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Bulletin Of The Comediantes Vol. XIII Fall, 1961 No. 2 Lope's La Dama Boba And Baroque Comedy Bruce W. Wardropper The Johns Hopkins University I have argued elsewhere (RR, XLIX, 3-11) that, if the drama de honor is the peculiar form of Spanish baroque tragedy, the comedia de capa y espada is the peculiar form of its comedy. Honor plays deal with the problems of married people, sacramentalIy made one flesh by divine grace; any interference with this divinely ordained state is a kind of blasphemy, followed inevitably by retribution and misfortune. The cloakand -sword plays present unmarried people whose mutual bond is anything but a divine amalgam; they have practical difficulties rather than moral problems; their failures , falling well short of blasphemy, may be seen as ridiculous, and laughted at. Honor questions must be treated as part of the social fabric instituted and jealously supervised by God; love—human love—concerns the social order only in so far as society involves practical everyday living in the secular world. Many critics have tried with more or less acuity to analyze the implications of honor for the Spanish tragedy. The comedy —the theatre not of honor but of love— has been neglected. Since Menéndez Pelayo 's unsteady pinitos the study of the Spanish theatre has had a chance to grow up. We may now hope to approach the frivolous play of the Golden Age with a greater understanding of its internal mechanism. As a first step I should like, in the short space available to me, to make some observations on Lope de Vega's La dama boia as a baroque comedy. It is not an untypical work. I shall limit myself to two important aspects —the theme of love the teacher and the imagery of mirrors—in the hope that they will illuminate somewhat the genre as a whole. Lope makes one of his characters underline the essential difference that should distinguish the behavior of an unmarried woman from that of a wife: Hable la dama en la reja, escriba, diga conceptos en el coche, en el estrado, de amor, de engaños, de celos; pero la casada sepa de su familia el gobierno, porque el más discreto hablar no es santo como el silencio.1 The heroine of a comedy, then, is an idle chatterbox who, unlike her married sister, does not aim at a sainthood based on prudent silence. Her life is a shallow stream of lovemaking in conventional social situations, of verbal brilliance, of pique, of misunderstanding , of the madness of Eros and the grotesquerie of petty jealousy. The life of the married woman runs deep; it is circumscribed by the home she rules, sanctified by a conjugal love made firm by her constant preoccupation with her husband's honor, unsullied by any mean jealousy of him or any amorous frenzy towards other men. The superficiality of the single person's daily existence is conveyed in the play by a series of mirror images. Comedy, in Cicero's famous words, is a mirror held up to life. But mirrors reduce three dimensions to two. They are incapable of probing 1. P. 128. I cite from the edition in Colección Crisol, num. 32 (Madrid, 1944). 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 Karl-Ludwig Selig University of Minnesota Minneapolis, Minn. Associate Editor John E. Keller University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, N. C. Subscription: $1 a year even the visible world in depth. This, it turns out, is just as well. There are long periods in life when man must forget essential realities and heed only the demands of social relationships. In his foolishness he needs the protection of partial truth or even of engaño. Pues si un tonto ver pudiera su entendimiento a un espejo,¿no fuera huyendo de si? (p. 137) The reason for this is that man's capacity for understanding the world around him is not limitless. He must grope before he can grasp it. He must learn to recognize its deceitful nature and its insubstantiality. And so it...


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