Renæssanceforum 13 • 2018

Sofie Kluge
"Dios juzga de la intención": Questioning Conquest in Lope de Vega's El nuevo mundo descubierto por Cristóbal Colón

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On the backdrop of contemporaneous eschatological historiography, evangelical ideology and Columbus-hagiography, Spanish dramatist Lope de Vega's The New World Discovered by Christopher Columbus (c. 1598) tackles current problems such as the crisis of the Spanish empire and the flourishing of the "Black Legend", going back to their origin in the late 15th century discovery of the New World. Exploiting the ambiguity-creating device of the play-within-the-play in a central scene showing Columbus' alleged divine calling in what appears to be a daydream, the play urges its audience to reconsider the Genoese admiral's mental sanity – was he a great visionary or in fact a raving madman? – and, in continuation, to reflect on the nature of historical truth, historical character and the historical causality linking past and present (late 15th century discoveries and late 16th century imperial crisis as fatally interrelated momenta). In sum, what results from Lope's ingenious exploitation of the aesthetic device of secondary dramatization is, thus, a problem-oriented historiography of the Discovery and Conquest of America, aimed at enhancing spectators' critical re-assessment of one of the most crucial events in Spanish history.