The theme of honor is central to the action of Calderón’s much-admired play The Mayor of Zalamea. The plot is constructed around a conflict based on the contrast between the honorable and just peasant Pedro Crespo and the dishonorable deeds of the aristocratic Captain Alvaro. As the play opens, Crespo agrees to quarter Captain Alvaro in his home, but he takes the precaution of hiding his beautiful, unmarried daughter, Isabel, in the attic with a female companion. His curiosity aroused, Don Alvaro later manages to see Isabel and abduct her. She is rescued by her brother, but only after she has been raped and abandoned by the captain. In an effort to satisfy the requirements of the honor code, Crespo tries every means to get Don Alvaro to marry Isabel, even offering all of his wealth. The dramatic scene is particularly moving as Crespo acts sincerely and humanely to try to obtain justice. Yet even as he shows his nobility of character, the captain arrogantly refuses his offer and rejects his authority.
The question of legal jurisdiction now enters the play, as the aristocratic captain declares himself exempt from civilian authority. Coupled with this question is the theme of honor, which Crespo argues is a property of the soul, which belongs to God, even though Alvaro’s life and possessions are in the service of the king. The honor question crosses the lines of rank and jurisdiction in his argument. At the height of the action, the commander,...
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