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Metatheater in El mágico prodigioso: Defending the Auto de fe?

From: Bulletin of the Comediantes
Volume 64, Number 1, 2012
pp. 75-87 | 10.1353/boc.2012.0011



This essay explores the political resonances of the performativity within El mágico prodigioso by comparing Calderon's use of metatheater with the theatricality of the auto de fe. A strong link exists in El mágico prodigioso between the dramatic and the theological, specifically as this latter theme is developed in the cycle of Cipriano's temptation, sin, repentance, and salvation through martyrdom. It is this link between the theological and the theater that establishes an extratextual connection with the auto de fe. Departing from Roger Moore's assertions that God, the Devil, and Cipriano are all metatheatrical playwrights in Calderon's work and that Cipriano adopts the role of martyr in God's drama, Cipriano's martyrdom may be considered a theatrical piece, an eternal life-giving drama above all dramas penned by God. This concept may be extended to the auto de fe, which becomes, using Calderon's criteria established in El mágico prodigioso, a parallel divine production. Thus, an examination of the theatricality of Cipriano's martyrdom and its causes, accounting for the response of the graciosos and of nature to his execution, enables a reading of El mágico prodigioso as a defense of the auto de fe as a means to save the souls of repentant victims and to warn of the spiritual danger of ignoring God's identity as master playwright and director of human affairs.

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