Fuente Ovejuna

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Oftentimes, social movements occur as a result of injustices felt by the lower classes of society. Usually, such struggles can be classified as either reformist or revolutionary. Reformists accept the general framework of a social arrangement, but consider it capable of improvement or reform. Revolutionaries, on the other hand, insist that an institution be replaced, a government overthrown. Thought it is important that one distinguishes between the two when studying a social movement, it is often very difficult to do so. Every social movement undergoes the pull of both reformism and revolutionism, and with varying strength at different times. In Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna, the peasant rebellion can be considered revolutionary as it ends with the murder of Commander Fernán Gómez de Guzmán, a high-ranking member of society. The Grand Commander Fernán Gómez mistreats most of the inhabitants of Fuente Ovejuna, leading them to band together and kill him. He maltreats the villagers by taking advantage of the women and by openly abusing the others. From a historical perspective, this event is a major one. Spain had become weak from internal conflict and civil war. This war, fought to determine the next ascendant to the throne, hurt Spain greatly. As the peasants of Fuente Ovejuna were able to successfully murder Commander Fernán Gómez, one could see how the event symbolically illustrates the weakness of the kingdom. Also deteriorating was the system of feudalism. Although vassals owned lands distributed to them by lords in exchange for service, one can see that the true power of rule lies with the people. When the people are unsatisfied with the way things are run, they are able to voice their opinions through revolution.

It is necessary to note that many peasant rebellions are revolutionary. The upper classes of society may opt for reforms instead because of their already existing high social statuses. They are comfortable where they are and do not wish to...
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