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  • The Tears of Sovereignty: Perspectives of Power in Renaissance Drama by Philip Lorenz
  • Alejandro García-Reidy
Lorenz, Philip. The Tears of Sovereignty: Perspectives of Power in Renaissance Drama. New York: Fordham UP, 2013. Pp. 379.

The Tears of Sovereignty: Perspectives of Power in Renaissance Drama offers a comparative and richly theorized reading of five key plays of the early modern English and Spanish stage: Shakespeare’s Richard II, Measure for Measure, and The Winter’s Tale, Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna, and Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño. Founded on a wide range of concepts and methodological approaches from modern thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, Carl Schmitt, Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, or Jacques Derrida, together with notions taken from psychoanalytic theory, Philip Lorenz delves into the complex world of early modern discussions of sovereignty, its intersection with political theology and the process of secularization, and, most importantly, how theater problematized these concepts through the production of a rich net of tropes. As the author states in the introduction to his book, “what The Tears of Sovereignty attempts to make visible is a series of co-implications between sovereignty’s baroque stagings and its contemporary (both seventeenth- and twenty-first century) theorizations” (19). The five plays chosen as the object of study are therefore situated into a comparative framework that stresses their connection to issues of power and how it is deeply anchored in the problem of representation, as sovereignty is presented as torn and restored in different ways—the “tears” of sovereignty. The ideas of Spanish Jesuit theologian and philosopher Francisco Suárez constantly emerge throughout the five chapters in which this book is divided as a useful and much-needed dialogue with political thought from the early modern [End Page 308] period, clearly one of the strengths of this book.

Chapter 1 focuses on Richard II and how it presents sovereignty as a dispersed concept, a “changing condition” (57) that is not located in a single body but is dependent on mediation and mutation. According to Lorenz, the old analogies surrounding the king’s body as representative of sovereignty give way to the possibility of modern fluctuation of power through the importance of the flow of power through spaces and bodies. Chapter 2 closely follows this idea as it centers on Measure for Measure and how the presentation of the bodies of power on stage represent the transfer of this same power in order to attempt to restore health to a decaying body politic. According to Lorenz, in these plays sovereignty requires a metaphorical substitution because it is basically nothing and thus needs to constantly be re-presented in order to stay real. Chapter 3 deals with Fuente Ovejuna and the way it presents on stage an act of resistance against a certain type of corrupt sovereignty, embodied by the Comendador. Lorenz examines several topics related to power present in his play, from the subversion of conventions embodied by the reference to amazons to the importance of royal pardon and the discourse of love and friendship, all of which lead the author to point out how “Fuenteovejuna stages […] a suspension of power” (149) and its relationship to waiting and the future as central to the concept of democratic sovereignty. Chapter 4 turns to Calderón’s La vida es sueño and how the Spanish playwright presents issues of sovereignty in relation to the problem of time, knowledge, the figure of the monster, and allegory, all of which Lorenz sees as leading to “how the presumption of sovereignty is always met with an absence” (203), especially through the figure of Segismundo. Chapter 5 returns to Shakespeare and The Winter’s Tale, and how it can be paired with Suárez’s theological text Misterios de la vida de Cristo in order to examine the Bard’s use of metaphors, especially in relation to the character of Hermione; this is done to stage sovereignty effects through “psycho-political theology” (236), thus making sovereignty a possibility, as a new type of embodiment. The book ends with an “After-Image” that offers final reflections on the fluid and contemporary representation of...


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pp. 308-311
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