The dis-orienting orients : a Lacanian reading of Philip Massinger's tragicomedy The Renegado

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Philip Massinger's The Renegado (1624) has been widely discussed for its relationship between the Turks, trading and castration. While many critics tend to limit the notion of castration to a Freudian understanding, this article expands the theme to a Lacanian one and discusses how Donusa, the Oriental woman in the play, represents a castrating force with her power of gaze. The article first draws readers’ attention to the presence of Carazie, a eunuch of Donusa, suggesting that his ‘lack’ should make us associate with hers. The exhortation that underpins the play ‘not to meddle with the Turks’ implies the Europeans’ fear of castration, which is simultaneously an anxiety within comedy. Focusing on the encounter between Donusa and Vitelli, this article argues how the Oriental woman can be read as epitomizing the power of the gaze because of her veil. With the help of the psychoanalytic theory of Lacan, and the reading of Žižek, it addresses the dis-orienting power of the Oriental woman. Understanding this portrayal of Donusa, we can see how the combination of comedy and tragedy at the end represents an attempt to subdue this disorienting effect on the stage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-35
Number of pages14
JournalComedy Studies
Issue number1
Early online date3 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding: Research Committee of Lingnan University, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China.


  • Tragicomedy
  • Orientalism
  • Jacques Lacan
  • castration
  • Philip Massinger
  • The Renegado


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