Added: May 7, 2016 – Last updated: May 7, 2016


Author: Bryan Betancur

Title: “La justicia más rara / del mundo”

Subtitle: Violated Daughter, Inviolable Law in Calderón’s El alcalde de Zalamea

Journal: Bulletin of the Comediantes

Volume: 67

Issue: 2

Year: 2015

Pages: 67-89

ISSN: 0007-5108 – Find a Library: WordCat | eISSN: 1944-0928 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 17th Century | European History: Spanish History | Representations: Literature / Pedro Calderón



EBSCOhost (Restricted Access)

Project MUSE (Restricted Access)



Abstract: »Standing before the military captain who raped his daughter, the mayor of Zalamea sets aside his vara de alcalde and confronts his enemy “como un hombre no más” (v. 1296). The gesture underscores the complexity of the mayor Pedro Crespo’s dual identity as private citizen and public servant. More importantly, the scene demonstrates how Calderón employs a conflicted father-daughter relationship in El alcalde de Zalamea (ca. 1640) as a conduit to a larger discussion on the administration of justice in the dramatist’s historical milieu. Legal records of female victimization cases and a tradition of literary depictions of rape suggest that Calderón’s characterization of the daughter Isabel as blameless victim invariably forces her father to negotiate the demands of his private and public roles. As father, Crespo must avenge his family’s dishonor; as mayor, he is expected to exact justice while staying within the bounds of the law. Crespo ultimately has the captain executed, and his judgment is later rewarded by Philip II himself. However, despite the king’s apparent legitimization of the mayor’s actions, critical literature remains divided when it comes to deeming Crespo’s behavior an abuse of power or the triumph of the spirit of the law. The present study proposes that Crespo equally satisfies both his private and public duties, an outcome made possible by the mercurial distinction between revenge and justice that existed in Spanish law during the early modern period. I also argue that beneath the king’s acceptance of the mayor’s seemingly illegal actions lies a critique of the legal system during the reign of Philip IV, a period of competing jurisdictions and bureaucratic mismanagement that made swift and efficient judicial decisions “la justicia más rara del mundo.”« (Source: Bulletin of the Comediantes)


  “La justicia más rara / del mundo” (p. 70)
  “The most unfortunate [year] that this Monarchy has ever experienced” (p. 70)
  “Un soldado, siempre ha sido / o con envidia mirado, / o sin razón murmurado” (p. 72)
  “Toda la justicia ... es solo un cuerpo, no más” (p. 73)
  “Este es el alcalde, y es / su padre” (vv. 2662-63) (p. 75)
  “De ti se diga / que por dar vida a tu honor, / diste la muerte a tu hija” (p. 77)
  “Harto toma lo ajeno el que ... hija ... de otro deshonra” (p. 78)
  “En una venganza / no es bien que se tome el medio / deshonrado” (p. 80)
  “Gobierna en esta República del cuerpo ... todos juntos, con ... unanimidad” (p. 85)
  Notes (p. 86)
  Works Cited (p. 88)

Wikipedia: History of Europe: History of Spain / Spain in the 17th century I Literature: Spanish literature | 17th-century Spanish writers: Pedro Calderón de la Barca / The Mayor of Zalamea