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Sins of the Fathers

Sins of the Fathers: Moral Economies in Early Modern Spain

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 476
  • Book Info
    Sins of the Fathers
    Book Description:

    This ground-breaking study is the first to consider Spanish Golden Age comedias as an archive of moral knowledge.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6101-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword: A Note on Method
    (pp. ix-xii)

    With all humility, and never forgetting that Pride is the chief Deadly Vice, I would like to suggest that this book appears on the cutting edge of a new kind of research. It sees the early modern Spanish dramatic text corpus as a vast archive of moral knowledge, a valuable repository of collective cultural memory. The irony, of course, is that these plays were meant to be performed, and as such, thecomediasandautos sacramentalesas genres occupy a unique liminal space between the archive and the repertoire. The interplay between the archive and the repertoire as modes of...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    This book begins with a curse. In the second instalment of the Hebrew Pentateuch, which later became the second book of the Christian Old Testament, the great saga of Exodus is played out as a real-life drama in the desert. Near its point of culmination, at the exact moment when he brings down from the mountain the Ten Commandments (later to be inscribed on stone tablets, written by the finger of God), Moses prophesies that Yahweh will visit the sins of the fathers upon their children. The voice of the prophet relays God’s somber warning: “I am the Lord thy...

  6. Part One: Residue

    • 1 Pride & Co.
      (pp. 15-44)

      First among the Vices, Pride sails onto the early modern Spanish stage at the prow of the ship.² The first head of the hydra representing the Deadly Sins, she is constantly being lopped off, only to grow back again with renewed ferocity.³ Pride is described alternately in thecomediasas a poison and a vampire, drinking the blood of its victims amid horrific screams.⁴ But this is only the beginning. Root of all evil, Pride engenders even more terrible progeny.⁵

      Why would Pride necessarily be seen as the worst Vice? Why not Anger, Avarice, or any other of the prime...

    • 2 Greed Breaks the Bag
      (pp. 45-73)

      As Raymond Williams reminds us, “against the pressures of incorporation, actively residual meanings and values are sustained.”³ Just as we saw Pride rear its ugly head in so many plays in the last chapter, now we can watch the broad brush strokes of a collective portrait of Greed begin to emerge. Like the cartoon character Speedy Gonzalez, popular on US television in the 1950s, the residual figure of Avarice may at times seem elusive. But after combing through hundreds ofcomediaslooking for references to Greed, we begin to see certain patterns or recurrent themes appearing in relation to this...

    • 3 Lusty Lads and Luscious Ladies
      (pp. 74-94)

      Lust makes her entrance on stage as a lady lounging on top of the seven-headed hydra representing the Seven Deadly Sins: “Juan, que le vio de más cerca allá en Patmos, dice, que es Hidra de siete Cabezas, en cuya escamada espalda, lasciva Mujer se asienta.”² She beckons alluringly from a golden tower, holding a golden cup in her hand.³ A cousin to Pride and his variations, such as Narcissus, she also appears with a mirror for admiring her own beauty.⁴

      By extension, Lust appears in thecomediasin so many sensual details. The trappings of Lust are silks, beds,...

  7. Part Two: Transformation

    • 4 Loath to Call It Sloth: The Plus Side of Pereza
      (pp. 97-111)

      With this chapter we inaugurate the second section of this book, “Transformation,” which will look at three more of the Seven Deadly Sins in various phases of cultural evolution. In the first section, “Residue,” we examined Pride, Greed, and Lust as holdovers from a more medieval and hence possibly more communal way of viewing vice. Now we shall turn to Sloth, Gluttony, and Anger as symptomatic of still-largely-intact capital offences, but with some surprising and often fascinating variations. As we recall from previous discussions of concepts such asdominant, residual, andemergent, medieval organizational categories for moral thought did not...

    • 5 That Gnawing Hunger: The Plus Size of Gluttony
      (pp. 112-132)

      Gluttony still appears as a medieval Vice to be avoided in theautos sacramentales. In fact, Gluttony was considered the first Vice to occur in the world, when Eve and then Adam took a bite of the forbidden apple: “ofendido Dios de ver la golosa inobediencia, que fue sugestión de Adán.”² In theautos, Mundo or World is told to prepare an inn full of delicious food to waylay the human pilgrim: “prevénle tú una Posada llena de Aparatos ricos, Delicias, Comida, y Juego.”³ In this rather shady roadside establishment, Gluttony cooks dinner for the other Vices: “no sólo come,...

    • 6 Angry Young Murderers
      (pp. 133-152)

      Anger is unquestionably one of the most powerful of the Vices, consuming mountains and laying high outcroppings of rock to waste: “la ira ásperos montes consume, altos Mármoles derriba.”² The histrionics associated with Anger made it exceptionally theatrical and thus peculiarly susceptible to adaptation for thecomediastage. This very subject matter calls attention to itself as theatre, as when one angry character threatens, “ha de ser Parma un teatro de la venganza, y la ira con el fuego de mi agravio. Toca alarma.”³ Time and again playwrights manage to sound the alarm to alert their audiences to the presence...

  8. Part Three: Emergence

    • 7 Disappearing Deadlies: The End of Envy
      (pp. 155-173)

      In this book’s first section, “Residue,” we saw how the Deadly Vices of Pride, Avarice, and Lust persisted as primary organizational categories for moral thought in Golden Age Spain. In Part II, “Transformation,” we saw how Sloth, Gluttony, and Anger underwent drastic facelifts to stay au courant. Now, in this book’s final division, “Emergence,” we shall see how Envy died and two Commandments arose to fill the cultural vacuum left by its absence. However, we must be careful that in the process of deconstructing one grand narrative, we do not merely create another: in the language of Raymond Williams,


    • 8 Parents and Lies: The Decalogue on the Rise
      (pp. 174-201)

      As the old era waned and a new age dawned,² the Seven Deadlies became less prevalent as a paradigm for moral knowledge. Increasingly, the Ten Commandments arose (or rather, were resurrected) to take their place as the dominant locus of anxiety regarding sin and guilt. Or so the story goes. But as we have seen repeatedly throughout this study, things are seldom if ever that simple. In any period of transition, change happens in fits and starts – one step forward, two steps back – like a baby who is learning to walk. Not to mention that “progress” is one...

    • Photo section
      (pp. None)
  9. Conclusion: The Self Discovered by Sin
    (pp. 202-208)

    So after all this, we must ask: which moral system won out in the drama? And why? Among myriad possibilities, I see at least three options for ways we could have approached and interpreted this body of evidence. I shall summarize these three choices at the outset.

    The first possible conclusion we could have reached is that a system of morality based upon the Ten Commandments won out. This reading might be supported by anecdotal archival evidence from the time period, such as bigamists being branded on the forehead with the number 10 to denote their flagrant violation of God’s...

  10. Epilogue: To Avoid Reductionism
    (pp. 209-212)

    As demonstrated by a trendy pop culture book series published by Oxford University Press in conjunction with the New York Public Library, in addition to the January 2009 Seven Deadly Sins Week on the History Channel, as well as the Hollywood movieSe7enstarring Brad Pitt, there has been a veritable explosion in recent years of renewed interest in the Capital Vices.² Conjuring images of the circles of hell in Dante’sInferno, perhaps the Seven Deadlies continue to seem more quaintly medieval – and certainly less controversial – than the Ten Commandments, those stern “Thou shalt’s” and “Thou shalt not’s”...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 213-366)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 367-386)
  13. Index of Comedias
    (pp. 387-400)
  14. Index
    (pp. 401-446)