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REVIEWS DE ARMAS, FREDERICK, The Invisible Mistress: Aspects of Feminism and Fantasy in the Golden Age. Charlottesville, Virginia: Biblioteca Siglo de Oro, 1976. 190 pp. A concomitant of the recent vogue offeminist studies has been a renewed interest in the women of times past-both in their social status and in their image as reflected in the arts and literature of their respective cultures. Professor de Armas, in this interesting monograph, has considered one of the more unusual and curious genres of feminine representation in Spanish Golden Age literature-the theme of the «invisible mistress.» The basic story is as follows: a handsome young man is conveyed, he knows not how, into the presence of a beautiful, yet mysterious, lady of quality, whose favors he enjoys, though he is enjoined, on pain of the severest penalties, to keep the liaison secret. Ultimately, however, he betrays the secret and brings the adventure to a calamitous conclusion. A cardinal feature of the plot is the displacement of culpability for the unhappy ending from the female to the male protagonist, and a corresponding accommodation of the theme to the sympathetic depiction of women in general. It is the irritable pride and restless curiosity of man, not the weakness and wiles of an Eve or Pandora, that spawn disaster. Thus, the immemorial ambivalence in the portrayal of women, that is, the dual tradition of praise/denigration running from before Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages and into the common consciousness of Spanish Baroque authors, surfaces in the Golden Age adaptations of the «invisible mistress» motif. The consideration of these and other psychic, mythic, and thematic aspects of the plot constitute the content of Professor de Armas' first chapter. The earliest elements of the plot are familiar to all from its locus classicus-the story of Cupid and Psyche in Apuleius' Golden Ass. But the actual role reversal first occurs in the twelfth-century French romance Parton opeus de Blois, and it was by way of the Italian novelle that the plot reached Spain, where it was first utilized by Lope de Vega in La viuda valenciana Chapter II) and later by lesser figures such as Céspedes y Meneses in El soldado Pindaro and Maria de Zayas y Sotomayor in Desengaños amorosos. In successive chapters Professor de Armas discusses the use of the theme in Tirso's Amar por señas, Quien calla otorga, and La celosa de sí misma (Chapter ??); in Calderón's La dama duende, (Chapter IV); and «Los alivios de Cassandra» (Los efectos que hace amor) of Castillo Solórzano and Ana Carp's El conde Partinuplés de Bles. Of special interest is the author's commentary on the development and variations in the presentation of the heroine. Leonarda, in La viuda valenciana, is shown to possess a pride and 132 self-sufficiency insufferable in a woman. On the other hand, Tirso, Castillo Solórzano, and Ana Caro are manifestly sympathetic to the anonymous mistress. Finally Calderón seems to tolerate the relative independence of doña Angela in La dama duende, although his acquiescence is grudging, since she, too, ultimately relinquishes her autonomy for the subordination of the married state. Perhaps the most absorbing chapters of the book are the second and fourth, which tend to place this theme in the broader perspective of Golden Age literature. In the second chapter Professor de Armas weaves into a provocative psychological analysis of the «viuda valenciana» a variety of interesting asides ranging from comments on the «burla», metatheater, and the interplay between dramatic reality and illusion to speculations on the nature ofthe comedia in general and even autobiographic parallels, especially allusions to Marta de Nevares. In chapter IV the author reviews the critical assessment of Calderón's doña Angela. He shows that recent criticshimself among them--have not been particularly shocked or unsettled by her curiosity about the world, but, on the contrary, they have generally viewed her in a favorable light, seeing her as prototype of feminist struggle for greater self-determination in a male-dominated society. In fact, Professor de Armas generally interprets the «invisible mistress» motif as a thematic vehicle intrinsically suited to the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 132-134
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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