- Fiometa's Wrathful Suicide in Juan de Flores's Grimalte y Gradisa
Fiometa's suicide in Juan de Flores's fifteenth-century romance, Grimalte y Gradisa, underscores the dire consequences of allowing unbridled passions to override reason.1 Fiometa's character, as the etymological meaning of her name suggests, embodies the flames of unrestrained passions that separate her from any form of rational behavior and discourse. Fiometa's impulsive fits of rage trigger an ontological alienation that propels her to lose control of her actions, her reactions, and her perception of that which takes place around her. When Fiometa feels that things do not go her way, her natural response, conditioned by her skewed worldview as observed from her oblique prism of an entitled elite, is to revile those who oppose her willful desire and to attempt to blackmail them by threatening self-harm. Although she often uses anger as a defense mechanism to protect herself from the external world, Fiometa responds to (perceived) adverse events by fending off the disappointment through the conduit of rage. When Pánfilo, her former lover, does not respond to her request to visit her, Fiometa reacts with extreme anger rather than sadness or resignation. Her response is both impulsive and unbecoming. As Pamela Waley points out, Fiometa "is beside herself with fury" ("Introduction" xxxiv). Just a few days later, Pánfilo comes to see her, resolving to abandon her. If his lack of compliance with her request to visit her made her furious, his final rejection drives her to a wrathful suicide.
The cause of Fiometa's death has been a source of debate among scholars of Juan de Flores, as the author himself never explicitly labels her death a suicide or merely a case of amor hereos. The scholarship falls into one of three categories. The first group grosso modo denies Fiometa's suicide, arguing that her death is a natural effect of the intensity of her lovesick passion for the ungrateful Pánfilo (Barbara Matulka 264, marina S. Brownlee 211, Dorothy S. Severin Religious 41, Robert Folger 177). The second group neither confirms nor denies her suicide, adducing the aura of mystery and ambiguity in which Flores enshrouds her death [End Page 31] (Regula Rohland de Langbehn "Los conversos" 140, Lillian von der Walde moheno 82, Julio Rodríguez Puértolas 121-139, Isabel de sena 341, Valentín Núñez Rivera 115-139). The third group ascertains that Fiometa's death constitutes an active suicide, and they adduce Fiometa's avowal to end her life, the violent imagery, Grimalte's explicit assertion that she killed herself, and her final punishment in Hell in the dénouement of the novel (Waley "Introduction" xxxvii, Patricia Grieve 82, 85, Vera Castro Lingl, Louise Haywood "Gradissa" 85-99, Rina Walthaus 9, Tobias Branderberger 369). My hermeneutic conclusions espouse me with the third group. The scope of this study is not merely to show that Fiometa committed suicide, since Castro Lingl has forcefully argued this thesis. Rather, this paper seeks to demonstrate that Fiometa is led to her death by what María Rosa Lida de Malkiel (169) and Cándido ayllón call: "Ira suicida" (160-4).
The interplay between suicide and wrath became a leitmotif in the spanish Middle Ages after the diffusion of the allegorical epic poem Psychomachia, written by the Ibero-Roman poet Prudentius in the fourth century. Prudentius personifies seneca's concept of "ira" into an allegorical character filled with irrational passion, always willing to self-destruct so long as the object of the wrath is also destroyed ("dum alteri noceat sui neglegens").2 In Seneca's tragedy Medea, the eponymous heroine embodies this furious passion willing to destroy herself, provided that she also destroys everything around her.3 Fiometa, true to her name, incarnates flammable passion, irrationality, and irascibility against her true-opposite, Patientia (reason, equanimity and theological virtues). In an agonistic battle between Ira and Patientia, which foreshadows the pseudo-Senecan Stoic treatises (De remediis fortvitorvm), as well as Íñigo López de mendoza, Marqués de Santillana's Bías contra Fortuna and Diego de San Pedro's Desprecio de...