John Parrack’s edition of La Estrella de Sevilla, number 31 in the valuable series Cervantes & Co., made this reviewer add the play (and this book) to her syllabus. Parrack’s introduction summarizes much current scholarship in a manner suited to scholars and students alike. In his foreword, Frederick de Armas notes that Parrack “rightfully foregrounds instability and inconsistency as one of the text’s main characteristics.” These uncertainties include questions about authorship, textual dilemmas, and the problem of identifying a tragic protagonist. Regarding the authorship debate, Parrack concludes that “the comediais anonymous until such time as there is a consensus among scholars regarding its author (or authors)” (19). The edition also incorporates much of the scholarship presented by de Armas in his edited volume, Heavenly Bodies: The Realms of “La Estrella de Sevilla”(1996).
The introduction is divided into sections such as “Astronomical Imagery,” “Conflicts/Themes,” and “The City of Sevilla in the ComediaTradition.” The pages titled “ Dramatis Personae” will help students visualize the characters more consistently, especially since some readers may be examining an early modern play for the first time and have minimal exposure to live theater. The detailed plot summary will free up class time and let students more quickly analyze the work’s structure. Parrack’s bibliography cites selected editions and translations of the play, a list of works on early modern culture and the comedia, and printed resources about La Estrellaitself, but, unfortunately, it omits electronic sources. The extensive Spanish-English glossary supplements the over 200 footnotes (in English), which provide definitions, paraphrase difficult passages, and differentiate between the sueltatext of the play and the longer, desglosadaversion discovered in 1920. For the sake of stylistic consistency, wherever possible, the English glosses all refer to a single translation of the play. An excellent, detailed list of “Topics for In-Class Discussion and Study” awakens students to the work’s themes and characters and challenges them to explore further; however, this printed list neglects any mention of the issues faced in staging and/or filming the play. Parrack employs abundant tables to examine structure and versification and to further condense his prose summaries of [End Page 183]such matters as scholarly controversies, the historical parallels between Sancho IV and Philip IV, and comparisons between Sevilla and Castilla. A table also summarizes the division into cuadrosand gives the probable setting for each, based on Anita Stoll’s analysis of the staging. This essential information—which is entirely ignored in the vast majority of comediaeditions—is helpfully repeated in the footnotes.
In time, a reedition of this book may solve several mechanical problems and highlight performance aspects of the work. The word Estrellais misspelled on the title page immediately before the play text and another misspelling occurs in footnote 53. The introduction contains no fewer than 18 sections, each with its own title, and, while their contents are uniformly clear and thorough, the analysis of the play as a whole would be more digestible if some of these sections were subordinated by using fonts, capitalizations, etc., especially since the table of contents exhibits the same confusion. Photos from a performance would enliven this edition, and, although illustrations often add expense to an edition, the color drawing on the cover could easily be replaced by a photo from a theatrical production of La Estrella de Sevilla, giving welcome publicity to an acting company. [End Page 184]