Dreams have through time played a role in politics, and in this little study Richard Kagan sets out to relate the dreams of a young sixteenth-century Castilian seer, Lucrecia de León, to the political world of Philip II. Lucrecia was arrested by the Inquisition in 1590, and her dreams over the preceding thirty months were carefully investigated. (In an appendix Kagan lists them in calendar form.) Among the reasons she was arrested was that she had predicted the defeat of the Armada, and she “now says,” the Florentine ambassador reported, “that the king will soon die.” Kagan skillfully depicts the complex world of schemers and dreamers within which Lucrecia and her supporters operated and demonstrates that what might have been just another harmless case of prophesying suddenly became urgent when Lucrecia’s sayings coincided with the political crisis caused by the escape of Antonio Pérez to Aragon in 1590. The arrest of the seer for “sedition” ended her career and showed that the government was determined to act in a moment of grave national and international crisis.

This is an entertaining and scholarly book, though Kagan may exaggerate Lucrecia’s significance when he says that “in her way she represents the social and political conscience of sixteenth-century Spain.” She was only one of many marginal figures in the history of this time, all of whom played a part in the expression of attitudes toward the prevailing government, and she represented only one point on a broad spectrum of opinion. The author has produced a splendid and highly readable picture of Lucrecia’s role within this spectrum, but it should not be forgotten that nondreamers were even more cogent in their criticisms of Philip II: the celebrated Jesuit Ribadeneira in 1580 presented a picture of “the people, the grandees, the gentry, the clergy . . . all embittered, disillusioned, and discontented"; and Don Carlos de Borja in 1591 foretold imminent rebellions throughout Catalonia, Valencia, and even Castile and Madrid. Kagan is no douht well acquainted with these witnesses, and his study remains an illuminating incursion into the dream dimension of the political problems that beset the last decade of the reign of Philip II.