From Bozal to Mulata: a Sociolinguistic Analysis of the Black African Female Slave in Early Modern Spanish Theater

Antonio M Rueda


In the sixteenth century, slave trade became one of the mainstays upon which the Spanish imperial economy was built. Although some Spanish cities already had sizable slave populations, it was not until this century that authors started to include representations of black Africans and Mulattoes in their literary creations. This essay explores the linguistic development of the black African female slave in the course of the sixteenth century through a comparative diachronic analysis of her identity figuration, based on specific linguistic characterizations. Theatrical plays by Rodrigo de Reinosa (1520s), Diego Sánchez de Badajoz (1550s), Lope de Rueda (mid-sixteenth century) and Lope de Vega (earlyseventeenth century) will be used as case studies to show how a predetermined set of sociolinguistic features shape the behavioral figure of these women who, analyzed as a group, constitute a complex emblem of the growth of the Afro-Hispanic population, as well as a changing notion of ethnicity and linguistic legitimacy in early modern Europe. 


Early modern European theater; sociolinguistics; Afro-Hispanic studies; early modern slavery

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