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  • I want You to Want Me:Amazonian Love and Conquest
  • Kristin J. Connor

The legend of the Amazons is an ancient one and much debate has been devoted throughout the ages as to the authenticity of these stories. Recently, Adrienne Mayor has developed a convincing argument that the importance of the Amazon in Western culture has not been the veracity of their existence, but what the myth and legend surrounding them has come to mean for different societies throughout the ages. She argues that their representation is manipulated to conform to national imagination and political needs of a given society. Amazons excited the Western imagination from the classical period described by Mayor through the Middle Ages and into the Early Modern. They can be seen in literature spanning Europe and appear in a variety of genres, but one of their more interesting manifestations occurs in the theater. In Early Modern Spain, the Amazons would appear in the work of dramatists such as Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca and Tirso de Molina. In the majority of these plays, the Amazons were placed in different geographical locations in the Old World.1 Julie Greer Johnson views the Amazonian women in these plays as being portrayed as capable rulers and fighters until they are ultimately conquered by Spanish men because of their womanly desire for love (143). In general, these plays follow a similar pattern originally established in antiquity in which the Amazon is tamed through marriage. Marriage and romance as domestication is a basic theme that will continue in works by dramatists of the early modern period, including Tirso de Molina.

Arturo Souto Alabarce has indicated that there is a surprising absence of the American theme in Early Modern Theater produced in Spain. Only a [End Page 509] small number of comedias that deal with the American theme survive to today.2 Even fewer in number are plays that place Amazons in the Americas rather than in the Old World. One of the more well-known occurrences of the Amazons in the New World is in the comedia, Amazonas en las indias by Tirso de Molina. Tirso’s comedia is one of a trilogy that tells the story of the early years of conquest and the establishment of colonial society in Peru under the Pizarro brothers. Tirso de Molina wrote his trilogy to honor and commemorate a descendent of the Pizarros, don Juan Hernando Pizarro and to celebrate his new appointment as Marqués de las indias in 1631. Tirso’s play looks back on events that happened nearly one hundred years earlier. Walter Cohen proposes that the performance of a nation’s history on stage establishes a way to evaluate and judge national action. In accordance with this, Souto Alabarce sees the play as rewriting events of the past in favor of the Pizarro family (44). Similarly, James T. Abraham and Miguel Zugasti are of the opinion that the Tirso trilogy does not try to represent or conform to historical truths but is rather an attempt to vindicate the Pizarro family name. Contrary to the official version of the Gonzalo rebellion at the time, in Tirso’s play this Pizarro brother has a legitimate claim to leadership and acts honorably to defend it. The play fashions him as a loyal servant of the Crown who rightfully acts against a corrupt agent of the state, the newly appointed Viceroy of Peru, Nuñez de Blasco. In its revisionist agenda, it is the Viceroy who is depicted as disloyal to the Crown while Gonzalo Pizarro is depicted as the true heir to his brother, Francisco Pizarro. Gonzalo learns of the death of his brother after returning from an expedition in the Amazonian region of Peru. While there he meets Queen Menalipe who leads an all female tribe of warrior women. She falls deeply in love with Gonzalo and invites him to rule her kingdom with her. Gonzalo is momentarily tempted to do so, but the growing unrest in the young Peruvian colony and his loyalty to the King pull him back to Lima. There, Gonzalo goes to war in order to defend his true and legitimate claim to governorship...


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pp. 509-520
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