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From Erotic Conquest to the Ravishing Other: Imperial Intercourse in Shakespeare's Drama and Anglo-Spanish Rivalry

Eder Jaramillo, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation examines how shifts in Anglo-Spanish relations from attraction to fear fashioned early modern cross-cultural encounters in imperialist terms. In discussion with recent inter-imperial studies of Mediterranean rivalries, I argue that as Anglo-Spanish relations engaged in what I refer to as imperial intercourse, one country’s expansionist ambitions become a double-edged sword, namely as said country is subsequently haunted by the threat of invasion from other rivals. This dissertation focuses on dramatic and colonialist texts representing the threat of invasion in the trope of the ravishing Other—a term with a play on words that illustrates the shift in alterity from attraction to fear, from being ravished by the beauty of the Other to anxiety of ravishment by the Other. Known for its deployment in colonial discourses of America, the trope of gendering land as woman also played a central role in the representation of European sovereignties as well-fortified against foreign invasions. In order to examine how imperial intercourse influenced Anglo-Spanish relations, this dissertation formulates an intertextual method based on humanist reading and writing practices of the time. This dissertation shows how English piratical raids of Spanish shores inspired the poet Lope de Vega to employ the trope of invasion in La Dragontea (1598) in order to dramatize the anxiety for Spain’s faulty borders. As Lope de Vega’s play El nuevo mundo (1599) celebrates imperial Spain, a palimpsestuous English presence haunts the stage. Meanwhile, across the Channel, notable Elizabethan playwrights dramatized English imperial intercourse as haunted by a palimpsestuous Spanish Armada. As I considers how The Tempest intertextually recalls the various tropes of invasion that predate the Elizabethan era, this dissertation maintains that Shakespeare’s island play cuts the Gordian knot of imperial intercourse. Prospero’s appropriation of Caliban’s island—a ploy based on the trope of the ravishing Other—stands as an imperialist discourse that at once contains the threat of invasion as it inverts the trope to suit the prospect of colonial expansionism.

Subject Area

British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Jaramillo, Eder, "From Erotic Conquest to the Ravishing Other: Imperial Intercourse in Shakespeare's Drama and Anglo-Spanish Rivalry" (2020). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28086723.