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Bulletin Of The Comediantes Vol. Vili Spring, 1956 No. t Calderón's El Principe Constante: Fenix's Role in the Ransom of Fernando's Body1 by William M. Whitby, University of Southern California Calderón's technique of garnishing his main plots with "episodic" minor plots caused a number of nineteenth-century critics to complain oî a lack of unity in his plays. Yet if one has the patience to examine them carefully enough, it is remarkable how frequently these subordinate plots present analogous situations which are themselves clues to symbolic roles. Once these symbolic roles are recognized, it becomes evident that they develop an action which constitutes the play's unifying force. Calderón's El Príncipe constante will serve as an interesting example of the above. While many critics of the past century objected that the inclusion of the role of Fénix was the most serious defect to the play's unity, others took exception to the whole Fénix-Muley love episode, which also includes the figure of Tarudante. So Mila y Fontanals, referring to this episode, says that although "el asunto principal está debidamente aprovechado," it is "mezclado con un asunto o intereses secundarios , dañosos, no hay que negarlo, a la unidad de concepción."2 Although a fewrecent studies3 have shown that this criticism is not entirely just, no one, it seems, has thus far found a conclusive rebuttal. I hope to demonstrate here that, far from being "harmful .. . to the unity of conception," the sub-plot is indispensable to the expression of the author's idea. As there is a love triangle in this subordinate action, so there is a triangle of a different sort in the main action. This consists in a'clash'of wills between Fernando and the King of Fez over the possession of the city of Ceuta (which of course Fernando saves for Christendom by sacrificing himself) . The city, then, is the focal point of this action. In like manner, Fénix is the focal point of the minor action; the two who vie for her favor are Muley and Tarudante. In these two triangles, it would be natural to choose Fernando and Muley as corresponding members, for they are alike in suffering adversity and in finally achieving their goals. Their adversaries, the King of Fez and Tarudante, are alike in holding power and in being defeated in spite of it. The suggested comparison of the city of Ceuta to Fénix should not be startling. It may be recalled, for example, that in the days of the Reconquest the Moors regarded cities metaphorically as beautiful women. There is a reflection of this in the wellknown "romance" of Abenámar ("Allí habló el rey Don Juan,/ bien oiréis lo que decía:/ 'Si tú quisieses, Granada,/ contigo me casar ía;/ etc.'"). Besides the fact that Fénix and Ceuta are, in their separate frames of reference, the prizes which motivate the action, they have other points in common which direct attention to their parallel roles. The most striking of these is the fact that both are associated with the concept of beauty. Fénix, as William J. Entwistle has said, is the personification of "hermosura."4 The name "Ceuta" means "hermosura" according to the false—or poetic—etymology of the play ("y de Ceido nombre toma;/ —que Ceido [Ceuta, en hebreo/ vuelto el árabe 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. Assistant Editor John E. Keller University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, N. C. Subscription: $1 a year idioma]/ quiere decir hermosura,/ y ella es ciudad siempre hermosa." Jornada I, Scene ?). It is more than probable that Calderói-, when he took his etymology from Faría y Sousa's Epítome de las historias portuguesas7' and changed it somewhat, thus making the name "Ceuta" mean precisely "beauty," did so with the object of establishing more firmly the similarity of the city to Fénix. There are, then, two triangles, one of earthly love (Muley-Fénix...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 1-4
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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