Abstract

This essay explores the notion of the conveniently fabricated "Other" in María de Zayas's play, La traición en la amistad. In response to a friend's betrayal, a trio of women bands together to secure the downfall and ultimate banishment of Fenisa, a woman whose love of men, even those men already betrothed, supersedes the love for her friends. In response to her unrestrained ways, Fenisa is defined by the cast of characters as a "viper," a "siren," a "liar," and a "harpy." Despite the extremely damaging characterization she receives, all the figures seen on stage in this work have very few, if any, redeeming qualities to justify such cruel treatment of her. While the betrayal of her friends cannot be denied, this study argues for a reconsideration of the purpose Fenisa serves in Zayas's text, suggesting that perhaps the playwright created this complex persona not so much with the intent of showcasing a negative example of male behavior in a female character, but rather to bring to life the double standard by which women were judged under the patriarchal code. Throughout the play, Fenisa undergoes a process of demonization as each of the people she has betrayed plots to have the former friend pay for her lack of loyalty. Condemnation and alienation are the consequences she faces as the alliance between Marcia, Belisa and Laura works toward characterizing Fenisa as an aberration who must be eliminated and, more importantly, punished for her amorous transgressions. By participating in this practice of differentiation and, ultimately, creating a rhetoric of expulsion, the trio's efforts culminate in a convenient caricature ofthe evil "Other" that affords them the opportunity to distinguish themselves from Fenisa and thus showcase their less offensive attributes. The demonization of Fenisa, then, serves a critical, convenient purpose for all who share her stage, a purpose that allows for the "We vs. They" or, in this case, the "We vs. She" dynamic to thrive. A consideration of the feminine models that were revered, created, and ultimately used by authorities in Zayas's Spain offers an interesting perspective of how the playwright may have viewed Fenisa herself, suggesting why such a seemingly unsympathetic character continues to draw the critical attention that she does. (ML)

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 149-166
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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