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Reviews99 Fernández de Mesa, Blas. Lafundadora de la Santa Concepción. Comedia en dos partes. Edición, introducción y notas de Nancy K. Mayberry. New York: Peter Lang, 1996. Hardback. 258 pp. $54.95. The skills of a talented but little-known dramatist ofthe Siglo de Oro are revealed in this book, and it contains the most detailed and informative stage instructions yet brought to light from that era. Though praised in his own day by Lope de Vega, Morete, and Montalb án, poet-dramatist Blas Fernández de Mesa faded into obscurity thereafter. His many years as financial officer of Toledo—some of them asfiscal mayor —suggest pressures that no doubt kept him from literary pursuits. Los Silvas y los Ayalas, dated 1624, remains in the author's manuscript; Cada cual con su igual appeared in 1662 in Parte diezy seis de comedias nuevas y escogidas de los mejores ingenios de España. We may thank Professor Mayberry for publishing what might be considered the other half ofBlas de Mesa's dramatic works. The manuscript oí La fundadora de la Santa Concepción, dated 1664 and housed at the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, is partly holographic. The two plays make up the only complete dramatic work on the life of Beatriz de Silva. Tirso's Doña Beatriz de Silva (c. 1635) ends with the actors on the road to Toledo, the promised second part either lost or never written. The other forerunner, El milagro por los celos (c. 1620), appears in two manuscripts , in large part identical and bearing little similarity to Tirso's 1635 play. Mayberry presents several convincing reasons for her belief that Blas de Mesa wrote El milagro por los celos, or its lost predecessor, probably in the 1620s. Both Bias de Mesa and Tirso, as Toledans, must have been impressed by the discovery, in 1618 in Beatriz's tomb, ofa 1512 biography of the saintly woman. Encouragement from Pope Paul V in 1617 and again in 1619 concerning Spain's support for the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception may have helped inspire El milagro por los celos, as it did Lope's La limpieza no manchada. Part 2 oíLafundadora, however, was written in 1664. Blas de Mesa's use ofthe terms "segunda vez" to refer to Part 1 and "nuevamente" to refer to Part 2 suggest that Part 1 is a refundición, while Part 2 is new. The playwright probably found inspiration in Spain's general rejoicing over Pope Alexander VII's 1661 bull ending opposition to the doctrine ofthe Immaculate Conception. Toledans must have been especially exuberant, for it was in Toledo that Beatriz founded her order, the Congregation ofthe Immaculate Conception, shortly before her death in 1490. While Blas de Mesa exhibits the involved metaphors and inversions of 100BCom, Vol. 49, No. 1 (Summer 1997) culteranismo, he is clearly a polished poet and dramatist. The two plays can be considered comedias de santos, though Beatriz was not canonized until 1976. These two plays are of further interest for their absorbing portrait of Don Alvaro de Luna and his fall from royal favor, their clever look at a compassionate king in dialogue with himself as reyjusticiero, and—in Part 2—their play within the play, a device used successfully at least as early as Lope's Lofingido verdadero in 1608. Act 2 of Lope's La limpieza no manchada , written in 1618 when the University of Salamanca declared its faith in the Immaculate Conception, contains a play within the play on the same subject as that of the auto inside Blas de Mesa's play: the story of Esther. Mayberry has painstakingly examined and noted the various sources for the life of Beatriz de Silva, as well as those for the Don Alvaro legends. She has also described briefly the moments ofthe playwright's greatest dramatic effectiveness (20-22) and compiled a table of versification for each play (22-26). This valuable but refreshingly unpretentious introduction was smoothly translated by Luis Acévez. The major interest ofthese two plays, however, is the numerous and detailed stage instructions. They deal with props, devices, costumes, gestures, machinery—even, in some scenes...


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