Ysabinda and the Spice Race: Reading the Body and the Indian Ocean World in Dryden’s Amboyna

Amrita Sen


This essay examines the gendered and colonial implications of the Amboyna Massacre of 1623 and it was played out in John Dryden's reconstruction of it almost fifty years later in his play Amboyna (1673). Written and performed during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, Dryden's play allows us to access the complex political rivalries that marked the Indian Ocean World during the early modern period. The English East India Company (EIC) and the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) were engaged in what we would recognize as the Spice Race - the struggle to control the lucrative spice producing regions in the Indian Ocean. Dryden dramatizes this race and its accompanying violence by resorting to well entrenched gendered tropes that accompanied colonial strategies.


Amboyna; East India Company

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