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Honor and Violence in Golden Age Spain$
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Scott K. Taylor

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780300126853

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300126853.001.0001

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Honor and the Law

Honor and the Law

(p.65) Chapter 3 Honor and the Law
Honor and Violence in Golden Age Spain

Scott K. Taylor

Yale University Press

This chapter begins by presenting as an example a climactic confrontation between a wealthy peasant and newly chosen alcalde, Pedro Crespo, and the commander of an army billeted in Zalamea, Don Lope de Figueroa, in Calderon's El alcalde de Zalamea. In the said confrontation, Crespo asserts unambiguously that men must avenge offenses to their honor without the help of legal authorities, even if doing so breaks the law. Resorting to the law is tantamount to doing nothing, and Crespo further believes that it has no power to restore his good name; vengeance can come only through his own actions. On the other hand, Don Lope holds the contrary belief, which corresponds with the rule of law, that private vengeance is impermissible. This juxtaposition of private revenge and the law also appears in other plays, the ambiguous endings of which, critics have struggled to interpret. Historians have also been of little help since they traditionally have seen early modern criminal law in Spain as a tool of state repression.

Keywords:   alcalde, Pedro Crespo, Zalamea, Don Lope, Calderon, honor, vengeance, rule of law, private revenge, state repression

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