Golden-Age Theatre, Second Republic, Cervantes, Lope De Vega, Calderón
Within an unobtrusive methodological framework borrowed from Bourdieu, David Rodríguez-Solás has written a perceptive study of the reception of Spanish Golden Age theater within the Second Republic, or, as he defines it, “la renegociación del valor del pasado a través del análisis del teatro clásico que se representó y circuló en la década de los treinta” (14). Despite the idealism of much Republican rhetoric, there is a sense of failure in each of the five sections of the book, perhaps ultimately deriving from the fact that the original context of the plays involved the consolidation of the Spanish monarchy.
With a national illiteracy rate of 32 percent, the primary aim of the Misiones Pedagógicas was to set up libraries in more remote areas. Among the books provided were Golden Age plays, but Rodríguez-Solás is careful to point out (in chapter 1) the limited success of what would appear to be a laudable exercise. Although many libraries were established, the evidence of library inspectors and the scholarship of Ana Martínez Rus demonstrate how provincial administrators did not always support the venture, and the more powerful sectors within villages sometimes automatically associated libraries with subversive ideas. Talks on the new constitution given by visiting representatives have to be seen in this light. Meanwhile, art from the Golden Age traveled to rural areas in itinerant exhibitions of painted reproductions of famous pictures. Other educational events included screenings of Kodak informative films often inapplicable to a Spanish setting: one notorious example showed irrigation systems of a sophistication totally alien to the audience.
It is indeed possible to argue that the cultural shock of such initiatives did much to distance some Spaniards from the Second Republic. One has only to consider the policy on rewriting national history: in 1932, a government circular instructed school inspectors to check books used for teaching and remove those containing “apologías del exrey [sic] o de la monarquía” (61). Spanish history was reinvented by underlining every possible continuity or evolution from previous institutions to those of the current regime. Historians emphasized every [End Page 234] possible role for the people—rather than individuals—in national events, although a pantheon of new national heroes developed simultaneously, including Mariana Pineda, Joaquín Costa and Francisco Giner de los Ríos.
All these endeavors provide a backdrop against which the role of Golden Age drama can be assessed in the two theatrical projects most closely associated with the Second Republic: the Teatro del Pueblo, dependent on the Misiones Pedagógicas (chapter 2), and La Barraca, directly subsidized by the government (chapter 3). The Teatro del Pueblo, composed of about fifty Madrid students and directed by Alejandro Casona (after a brief period with Rafael Marquina), visited more than two hundred villages in the course of its four-year-long existence. Its repertoire included plays by Lope de Rueda, Cervantes, and Calderón. Rodríguez-Solás gives political readings of two entremeses by Cervantes: La elección de los alcaldes de Daganzo (in which the clergy—in a proleptic Republican gesture—are denied any agency in decisions of civil power) and El juez de los divorcios (premiered two months after the divorce law had been passed on 2 March 1932). For his adaptation of an episode from Don Quijote called Sancho Panza en laínsula, Casona added passages praising popular wisdom and peasant life. Given that these performances took place beyond a forum judged by newspaper critics, it is hard to gauge how successful they were; Rodríguez-Solás can refer only to the propagandistic photographs and accounts of open-mouthed wonder as affirmative evidence.
Since La Barraca performed in bigger towns than the Teatro del Pueblo (as well as in Madrid) and frequently drew educated audiences, it has left a richer documentation supplying more details on productions and their reception. Misconceptions nevertheless persist: as Lorca had to explain to...