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His landing in the New World was followed by a period of exploration and expansion, which was, and still is, both admired and criticized in and outside of Spain. Prince Charles born in was crowned king of Spain in and ruled until It is not surprising, then, that instead of wanting to eliminate the culture of the Middle Ages, Spain dedicated added resources, will, and determination to enrich it.
The end of the fifteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth century are, in every way, a period of indecision, ambivalent inclinations, continuous trying, transition, mutual influence, and a high degree of assimilation, which remain a constant up to the present. It is a known fact that Spanish men educated in the spirit of the classics and adept at writing poetry or drama look to Italy for inspiration. In Spain, the new age is marked by a series of simultaneous artistic movements that show a common and conscious wish to be modern and, particularly in dramaturgy, a cautious desire not to submit entirely to Italy, the country where the Renaissance began.
Spain's artistic ideal is not to emulate its classical theoretical construct, or the commedia dell'arte; rather, it is to imitate Italy's example of assimilating, adapting, and then creating an artistic world of its own. Therefore, while Italy's enormous artistic influence results in major transformations in lyric poetry, in drama that influence is, above all, a powerful force that favors and encourages change. France, the other country more directly associated with the Hispanic world, has almost no influence on the creation of the national secular Spanish drama in Castile.
The fact that early Spanish national drama found inspiration in folklore regional festivals, country song, music, and dance in the church reenactment of the biblical stories of the Lord's Passion and birth, and in the short, mocking games offered as comic relief offers proof that true-to-life realism was to be a strong characteristic trait. For example, in Encina's Auctos shepherds, on their way to Bethlehem to honor the Redeemer, celebrate the birth of Jesus with music, song, and dance. In the Farce of the Holy Sacrament by D. The liturgical pieces are associated with the French and English mysteries; the short, comic pieces derived from the Latin Ludi Scenici are sometimes mixed with elements of the Italian commedia dell'arte.
Together, they describe the two basic components art and life , and the two roads the religious and the secular, the human and the divine that the theater will follow. While the dramatists overcome obstacles, the regents and monarchs of each century set its tone, give it direction, and sometimes advance its course. Ultimately, both roads take it to a happy end.
National dramatic pieces on secular subjects first appear in Castile in the Introduction 3 s with Rojas' Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea and Encina's autos, farces, and the short shepherd's pieces he called eglogas eclogues. Stanislav Zimic maintains that The Egloga nuevamente trobada a donde se introduce un pastor que con otro se aconseja. All of these dramatists not only are educated in the classics but travel, live, and work in Italy.
Therefore, they know its culture, its literary currents, and its theories on drama. These dramatists identify with, or take, modern conventional stands; that is, they have a central interest in the individual and in the world of the living. They adopt the critical spirit of the Renaissance and use it to defend human and artistic freedom, develop artistic expression, and experiment with language, style, and technique. Rojas' Tragicomedy projects, in a synthesis of dramatic forms, the common effort that was being made to introduce the classics to the various levels of the Spanish culture, through the most popular form of entertainment.
He uses highly learned quotes, allusions, and speech next to sayings, proverbs, improperly applied terms, and crass, licentious, and humorous Spanish expressions. Present in Rojas' megawork sixteen acts are the new interest in the world of the living, the critical point of view, and the expression of artistic freedom. For his interpretation of reality he includes the tragic and the comic. His interpretation of the immediate world mixes or juxtaposes elements borrowed from sentimental stories of legendary lovers, the Italian novella, the exotic tales in the novels of chivalry, which were extremely popular in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the moral allegories of medieval didactic literature.
Likewise, the language of the religious and secular representations by Encina and others is the vernacular of Castile, but the vision is drawn from various regions of Spain. Traditionally, Encina's Nativity plays and Gomez Manrique's Representation of the Birth of Our Lord, staged in the middle of the fifteenth century in the convent of the Sisters of Calabazanos, exemplify the religious dramatic writing of the time. Examples of the Latin mocking plays or elements of them in Encina's theater are viewed as a precedent of the short, comic pieces called pasos 4 Spanish Dramatists of the Golden Age and as the origin of a dramatic tradition in Castile, that is, the practice of introducing humor between the acts of the main text and during the play's intermission.
They developed later into separate entities. Together they constitute the Short Theater, which includes the pasos, entremeses, and sainetes by Lope de Rueda, Cervantes, and Quinones de Benavente. The Golden Age of Spanish letters covers the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries.
Typically literary historians place the beginning of the Spanish Golden Age between , the date of Torres-Naharro's Propalladia and the year of the coronation of Charles I as king of Spain, and , the year of Cervantes' death. The Golden Age Drama period extends from , the new proposed date of the princeps edition of La Celestina, until the death of Calderon in It covers the reign of Charles I and of his son, King Philip II, two different worlds and two very different styles of government. The plays written during the first half of the sixteenth century have medieval dramatic qualities mixed with undeniable Renaissance spirit and signs of future potential.
During the second half of the sixteenth century, all the groping and experimentation take more definitive form, and the Spanish comedy reaches a degree of maturity. The sixteenth century is a time when Spain had strong political presence, cultural influence and prestige. The royal support and good economic times benefited the comedia. The two strongest supporters and promoters of the Golden Age comedia were Charles V , and the poet king, Philip IV These monarchs mark the beginning and the high point of the Spanish Golden Age comedia.
Calderon's death in marks the end of the Golden Age. In favorable times there were optimism, financial incentive to write plays, better facilities, and larger audiences to enjoy them. Under these favorable economic conditions the sound, visual, and literary quality of the theater improved. With new machinery, stagecraft, and theatrical effects it was possible to stage more artistically demanding plays and autos, which were grand spectacle. The court plays, commissioned to celebrate special occasions in the life of the royal family—military or political victories, christenings, engagements, weddings—have real or imagined worlds, enchanted princesses, magical encounters, mythical lovers, religious heroes, legendary or historical kings and queens.
Today, we still read, study, analyze, research, and enjoy many of these plays. Philip IPs reign has been called the period of assimilation. It is the time when regard for the new and the nation's letters becomes a deep concern only with what was Spain's own. Political defeats, poor economic times, and the expansion of the Protestant Reformation resulted in Spain's nationalist period: the high moment of Christian humanism is over, but most of the greatest national creations in prose, lyric poetry, and Introduction 5 poetic drama were written then. Joined are narrative and dramatic poetry, popular expression and the learned style, idealism, realism, local tradition, patron saints, national values, preoccupations, kings, and heroes.
The end of the apogee of the Spanish Empire is sometimes dated as , one year before the military disasters begin with England's defeat of the Armada, as Spain marches downward to its nadir. The ideal and dreams are becoming veritable nightmares. The ideal of some Spanish writers was not to submit entirely to foreign influences. The individualism and ardent faith in the country and in religion, which are characteristic of realism then, are deeply imprinted in their artistic expressions.
The conflict between classicism, paganism, and Christianity, especially Catholic nationalism, dominates the drama and literature. There is a stylistic divide during the seventeenth century. One of the two dominant styles is laconic, ingenious, and contrived. It uses witticisms, poetic conceits, double meanings, subtle play on words and ideas; it respects strict rules of syntax and seeks and maintains clarity through the use of everyday language and fixed grammatical structures.
It is the style preferred by writers like Lope and Quevedo, who refused to submit to foreign influences. Their idea of remaining loyal to the nation and its ideals was to advance national letters. Lope, in Arte Nuevo. It is as intellectual, imaginative and creative as the first conceptismo style. The cultivated style also known as cultismo, culteranismo and Gongorismo, for Gongora, its best exponent, in poetry, and as Calderoniano style in drama uses classical allusions, brilliant metaphors, hermetic language, neologisms, Italian and Latin words, and a twisted syntax, sometimes to hide a pejorative intent, common in both groups during their literary wars.
Calderon's use of the "cult" style in his poetic dramas was often imitated in subsequent generations. The comedia, the principal artistic form of expression in the seventeenth century, mirrors the defining characteristics of the Spanish Golden Age: its realism, nationalism, independent, critical spirit regarding freedom from the neoclassical artistic norms, popularism, the conflict between reason and Christian faith, defense of Catholic religion, chivalric sentiments, ideal and human love.
It also includes contrary, opposing, and heterogeneous elements—the erudite, intellectual, and the popular forms—explored by the preceding generation in a national theater that, not surprisingly, could gather in one place people from the various levels of Spanish people.
When Lope crystallized the aspirations implicit in the attempts that the preceding dramatists had made, he named it new comedia. Significant in the term "new" is the implied tension between the old norm and the "new" form, the foreign versus the indigenous, expressed as artistic freedom. It was easy for the nationalist Lope to declare war on the Italian interpretations of Aristotle's Poetics, which the previous generation had adapted, in some degree, to both comedy and tragedy.
Literary and dramatic convention still finds Spanish tragedy technically defective, derivative, and languid: instead of tragic emotion it offers religious conversion and hope in the world beyond, a happy ending, which is unacceptable in tragedy. Nevertheless, modern tragedy makes conversion coincide with the moral and psychological transformations antiquity prescribed.
The comedia associates national, personal, and artistic freedom. Instead of the classical unities of action, time, and place and the strict generic division, Lope's artistic principle turned the theater into a social activity that united the Spanish people. The new dramatists found in the comedia the fertile ground to portray in an admirable way the nation's daily life. According to their commentators, art sometimes seems to fuse with it in its interpretation. The themes nature, life, faith, free will, predestination, fortune express a sentiment of human dignity, the importance of the individual who reaffirms his or her rights over unjust authority, social concerns, history, philosophical speculation regarding the physical world, the importance of the senses, human perception.
Life as it is in the comedia expresses the deeper Spanish belief in personal, regional, and national autonomy, which has been studied as Spain's democratic tradition. The dignity of the individual and the rights of all citizens to justice were the essence of the original monarchy and, to a lesser degree, of the unified empire; there lies the motivation and essential meaning of the most famous peasant rebels in Golden Age drama and of the heated polemics they helped to create. Lope's protagonists in Peribdnez, the Sheep Well, The best Mayor [is] the King and The Mayor of Zalamea, and in Calderon's version of the latter honor drama are, assertively and defiantly "aunque villano, muy honrado," "although a simple villager, very honorable"—a proud, old Christian farmer.
Zealous people in the crowded theaters still applaud, jeer or cheer these characters.
David T. Gies the Cambridge History of Spanish Literature
As Alix Ingber points out, twentieth-century critics continue to debate their political and social implications. Marxist productions and interpretations used to their advantage plays about peasant rebels as heroes, in particular The Mayor of Zalamea and the Sheep Well. In these plays the ignoble offender, who abuses his nobility status and the power of his public office to dishonor the peasant rebels, is killed.
The villagers firmly believe that none other than the king will be obeyed, below the king all citizens are equal before the law, and an outraged community collectively exacts justice. The king and the commoners are united against the unruly nobility. A critical spirit is evident in the treatment of persons, personalities, conflicting ideologies, and contrasting views dramatized in late Golden Age drama through the themes that are close to the people's hearts: love and honor and their variations and corollaries of glory; justice; power; love and loyalty to the king, the nation, and the church; family honor; blood purity; rewarded heroic and religious virtue.
These are themes or values that made the comedia the preferred form of entertainment. The technical failure of tragedy led to the practical search for other ways to success. It helped to shape and therefore explain not only the triumph of comedy or the use of the generic term comedia, but also Lope's "emotional appeal" prescription and the Introduction 7 abundant number of emotionalist comedias that can be found in Spain's Golden Age drama reattributed to Claramonte by C.
Weimer and Rodriguez LopezVazquez. Most dramatists followed the maestro's advice and worked the honor theme to death. Dramatically, love's pursuits, obstacles, rejections, and passion, whether frustrated or satisfied, create suspense and encourage an increasingly complicated plot. The Arte Nuevo recommends that suspense be maintained until the last scene. If there are reasons for the public to suspect how the play will end, something entirely different should happen.
Honor in the comedia, whether by noble birth, caste, or merit earned in battle, is life's most precious, dangerously delicate, and coveted possession. Honor amounts to what people say. Lost honor is equivalent to death. Love's transgressions soil personal and family honor, which must be cleansed. When single couples are involved in an illicit relationship, the only remedy is marriage. For that reason, in some comedias violating the rule appears as a calculated way of avoiding forced marriages of convenience, while killing for conjugal honor raises the question of abuse or practicality of the honor code, in post-Lope drama.
The seducers, rapists, or ingrate lovers who ruin maidens and run or refuse to marry them are killed by the male who heads the family; the killing of the offender was justice, or, as Lope says it in his title, Punishment, no Vengeance, or Punishment without Vengeance, as Alix Ingber prefers. The king was above the honor code rules. He honors, not dishonors, the women he seduces, forces, and sexually abuses. Many popular heroines dressed in male attire, like the type common in the Italian novella who go after the offender to avenge their honor. The stronger types kill the man while others are satisfied with marrying for revenge.
So it is in Rojas Zorilla's Casarse por Vengarse. In numerous honor plays, adultery, even imagined or rumored, was punishable by death, of the man and the woman, if caught in the act, and always of the wife. Lope's formula for the New comedia reached full bloom and gained fame, respect, and legitimacy when political, economic, and social developments in the country forced significant artistic transformations. By the comedia no longer is an incipient and problematic genre with changing denominations— drama, tragicomedy, farce, comedia.
Form, style, and content changed as the 8 Spanish Dramatists of the Golden Age audience to which it was directed changed during the nationalist period. Philip IPs reign is the time when what is idiosyncratic Spanish informs the arts and letters. Understandably, the comedia becomes the preferred national entertainment, and Lope , king of the theater. The triumph of the comedia during the crucial period of aesthetic and historical transition offers definite proof of its maturity. Soon, it is taken to its zenith and Spain rushes to see comedia by Lope, Tirso, and Calderon's sumptuous yet lucid spectacles for recreation, devotion, and entertainment.
Preceptos del teatro de Espana y arte del estilo moderno comico, King Philip IV, a strong supporter of the theater some of the anonymous plays printed as written ["by one of the intellects of this court"] are attributed to him , imported Cosme Lotti from Italy in as engineer, architect, and supervisor of the scenarios built for the theatrical festivities at the palace. The increased royal patronage helped to improve the quality of the performances in the royal theaters.
The Alcazar theaters in Aranjuez and Madrid were the two centers of the Spanish theater until the king built a new theater in his palace, the Buen Retiro, in The king's patronage in as yet good economic times and the renewed close cultural contact between Spain and Italy brought in a continuous flow of talent.
Actors, acting companies, craftsmen, and stage specialists saw better opportunities and a brighter future in Spain. They helped created the machinery, stage setting, and artifacts of the magnificent stages erected in the courtyard of the palace. Technical progress and improved machinery made it possible to loft the actor in the air, bring him down, take him suddenly out of sight, or have him disappear from the stage. The supernatural beings that populated the religious and mythological plays, the phantom ladies, like the Gila, Don Gil.
When the Buen Retiro opened in , Madrid already had become the main center of creative activity, and the theater had become the national entertainment, equal, in degree, to that of the age of Shakespeare in England, more than it had been in Italy, and equal to what it would be in France in the next century. The plays by Alarcon, Guillen de Castro, Tirso de Molina, Rojas Zorrilla, Moreto, and especially Calderon could stand comparison with the plays written in England and France and could be discussed, adapted, even imitated, and translated by Moliere, Corneille, Racine, or other lesser names, until the eighteenth century, when France, then the center of political and artistic power, reversed the trend, and the neoclassic art became the modus operandi.
Lope's best-known disciples, Luis Velez de Guevara, Antonio Mira de Amescua, and Juan Perez de Montalban, in their early stage faithfully reproduce the Introduction 9 spirit of his plays. They adopt his dramatic style, formulas, and techniques; write comedias in collaboration with their admired master; and identify with, and defend, his artistic stance from the attacks of his literary critics and opponents.
However, they write original plays on their own, rewrite and reinterpret successful plays, or treat conventional themes with new, unsuspected twists. Lope, proud of his and their success, wrote to D. Lope's contemporaries, who were successful dramatists in their own right, take advantage of his expertise and pour their own highly imaginative and complicated cape-and-sword plots into the continuing successful comedia mold, but they do not coincide with him in every theatrical aspect.
For example, the need or desire to please the audience with emotional or light and frivolous entertainment is not their most urgent concern. Political defeats, poor economic times, and the expanding Protestant Reformation resulted in a new kind of nationalism. The plays are the strongest unifying element of an empire that had long been at war, its people fighting with their neighbors, their rivals, and their own soul; of a country wishing to maintain its political domain, affirm, redefine, or save its spiritual identity.
The background of these plays is a nation whose unity was being tested on all fronts: the long, debilitating wars in the Netherlands, which began in , ended with Spain's recognition of Dutch independence, in With this costly loss and the humiliating military and political defeats in England, Northern Europe increased its threats to the weakening Spanish Catholic Empire.
The autos and comedias mirror the status, aspirations, and concerns of a world that is being turned upside down. Many celebrated Golden Age playwrights emphasize the transcendental philosophical and theological preoccupations of the new age: the meaning of grace, the question of sin and retribution, personal responsibility in salvation, the conflict between reason and faith, and the doctrine of free will versus determinism.
Parr proposes that Alarcon ' 'can justifiably be considered the moral philosopher among his contemporaries. His best-known comedias contain social satire sprinkled with moral concepts, which Lope's secular comedia de intriga circumvents. Alarcon, Tirso, and Calderon share common dramatic themes, devices, and techniques.
For example, the illusion-reality structure—the idea that reality's truth may be illusory, or the belief or, rather, the credulity in the power of the stars over man's destiny. The dramatic solution to these concerns in the plays, which sets them apart, also confirm Parr's views and reinforce his longstanding challenge to prevailing notions on Alarcon. As he points out, Alarcon's tragic ending in the agnostic Master of the Stars distances him from Calderon's resolution.
And Truth Suspected distinguishes him from the theological approach and religious treatment of truth in Don Juan by Tirso, with whom he is chronologically closer. Damiani highlights the theological problem of salvation and the efficacy of grace the abuse of it and retribution in Tirso's El condenado por desconfado Damned for Disbelieving and Don Juan. In Damiani's words, Don Juan does wrong "without thinking about sin, repentance or remorse.
The subject of salvation—the role of grace, the sacraments, reason, faith, and good deeds—is also taken up by Calderon in La vida es sueno Life is a Dream and in the Autos Sacramentales. These magnificent spectacles mesmerized audiences both in the palace and in the streets and remained a very important part of the Corpus Christi ceremonies until the eighteenth century. Their patina seems even brighter when they are viewed in their historical context.
Other seventeenth-century plays associate past and present history to voice concerns about political affairs. The episode of King Philip's son Carlos, prince of the Netherlands and heir to the Spanish throne, is the subject of two plays by Jimenez de Enciso and of Calderon's subtext in his masterpiece, among others. The latter, a legendary hero of many Spanish wars in Italy—the most important in Pavia—is treated several times during the seventeenth century. These plays may be, as Velez claimed, el espejo del mundo "the world's mirror" , except that what they mirror changes as reality and attitudes change.
Increasingly, the images of victorious soldiers and other significant figures of the age in important plays are not only blurred or cut down to size but ultimately ridiculed in the next century, when the Hapsburg dynasty has already ended and the house of Bourbon rules Spain. The portrayal of the king as El segundo gran Seneca de Espana, Felipe II, in three parts, attributed to Montalban, expresses the tone and ethos of the significant plays written during his reign. As a contrast to the stoic image, some Introduction 11 plays draw dramatic portrayals of the next two Hapsburg kings, Philip III and Philip IV, as weak kings and licentious men; heroic virtue is often compromised and in conflict with love in plays about the loss of the military ideal and the abandonment of the principles and values that had made Spain powerful, influential, and respected in Europe.
Guillen's young Cid is a hero in the making. Guillen and Rojas Zorrilla adopt Lope's dramatic system when they are at a crossroads in their writing careers. Rojas Zorrilla revives Cervantes' patriotic theme based on the historical Numancia; if not to fire up the heroic spirits, he may have done it to deliver a nostalgic comment about reality.
Bances Candamo airs a real national concern during the reign of the last Hapsburg king, Philip V, which will plague and divide Spain for centuries. As Garcia-Castahon suggests, in El esclavo de los grillos de Oro and La piedra filosofal , Candamo treats society and the politics of succession to the Spanish throne with contempt 4, In what appears to be a streak of irony or the search for an understanding of their own era, some dramatists treat the theme of the fickleness of fortune. Ramon McCurdy is among the critics who point out that the Golden Age plays dramatize the good and bad fortune of legendary favorites.
Several entries in the present volume underscore the dramatic treatment of powerful men who were privy to kings in conducting the affairs of government. The theme of privanza is found mainly in the treatment of the favorites of three different kings: D. Their abuse of power as heads of government and their fall from grace or death by execution are deemed either justice or injustice, caused by betrayals and intrigue at the court. The good privanza is exemplified by Tirso's prudent women, which Damiani highlights. These plays will add understanding to the incomplete picture the casual reader often has of Golden Age drama.
Manuel Delgado offers the opinion that Mira's tragedy based on Don Alvaro de Luna is considered "one of the best historical dramas, one of the finest tragedies of the Golden Age, and the best tragedy written in Spain on that theme," while Velez de Guevara's El espejo del mundo is, in Peale's words, "the comedia nueva's most succinct statement on the topic," a point that underlines the need to focus on lesser known but essential plays and on significant aspects of Golden Age drama.
The historical context of these plays was itself dramatic. King Philip II made it his mission to defend the empire he had inherited when his father abdicated. The end of Spanish hegemony is considered , one year before the military disaster against England. After the British destruction of the Armada in , the dark cloud that covered the emperor's final reigning years, and was set in the Spanish soul, was to grow still darker.
Everything foreign becomes suspicious and unwelcome. In England it was no different. In an effort to secure the crown, consolidate her power, and expand Protestantism, Queen Elizabeth I was equally hostile toward everything foreign and became Spain's archenemy. King Philip had sided with Mary Queen of Scots. The way his comedias are designed coincide and project what is known of the brooding character and characteristics of King Philip's personality and way to govern: a preference for more organization, order, structure, less outward activity, and more internal conflicts.
Military heroism is exalted but the greatest heroic victory is the dominion over the animal instinct as exemplified in Segismundo's isolation and character. King Basilio's dream of maintaining and defending the integrity of the empire is threatened by his own heir in a failed coup. Segismundo, who is depicted as a monster and speaks the best lines, shows how events influence writers and artistic expression. Like Lope, Calderon's poetic genius, in his best moments, gives drama a literary level it did not have otherwise.
They and Tirso de Molina are the stellar figures of the Golden Age drama. Their predecessors, Encina, Rojas, and Rueda, introduced changes and innovations in language, form, and content that helped the dominion of the secular and the popular over the religious, and of comedy over tragedy. Torres Naharro, Juan de la Cueva, Gil Vicente, and Cervantes wrote drama in the spirit of the Renaissance and advanced the popular national theater.
They refined the cruder early attempts, invented dramatic doctrines, improved characterization and plothandling techniques, and raised drama to a position of respect among the literary genres. Their plays mix the religious and picaresque national tradition with Greco-Roman forms, themes, and stories. The dramatizations project love as true human passion, treat its effects, and offer an analysis of both. The presence of this amalgam in different dramatists' interpretations evinces their symbiotic relationship.
Humanism is their common cord, but their plays project a variety of interests and mind-sets. The Renaissance provided the incentive and served as a temporary support from which these dramatists could begin to draw their own secure way. If they did not give drama its fixed denomination, they indicated clearly the direction it should take. Their exceptional significance is that they led the way into the Golden Age of Spanish drama. Since the opening of the royal theater in , Lope de Vega and other outstanding dramatists of the court presented their comedias in the palace theater, adapting them later for the larger public who would see them at the corrales, or vice versa.
The Spanish people's proverbial infatuation with the theater brought about a mass production of plays turned out by noblemen, adventurers, scholars, women poets and novelists, theater managers, clergymen, poor licentiates, or anyone who had the ambition to write them. The increasing high demand led to the practice of writing plays with the collaboration of two, three, and up to eight dramatists.
Short runs due to the pressure of high demand and the need to provide new plays overnight eventually had a deleterious effect in artistic quality. Lope, Tirso, and Calderon had already taken the comedia to its zenith; their disciples and countless others extended its success and popularity. The opening of the Coliseo del Buen Retiro three years before Lope's death Introduction 13 in marked the beginning of Calderon's dominion over the stage. Cosme Lotti, the famous Italian choreographer, was to collaborate with Calderon in many performances of his comedias palatinas court mythological, historical, and musical plays , as well as in the one-act sacramental plays.
The autos for the religious celebrations at Christmas, Corpus Christi, and Holy Week were splendid spectacles, commissioned and financed by the nobility, confraternities, brotherhoods, the civil and religious authorities, and the king himself. Their medieval, simple form and religious base remained a constant until the seventeenth century, when Calderon raised them from their humble beginnings to artistic heights.
Calderon, Lope's most famous successor, entertains the audiences, in Lope's fashion, with extremely complicated plots in comedias that remain stage favorites today. A talented poet and dramatist like Lope, Calderon's intensification of Lope's formula constitutes a reaction. His honor tragedies attempt to subvert Lope's initial honor code prescription through exaggeration and dramatic irony, but the elliptical style, muffled signs, and subtle message were misinterpreted and misrepresented by his followers and comedia critics. Calderon's honor tragedies dramatize highly exaggerated stories of conjugal conflicts believed to have been actual cases of wives suspected and killed by their husbands on account of real or questionable adultery.
A Secret Offense [calls for] a Secret Vengeance, The Physician of His Honor, and The Painter of His Own Dishonor, which Calderon wrote for the broad and heterogeneous audience of the corrales, incorporate the ingredients that gave Lope's honor plays popularity and a dramatic success, but his heir develops the story on several planes with multiplicity of meanings.
The facts, the persons, and the issues call for moral awareness, moral outrage, and a critical stand toward the tragic abuses that each tragedy illustrates and against the violence that the honor code signifies. As tragedies, the wife killings on the basis of rumors, paranoia, and imagined or circumstantial evidence share elements with Shakespeare's more artistic and less sensational tragic death of Desdemona. The educated audience in the corral understands the planes of meaning of the carefully crafted and more intellectually ambitious Calderonian plays in ways that the rest of the audience perhaps does not.
Both the nobility and the masses enjoy Calderon's popular and aristocratic dramatic universe, or they may derive pleasure from the vicarious experience they undergo during the play. Matthew Stroud highlights Calderon's significance in the evolution of the Spanish theater and his recognized literary and intellectual slant, as well as his mastery of dramatic style and technique. The latter masterpiece dramatizes Boethius' notion that all the world is a stage. The use of the theatrical metaphor that Shakespeare made famous in England led to comparative studies that made Calderon more famous and better known internationally.
After he became the court poet dramatist in , Calderon gave many lavish performances of musical, historical, and mythological plays for the king. To entertain his benefactor, King Philip IV and the royal court, he created a musical play operetta and named it after the Zarzuela theater. Poetry, theology, and philosophy are aided by the latest technological advances brought in by the Italian Cosme Lotti and numerous talented theater specialists.
With the autos, Calderon restores a sense of balance between the secular and the religious plays put on the stage.
La gran Semiramis by Cristóbal de Virués
Their practical purpose and importance at a time when the Church's tenets are being questioned and directly attacked or opposed explain their popularity and attraction for many people. The king's support contributed to their artistic and popular success. His presence validated their importance. One French diplomat wrote to a friend, "The best thing of all I had witnessed is the Comedy that has just now been acted at the Palace. They helped satisfy the insatiable demand for new plays. The Buen Retiro Coliseum was opened to the general public in Lotti died in Among his successors was an early Gaudi.
He, with other Spanish and Italian engineers and painters, only refined what already existed. The play was marvelously staged at the court of Charles II. With the hyperbole, characteristic of the time, Calderon poetically wrote in his notes that what was the king's theater was turned into a forest; on one side a cliff was so artistically done that it stood as "a proud eminence"; "the forest rested firmly on the moving tide. As a boat on this river passed Unfortunately, these costly stages had an ephemeral life.
Lope's and Calderon's followers, who extend the life of the comedia, continue to use Lope's basic formula and style by imitating his disciples. They also utilize Calderon's artful style and dramatic technique, or they follow the old practice and new fashion of rewriting plays. The number of people in the audiences began to decline—a sign of satiety.
An exhaustion of stories, of themes, and of great talent led to stagnation of the comedia, aiding the normal process of decay. The comedia went into decline when the two essential talents in a dramatist—the creative imagination and the art of expression—were spent. Absolute artistic freedom and uncontained creativity become repetition, abuse, or exaggeration. Montalban, who is among Lope's apologists and is his first biographer, incorporates several traditions in one play: Boccaccio, Rey de Artieda, and Tirso, in The Lovers from Teruel; in La monja alferez he borrows from Lope's comedia, Diego Garcia de Paredes, and from the realism of the romancero.
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But if El segundo Seneca de Espana, Felipe II, in effect, was written by Montalban, the three-part play becomes a cornerstone and confirms an even earlier ' 'evolution away from the servile unit of Lope, toward Calderon," which Patricia Kenworthy points out. Among the differences that can be appreciated in the adaptations, revivals, remakes is an air that is at the same time ironic, skeptical, and sentimental.
An entire generation that already had begun to emerge signified the arrival of a new moment in the history of the comedia. Aesthetically, the reaction was equivalent to Lope's reaction. He had been in favor of the simple versification, more lyricism, the natural rhythm of the language, and the realism of the long epic poems or the ballads. The new wave signifies a reaction toward a simpler plot, more careful structure, the characteristics of Calderon's artistic style and form. There is an attempt to restrain the lack of contention, the freedom from the dramatic principles, the complicated plot, the rhetoric of the cloak-and-dagger plays, and the forced situations on the theme of blood revenge overly used for artistic 16 Spanish Dramatists of the Golden Age convenience.
Excess and bad comedia imitations helped the reaction Calderon began and Moreto exemplifies. Agustin Moreto is among the dramatists who imitate other comedies rather than create original plots. But, as Frank Casa mentions, Moreto reduces Lope's complicated plot and slows down the action. He also laughs softly at the peculiar types, habits, and common responses to sentiment in earlier comedias. His masterpieces stand as a movement toward the new dramatic trend to re-create, reinvent, caricature, or parody the preceding model s. Moreto's well-paced and carefully crafted remakes link him closely with his contemporary Calderon de la Barca.
The almost idyllic gardens and riverbanks recall the earlier bucolic countryside, and classical settings of Alarcon's plays. Or, as Casa and Ruth Kennedy indicate, Moreto's environment prefigures the next century's court of Versailles neoclassic paintings and landscapes by Watteau and Fragonard in France. Increasingly, originality yields to adaptations, reinterpretations, and remakes, called refundiciones. Since originality was not the goal or strength, the younger dramatists borrow freely and extensively from the copious material at hand.
As a result, the next century condemned, for lack of originality, dramatists whose career had been highly regarded and applauded during their life and many years after their death. Some of them, in fact, directly transpose entire scenes, dialogues, concrete situations, themes, and motifs, but they do it to subvert the original and lampoon literary and dramatic rivalry. They satirize formulaic plays and each other's style or anticipate the inevitable accusations of emulation and even of plagiarism. Diamante's clear metatheatrical technique in The Defender of His Father's Honor and his artistically and dramatically successful version of The Jewess of Toledo are cases in point.
Literary and political satire are important in both plays. Calderon's followers have been studied as The Calderonian Decadents W. They and some of the imitators of Lope's disciples are included in Dramdticos posteriores a Lope de Vega vols. Vern Williamson's study, Minor Dramatists of the Spanish Golden Age, reinforces the growing opinion that some of them are minor only when compared with the best of Lope, Tirso, and Calderon.
They deserve the attention they have been receiving. Often, their rewrites and imitations skillfully make two or more comedias into one that is artistically better than the source s. The names most mentioned are Francisco Antonio de Bances Candamo, better known as a theoretician for his theatro de los theatros de los passados y presentes sighs, and Claramonte, Juan Bautista Diamante, and Agustin Moreto, who extend the popularity of the comedia.
Claramonte has created great confusion and controversy because his handwritten name appears on favorite plays he pro- Introduction 17 duced. Christopher Weimer mentions the reattributions to Claramonte of, among others, Tirso's most celebrated plays. The arguments in favor of a higher status for the dramatist Claramonte seem to disregard the fact that he was an actor, producer, director, and owner of a theatrical company, and that it was the director's responsibility to write the script for the actors.
Antonio de Zamora and Jose de Canizares keep alive the comedia tradition and continue to follow Lope's style and Calderon's technique until they make politically correct moves. Their political victories and defeats influence the dramatic production of their later years. The plays they wrote in their old age belong to the early years of the eighteenth century, a time when Spain's sensibility, value system, and taste are undergoing change; the dramatists adapt to the changes and reflect this evolution in their comedia.
Plays based on Lope's models undermine the spirit of the comedia and of heroes like the Gran Capitdn. A new chapter in the neoclassic period and others shows the comedia decayed but it does not yet disappear. There was still comedia worth seeing, wrote Cotarelo, after reading the plays written since Calderon's death In his opinion the flame of the comedia has diminished, but its fire continues to burn. It flares up and throws bright sparks right on into the eighteenth century.
These sporadic, successful plays confirm the importance and validity of the comedia and secure its life and the future survival of the Golden Age drama that has come to us. His parents had emigrated from Spain, but little is known about them beyond the fact that both bore illustrious family names; the father had some connection to the silver mines of Taxco, perhaps as an overseer, and the mother was known as Dona Leonor.
The playwright's assumption of the title "Don" later in life derives from a claim to that birthright via the maternal line of Mendoza. At the time when Alarcon added the " D. Because of those same physical defects, another commented that it was impossible to know, seeing Alarcon from a distance in profile, whether he was coming or going. Another called him a man made of parentheses.
Others deplored his reddish hair, since popular superstition had it that this coloration indicated satanic influences or tendencies. He was also short of stature and rather less than handsome, to judge by the surviving portraits. Alarcon completed several courses in canon law at the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico by , but apparently he did not graduate. In short order, he received a bachelor's degree in canon law and immediately registered to pursue the equivalent degree in civil law, which was awarded in He spent three more years studying toward a master's degree, which he did not receive—likely owing to the considerable expense the ceremonies would have entailed.
He finally did receive a licenciate master's degree from the University of Mexico in , and during the next four years he aspired to a university chair but was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, he practiced law in various capacities. By April 24, , however, he had settled again in Spain, where he would spend the remainder of his life. Juan Ruiz de Alarcon y Mendoza 19 His legal training and experience made Alarcon unique among the coterie of playwrights then active in Spain, most of whom were, or would become, men of the church.
His background served to foster a predominantly secular outlook and helps to explain the proposed legal and social reforms expressed in two plays in particular, El duefio de las estrellas and La crueldad por el honor. It also helps one understand the advocacy of reason, the characteristically concise style, and the pains taken everywhere in his work to offer logical explanations for behavior and to analyze actions and motivations.
This intellectual formation and predisposition serve to explain many aspects that strike the casual reader as being "different" in his theater. That difference, or extraneza, has been attributed to other factors, among them the resentment he must have felt at being treated so ill by his fellow men of letters, by fortune, and by nature; alternatively, to his having been born and bred in Mexico and, consequently, having had to row against the tide of emigration; and, third, to his classical bent and clear affinity for Plautus, Terence, Ovid, Epicurus, the Stoics, and others.
The supposed "Mexicanness" of his production has been held for naught by one distinguished Mexican critic, Antonio Alatorre, although David Darst has recently raised the question again "La mexicanidad. Without saying so, Darst conflates "mexicanidad" and "extraneza," but is less than successful in connecting Alarcon's uniqueness and strangeness to his geographic origins.
An accident of birth may be a contributing factor in the formation of one's psyche and outlook, but by no means does it explain all that needs explanation. It is too facile. Finally, Alarcon was unique among his peers in that he wrote to keep body and soul together while aspiring to other things, specifically to a civil service post for which his legal training had equipped him. Once he secured that post, in , he began to abandon the theater, and he turned his back on that world definitively when he received a promotion in that allowed for a modicum of affluence.
Ignoring the friendly advice of an Italian acquaintance, and in that person's words, Alarcon readily exchanged "ambrosia for chocolate. One relatively sound approach is through the major themes that find expression in his theater. Prominent among these are honor, love, faith, friendship, fortune, and free will. Alarcon followed Lope de Vega's advice in deploying the hackneyed theme of honor in fairly predictable fashion throughout his drama. This was apparently his way of throwing a sop to the public that frequented the corral theaters of the day, a public for which he had little use and to which he referred on occasion as "bestiafiera," that wild and insatiable beast.
I maintain in the next section that Alarcon offers a less traditional perspective on honor in his two best-known 20 Spanish Dramatists of the Golden Age works, La verdad sospechosa and Las paredes oyen, where he underscores the importance of intrinsic honor based on self-control. The theme most frequently visited, however, is love.
Love lends itself to many variations, among which is the trite notion that it is blind. Love is also blinding, however, and consequently may detract from freedom of choice or free will, causing one to act in an irregular manner. If one is not acting under one's volition while under the spell of love, one cannot reasonably be held responsible for infractions of whatever sort.
All must be forgiven. The author, one infers from reading these plays, would be opposed to love at first sight, based as it is on strictly physical attributes. His more enlightened heroines, such as Dona Ana of Las paredes oyen, learn to look beyond the facade and into the soul, wherein may be found true beauty and nobility. Only one play suggests a conflict between human and divine love: in La manganilla de Melilla, Alima, the female lead, has just converted to Christianity, at which point she turns her back on her former lover, Azen, saying that she now aspires only to the love of God.
It is noteworthy that Alarcon's male characters invariably subordinate love to friendship. This masculine bond is inviolate. In Ganar amigos, friendship is placed even above the demands of the code of honor. The marquis, upon learning that Don Fernando has killed his brother in a duel, could be expected to take revenge.
Instead, he makes the amazing statement that, even though he loved his brother more than himself, he now gladly trades the brother he has lost for the friend he has gained. In another play, Los pechos privilegiados, Rodrigo refuses to serve as a go-between for the king. This refusal signifies a breach of the code of honor, which demands that a subject perform any act demanded by his monarch, no matter how reprehensible.
Rodrigo is banished from the court, but he is not disconsolate, for he knows he has obeyed a higher code, that of friendship for Count Melendo, who aspires to the affections of the same lady in whom the king was interested. Conspicuously absent from Alarcon's work is any religious sentiment. This is especially anomalous, given the fact that the historical moment in which he wrote incorporated the Counter Reformation, the Inquisition, and the forced conversion of the peoples indigenous to the Americas.
There is transparent sarcasm in reflections on the religiosity of the time, as when the gracioso fool or clown of El semejante a si mismo observes that the women who appear to be most fervid in their practice are only playing a role in order to avoid trouble with the Inquisition. In La manganilla de Melilla, the words of the Jew, Salomon, exude an even deeper irony when he asks a passerby to untie him from the tree where "Christian cruelty" has left him.
At the end of this play, Alima, a convert to Christianity, not only abandons her former lover, Azen, but turns upon him and murders him. Alarcon composed only one drama of a biblical nature, and it centers around an unlikely hero, the title character, El anticristo. It has been said that the advent of Christianity, with its plan of redemption, spelled the end of the sort of tragedy in which a character could be damned for all eternity, without hope, like Sisy- Juan Ruiz de Alarcon y Mendoza 21 phus.
Nevertheless, Satan and the Antichrist offer two possible subjects for such a tragedy. John Milton succeeded in creating a memorable work of art with the former; Alarcon was not quite so fortunate with the latter. The material has potential, for here is a towering figure doomed from his incestuous conception to play a certain role and to suffer a predestined fate. The possibility of writing a Christian tragedy on a larger-than-life scale and an apparent fascination with the character are likely what attracted Alarcon the dramatist.
One can only wish that he had been more successful. Several characters indicate a desire to stop the turning of Fortune's wheel, but Fortune, like Cupid, is blind; her fickle nature is proverbial, and her wheel turns on inexorably. From antiquity, the blind god and goddess have been thought of together and sometimes said to accompany each other, as Beltran reminds the audience in Las paredes oyen.
A basic teaching of Seneca was that a Stoic indifference must be maintained toward the accidents of daily life. This position is reiterated in the represented action of both Los favor es del mundo and To do es ventura. Tello's success in Todo es ventura is owing entirely to the whims of his protector, the duke. A telling example of a reward given arbitrarily and undeservedly is the stewardship bestowed on Tello for having brought the duke good news—a thing of small moment in comparison to the years of service rendered by the three other servants who aspire to the post.
Their resulting frustration and envy, leading to an attempt on Tello's life, may foreshadow what the duke himself will do in his own frustration at losing Leonor to Tello—not that he will have Tello's life, literally, but that he will have his honor, a possession often equated with life. Tello's fortune is consistently good within the boundaries of the play; there are no ups and downs. But from what we know of her inconstancy, added to the fact that the duke is being used as her minister to bestow temporary success, there is all the more reason to conclude that Tello's gains at the end are dubious and that he can expect to be disillusioned.
Los favores del mundo is similar in that here also there is a powerful figure, the prince, who is very nearly as inconstant as Fortune herself and upon whose whim Garcia alternately experiences good and bad luck. Here, though, we witness the expected ups and downs, which make it a more realistic illustration of Fortune at work, yet, for all that, a less subtle and suggestive study than Todo es ventura.
The last theme to be considered is free will. In Alarcon's day, the issue was exclusively a theological one. Indeed, the controversy over free will, predestination, and divine grace seems to have been continuous since the beginnings of systematic theology. Martin Luther and Desiderius Erasmus debated the question in the early sixteenth century—Luther in his De servo arbitrio and Erasmus in De libero arbitrio Banez, like John Calvin and Martin Luther, espoused predestination, whereas Molina, in the manner of Erasmus, was a proponent of free will. The primary theme of El duefio de las estrellas, as might be conjectured from the title alone, is fatalism versus free will.
The astrologers have predicted that Lycurgus will die at the hands of a king or that a king will die at his. Paradoxically, Lycurgus, as king-turned-regent-in-exile, could be said to fulfill not only one but both of the possibilities given in the prophecy in his own person: he kills a king and is killed by one when he turns his sword on himself.
Does he then have free will? It would appear that he does, for he makes a rational choice among six alternatives he enumerates in his final speech. The fact that he is aware of alternative courses of action and rejects five of these, while choosing one, makes clear that he enjoys at least the illusion of free will. Perhaps that is all anyone can lay claim to with any certainty. Lycurgus' decision demonstrates a moral triumph, regardless of whether or not it illustrates free will.
Had he killed the king of Crete or let himself be killed by his peer and rival for the affections of Diana, he not only would have made a lesser choice, morally speaking, but also would have fulfilled the prophecy in an obvious and less than artful fashion. He becomes, at least during the moment of choice, the master of the stars. The fact that he had been a king and that he fulfills the prediction in every sense but the most technical is a twist that serves to emphasize the moral choice.
Alarcon can justifiably be considered the moral philosopher among his contemporaries. This is not the same as saying—although many have done so—that he is a "moralist. Alarcon makes up the part about his having been king to serve his own dramatic ends and adds to that fabrication the further concoction that he is in self-imposed exile in Crete, having abdicated the throne in favor of an unexpected heir, born several months after that child's father's the former king's demise.
The suicide is likewise an invention of the poet. El duefio de las estrellas may be seen, figuratively, as a composite brief filed by three collaborating attorneys. Ruiz de Alarcon, the junior member, performs the menial task of writing it; the eloquent Lycurgus pleads the case; and Seneca, once a distinguished advocate in Rome, provides much of the metaphysical background. It contains a tripartite statement about Stoic self-discipline, reservations about judicial astrology, and a subtle statement about the possibly illusory nature of free will.
Its thesis would seem to parallel that of Calderon's La vida es sueno: vir sapiens dominabitur astris The Wise Man is Master of the Stars. Alarcon's statement contains an ironic twist, however, intimating that one experiences only the illusion of free choice. In this play, the stars may indeed predispose, but, ultimately, character determines destiny. His "canonization' ' and elevation to a place of prominence among the top four playwrights of the day along with Lope, Tirso, and Calderon are a fairly recent phenomenon that would have scandalized his contemporaries.
Luis Velez de Guevara, for instance, was incomparably more celebrated than Alarcon by fellow dramatists and by the general public. This apparent paradox serves to make the point that the canon is not carved in stone. It changes over time, both with regard to the genre the comedia as a whole and also with respect to the collected works of individuals. There is a symbiotic relationship between the select canon those works held up as the best or most representative and the critical canon those works that attract the attention of critics. Each feeds off the other. A title that receives considerable critical attention in the form of articles, books, editions will ultimately gain access to the select canon.
Similarly, works that are considered a part of the select canon tend to attract even more critical commentary, for critics love to match wits with their predecessors and with their peers. The feeding referred to does not lead to diminution, by any means, but contributes to the increase of both select and critical canons. While La verdad sospechosa and Las paredes oyen remain at the center of Alarcon's select canon, precisely because they continue to attract substantial commentary, other titles that elicit scholarship are Ganar amigos, El examen de maridos, and La cueva de Salamanca.
One that has made significant strides toward that center is El duefio de las estrellas. El duefio. Friedman, Robert L. Another title attracting attention is No hay mal que por bien no venga, also known as Don Domingo de Don Bias. The attribution to Alarcon of the recently discovered second part of this play Vega, 74 , known as the Segunda Parte del Acomodado Don Domingo de Don Bias, makes it a likely prospect to receive increased scrutiny also.
Don Domingo, an Epicure and scoffer at all that is politically and socially correct, is certainly one of the more bizarre—and therefore intriguing—characters of the entire Spanish comedia. Let me comment now on what is generally taken to be Alarcon's masterpiece, La verdad sospechosa. To begin, there exists another, rather curious symbiotic relationship between Alarcon and his better-known French contemporary, Pierre Corneille.
The latter imitated effectively plagiarized a play titled El Mentiroso that he found in a collection of works attributed to Lope de Vega, avowing that he would gladly have exchanged two of his own best pieces to be the original author of Le Menteur ; The Liar, , as he cleverly called his adaptation. Thus, Corneille is indebted to Alarcon for one of his best-known and most characteristic works, while the Hispano-Mexican owes a good portion of his 24 Spanish Dramatists of the Golden Age reputation to the fact that the play now known in English as The Truth Suspected was singled out for praise, emulation, and the resulting diffusion.
Consequently, La verdad sospechosa originally El Mentiroso joins Tirso de Molina's El burlador de Sevilla and Calderon de la Barca's La vida es sueno as one of the three most widely diffused dramatic plots devised during the Golden Age of Spanish theater. It is important always to read a given work in the context of an author's total production.
When we do this with La verdad sospechosa, we find that there are surprising affinities with another major title, Las paredes oyen. They are, indeed, companion pieces, and it is profitable to read them accordingly. La verdad sospechosa presents the misadventures of a young man who elevates falsehood to a fine art.
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Don Garcia's creative imagination and verbal dexterity deceive and amaze all with whom he comes in contact.