By Saunders Clare Broome
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Additional info for Women Writers and Nineteenth-Century Medievalism
Ultimately, Zayda’s tragic death reflects her life as victim of warfare, in the crossfire of the fighting in which she has no active role: yet, she is allowed to make the choice to sacrifice herself for Hamet, in a reversal of chivalric roles. Zayda recognizes the political nature of her dilemma, over which she can have no control, but to which she can make an active and honorable response, usually reserved as a privilege of a [male] warrior. ” Hemans uses a medieval setting and a Moorish heroine to explore women’s involvement in a public arena and the possibility of women remaining true to “domestic affections” while undertaking an active role.
140). Elmina expresses discontent that such power over life and death should be the remit of men alone: “Men! men! Too much is yours/ Of vantage” (136). ” (136). ” (137). At the drama’s climax Gonzalez is feminized, forced into the role of impotent observer on the city walls, a typically female position against which Ximena has railed throughout the work, while his eldest son is beheaded. Bainbridge notes the comparison between Gonzalez’s temporary blindness here caused by the emotional turmoil and the “blinding tears” of Elmina that he had criticized earlier in the play (211).
Despite the main purpose of the journal being a narrative of his own military glory, Browne juxtaposes descriptions of military feats and daring with comments on the universal horror of war, which is not limited to the battlefield. Browne writes of the extreme lack of discipline of the battle-fatigued troops after the siege at Badajos (152), the behavior of some camp-following wives, who plundered the dead bodies of soldiers on both sides and “gave the finishing blow” to many officers struggling to live (174), the appalling treatment of the French PoWs by his Spanish allies (178), the sufferings of the starving army and their followers going to Cividad Rodrigo Wa r , M e d i e va l i s m , a n d t h e Wo m a n W r i t e r 35 in October 1812, women, children, and drummer boys perishing with cold along the roadside (193–197), and soldiers paralyzed from their war wounds left on the ground with maggot-infested heads (243).