Imperial Stagings: Empire and Ideology in Transatlantic Theater of Early Modern Spain and the New World

By Chad M. Gasta | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
FALLING STARS: KINGSHIP AND THE LAW IN
RUIZ DE ALARCÓN’S EL DUEÑO DE LAS ESTRELLAS

In short, during that time I have weighed the cares
and responsibilities governing brings with it, and
by my reckoning I find my shoulders can’t bear
them, nor are they a load for my loins or arrows for
my quiver; and so, before the government threw me
over I preferred to throw the government over; and
yesterday morning I left the island as I found it,
with the same streets, houses, and roofs it had
when I entered it. I asked no loan of anybody, nor
did I try to fill my pocket; and though I meant to
make some useful laws, I made hardly any, as I was
afraid they would not be kept; for in that case it
comes to the same thing to make them or not to
make them. I quitted the island, as I said, without
any escort except my ass.

–Sancho Panza, Don Quixote

CERVANTES’S Spain was one of the most litigious and legal conscious societies in early modern Europe.1 As Richard L. Kagan

1 According to Richard L. Kagan, with four million people, England’s Court of Chancery during Elizabeth I’s reign (1558–1603) saw around five hundred new cases each year while at the end of the seventeenth century the court system in Valladolid, with the same population living within its jurisdiction, received up to seven thousand (16). Kagan makes the case several times over that demographic increases was one fundamental cause of the increase in litigation in Castile’s courts. He also points out that law and justice shared attention with other important imperial matters: “the rey justiciero of the sixteenth century was forced, by necessity, to become

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