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Honor and Violence in Golden Age Spain

Honor and Violence in Golden Age Spain

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Honor and Violence in Golden Age Spain
    Book Description:

    Early modern Spain has long been viewed as having a culture obsessed with honor, where a man resorted to violence when his or his wife's honor was threatened, especially through sexual disgrace. This book-the first to closely examine honor and interpersonal violence in the era-overturns this idea, arguing that the way Spanish men and women actually behaved was very different from the behavior depicted in dueling manuals, law books, and "honor plays" of the period.

    Drawing on criminal and other records to assess the character of violence among non-elite Spaniards, historian Scott K. Taylor finds that appealing to honor was a rhetorical strategy, and that insults, gestures, and violence were all part of a varied repertoire that allowed both men and women to decide how to dispute issues of truth and reputation.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15169-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    THESE MUSINGS FORM PART OF A soliloquy by Don Gutierre Alfonso Solís inThe Physician of His Honor(El médico de su honra), written by Pedro Calderón de la Barca around 1635. Gutierre finds himself tormented by suspicions that his wife, Doña Mencía de Acuña, is conducting an affair with Prince Enrique, the king’s brother, who previously had courted Mencía before she married Gutierre. Gutierre utters these words after discovering a dagger in his house with a design matching Prince Enrique’s sword. Gutierre suspects, correctly, that Enrique has been courting Mencía again and forgot the dagger while making a clandestine...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Duel and the Rhetoric of Honor
    (pp. 17-64)

    CALDERÓN’STHE FINAL DUEL OF SPAIN(El postrer duelo de España), probably composed in the early 1650s, provides a dramatic representation of honor’s role in Golden Age society. Calderón took his plot from the story of two gentlemen, Pedro de Torrellas and Jerónimo de Ansa, who fought the last legally sanctioned duel in Spanish history, overseen by the emperor Charles V in 1522.¹ The plot revolves around the competition of the two friends over the affections of a woman and the demands that honor places on the four main characters—or the demands they believe honor places on them—which...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Honor and the Law
    (pp. 65-99)

    THERE IS A CLIMACTIC CONFRONTATION in Calderón’sThe Alcalde of Zalamea(El alcalde de Zalamea), first staged in the 1640s, in which Pedro Crespo, a wealthy peasant and newly chosen alcalde of the town, confronts Don Lope de Figueroa, commander of the army billeted in Zalamea.¹ Crespo’s daughter, Isabel, has been raped by Don Álvaro, a captain and nobleman under Don Lope’s command, and Crespo, acting as the alcalde, has arrested the rapist—illegally, for the captain is governed by martial law—and is about to execute him.

    DON LOPE: I have come to take the prisoner away

    and punish...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Men
    (pp. 100-156)

    IN THE OPENING TO CALDERÓN’SThe Painter of His Dishonor,Don Juan Roca contemplates his fate as he searches for the man who has abducted his wife, Serafina:

    Curse him, indeed,

    who first made such a severe law!

    How little did he understand honor

    the tyrannous lawmaker

    who put in another’s hand

    my reputation, and not in my own.

    That my honor is subject to another,

    and that (oh, treacherous, unjust law!)

    the injury should belong to him who weeps over it,

    and not to him who commits it!

    My fame has been honorable—

    is it an accomplice to evil...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Women
    (pp. 157-193)

    ON MARCH 16, 1611, MASS had just begun in the parish church of Yébenes when worshippers were disturbed by the sounds of two women shouting at each other. They also heard a blow, followed by Ana Díaz crying out that María Fernández had struck her in the face with a wooden plank, and as they turned they saw the swelling on Díaz’s head. Blood appeared on Fernández’s head too as she shouted, ‘‘Look what she did to me,’’ while women nearby hastened to stop the fight. Judicial authorities found that the two had been fighting over seats in the church....

  9. CHAPTER 6 Adultery and Violence
    (pp. 194-225)

    IN LOPE DE VEGA’SPunishment without Vengeance,the Duke of Ferrara learns from an anonymous letter that while he was away fighting for the pope his illegitimate adult son had an affair with his young new wife. At first the duke hesitates, struggling with the love he feels for his son and feeling uncertain as to whether the adultery actually occurred. But he soon makes up his mind to take action, explaining in a monologue, ‘‘It is not necessary for an evil / to have been done to ruin honor / because it is enough to be spoken of’’—that...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 226-232)

    SO FAR WE HAVE EXAMINED honor on the Golden Age stage, but now let’s take a look at another view, from Miguel de Cervantes’sDon Quixote de la Mancha. Shortly after the mule drivers from Yanguas thrashed Don Quixote and Sancho Panza for allowing Don Quixote’s horse, Rocinante, to mingle with their own, Quixote explained, ‘‘I want you to know, Sancho, that the wounds given by whatever tools happen to be in one’s hands do not cause an affront, and this is expressly written in the law of the duel, that if the shoemaker hits another with the mold he...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 233-280)
    (pp. 281-296)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 297-307)