Exploring Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Sexuality in Four Spanish Plays explores society’s influence on identity in Spanish theatrical works and discusses parallels to these works in contemporary popular culture. The Spanish plays El retablo de las maravillas (The Marvelous Puppet Show) by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1615); Virtudes vencen señales (Virtues Overcome Signs) by Vélez de Guevara (1620); El público (The Audience) by Federico García Lorca (1929); and La llamada de Lauren (Lauren’s Call) by Paloma Pedrero (1985) all deal with characters in the midst of a crisis of identity. Using an eclectic approach, supported by contemporary theories of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, Beth Bernstein analyzes the four plays in terms of identity and shows how society imposes the construction of identity. As the characters reach to define themselves, internal and external pressures guide them in interpreting acceptable behavior. This book offers a close reading of the psychological struggle of the characters, driven by society to cover their differences with a symbolic mask which, if donned, will eventually devour their true identity.
Beth Ann Bernstein is senior lecturer of Spanish in the department of world languages and literatures at Texas State University.
Chapter 1: Marvelous Illusions: The Issue of pureza de sangre and Ethnic Identity in El retablo de las maravillas
Chapter 2: A “Monstrous” Problem: Examining Issues of Race in Virtudes vencen señales
Chapter 3: Struggling with the Mask of Conformity: Desire and Sexual Identity in El público
Chapter 4: Living Beyond the Binary: Questioning Socially Accepted Gender Roles in La llamada de Lauren
Conclusion: Shifting Identities in Four Spanish Plays and Parallels in Modern Popular Culture
“To conform, or not to conform, that is the question: / Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them.” This riveting and powerful book highlights the age-old plight of marginalized groups who deviate from the accepted norms dictated by the powers that be and their desperate struggle for authenticity and the acceptance of a rigid society that severely punishes them for it. Through close readings of two seventeenth-century Spanish plays by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and Luis Vélez de Guevara that deal with race and ethnicity and two others from the twentieth-century by Federico García Lorca and Paloma Pedrero that focus on gender and sexual orientation, Professor Bernstein shows that hatred and fear of “the Other” is deeply embedded in the human psyche. Her masterful weaving of contemporary theory elucidates the theatrical works and reveals the playwrights’ intent to provoke the audience out of complacency. She makes a compelling case against the bigotry and narrow-mindedness born from ignorance that lead to oppression and injustice and fervently condemns the silent but thunderous guilt of the indifferent. By taking her readers out of their comfort zone she proves that only tolerance of “difference” can lead to freedom and equality for all.
The impressive study links seventeenth-century dramas of Miguel de Cervantes and Vélez de Guevara with the twentieth-century theater of Federico Garcia Lorca and Paloma Pedrero to unmask issues of race and ethnicity and rebellion against heteronormativity. A highly lucid and persuasive analysis.