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LOPE'S CHRISTIAN IRONY: THE STRUCTURE OF LA FIANZA SATISFECHA MichaelD. McGaha, Pomona College Lope de Vega's La fianza satisfecha(í) is an attempt to present in dramatic terms the complex problem of predestination and free will, and probably provided at least a partial inspiration for the later and better-known plays El burlador de Sevilla and El condenado por desconfiado.^!) The subject at first glance seems singularly abstruse, unwieldy and difficult to present in a dramatically interesting and satisfying way. The most brilliant theological minds of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries struggled in vain to resolve the apparent contradiction between divine foreknowledge and human freedom. Northrop Frye cogently states the vexing nature of this problem in commenting on another famous literary treatment of it: «In the third book of Paradise Lost, Milton represents God as arguing that he made man 'Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.' God knew that Adam would fall, but did not compel him to do so, and on that basis he disclaims legal responsibility. This argument is so bad that Milton, if he was trying to escape refutation, did well to ascribe it to God. Thought and aót cannot be so separated: if God had foreknowledge he must have known in the instant of creating Adam that he was creating a being who would fall. »(3) Regardless of what Professor Frye may think of this «argument,» however, the fact remains that it is a central dogma of Catholic theology and one which seems to have exerted a peculiar fascination on the Spanish public in Lope de Vega's time. Almost as difficult as elucidating the ethical implications of this doctrine was the esthetic task of constructing a dramatic work which would illustrate its operation in the life of a particular character without tilting the scales too much either in the direction of irresistible divine influence (premotiophysica) or of human freedom. Lope found a solution to this problem in the use of dramatic irony. The irony we find in Lafianza satisfecha is, however, more than a merely literary device: it is an expression of the playwright's Christian worldview. The ironic parallels and contrasts which make up the structure of La fianza satisfecha insist by accumulation on the idea that there is a pattern, an order in life of which human beings are most often unaware. Paradoxically, though man remains free, even his most rebellious and willful behavior forms a part ofthe divine plan. Leonido, the protagonist of La fianza satisfecha, is a sinner on a heroic scale, a veritable monster of sin. Even in terms of ordinary human logic, his behavior is irrational. His wickedness is impulsive and gratuitous. He derives no benefit from his sins and seems to find little or no pleasure in them. His own explanation is that he sins «porque tal he nacido» (v. 278, p. 82); 123 in other words, he is a believer in determinism, in fortune. He behaves in a purely natural way, following his impulses, and if God made him that way, then let God take the consequences. This is surely the meaning of his flippant refrain in Act ii: que lo pague Dios por mí, y pídamelo después (w. 15-16, p. 74). A passive servant of his lower instincts and urges, Leonido is less than human in his lack of will. Tizón's words in the play's first scene emphasize this: Sin freno está este caballo; el dará en despeñadero (w.23-24, p. 74). Bruce Wardropper has observed that immediately after these words Leonido accepts the applicability of the horse image to himself, saying: «que a mi soberbio querer/ ninguno le pone rienda.» Wardropper writes that «the word 'querer' as a function of his pride refers not so much to the lust then driving him to rape Marcela as to his habitual willfulness. This reading is supported by the iteration of horse imagery across the play. Gerardo taxes his son with his 'intento desbocado' (v. 324). Both Dionisio (w. 266-8) and Leonido w. 1452-3) declared that it is crime and affronts that 'spur' the latter to commit further wrongs. The suitability of the imagery...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 123-131
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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