Virués's Theater of the Grotesque: Interrogating La gran Semíramis from Roman Chronicle to the new York stage
Abstract

Abstract:

Cristóbal de virués's La gran Semíramis features characters, images, and ideas that may be interpreted as grotesque. Recognizing this potential in the text, director Diego Chiri integrates visual and conceptual elements of this aesthetic into his 2015 Repertorio Español production of the play. In fact, three different types of grotesque are evident in the text and in Chiri's production, and all of them help to reconcile opposing, apparently contradictory ideas in the work. The ambivalent, simultaneous repulsion and attraction prompted by the abject, as conceived by Julia Kristeva, helps sustain in tension divergent views of the characters. Images and actions are subjected to processes of distortion, transformation, degradation, and parody, in the spirit of Mikhail Bakhtin's grotesque realism. The playwright and director reveal the machinations of power to be grotesque when wielded by vile sovereigns, as defined by Michel Foucault, and sanctioned by weak-minded administrators. An analysis of the Roman chronicles of Semiramis from which virués draws his action reveals how, contrary to his sources, he has chosen to magnify the alleged controversial aspects of her persona to the extent that they overshadow her heroism. virués's treatment of material from classical historians Diodorus and Justinus is characterized by the simultaneity of different modes of interpreting and representing the body and sexuality, and suggests that he participates in the processes of distortion and degradation that have typified the production of the Semiramis myth, itself grotesque, throughout the centuries.