restricted access Alpha and Omega: Structural Framework of Aguilar's Comedias
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ALPHA AND OMEGA: STRUCTURAL FRAMEWORK OF AGUILAR' S COMEDIAS John G. Weiger, University of Vermont«En el acto primero ponga el caso, / . . . / De suerte que, hasta el medio del tercero, / Apenas juzgue nadie en lo que para.»(l) This is not the place to present an exhaustive summary of the various interpretations made of these lines or of the ^4ríe nuevo as a whole, the range of which is well known. It is of interest, however, that Sra. de José Prades, on pp. 188-89 of her edition, herself travels the path from acceptance at face value to skepticism: After maintaining that it is «en estos versos donde está la verdadera opinión del Fénix acerca del desenvolvimiento que debe darse al asunto dramático; porque en ellos está expuesta la práctica que seguían los dramaturgos de la Comedia Nueva. Esto sí es doctrina auténtica y no la paráfrasis de doctrina robortelliana . . . , » she then interprets the meaning to be that «la intriga debe adentrarse hasta mediado el acto tercero, sin que ningún espectador, por agudo que sea, pueda atisbar cuál va a ser el desenlace dramático.» It is the necessity of keeping the audience «intrigado e interesado hasta el último momento,» she observes, that is the cause of so many «finales bruscos y con frecuencia excesivamente precipitados. » But then she reverses herself: «No obstante, no estamos muy seguros de que el auditorio no adivinase el desenlace de la obra» in view of the audience's familiarity with the conventions of the Comedia. My aim here is not to criticize what may seem to be Sra. de José Prades' apparent selfcontradiction ; on the contrary, her ambivalence reveals an illuminating insight. Although she at first insists that «ningún espectador, por agudo que sea, » may foresee what the denouement will be, her subsequent obervation is that it is the manner in which the dramatist resolved the situation that kept the audience in their seats. Perhaps she was guided by Lope's own qualification that the plot is to be constructed so that «apenas juzgue nadie en lo que para.» The question, then, is whether or not Lope means to reveal «el caso» at the beginning, and if he does, is caso distinguished from argumento?(2) As my footnote attempts to show, the answer is in the affirmative. (The possibility of the familiar play on apenas / a penas adds weight to the importance of the manner ofthe unfolding.) To reveal «el caso» at the beginning, then, is not to give away the manner in which the problem will be resolved. How the ingredients of the «caso» may be presented in the early scenes of a comedia, and how these anticipate the elements of the solution is the object of the present paper. I shall focus on the works of the Valencian Gaspar de Aguilar (1561-1623).(3) 26 The most skillful treatment of this technique is found in La suerte sin esperanza, in which the first sound to greet our ears is the jingling of cascabeles , «como cuando corren caballos,» followed by the play's opening words which describe a horse: «Gallardo sale el overo. » The sentence, spoken by a servant identified only by the number «1,» is followed by another uttered by number «2,» in which the horse is linked to a horseman: «Parece ques un centauro / el caballo y caballero.» Servant number «3» now adds his reaction to the horse race: «Al rucio se debe el lauro / de brioso y de ligero.» Further comments are made about the lovely mane and beautiful hide, followed by the observation that «Todo el mundo está suspenso / de ver su brío y tropel,» and references to the animal's speed: «Al aire imita.»«Antes pienso / que el aire le imita a él» (p. 205). All of this is described in the first ten lines of the comedia. There is nothing complex, for we are simply listening to the description of a real-not metaphorical-horse. What more common association could one imagine than to speak of speed and spirit when praising a horse? Before proceeding, however, it is fruitful to focus on some meaningful details...