Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type



Graduate School


Hispanic Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Ana Rueda,


This dissertation explores the representation of dueling and honor in five theatrical works in order to answer one central question: How does the Golden Age concept of honor transform in the age of Enlightenment? This question may be broken down into specific inquiries, such as: 1) How is honor filtered through sentiment? 2) How did eighteenth-century ilustrados use theater to attempt to resolve the conflict between using violence to defend one’s honor and the Enlightenment ideal of avoiding excess? and 3) How did honor affect the private citizen and his relationship to the state in plays?

During the eighteenth century, the age of sensibility rewrote the duel, transforming it from a ritual connected with the aristocracy into an act tied to individual, often middle-class lives. This project begins with an early play by José de Cañizares, Por acrisolar su honor (1711) and then examines sentimental comedies published and performed toward the end of the century: Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos’ El delincuente honrado (1773), Luciano Francisco Comella’s La Jacoba (1789), Antonio Valladares de Sotomayor’s El vinatero de Madrid (1784) and Gaspar Zavala y Zamora’s El amante generoso (1791). Sentimental comedies use sensibility to focus on individuals’ honor conflicts. An analysis of the representation of dueling offers a glimpse of the complex intermingling of multiple definitions of Spanish culture, where neither a lone enlightened model nor an identity based primarily on Spain’s Baroque past prevails. While sentimental comedies present conclusions that ostensibly exalt honor as virtue and rely on a belief in humanity’s goodness to resolve their conflicts, their representations of dueling point to a tense coexistence of multiple definitions of Spanish identity in the eighteenth century. Virtue is never enough to override the accusation that someone is a coward for not accepting a dueling challenge. The inclusion of extra elements that cater to social prejudices of the time also undermines the notion of honor-as-virtue. The contradictions revealed by sympathetic representations of dueling may point to the failure of sensibility as a cohesive model for resolving dramatic conflicts in a society with such diverse definitions of honor and citizenship.



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