Dr. des. Leonie Pawlita – Dramatizations of History in Early Modern European Drama: Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna (1619)

Dr. des. Leonie Pawlita – Dramatizations of History in Early Modern European Drama: Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna (1619)
Activity Date: 
Monday, Jan 18, 2016

In order to illustrate scope and focus of my research project on Dramatizations of History in Early Modern European Drama, in my talk, I discussed the representation of one particular historical event in one early modern European drama that stems from the specific Spanish theater context of the time: Lope de Vega’s comedia Fuente Ovejuna (1619), a play that counts until today to the most famous texts of seventeenth-century Spanish literature. After exposing the historical-political constellations of early modern Spain and the specific configuration of the artistic genre I am dealing with, I analyzed Lope de Vega’s historical drama scrutinizing its underlying concept with regard to the transformation of its historical source (a chronicle published in 1572). The play dramatizes events that took place in the Andalusian village of Fuente Ovejuna in 1476: While under the rule of the Order of Calatrava, a commander abuses the residents of this small town. The villagers decide to join forces and kill their cruel feudal lord. When a judge sent by the Catholic Kings arrives at the village to investigate, the villagers, even under torture, only respond that “Fuente Ovejuna did it.” Furthermore, Lope incorporates a storyline that is connected to the inner and outer political conflicts that were relevant in the shaping of the Spanish reign (The Catholic Monarchs were involved in that period in a succession war with parts of the Castilian nobility and the King of Portugal). – I argued that Lope de Vega’s dramatic adaptation of the historical source, reminding its early-seventeenth-century audience of the origins of Spanish political unification and absolutist rule, is to be understood in the service of an affirmation of absolutism and aimed at strengthening the absolutist power of the king. It gives a demonstrative example of the motives for the dramatization of history in early modern Spanish theater.
I would like to thank Prof. Rivka Feldhay for her precise, intriguing and multi-faceted comment, and Dr. Ruthie Abeliovich for moderating the session. Many thanks to all Buber Fellows and Senior Fellows for the inspiring discussion.