While critics have written much about Lope de Vega's popular Golden Age play Fuente Ovejuna, they have not yet tapped its bursting confessional possibilities that culminate in a spectacular group confession. By the early seventeenth century, confession is so deeply entrenched in Spanish religious practices that its inclusion in this play provides a unifying religious theme that buttresses Lope's encouragement of a national theater. In this highly allegorical work, the united penitence of an entire town may be viewed as the confession of an emerging Spanish nation. Balancing justice and mercy, the king acts the part of a royal Confessor who is both national judge and doctor. Lope's repetition of the confessional torture scene—rehearsal, performance and celebration—is an effective didactic technique that reinforces the ritualistic nature of confession. Fuente Ovejuna, a drama of multiple confessions and of secular rituals that mimic the religious sacrament, demonstrates how confession is an eminently performative speech act that is both seen and heard. (DGP)


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pp. 31-50
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