Calderón's Guárdate del agua mansa is a lively comedy with which a succession of set-pieces related to a royal wedding has been combined. The hybrid nature of the work has given rise to much discussion and not a little adverse comment. It is the aim of this article to show —as J. E. Varey has already done with the comedy Casa con dos puertas mala es de guardar — that both comedy and epithalamium are in fact heavily stylized and closely interrelated. What is in question is not a trivial if amusing play onto which a protracted piece of flattery has been rather clumisly superimposed, but a skillfully unified piece of work. In the comedy the audience is shown the absurdity of various extreme points of view through a series of sharply contrasting characters who ultimately recognize their own follies and, having improved in discretion and responsibility, finally enter into suitable marriages with every prospect of happiness. The court episodes, apart from being a graceful celebration of a royal occasion, present the spectator with a contrasting standard by which to measure what he is seeing in the main action. Instead of the confusion which reigns in the comedy, a stately harmony pervades the wedding poem, and the audience is presented with the ideal marriage in the ideal setting. The play therefore has an essential unity, based on entry into matrimony: progress from indiscretion and irresponsibility towards discretion and responsibility is reinforced by an idealized royal example. (CJW)


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pp. 75-87
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