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Bulletin Of The Comediantes Vol. XII Spring, 1960 No. 1 The Comedia in the Light of Recent Criticism Including the New Criticism by Stephen Gilman, Harvard University The topic discussed at the 1959 conference of the "comediantes" was "The comedia in the Light of Recent Criticism including the New Criticism."1 Insofar as this topic indicates a desire to reassess problems and methods, it is surely to be praised. Wade, Reichenberger, A. A. Parker, and Castro2 (in his suggestive reconsideration of the function and meaning of honor) all testify to a growing sense of dissatisfaction with routine thinking and standard procedures . More or less careful editions of more or less interesting plays by authors frequently of secondary or even tertiary importance are unquestionably valid and useful contributions to knowledge. But I do think that such editions with their prefabricated introductions , are in danger of reaching the point of diminishing returns. As our choice of topic itself indicates, we really don't need to know more; we need to understand more. For as Castro says, referring to the humanities in general, "Hemos llegado a la absurda situación de que sea el problema, no lo desconocido, sino lo sabido."3 But understanding by itself is hardly enough. Through understanding we must be led to accept the challenge of relevance, and by this I mean simply the relevance of what we study to our own lives, to residence now on earth, to the anguishes, assumptions, and estimations of our time and culture. This for me is the central challenge. It is also one for which the "comediante" seems very poorly armed. For on the face of it nothing appears more irrevocably past, more hopelessly irrelevant, more appropriately forgotten than most "comedias," "comedias" written to appeal to the attitudes, prej udices, and opinions of the "vulgo" of an alien nation and a foreign age. Even worse, in spite of ingenious and worthy attempts to demonstrate the contrary, the "comedia" does not participate in those standard varieties of relevance called the comic and the tragic. This point is made very well by both Parker and Reichenberger. Instead of criticizing comically or questioning tragically, the "comedia," with very few exceptions, celebrates and affirms the values, ideas, and beliefs of a society quite unlike our own. Even when honor is railed against and seems to function as a kind of tragic fate, it is never probed deeply. It cannot be, for it is, in fact, an external mask—without depths to probe. How to meet the challenge of relevance? A frequent answer is to ignore it by maintaining that history is self-justifying. This is all right if you can do it, but, as Unamuno knew, life rebels against antiquarianism making the antiquarian uneasy and apologetic —when he is not combative and arrogant . Another is to ally the "comedia" to aspects of history which are generally accepted as relevant—that is to say, to use it as a means to a relevance external to itself. The simplest form of this is to extract from "comedias" indications of the customs and manners of the "Siglo de Oro." Ricardo 1 BULLETIN OF THE COMEDIANTES Published in the Spring and Fall by the Comediantes, an informal, international group of all those interested in the comedia. Editor Karl-Ludwig Selig University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, N. C. Associate Editor John E. Keller University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, N. C. Subscription: $ 1 a year del Arco's compendium is a typical example.4 But when Leo Spitzer tells us that Fuenteovejuna represents Platonic harmony theatrically and when Roaten and Sánchez y Escribano find Renaissance structure therein ,5 in more complex ways they accept the same alliance. One sees the play as a vehicle for the history of ideas and the other as a kind of structural archetype of its epoch. And in both cases, I would maintain, there is distortion, a failure to take the play on its own terms and to estimate the peculiar exaltation and heroic tension emergent from its poetic self. In saying this, I don't want to be misinterpreted. I don't mean to imply that this sort of alliance is not a...


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