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Feminism and the Honor Plays of Lope de Vega

by Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano

Publication Year: 1994

Between 1585 and 1631, the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega wrote more than forty-five plays dealing with the theme of conjugal honor. Drawing on recent feminist theories and touching on literary, social, and anthropological aspects, Professor Yarbro-Rejarano demonstrates that hierarchical relations of gender, race, and social status mutually inform one another as structuring principles of these plays. She takes into account plays that reveal their conventional, formulaic views of the Christian feminine ideal as well as those whose variety and flexibility present women subverting their expected roles. By identifying moments of resistance and subversion in the texts, the author argues against excessively monolithic interpretations of such discourses of containment.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Series: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures

Front Matter

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pp. vii-viii

List of Plays and Abbreviations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii

I would like to thank the University of Washington for grants and sabbatical leave which made the development and completion of this book possible. Part of Chapter Six appeared as "Masquerade, Male Masochism and the Female Outlaw: A...

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pp. 1-12

Lope de Vega, founder of Spain's national theater, wrote numerous plays between 1585 and 1631 deali~g with the theme of conjugal honor.1>/sup> In these texts, the husband suspects that his wife is guilty of adultery, or that she is being pursued by another man. Since a Spaniard's honor depended, in part, on the...

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Chapter One The Contradictory Constructs of Gender

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pp. 13-40

Historians have recently documented the relative equality with men enjoyed by Spanish women,em>1 from early: medieval times to the beginning of the modem age (Ortega Costa, Dillard). However, by the time Lope was writing for the theater, the situation...

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Chapter Two Sexual Outlaws

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pp. 41-72

Although the wife-murder plays receive the lion's share ofcritical attention because of their sensationalism, only a handful of plays feature wives punished for their transgressive desire: 1 Carlos, Comendadores, Toledano....

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Chapter Three Secular Saints

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pp. 73-96

The remaining thirty-eight texts that comprise the pool of honor plays examined in this study depict wives who conform to the feminine ideal. The complexity of the sign of the "good" wife has to do with the split status of woman within the phallic...

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Chapter Four Duplicity and Disguise

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pp. 97-125

Chapters One through Three discussed wives' passive strategies of honorable resistance to adulterous desire, efforts to redeem the liability of the body that meet with qualified success or disaster, and sexual outlaws' failed attempts to escape...

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Chapter Five Rivalry and the Struggle for Dominance

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pp. 167-198

The transaction of power between the rival and the husband in the erotic triangle is channeled through the machinery of cuckoldry.As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick notes, " 'to cuckold' is by definition a sexual act, performed on a man, by another...

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Chapter Six Mutuality and Submission

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pp. 167-198

Lope's honor plays represent various kinds of male bonding of mutuality and love: through heterosexual circulation, through the exchange of women in marriage, and through transgressive female desire. The dynamics of domination that characterize...

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Chapter Seven "Race," Masculinity, and National Identity

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pp. 199-236

In his introduction to Nation and Narration, Homi Bhabha speaks of "nation" as "an idea whose cultural compulsion lies in the impossible unity of the nation as symbolic force" (1). 1 The apparently cohesive and homogeneous identity of "SPanishness" depends on the simultaneous exclusion of the Other, not...

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Chapter Eight The Negotiation of Meaning

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pp. 237-258

What are the implications for sixteenth- and seventeenthcentury spectators ofthe.representation of gender, race, and national identity in Lope's honor plays?1 Recent theories of spectatorship have shifted from textual analyses favoring a...


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pp. 259-270


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pp. 271-302

Works Cited

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pp. 303-316


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pp. 317-324

E-ISBN-13: 9781612491035
E-ISBN-10: 1612491030
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557530448
Print-ISBN-10: 1557530440

Page Count: 338
Publication Year: 1994

Series Title: Purdue Studies in Romance Literatures

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sex role in literature
  • Feminism and literature -- Spain.
  • Honor in literature.
  • Women in literature
  • Vega, Lope de, -- 1562-1635 -- Criticism and interpretation
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