Desire and Death in the Spanish Sentimental Romance (1440-1550)

By Patricia E. Grieve | Go to book overview
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Each phase of desire in Cárcel de Amor brings with it an interpretation of justice. In the first phase, Leriano and Laureola struggle to decide who is right: should women protect their reputation at all costs or should they live up to the declared obligations of love, that they alleviate the victim's sufferings? This struggle is exemplified by the movement from country to court and back. In the second phase, God's justice and man's justice are compared. God's justice finally triumphs, as did Love's justice in the first part. This is illustrated by the example of the castle, or fortress, in each part. In the first part, when Laureola finally sends Leriano a letter, we are told that Leriano conquers his prison guards, one by one, and breaks out of the "Cárcel de Amor." The prison represents a tension between hope and despair, so Laureola's letter provides hope for the prisoner, thereby freeing him from Love's prison. Leriano reciprocates in the second part by conquering Persio, freeing Laureola, and holding out against the siege laid by he father. In this case, God's justice triumphs over the King's warped sense of justice, but to no avail.

In the third part, Leriano gives in to the unspoken demands of love, which even require death as the supreme form of fidelity and, in this case, protest against the injustice of the whole situation. The conflict in this part arises between the justice as Leriano sees it and as his mother sees it. A consideration of Rolfs' examination of suicide as a form of protest against cruel parents or cruel society is apt here: he claims that, in many works, a grieved community joins together after such a tragedy, or an oppressor is brought to justice.27 If, in fact, Leriano's suicide makes an impression or brings the villain--the King--to justice, we certainly do not witness it. What we do see is an unresolved conflict about love and its treacherous, destructive nature.

Daniel J. Rolfs, "Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio and the Problem of Suicide," RR, 67 ( 1976), 200-25. As in the case of Ardanlier in Estoria de dos amadores, the moral question of suicide seems not to have been an issue. Whinnom tells us: "Aunque la Iglesia miraba el suicidio como un pecado mortal, no parece que el siglo XV lo tomase muy en serio. Diego de San Pedro mismo, al enumerar las mujeres virtuosas de la historia, incluye a varias suicidas, no sólo a las romanas sino también a doña Maria Coronel, española y cristiana," p. 38.


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Desire and Death in the Spanish Sentimental Romance (1440-1550)


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