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La comedia espanola y el teatro europeo del siglo XVII.

Henry W. Sullivan, Raul A. Galoppe, and Mahlon L. Stoutz, Eds. La comedia espanola y el teatro europeo del siglo XVII. London: Tamesis, 1999. Pp. x + 193. $60.00.

Carefully edited and printed on low-acid paper, this excellent collection of nine essays by different writers presents a multifaceted view of the influence exerted by the Spanish comedia on seventeenth-century European theater in Italy, France, Germany, and Poland. In the first study, "La comedia espanola en la Italia del siglo XVII" (1-36), Nancy L. D'Antuono states that the dramatic successes of Lope de Vega and his followers were brought by a Spanish company to Naples beginning about 1620. Subsequently, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, traveling acting companies from Italy were instrumental in popularizing the plots and characters typical of the Spanish Golden Age of comedia throughout most of Europe. This comparative study focuses on several scenarios: three based on Moreto's No puede set and one on Calderon's Mejor esta que estaba.

Alejandro Cioranescu's extensive article (37-81), "Calderon y el teatro clasico frances," reveals that the Spaniard's cape-and-sword comedies (characterized by intrigue and careful stagecraft), not his more tragic or philosophical plays, were what interested the French early on, from 1640-1660. In separate sections, this study treats the adaptations of the ten Calderonian comedies most popular during those years: Casa con dos puertas mala es de guardar, La dama duende, and eight others. Cioranescu and the editors assume a reading knowledge of French, since several extensive quotations are presented without translation, as are a small number of quotations in the next essay by Frederick A. de Armas. His essay concentrates on several French adaptations of one of the already cited Calderonian comedies, "`?Es dama o es torbellino?': La dama duende en Francia de D'Ouville a Hauteroche"(82-100).

In the valuable article by John Loftis, "La comedia espanola en la Inglaterra del siglo XVII" (101-19), familiarity with French is also assumed, for while the Spanish quotations are also rendered in English, those in French remain untranslated. According to Loftis, in the years between the 1623 visit of Prince Charles to Madrid and the closing of the English theaters in 1642, several adaptations based on Spanish plays were done by authors such as Shirley, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Massinger. During the Restoration, the new dramatic form was an Anglicized version of the capa y espada plots, seen in some plays by Tuke, Wycherley, and Dryden. Also dealing with England, Angel M. Garcia Gomez (120-42) compares Sir Richard Fanshawe's 1653-54 paraphrase with its model, Hurtado de Mendoza's 1622-23 play Querer pot solo querer.

Henry W. Sullivan, in a fascinating essay, "Una traduccion flamenca de La devocion de la cruz de Calderon que no esta perdida" (143-51), traces the unusual transmission of the text, gives a sketch of the relatively unknown Antonio Francisco Wouters, and discusses the latter's aesthetically and ideologically modified version of the original.

Seventeenth-century Dutch theatrical life is summarized by Rina Walthaus (152-74), and she proposes Theodore Rodenburgh as the first Dutch adaptor of Spanish works and themes.

Martin Franzbach explores (175-85) the interchange with Spain at the three dominant cultural nuclei in German-speaking Europe: the Court of Leopold II at Vienna, the itinerant theatrical company of Johannes Welten, and the opera of Hamburg. According to Franzbach, Calderon was the playwright of country fairs and court poet in Vienna about 150 years prior to the time of Schlegel, who is often erroneously cited as the one who discovered Calderon for German writers,.

Finally, Florian Smieja and Beata Baczynska summarize (186-93) the development of Polish theater and of political, religious, and cultural relations between Poland and Spain, noting some Spanish plays with Polish themes or characters, and other plays that reached Poland in non-Polish translations. The first direct translations of Cervantes and Calderon into Polish were not done, nevertheless, until the eighteenth century, a fact that makes this study somewhat less central than the others in the collection.

It certainly seems that the editors and authors of this book have remedied the paucity that has existed in comedia criticism until now, as stated in the preface:
 Aunque existen en el campo de la investigacion contemporanea abundantes
 indagaciones sobre la vida posterior del viejo teatro espanol, sea en
 Espana o en el resto de Europa, escasean los examenes pormenorizados de su
 influencia durante el periodo mismo de auge y esplendor de la comedia en la
 Peninsula. La novedad de esta coleccion estriba en que pone a consideracion
 del lector por primera vez yen un solo volumen un panorama global y
 comprensivo de la recepcion europea del teatro clasico espanol durante el
 siglo XVII, en el momento mismo de su creacion, produccion y desarrollo

That is, hardly any of the numerous prior studies of the influence of the comedia on other European theatrical practices has focused on its reception abroad during the century of its creation. With both its new and reprinted essays, this volume goes a long way toward filling that void. Students of comparative (especially dramatic) literature, the comedia, or of the other national theatrical literatures treated here will find this book worthy of their attention.
Western Michigan University
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2000 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Bigelow, Gary E.
Publication:Comparative Drama
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2000
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