Nancy F. Marino

title.none: Harney, Kinship and Marriage in Medieval Hispanic Chivalric Romance (Nancy F. Marino )

identifier.other: baj9928.0208.003 02.08.03

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Nancy F. Marino , Michigan State University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2002

identifier.citation: Harney, Michael. Kinship and Marriage in Medieval Hispanic Chivalric Romance. Westfield Publications in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 11. Turnhout: Brepols, 2001. Pp. i, 297. ISBN: 2-503-50910-x.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 02.08.03

Harney, Michael. Kinship and Marriage in Medieval Hispanic Chivalric Romance. Westfield Publications in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 11. Turnhout: Brepols, 2001. Pp. i, 297. ISBN: 2-503-50910-x.

Reviewed by:

Nancy F. Marino
Michigan State University

In the introduction to this study, Michael Harney observes that in Hispanic romances of chivalry, the hero undertakes his adventures and endures his hardships with the help of his kinsmen and with the ultimate goal of marriage and the foundation of his own household. The purpose of this book is the study of kinship ties, marriage, and lineage as they are depicted in four such medieval romances. Harney chooses two Castilian works that originated in the fourteenth century-- El Caballero Zifar and Amadis de Gaula --and two fifteenth-century Catalan narratives--Tirant lo Blanch and Curial e Guelfa to illustrate these themes. Harney relies on the work of anthropologists, particularly ethnologists, and historians to help define the various concepts of family relationships (lineage, clan, surnames, inheritance, female birthright, and so forth), then applies these models to the four works in question, showing how the authors' treatment of the themes depicts the social world of the Hispanic medieval romance. Through his study Harney is able to draw important conclusions about the audience of the works and the social realities (and fantasies) of the people who read them.

The book is divided into five chapters, followed by a conclusion. After the Introduction that serves as the first chapter, the second section is entitled "Lineage and Clan". Here Harney addresses the issues of inheritance that these concepts inevitably entail, including the system of primogeniture, the threat of disinheritance, and the rights of women to inherit a family's property. In Amadis, for example, primogeniture is one of the main causes of discord for the hero and his kin, and their struggle to resolve the ensuing problems dominate the story and provide narrative tension. Likewise the plight of women in this romance, as they are generally disinherited on the death of the father, and suffer the seizing of their lawful kingdom at the hands of others. In his examination of the concept of lineage, Harney discusses the importance of the heroes' surnames, which are either vicinal (Haro, Vivar, Lara), or patronymic (Gonzalez, Ruiz), or a combination of the two. He points out the the heir to the family usually bears the vicinal name, while the other successors often are not given a surname at all. Amadis de Gaula is the heir, while his brothers Galaor and Florestan are referred to only by their given name. The same trend is evident in Tirant, while in Curial and Zifar, protagonists are identified with neither the vicinal nor the patronymic surname. From these observations, as well as their concern for inheritance, Harney concludes that Amadis and Tirant were works that probably appealed to the higher aristocracy, while the other two romances would have probably interested a wider audience.

Chapter Three is entitled "Kindred and Cousinship". It begins by pointing out the disadvantages of the system of primogeniture, which could affect a family's future through death of the heir without issue, or disinhertiance by a rancorous or controlling father. The authors of Amadis and Tirant seem to put more stress on the value of matrilineal affiliation and the extended family of the hero's mother. In fact, as in the case of Tirant whose surname is derived from his mother's given name Blanca, one's maternal line was often more important economically or socially than the paternal clan. The system of bilateral kinfolk puts emphasis on one's common relatives rather than only one's descent. These kinsmen could be relied on for their collaboration in the hero's pursuits or defense. Harney affirms than kinship relations are mentioned so often in the romances, that they indicate the genre's obsession with them. Amadis, in particular, is dominated by the appearance of cousins as a principle of "social cohesion". There are many such relationships in Tirant as well, but far fewer in Curial or Zifar. These observations lead Harney to conclude that former are kin-ordered, while the latter are individualist in comparison. Kinships do appear in Curial and Zifar, but the protagonists are not dependent upon such networks for their triumphs as knights or suitors. Again, Harney believes that these charcteristics identify the intended audience. The higher social classes would have ben interested in the works that emphasize the kinship networks, while commoners would have been more attracted by the individualist heroes. This does not preclude, however, that both audiences would have read both kinds of works.

The fourth chapter, "Marrage and Consent", addresses the subject of traditional marrage, arranged by men for political, economic, or social objectives, and marriage by the consent of two individuals as a way of expressing a personal choice for emotional, spiritual, or sexual reasons. The Hispanic medieval romances contain both types. Conflicts occur when defenders of the two kinds of marriage clash, since personal choice and consent constituted a threat to patrimonial integrity. In Amadis, Tirant, and Curial, this conflict results in the secret or delayed marriage of the hero to his beloved, while in Zifar, marital consent is a way in which to embark upon an advantageous second union. Marriage in these narratives follows the ecclesiastical model, which by the thirteenth century promoted matrimony by mutual accord and frequently condemned arranged nuptials. Therefore, female agreement was an important concern, and the promise was binding, even if made in secret. In Amadis we find an example of the coexistence of both traditional and personal preference marriages. While the hero strives to marry Oriana to ratify their mutual love, he also arranges for her sister to marry the Emperor of Rome without her consent. Harney affirms that brokering such marriages is a function of "chivalric leadership". Although the lovers prefer to marry by consent, they then set about to do what they had resisted from their parents: establish an inheritable lineage. Unlike the Arthurian romances, which featured adulterous lovers, the Spanish version is monogamous. This kind of love is glorified in Amadis and Tirant, whose heroes reject the advances of other women, as does the protagonist of Curial . El Caballero Zifar is the perhaps the romance most concerned with monogamy, as it is the tale of the trials of a nuclear family.

In "Marriage and the Calculus of Advantage", the subject turns to "filialfocality", defined as the prominent role that daughters played in their families, particularly in marriage alliances. Since the reputation of the daughter was an important issue in Mediterranean cultures in general, so it is the romances. Within this context, hypergamy (or "marrying- up") is a concern, and the possibility of improving a family's social or political standing defines what constitutes a "good marriage" for the daughter. Again, Harney provides ample examples from the four romances to show the great interest in hypergamy in these romances: Lisuarte of Amadis wants to marry Oriana to the Emperor of Rome, just as in Curial, Camar's father plans to wed her to the King of Tunis.

Discussion of hypergamy leads to the question of the bride's dowry, a practice whose intention was to demonstrate the worthiness of her family to the "higher up" clan of the man she marries. After reviewing dotal traditions across Europe, Harney demonstrates how the custom of premarital gifts and the dowry function in the four romances in question, and also stresses the importance of these practices when the daughter is the social or economic superior of her intended husband. The shortage of desirable men in the marriage market make the knight, with his superior personal qualities, an appropriate match for the heiress, whose family could attract such excellent young men with their standing and wealth. Thus, in all four of the romances studied in this book, the virtues of the heroes are exalted more than their individual social status, and this is what makes them ideal prospects for marriage to their beloved. Harney concludes the chapter by showing that the Hispanic chivalric romance culminates at its end with a joyous marriage, thus indicating the importance of the meaning of marriage in the society that read these books. Only Tirant dies before he is able to wed, but the extravagant festivities planned for his union clearly indicate that this was his desired goal.

In the Conclusion, Harney draws comparisons between the portrayals of kinship and marriage in the epic (his previous book concerned these subejcts in the Poema de mio Cid) and the chivalric romance. The former, which represents a feudal society, is masculine in orientation and tone, with the partiarch the key figure in family issues. In the chivalric romance, women have more freedom to choose their spouses and more say in the households that they establish with them. But the empowerment of women in the romances probably was exaggerated: in the real world, men held more sway over the choices that females had. Harney concludes that "[I]t is exaggerated in order to please an audience in which women predominated morally if not numerically."

Kinship and Marriage in Medieval Hispanic Chivalric Romance is a well-written, useful contribution to the study of the social world of these narratives, and will interest those who study the chivalric romances of other European cultures as well. The bibliography is extensive and and is a valuable tool that provides references to the broad themes of marriage and family, as well as critical works on specific narratives.