Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Notes On "Four Fighting Artists"
As stated at the end of Four Fighting Artists, the work of Lope de Vega is my favorite of the four. That is not to say his is the best work. De Vega, Cervantes, Calderón, and Alarcón are each masters in their own right. Besides de Vega's fiery passion (he wrote "Los Abeces" first, and his are smoldering), most of his plays have to do with honor. The distinction between la honra and el honor in the plays of Lope de Vega was the topic for my thesis that I presented before the foreign language faculty at my alma mater.
Honor is diverse in its meanings and connotations. In case you did not notice, the Spanish language even has two different words to attempt to handle the various significances in context. La honra in the plays of de Vega is "the esteem and respect of one's peers." (Donald R. Larson, The Honor Plays of Lope de Vega) One's respect is given or taken by others.
One's respect is given or taken by others. When one loses honor, he fights to have it restored. Typically, if a woman's honor is taken by one man (the antagonist), then the hero, or protagonist, fights to restore her honor. In other words, the person whose honor is lost must somehow regain the honor of his or her peers.
In contrast, the protagonist of Calderón's plays "reasons with himself, puts personal feelings aside and ends by taking calm vengeance upon those who have called his honor into question." (Ibid.) The character is also considered a hero for rising above his circumstances.
"Real" life sometimes mirrors art in bizarre episodes. In my own dealings with honor, I have found myself to respond at times in the impassioned manner of the characters in de Vega's plays. However, in my maturity, I find that calm vengeance is rather satisfying. If I were able to choose, I would instead turn the other cheek if I thought that honor would be genuinely restored.