Unruly Women: Performance, Penitence, and Punishment in Early Modern Spain

Unruly Women: Performance, Penitence, and Punishment in Early Modern Spain

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By Margaret E. Boyle
Toronto Iberic
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2015
World Rights
184 Pages
ISBN 9781487520267
Published Dec 2015
Online discount: 25%
 $26.95    $20.21
ISBN 9781442646155
Published Feb 2014
Online discount: 25%
 $55.00    $41.25
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442665040
Published Feb 2014
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In the first in-depth study of the interconnected relationships among public theatre, custodial institutions, and women in early modern Spain, Margaret E. Boyle explores the contradictory practices of rehabilitation enacted by women both on and off stage. Pairing historical narratives and archival records with canonical and non-canonical theatrical representations of women’s deviance and rehabilitation, Unruly Women argues that women’s performances of penitence and punishment should be considered a significant factor in early modern Spanish life.

Boyle considers both real-life sites of rehabilitation for women in seventeenth-century Madrid, including a jail and a magdalen house, and women onstage, where she identifies three distinct representations of female deviance: the widow, the vixen, and the murderess. Unruly Women explores these archetypal figures in order to demonstrate the ways a variety of playwrights comment on women’s non-normative relationships to the topics of marriage, sex, and violence.

Margaret E. Boyle is an assistant professor of Romance Languages at Bowdoin College.


Part One

Chapter 1: Gendering Recogimiento in Early Modern Madrid

I. Reforming Prostitutes: Madrid’s Magdalen House

II. Reforming the Magdalen House: Madre Magdalena de San Jerónimo’s galera

III. Recogimiento as a Women’s Practice

Part Two

Chapter 2: Stage Widow in Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s La dama duende

Chapter 3: Dramatizing Women’s Community in María de Zayas’s La traición en la amistad

Chapter 4: Women’s Exemplary Violence in Luis Vélez de Guevara’s La serrana de la Vera



Appendix 1A Reason and Form of the Galera and Royal House (1608)

Appendix 1B Razón y forma de la galera y casa real (1608)

Appendix 2A Historical Compendium and Instructive Manifesto on the Origin and Foundation of the Royal House of St. Mary Magdalene of the Penitence, commonly known as the Recogidas of Madrid

Appendix 2B Compendio histórico, y manifiesto instructivo del origen, y fundación de la Real Casa de Santa María Magdalena de la Penitencia, vulgo las Recogidas de Madrid

Works Cited

“Margaret Boyle has chosen a wonderful, timely topic for her monograph. Issues related to women’s punishment and the staging of female deviance are not well studied for Spain’s early modern period. Unruly Women will be of interest to early modernists as well as to colonial Latin Americanists and scholars interested in legal, religious, and performance history.”

Lisa Vollendorf, Dean of the College of Humanities and Arts, San José State University

“Margaret Boyle’s lucid and concise study of misbehaving women in early modern Spain is the perfect scholarly blend of real-life rule-breakers and the professional actresses who played them on stage.  Unruly Women problematizes the complex ways in which early modern spectators made sense of women who committed violent acts or disregarded norms for sexual conduct.  In doing so, Boyle invites her readers to consider how rehabilitation and punishment of rebellious women was a nuanced and contested process of both performance and negotiation, whether in a magdalen home, women’s jail, or popular entertainment.”

Sherry Velasco, University of Southern California

‘One of the latest in a series of excellent University of Toronto Press books on the social and cultural context of early modern Spanish Literature… Boyle’s work is well grounded in the body of recent scholarship that emphasizes women’s active and formative role in early modern Spanish Society.’

Jodi Campbell, Left History vol 20:01:2016

Unruly Women offers a rich discussion of gendered rehabilitative practices and their performative dimensions, both on and off the stage in early modern Spain.’

Jane Bitomsky, Parergon vol 33:01:2016

Unruly Women provides a strong foundation from which to build a more nuanced understanding of the engendering of early modern women’s roles and behaviors in Spain. This brief volume makes its argument with great clarity; it will be useful to both graduate students and scholars of early modern Spanish cultural studies.’

Stacey Schlau, Renaissance Quarterly vol 68:02:2015

Unruly Women deftly explores the relationships between historical recogidas and the fictional female protagonists of the comedia… It will be of interest to scholars and teachers of early modern theater, history, and women’s studies.’

Emily C. Francomano, Hispania vol 98:02:2015

Unruly Women provides readers with enough valuable insights on early modern judicial and rehabilitative practices to make it well worth the read.’

Barbara Mujica, Modern Philology vol 112:04:2015

"Margaret Boyle has produced a compelling study, based on the ingenious juxtaposition of the rise of custodial institutions and their interconnections with a thriving professional theater business that nurtured many "unruly" female performers, entrepreneurs, and audience members."

Elizabeth R. Wright, Seventeenth Century News, Volume 73:3&4, Fall/Winter 2015

Vern Williamsen Comedia Book Prize awarded by The Association for Hispanic Classical Theater (United States) - Winner in 2017