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Lope's Ways With Women By R. N. Shervill University of Western Ontario From an examination of Lope's dramatic pieces based on Old Testament themes1 there is abundant evidence to support the contention that Lope's Old Testament and non-Spanish heroines are far removed from the noble-woman of nature protrayed in the majority of his secular comedias . Where an exception is evident, such as Lope's portrayal of the duquesa Casandra in El castigo sin venganza, or Fenisa in El Anzuelo de Fenisa, the heroine is invariably of non-Spanish blood-line. It might be argued that Lope, like his medieval predecessors, was following the accepted dual concept of feminine portrayal. Such secular heroines as Casilda (Peribañez), Estrella (La estrella de Sevilla), and Laurencia (Fuenteovejuna) appear to be based on the purity concept that is the Virgin Mary's, such as she is portrayed in Berceo's Milagros de Nuestra Señora. In striking contrast, Lope's Old Testament and non-Spanish, secular heroines personify and magnify some of the baser qualities of womanhood. This concept of feminine portrayal appears to be based on the contrasting medieval viewpoint of woman— that is, on that of Eve, the mother of sin, much in the same manner as Alfonso Martinez' El Corbacho, but with a degree of refinement, which no doubt pays tribute to the aesthetique of the Siglo de Oro audience, and to be sure, to a censorial staff more concerned with public morals. Lope's secular heroines of Spanish ancestry are essentially idealized beings whose virtue, honor and fortitude remain unshaken in the face of temptation or adversity. Their purity and their abhorrence of evil rival that of the Holy Mother. Moreover, Lope frequently magnifies the divine qualities of his ideal woman by portraying in the same play, subplot females , usually drawn from the substrata of Spanish society, who manifest the same earthly and errant qualities found in Lope's Old Testament heroines. Lope's repertoire based on Old Testament themes consists of five comedias. The heroine of each piece is an authentic biblical character, but interpreted far more freely than the biblical original. The impish Dina,-' the masochistic Séfora,3 the nagging wife of Tobias,4 the lascivious , ambitious wife of Putifar," and Eva, the heroine of La creación del mundo, biblically sketched with a few deft strokes, blossom forth in Lope's portrayal into full-bloom earthly women, all possessing some of the baser Eve-like qualities. Lope's creation of the Old Testament heroine may be most clearly exemplified by his character development of Dina, Jacob's daughter. In the original Bible story," the only characterization of the heroine is revealed by her staying (presumably voluntarily) for three days in the palace of Siquen (Schechem in the English version) . We are not told whether she loved or hated Siquen or whether she exulted over his death. It is debatable whether the theatrical Dina is the subconscious product of Lope's creative mind, or whether he deliberately set her up as a symbol of a certain type of universal woman, the coquette, who is unwilling to pay the price of her vanity. During the course of her stage development Dina evolves from a cooing, impish flirt to a clawing tigress, who vents her implacable wrath upon the love-sick Siquen. From the outset of the action, Dina is aware of her charms. Her 10 vanity and curiosity lead her to a celebration to view the latest Gentile styles. She wants to be sexually alluring , and at the same time keep her honor inviolate. Her subsequent hatred for Siquen is based not so much on the fact that he ravished her, but that he had courted her such a short time. In a monologue toward the end of the play, Dina regrets her loss of honor, especially since she lost it "sin gusto!" The merciless delight which Dina makes manifest at the massacre of her ravisher and his nation at the hands of her brothers symbolizes the heart of the Old Testament code of justice—an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Lope's Dina is not, however, a...


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pp. 10-13
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