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Reading Performance: Spanish Golden-Age Theatre and Shakespeare on the Modern Stage

Reading Performance: Spanish Golden-Age Theatre and Shakespeare on the Modern Stage

Series: Monografías A
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Reading Performance: Spanish Golden-Age Theatre and Shakespeare on the Modern Stage
    Book Description:

    Oscar Wilde once observed that `it is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors'. This thought is borne out in this volume, which brings together two different and often mutually exclusive constituencies: the academic critic and the theatre practitioner. In looking at the ways in which theatre is a barometer of society, the essays in this book form part of a larger theoretical inquiry into performance as interpretation, contingent upon the cultural context. Engaging with theoretical approaches to culture, and theoreticians from Elam to Brook, and from Derrida to Bakhtin, the author analyzes in detail productions of plays by Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Calderón de la Barca, as well as an adaptation of Rojas' Celestina, on the Spanish, or French, or Anglo-American stage. Two chapters deal with appropriations of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice in translation on the Spanish and French boards. As they read performance in (trans)national productions, these essays are not only at the cutting-edge of theatre studies on the `foreign' stage, but they also bring Spanish Golden-Age plays, long neglected by professional directors of the classics because of the lack of a continuous performance tradition, closer to assuming their rightful place amongst `the great theatre of the world'. SUSAN L. FISCHER is Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at Bucknell University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-754-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    Jonathan W. Thacker

    When a butterfly is pinned to card and put on display in a case, the scientist whose objective is to study the creature is able to measure it, photograph it, describe its colours, document its features in order to describe how they probably function, and admire its evolution and its uniqueness. It is still dead, however. Before its demise the butterfly flew unpredictably from flower to flower, fed and bred, interacted with its world and seemed impossible to pin down, to study with precision and to comprehend fully, however beautiful its appearance and admirable its function. If a fleeting but...

    (pp. xix-xxi)
  6. List of Productions
    (pp. xxii-xxiv)
  7. Part I Comedia on the Spanish stage

    • 1 Calderón and semiological self-exorcism: El médico de su honra (The Physician of his Honor)
      (pp. 3-20)

      In an “interrogation” whose subtitle is “an exercise in self-exorcism,” Patrice Pavis queries: “What is the use of semiology? Is it not just one more technology to be added to the already very advanced technologization of stage arts and theatre studies, a pedantic and tortuous method of weighing obvious facts that every man [sic] of the theatre knows instinctively?” (Languages195). If these words are pronounced with tongue-in-cheek, Marco de Marinis, in a dialogue with Pavis, touches on the inherent contradiction of the theatre experience that makes it resist semiological analysis:

      The theatrical specialist (and, therefore, also the semiologist of...

    • 2 Calderón and “l’illusion cinématographique” subverted: Antes que todo es mi dama (Above all she’s my lady)
      (pp. 21-42)

      One of the legacies of poststructuralist thought, as we have seen in Chapter 1, is that we can no longer view drama as reflecting life, but rather as operating on it; however much drama may seem to reflect life directly, it is always already portraying it through the cultural system in which it functions, whether that means the historical period of production or the contemporary moment of recreation, reception, and contemplation. This outlook is shared by theatre practitioners the likes of Peter Brook, whose impetus for a mise-en-scène “starts always with the instinctive feeling that the play needs to be...

    • 3 Rojas and the interrogation of textual author(ity): La Celestina (The Spanish Bawd)
      (pp. 43-58)

      “Los estudiosos quieren ver lo que leen, los hombres de teatro mostrar lo que sienten” (Quirante 20). Thus spake Adolfo Marsillach in respect of his 1988 production ofLa Celestinawith the Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico. Gonzalo Torrente Ballester’s version of theCelestinaconstituted yet one more adaptation of the work in the twentieth century; or, as Joseph Snow aptly put it in the Almagrojornadasentitled “La Celestina: texto y representación dramática,” one more “hija” or “hijastra” of the “original” (Quirante 20).¹ It comes as no surprise that theCelestina, not unlike Shakespeare, is today a cultural object...

    • 4 Calderón and the ideology of egalitarianism “más bien dado”: El alcalde de Zalamea (The Mayor of Zalamea)
      (pp. 59-76)

      The phrase, “classical theatre as it ought to be performed,” at first sight smacks of all that Peter Brook’s notion of “Deadly Theatre” suggests: theatre that “approaches the classics from the viewpoint that somewhere, someone has found out and defined how the play should be done” (Empty14). On the one hand, such deadliness implies repetition – “old formulae, old methods, old jokes, old effects” (36); and on the other, it connotes theatre that is “done by good actors in what seems like the proper way – they look lively and colourful, there is music and everyone is all dressed up, just...

    • 5 Tirso de Molina and “deadly” theatre: El vergonzoso en palacio (The Shy Man at Court)
      (pp. 77-92)

      What were the ubiquitous figures from the labels of “Jolly Green Giant” vegetable tins doing on stage in both Almagro’s Corral de Comedias and Madrid’s Teatro de la Comedia? For Peter Brook, a production that stimulated such a vexed audience response would be thesine qua nonof “deadly theatre,” which can take as easily tocomediaas to Shakespeare. Brook, as we recall from Chapter 4, puts his notion of that sort of theatre this way: “We see [Shakespeare’s] plays done by good actors in what seems like the proper way – they look lively and colourful, there is music...

    • 6 Lope’s carnivalesque theatre of terror: Fuenteovejuna (The Sheepwell)
      (pp. 93-116)

      Adolfo Marsillach’s 1993 staging ofFuenteovejunareenacted spectacular violence in a carnivalesque theatre of terror. The mise-en-scène brought to mind Foucault’s representation of public torture and execution as “the spectacle of the scaffold” (Discipline and Punish32–69). A contextual relation was established between the theatricalization of punishment and terror and the torture scene in Act 3 ofFuenteovejuna, when the pesquisidor comes, in the name of the Catholic Monarchs, to discover the identity of those who have killed Fernán Gómez de Guzmán, Comendador mayor of Calatrava: “The Monarchs, or in this case thepesquisidor, serve as the ‘dramatist,’ the...

    • 7 Tirso and the restaging of eschatology: El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest)
      (pp. 117-133)

      A bipartite title, two surviving defective versions (one attributed to Tirso and another denominatedTan largo me lo fiáis), Spain’s prototypical Don Juan play has been a heyday for translators and directors who feel they have had “ample justification for taking textual liberties” (Dear 4) with the original text(s).¹ Let us cite, by way of example, Nick Dear’s free adaptation of the play that bears the title,The Last Days of Don Juan. Written for Danny Boyle’s production of 1990 with the Royal Shakespeare Company, it is a version in which Catalinón undergoes a sex change and becomes Don Juan’s...

    • 8 Lope’s aspectuality and performativity: El castigo sin venganza (Punishment without Revenge)
      (pp. 134-160)

      Jonathan Bate, in the final chapter ofThe Genius of Shakespeare, discerns two laws he believes all of Shakespeare’s plays obey.¹ 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 criticism with...

  8. Part II Comedia on the Anglo-American stage

    • 9 Calderón and “the Warrant of Womanhood”: Life’s a Dream (La vida es sueño)
      (pp. 163-178)

      If Menéndez y Pelayo’s assessment of the “rare” in Rosaura was later countered by the British school of critics (e.g. E. M. Wilson, W. M. Whitby, and A. E. Sloman) who, in their thematic-structural analyses of the play, came to see her role as pivotal for Segismundo’s transformation, her marginality or baroque “monstrosity” has been re-envisioned by Catherine Connor in terms of difference and otherness: “her mixed condition of woman/man while in sexually ambiguous disguise, of the dishonored, natural daughter, and of potentially honorable heiress” (“Toward” 381). For Connor, such “monsters” are not a propagandistic means of producing wonder and...

    • 10 Calderón and the contingency of radical tragedy: The Painter of Dishonour (El pintor de su deshonra)
      (pp. 179-202)

      Laurence Boswell’s 1995 production ofThe Painter of Dishonour, staged with the Royal Shakespeare Company in a translation by David Johnston with input from the director,¹ was billed as “a deeply passionate and violently tragic psychological thriller.” For the translator, the text of thePainterwas thought to possess a “Rubik cube” quality of twists and turns:

      its action moves between town and country locations in the Spanish Kingdom […] and Barcelona. The central characters are pushed and pulled between these places, over sea and through fire, each one pursuing his or her own self-interest, until Calderón, the master craftsman,...

    • 11 Lope and the problem of an ending: Peribanez (Peribáñez y el comendador de Ocaña)
      (pp. 203-219)

      InThe Genius of Shakespeare, Jonathan Bate asks us to contemplate the existence of an “alternative universe” in which the Counter-Reformation had stamped out Protestantism or the Spanish Armada had succeeded in 1588; in short, where Spain had triumphed over England and not gone into decline in the late seventeenth century. There is no doubt in his mind that Shakespeare would have met his match in that “monster of nature,” Lope de Vega, alternatively dubbed “the Mozart of literature” (337–38). Not insignificantly, the final paragraph of Bate’s book is as much a tribute to Lope as it is to...

    • 12 Lope and the politics of truth: The Dog in the Manger (El perro del hortelano)
      (pp. 220-244)

      All performances of classical theatre of the early modern period, whether that means Shakespeare, Molière, or Lope, are in some sense “foreign” with respect to the author’s original “intentions”; to read or perform any of those playwrights today, as John Russell Brown asserts in regard to Shakespeare, is always to be involved in a kind of translation (“Foreign” 28). Staging plays by any one of those authors “without his language” is potentially anathema not just to purists but also to most linguistically competent speakers of the play’s original tongue. On the other hand, as Brown makes us aware, playing Shakespeare...

  9. Part III French and Shakespearean stage connections

    • 13 Lope and the masks of reality: Pedro et le Commandeur (Peribáñez y el comendador de Ocaña)
      (pp. 247-266)

      Florence Delay’s faithful rendering ofPeribáñez, denominatedPedro et le Commandeur, reached the boards of the Comédie-Française in 2006 under the aegis of Colombian director Omar Porras, who had founded the Geneva-based Teatro Malandro in1990.¹ If, on the one hand, Rufus Norris’s 2002 English staging ofPeribanezwith London’s Young Vic Company had manipulated certain scenes and the play’s ending in response to the perceived challenges of adapting an early moderncomediafor the (post)modern English stage (see Chapter 11), on the other, Porras’s French mise-en-scène treated the text as a pretext for his own magical, organic, and corporeal theatre....

    • 14 Spanish appropriations of Shakespeare: El mercader de Venecia (The Merchant of Venice)
      (pp. 267-307)

      Performance history ofThe Merchant of Veniceindicates that the play has invited more interventions and revisions than any other of Shakespeare’s plays, having been perpetually adapted not only to the prevailing technology and taste but also to ever-evolving cultural attitudes towards race, religion and gender.¹ Or, as put by Jonathan Miller, no Shakespearean play has been “held hostage to contemporary issues” more than theMerchant(Bulman,Merchant143). Archival data reveal a dearth of mountings of the play on the Spanish boards in the twentieth century,² something that José Carlos Plaza continued to lament even after his 1992 production...

    • 15 French appropriation of Shakespeare: Le Marchand de Venise (The Merchant of Venice)
      (pp. 308-326)

      “I am not proposing that someone give usThe Merchant of Veniceas the first anti-Semitic musical comedy.” Thus spake Harold Bloom reassuringly inShakespeare and the Invention of the Human(177). He waxes uncharacteristically “modern,” moreover, in implicating the moral ambiguities of such an idea for many of us now: “What baffles us is how to stage a romantic comedy that rather blithely includes a forced Jewish conversion to Christianity, on penalty of death” (175). Yet, at the same time, he cannot refrain from dabbling in director’s theatre and proffering his comic vision of Shylock:

      I have never seen...

    (pp. 327-352)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 353-368)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 369-369)