The "Severed Gate": Staging the Versatility and (Im)Permeability of the Reja


The comedia's tendency towards scenic minimalism is evident in the frequent use of staging techniques that preclude the need to visually establish changes in locale. Hearsay, for example, allows a character to report off-stage events without the need for set changes. Thus, a character may enter the stage with bloodied hands or sword to report an offstage murder as in Lope's El castigo sin venganza. Laurencia in Fuenteovejuna famously enters the stage "desmelenada," as evidence of her off-stage tousle with the Comendador. Nevertheless, while certain types of indeterminate locations required no scenery, specific locations were sometimes suggested through identifying set pieces. The reja was an actual set piece common to the indumentaria of theater companies of the period. The reja served a variety of scenic functions to indicate not only garden gates, but also prison cells, balconies, windows and even chapel grilles. Indeed, it is precisely the reliance of playwrights on an imprecise scenic space that allows for the versatility of the reja as a set piece—a versatility which is, in part, related to the development of modern novelistic discourse. (LLV)