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Journal > Volumes > 50 (2019) / 4 (Winter)
Challenging Confinement: The Redress of Captivity in La gran sultana
Jessica R. Boll
Carroll University

In La gran sultana do.a Catalina de Oviedo (1615), Miguel de Cervantes presents an implausible story line in which the Ottoman sultan offers Spanish captive Catalina de Oviedo autonomy and imperial authority in return for her hand in marriage. Although she remains physically confined to the harem of Constantinople, Catalina negotiates the conditions of his proposal in order to preserve the signifiers of her Spanish identity. Although critics have long debated the historicity of the drama, recent scholarship has clarified the play’s historical indebtedness. The present essay examines precisely how and why Cervantes turns to history, both in terms of the space of the harem and the women within, as a means to avenge his own captivity. Through the unlikely figure of Catalina, Cervantes is able to both re-dress and redress the captive experience as he simultaneously rejects and reconciles his own afflicted past.

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