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The Comedia of Virginity

Mary and the Politics of Seventeenth-Century Spanish Theater

Mirzam C. Perez

Publication Year: 2012

Few characters were as ubiquitous in the collective consciousness of early modern Spain as the Virgin Mary. By the 1600s, the cult of the Immaculate Conception had become so popularized that the Hapsburg monarchy issued a decree in defense of the Virgin's purity. In a climate of political disharmony, however, this revered icon—often pictured as the passive, chaste, and pious mother of God—would become an archetype of paradox within the Spanish imagination. In The Comedia of Virginity, Mirzam Perez underscores how the character of the Virgin Mary was represented on the theater stage. Following a concise account of the historical, academic, and political forces operating within Hapsburg Spain, Perez dissects three comedias—three-act productions featuring both drama and comedy—and draws out their multivalent interpretations of Mary. In their own ways, these secular comedias reproduced an uncommonly empowering feminine vision while making light of the Virgin's purity. The Mary of the stage was an active, sinuous, even sensual force whom playwrights would ultimately use to support a fracturing monarchy.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii

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pp. ix

My deepest gratitude goes to the following individuals: my mentor Professor Laura R. Bass, who inspired me to become the scholar and the teacher that I only dreamt I could be; my parents, Augusto and Rosario Pérez, who believed I deserved the opportunities and education denied to them; my sister, Rosary...

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pp. 1-4

Few figures inhabited early modern Spanish consciousness with less ambiguity than the Virgin Mary. No matter what sphere of seventeenth- century Iberian society one turns to—the court, the Church, the stage, the academy, or far-flung imperial outposts in the New World—she is always present, presented, and...

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1. The Politics of Theater at the University of Salamanca

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pp. 5-24

Félix Lope de Vega’s (1562–1635) drama La limpieza no manchada (1618) provides unparalleled insight into the cultural significance of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and the construction of the Virgin Mary as a divine axis of political and religious power in early modern Spain. Incorporating...

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2. Performing Faith at the University of Salamanca

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pp. 25-44

In his play La limpieza no manchada (1618), commissioned by the University of Salamanca for the adoption of the statute requesting its student body to pledge its conviction in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, playwright Félix Lope de Vega offers an interpretation of seventeenth-century...

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3. Mapping Faith at the University of Salamanca

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pp. 45-60

During the last week of October 1618, the faculty, administrators, and students of the University of Salamanca feasted in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. The festivities sealed the adoption of a statute requiring Salamanca’s students to pledge their belief in the Virgin’s exemption...

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4. Angela de Azevedo’s Dicha y desdicha del juego y devoción de la Virgen

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pp. 61-80

Angela de Azevedo’s Dicha y desdicha del juego y devoción de la Virgen (c. 1640) is a play about the Queen of Heaven, the Virgin Mary, which offers corresponding praise for Spain’s own Queen Isabel of Bourbon (1602–1644).1 By focusing on the Virgin’s intrinsic relationship with her human subjects as heavenly mediator and intercessor, Mary is crafted as a source of inspiration...

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5. Spanish Mother to an American Daughter

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pp. 81-104

Santa Rosa de Lima’s beatification in 1668 and her canonization in 1671 brought to its conclusion the rapid sanctification process of the first American saint. Less than fifty years had passed since the death of the holy woman, and already her miracles and mystical experiences were widely known throughout...

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pp. 105-108

The Virgin’s staged avatars, as discussed in detail here, reveal that Hapsburg Mary was considerably more than a mere static pillar of the early modern Spanish imagination. In a genre that traditionally excluded leading and inspiring women, we find an extraordinarily sinuous and protean female figure...


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pp. 109-154


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pp. 155-170


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pp. 171-173

E-ISBN-13: 9781602586475
E-ISBN-10: 1602586470
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602586451
Print-ISBN-10: 1602586454

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1