Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
On a lovely spring day in the middle of the fourteenth century, Ignez de Castro feels especially happy as she walks in her garden in Portugal. Although she is an illegitimate daughter of a famous Galician noble, she wins the love of Prince Pedro, son of Alfonso IV of Portugal; at last she feels sure the world is about to learn that he loves her, too. Theirs is a star-crossed love. Pedro’s father, trying his best to destroy his son’s love for a woman unsuitable to rule Portugal, compelled his heir to marry the Princess Constanza of Castile. Ignez confides to her nurse, however, that fate was on the side of true love. The birth of Constanza’s son, heir to the crown of Portugal, cost his mother her life. At last Pedro is free. He carried out his father’s command by ensuring a continuation of the dynasty. Now he is coming back to the woman he really loves. Surely King Alfonso will now relent. The beauty of the day seems an omen, and Ignez is weeping with joy as she waits for her lover to appear.
The old nurse is less sure, however, that her mistress’s tears are an omen of joy; they might be a foreboding of tragedy. She begs Ignez not to count on happiness until everything is settled. Ignez, hearing Pedro approaching, will listen to no warnings.
The prince greets her with an assurance that all will go well. To himself, however, he wonders why he is not loved by the common people of Portugal and why his father is so incensed by his sincere love for Ignez. Nevertheless, he is confident, like Ignez, that their four children will move the stern old king to pity. Pedro hopes for the royal acceptance of the love between them and a state wedding to show King Alfonso’s recognition of his grandchildren.
Pedro’s secretary tries to disillusion him. In spite of the nobility of her famous father, the irregularity of Ignez’s birth is cause enough for King Alfonso’s repeated orders that Pedro must put her out of his mind. The secretary begs Pedro, for...
(The entire section is 811 words.)
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Bibliography (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Bell, Aubrey F. G. Portuguese Literature. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1922. Ignez de Castro is discussed in the context of sixteenth century Portuguese plays imitative of classical drama. Describes Ferreira as a competent craftsman but not at his best as a dramatist; his poetry receives greater praise in another section of the study.
Earle, T. F. The Muse Reborn: The Poetry of António Ferreira. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. A book-length study of Ferreira’s literary art. Offers brief remarks on Ignez de Castro, highlighting Ferreira’s debt to classical sources; the analysis of Ferreira’s techniques of imitation in his poetry offer insight into similar methodology in his drama.
Ferreira, António. The Tragedy of Ignes de Castro. Translated by John R. C. Martyn. Coimbra, Portugal: Biblioteca Geral da Universidade de Coimbra, 1987. In addition to the text of the play, which is provided in both English and Portuguese, the introductory essays in this edition provide a biography of Ferreira, a consideration of the relationship of Ferreira and Portuguese poet Luís de Camões, and analyses of the play’s themes, staging, plot, characters, and political, social, and religious background. It may be difficult to find this book in bookstores or online, but it is available in some university libraries.
Friederich, Werner. Outline of Comparative Literature from Dante Alighieri to Eugene O’Neill. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1954. Places Ferreira in the context of Portuguese and European writers of the sixteenth century. Discusses his version of Ignez de Castro as one of several works that retell the story of the legendary heroine.
Saraiva, António José. Initiation into Portuguese Literature. Translated by Christopher Lund. Updated ed. Santa Barbara: Center for Portuguese Studies, University of California, 2007. An updated version of the literary survey originally published in 1949. Chapter 4, “Time of Camões,” discusses the work of Ferreira.
Sismondi, Simonde de. Historical View of the Literature of the South of Europe. Translated by Thomas Roscoe. London: Henry Bohn, 1846. Considers Ferreira a greater dramatist than poet. Careful, detailed analysis of Ignez de Castro, focusing on Ferreira’s development of his heroine and examining his adherence to the classical unities.