Justice Without Revenge, one of Vega Carpio’s last works, is an ironic tragedy based on a short novel written about a historical fact. In this drama, there are three protagonists: the womanizing duke of Ferrara, his illegitimate son, Count Federico, and the young noblewoman, Casandra, whom the duke marries for legal reasons. In the beginning of the play, Vega Carpio develops the relationship between the characters. In contrast to Peribáñez, in which the charming heroes win the approval of a just monarch, the protagonists of this drama do not represent upstanding citizens. Yet in spite of their antiheroics, the audience does, to some extent, sympathize with their decisions and actions. The duke regularly frequents the local whorehouses but knows that he has to marry and beget a legitimate heir for his estate. He has little interest, however, in remaining faithful to his young, attractive bride. Federico, his illegitimate son, whom the duke sincerely loves, is selfishly concerned about his hereditary position and has little patience for his father’s amorous adventures. Upon seeing his future stepmother, whom he rescues in a stagecoach accident, he falls instantly in love with her. Casandra reciprocates these feelings, although at the same time she accepts her commitment to her future husband, and the two lovers suffer the anguish of not being able to express their love openly.

In act 2, Vega Carpio develops the moral positions of...

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