The structural and thematic integrity of Diego de San Pedro's Cárcel de amor
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The sentimental novel Cárcel de Amor by Diego de San Pedro was hugely popular in its time both in Spain and in other parts of Europe, spawning at least twenty editions in Spanish, nine bilingual versions, and eighteen translations between 1492 and 1675. The purpose of this study is to examine the seemingly, and oft criticized, varied nature of the sentimental and political discourse in the novel to demonstrate how San Pedro used them to create unity of structure and theme. In addition I analyze the effects of the author's implementation of metanarrative strategies on the relationship between structure and theme. Cárcel was written during a period of great social and political turmoil in Castile, and San Pedro uses the sentimental and political material of the work to paint a reflection of the society in which he lived. He demonstrates that the chivalric ideals of courtly love and honor based on virtue, values upon which the nobility based their collective identity, are no longer viable in his culture because they have come to be devoid of the beauty they originally embodied. In their place one finds a growing obsession with honor that is a construction of appearances with little regard for virtue. As the protagonist Leriano, who represents the perfection of these ideals, comes into conflict with the king and other courtiers, the reader realizes that the old ideals and the new reality are completely incompatible. San Pedro also uses several metanarrative strategies to draw the reader into the fictional world in order to force him to confront the same crisis that Leriano and the Auctor character face as they determine that their value system cannot survive in the false, double-dealing society in which they live. He uses these same techniques to underscore the fictional quality of the "reality" that members of that society create for themselves. San Pedro effectively uses both the sentimental and political discourse of the work to create a realistic picture of Castilian society's moral decay in the fifteenth century.