Drake and Doughtie’s actual friendship, is non-existent, sublimated, repressed or overt. It also doesn’t matter, for the pathos of the narrative remains the same, creating a rhetorical problem for later authors of fiction who wish to shift the romantic emphasis to Drake’s rather passionless relationship with his second wife, Elizabeth.

Despite a large body of literature concerning Drake “El Draco” and his exploits, usually featuring the Spanish Armada (see Cummins Sir Francis Drake for an in-depth discussion), literary interest in the Drake-Doughtie conflict is dormant until the nineteenth century. Perhaps for obvious reasons, Drake's immediate predecessors apparently felt that it was difficult to fit the Doughtie affair into a heroic narrative. A resurgence in fascination with Drake occurs when Britain’s increasing colonial investment calls for historical and theoretical underpinnings to support it – and what better hero than Drake, a man who, it is argued, began the push towards British imperialism? John Dee would have been proud. Indeed, this motivation was consciously recognized, even lauded at the time, as stated in a 1910 review for Noyes’ epic poem: Drake is “...the type of the idea incarnate, - the protagonist of the epic struggle which must be waged to make the idea prevail. Here, surely, is a theme of epic magnitude,- a theme closer to the heart of England than that of Paradise Lost, - and a hero resumptive of a nation and representative of a great civilizing cause,” (Hamilton).

But the nineteenth century mind was not enthralled with subtle irony and political intrigues, such as those which led to the earlier satires. The idea of triumph over Spain was, perhaps, a little stale. The contemporary sensibility called for romantic melodrama, requiring an unquestioned hero and an irredeemable villain, and who better than the conquering Dragon and his own personal Judas?

Arthur Floyd Henderson’s poem, “The Mutineer” is perhaps the purest form of the Doughtie-as-villain type. Spoken in the voice of Doughtie during his last meal, the poem portrays Doughtie as a man with a gentleman’s honor and a thug’s morality. He has played a game strictly for profit; losing, he salutes the victor. As typical of the Doughtie-as-villain pieces, the friendship between the men is de-emphasized, and the religious motif completely absent.

The most absurd of the examples is J.C. Cross’ music hall extravaganza, Sir Francis Drake and Iron Arm. Cross’ critical stock has risen as of late due to his theatrical experimentation; nevertheless, this does not save this play from ridiculously bad scripting and blatant racism that is appalling to modern tastes. The production has an almost surreal disregard for history, geography and probability. Doughtie – we are never certain whether it is Thomas or John, and the incidents in the play more closely parallel (parody?) the life of John – somehow ends up at the raid on Carthegena, and John Oxenham becomes the play’s tragic-romantic hero, singing ballads which provoke hilarity:

I wants to come long side a petticoat!
That little Donna! raked me, I must own,
And zounds! avast! straight as a mast, yeo ho! she's bearing down.

The initial rupture between Drake and Doughtie occurs when Doughtie, in search of Spanish plunder, raids a monastery. To make it absolutely clear that Doughtie is an irredeemable miscreant, he is first seen on stage assaulting a nun. Drake dashes him to the ground, replying:

Reptile! the victor's duty is to save,
Beauty from war's encroachments should be free;
Seamen should be benevolent as brave,
The sons of valour and humanity!

Doughty replies by attempting to attack Drake, but Oxenham stops him. From there, the bitter Doughtie allies himself with the Spaniards in an absurd assassination plot, which somehow involves getting Drake to pardon Doughtie as a distraction. The beneficent Drake signs the pardon, but soon Doughtie attacks again. Doughtie is eventually shot by Oxenham, but “Iron Arm” retaliates, killing Oxenham. A veritable plethora of carnage follows with a weeping Drake vowing revenge for Oxenham, Oxenham’s dead love, “the little Donna,” and the child of a dead Cimarron whom Drake adopts as his son, and who is henceforth referred to as “Little Black Francis.”

It is difficult for a twenty-first century researcher to know what to make of this. One is so busy alternately laughing and cringing that it becomes tricky to untangle the underlying themes from the mangled drama. The characters are reduced to mere melodramatic caricatures. Far from the real Doughtie, who in his will admonished his brother to “deale favorablie with the meny Tenanntes” of the houses he has bequeathed, one imagines this cartoonish villain in a black cloak, throwing the heroine destitute into the street. Furthermore, the racism of this script is not incidental to the black vs.white, good vs. evil attitude of the production, but rather intrinsic to it. In perhaps the musical’s most appalling lines, little Francis sings:

No piccanini I, me brave, and free go,
Dis heart be English do my face be Negro.

There could hardly be a more shameful and blatant revelation of the true program of imperialism. Buried in the bad drama is the following message: Francis Drake is the ideal symbol to represent British expansionism. The degradation of Doughtie is necessary to justify the self-righteous actions of Drake, the English hero par excellence. There is one minor consolation: at least Cross spells “Doughtie” correctly.

The 1912 play Drake by Louis N. Parker handles a similar ideology with considerably more taste. Again we find Drake as the hero – the romantic hero this time, as Elizabeth Sydenham pines away for him while he is on the circumnavigation. Oddly, the heroic Drake literature often fixates upon Sydenham, forgetting the existence of Mary Drake entirely. There is also a romantic rivalry between Drake and John Doughtie for Elizabeth’s hand. Thomas is oddly shuffled to the side of the action; for one, he is portrayed as John’s younger brother rather than the other way round. He is quite good friends with Drake until John contrives to make him jealous of the advancement of his friend. John is portrayed as being a Spanish agent from the outset, something which Thomas warns him against.

The incident that Ned Bright claimed occurred in the garden is transformed into a scene between Burghley and Thomas. Doughtie decries Drake’s expedition as piratical, and here he utters the statement about the queen’s council being corrupted. He refuses to have anything to do with the circumnavigation until Burghley and his brother convince him to do so. John even tries to convince Thomas to murder Drake, which elicits horror. “I waste my breath on a meek-spirited boy,” (50) John replies, which of course provokes Thomas into attempting the adventure.

The play is remarkable for what it elides. Doughtie’s mutinous activities are scarcely represented before Drake is convinced to convict them by his protesting captains. Drake decides, quite irrationally, to prosecute the younger, more honorable Thomas rather than the scheming elder, John, condemning a friend he protests to love instead of an averred rival. The men speak of Doughtie’s witchcraft, a matter which is introduced and then dropped, as if Parker knew that one of the primary charges against Doughtie had to be included, but doesn’t quite know how to fit it into the scheme of the play. Much emphasis is placed upon the trial scene, the scrupulously fair Drake producing indisputable evidence and finally eliciting a confession from Doughtie, despite the protests of the gentlemen. A deux ex machina reconciliation between Drake and Doughtie follows; the author lazily accomplishing this while Drake and Doughtie have their secret conversation offstage. The end of the play has John Doughtie attempting an assassination with the encouragement of the Spaniards. He is quite unbalanced and talks to his brother’s ghost. It is hardly worth mentioning that Drake escapes the perfidious plot.

It is of interest how much consideration Parker has for some of the historical details, how little for others. Quite a few details from the historical accounts of the trial scene are included, predictably, those which most convict Doughtie. The most radical changes occur in the process of forcing the story into the format of the romantic melodrama. Parker has chosen Drake as his hero – he knows he must have a heroine – Elizabeth – and a villain. But, more realistic than Cross, he knows he can’t quite make Thomas Doughtie fit this mold and still have any claim to historical veracity. He is forced to shift the role of major antagonist to John, and portray Thomas as an impetuous dupe. This tendency towards historical revisionism is seen in most of the Drake-Doughtie literature, is indeed perhaps its weakest feature, since many authors seem far more interested in rationalizing Drake’s actions than in the exploration of character typical in literature of any substance.

Next page - Thomas Doughtie: the Motion Picture - Hero of Romance and Tragedy

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