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El Burlador de Sevilla y Convidado de Piedra. Ed. William F. Hunter. (review)

From: Bulletin of the Comediantes
Volume 65, Number 1, 2013
pp. 185-186 | 10.1353/boc.2013.0010

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This unpretentious little paperback marks a milestone in scholarship on the princeps of the Burlador de Sevilla. The editor presents his criteria for a new critical edition in a clear and compelling manner in his prologue. This introductory statement is a model of its kind and sets the tone very nicely for the sober, exemplary edition that follows. We shall find no parti pris here, only the serious scholarship of a mature scholar. The issues of authorship, precedence, the Ur-text, and the filiation between the Burlador and Tan largo are addressed, but are taken into account only insofar as they relate directly to Hunter’s laser-like focus on reconstructing the best possible text of B. The volume is remarkably free of typos. The notes are extensive and clear; he uses the customary B and TL abbreviations, along with C (indicating an emendation to B) and S (for the hypothetical antecedent of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century sueltas). The edition was completed in 2000 but did not see print until 2010.

Two dueling critical editions, with both of which this one enters into dialogue—sometimes directly, sometimes by allusion—are those of Alfredo Rodríguez López-Vázquez (Reichenberger, 1984) and Luis Vázquez (Revista Estudios, 1989). It is clear that Hunter considers the RL-V edition to be the most eccentric and undisciplined of any produced before or since (xv). He classifies Luis Vázquez as an archconservative (xiv) who balks at changes to the princeps while sometimes offering less than compelling explanations for what others see as imperfections. It was ever so in human affairs, I suppose: liberal vs. conservative, and, in this case, ultraliberal (RL-V) vs. ultraconservative (Vázquez). Hunter, although conservative in important ways, strives for the aurea mediocritas, guided by reason and rigor.

There are quite human emotions that underlie the “liberalism” and “conservatism” alluded to above. RL-V was at the time a promising and ambitious young scholar in search of a reputation. He rode the authorship hobbyhorse and advanced an extreme notion of a hybrid text (drawing upon both B and TL, assuming both those two and the absent source text for both to be by Andrés de Claramonte) about as far as either would go -- and he did succeed in having us reexamine the evidence for paternity, such as it is. Vázquez was already the authority on Tirso and the editor of the respected Revista Estudios, but it did seem that he felt obliged to defend the honor of Tirso, a fellow Mercedarian, at all costs. In my two editions of the play (1991 and 1994), I followed the text established by Vázquez almost exclusively -- but with 40 emendations and one major disagreement -- because it adhered to the princeps and seemed to me the best available critical edition at that time, far preferable to the hybrid text of RL-V, and I could not take seriously the attribution to Claramonte. So I now find myself mentioned as one of the ultraconservatives, in the good company of Luis Vázquez (xiv). There is a bit of irony in this classification, given my long-ago skirmish with the ultraconservative members of the British School, by whom I was taken to be a renegade liberal at best.

Hunter is clearly conservative in his respect for the integrity of literary and cultural history, reasonable attribution, and, indeed, for the edición príncipe, faute de mieux. Although he seems intent on setting himself apart from Vázquez, he obviously has much in common with the Mercedarian, and nothing at all, it would seem, with R-LV. Vázquez is largely correct, insofar as authorship, the foundational nature of the princeps, and the relationship between B and TL are concerned, albeit aberrant in his deference to Tirso, especially in the direct link he assumes between playwright and princeps, whereas RL-V is aberrant in all substantive issues relating to authorship and a legitimate base text.

There are essential differences between the approaches of Vázquez and Hunter, of course. If Vázquez relies overly much on a direct connection between Tirso and the princeps and tries to justify various and sundry...

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