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Lope de Vega in the invention of Spain: Historical theater and the birth of national consciousnessVeronika Ryjik
This project explores the correlation between Lope's historical theater and the early stage of the formation of Spanish national consciousness at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Drawing on recent theories of nationalism, I examine the political, cultural and historical context of Iberian society during the Middle Ages and Renaissance and trace the origins of the national idea to works of medieval historiography. I analyze the literary construction of the concept of 'Spain,' nourished by the myth of the Reconquest, in the medieval Peninsular chronicles, along with its gradual acceptance by the heterogeneous population of "Las Españas." I also establish the crucial role of public theater, as one of the earliest kinds of mass media, for the development and dissemination of the national idea. In this light, I study the specific characteristics of Lope's image of the Spaniard as constructed through constant manipulation of national history, along with the possible effects of the propagation of this image among the seventeenth-century audience. The period between 1599 and 1613 witnesses the pinnacle of historical drama in Lope de Vega's artistic production. It also coincides with the political, economic, and social crisis of the Spanish Empire. The combination of these two factors is central to our understanding of Lope's vision of the ideal Spaniard. The examination of several of Lope's plays set in different historical moments, from the Muslim Invasion to Lope's times, shows that the playwright's conception of Spanishness was deeply influenced by Castilian ideals. Sixteenth-century Castile was a militant society with a strong crusading spirit that had been consolidated during the epoch of the Reconquest and reinforced by the conquest of America. It is not surprising that during the period of Spain's decline in the 1600s, the solution to the crisis was often found in the restoration of the epic virtues of the glorious past, represented by the reign of Ferdinand and Isabel. I argue that this revival of the heroic values of Castile's idealized past should be viewed as an essential element in the construction of national identity in Lope's historical dramas.
Communication and the arts; Language, literature and linguistics; Golden Age; Historical theater; National consciousness; Spain; Vega, Lope de; Romance literature; Theater; 0465:Theater; 0313:Romance literature
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