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Art, agency, and authority in Calderon's 'Darlo todo y no dar nada.'(Pedro Calderon de la Barca)(Critical Essay)

Calderon's enthusiasm for the art of painting is well documented. His own collection of 119 paintings and drawings, inventoried shortly after the dramatist's death in 1681 by the then pintor del Rey, Claudio Coello, attests eloquently to the keenness of his interest. Many of his plays allude repeatedly to the visual arts, while in works such as Darlo todo y no dar nada and El pintor de su deshonra, references to painting are invested with fundamental thematic significance. In 1677 the playwright lent his support, in the Deposicion en favor de los profesores de la pintura, to the lawsuit brought by the latter in an attempt to seek exemption from the imposts to which their official status as artisans rendered them liable. (1) This document therefore represents part of the long struggle to see painting recognized as a Liberal Art in Spain and thus ensure that its practitioners would be freed from the tax burdens borne by other pecheros. In it a scribe reports the playwright's words, referring to 'la natural inclinacion que siempre tuvo a la pintura'. The art of painting is described as 'un casi remedo de las Obras de Dios', a notion obviously calculated to help advance the document's claims, but one which had by this time already come to enjoy a certain currency in Spain. The same phrase had, for example, been used in the 1655 Juicio de Artes y Sciencias, a work published under the pseudonym of Claudio Antonio de Cabrera but almost certainly written by Diego de Saavedra Fajardo. (2) And even earlier, in the widely read Discursos of 1626, Juan Butron had expressed a similar sentiment, citing Biblical and classical sources and observing that, 'Imitan pues los Pintores al Criador de todas las cosas, como en lo principal de la hermosa fabrica del hombre, en los juguetes con que se divierte'. (3)

Certainly in Darlo todo y no dar nada, the status of the celebrated painter of antiquity, Apelles, and in particular his creative value to Alexander the Great, are central to the play's concerns. At one point, early in the play, Alexander tells the painters Apelles, Zeuxis, and Timantes, 'ejerceis el mejor arte, | mas noble y de mas ingenio' (p. 1027a). (4) Echoing Italian Renaissance apologists, this statement unequivocally accords to painting a status superior to that of the other arts. (5) Like the arguments used to secure recognition for it in Spain as a Liberal Art, it stresses not just the nobility of painting, but also the ideation associated with its execution and the intellectual ingenuity displayed by its practitioners. In theory, at least, the claim to nobility on these grounds is lent weighty authority by the fact that it is the monarch himself who gives voice to it. Yet this conception of painting's status and (gendered) creative power needs further qualification if it is to be advanced as properly representing the complexities of Calderon's own view (though this is not to imply any suspicion of eristic reasoning on the dramatist's part in the later Deposicion). In fact, Darlo todo y no dar nada goes on to offer a glimpse of a rather more sceptical Calderon. In it the dramatist seems intent on submitting the kind of aestheticizing discourse that tends to conflate art and life to ironic interrogation, as if concerned both to deflate and to circumscribe it as a signifying practice. (6) This is a comedia which explores, ludically it must be said, the proper limits of a number of cliched and complacent hyperboles associated in the seventeenth-century Spanish mind with the ancient tale on which it draws, including the notion of the 'divine' creative power of the (male) artist.

It was a passage in Book XXXV of Pliny's Natural History which probably suggested the basic plot of Darlo todo y no dar nada. Pliny briefly tells how Alexander presented his favourite mistress, Pancaspe (Campaspe in Calderon's play, her name playing on her extra-urban provenance), to the painter Apelles, after the latter had fallen in love with her while executing her portrait for Alexander. He uses the story essentially to laud Alexander's control over himself, noting with evident approval that he was 'not even influenced by regard for the feelings of his favourite'. (7) But unlike Pliny's uncritically admiring account, Calderon's treatment soon begins to subvert its own, ostensible celebration both of Alexander's legendary magnanimity and of his claimed victory over himself--a victory, as the developed legend had it, of the will over the passions. Two portraits commissioned from Apelles by Alexander, one of himself and one of Campaspe, which he eventually exchanges for Campaspe herself, are centrally important in the play. Despite their obvious differences, they nevertheless share a similar dramatic function, one which goes to the heart of the work. Their connotative significance is suggested by the protagonists' initial reactions to them. These responses, whether gratified (Alexander) or alarmed (Campaspe), point to the use of the portraits ironically to symbolize a phallocratic society's tendency to displace the autonomous subject in favour of the discursively constructed agents of an ideology as reductive as it is solipsistic.

Melveena McKendrick, one of the few critics to have written about the play, sees in the heroine, Campaspe, one of the 'voces de mujeres en la historia que vieron las cosas mas claras que sus hermanas', noting that Calderon portrays her as a spirited woman who, unlike her literary predecessors, refuses to accept relegation in the world of men to the status of a reified object of exchange like her portrait. (8) There is, to be sure, a distinct sense of reversal about the way the relationships between the characters are handled in the play. Indeed, the title itself foregrounds inversion from the outset. One critic has observed the 'essential contradiction of Apelles' situation', noting that 'his art places him higher than Alexander, as he is able to give "segundo ser"--while Alexander cannot make, create something from nothing'. But if the erotetic '?Segundo ser darle puedes | a un cuerpo?' is uttered by the astonished Campaspe on first being shown her portrait by Apelles at the end of Act II (p. 1051a), I argue that Act III of the play none the less goes on to orchestrate what amounts to a pointedly negative response to the question thus rhetorically posed. Even then, though, the feisty denial of male authority (though not necessarily power) by Campaspe as the play ends serves to veto what might otherwise have constituted an 'order restored', conventional ending of the play's patterns of carnivalesque inversion. This splitting of the phallocratic term (power/authority), which simultaneously exposes its violence and the poverty of its buttressing fictions, thus serves to subvert the possibility of closure. The marriages as Act III ends signal, then, not so much a comedic return to the status quo ante as a movement to an etiolated, even emasculated simulacrum thereof.

Darlo todo y no dar nada is generally far from solemn in tone, yet, as I have suggested, it takes up a topos which, while perfectly susceptible of comic treatment, also treads the edge of a darker terrain, to which, decorously but insistently, the work continually draws the audience's attention. Its concern with the manner in which the subject is represented--and 'read'--in life, as in art, is left in no doubt as, in Act II, Campaspe asks Estatira what a portrait is. (10) The deliberately contrived nature of the question merely reinforces its capacity to arrest. She has, the audience learns, seen other kinds of paintings in the temple, these being described as


que de colores compuestas,

ya representan paises,

ya batallas representan.

(p. 1042a)

But she has never once seen a portrait. This expedient, as simple as it is arch, serves Calderon's dramatic ends in two, related ways. First, it situates the art of portraiture specifically and exclusively within the phallocratic social economy of the polis to which Campaspe, who has been brought up entirely in the wild country outside Athens, remains quite alien (pp. 1032b-1033a). (11) Secondly, it provides the playwright with a dramatic device for focusing his audience's attention increasingly on one, central issue: the relationship between creative representation (representation consecrated as art) and the ideologically driven constructions or, put more precisely, translations of identity which characterize the 'ordinary' processes of intersubjective exchange within this economy. Just as translation involves interpretation and loss, some reduction, some degree of mutilation of the original, so too there is a sense in which Calderon's work acknowledges the inevitability of a certain deformation of the subject during such discourse-mediated processes. But the acknowledgement is reluctant, is resisted, typically being informed by a sense of struggle to contain the operations of agency, to transcend contingency and carry the subject beyond the messy, complicating stuff of history. The contradiction is energetic, sinuous, and very Baroque: it breathes life into the work.

There is a sense, too, in which the play represents a meditation on the challenge offered by Diogenes to Alexander in Act II. The scene in question dramatizes the famous episode in which the philosopher, in response to Alexander's enquiry, '?Que quereis que mi grandeza | os de?' (p. 1038a), merely asks this embodiment of temporal power to stand out of his sun. In an afterthought reminiscent of the paradox of the play's title, he adds


me quiteis, por vida vuestra,

lo que no me podeis dar.

In answer to Alexander's subsequent, amended question, '?Que quereis que haga por vos?', the philosopher plays on the monarch's use of the verb hacer, replying, 'Sola una flor como esta.' Alexander's immediate response to this direct allusion to the limitations of temporal power is

Eso fuera ser Criador:

no cabe en la humana esfera

tan soberano atributo.

The focus on material possessions and the resulting ability to give in the first question thus shifts to a focus on power and the ability to do (but not create) things in the second. In the play, the urge to acquisition, possession, and domination is persistently called to account and contrasted unfavourably with less tangible, internalized values. Alexander is, of course, the embodiment par excellence of the former, externalizing drive. In Act III, for example, his attempt to take 'possession' of Campaspe by force parodies his hunger for martial conquest, though it is, in the event, unsuccessful, since it is interrupted by the arrival of Efestion and the off-stage shouting of the now 'deranged' Apelles (pp. 1061b, 1062a). (12) In the opening scene of the play, at the other extreme, Diogenes the Cynic deliberately breaks the pitcher with which he is about to collect water when he realizes, on seeing the gracioso Chichon scoop up a drink with his hands, that even this residual possession is superfluous to his requirements (p. 1024a). He goes on to observe of life that 'cuanto en ella esta de mas, | esta en el juicio de menos', his words being repeated, virtually verbatim, by Chichon shortly thereafter (pp. 1024b, 1025a). This maxim, of course, reflects the Cynic philosophers' faith in self-sufficiency, the belief that true fulfilment and (literal) self-possession were only to be achieved by mastering one's desires, a feat which presupposes, however, a rejection of the conventional cultural values espoused by the world of society. For Diogenes, who describes himself as

un viejo

misero y pobre, que en estas

soledades vive atento

mas a saber que a adquirir,

(p. 1024b)

the solution, in the play if not in life, lies in removing himself from that society altogether. (13) His return to the 'monte' at the end of the play thus symbolizes his renewed self-exile from the socio-cultural context of the court. Before leaving, he observes wearily of the hyperbolic discourse of the loudly suffering lover Apelles, which he has been asked to investigate by Alexander,

que no sabes lo que cansa

esto de andar componiendo

de amor y celos las ansias.

(p. 1067a)

Towards the end of the play, in lines reminiscent of Estatira's earlier protest when, referring to the ransom of precious stones, silver, and gold demanded for her by Alexander, she reminds him that 'no por eso habia yo de dejar de ser yo' (p. 1031b), Campaspe goes to the heart of the matter (the lines are also spoken to Alexander):

?De cuando aca fue el amor

prenda para enajenada?

?De cuando aca el albedrio

de un dueno a otro pasa?

?Es inquilino el afecto,

para andar mudando casas,

vecino ayer de una gloria,

y huesped hoy de una infamia?

?Es joya la inclinacion?

?Es la voluntad alhaja,

es el deseo presea,

ni menaje la esperanza,

para hacer dadivas de ellas,

tan bajamente contraria,

que da con un baldon, yendo

a buscar una alabanza?

(p. 1065a)

Her demand that her right to exercise free will be respected is supported by a withering cascade of rhetorical questions. Material, exchangeable objects of value ('prenda', 'joya', 'alhaja', 'presea', 'menaje') are contrasted with a set of terms intended to reinforce the claim that desire remains inalienable ('amor', 'afecto', 'inclinacion', 'voluntad', 'deseo', and 'esperanza'). Campaspe's use of the phrase 'tan bajamente contraria' recalls her words to Apelles on seeing her portrait:

Pues ?como, como

si tan divino arte ejerces,

tan bajamente le empleas,

que para otro dueno engendres

la copia de lo que dices

que amas?

(p. 1051a)

And she further underlines the specifically ignoble nature of the proposed 'transaction' (and, by extension, of the kind of acculturated 'reading' of both art and life which would allow of it) in the lines which immediately follow:

Liberalidad bien puede

ser que sea el dar la dama;

pero liberalidad

tan neciamente villana,

que piensa que lo da todo,

siendo asi que es cosa clara

que no da nada, porque

el dia que no da el alma,

?que da en lo demas? Conque

si presumes que le pagas

de lo vivo a lo pintado

el logro a Apeles, te enganas;

pues si el dio un retrato, no

le vuelves mas que una estatua,

porque el que sin albedrio

con una mujer se abraza,

logra, pero no merece;

consigue, pero no alcanza.

The last four lines in particular are strongly reminiscent of Serafina's words to Alvaro, who has abducted her, in Act III of El pintor de su deshonra:

Tu, conseguida, no puedes

conseguirme; pues es claro

que no consigue quien no

consigue el alma; y es llano

que una hermosura sin ella

es como estatua de marmol. (14)

In Darlo todo y no dar nada, the proleptic irony of Alexander's answer to Diogenes, cited earlier, which acknowledges the realm of true creation as God's alone, thus helps to prepare the audience for the play's subsequent interrogation and exposure of the complicity of monarch and artist in the discursive elaboration of 'creations' which deny true autonomy or self-possession to the subject assimilated (forcibly or otherwise) to this culture. Alexander's words are echoed late in the play as Apelles observes, 'dar un cielo [i.e. Campaspe] | no es don de humano monarca' (p. 1064b).

As already suggested, the intended functions and de facto modes of reception of the two portraits referred to earlier encode this topic. There are, however, three other portraits in the play, if one includes those painted by Timantes and Zeuxis and rejected by Alexander. The first one mentioned, though, is that of Roxana, queen of Cyprus, whom Alexander is due to wed. Alexander's reaction to it, love at first sight, is telling:

desde que vi su retrato,

de amor vivo y de amor muerto

quede a su vista.

(p. 1027a)

In its exaggeratedly Petrarchan and markedly performative earnestness, it sets the tone for the rhetoric of courtly love which characterizes both his and the almost comically morbid Apelles' discourse in relation to Campaspe as the action proceeds. And it is, of course, the need to present a suitably impressive portrait of Alexander to Roxana, or, to put it another way, Alexander's need to cultivate a particular, public identity, which occasions the portraiture contest between Apelles, Timantes, and Zeuxis in the first place. Alexander's reading of the three portraits offered to him is couched in terms of how best the artist may 'hablar y callar discreto', how he may most decorously draw a monarch's attention to his defects without actually citing them. But such a reading also invites recognition of the role of the royal portrait as encoding temporal power, as crucially enhancing the ability of the monarch to impose his fictions and reputation both on his contemporaries and, indeed, on history. (15) Here, of course, the creative agency of the artist, in this case the winner of the contest, Apelles, is central. (16) On the other hand, the portrait of Campaspe, also commissioned from Apelles by Alexander, encodes another, related model of deformation, albeit one that is ostensibly more reductive. In presenting Campaspe to the love-lorn Apelles, while within the terms of his own, reifying logic also retaining possession of her via her portrait, Alexander consigns her to the status of a mere object of exchange within a prioritized economy of male relations.

Alexander's gift of Campaspe to the painter is entirely congruent, at first sight, with conventional seventeenth-century notions of the legendary generosity of his character. Covarrubias, for example, notes that 'al que loamos de liberal y dadivoso dezimos que es un Alexandro'. (17) But much as Calderon may have played to his audience's expectations in respect of this cliche, his Alexander is nevertheless also portrayed, right from the outset, as significantly flawed, both physically and morally. (18) This Alexander is a monarch depicted, both by Diogenes and Campaspe, in a distinctly less-than-favourable light. Indeed, he represents a man obsessed with his own image in history and an insatiable urge to project himself onto the world via conquest. Even the world itself will hardly do, for, as the opening lines attest, 'le viene el mundo estrecho' (p. 1022a). In the opening scene of the play, Diogenes picks up on this cliche of Alexandrine lore, setting against it his own, ascetic principles: (19)

Alejandro ?es mas que un hombre

tan vanamente soberbio,

que llora que hay solo un mundo

para verle a sus pies puesto?

Pues ?por que me he de mover

a verle, cuando mi afecto

mas fuera si fuera un hombre

tan sabio, prudente y cuerdo,

que llorara que no habia

otros muchos mundos nuevos,

solo para despreciarlos

mas que para poseerlos?

(p. 1023b)

His criticisms of the monarch are trenchant. They include lack of moderation, overweening pride, lack of wisdom, and a failure to exhibit the cardinal virtue of prudence, an attribute neatly characterized by Paul Julian Smith as 'the ethical cognate of literary decorum'. (20) And yet it is, ironically enough, precisely this latter virtue, decorum, that proves to be Alexander's first and foremost requirement of the painter granted licence to depict him.


Buen camino habeis hallado

de hablar y callar discreto;

pues sin que el defecto vea,

estoy mirando el defecto,

cuando al dejarle debajo

me avisa de que le tengo,

con tal decoro, que no

pueda, ofendido el respeto,

con lo libre de oirlo,

quitar lo util de saberlo.

(p. 1028a)

Calderon's Alexander is a man who apprehends the world principally in terms of power and domination. When in Act II Diogenes proposes a second wager to him, in order that

mejor se vea

cual es el mas rico tesoro,

la majestad o la ciencia,

he couches it in terms befitting the anchorite who shuns the polis. They suggest his disdain for possessions:

vaya la segunda apuesta.

A ?cual necesita antes, o yo de vuestras riquezas,

o vos de mi ciencia?

(p. 1038b)

Early in Act III Alexander, even as he admits defeat, echoes him in words which betray, albeit subtly, a rather different take on the terms of the bet. He chooses to stress power rather than possessions (though the implication is, of course, that the two are conflated in his mind). He asks,

?te acuerdas

de aquella apuesta que hicimos,

de quien necesitaria

antes, tu de mi dominio,

o yo de tu ciencia?

(p. 1052b)

In the opening scene of Act II this same trait is evidenced as the conqueror, wishing to see Campaspe again, protests that

mi violenta

condicion, bien como rayo,

se irrita en la resistencia

(p. 1036a)

Shortly thereafter, however, he tells Efestion that Campaspe has so affected him that

el albedrio

no tiene por donde pueda


A similar, highly conventional sentiment is later expressed by the now temporarily demented Apelles, whose death-and-hyperbole-strewn discourse as suffering lover is roundly sent up in the play. (21) As Diogenes diagnoses 'desordenado amor', Apelles complains extravagantly that

No hay remedio;

que mi mortal parasismo

no consta de mi; porque

consta de ajeno albedrio. (22)

(p. 1054a)

Ironically, it is of course Campaspe, rather than Apelles or Alexander, for that matter, who will actually find herself having to fend off the oppressive attentions of 'ajeno albedrio'. She will do so in response to the attempt to reduce her to the status of a currency exchangeable, in effect, for one or another form of male self-regard, self-fulfilment, or self-aggrandizement. Otherness is encoded here not just in terms of the female, hollowed-out and displaced onto myth or mute materiality, but also in the fact that as a bella cazadora, Campaspe is specifically portrayed as a gender-transgressing outsider, one altogether unfamiliar with the conventions of the male cultural economy of the polis. (23) And she, of course, will have to defend her(self) in quite literal rather than literary terms. Her insistence on her right to function as an integrated, stubbornly historical being contrasts with the exorbitant megalomania of an Alexander who can conceive of nothing less for himself than trans-historical status. But visibility in the world on these terms is denied to her, on the one hand via her relegation to the status of a material object of exchange, and, on the other, by virtue of the Neoplatonic, male discourse which strives to lift the increasingly evanescent, even sacrilized, object of its attentions out of history altogether. (24) Both polarities are encoded in her portrait. Meanwhile, this same discourse inevitably points to a certain lack of both moderation and self-control on the part of its male proponents. These are the defects over which Alexander will, of course, eventually be seen (at least) to prevail with his 'gift' of Campaspe to Apelles and his self-congratulatory aside late in Act III in which he notes that 'la mayor victoria es vencerse a si' (p. 1064a).

But why should one feel obliged to put it in this grudging way? Alexander himself provides the answer. His very next words reveal a motivation which has less to do with virtue than with reputation:

no diga de ti manana

la Historia que toda es plumas,

el tiempo que todo es alas,

que tuvo en su amor Apeles

mas generosa constancia

que yo.

It is the visibility of his claimed 'victory', a claim subverted even by the title of the play, which is crucial to him. The Alexander of this play is repeatedly portrayed as a man who, while willing enough to acknowledge his defects (p. 1028a), is nevertheless also greatly concerned to safeguard his splendid public image in the mirror of history. Early in Act II he asks Diogenes,

la posteridad

de una heroica fama eterna,

?sera vuestra, o sera mia?

(p. 1038a)

Even earlier, during the scene in which he rejects the portraits painted by Timantes and Zeuxis, he reveals this same, anxious concern that his image should endure for posterity on terms which, if given plastic form by his portraitist, are nevertheless authorized by himself. He describes the works rejected as

breves atomos del viento,

el uno por mentiroso,

el otro por verdadero

(p. 1028a)

Apelles, of course, has found the middle way, the way of discretion, hiding Alexander's damaged eye in shadow but not denying its existence. 'Buen camino habeis hallado | de hablar y callar discreto', Alexander tells him (p. 1028a), and makes him his pintor de camara. Even as he addresses Campaspe, Diogenes, and Apelles at the end of the play, recognizing the truth of Diogenes' words that he has been a slave to the passions of which the philosopher is master, he has a competitive eye firmly fixed on posterity:

Dale, pues, la mano a Apelles

porque, esposa suya, vayas

donde no te vean mis ojos.

Tu, Diogenes, repara

en la dadiva mayor,

si soy esclavo de esclavas,

o si soy dueno de mi.

Y tu mira la distancia

que hay de tu amor a mi amor,

pue tu me la das pintada,

y yo te la vuelvo viva,

para que diga la fama

que la di de una vez todo,

pues di la mitad del alma.

(p. 1064b)

Campaspe's aside immediately after these words shows that she distrusts his motives anyway, initially assuming that this is all merely an attempt to discover whether she truly loves Apelles. Tellingly, Alexander will twice thereafter accuse her of attempting to 'deslucir mi accion' (pp. 1065a, 1066b), as she recalcitrantly refuses docile acceptance of the role he would allot to her in the public myth of self he wishes to construct. Questioned by Alexander as to why she refuses to comply with Apelles' request for her hand, she replies sharply,

Porque no quiero que haga

ferias de mi libertad

tu vanagloria.

(p. 1064b)

Covarrubias's Tesoro de la lengua offers for vanagloria 'la jactancia y loca presuncion [...] a que suelen rendirse hombres grandes'. Here Campaspe again shows herself quite alien to a culture which can commend a painter because he has learnt to 'hablar y callar discreto' in his transactions with the monarch. She accepts Apelles' hand in the end because she wishes to (p. 1066b), not in order to contribute to a fiction designed to confer moral authority on power.

Campaspe is repeatedly associated with divinity, usually in the conventional context of the inflated, Neoplatonic discourse of the male protagonists. (25) A passage in Act II, though, refers to her mother, rather less conventionally, as a 'deidad de estos montes' to whom local people make sacrifice, while Campaspe herself is compared in the same passage to a 'deidad de uno y otro margen'. (26) In fact, Campaspe is associated throughout the play with a kind of idolatry, itself a form of reification. (27) Alexander commissions her portrait intending to hang it in the temple, though one notes that he adds the self-regarding rider that this is to be done

para que sea

padron a los siglos

que diga a sus puertas

que el solo la tabla

fue de mi tormenta.

(p. 1041b)

Apelles uses a similar kind of language, as when he tells Diogenes that 'el sol que idolatra sigo | es Campaspe' (p. 1060b). Calderon uses the notion of idolatry as a device neatly encoding a combination of masculine, scopophilic desire based wholly on externals, and another, less tangible desire, expressed through various forms of conventionalized incantation (including 'literary' madness), for an essentially unattainable ideal or essence. Unsurprisingly, the particularity as a subject of the woman in question, not to mention her claim to free will, tends to be altogether overlooked in a process negotiated almost wholly within the confines of this masculine cultural economy.

One of the ways in which this clash of cultures manifests itself in the play is that the characters sometimes misunderstand one another's language. When Campaspe protests at what she sees as her imprisonment by Alexander, she uses language quite literally. He, though, interprets her words metaphorically, as the characteristic hyperbole of the language of courtly love, and protests in turn that it is his free will that is actually enslaved, not Campaspe (p. 1061b). Similarly, Chichon subverts the naked Apelles' love-lorn ravings among the rocky crags in Act III by metatheatrically applying a fauxnaif literal interpretation to his words (pp. 1059b-1060a). When Apelles refers to Campaspe as 'homicida' and 'bella homicida' (pp. 1043b, 1044a), his morbidly self-indulgent hyperbole stands in ironical contrast to the fact that she has already, quite literally, killed Teagenes. Late in Act III Alexander is told by Diogenes that Apelles loves Campaspe (p. 1062b). His Petrarchan accusation,


tu voz, su intenci on traidora,

me han dado la muerte ambas,

aimed at Diogenes and Apelles, is accompanied by the threat literally to murder the hapless philosopher (p. 1063a). (28) In Alexander's case, whether the self threatened here is the courtly lover or the conqueror with an eye on posterity hardly matters: both are, at least to a significant degree, culturally constructed, and both may be felt to reflect the exaggeratedly performative, theatricalized nature of that culture.

It is interesting to note in this connection the comic series of four, deflating interruptions to which the frustrated Alexander is subjected by Apelles as the monarch attempts to complete a formulaic, and markedly histrionic, declaration of his feelings for Campaspe (pp. 1056a, 1056b, 1057a, 1057b). One imagines him taking up a suitably declamatory pose on stage as he begins with

Desde el instante, divina

Campaspe, que de tu brio

y de tu llanto fue objeto

la piedad del pecho mio,

tan postrado a tu altivez,

a tu queja tan rendido

quedo mi afecto [...],

(p. 1056a)

only to be interrupted in full flow by Apelles, who diverts his attention away from Campaspe by telling him he has spotted Siroes making her way towards them. Apelles then conducts an equally histrionic, if necessarily hurried, conversation with Campaspe 'a tono bajo, y apriesa', as the stage direction has it, while Alexander attends to the matter of Siroes' expected arrival. With what one might characterize as suspicious ease, the monarch immediately switches out of this elevated register as he replies to Apelles:

Saldrela al paso, porque

no llegue a verme contigo.

No la dejes ir tu, en tanto

que yo vuelvo.

On returning, he comments briefly, 'A nadie miro | en todo el monte' and instructs Apelles to keep his eye open before switching back to

Y tu, hermoso dueno mio,

acuerdate que me diste

la vida.

And so it goes on, with Alexander alternately instructing Apelles to stop messing him about (more or less the register employed) as further warnings of Siroes' arrival prove unfounded, and then returning to lament Campaspe's

desdenes esquivos,

siendo escollo a los embates

de lagrimas y suspiros. (29)

(p. 1057a)

It is this comic oscillation between registers which leads one to wonder for whom this latter variety of discourse is intended, for whom, so to say, Alexander is 'performing'. He is of course speaking directly to Campaspe, but one could just as easily imagine him addressing a literary academy. It is certainly hard not to conclude that, in so far as the 'divine' female addressed represents a discursively constructed figment of the male imagination, so the discourse may be read as directing itself primarily not just to other men, but also, in a curious mix of self-flattery (as creative lover) and self-pity, back to the speaker himself (hence the earlier charge of solipsism). One recalls that in El pintor de su deshonra, with which this play shares a number of features, Serafina is quite dismissive of such talk, observing as she tells Porcia how she was courted by Alvaro that,


de los usados efectos

de un rendido, que por ser

lugares comunes, dejo,

palabra me dio de esposo.

(pp. 43-44 Paterson)

Apelles' credentials as courtly lover are underlined as he tells Campaspe 'que el rendido padece, | cuanto mas padece, goza' (p. 1050a). His subsequent paroxysms of anguish, referred to above, as he rends his clothing among the rocks take Efestion's conventional reference to love-induced madness, 'por Nise pierdo el juicio' (p. 1048a), to altogether Quixotic (and equally knowing) heights of parody of the underlying literary model. (30) At the end of the play the typically down-to-earth gracioso, Chichon, can take no more of it. His exasperated aside, which he must surely have directed straight at the audience, roundly subverts the discourse of the lovers:

Hecho un bobo

me estoy oyendolos. !Que haya,

habiendo amor de obra gruesa,

quien gasta el de filigrana,

todo retruecanos, todo

tiquis-miquis? (31)

(p. 1066a)

Alexander's self-consciously magnanimous 'gift' of Campaspe to the painter fails to convey any real sense that this is felt by the monarch as a significant affective loss. In fact, it seems much more like a theatrically combative demonstration of the powerful public figure in which his sense of self is so comprehensively invested. The scene takes place in front of Diogenes, who has just challenged Alexander with the observation '!Mira quien eres, pues eres | esclavo de mis esclavas!' (p. 1063b). The 'esclavas' referred to are, of course, the passions. Alexander's response echoes his words to the painter Timantes in Act I as he rejects the latter's portrait as too flattering. (32) Now, though, his expressed willingness to improve himself is revealed as subserving an overriding desire to configure and control the manner in which he is to be represented to history:

que no ha de decir la fama

que dijeron a Alejandro

de Diogenes las canas;

'!Mira quien eres, pues eres

esclavo de mis esclavas!',

sin que tratase enmendar

de sus defectos la causa.

(p. 1063b)

Thus the fact that Alexander's private and public selves appear, to all intents and purposes, to be co-terminous turns his concession into a victory, a victory over 'himself', perhaps, but a victory too in terms of his assiduous cultivation of the image of self he wishes to see transmitted through history. (33) It is no accident that the recipient of his largesse, if so it may be termed, is a great portraitist, a man crucially charged with representing that image to the world. The point is that what is seen is what matters. The exchange--for it is an exchange--between Alexander and Apelles is a symbolic substitution of the real for the representation. Just as Rosaura in La vida es sueno is desperate to recover the portrait of herself held by Astolfo, so Campaspe resists the attempt to reduce her to the level of an object. One recalls her anxious '?Soy yo aquella, o soy yo, yo?', as she shies at Apelles' initially acknowledged ability to generate a 'segundo ser', sensing her portrait's identity-threatening materiality on first being confronted with it (pp. 1050b-1051a). (34) By contrast, Alexander's acceptance of the representation signals not merely his much-vaunted self-control (a notion wholly subverted by Campaspe's reaction), but also, importantly, his recognition of the fact that it is precisely through his relations with men such as Apelles that this victory and others will most tellingly be represented to his subjects and to history. Both portraits thus constitute mystifications, one based on a myth of female beauty, the other on a myth of regal power. Both situate their subjects somewhere between the human and the divine, and yet both are simultaneously reductive, obscuring in one way or another the humanity, the autonomy of those represented. In the case of Campaspe, one might even suggest that both woman and portrait are ironically translated into virtual self-portraits of the male: as spaces hollowed out and emptied via the twin processes of reductive reification and Neoplatonic sublimation, they are both liable to colonization by the male ego. Campaspe's portrait thus becomes a potential site for the construction of male rather than female identity. As such, it may be read as serving a specular function, 'self-control' being reflected therein as just another facet of the urge to 'invade', control, and dominate. One recalls Alexander's almost solipsistic words to Apelles as he commissions the portrait of Campaspe:

Una mujer has de ver,

y esta me has de retratar

con tal alma, que el hablar

la falte, por no querer.

Bien, que en esta parte, no

vendra a ser tuya la palma,

pues si la vieres con alma,

es que se la he dado yo.

(p. 1045b)

The play refutes this last claim, precisely because, as Alexander himself has earlier observed of a similar kind of creative power, 'eso fuera ser Criador'. Diogenes, who witnesses the scene of exchange, is a polar opposite of Alexander. In his disdain for the world he is unlike the obsessively public Alexander, who, wrapped grandly in his own myth, announces his departure for the Peloponnese as the play closes, reminding the audience, glibly, that he must 'cumplir el aguero, | venciendo naciones varias' (p. 1066b). And yet, having said this, one suspects that Calderon intuits at least some fundamental similarity in the sheer exorbitance of the respective characters of Alexander and Diogenes. The former, after all, famously pronounces

que si hubiera de dejar

de ser quien soy [...]


[...] que no siendo Alejandro

ser Diogenes quisiera.

(pp. 1038b-1039a)

As it is, the ragged philosopher can perhaps lay claim to a degree of real autonomy, but only by dint of removing himself from society and the world of the polis altogether. Campaspe, similarly unencumbered by the cultural baggage of that world, strikes a resounding rhetorical blow for freedom, but marries Apelles nevertheless. And yet this marriage, while signalling her induction into the world of the corte, does not imply her acceptance of acculturation to that world. On the contrary, it rather suggests that that world can never again be quite what it was previously. Perhaps in this way she can claim to have achieved a degree of real emancipation from the status quo ante merely by virtue of having exposed and challenged some of its ruling fictions (pp. 1064b-1065a).

I suggested earlier that this problematizes the ending of the play. Despite the marriages, which ape the conventions of comedy, there is no real closure here. The play is frequently ironic in tone, and may be read as a quite self-consciously ambivalent critique of a particular, aestheticizing discourse which had found favour as part of the socio-cultural formation of Calderon's world. It may even be read as offering a decorously veiled admonition in respect of some of the pitfalls attendant upon royal power. Certainly it acknowledges the intimate, symbiotic relationship between art and power, particularly in respect of art's crucial ability, in the right hands, to help clothe the nakedness of power with the subtler mantle of authority. But it also resolutely refuses to authorize a self-regarding theatre of power which fails to grant proper recognition to the possibility of the individual subject's capacity for choice.

(1) The full title is Deposicion hecha por don Pedro Calderon de la Barca en favor de los profesores de la pintura en el pleito con el Procurador General de esta villa de Madrid sobre pretender este se les hiciesse repartimiento de soldado. Antonio Palomino, referring to a pending lawsuit of 4 December 1676, noted in his Museo pictorico y escala optica (publ. 1715-24) that 'pretendian el Procurador General de Madrid y los diputados de rentas, que el arte de la Pintura pagase cincuenta ducados cada ano, de un soldado, que se le repartia, con el ejemplar de haber servido a Su Majestad voluntariamente, por una vez, con un montado, en caso de necesidad publica' (cited in F. Calvo Serraller, Teoria de la pintura del Siglo de Oro (Madrid: Catedra, 1991), p. 537).

(2) Calvo Serraller, Teoria de la pintura del Siglo de Oro, p. 454.

(3) Butron, Discurso decimo quarto, in Calvo Serraller, p. 211.

(4) All references to Darlo todo y no dar nada are based on vol. II of the 5th edn of the Obras completas (Madrid: Aguilar, 1991), pp. 1022-67. Superscript a and b refer to the left- and right-hand columns respectively in this edn. The play was published in Madrid in 1657 in the Parte Octava de Comedias nuevas de los mejores ingenios de Espana and, twenty years later, in the Quinta parte de Comedias de don Pedro Calderon. The title page of the play in the Septima parte of 1683 describes it as 'Fiesta que se represento a sus majestades en el Salon de su Real Palacio', the date of this performance being 1651. The play was performed, in Spanish, some time between 1667 and 1673, at no less splendid a venue than the court of the Emperor Leopold in Vienna. And in the Codex Barberini of the Biblioteca Vaticana there is an Italian play dating from the second half of the seventeenth century which may possibly have been based on Darlo todo y no dar nada. Its title, which virtually translates Alexander's words at the end of Act III of Calderon's play, is La maggior gloria di un grande e vincere se stesso (see Martin Franzbach, 'La recepcion de la comedia en la Europa de lengua alemana en el siglo XVII', in La comedia espanola y el teatro europeo del siglo XVII, ed. by H. W. Sullivan, R. A. Galoppe, and M. L. Stoutz (London: Tamesis, 1999), pp. 175-85 (p. 184)).

(5) The most obvious example is provided by Leonardo da Vinci, who deemed painting superior to both poetry and sculpture in its capacity for imitation of the works of nature (see Anthony Blunt, Artistic Theory in Italy 1450-1600 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), p. 27).

(6) Alan Paterson has written of Calderon's awareness of 'the tendency to aestheticize life' in El pintor de su deshonra, a play generally ascribed to the 1640s and therefore not so very distant in time or, perhaps, spirit, from Darlo todo y no dar nada ('Juan Roca's Northern Ancestry: A Study of Art Theory in Calderon's El pintor de su deshonra', Forum for Modern Language Studies, 7 (1971), 195-210 (p. 209)).

(7) Natural History, Book XXXV ch. 36, Loeb Classical Library (London: Heinemann, 1952), p. 325.

(8) 'El libre albedrio y la reificacion de la mujer: la imagen pintada en Darlo todo y no dar nada', in Texto e imagen en Calderon: Undecimo coloquio Anglogermano sobre Calderon, Archivum Calderonianum, 8, ed. by Manfred Tietz (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1998), pp. 158-70 (p. 170).

(9) Robert ter Horst, Calderon: The Secular Plays (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1982), p. 185.

(10) Estatira is the wife of Darius, king of Persia. She, Siroes, Clori, and Nise are being held prisoner by Alexander against payment of a ransom.

(11) I use the word 'polis' here not so much in its original Greek sense of 'city-state', which incorporated both urban and rural populations equally, but rather to suggest an essentially urban realm where the cultural politics of the corte would have been recognized by the audience as analogous to those of seventeenth-century Madrid. One might well add that the echoes here of the Beatus ille tradition, which harked back to classical sources such as Horace and Virgil, and which found expression in Spain in works such as Antonio de Guevara's Menosprecio de corte y alabanza de aldea, published at Valladolid in 1539, immediately posit a degree of moral superiority for those who, like Campaspe or Diogenes the Cynic, remain outside the always potentially corrupting frame of the polis.

(12) This is just one of the occasions on which Alexander is interrupted by Apelles, as we shall see.

(13) Diogenes is believed to have lived in Athens and perhaps in Corinth, shunning material possessions and sleeping on the bare ground in the streets.

(14) El pintor de su deshonra, ed. by A. K.G. Paterson (Warminster: Aris @ Phillips, 1991), p. 150.

(15) I go on later to discuss some of the various, grandiloquent references to his reputation in posterity made by Alexander in the play. Suffice it to say that here the monarch betrays a lively awareness of the potential durability and influence of the royal portrait. He says of the first, which points up his defective eye, that 'infame ejemplo da ese retrato' (p. 1027b), noting of the second, which ignores it completely, that 'tampoco aqueste ejemplar | quede al mundo' (p. 1027b). He condemns both to be destroyed as 'breves atomos del viento' (p. 1028a), which of course suggests that Apelles' winning portrait will be no such thing.

(16) Many of the audience at the court of Philip IV, where the play was performed in 1651, would surely have registered the similarity between this and Diego Velazquez's relationship with Philip IV. Alexander appoints Apelles his 'pintor de camara', granting the painter the exclusive right to depict him (p. 1028a). Velazquez was named pintor del rey as early as 1623, and, according to his father-in-law, Francisco Pacheco, was welcomed back on his return from Rome in 1631 by the Count-Duke, who 'mandole fuese a besar la mano a Su Majestad, agradeciendole mucho no haberse dexado retratar de otro pintor' (Calvo Serraller, Teoria de la pintura del Siglo de Oro, p. 390). Moreover, some in the audience would doubtless have remembered the 1627 painting competition won by Velazquez 'en oposicion de tres pintores del Rey', also recorded by Pacheco. The subject of this lost work was the expulsion of the moriscos and for it the painter was rewarded handsomely, as is Apelles in the play (see the extract from Pacheco's Arte de la pintura in Calvo Serraller, Teoria de la pintura del Siglo de Oro, p. 389).

(17) Tesoro de la lengua castellana o espanola (Madrid, 1611).

(18) Melveena McKendrick has noted Pliny's reference, which comes after the story of Apelles and Pancaspe, to Apelles painting a portrait of King Antigonus in three-quarter view in order to disguise the fact that the king was blind in one eye. Calderon transposes this physical defect to his Alexander the Great (McKendrick, 'El libre albedrio', p. 164).

(19) That it represented a cliche is supported by the fact that Covarrubias records a similar phrase: 'Alexandro Magno, hijo de Felipo, rey de Macedonia, que senoreo la mayor parte del mundo y todo el se le hizo poco' (Tesoro de la lengua, p. 82).

(20) Writing in the Margin (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 131.

(21) Even in the context of Calderon's elaborate, second-period style, the fact that Apelles makes at least eight, altogether over-the-top, references to death in this same scene suggests that the playwright was intent on feeding him enough stylistic rope to hang himself (pp. 1053-54).

(22) Diogenes refers shortly afterwards in the same scene to the deleterious effects to be expected when a man falls in love 'con no ordenado apetito'. Apelles' failure to moderate his desires finds another, male equivalent in Alexander's insatiable appetite for conquest.

(23) Her very first appearance 'con la espada en la mano, ensangrantado el rostro' is heralded by the offstage sounds of the fight with Alexander's soldiers in which she has just been engaged (p. 1030a).

(24) I shall come back to the fact that Campaspe is repeatedly associated with the divine by the play's male protagonists.

(25) Examples abound elsewhere in Calderon's work of these highly conventional, Neoplatonic usages. For example, Cesar in El escondido y la tapada refers to Lisarda as 'del templo | de amor la deidad mas bella', going on to refer to the sacrifice of her many victims and his own idolatry before her image (Obras completas (Madrid: Aguilar, 1991), p. 676a). El pintor de su deshonra also contains a number of similar, if rather more pointed, references (e.g. Prince Ursino p. 68 Paterson, Alvaro pp. 70, 94, musicians p. 126).

(26) There is a rather curious scene in Act I in which Campaspe tells Alexander about her upbringing:

Hija soy de Timoclea,

griega matrona, a quien hacen

como a deidad de estos montes,

sacrificios estos valles.

Difunto su ilustre esposo,

conmigo, en a anos infante,

a llorar su viudedad

se vino a estas soledades,

donde una hermosa alqueria,


fue su albergue y fue mi cuna,

sin que nunca a ver llegase

ni mas politicas gentes,

ni mas pobladas ciudades

que estos riscos y estas brenas,

en cuyas austeridades

creci, tan hijos del campo

mis afectos montaraces,

que pirata de la selva,

en dos elementos reina

de las fieras y las aves,

el nombre de Timoclea,

ultimo don de mi madre,

no sin jactancia al oirle,

me troco en el de Campaspe,

como quien dice, campestre

deidad de uno y otro margen.

(pp. 1032b-1033a)

In the original version of the story reported by Plutarch, Timoclea is raped by one of Alexander's captains during the sack of the city of Thebes. She avenges herself by tipping him into a well, to which she has lured him with promises of wealth, before stoning him to death. When she is brought before Alexander with her children to answer for her actions, he immediately recognizes in her a plucky and noble spirit and sets her free (Lives, trans. by John Dryden (London: Dent, 1910), pp. 472-73). Here, of course, it is Campaspe who has to explain to Alexander why she has killed Teagenes, though rape is at no point explicitly identified as the casus belli (Campaspe actually says 'la mano me echo', p. 1034a). Robert ter Horst has, though, noted a curious conflation of the identities of mother and daughter in Calderon's play, and has drawn attention to the fact that Timoclea is one of the very few good mothers to appear in the playwright's oeuvre (Calderon: The Secular Plays, pp. 183-84). The passage quoted above suggests that the mother changed her daughter's name from Timoclea to the symbolic Campaspe on her deathbed.

(27) Among other references, she is referred to by Apelles as 'bella deidad' and 'hermosisima deidad' (four times), and by Alexander as 'deidad (three times), 'divino sol' (twice) and 'divina Campaspe' (four times). Chichon, the gracioso, on the other hand, offers a rather less reverent, early assessment after seeing her fight, with 'marimacha es la senora' (p. 1030b).

(28) The two forms of death, literal and literary, come together in Apelles' speech at the end of the play, as he tells Campaspe, '?Pues no importara | menos que el me diera muerte | que darmela tu? ?Que gana | mi vida, di, si porque | el no me mate, me matas?' (p. 1066a).

(29) These lines again recall El pintor de su deshonra and Serafina's rebuff to Alvaro,


escollo sera mas facil

a los embates continuos

del mar, o a los destemplados

soplos del abrego frio

moverse, que mi fineza,

si contrastasen mi brio

todo el mar lagrimas hecho,

todo el aire hecho suspiros.

(p. 93 Paterson)

Interestingly, both plays also include the same, traditional refrain, to which the lines cited allude (it is also cited in Act I of the much later Hado y divisa de Leonido y Marfisa):

Escollo armado de hiedra,

yo te conoci edificio,

ejemplo de lo que acaba

la carrera de los siglos

de lo que fuiste primero

estas tan desconocido

que de ti mismo olvidado,

no te acuerdas de ti mismo.

(30) The reader will recall that Don Quixote, knight errant and suffering lover of the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso, feels moved to imitate his literary hero, Amadis de Gaula, by performing (one uses the word advisedly) crazed penance in the wilderness of the Sierra Morena.

(31) Such self-reflectively teasing subversion of the protagonists' discourse once again calls to mind El pintor de su deshonra, a play which repeatedly draws attention to its own artificiality. One thinks of its various coincidences and parallels, or the quasi-operatic use of song, or the curiously tableau-like scenes at the beginning of Act II and at the end of the play. Moreover, in El pintor this discourse-subverting undercurrent is not restricted to the gracioso, Juanete, but is also contributed to by other characters, both noble and non-noble. For example, Belardo offers a 'that's all we needed' aside on the enredo of the plot when Ursino, who is ostensibly involved with Porcia, declares his love for Serafina: 'Solo esto faltaba ahora, | que estuviese enamorado | el amante de la hermana de la dama del hermano' (El pintor de su deshonra, ed. Paterson, p. 164). On the other hand, Don Alvaro later observes of a rather less obviously metatheatrical use of asides that he finds such devices merely serve to undermine credibility of character (ibid., p. 178).

(32) 'Infame ejemplo | da ese retrato a que nadie | diga a su Rey sus defectos: | pues ?como podra enmendarlos, | si nunca llega a saberlos?' (p. 1027b).

(33) Other comments similarly focused on his reputation regularly punctuate Alexander's discourse in this and the scene which follows. Witness, for example, '?Tanto una ciega passion | desluce el decoro, ultraja el respeto [...]?' (p. 1063b), or his demand of Campaspe 'que seas heroico asunto | que en laminas de oro y plata | de mis liberalidades | corone las esperanzas' (p. 1064a). When he orders her to take Apelles' hand, he does so 'para que diga la fama | que la di de una vez todo, | pues di la mitad del alma' (p. 1064b).

(34) Apelles (like Roca in El pintor de su deshonra) has just thrown down his brushes, despairing at his inability to capture Campaspe's beauty on canvas. The language he uses, ironically enough, is that of the suffering courtly lover bewailing the idealized and consequently unattainable beauty of the lady. Meanwhile, his complaint that he must lose her twice, 'verdadera y aparente', underlines the appearance-and-reality topos on which the play dwells (p. 1050b).

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Author:Pym, Richard
Publication:The Modern Language Review
Article Type:Critical Essay
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Jan 1, 2003
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