To What Extent Is El Médico de su Honra principally a Play about Honour?

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Claire Blackburn, St Peter’s

To What Extent Is El Médico de su Honra principally a Play about Honour?

The Code of Honour was an unwritten set of rules referring to social behaviour, which was the regulator in all social groups. The King, as the head of society, governed the code of honour. Wilson claims that due to the social basis of the code, the thought one had to keep in mind was that it was ‘not so much to be, as to be seen to be’ that mattered. This is supported by Menéndez Pidal who exclaimed ‘Mas aunque la honra se gana con actos propios, depende de actos ajenos, de la estimación y fama que otorgan los demás.’

Honour is a principal theme in El Médico de su Honra and to demonstrate this, one need only look at the many examples featured in the play. The first breach of the honour code occurs before the start of the play, when Don Arias visits his wife to be at Leonor’s house. Although it was a completely innocent act, on seeing Arias leaving Leonor’s house at night, Gutierre felt that his honour had been damaged and so broke off the engagement. There is doubt as to Leonor’s honour after this incident, and she spends the play fighting to regain her honour; ‘ya que es imposible que yo cobre, / pues se casó, mi honor’ (667-8).

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The King, Leonor and Gutierre are all very honest characters, guided by moral principles, which follow the code of honour. The integrity of them would be total, if they were not so passionate and therefore liable to take rash actions, which is evident when their honour is involved. At the end of the play each has been put in a difficult situation and failed to do the right thing but they did try.

The curse of Act 1; ‘¡El mismo dolor / sientas que siento, y a ver / llegues, bañado en tu sangre, / deshonras tuyas...’ ...

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