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Feminism and the Honor Plays of Lope de Vega

Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano

Drawing on recent feminist theories, Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano demonstrates that hierarchical relations of gender, race, and social status mutually inform one another as structuring principles of Lope de Vega’s conjugal honor plays. Identifying moments of resistance and subversion in the texts, the author argues against excessively monolithic interpre¬tations of such discourses of containment.

Woman, represented as medium of male homosocial relations and rewarded or punished against the standards of masculine authority and the feminine ideal, is never completely brought under control. Such is the case of the cross-dressed woman, who both upholds and undermines binary gender distinctions.

For the male subject, a crisis of masculinity is provoked by the pressures of forging satisfying bonds with other men and performing a gender ideal that calls simultaneously for predation on and protection of sexual property. Yarbro-Bejarano highlights his conflicted relationship with the symbolic father, as well as the texts’ obsessive representation of his loss of control, caused by the very codes that purport to secure it.

Other possibilities of rupture are traced in a provocative exploration of the participation of early modern spectators in contesting the meanings of important signs of social life (woman, black, Spanish, Jew, or husband).

The pleasure of such negotiations together with that of witnessing the predicaments of both male and female subjects trapped by contradictory constructs of gender and sexuality helps explain the popularity of this subgenre.

"This substantial and elegantly produced book offers the elucidation of no fewer than forty-six plays by Lope de Vega in which the honor theme is of cenral importance, in the light of insights derived from the by-now familiar and well-worn paths of recent feminist critical theory, together with other approaches deriving from cultural-studies and psycho-analytic (i.e. Lacanian) theoretical models." —T. R. A. Mason, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

"It performs its task thoroughly and skilfully, adding a new dimension to both comedia studies and feminist criticism. Its treatment is scholarly and comprehensive.... Its choice of plays is well justified and the fact that they include a number which have been little studied makes the work particularly useful." —Melveena McKendrick, Journal of European Studies

"...Yarbro-Bejarano's contribution to the dismantling of the monolithic overall conception of Lope as a defender of the dominant ideology is most welcome.... this is a well-researched book that is interesting for its application of a feminist reading to seventeenth-century Spanish drama." —Teresa J. Kirschner, Modern Language Review

"... an excellent, multifaceted discussion of otherness in early modern Spanish culture.... The clarity of her writing style makes this thought-provoking book a delight to read." —Sixteenth-Century Journal

"Feminism and the Honor Plays of Lope de Vega accomplishees more than its title promises. This study goes beyond Donald Larson's The Honor Plays of Lope de Vega (1977), not only by focusing on the images and treatment of women in thses works, but also by defining how they construct gender roles fof noblemen and women, as well as for members of other social classes and racial groups. —Valerie Hegstrem. Bulletin of the Comediantes

"Professor Yarbro-Bejarano's study brings the perspectives of recent literary theories emerging from psychoanalysis and continental feminism to the corpus of Lope's Honor plays." —Carolyn Lukens-Olson. Hispanófila

For the complete text of the above excerpts, see
Bulletin of Hispanic Studies
74.4 (1997): 521.
Journal of European Studies
25 (Dec. 1995): 447-48.
Modern Language Review
91.3 (1996): 765-66.
Sixteenth-Century Journal
26.3 (1995): 722-23.
Bulletin of the Comediantes
49.1 (Summer 1997): 117-19.
No. 12 (Sept 1997): 79-81.

For more reviews, see
Ibero-romania No. 48 (1998): 131-33. (Axel Schönberger)
Gender and History 9.1 (1997): 147-48. (Judith Drinkwater)
Comparative Drama 30.2 (Summer 1996): 290-92. (Margaret Rich Greer)
Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 20.2 (May 1996): 356-57 (Anita K. Stoll)
Romanische Forschungen 107.3/4 (1995): 527-33. (Joachim Küpper)
Year's Work in Modern Language Studies 56 (1994): 364.
Estudios 51.188 (1995): 189. (Luis Vázquez)
Book News
Sept. 1994: 120. (J. A. Parr)

Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano, Stanford University, is the author of studies and essays on Spanish Golden Age literature, Chicano literature, and feminism.

ISBN: 978-1-55753-044-8
1994. PSRL 4. xiv, 324 pp. Now in Paper $29.95

Last updated July 1, 2015

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