Widowhood in Early Modern Spain
Stephanie Fink De Backer
Based on clerical ideals of female comportment and Golden Age playwrights’ fixation on questions of honor, modern scholarship, whether historical or literary, has viewed women as subjects and objects of patriarchal control. This study analyzes tensions and contradictions produced by the interplay of patriarchal norms and the realities of widows’ daily lives to demonstrate that in Castile patriarchy did not exist as a monolithic force, which rigidly enforced an ideology of female incapacity. The extensive analysis of archival documents shows widows actively engaged in their families and communities, confounding images of their reclusion and silence. Widows’ autonomy and authority were desirable attributes that did not collide with the demands of a society that recognized the contingent nature of patriarchal norms.