Geraldine Coates, Treacherous Foundations: Betrayal and Collective Identity in Early Spanish Epic, Chronicle, and Drama
Hook, David, Medium Aevum
Geraldine Coates, Treacherous Foundations: Betrayal and Collective Identity in Early Spanish Epic, Chronicle, and Drama (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2009). viii + 237 pp. ISBN 978-1-85566-188-2. 55.00 [pounds sterling].
Geraldine Coates considers the nature and role of treachery (which embraces a variety of types and occurs in a range of circumstances) as encountered in selected legendary accounts of three episodes from the centuries following the Muslim invasion of Spain: the story of Bernaldo del Carpio, the life of Fernan Gonzalez, and the assassination of Sancho II of Castile. These episodes in the history of the kingdom of Asturias-Leon and its Castilian offshoot, which are considered important because of their perceived role in the formation of the collective identity of these Peninsular polities, are examined in her chosen vernacular Spanish texts, which variously date from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century: the Poema de Fernan Gonzalez, the Estoria de Espanna of Alfonso X, and relevant plays by the post-medieval dramatists Juan de la Cueva and Lope de Vega. Ballads are specifically excluded as a category for analysis but, sensibly, are nonetheless cited occasionally where relevant. The chosen texts themselves are neatly associated with key moments in the formation and nucleation of major politics that would be significant constituent parts of Spain and with important junctures in the development of its monarchy. In her discussion Coates also refers to a variety of theoretical studies on nationhood, identity, and similar matters outside the specifically medieval and Hispanic ambit, the conceptual framework and vocabulary of which are used as a point of reference and validation.
The arguments advanced in the book are well keyed to the vernacular narrative and dramatic texts, and there is abundant discussion of relevant background material on concepts such as kingship and treason. One sometimes wishes that it could go further; may age, for example, be a relevant factor to consider in the different portrayals of Bernardo del Carpio and the Cid, since the episode involving the latter takes place in the second of the three reigns spanned by his life (p. 146)? Could Fernan Gonzalez's ira (p. …