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  • Public Theater in Golden Age Madrid and Tudor-Stuart London: Class, Gender and Festive Community
  • Frederick Tollini, S.J.
Ivan Cañadas . Public Theater in Golden Age Madrid and Tudor-Stuart London: Class, Gender and Festive Community. Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2005. 234 pp. + 1 color pls. index. bibl. illus. $94.95. ISBN: 0-7546-5187-8.

This work offers a valuable perspective for comparing English and Spanish theater during a period (ca. 1580-1630) of national self-definition for both countries. Instead of limiting himself to either a literary analysis of shared dramatic conventions or a search for an ideological basis of comparison (for example, Christian Humanism or a Marxist dialectic), Professor Cañadas joins current scholarly discourse in examining the historical (materialist) context and circumstances in order to develop a more subtle and nuanced interpretation of drama, theater, and its community. The major subject of the work is the role of rank and gender (patriarchal tradition vs. androgynous culture) in the formation of a community of players and audience embodying the conflicts and ambivalences of a society in the process of defining itself.

The book is divided into two parts. Chapters one and two are devoted to developing an overview of "Theater and Society in Early Modern Madrid and London," and "The Female Role in the Theaters of London and Madrid." The author first establishes the parameters of his work, discussing the patronage system and status of actors, the public theaters and their audiences, and de Vega's dramatic theory and practice. He then links these to the central question of the hybrid and heterosocial audiences for whom the plays were performed, and who could find addressed in them both the concerns of marginal groups (mainly women) and the questioning of conventional values (mostly patriarchal). The result, Professor Cañadas asserts, is a nuanced yet clearly perceivable ambiguity that "destabilizes" conventional views of power, gender, and even the orthodoxy of the plays [End Page 1206] themselves. The playwright (namely, de Vega) also becomes "destabilized" as a proponent of this or that monolithic view of society. On the subject of women on the stage and in society, Professor Cañadas discourses widely and wisely with many contemporary feminist scholars. After discussing the place of women on the stage and in the audience in both Spain and England, he develops his own position vis-à-vis the role of sexual ambivalence, cross-dressing, and androgyny in the theater. The theater adopts both the grotesque "hermaphrodite" to celebrate festive release associated with Carnival, and also the "sacrificial victim," either male or female, whose androgyny is expressed in the angelic acceptance of suffering. The essential value of this first section of the book is to establish the author's view and critical vocabulary. Of greatest service in the second part of the book is his development of the terms androgyny, homo- and heterosocial, hybrid audience, and polyphonal to refer to the many-voiced significances of an action, character, or scene.

The second part of the book is composed of three chapters which examine in detail Thomas Dekker's The Shoemakers Holiday, and also the works of Lope de Vega: Peribañez ye el Comendador de Ocaña, El mejor alcalde, El rey, and El villano en su rincón. Fuenteovejuna is studied much more extensively in a separate chapter as a paradigm of the heroic woman within the hybrid, androgynous peasant community. All these plays are subsumed into a category of plays of revolt against legitimate, but often abusive, authority in which the aristocratic hierarchy is ultimately reaffirmed. Yet this reaffirmation does not come without reconsideration and acceptance of lower marginalized classes, and a transformation of values which combines a type of (Christian) humanism with the communal celebration of Carnival. When one considers the framework and terms defined in the first part of the book, one can see how Professor Cañadas's argument develops and reaches its conclusion. The "mad" Simon Eyre, leader of the members of "The Gentle Craft" in Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday, confronts the audience with its own need to court favor with power, while giving all a...


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Archived 2009
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