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To What Extent Is “El Médico De Su Honra” Principally A Play About Honour? Essay, Research Paper

??????????? Honour was one of the prominent issues in the

Spanish Golden Age dramas of which Calderón and Lope de

Vega were the main exponents. Indeed, the play is called a

“drama de honor”.? The very fact that Calderón

chose to include the word ‘honra’ in the title of the

play ‘El Médico de su Honra’ indicates that

indeed a certain element of honour must be present within. One

must find out whether honour is the principal cause of the play

or if other themes hold more importance.??? ??????????? In the “Diccionario de Autoridades”

– the first dictionary of the Spanish language,

“honor” is described as: ? “Se toma muchas veces por reputación y lustre

de alguna familia, acción u otra cosa…Se toma

assimismo por obsequio, apláuso o celebridad de alguna

cosa. Significa tambien la honestidad y recato en las

mugéres.” ? “Honra”, while interchangeable with

“honor” in many regards, has been said to impart

honour with a more interior connotation, as in “respect for

personal worth”: ? “Reverencia, acatamiento y veneración que se hace

á la virtúd, autoridad ò mayoría de

alguna persona…Significa tambien pundonór,

estimacion y buena fama, que se halla en el sujeto y debe

conservar…Se toma tambien por la integridad

virginál en las mugéres .” ? Despite using “honra” in the title,

Calderón uses “honor” far more frequently in

the play. In the first act, “honor” appears almost

exclusively and mostly refers to the honours of the women

Mencía and Leonor. In Act Two, Gutierre addresses his

honour as if it were a person: ? ?“¡Ay honor! Mucho tenemos que // hablar a solas

los dos” (1401) ? In terms of the whole play however, “honra” is

invoked with relative infrequency and usually as a synonym for

“honor”. It is safe to say that Calderón used

the former for variety and for purposes of rhyme and rhythm since

“honra” is stressed on the first syllable and

“honor” on the second. ?????? ??????????? Honour is often embodied, in ‘El

Médico de su Honra’ as social reputation by those

involved in it. The vast majority of the characters are of noble

birth; the King Don Pedro I, the ‘Infante’ Don

Enrique, Don Gutierre, Doña Mencía and Doña

Leonor. Perhaps it is Doña Leonor who, early on, sets the

climate which indicates the importance that honour will acquire.

She shows that she is a slave to public opinion and her

reputation. Thus arises her obsession to regain her honour which

was put in jeopardy when her lover, D. Gutierre, failed to marry

her “Diome palabra de que sería mi

esposo” and thus dishonoured her because of his

suspicions concerning her fidelity. Don Pedro, who is renowned

for being just in matters concerning honour, knows that

Doña Leonor’s grievance must surely be true, for she

dares to tell him of her dishonour in public: “Hablad

agora, porque si venisteis // de parte del honor, como

dijisteis,//? indigna cosa fuera //? que en público el

honor sus quejas diera”. ? Yet, despite her private desire for his

‘deshonra’, in public she keeps up appearances and

defends his name when confronted about him by Don Arias by

stating that he is “Un caballero que en todas las

ocasiones con obrar y con decir, sabrá muy bien cumplir en

sus obligaciones”. Importantly, it is seen via her

actions and also through those of other characters, namely Don

Gutierre and Doña Mencía that a passion for honour

is more important than love itself. ? Doña Mencía is an interesting character.

Throughout the play she struggles against her desire to restart

her love affair with Don Enrique who clearly is very willing for

this to happen. However, due to the fact that she is married,

although this may have been against her will, she remains

faithful: “Tuve amor y tengo honor”.

Ultimately perhaps she pays the price for her various acts of

imprudence, as envisioned via various small yet vital things that

she does, such as writing a letter to Don Enrique, only for Don

Gutierre to find it as the play reaches its climax. The letter

appears to condemn her actions and thus fuel Don Gutierre’s

rage even more, whereas in fact, had she been given the chance to

finish the letter, her actions would have been explained and

Gutierre would have seen that she was indeed still faithful to

him. ? Don Gutierre’s actions are dictated by the need to

uphold social reputation in the form of self-dignity; ultimately

honour. He is the character which relies most on the supposed

“injustice of dishonour” to justify his actions. He

could be described as “la encarnación la más

completa del sentimiento del honor en lo que tiene de irracional

y falso”. Thus, his actions are controlled by

honour/dishonour, and considering that ultimately his actions

shape the play, namely in dishonouring Doña Leonor paving

the way for her need to obtain justice and his suspicion in his

wife Doña Mencía being so great that he actually

cold-heartedly murders her, honour can be seen as the sole force

shaping the outcome of the play. By the end of the segunda

jornada, Don Gutierre’s state of mind is such that he makes

comments such as “Ay honor! Mucho tenemos // que hablar

a solas los dos” and more vividly “A peligro

estáis, honor, //? no hay hora en vos que no sea //

crítica; en vuestro sepulcro // vivís… Os he

de curar, honor,//? y pues al principio muestra // este primero

accidente //? tan grave peligro”. He does not see that

Mencía is honouring him precisely because of her belief

that “[Así] es como ha de ser, porque me he de

resolver a una temeraria acción”. This again

highlights the importance of honour above love and desire because

social reputation and the form of honour, is more important. ? Don Pedro I endorses honour to a great extent, yet only where

it is based on justice, as viewed in the scene between Don

Gutierre and Doña Leonor. Also, the insincere honour which

is shown by Don Enrique towards Doña Mencia is certainly

worth mentioning; for he is an example of how often selfish

motives can damage the good honour of others, namely

Mencía. Gutierre is also a culprit of this tendency. ? However, honour is not only embodied as social awareness in

nobility. Coquín, who is the only main character who does

not come from a noble background and who serves as a jester to

King Don Pedro I, sheds light on situations and views honour, and

subsequently, acts and reacts in a very different way from the

others. His honour is more a moral one than a social one, as

described in the previous characters. He cares little about the

‘qué dirán’ aspect that Doña

Leonor in particular shows herself to be loyal to. He states,

after Don Gutierre was released from prison for the night on good

faith, that he simply shouldn’t return. This is simple, yet

effective. “El honor de esa ley no se entiende en el

criado”, yet in fact, his honour is being saved for an

action which deserves it, namely trying to save Doña

Mencía’s life at the end: “ésta es

una honrada acción de hombre bien nacido, en

fin”. He will not risk his life just to “bien

parecer”. When compared to other characters, who go to

such lengths precisely for what Coquín would see as the

‘wrong reasons’, a sense of ridicule ensues. ? Although honour is, undeniably, a vital force behind the

development of plot, being the emotion from which other more

minor themes emerge, perhaps it is not honour in itself that

Calderón is examining, rather the degree of prudence with

which characters such as Doña Mencía and Don

Enrique reacted to it. The imprudence of many of the

characters’ actions feature largely in the play. That Arias

should enter Leonor’s house at night is an

“atrevimiento” against the social standards of honour

since she had not allowed him to enter. Nonetheless it is Leonor

who admits that she must take the blame: ? “Yo tuve la culpa, yo // la pena siento; y así //

solo me quejo de mí,// y de mi estrella.” ? Leonor places the question mark against her honour and must

spend the rest of the play trying to have it removed. ??????????? Leonor’s second imprudence is when she goes to the king

to ostensibly request the “dowry” that will enable

her to enter and live in a convent . although an unhappy

decision, in the circumstances it is the prudent one, and it is

right to appeal to the royal bounty. Leonor states to her maid

that justice, in effect, would be vengeance if the king heard her

plea. This plea is a disclosure of her grievances – a

breach of promise and a denial of legal redress. Her imprudence

lies in not accepting the verdict of the courts and in appealing

to the highest judicial authority for an impossible reparation

(since Gutierrez has married). At the end of the Act, Leonor even

states that she seeks vengeance: “…venganza me

dé el cielo!” ??????????? The king’s imprudence lies in him ignoring the practical

solution of sending her to a convent and in offering her the

false hope of a redress that is in fact impossible. In saying

that the poor cannot expect justice in Pedro’s kingdom,

Leonor has injured the king’s pride of being the “rey

justiciero” which is why he personally takes up her

cause. ??????????? Gutierre’s imprudence was to jump to the conclusion that

Leonor had dishonoured him: “quien hizo al amor ofensa,

// se le hace al honor en él…” But there is more than imprudence here, there is a rigid pride

that does not shrink from injuring the woman he loves. The

initial rashness of Arias and Leonor is turned into an

unpardonable offence. This act of injustice sets the play in

motion for a series of fateful events. Gutierre had thought he

could shrug off this act of injustice but it rebounds to strike

at his marriage, to affront his pride a second time and to make

him repeat an injury to the woman he loves- this time by

murdering her. At the end of the play, Gutierre must fulfil his

promise of marriage that he should never have broken, but

fulfilling it at the cost of a terrible injustice of a far

greater kind. ??????????? ??????????? ?? The different sub-themes which arise from

honour in the general sense are all very important in

contributing to the outcome of the play. All of them, jealousy,

disillusionment, loyalty, justice, guilt, revenge and ultimately

tragedy resulting in death, are interlinked in arising from

honour. As already seen, Doña Leonor, on behalf of her

honour, calls for justice; as Don Gutierre proposes death he

states “Mi honor perdí, mi muerte

hallé” for lack of honour is even worse than

death, and this also links in with the theme of revenge which is

what ultimately pushes Don Gutierre to kill Doña

Mencía, not as a result of a passionate row, but as a

result of careful planning. ? However, having stated that there are indeed other themes in

‘El Médico de su Honra’ , do any of these

surpass their creator (honour) and become fully-fledged themes in

themselves? The importance of jealousy is great, for

Coquín, in his final act of honour in trying to protect

the ‘innocent’ Doña Mencía states

“Gutierre mal informado por aparentes recelos,

llegó a tener viles celos de su honor” and thus

he is suspected of wanting to kill Mencía. Although

therefore jealousy as felt by Gutierre is the immediate cause,

fundamentally it is his need to protect his honour that drives

him to this point. The same occurs with other aspects of

behaviour or provocations of behaviour: revenge, in

Leonor’s case because she feels that she has been wronged

to the extent of her good reputation being scarred for life. If

one is dishonoured publicly, the way in which the culprit should

repay should be public too; hence Don Gutierre and Doña

Leonor’s marriage at the end of the play. By this stage,

justice has been performed by Don Pedro, decreeing that they must

marry, and whereas Leonor had previously stated “Pues es

mejor que sin vida, sin opinión, sin honor viva, que no

sin amor, de un marido aborrecida”, she now remains

satisfied at the outcome, perhaps not so much due to the fact

that they have married, but because he has been publicly

humiliated as she was. ?????? ?? ??????????? In short, “El médico de su

honra” is a play fundamentally about honour. It cannot be

denied that other themes enter the play as it develops and that

ultimately the climax of the play (Mencía’s death)

is an act of betrayal and jealousy. But although there may be

immediate reasons for certain actions in the play, the

underlying, driving cause is honour itself.??

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