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Justice Without Revenge


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AT: Lost in a Mirror A: Lope de Vega Pf: 1632, Madrid Pb: 1634 Tr: 1961 G: Trag. in 3 acts; Spanish verse S: Ferrara, Italy, and its environs, 15th c. C: 10m, 4f, extrasWhen Federico, bastard son of the Duke of Ferrara, learns that his father is to marry, he is pleased that this may spell an end to his father's licentious behaviour at court, but, on the other hand, fears that he shall no longer be heir. Federico aids his father's intended bride, Cassandra, on her way to Ferrara, and they fall in love with each other. The Duke plans for Federico to marry his cousin, Aurora, but Federico spurns her. When the Duke is called away from court, Cassandra gives herself to Federico. Returning to court, the Duke is told of his son's adultery with his stepmother, an allegation which Federico's professed desire to marry Aurora, fails to counter. Cassandra's horror at learning that Federico seeks Aurora's hand in marriage incites the Duke to greater jealousy. His honour affronted, he seizes Cassandra and binds her, hooded, to a chair. He then insists that Federico kill this hooded ‘traitor’. When Federico obeys, his father denounces him, and Federico is killed by Cassandra's cousin.

AT: Lost in a Mirror A: Lope de Vega Pf: 1632, Madrid Pb: 1634 Tr: 1961 G: Trag. in 3 acts; Spanish verse S: Ferrara, Italy, and its environs, 15th c. C: 10m, 4f, extras

Based on a true incident, this is one of the finest of Lope de Vega's extraordinary output of some 300 to 400 plays. It is an elegantly structured play with a violent climax worthy of Jacobean tragedy (here performed offstage in an inner room, revealed by pulling back a curtain – not unlike the ekkuklema of Greek theatre). Central to the play is the concern for honour, which, though recognized as the ‘cruel enemy of mankind’, nevertheless demands punishment of those who cause dishonour, even though it may cause greater pain than would forgiveness. In this way ‘honour’ is an unreal game, but it may here offer the only bastion against the chaos of natural desire.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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