This essay focuses on Lope de Vega's strangely problematic tragedy El castigo sin venganza (1631) and the reasons for possible censorship. In order to better understand the play's political mysteries, it will be argued that the Italian setting (Ferrara) both hides and reveals the actual location of the action: the city of Mantua. The appearance in the play of the Gonzagas, the ruling family of Mantua, confirms this and sets the action at the time of the War of Mantuan Succession (1628-30). The war had been triggered by the death of the last of Vincenzo, who died without an heir. While this moment marked Spain's declining influence in Italy, the naming of a Gonzaga as first Duke of Mantua a century earlier by Charles V stands as the pinnacle of Spanish influence and the moment of greatest artistic flowering in Mantua. In a doubling of history, both of these moments are presented in the play. While the latter foregrounds Spain's defeat, the earlier one allows the spectator to transform mythological allusions into artistic canvases by Correggio and Giulio Romano. These ekphrases form a permissive museum of pagan sensuality in which the main characters of the play mirror themselves. While Correggio's Ganymede and Giulio Romano's decorations for the permissive Palazzo del Te, where Federigo Gonzaga feasted with his mistress, reflect the forbidden sexualities at play, Giulio's Hall of Giants seems to lash out against license, as Jupiter tries to contain those that threaten his heavenly Court. The bloody denouement, although seeming to delimit the zones of licit desire, actually problematizes the relationship between eros and power, thus enriching the images with a deeper textuality. Lope's is indeed a play that storms the walls of heaven, of the Court, as it searches for a new erotic and political freedom to say and picture that which was forbidden. (FAD)


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pp. 233-265
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