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Doubles and Falsehood: The Changeling and Spain Revisited
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The Changeling: A Critical Guide. Mark Hutchings (ed.). , pp. 121-141.
It has long been known that Middleton and Rowley draw on the Spanish novelist Gonzalo de Cespedes y Meneses to configure one of the central episodes in The Changeling, the substitution of Beatrice Joanna in her wedding night by a maid servant in order to conceal her lost virginity, and the killing of this servant out of spite for having enjoyed her husband first. Cespedes’ Isdaura is a tragic figure whose criminal tendencies arise at the moment she is dispossessed of her virginity after being raped by her man servant; from then on she enters a path of crime and self destruction that ends in her suicide. Thus, she follows an alternative trajectory from that of Middleton’s Beatrice Joanna, who is involved in murder before finding herself trapped in adultery. This key alteration underscores a major anxiety about the value and moral nature of virginity in both Spanish and English cultures. The Spanish seventeenth century code of honour revealed in Cespedes and other Spanish literary texts that served as sources for English dramatists was both perplexing and fascinating for the protestant mentality. At a time when Spanish literature was being translated, adapted and imitated in England the role of female behaviour as the validators of men’s honour had an undoubted attraction for both English dramatists and audiences. Thus, The Changeling explores the ways in which a Spanish setting can validate the contradictory idealization and brutalization of women in the figures of Beatrice and her servant Diaphanta. This chapter is an exploration of the role of Spanish literature and its treatment of virginity and rape in the construction of Middleton’s plot and how Cespedes novella serves as a key point of departure to calibrate the relationship between rape and the moral degeneration of women.
Early Modern Literature, English Literature, Spanish Literature
Thomas Middleton, The Changeling, sources, Gonzalo de Céspedes y Meneses, Early Modern Spain
MEC: Proyecto: Exilio, diplomacia y transmisión textual: redes de intercambios entre la Península Ibérica y las Islas Británicas en La Edad Moderna FFI2015-66847-P
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