History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Late 17th Spanish

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Pedro Calderón de la Barca[edit]

Calderón de la Barca was a dominant dramatist of 17th century Spain for several decades. Portrait of the author by an unknown artist

Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681) continued work into the second half of the century with equal brillance, particularly "Guadarte del agua mansa" (Still waters run deep, or more literally Beware of sleeping waters, 1657), on the violent conflict arising between two rivals vying for the hands of two sisters of calm and turbulent personalities. A second play of renown is "El alcalde de Zalamea" (The mayor of Zalamea, 1651) about the conflicts arising between the interests of the army and those of the townspeople.

"Beware of sleeping waters"[edit]

Time: 1650s. Place: Madrid, Spain.

Text at https://archive.org/details/eightdramascald01barcgoog

Felix receives the visit of Juan and Pedro. They contemplate on the opposite side of his house Clara and Eugenia, daughters of his neighbor, Alonzo. Juan and Pedro reveal to Felix that they each love one of the two daughters but without saying more. Alonzo invites Torribio, his nephew, to marry one of the two, but neither like him. To Felix his house has become "the hospice of convalescence of the sick in love". In the street, Felix, Juan, and Pedro encounter the two sisters. When Felix asks for whom they sigh for, both Juan and Pedro answer the one holding a handkerchief and then leave him. Before he turns around, Eugenia hands the handkerchief over to Clara, and so Felix thinks it is her. Unknowing of the other two's intentions, Torribio offers his hand in marriage to Eugenia. When Alonzo announces Torribio's choice, the loud and lively Clara sarcastically offers to her quiet sister "sincere congratulations for her felicity". Eugenia submits to her father's will, yet requests Torribio to renounce the thought, refusing him for not having "I-do-not-know-what". When the rejected lover meets Alzonzo, he says he will never again appear before his love until finding I-do-not-know-what. Felix then enters to warn Clara that Juan and Pedro will hazard not only their lives for her sake but also her reputation. Not having had the chance of even knowing Felix, Juan, or Pedro, Clara is astonished at these news. Afraid of being compromised, Eugenia intercepts a letter Felix wrote to explain his views on these matters. Also afraid of being compromised, Clara calls out loudly so that the entire household enters to find out what is going on, so that an abashed Felix disappears. As Alzonzo, Torribio, and others search for him, Clara obtains the letter meant for her sister. Later, Eugenia sees Pedro in the street from her window and, to set matters right, declares she will no longer allow his liberties. She then expresses to Clara her view that "noise, agitation, and amusement" were what she looked for in a convent where she was raised. "The peril is in tranquil waves," she adds, "so the wisest has always known that still waters run deep." Another letter is brought to the two sisters, which Torribio out of jealousy wishes to see, but this is prevented by the sisters' duena, Maria. When he threatens to hit her, she hits him instead and cries out that she is being killed, so that the household is once again in an uproar. The letter is merely on the part of their uncle inviting them to see the queen's festivities from his balcony. Later, Felix receives a letter from Clara, inviting him to meet a second time. Juan has been told that Eugenia does not wish to see him. Suspecting Felix as the cause, he asks to see his letter to Eugenia. Thinking that Clara is Eugenia, Felix is in a great difficulty with respect to his friend, but refuses to let him see it, so that a duel must ensue. Pedro enters, also woe-begone for the same reason as Juan. He tries to prevent the impending duel, but when Juan tells him that Felix may be Eugenia's lover, Pedro is angry with both. All three cry out at once: "Both of you have outraged my honor" and decide to fight it out with swords, but Alonzo and Toribio interrupt them. When next Torribio sees Maria, he hits her and cries out that he is now the one being killed. To plague her sister out of spite over her success concerning men, Clara insinuates to Torribio that Eugenia favors another man, inviting him to listen in secret to her conservations from the balcony. Clara calls her sister, informing her that the two rivals were seen fighting each other and that her father has "violent suspicions" concerning her attitude. Felix arrives to see Clara as arranged. They hear a noise, and, to avoid Alonzo's interference, Clara goes to her room while Felix runs to the balcony where he sees Torrobio. Pedro enters only to witness the surprising sight of Alonzo fighting Juan, whom he considers an intruder in his house. Having also seen Felix on the balcony, Pedro has now two men to contend with. Felix halts the fight and divulges that Eugenia received him in this room to prevent any further quarrel between the rivals. However, Eugenia denies this, at which point Alonzo discovers Clara as being responsible for hiding Felix. Clara confesses that she wanted "to hinder Eugenia's loves but could not resist her own". Felix is elated, for now he can "reveal his fires" to Clara, while Juan and Pedro have no more cause for jealousy, for Torribio being found wanting in intellect, Alonzo decides to marry off Eugenia to Juan, with all the more reason because he was her mother's choice before she died.

"The mayor of Zalamea"[edit]

The king prevents further outrage by naming Pedro perpetual mayor of Zalamea. Portrait of Philip II of Spain by Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625)

Time: 1550s. Place: Zalamea, Spain.

Text at http://books.google.fr/books/about/The_Mayor_of_Zalamea.html?id=niDkBsTl3ssC&redir_esc=y https://archive.org/details/eightdramascald01barcgoog

Soldiers enter the village of Zalamea on their way towards Lisbon to see King Philip II of Spain crowned king of Portugal. The captain of the company, Alvaro, converses with a sergeant regarding the townswomen one may notice there. "When a woman does not dress with grace and elegance, in my view she ceases to be a woman," the captain affirms. An affected gentleman, Mendo, courts Isabel, daughter of the well-to-do Pedro, but with no intention of marrying her. She does not wish to see him. Seeing the thin gentleman plant himself before their house, her brother, Juan, exclaims: "Always that phantom at my door with his plumes and gloves!" Pedro agrees to welcome the captain as his house guest and enjoins Isabel to remain invisible to the soldiers in a room at the top floor of the house. By the very fact she cannot be seen, Alvaro is attracted to her. He proposes to a soldier, Rebolledo, to pretend to fly from his rage into her room. The ploy works. Her beauty allays his pretended anger. Despite her low social rank, he shows signs of being smitten by her charms, but their talk is interrupted by Pedro and Juan. Suspecting Alvaro's intentions, Juan feels insulted, but his father, thinking no evil, defends the captain. Despite the father's calming words, the son and the captain draw their swords. The head of the company of soldiers, Lope, suddenly appears, and, hearing the reason of the commotion, orders Rebolledo to be whipped with rods, at which an affronted Rebolledo reveals all. Lope then orders Alvaro to leave Pedro's house, as he is now to stay there himself. Hearing of the captain's intentions, Mendo becomes jealous and asks his servant, Nuno, how Isabel treats the captain. "As she does you," Nuno answers. "Isabel is a divinity that the gross vapors of the earth do not attain." For this sarcasm, Mendo strikes his face. Nuno responds that was well done, for his master only broke two of his teeth, "useless appendages in your service," he adds. Later, Isabel is serenaded by Rebolledo and others in the presence of Pedro, Juan, and Lope, all four irritated by such attentions. Lope and Pedro attack the musicians with swords to disperse them along with Mendo. They also attack each other until prevented by Juan. Since the people are ill disposed towards the soldiers, Lope orders the captain to leave town along with the entire troop. Recruited as a soldier, Juan is also to go. But Alvaro has other plans. He kidnaps Isabel while Rebolledo pushes Pedro away towards his house. Although Isabel's cousin, Ines, gives Pedro his sword so that he may defend himself, all action is to no avail. A sergeant ties Pedro to a tree while Alvaro rapes his daughter. In the aftermath, Isabel wanders wearingly inside the forest and sees her father still tied to the tree. She explains to him that Juan found the captain and wounded him, but could do no more, being saved by accomplices. She encourages her father to kill her, but he refuses. As he is being untied, Pedro learns that he has just been elected mayor of Zalamea. "Your father is the mayor; he will render you justice," Pedro assures her. On locating the captain's whereabouts, he commands officers of the law to have an eye on the soldiers while conversing with him. In view of his superior status, Pedro proposes to yield to Alvaro all his goods provided he restore his honor by marrying Isabel, but he refuses. The mayor orders his arrest despite his claims that civil authorities have no jurisdiction over him. The mayor also orders the arrest of his accomplices. Thinking Isabel guilty of trying to escape with the captain, Juan takes out his dagger to kill her, but Pedro arrives in time to order his son's arrest for wounding the captain. He requests his daughter to accuse the rapist, but she is astonished he wants to make public what should be kept in silence. An outraged Lope learns of Alvaro's arrest and insists that the mayor hand over the prisoner to his authority, but the trial has already been conducted and the culprit executed. Incensed, Lope commands his troops to burn off the entire town until prevented by the king, who names Pedro mayor for his entire life. Juan is to be punished for stabbing the captain unlawfully and then rejoins the troops towards Portugal.