(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In the troubled Spain of the 1470’s, when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella are trying to integrate their kingdom and preserve it from the depredations of Portugal, the grand mastership of the military and religious Order of Calatrava falls upon the shoulders of Rodrigo Téllez Girón, a young man scarcely out of boyhood. The new grand master’s adviser is the lustful, tyrannical Commander Fernán Gómez de Guzmán, who takes women whenever and wherever he sees them and keeps his peasants in constant fear of himself and of his soldiers. The commander is not loyal to Ferdinand and Isabella, and so he counsels the young grand master to capture the Ciudad Real and hold it for Portugal, which is claiming sections of Spain because the Portuguese queen is Spanish. The grand master takes the commander’s advice and captures the city.

When the commander returns to his lands, he continues his tyrannous ways with the peasants, especially the women. Among the unmarried peasants is a particularly pretty one named Laurencia, the daughter of Esteban, the administrative officer of the village. The commander sought her for more than a month, but she manages to elude his servants by staying in the fields as much as possible. Then the commander leaves to capture the city. He returns in triumph, and upon his arrival in the village of Fuenteovejuna he is praised and given two cartloads of foodstuffs as recognition of his military efforts. After receiving the gifts, he requests that the young women, including Laurencia, remain behind to amuse him. The women, however, refuse to stay. Ferdinand and Isabella, meanwhile, receive word of the treacherous action of the grand master of the Order of Calatrava and dispatch a force to retake Ciudad Real.

In Fuenteovejuna, Laurencia is wooed by a good-looking young peasant, Frondoso, but she refuses to accept him as her husband. One day, as she is working in the fields, the commander attempts to rape her. Frondoso, although a peasant, seizes the commander’s crossbow and threatens to kill the knight unless he lets Laurencia go. The commander, having no choice, lets the woman go free but swears vengeance. Frondoso flees with the crossbow.

The commander later goes to the village, confronts Laurencia’s father, and demands that he give up his daughter to him. Esteban refuses, and he and the other villagers leave the commander standing alone in the square. Some of the commander’s servants appear and report that they think they killed Frondoso. As it turns out, they cut the throat of the wrong man. As they speak, a messenger comes to inform the commander that the grand...

(The entire section is 1073 words.)