Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Staging Marriage in Early Modern Spain. Conjugal Doctrine in Lope, Cervantes, and Calderón

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Staging Marriage in Early Modern Spain. Conjugal Doctrine in Lope, Cervantes, and Calderón

Article excerpt

GABRIELA CARRIÓN, Staging Marriage in Early Modern Spain. Conjugal Doctrine in Lope, Cervantes, and Calderón. Lanham, MD: Bucknell University Press. 2011. 136 pp. ISBN 986 5642198.

This slim, handsome volume, based on the author's dissertation, appears to present a thesis whose prevailing line is the dichotomy between two famous prescriptive treatises about married women's 'correct' behaviour, on the one hand, and three comedias and an entremés, on the other. Chapter One reviews well-known patriarchal notions in Juan Luis Vives's Instrucción de la mujer cristiana (1524) and Fray Luis de León's La perfecta casada (1583). Prof. Carrión's proposal that Vives's formula for the perfect woman is something of a self-portrait is interesting, if very modestly substantiated, as is her contention that Luis de León's recipe for the perfect wife betrays his own tribulations. Both observations buttress the longstanding feminist contention that early modern men writing about women are really writing about themselves. One certainly wonders how seriously real women took any of it; clearly Catherine of Aragon, to whom Vives dedicated his book, did not heed his call to wifely silence, submission, or obedience. Since the patriarchal premises of both of these books have been repeatedly reviewed in longstanding scholarship, it may be time to move beyond them to consider the many Spanish moralists and theologians who wrote about marriage in closer chronological proximity to the plays studied here: 100 years separate Vives's book and the heyday of the Spanish comedia.

Chapter Two rapidly passes through a series of details from Lope de Vega's Peribañez, such as domestic economy, pastoral motifs, and references to prescribed roles for wives also in Vives's 1528 treatise on husbands. These are support for what appears to be a double thesis: (1) the play is remarkable for Lope's failure to resort to murder in a case of threat to marital honour; (2) 'racial and religious bigotry - translated as the obsession with blood purity - traverses the drama' (50).

Chapter Three reviews Cervantes's El juez de los divorcios to observe how the plaintiffs articulate conflict between formal dictates about marriage (referring to the Council of Trent) and reality. The author again leaps from Catholic texts and context to questions of conversos, positing that by allowing disgruntled wives to speak in the divorce court, Cervantes suggests that it is impossible to remain indifferent to voices of women and heretics (such as conversos), on the one hand, and 'reminds us that religious faith as well as marital fidelity does not necessarily depend on reason', on the other (59). …

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