|This play has the advantage of being based on a well-documented history. If any Christian hero has excelled through an illustrious act, it is the minister ANTHONIUS HAMBROEK; an act of which, apart from the well-known case of REGULUS, there may be no other example to be found in any history. In the treatment of my subject I have mainly conformed myself to what SCHOUTEN tells us about it in his East Indian voyages. I shall put down here what happened to the honest HAMBROEK in some detail; making certain that the surprises in my play will not be spoiled by it. It was in the previous century that the Chinese pirate COXINGA, took by surprise the flourishing island of Formosa, which is situated off the coast of the Chinese empire. He landed so unexpectedly, that he captured the minister HAMBROEK, his wife, son and daughter, as well as many other eminent Christians, because these unfortunate ones did not manage to save themselves within the main stronghold Zeelandia. The Dutch attacked the quickly-erected strongholds of the assaulter; but had to rush headlong back into the stronghold Zeelandia, almost in the same way as I have represented it in my play, after the brave commander PETEL, [fol. *2v] who had gone out too far, had been killed with most of his men. The death of this heros son happened in almost the same way as I have FREDRIK describe it in act two. The Chinese general COXINGA, annoyed at the unexpected opposition, decided to take another road than that of weapons, to capture Zeelandia. He sent the grey-haired HAMBROEK to the commander in chief of the Dutch, FREDRIK CAJET, with orders to claim the fortress, under the threat of killing HAMBROEK, if the commander continued to defend himself. To which he added that he would have the wife and children of that minister hacked to pieces, if HAMBROEK did not return to the Chinese army within the time he set him. This message put the brave CAJET in a very difficult position: HAMBROEK was his best friend, and two children of that minister were inside Zeelandia. Friendship spoke in the heart of the commander, and HAMBROEKs children did not fail to urge him to surrender the fortress, through begging and groaning. CAJET was not disinclined to do so; but, since he had supplies of everything to last a long time, he found himself troubled because he would have to account for himself before the council of Java, from whom he could expect support and relief. According to some reports he nevertheless proposed the surrender to his friend HAMBROEK, as the only means of saving him; [fol. *3r] but this magnanimous man rejected that proposal with extreme indignation, and encouraged CAJET and the garrison to a stubborn resistance. And neither the proposal by CAJET and the other commanders, nor the tears of his children saved in the fortress Zeelandia, could move the noble hero to keep his life at the loss of the fortress. He finally departed for the enemys army, after having said a sorrowful goodbye to his friends, and after he had seen his two unhappy children succumb at his feet from sadness and despair. As soon as he had returned to the enemys army, he was decapitated before the eyes of his wife and children; covering his executioners with eternal shame. Everything concerning this infamous act, and other occurrences of the famous Formosan siege, may be read at more length in Schouten, Valentyn and others.|
I have allowed myself some poetic licence in the treatment of this touching subject; but I have also striven always to stay as close to the history as was possible to me. Should the behaviour of the noble Christian minister make but one enemy of Christianity successfully see how far true Christianity can bring man, and from what noble principles the true Christian performs great deeds; should my Play persuade people in general that the triumph [fol. *3v] of our reasonable and loveable Religion truly consists of encouraging and consoling people in the most oppressing disasters of life: I would consider myself richly rewarded for my labour.
I know by now that, in our days, I would have more readers and admirers for my play, if I had used my work to make the Christians minister ridiculous, and to make the Christian revelation seem, if not despicable, at least implausible to sensible people; but what readers and what admirers! Undoubtedly it becomes no one to seek the approval and acclaim of people who put their pride in making everything despicable that most deserves the respect of mortals, and make themselves the object of justified ridicule and loathing. No worldly acclaim can outweigh the noble pleasure that a good intention, and a good deed done for the common good, affords the soul. The grand duke of Luxembourg affirmed on his deathbed that the memory of having offered a mug of cold water to an unfortunate to revive him, gratified him more than the memory of all his victories. See there an example worthy of being constantly present in our mind in the hours of prosperity! What do glory, great deeds, ingenious inventions, reason and external proprieties avail us, if the source of our actions is not noble, the heart not pure, and our conscience not satisfied with us!
Furthermore I owe some thanks to several distinguished people, who have encouraged me in the treatment of this virtuous and moving subject. And the unusual eagerness with which my other plays, (both those that have been shown in the Theatres of our country, and those that have never been performed on a Stage), have been received, and still are received, has been no small encouragement to me to further expend my slight skills, in spite of all envy, for the benefit of my fellow men.
I finish with the words of that great master of the Dramatic Art, the incomparable RACINE: It would be desirable if our Plays were as succinct, sensible, moral and improving as those of most of the poets of antiquity. If our Plays were as full of instructive teachings; we could possibly remove the aversion which several honourable Theologians and other people worthy of every respect because of their piety, harbour against the Stage, and reconcile them with the Theatre and Dramatic Poetry. At least we would make them judge these things more favourably, if the Playwrights of our time would apply themselves more to teaching and improving the readers and spectators of their plays than to amusing them; and therefore would comply more with the true objective of Dramatic Poetry.