Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

"Love You Not Me?" Pocahontas and the Virginia Masque: A Jacobean Drama in the Glade

Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

"Love You Not Me?" Pocahontas and the Virginia Masque: A Jacobean Drama in the Glade

Article excerpt

At the edge of a glade, John Smith reported a troop of nearly nude Native women, led by the ""non-paeril" Pocahontas who emerged from the woods to perform an exotic dance for him. Concluded at his feet these several nubile women pressed sensuously down upon him with feathers while asking the electrifying question - "Love you not me?" Transformed into the modern age, one might suspect that Smith had engaged a "private dancer" in a darken corner of some shady nightclub. Such is the imagery of "the Indian Princess," whom we have been given to presume as a historical figure from the "scholars" who accept Smith's colonial record without question. These historians, particularly Philip Barbour, have dutifully read Smith's General Historie with an air of literary simple location according it the status of doctrine. Subsequent scholars have followed with little concern for histographical contextuality while framing a literalism erstwhile accorded sacred scripture.

Some ten years ago, I began questioning the overall reliability of Smith's General Historie (Vest, 2000: 397-424; Vest, 2003: 72-87). l Emboldened with the criticism of skeptics, I championed the doubt and implausibility of Smith's General Historie as a written ethnographical source appearing sixteen years after his initial Virginia adventures. Indeed, I suspected the events and circumstances ascribed to the "Indian Princess" - Pocahontas - did not ring true. Having the appearance of propaganda, I began to suspect it to be a taking narrative designed to disposes the indigenous peoples of Tsenacomoco or Powhatan Virginia. Subsequently, my skepticism led me to review Smith's claims for the "Indian Princess" and to consider their source contextually within the milieu of Elizabethan and Jacobean England. Accordingly, I soon discovered striking parallels between the Pocahontas figure and the stagecraft manifest in English Renaissance Drama. In this context, I began probing the literary depths that underlie the Pocahontas legend. In doing so, I reported two significant allegorical interpolations - the Smith rescue motif and the capture-conversion-marriage of Pocahontas to yeoman farmer John Rolfe - as literary illusion that were previously passed off as historical fact (Vest, 2006: 109-118; Vest, 2007: 3143).

Unfortunately, many scholars have naively taken the "Masque in the Glade" account as an example of Powhatan ethnology (Woodward, 1969: 8788; Mossiker, 1996: 109-111; Kupperman, 2000:93; and Rountree, 2005: 112).2 Were it not for colonial historians and the populist champions of "America's First Region," (Anonymous, 2007: C-18)3 such conclusions would be simply farcical meriting nothing more than a silly indulgence. There is, however, a significant discontinuity in the presentation of this legend.

In my previous investigations of the Pocahontas / Matoaka narrative, I have argued that the Smith-Rescue and the Rolfe-Marriage appear as allegorical interpolations within the English conquest literature associated with Virginia. Doing so, I have pointed to the problem of literary simple location where an abstract figure is arrested in the literature and given a presumed historical place in time and space. Such reifications are subsequently taken literally resulting in the fallacy of misplaced concreteness and when these are amplified over time and space in folk representation and scholarly analysis, the result is a quantum abstraction generating a world of hyper-reality, where organic experience and reality itself are impoverished by illusions (Vest, 2003, 72-87; Vest, 2006, 109-118; and Vest, 2007: 3142).4

As I have previously concluded, the English literary tales of a Pocahontas-Smith Rescue and a Pocahontas / Matoaka-Rolfe Marriage evidence a significant discontinuity that has been, nonetheless, given to represent a single biological life as the Indian Princess - Pocahontas. With this paper, once again, I seek to revisit the legend of the "Indian Princess," called Pocahontas, and to further explore another of its discontinuities and allegorical illusions associated with her. …

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