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«¿QUE ES ESTO QUE MIRO?»: CONVERGING SIGN SYSTEMS WELMEDICO DESUHONRA William R. Blue, University of Kansas El médico de su honra has been a topic for discussion by many critics using several different approaches -- moral, psychological, historical, thematic, New Critical. This paper proposes another way of contemplating the consummate artistry of Calderón through an examination of the stagecraft itself as it is disclosed by the visual markers of the play. A study of those signs allows us to observe how the playwright is able to reach the audience through means that are expressly those of a dramatic representation . Before we consider aspects ofthe nonverbal sign system, a few general concepts from the theory of semiotics, in the form of a brief introduction, are provided.(1)«The subject matter of semiotics -- ultimately a mode of extending our perception ofthe world -- is the exchange of any message whatever and of the system of signs which underlie them. »(2) Ferdinand de Saussure defined a sign as the unification of a concept and a sound image wherein, to use his example, arbor carries both the sound of the spoken word, «arbor,» and the mental picture, concept W .(3) The spoken word was designated«signifier,» the concept «signified,» and the union of the two, «sign.» Roland Barthes later expanded the initial notion of sign to include both verbal and nonverbal means of communication in which «images, gestures, musical sounds, objects, and the complex association of these form the content of ritual, convention, or public entertainment: these constitute, if not language, at least systems of signification. »(4) In his direct application of semiotics to drama, Tadeusz Kowzan has identified thirteen separate but linked sign systems that convey meaning.(5) But, before examining his classification, we need to repeat some well-known but, curiously, sometimes overlooked, especially in critical studies, aspects of theater. Theater depends on action - physical action, verbalization, performance for its effects. It is, at least in part, performance that sets drama apart from novel and poetry. Unperformed theater is theater only in so far as it is potentially representable, and the formal markings of the text ~ character lists, stage design, stage directions -- show this clearly. This is certainly not new. El Pinciano, in his treatise on theater, said: el poema que en papel está, no tañe ni dança más verdaderamente que las actiones trágicas y cómicas se dizen activas porque tienen su perfección en la action y representaci ón, y las que leydas y en papel no mueuen, 83 representadas mueven grandemente.(6) To return to Kowzan, then, he finds thirteen sign systems in theater used to communicate meaning: the word (and in this theater shares similarities with other literary forms), tone, mimicry, gesture, physical movement, clothing, props, decoration, lighting, music, sounds, make-up, and hair style. In fact, many of these elements were also commented on by El Pinciano as he detailed the meaning (signified) of certain gestures (signifier) of the actors. He prescriptively tells how actors should move their hands, feet, head, mouth, and eyes to convey a particular meaning: si está indignado, la mano mouerá más desordenadamente , apartando el dedo vezino al pulgar, llamado índize, de los demás, como quien amenaça; y si enseña o narra, podrá juntar al dedo dicho el medio y pulgar, los quales, a tiempos apartará y ajuntará... (p. 108) el labio muerde el que está apasionado de cólera y el que está alegre, dexa apartar el uno del otro labio un poco... (P- 109) en el ojo se vee un maravilloso movimiento, porque siendo un miembro tan pequeño, da sólo él señales de ira, odio, venganza, amor, miedo, tristeza, alegría, aspereza, y blandura; assi como el ojo sigue al affecto, los párpados y cejas siguen al ojo, sime el sobrecejo caydo al ojo triste, y el levantado, al alegre; el párpado abierto inmovible, a la alienación y éxtasi y a la saña... (P. 109) Since the actors could communicate so effectively through conventionally accepted and expected movements and gestures, the audience is presented with a visual, nonverbal sign system («system of communication») in each drama...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 83-96
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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