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The Comedia in English

The Comedia in English: Translation and Performance

Susan Paun de García
Donald R. Larson
Series: Monografías A
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 316
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  • Book Info
    The Comedia in English
    Book Description:

    For many reasons, but most usually the lack of playable modern translations, the plays of the seventeenth-century Spanish Comedia have appeared infrequently on the stages of the English-speaking world. Once such translations began to appear in the final decades of the twentieth century, productions followed and audiences were once again given the opportunity of discovering the enormous riches of this theatre. The bringing of Spanish seventeenth-century verse plays to the contemporary English-speaking stage involves a number of fundamental questions. Are verse translations preferable to prose, and if so, what kind of verse? To what degree should translations aim to be "faithful"? Which kinds of plays "work", and which do not? Which values and customs of the past present no difficulties for contemporary audiences, and which need to be decoded in performance? Which kinds of staging are suitable, and which are not? To what degree, if any, should one aim for "authenticity" in staging? And so on. In this volume, a distinguished group of translators, directors, and scholars explores these and related questions in illuminating and thought-provoking essays. EDITORS: Susan Paun de García and Donald Larson are Associate Professors of Spanish at the Universities of Denison and Ohio State respectively. OTHER CONTRIBUTORS: Isaac Benabu, Catherine Boyle, Victor Dixon, Susan Fischer, Michael Halberstam, David Johnston, Catherine Larson, A. Robert Lauer, Dakin Matthews, Anne McNaughton, Barbara Mujica, James Parr, Dawn Smith, Jonathan Thacker, Sharon Voros

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-619-9
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. Introduction: The Comedia in English: An Overview of Translation and Performance
    (pp. 1-34)

    TheComediain English is hardly a new phenomenon. Soon after appearing on the boards in Spain, many plays found their way across the Channel, some directly, others by way of France. Given the popularity of Spanish plays in the seventeenth century, it seems ironic that reviewers today consistently marvel at the fact that the rich dramatic tradition of the Golden Age is little known and rarely performed. The two favorites,FuenteovejunaandLife is a dream, have of course been included habitually in modern anthologies for study, but until recently even they had little presence on the English-speaking stage,...


    • Translating Comedias into English Verse for Modern Audiences
      (pp. 37-53)

      First of all, a brief disclaimer. There are a number of things about which I can claim to be moderately knowledgeable; unfortunately, Spanish language and literature are not two of them. So everything I say here must be taken with that caveat. I wish it were not so; I believe the theatre of the Golden Age deserves a more knowledgeable translator than I am, certainly one with greater fluency than I have in either classical or modern Spanish. Nonetheless, I have undertaken to translate plays from this period, not so much out of a confidence in my own abilities, as...

    • Translating the Polymetric Comedia for Performance (with Special Reference to lope de Vega’s Sonnets)
      (pp. 54-65)

      At this time, when performers and public alike are increasingly aware of and receptive to the immense diversity of theatre, historically and geographically, when both increasingly valuedifference, it seems opportune to reexamine, with a view to their translation and presentation today, the distinctive nature of the plays produced by seventeenth-century Spain, comparatively few of which have been seen as yet on the English-speaking stage.

      The huge quantity of those plays, and the high quality of many, were determined very largely by the demands of an extremely varied audience drawn from the whole of society, from all but its lowest,...

    • Lope de Vega in English: The Historicised Imagination
      (pp. 66-82)

      As the colophon to its Spanish Golden Age season, the Royal Shakespeare Company was invited to bringThe dog in the manger,House of desires,Tamar’s Revenge, and Pedro,the Great Pretenderto Madrid’s Teatro Español for the 2004 Festival de Otoño. It was not an invitation that laurence Boswell, who had designed the season and directed lope’sThe dog in the manger, the play chosen to open the eight-performance run in Madrid, accepted without trepidation. After all, this was to maraud into the lion’s den, so to speak, to bring English-language versions of these Golden Age plays home to...

    • Found in Translation: María de Zayas’s Friendship Betrayed and the English-Speaking Stage
      (pp. 83-94)

      What is lost, and what is gained, in translation? Is the expressive clichétraduttore, traditore, so ironically relevant in the case of my translation of a play whose title isLa traición en la amistad, the most accurate representation of the act – my act – of translation?¹ This essay examines several interrelated aspects of the translation and staging of María de Zayas’sLa traición en la amistadfor the English-speaking stage. The first treats the topic of translation (art, craft, science) itself, from literal issues of vocabulary choice to metaphoric “translations” of a culture far removed from that of twenty-first-century United...

    • Transformation and Fluidity in the Translation of Classical Texts for Performance: The Case of Cervantes’s Entremeses
      (pp. 95-107)

      As Jorge luis Borges reminds us in “Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote,” no text remains exactly as it was written; every new generation of readers understands that text from a different perspective, changing and enriching the way it is interpreted. For the translator of a literary text, particularly from an earlier century, Borges’s essay is also relevant. There are now many English translations ofDon Quijote, from the first one by Thomas Shelton (1612–20) to the recent version by Edith Grossman (2003). None of them is – nor can aspire to be – a faithful reproduction of the original text. Each...

    • Translation as Relocation
      (pp. 108-124)

      In the university and repertory theatres where I work, a crucial step in preparing high-quality performances is harnessing the imaginative energy generated by location. location, after all, is a prime mover in mapping what Stanislavski calls a play’s “given circumstances” (Benedetti 152). Precisely locating a production puts it in a position to profit from American Method techniques of acting and directing, which help the theatre professionals I know communicate and coordinate their best efforts for making shows succeed. location translates drama off the page and onto the stage.

      As a dramaturge passionately committed to seeing theComediasucceed onstage in...


    • Rehearsing Spite for Spite
      (pp. 127-139)

      In 1998 I was fortunate enough to direct Agustín Moreto’sEl desdén con el desdén, in a world première translation/adaptation by dakin Matthews entitledSpite for Spite. The play was produced by Writers’ Theatre, a company I founded in 1993 (and where I still serve as artistic director) on the North Shore of Chicago. Writers’ Theatre is dedicated to the word and the artist, deriving all inspiration from the written word and nurturing the process of the artist. I offer here a description of our rehearsal process in bringingSpite for Spitefrom the page to the stage. From a...

    • Directing Don Juan, The Trickster of Seville
      (pp. 140-152)

      Every playscript comes with a set of challenges for the director. Some challenges are generic to theatre, some are specific to this text in this particular production. I tend to operate as a director who tries to meet these challenges – or, if you will, to solve these problems – pragmatically.

      The recent Andak Stage Company production ofDon Juan, The Trickster of Sevillewas no exception, and in this essay I would like to detail what I thought were the challenges, generic and specific, and my attempted solutions. I will not necessarily limit myself to those challenges that are particular to...

    • Directing the Comedia: Notes on a Process
      (pp. 153-163)

      What is it about the directorial process that makes it so difficult to reconstruct? Many directors have given us their reminiscences in writing, and many more have been interviewed about their experiences. Nevertheless, in any academic discussion of the directorial process in theatre, these accounts are at best second-hand evidence recalled in retrospect; generally impressionistic, they are based on memorial reconstruction of a dynamic enterprise that is over by the time it is discussed. They are founded on experience too, of course, but they are selective, and may even be distorted, as anything based on memory is subject to be....

    • Tirso’s Tamar Untamed: A Lesson of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Production
      (pp. 164-176)

      The second of the four Golden Age plays produced for its 2004 Stratford season by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) was Tirso de Molina’sTamar’s Revenge(La venganza de Tamar).¹ The drama follows the Old Testament story of King david’s heir, Amnon, who becomes obsessed with and eventually rapes his half-sister, Tamar, before being murdered in revenge by her brother, the vain and power-hungry Absalom. The RSC’s production permitted an all-too-rare opportunity to assess a professional director’s and cast’s “reading” of a classical Spanish play against interpretations offered by scholars based almost invariably on the play’s text. It forced a...

    • The Loss of Context and the Traps of Gender in Sor Juana’s Los empeños de una casa / House of desires
      (pp. 177-186)

      The question that preoccupies me here regarding the performance ofLos empeños de una casa/House of Desireshas its roots in a pervasive situating of Sor Juana within a specific field of meaning that has the potential to close off some of the most radically gendered resonances in her writing.¹ The attraction of Sor Juana for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) for their Spanish Golden Age Season in 2004 was manifold: on one level, the play was a “find”; it had added value by virtue of its being written by a Mexican nun; and it was a bold,...


    • Tirso’s Burlador de Sevilla as Playtext in English
      (pp. 189-201)

      I wish to express at the outset my admiration for those who have set their hand to rendering this problematical Spanish text into English.¹ TheBurladorpresents many problems, both in the original Spanish and, even more so, in any attempt to find equivalences for its linguistic registers and metrical schemes in a rather differently structured language. There is probably no need to elaborate on the differences in form and manner of expression that separate the two languages in question. Anyone who knows both will be aware of most of them.

      In order to limit the scope of the undertaking,...

    • Anne McNaughton’s Don Juan: A Rogue for All Seasons
      (pp. 202-213)

      Any translation suggests an act of violence, transfer, or change. dictionary definitions of the term “translation,” suggesting changes of form, medium, or use, do not aid in ascertaining with any degree of certainty whether a translation is either wrong or inaccurate. The problem is confounded when the object or text being translated is imperfect in its original form or, allegedly, simply a version – or at best some sort of hybrid – of a lost archetype whose paternity itself is merely putative. When the translated text is dramatic, there is an additional change or transfer from the playtext (the text that undergoes...

    • Aspectual, Performative, and “Foreign” lope / Shakespeare: Staging Capulets & montagues and Peribáñez in English and Romeo and Juliet in “Sicilian”
      (pp. 214-228)

      Jonathan Bate, in the final chapter ofThe Genius of Shakespeare, discerns two laws he believes all of Shakespeare’s plays obey. The first concerns “the aspectuality of truth,” the idea that “ truth is not singular” (327); and the second has to do with “the performative truth of human ‘being,’” radically the notion that “being and acting are indivisible.” “All the world’s a stage /And all the men and women ‘wholly players’” is his reading of the topos (332).

      Aspectuality is a key concept of diverse twentieth-century cultural fields. Albert Einstein recognized it in atomic physics; William Empson in literary...

    • Zayas’s Comic Sense: The First Performance in English of La traición en la amistad
      (pp. 229-239)

      Since its inception in 1975, the Siglo de Oro Spanish drama Festival at the Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, Texas, has become both a venue forcomediasin translation and for less canonical Golden Age plays. however, until 2003, when director david Pasto and his cast from Oklahoma City University mounted their production of Catherine larson’s translation of María de Zayas’sLa traición en la amistad,entitledFriendship Betrayed,the only other woman dramatist’s work on the Chamizal stage was that of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.¹ With this performance Zayas’s comic sense took center stage. Known primarily...

    • María de Zayas’s Friendship Betrayed à la hollywood: Translation, Transculturation, and Production
      (pp. 240-254)

      Every theatre production is a translation. The director must deconstruct and decode a written text and “translate” it into a body of auditory and visual signs that are intelligible to spectators. When the text is the product of a culture different from the spectators’, either because it was produced at a different historical moment or by an author whose frame of reference is alien to the audience’s, issues of transculturation arise. Carl Weber defines “transculturation” as “the deconstruction of a text/code and its wrenching displacement to a ‘historically and socially different situation’ ” (“AC/TC” 35). When the play in question...

    (pp. 255-276)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 277-295)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 296-296)