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158BCom, Vol. 41, No. 1 (Summer 1989) Lauer, A. Robert. Tyrannicide and Drama. Archivum Calderonianum, Band 4. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1987. Paper. 182 pp. It is generally accepted among literary scholars of Spain's Golden Age that her classical drama is politically conservative, compelled to support the absolutism of Felipe II, III, IV and Carlos II. Despite that consensus, and despite the strong central authority of the monarchy of the period, a large number of plays in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries dare to depict the assassination of a ruling figure. In Tyrannicide and Drama, A. Robert Lauer addresses the surprising apparent disparity between the content of the comedias and the perceptions of literary criticism. Granted that the contemporary Spanish government verged on absolutist in fact, Lauer submits two questions: first, what was the prevailing attitude toward tyrannicide in theory? And second, what attitude toward tyrannicide was actually conveyed in the plays that brought the deed on stage? The study therefore divides itself into two parts, entitled "The Tradition of Tyrannicide from Polybius to Suárez" and "The Tyrannicide Drama in Spain from 1579 to 1698." Part One furnishes a systematic history of the theory of killing the unfit king, including salient points from ancient Greek and Roman arguments, their legacy to Medieval thought, and developments among Protestant and Catholic writers of the Renaissance. Such a long and broad sweep makes evident that the Spanish Catholic Jesuit "radicalism" which crystallized at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries in the treatises of Juan de Mariana and Francisco Suárez—so alarming to Northern Europeans—was thoroughly precedented and in many ways quite in step with some contemporary Protestant positions. Mariana's posture, derived from John of Salisbury and St. Thomas Aquinas, among others, was that a king has a contract with the people. When he breaks that contract and becomes a tyrant, he can, under certain circumstances , be resisted and even assassinated. Lauer also reviews the arguments of non-Spanish Catholics, including Bodin and Barclay, as well as the Protestants George Buchanan and "Junius Brutus." To one degree or another, many European writers of the period supported tyrannicide. Yet in Paris, Mariana's book was the one singled out and publicly burned for supposedly having incited the murder of Henry IV. With a powerful monarchy actually governing Golden Age Spain, it is interesting that theory remained stubbornly anti-Machiavellian, and opposed to the so-called "Divine Right of Kings." It would be still more interesting if the constitutionalism championed by the Jesuits (among many others) translated into drama. Part Two of Lauer's analysis asks whether the outspoken, "extreme" Reviews159 stance of some of the political treatises—with a relatively small readership—also reached the highly accessible forum of the stage, whose audience spanned all social and economic classes, and which spoke to the illiterate as well as the learned citizens of the period. José Antonio Maravall is representative of scholarly consensus in asserting that, conscious of the danger of propagating inflammatory political rhetoric, "los escritores teatrales de nuestro siglo XVII emplean términos insuperables en la afirmación del carácter absoluto, imposible de resistir , que posee la soberanía del rey" (Teatro y literatura en la sociedad barroca [Madrid: Seminarios y Ediciones, 1972], p. 124. A. Robert Lauer's book deposes that reigning misconception. In the second half of Tyrannicide and Drama, he proceeds chronologically through Golden Age theater, beginning with the Neo-Senecans of Spain's late sixteenth century. Juan de la Cueva's brief Comedia de Ia muerte del rey don Sancho (performed by 1579) contradicts historical accounts by portraying this famous king as despicable, and his assassin, Vellido Dolfos, as, for the most part, "a just avenger and liberator who seems to be divinely inspired" (p. 77). Lauer contends that Cueva justifies Dolfos on Senecan grounds: De dementia holds that tyrants cease to be human and must be eliminated for the sake of the community. (Other of Cueva's political plays have been seen by A. I. Watson [Juan de Ia Cueva and the Portuguese Succesion (London: Tamesis, 1971]) as oblique criticism of the excesses of Felipe II. I am more...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 158-160
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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