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Bulletin Of The Comediantes Vol. V Fall, 195 3 No. 2 A Tentative Classification for Themes In the Comedia .b? . John E. Keller, University of North Carolina Last December in Boston the Comediantes discussed the need for a classification of themes found in the comedia. No satisfactory conclusions were reached, but the topic aroused so much interest and the problem was so stimulating that the group decided to continue its study at the next MLA meeting in Chicago. Several approaches to classification or indexing of themes or plots were discussed: some held the opinion that a few well-known themes should be traced throughout the dramatic production of one or more playwrights ; others thought a broader coverage should be made, one that would attempt to index all existing types of themes in the entire genre of the comedia, a monumental undertaking, but one of great potential worth; to still a third group the motif-indexing system devised by Stith Thompson for folk narrative seemed a possible solution. The writer has worked with some success at the classification of motifs in medieval Spanish exempla,1 and feels therefore strongly attracted to the goal of the Comediantes. After a good deal of attention to the matter of a system that might adapt itself to the comedia, he has reached some conclusions that may be of interest to the group. The world-standard system of motif-indexing by Stith Thompson was seriously considered . This system was set up as a means of indexing or classifying the folk narrative of the whole world and of all the cultures therein. His Motif-Index is an encyclopedic work running to an astronomical number of divisions and subdivisions.2 When I talked to Thompson shortly after the Comediantes' meeting, he told me that he believed his system , as it stands, was not suited to drama and that some new system should be devised. Since then I have been working with a number of plans, all of which lead me to believe that the Thompson system, in some of its aspects at least, could be adapted to our problem. Themes, when ail is said and done, are parts of narrative. When one sets out to classify the types of narrative and the many themes and motifs that compose narrative, one finds that a system somewhat like that of Thompson keeps recurring. A comedia is often much more complex, of course, than a folktale, and yet the same themes are common to both genres. Usually one motif, one theme, serves as the framework of a tale, and this has made the classification of themes in tales quite a concrete and definite matter to treat. Only occasionally does one motif or theme form the framework of a comedia, and hence it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to state definitely which of several themes found in a comedia is its central theme. For example, in La vida es sueño we have (1) the theme of a prince locked away in a cave as (2) the result of an unfavorable prophecy at his birth. A lady (3) disguised as a man comes to his country (4) bringing a sword by which she is to be recognized by those who can help her. The prince in the cave has never seen a woman but (5) he reacts to the disguised 1/ BULLETIN OF THE COMEDIANTES Published in the Spring and Fall by the Comediantes, an informal, international group of all those interested in the comedia. Editor Everett W. Hesse University of Wisconsin Madison 6, Wis. Subscription: $1 a year lady. (6) The prince is drugged and brought from the squalor of the cave into the royal bed where (7) he awakens to find himself a ruler much to his surprise. All these are themes of the play, and there are more in the form of subsidiary motifs such as that of the man in difficulty who subsists on bitter lupines. When he sees another eating the hulls that he has cast aside, he is consoled and betters his lot. Such ancient folktales as this were in vogue in the drama of the period. They, too, should appear in our classification . Such is our...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 17-23
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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