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Reviews277 defense on moral grounds, is a formalist florilegium of religious imagery the best format for doing so? However bromidic the thesis, would a frank polemic—using the stylistic evidence as ammunition for a dialectic —not be a more appropriate vehicle? Henry W. Sullivan University of Florida ZUCKERMAN-INGBER, ALIX. El bien más alto: A Reconsideration of Lope's Honor Plays. Gainesville, Florida: University Presses of Florida, 1984. Paper. 203 pp. $15.00. Alix Zuckerman-Ingber's book is a welcome addition to the new wave of comedia scholarship that seeks to reexamine long-standing notions on the nature of Golden Age drama. The author's premise is that, although Lope is frequently characterized as a conformist who accepts his society's value system unquestionably, his approach to honor is often unconventional. After examining an impressive number of plays, Zuckerman-Ingber concludes that Lope presents the honor question from differing and often contradictory perspectives, sometimes obliquely criticizing the honor code. Five techniques that she studies are 1.) the alteration of source material 2.) the problematic resolution of honor conflicts 3.) the use of irony and equivocation 4.) atypical characterization that subverts traditional comedia «types» 5.) ambiguous treatment of the blood purity question. In her analysis of Los Comendadores de Cordoba , she shows how Lope uses all of these techniques to create a work that is equivocal and disturbing with respect to the honor question. Drawing on examples from La Celestina and the entremeses, Zuckerman-Ingber begins by pointing out that pre-Lopean drama does not present a uniform view of honor. Furthermore, non-dramatic literary works such as La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes, Guzmân de Alfarache, and Lope's own Novelas Marcia Leonarda reflect dissatisfaction with aspects of the Spanish concept of honor. Zuckerman-Ingber's discussion of re-elaboration of source material is based principally on La desdichada Estefanía and El castigo sin venganza. The author shows how Lope restructured the stories that provided the framework for his dramas, creating works that contain implicit 278BCom, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Winter 1 985) criticism of the honor code. In both plays, appearances are the characters ' most important consideration; it is on their obsession with reputation that the tragedy hinges. Among the plays that Zuckerman-Ingber studies in her chapter on the problematic resolution of honor conflicts are El cuerdo en su casa and El castigo del discreto, two works in which vengeance is avoided. The first involves a question of honor that is resolved through the perpetration of a case of mistaken identity. Although honor appears to have been restored, the husband remains permanently dishonored. In the second, the protagonist abandons blind devotion to the demands of the honor code when their application is not justified by the facts. In this chapter the author also examines a number of religious plays in which social honor (reputation) is shown to be different from true honor (virtue). In the author's view, the ensemble of these plays demonstrates that Lope accepts as valid more than one approach to honor. In the chapter on irony, Zuckerman-Ingber writes, «Given the nature of Golden Age audiences, no dramatist could engage in unequivocal criticism of honor, but more subtle types of criticism could be incorporated into the dramatic context within, around, and against which the action of an honor play was to be developed.» She shows that while the action itself seems to conform to conventional values, careful scrutiny often reveals ironic treatment of the honor motif that undermines the action . Often Lope achieves the same end through characterization. In some plays, the king, the source of social honor, is shown to be corrupt. In others, the audience's sympathy is directed away from the dishonored husband and toward the offender. The result is that these plays indirectly challenge the honor code. In her last chapter, Zuckerman-Ingber argues that Lope not only presents diverse views of conjugal honor, but also adopts an equivocal stand on the question of blood purity. In some plays, conversos, Moors, or Blacks are shown to be the moral equals of cristianos viejos, or even their superiors. In some instances, Zuckerman-Ingber's conclusions seem forced...


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pp. 277-279
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