cover image

Hercules and the King of Portugal

Icons of Masculinity and Nation in Calderón's Spain

Dian Fox

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 01/2019
Pages: 324
Subject: History
eBook ISBN: 9781496212153


Hercules and the King of Portugal investigates how representations of masculinity figure in the fashioning of Spanish national identity, scrutinizing ways that gender performances of two early modern male icons—Hercules and King Sebastian—are structured to express enduring nationhood. The classical hero Hercules features prominently in Hispanic foundational fictions and became intimately associated with the Hapsburg monarchy in the early sixteenth century. King Sebastian of Portugal (1554–78), both during his lifetime and after his violent death, has been inserted into his own land's charter myth, even as competing interests have adapted his narratives to promote Spanish power. The hybrid oral and written genre of poetic Spanish theater, as purveyor and shaper of myth, was well situated to stage and resolve dilemmas relating both to lineage determined by birth and performance of masculinity, in ways that would ideally uphold hierarchy. Dian Fox's ideological analysis exposes how the two icons are subject to political manipulations in seventeenth-century Spanish theater and other media. Fox finds that officially sanctioned and sometimes popularly produced narratives are undercut by dynamic social and gendered processes: "Hercules" and "Sebastian" slip outside normative discourses and spaces to enact nonnormative behaviors and unreproductive masculinities.   


Dian Fox is a professor emerita of Hispanic studies and women's, gender, and sexuality studies at Brandeis University. She is the author of Refiguring the Hero: From Peasant to Noble in Lope de Vega and Calderón and Kings in Calderón: A Study in Characterization and Political Theory.   


"Erudite and thought-provoking, Hercules and the King of Portugal casts new light on the performance of masculinity in two of Iberia's foundational icons. This is a pivotal study not only on the cultural renderings of the hombre esquivo but also on early modern conceptions of family, lineage, and nationhood."—Enrique García Santo-Tomás, Frank P. Casa Collegiate Professor of Spanish, University of Michigan

"A compelling study of the crisis of masculinity shaping seventeenth-century Spanish and Portuguese nationhood. Fox brilliantly analyzes theatrical representations of Hercules and King Sebastian that dramatize damage done by an excess or lack of sexual desire to marriage alliances that secure the pure blood fundamental to honor."—Barbara F. Weissberger, author of Isabel Rules: Constructing Queenship, Wielding Power

"Dian Fox's perceptive analysis of the complex cultural appropriation of both flawed masculine figures for political, nationalist, and imperial ends astutely uncovers anxieties in ideological conceptions of manhood and nationhood in Habsburg Spain. Fox's writing is erudite yet easily approachable, engaging, and superbly readable. Her book will have a wide appeal among scholars and students who are interested in questions of masculinity from a historical, social, and cultural perspective."—José R. Cartagena-Calderón, associate professor of Romance languages and literatures at Pomona College and author of Masculinidades en obras