Printer Friendly

The essential difference: contrasting male and female thinking in Calderon's A Secreto Agravio, Secreta Venganza.

SEX and gender have traditionally been considered related concepts, but in the 1960s feminist critics in England and the United States presented the idea that gender roles are an artifice created by society rather than by genetics. Under this construct, sex is a biological category that differentiates between men and women, while gender represents the cultural attitudes that determine the norms for male and female behavior (Stoll and Smith 12). More recently, a new generation of feminists has questioned the usefulness of this distinction, in part because it assumes that "the mind, of either sex, is a neutral, passive entity, a blank slate on which is inscribed various social 'lessons'" (Gatens 140). (1) Although feminist scholars typically focus on the role of the female body in Spanish literature, the present study suggests that literary and cultural critics can also examine scientific research related to theories of mind and sex difference--which represents the contrasting masculine and feminine behavior produced or at least influenced by the genetic categories of male and female -without returning to outdated notions of feminine passivity or biological determinism. (2) The study therefore analyzes Simon Baron-Cohen's innovative work on the differences between the male and female mind, and then uses these psychological theories to understand better the sexual roles and thought processes in Pedro Calderon de la Barca's A secreto agravio, secreta venganza.

While Baron-Cohen recognizes the importance of societal influence in the development of gender roles, the title of his book--The Essential Difference: the Truth about the Male and Female Brain--emphasizes the cerebral basis of this contrast. According to Baron-Cohen, males and females typically possess different mental traits, although there is a significant overlap between the sexes. Baron-Cohen believes that the most distinctive characteristic of the female brain is the tendency towards empathizing, which he defines as
 the drive to identify another person's emotions and thoughts, and
 to respond to them with appropriate emotion. Empathizing does not
 entail just the cold calculation of what someone else thinks and
 feels.... Empathizing occurs when we feel an appropriate emotional
 reaction, an emotion triggered by the other person's emotions, and
 it is done in order to understand another person, to predict their
 behavior, and to connect or resonate with them emotionally. (2)

Baron-Cohen believes that more women than men have what he calls the type E brain, which is characterized by this kind of empathizing behavior. He also believes that the male mind typically exhibits the attribute of systemizing thought, also known as the type S brain. According to Baron-Cohen,
 Systemizing is the drive to analyze and construct a system. The
 systemizer intuitively figures out how things work, or extracts the
 underlying rules that govern the behavior of a system....
 Systemizing can also work to a useful degree if you are trying to
 understand a human group as a system, such as the pattern of
 traffic accidents on a particular freeway or patterns of voting
 behavior, hence the term traffic "system" or electoral "system."
 These [human] systems, like any other, can be lawful, finite, and
 deterministic. (3, 5)

Rosalind C. Barnet and Caryl Rivers object to the empathizing-systemizing theory because they believe that it represents a "new versio[n] of biological determinism [that] claim[s] that women are not meant, by nature or psyche, for achievement" (1), but Baron-Cohen views type E and type S thinking as two complex yet different forms of understanding that manifest themselves as statistical tendencies rather than as absolute differences between the sexes (8-9). (3) Rejecting both biological determinism and the view that the brain is a blank slate, Baron-Cohen recognizes that many women possess a type S brain, although he indicates that this systemizing characteristic is far more common in men. Moreover, it is important to remember that he adopts a nuanced position on the social and biological causes of the contrasts between men and women. On the one hand, Baron-Cohen notes that "the accumulation of evidence from laboratories over many decades" suggests that "the old idea that [sex differences] might be wholly cultural in origin is nowadays too simplistic" (10). On the other, he also writes that "[w]e must be wary ... of assuming that sex differences are only due to biology" (10). (4)

Baron-Cohen therefore concludes that the theory of psychological sex difference is not inherently antagonistic to the concept of societal gender differentiation, although he appears to believe that at least some aspects of feminist theory run counter to modern scientific thinking. At the same time, Baron-Cohen suggests that the biological male tendency towards less empathic behavior may play an important social role in the relationship between gender and power. Examining the work of anthropologist Ritch Savin-Williams, Baron-Cohen observes with obvious dismay that the male propensity to combine greater aggression with lower empathy can be an effective cultural strategy because this conduct "gets you higher socially, and gets you more control and power" (38). Moreover, Baron-Cohen concludes that "the big pay-off in systemizing is control" (67), which implies that male psychological traits can reinforce themselves by creating social systems that preserve masculine authority. In this way, sex difference and gender differentiation can turn out to be complementary rather than conflicting factors in determining cultural norms and behavioral patterns.

Like other honor dramas, A secreto agravio, secreta venganza begins with a series of events that foreshadow the play's tragic conclusion. During the opening scene of Act I, the protagonist Don Lope de Almeida receives permission from King Sebastian of Portugal to withdraw from military service in order to remain in Lisbon with his new Spanish wife Leonor, whom he has married by proxy. As Alan Paterson (601-03), Frederick de Armas (66), and Anne Cruz (158) have noted, the dichotomy between Mars and Venus is a recurring theme in Calderon's play, but this relationship is particularly troubling because of the play's repeated references to the upcoming battle of Alcazar-quivir, which takes place in Morocco in 1578. Although Lope tells the monarch that he will be successful in this military campaign--"Eterno dure ese laurel divino / que tus sienes corona" (I, 19-20) --the audience knows that the historical battle not only leads to the death of King Sebastian, but also to the virtual annihilation of the Portuguese nobility. (5) Nevertheless, Lope does not foresee the negative outcomes of either the battle or his marriage, which seems to suggest that he is temporarily estranged from the systemizing type S thinking.

Don Lope is initially dominated by the "alegria" that he feels about his first meeting with his young bride (I, 24), and this emotion apparently prevents him from achieving any kind of systemizing thought at the beginning of the play. As Baron-Cohen has noted, "While the natural way to understand and predict the nature of events and objects is to systemize.... you need detachment in order to monitor information and track which factors cause information to vary" (5). Rather than maintain this form of intellectual objectivity during the opening scenes, Lope is so emotionally connected to his idealized vision of Leonor that he cannot carry out the systemizing activity that Baron-Cohen describes as an inductive and empirical process (67). Despite this original limitation, however, we see a change in Lope's character once he unexpectedly runs into the recently-arrived Don Juan de Silva, an old friend who recalls that both men once undertook the Portuguese conquest of India not for "codicia de riqueza / sino codicia de honor" (I, 91-92). (6)

Although living in Goa, Juan was as happily in love as Lope is now, but his good fortune changes when a rival challenges him with a mentis after Juan declares that he is the most deserving of the attention of the beautiful Violante. Juan does not hesitate to kill Don Manuel de Sosa because he sees it as the duty of an honorable gentleman, but since his rival was the governor's son, he is forced to seek sanctuary in a church before returning to Portugal in secret. Significantly, Juan praises the deceased Manuel with words such as "valiente" and "cuerdo" (I, 143, 144), as he indicates that honor is such an important concept that it transcends life itself: "[Q]ue yo, / aunque le quite la vida, / no he de quitarle el honor" (I, 144-46). Like many other honor-bound characters in the comedia, Juan is also aware of the implacable nature of a code that he describes as a "tirano error de los hombres" (I, 204-05). For this reason, he recognizes that a single word is enough to destroy the many years that a gentleman spends defending his honor (I, 206-18). Worse yet, while society reviles a man who loses his honor, it will not forgive anyone who takes vengeance against the person responsible for his disgrace, a contradiction that forms a central theme of A secreto agravio, secreta venganza (I, 255-62).

Although Juan's type S thinking allows him to criticize specific aspects of the honor code system, he never doubts its necessity or questions the need to take vengeance for an affront. On the contrary, honor seems to be as important a part of a gentleman's duty as the propagation of the Catholic faith or the defense of the Portuguese nation. Nevertheless, like many other scholars, Angel Valbuena Briones believes that Calderon takes a critical stance towards the honor code, which is why
 los protagonistas de los dramas se quejan de las leyes que han de
 seguir. Las leyes de honor son inhumanas, y la inclinacion del
 caballero es la de rebelarse frente a ellas. Pero esa es la actitud
 instintiva. En ultima instancia, el ofendido acata dichas leyes y
 se atiene a ellas lo mas posible. Para llegar a este acuerdo es
 necesario, sin embargo, una lucha interior, que muestra el temple
 del individuo. (xlii-xlviii)

Even though this internal struggle certainly underlines how demanding the honor code truly is, it is important to remember that the main characters in A secreto agravio do not have any reservations about the correctness of this social system. Instead of questioning the validity of these norms, Juan and Lope are conscientious noblemen who only voice disapproval that anyone would doubt their integrity or their adherence to these principles. As a result, their inner turmoil emphasizes the challenges that each character faces as he willingly complies with a social system that he accepts and agrees with. Yet while Juan and Lope are both systemizers who understand the intricacies of this social model, they also recognize the existence of a second and even more powerful system that appears to be almost inscrutable. As Juan tells Lope while describing his fall from grace,
 Pero quien gano al principio,
 que a la postre no perdio?
 Quien fue antes tan felice
 que despues no declino?
 Porque son muy parecidos
 juego, fortuna y amor. (I, 133-38)

A gentleman must follow an honor code that he considers a demanding yet coherent social practice, but fortune appears to be a chaotic cosmic system whose only comprehensible feature is its own mutability. As Lope observes when he hears Don Juan's tragic story, " Quien, en naciendo, no vive / sujeto a las inclemencias / del tiempo y de la fortuna?" (I, 283-85). While it is impossible to maintain good fortune in the long term, Lope realizes that a gentleman can only consider himself dichoso if he preserves his honor in the face of those who would destroy it. Therefore, while fortune guarantees that everyone will face unhappiness at some point, Lope assures Don Juan that the honor code provides a form of lasting satisfaction to those who respect and defend it:
 Solo dichoso
 puede llamarse el que deja,
 como vos, limpio su honor
 y castigada su ofensa;
 honrado estais: negras sombras
 no deslustren, no oscurezcan
 vuestro honor antiguo. (I, 291-97)

This type S thinking confirms that the honor code is an established social system that--despite its demands and drawbacks--provides a sense of order and self-respect in a contrary and anarchic world. While these norms apply to both men and women, seventeenth-century notions of gender establish significant differences between the sexes. As Valbuena Briones has noted, the Diccionario de Autoridades' definition of honor includes the following explanation: "a) Honra con esplendor y publicidad; b) Se toma muchas veces por reputacion ilustre de alguna familia, accion u otra cosa" (xviii). This part of the definition refers to both males and females, but there is another part of the definition that applies only to women: "Significa tambien la honestidad y recato en las mujeres" (xviii). Although Lope and Juan are systemizers who are fully aware of the personal and public burdens of the honor code, we will see that by the end of the play Leonor rejects the female aspects of honor, while simultaneously ignoring her husband's obligation to enforce this inflexible social standard.

Although Lope proclaims his unrestrained "alegria" when he first appears onstage (I, 65), Leonor arrives in Lisbon in the midst of a "tierno llanto" that she falsely claims are "lagrimas de alegria" (I, 400, 406). According to Baron-Cohen, "In order to empathize you need to be aware of how other people see you" (21), so as a type E thinker Leonor understands that she must make Lope's old friend Don Bernardino--who accompanies her from Seville to Lisbon--believe that she is happy about her marriage. Despite this affirmation, once Leonor is alone with her servant Sirena, she acknowledges her suffering in a short exclamation that includes the word fuego six times in only 18 lines of poetry (I, 421-38). Leonor also reveals that she believes she died along with her beloved Don Luis de Benavides (I, 484), and that she only married Lope in a vain attempt to forget her former suitor. Significantly, while she does not love her husband, at the beginning of the play she is determined to sub-stitute her affection for Luis with the honor embodied in holy matrimony (I, 503-08).

Leonor's apparent acceptance of the honor code demonstrates that she recognizes the emotional requirements of this social order, as would be expected from an empathic thinker who is cognizant of the feelings of those around her. While at first glance this form of judgment appears to be far simpler than systemizing, Baron-Cohen explains that empathy is a two-step process that requires a sophisticated understanding of other people's feelings:
 There are two major elements to empathy. The first is the
 cognitive component, understanding the other's feelings and the
 ability to take their perspective.... Essentially, the cognitive
 component entails setting aside your own current perspective,
 attributing a mental state ... to the other person, and then
 inferring the likely content of their mental state, given their
 experience. The cognitive component also allows you to predict the
 other person's behavior or mental state.

 The second element to empathy is the affective component. This
 is an observer's appropriate emotional response to another person's
 emotional state. Sympathy is just one such type of empathetic
 response.... [b]ut in other empathic reactions there is a
 different, still appropriate, emotional response to someone else's
 feelings. (26)

As a type E thinker, Leonor knows that she must respond appropriately to her husband's amorous feelings, but she does not realize that her beloved Luis did not die in battle as she mistakenly believes. On the contrary, Luis returned safely from Flanders and then followed her from Seville to Lisbon, where he pretends to be a jewelry merchant in order to speak to her just before her first encounter with Don Lope. Ironically, she ends up facing both men at the same time, so she has to recognize each one's emotions and respond appropriately without arousing the suspicions of her husband. Fortunately, Lope has no idea that the jeweler is in reality his wife's former suitor, so Leonor tells Luis that her introductory speech to her husband will actually be intended for him. As a result, she demonstrates that she is intelligent enough to improvise a double-voiced sonnet that uses the same words to send radically different messages to each man:
 Yo me firme rendida antes que os viese,
 y vivo y muerto solo en vos estaba,
 porque sola una sombra vuestra amaba;
 pero basto que sombra vuestra fuese.

 Dichosa yo mil veces, si pudiese
 amaros como el alma imaginaba!
 Que la deuda comun asi pagaba
 la vida, cuando humilde me rindiese. (I, 757-64)

As Alan Paterson has noted, "Leonor has played a dangerous and virtuoso game" with this sonnet (595), which suggests that type E thinking also permits a limited form of social control. Nevertheless, while she is clever enough to fool her husband about the sonnet's real meaning, the dual nature of empathy suggests that she will be unable to find a permanent solution to her emotional predicament. She has no difficulty with the cognitive component of empathy, as she easily understands both her husband's and her suitor's feelings towards her. Nevertheless, the affective component requires Leonor to provide "an appropriate emotional response to another person's emotional state" (Baron-Cohen 26), but this aspect of empathy indicates that if she reciprocates the feelings of one of the two men, then she would have to reject the emotions of the other. Significantly, Leonor reveals her choice in the sonnet, which shrewdly combines the image of the sombra which represents both Lope's portrait that she saw in Seville and her loving memories of Luis--with her vision of unbounded joy: " Dichosa yo mil veces, si pudiese / amaros como el alma imaginaba!" (I, 757-64).

By the end of Act I we see that the play presents an irresolvable conflict between Lope's and Leonor's views of happiness. Lope has already told Don Juan that the only way that he can feel "dichoso" is by punishing those who offend him in order to maintain "limpio su honor" (I, 292, 293). Leonor, on the other hand, would feel "dichosa" if she could love Luis in the same way that her soul imagines him (I, 757), a sentiment that runs counter to her husband's view of personal satisfaction. Following Baron-Cohen's notion of sex difference, Lope uses a systemizing thought process to define happiness as the preservation of an established social system, while Leonor employs empathic thinking to define it as providing the appropriate emotional response to Luis. While the empathizingsystemizing theory confirms the inconsistency between Lope's and Leonor's desires, we are still left with the central question of why someone as intelligent as Leonor would fail to realize the growing danger in her relationship with her suitor. This situation is especially perplexing because BaronCohen indicates that the cognitive component of empathy allows one to "understan[d] the other's feelings" and "to predict the other person's behavior or mental state" (26). As a result, the empathic Leonor should be able to recognize the ominous changes that take place in her husband's outlook once he begins to question her virtue.

There is no doubt that Leonor is initially conscious of her husband's likely response to her suitor, as she tells Sirena that Luis will be the death of her if he doesn't leave Lisbon (II, 513-16). When Luis visits her at home she also worries that every footfall announces Don Lope's arrival (II, 556-58), but since her suitor appears to fool her husband, Leonor begins to underestimate his grasp of the situation. As she tells her maid after Luis leaves the house safely at the end of Act II, "Aun mejor ha sucedido, / Sirena, que yo esperaba" (II, 874-75). More important, by Act III the apparently guileless Don Lope manages to deceive Leonor completely by modifying his behavior so that she won't suspect that he is planning to kill both lovers. As a consequence, Leonor becomes so sure of herself that she invites Luis to the house so that they can consummate their relationship, never suspecting that Lope is mindful of what is happening. As Leonor observes,
 A aquesto se ha llegado:
 ver a don Lope mas amante ahora;
 porque desenganado,
 si algo temio, su desengano adora,
 y en amor le convierte.
 Oh, cuantos han amado desta suerte!
 Oh, cuantos han querido,
 recibiendo por gracias los agravios!
 Deste error no han podido
 librarse los mas doctos, los mas sabios;
 que la mujer mas cuerda,
 de haber amado, amada no se acuerda. (III, 628-39)

Leonor describes her concept of the contrast between male and female behavior, as she begins by indicating that even los mas doctos become foolish once they fall into love's trap. La mujer mas cuerda, on the other hand, will react in a completely different fashion because her inconstant love allows her to forget her own unfaithful conduct. Leonor's ideas reflect contemporary notions of gender, as she echoes the traditional anti-feminist discourse found in El corbacho or in Sempronio's admonition to Calisto: "Oye a Salomon do dize que las mugeres y el vino hazen a los hombres renegar" (I, 96-97). (7) Even though Leonor is confident that she still has the dominant position in her relationship with Lope, Baron-Cohen's theory would suggest that she has actually lost all control over her type E thinking. As shown above, the systemizer requires a level of detachment to understand and to organize his surroundings, which helps to explain why a lovesick soldier like Luis would not recognize his social responsibilities towards a gentleman like Lope. Yet in the same way that a systemizer must maintain an objective distance, an empathizer who establishes a strong attachment to another person will lose her emotional perception of other people's feelings. According to Baron-Cohen, "Self-control is crucial to empathy. It is hard to consider someone else's emotional state if all you can do is think of yourself" (111). The empathizing-systemizing theory would therefore explain Leonor's inability to gauge her husband's sentiments by concluding that her unbridled passions--her furor uterinus in contemporary terminology--do not allow her to maintain the emotional perspective that would warn her of her certain death. (8)

Leonor's relationship with Luis thus degrades her empathizing traits, while Lope's friendship with Juan only strengthens his systemizing qualities. Although at the start of the play Lope gives up Mars for Venus, by Act II he is torn between his duty to accompany King Sebastian to Africa and his concern about the Castilian gentleman whom he sees outside his house so often that "estatua viva parece" (II, 264). Lope understands that there are "divinas y humanas leyes" that draw him to battle (II, 118), but he questions why his wife would encourage him to go to war while his best friend recommends that he stay in Lisbon. Lope is obliged to find an explanation for these two contradictory opinions, so like Gutierre in El medico de su honra, he ponders this problem in a soliloquy of almost 150 lines. Although Gutierre breaks down crying during the soliloquy (II, 1593-99), Lope cautiously asks and answers his own questions as he struggles to discover the truth about Leonor's devotion to him. Moreover, while honor seems to accompany Gutierre as he returns home after the speech--he even addresses his honor upon arrival, telling it "Vamos presto, honor, que ya llegamos" (II, 1894)--Lope takes this imagery a step further as he engages honor in an imaginary conversation: " Hay, honor, mas sutilezas / que decirme y proponerme?" (II, 325-26).

It is important to note that despite his jealous suspicions, Lope preserves the detachment necessary for type S thinking as he calmly tells honor that it won't be able to assail him with any more "tormentos," "temores," and "celos" (II, 327-32). Lope reveals that he will proceed with due care as he mulls over this problem, but he adds that as an honest gentleman he will not hesitate to react appropriately if it turns out that his honor has been violated:
 No. Pues no podras matarme,
 si mayor poder no tienes;
 que yo sabre proceder
 callado, cuerdo, prudente,
 advertido, cuidadoso,
 solicito y asistente,
 hasta tocar la ocasion
 de mi vida y de mi muerte:
 y en tanto esta se llega,
 valedme, cielos, valedme! (II, 333-42)

Instead of succumbing to Gutierre's melancholic ravings, Lope affirms that he will remain callado, cuerdo, and prudente throughout the entire process; he also indicates that he will be solicito and asistente with Leonor, which is precisely the behavior that encourages her misguided self-confidence. In fact, Lope is so circumspect that instead of admitting to Don Juan that his rival Luis has visited Leonor at the end of Act II, he claims that the two friends must have accidentally run into each other in the evening darkness because no one else has entered his house. By the beginning of Act III it is impossible to dissemble any longer, as Don Juan realizes that people are murmuring about the Spaniard who is wooing Lope's wife, and worse yet that they are commenting that Leonor "le d[a] lugar" to do so (III, 28). Juan tries to speak to Lope indirectly about this indignity, but although Lope again pretends that he has not been offended, when he is alone he decides that he must finally take vengeance for this betrayal (III, 149-51). Nevertheless, Lope does not react immediately as he keeps repeating the phrase "sufre, disimula y calla" (II, 821, 921; III, 398, 417), words that confirm a systematic, controlling approach to defending his honor.

At this point it is relatively easy for Lope to kill Luis and pretend that he drowned, and then to murder his wife and burn down their house to conceal the crime. Lope thus demonstrates his absolute understanding and acceptance of the honor code, but his systemizing activity is not yet complete. He now has no impediment to joining the African campaign, so Lope tells King Sebastian that the only consolation for his personal tragedy is that he will be able to accompany the monarch to war, "donde pueda / tener [su] vida su fin" (III, 957-58). Although it may appear that his certain death in Alcazarquivir represents a punishment for the two ghastly murders, in reality it will bring Lope further glory rather than unmerited censure. (9) Lope had already noted that every Portuguese nobleman hoped to be "el primero / que merezca eterna loa / con su muerte" (II, 63-65), and he had even promised the king that "Con vos voy a morir" (III, 181), so Leonor's demise gives him the opportunity to attain eternal fame by dying in defense of the Catholic faith. Juan had previously reminded Lope that they participated in the conquest of Goa because of their "codicia de honor" (I, 92), so this second invasion provides him the opportunity to maintain his honor intact until the very end of his life.

The play's conclusion is hardly surprising because Lope confirms for the last time his commitment to an established social system, although in this case the structure is the political and religious order of a radically militant nation. Although his comportment is violent and even murderous, given the conventions of the Golden Age honor play Lope must still be considered an upright and dutybound nobleman. While it would appear reasonable to object that Lope is not an effective systemizer because he embraces an honor code and a holy war that violate the basic tenets of Christianity (Valbuena Briones xliii; Holzinger 209; McKendrick "Anticipating" 224 and "Calderon and the Politics" 142-43), this interpretation reveals a modern rather than a contemporary social sensibility. As Carolyn Marvin and David W. Ingle have correctly noted, religious societies are prone to more rather than less bloodshed, and Calderon's dramatic presentation of sixteenth-century Portugal is no exception to this general rule:
 The familiar claim that a religious view of the world is
 characterized by a moral opposition to violence ignores a more
 complex reality in which faiths that most deeply bind the
 commitment of devotees are structures for organizing killing
 energy. This is true both for religions that aggressively kill the
 Other ... and those that pledge their devotees to self-sacrifice
 when confronted with violence. (1)

Curiously, Melveena McKendrick has concluded that, "When the triumphant husband of honour is presented at the end as a compromised victor whose actions have signally failed to guarantee him the renewal of the well-being he sought, the spectator is forced to see him as a failure, as (in different ways) doomed" ("Anticipating" 223). Although this judgment may reflect the viewpoint of a modern spectator or literary critic, it would certainly not be indicative of contemporary attitudes in a nation with an historical antipathy towards the Muslim faith. On the contrary, from a seventeenth-century Spanish perspective, Lope's self-sacrifice would not be seen as a failure at all, but rather as the definitive proof of his integrity as a principled Christian knight. We know that for Lope the ultimate well-being is to consider himself dichoso, a privilege that only accrues to "el que deja / .. limpio su honor" (I, 291-92). Based on Lope's actions throughout the play, there can be little doubt that this systemizing thinker would believe himself honored to die fighting in defense of his king and his religion, despite the tragic consequences of the Battle of Alcazarquivir for the Portuguese nation. (10)

McKendrick has also observed that A secreto agravio, secreta venganza has received less critical attention than the other major uxorcide dramas because it presents "a wife and particularly a husband for whom it is difficult to feel much sympathy" ("Anticipating" 223, n. 14). Baron-Cohen's theories are therefore particularly useful because they provide an insightful approach for analyzing Calderon's play and its two enigmatic characters. While modern scholars do not have to admire Lope de Almeida's actions, they should at least recognize that within the literary conventions of the drama de honor, he is a conscientious and effective systemizer who dutifully discharges his social responsibilities towards his wife and his country. It may appear that Lope does not resist the honor code's "costumbres necias" sufficiently (III, 281)--especially when he coldly murders Luis and Leonor--but he understands these customs well enough to know that an upright gentleman "viv[e] para vengarlas, / no para enmendarlas" (III, 285-86). Leonor is the only tragic heroine in Calderon's honor plays who is truly unfaithful to her husband, but her contradictory conduct can be explained by a growing passion that deprives her of the empathic understanding necessary to comprehend the seriousness of her transgression and the growing threat to her life. The empathizing-systemizing theory therefore presents a valuable critical framework for examining the characters and the social systems in a play that depicts a cultural reality very different from our own, so it appears that modern theories of mind can indeed play a valuable role in the study of Golden Age Spanish theater.


Armas, Frederick de. "The Four Elemental Jewels in Calderon's A secreto agravio, secreta venganza." Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 64 (1987): 65-75.

Barnet, Rosalind C. and Caryl Rivers. "New Gender Myths Supported by Dubious Research." Dissent Magazine (20 July 2005). Web. 17 January 2010.

Baron-Cohen, Simon. The Essential Difference: The Truth about the Male and Female Brain. New York: Basic Books, 2003.

Bleir, Ruth. Science and Determinism. New York: Pergamon Press, 1984.

Browne, Kingsley R. Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2002.

Butler, Judith. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex." New York: Routledge, 1993.

--. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990.

--. Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Cadden, Joan. Meanings of Sex Difference in the Middle Ages: Medicine, Science, and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993.

Calderon de la Barca, Pedro. A secreto agravio, secreta venganza. Ed. Angel Valbuena Briones. Madrid: Espasa Calpe Clasicos Castellanos, 1956.

--. El medico de su honra. Ed. D. W. Cruickshank. Madrid: Clasicos Castalia, 1989.

Chanter, Tina. Ethics of Eros: Irigaray's Rewriting of the Philosophers. New York: Routledge, 1995.

Cruz, Anne J. "Homo Ex Machina? Male Bonding in Calderon's A secreto agravio, secreta venganza." Forum for Modern Language Studies 25.2 (1989): 154-66.

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. New York: Basic Books, 2000.

--. Myths of Gender: Biological Theories about Women and Men. New York: Basic Books, 1992.

Fine, Cordelia. Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Differences. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2010.

Gatens, Moira. "A Critique of the Sex/Gender Distinction." A Reader in Feminist Knowledge. Ed. Sneja Gunew. London: Routledge, 1991. 139-57.

Gilligan, Carol. In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982.

Holzinger, Walter. "Ideology, Imagery and the Literalization of Metaphor in A secreto agravio, secreta venganza." Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 54 (1977): 203-14.

Hubbard, Ruth. "The Political Nature of 'Human Nature.'" Theoretical Perspectives on Human Nature. Ed. Deborah L. Rhode. New Haven: Yale UP, 1990. 63-73.

Katz, Phyllis A. "The Development of Female Identity." Becoming Female: Perspectives and Development. Ed. Claire B. Knopp and Martha Kirkpatrick. New York: Plenum Press, 1983. 3-28.

Lauer, Robert A. "Dona Leonor de Almeida y el furor uterino en A secreto agravio, secreta venganza de Pedro Calderon de la Barca." Calderon: innovacion y legado. Actas selectas del IX Congreso de la Asociacion Internacional de Teatro Espanol y Novohispano de los Siglos de Oro. Ed. Ignacio Arellano and German Vega GarciaLuengos. New York: Peter Lang Iberica, 2001. 227-34.

Lippa, Richard A. Gender, Nature, and Nurture. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005.

MacLean, Ian. The Renaissance Notion of Woman: A Study in the Fortunes of Scholasticism and Medical Science in European Intellectual Life. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1980.

Marvin, Carolyn and David W. Ingle. "Blood Sacrifice and the Nation: Revisiting Civil Religion." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 64.4 (1996). Web. 2 August 2009.

May, T. E. "The Folly and the Wit of Secret Vengeance: Calderon's A secreto agravio, secreta venganza." Forum for Modern Language Studies 2 (1966): 114-22.

McKendrick, Melveena. "Calderon and the Politics of Honour." Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 70 (1993): 135-46.

--. "Anticipating Brecht: Alienation and Agency in Calderon's Wife-Murder Plays." Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 72 (2000): 217-36.

Moi, Toril. What is a Woman? and Other Essays. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.

Paludi, Michele A, ed. Praeger Guide to the Psychology of Gender. Westport CT: Praeger, 2004.

Paterson, Alan. "Calderon's A secreto agravio, secreta venganza: A Theatre of the Passions." The Modern Language Review 79.3 (1984): 589-608.

Rojas, Fernando de. La Celestina. Ed. Dorothy S. Severin. Madrid: Catedra, 1987.

Ross, Jill. Figuring the Feminine: The Rhetoric of Female Embodiment in Medieval Hispanic Literature. Toronto: Toronto UP, 2008.

Savin-Williams, Ritch C. Adolescence: An Ethological Perspective. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1987.

Schaeffer, Amanda. "Meet the Believers." 1 July 2008. Web. 20 December 2009.

Sedgewick, Eve. Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley: U California P, 1990.

Soufas, Teresa Scott. "Calderon's Melancholy Wife-Murderers." Hispanic Review 52 (1984): 181-203.

Stoll, Anita K. and Dawn L. Smith. Introduction. Gender, Identity, and Representation in Spain's Golden Age. Ed. Anita K. Stoll and Dawn L. Smith. Lewisburg PA: Bucknell UP, 2000. 9-18.

U.S. Army. Counterinsurgency Field Manual. Washington D.C.: Department of the Army, 2006. Web. 20 May 2010.

Valbuena Briones, Angel. Prologue. A secreto agravio, secreta venganza. Ed. Angel Valbuena Briones. Madrid: Espasa Calpe Clasicos Castellanos, 1956. xi-civ.

Watson, A. I. "Calderon's King Sebastian: Fool or Hero?" Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 61.3 (1984): 407-18.

Wilson, Edward M. "The Discretion of Don Lope de Almeida." Spanish and English Literature of the 16th and 17th Centuries: Studies in Discretion, Illusion, and Mutability. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1980. 48-64.

Ricardo Castells

Florida International University


(1) For other critical viewpoints on sex and gender, see Toril Moi, Eve Sedgewick, Tina Chanter, Judith Butler, and Jill Ross.

(2) As Ruth Hubbard has noted, "Biodeterminism ... explains individual behavior and characteristics of societies in terms of biological functions. Feminists know it best in the form of Freud's notorious statement, 'Biology is destiny'" (64).

(3) Cordelia Fine believes that the kind of research that Baron-Cohen undertakes represents a form of neurosexism, while Amanda Schaeffer asserts that "sex-difference evangelists" are "peddling one-sidedness, sprinkled with scientific hyperbole." For the case against biological determinism, see Anne Fausto-Sterling and Phyllis A. Katz. For other modern studies of gender and sex difference, see for example Browne, Gilligan, Lippa, Paludi, and Bleir. While numerous studies have found noticeable sex differences in areas such as aggression, conformity, group behavior, and morality (Lip-pa 18-24), it is often difficult to determine if these differences are caused by culture or genetics (Bleir 37-38). For traditional concepts of science, medicine, and gender, see Ian MacLean's The Renaissance Notion of Woman and Joan Cadden's Meanings of Sex Difference in the Middle Ages.

(4) See also Baron-Cohen chapter 7, "Culture" (85-94), and chapter 8, "Biology" (95-115). Significantly, Baron-Cohen indicates that there are physical differences between the typical male and female brain. While on average male brains are larger and have more brain cells even when there is no difference in body size and weight (113), females have "a greater number of nerve fibers connecting the two hemispheres of the brain" (111). BaronCohen surmises that a larger number of brain cells in men could assist in systemizing thought, while a greater number of connections in women may allow a more rapid transfer of information between the hemispheres, which in turn could lead to better communication and empathizing (111-14).

(5) The critical opinon on Lope's conduct in Calderon's play has been influenced by his identification with King Sebastian and the disastrous campaign of Alcazarquivir. E. M. Wilson, T. E. May, and Walter Holzinger all conclude that Sebastian is foolish and imprudent to undertake this course of action, which seems to color their view of Lope's behaviour as well. Nevertheless, A. I. Watson notes that numerous sixteenth- and seventeenth-century accounts praise Sebastian's valor and religious zeal. Since contemporary writers seem to have had a positive view of the king, this attitude may have influenced Calderon's presentation of Sebastian.

(6) See Teresa Scott Soufas for an analysis of the changes in Lope's character from the perspective of classical humoral theory (186-91).

(7) Leonor's and Sempronio's statements reflect the biblical admonition that "Wine and women will make men of understanding to fall away: and he that cleaveth to harlots will become impudent" (Sirach 19.2).

(8) According to Robert Lauer, Leonor's malady was considered to be "una forma de histeria. La enfermedad afecta a jovencitas, viudas o mujeres de tierras calidas [como Sevilla] ... En su libro sobre las enfermedades de las mujeres, Hipocrates describe esta enfermedad como un tipo de inflamacion que enloquece, asusta y corrompe a las mujeres.. .. El furor uterino afecta simultaneamente la siempre abundante matriz y la parte estimativa del alma que ... se ha obsesionado por un objeto en particular, el amante, no el esposo" (231-32).

(9) Juan knows that Lope has killed Leonor and Luis, but he justifies these actions to King Sebastian as a "resolucion tan cuerda" because it achieves the twin conditions of stealth and vengeance (III, 972). Sebastian agrees that "secreta venganza / requiere secreta ofensa" (III, 984-85), as the monarch provides a closing endorsement of Lope's brutal yet honorable behavior.

(10) As A. I. Watson observes, "Calderon set the action of this play immediately before the battle of Alcazar-Kebir in order to provide his tragic hero, Lope de Almeida, with an honourable death at an honourable battle. It seems to me misguided to regard Lope's death as in any way a punishment for the murder of his wife and her lover. He has suffered enough thanks to the obligations placed upon him by the [honour] code, and Calderon has charity enough to allow him to die alongside a brave King who laid down his life for his Church and his country" (416). Moreover, according to the U.S. Army's Counterinsurgency Field Manual, "Belief in an extremist ideology fortifies the will of believers. It confirms the idea ... that using unlimited means is appropriate to achieve their often unlimited goals. Some ideologies, such as the one underlying the culture of martyrdom, maintain that using such means will be rewarded" (section 1-79, page 1-15). In this case, Lope's martyrdom preserves his honor and presumably assures his salvation, so the military defeat at Alcazarquivir surprisingly represents a personal and religious triumph fot the Portuguese nobleman.
COPYRIGHT 2012 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Romance Languages
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Castells, Ricardo
Date:May 1, 2012
Previous Article:La Transversalidad de la moaxaja en el proceso de formacion cultural andalusi.
Next Article:Moros y Cristianos: performing ideological dissent in Benito Perez Galdos's Dona Perfecta.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |