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Bulletin Of The Comediantes Vol. XVI Spring, 1964 No. 1 Approaching the Metaphysical Sense of Gil Vicente's Chivalric Tragicomedies Bruce W. Wardropper, Duke University A tragicomedy in the Spanish Renaissance meant a play about courtly love, in which the lovers, by concentrating obsessively on their love, ignored factors outside themselves, factors destined to bring them to the brink, or to the abyss itself, of tragedy . So it is with Rojas' Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea, Encina's Tragicomedia de Plácida y Vitoriano, Vicente's Tragicomedias de Don Duardos and de Amadís de Gaula. Gil Vicente's two chivalric tragicomedies are at first glance very different from one another. Don Duardos , depending for its effects on magic, soliloquies, and songs, is as lyric as it is dramatic; Amadís, without music and without even the supernatural elements of the novel on which it is based, is a starkly dramatic work. Except for their origin in the books of chivalry and their tale of love's temporary frustration, it is hard to see what these two plays have in common. The fact is that they complement one another: in both dramas the metaphysical sense, revealed through the poetic imagery, poses related problems. The author's starting-point, in both the source and the conception of the work, was almost identical on each creative occasion . Two similar artistic intuitions— the product of meditation on a particular kind of reading—have acquired , as a result of the dramatist's perception of what his reading meant, sharply divergent expressions. To explain my way of reading Gil Vicente I must reveal my approach by taking the reader on a swift excursion to the medieval Spanish drama. The most obvious fact in the history of the early Spanish theatre is the lack of texts. The two poles of our understanding of this history are the anonymous Auto de los Reyes Magos (mid-twelfth century) and Gómez Manrique's Representación del nacimiento de Nuestro Señor (mid-fifteenth century). The latter work not only does not mark an advance over the former; it is retrogressive . In the Representación there is more immobility, less dialogue, more tableaux vivants. Yet it is from the extremely primitive stage reached by Gómez Manrique's liturgical play that both the religious and the secular theatre of the sixteenth century emerge, thanks to the creative genius of Juan del Encina. To return to the poles of our knowledge, we may try to characterize the two liturgical plays of the Middle Ages in meaningful terms. The Auto de los Reyes Magos is a dramatic version of the Officium Stellae, the office for Epiphany. In this service the Church celebrates the occasion on which Christ became known to scholars, critics, intellectuals . In the play, then, an intelligent skepticism underlies faith. The Magiari Kings doubt; the fourth king— Herod—doubts; the other wise men— the astrologers and religious leaders of Herod's court—also doubt. Faith and disbelief both spring from the 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 William M. Whitby University of Arizona Tucson, Arizona Associate Editor Karl-Ludwig Selig University of Texas Austin, Texas Business Manager J. W. Peters Muskingum College New Concord, Ohio Subscription: $2 a year same intellectual doubts. This is a play of interrogation, as a glance at the punctuation will show. The interrogation leads to a dialectic, then to a dialogue, and to an action. The Auto is a drama full of speculation, of ideas, and at the same time of movement. The Representación del nacimiento de Nuestro Señor, on the other hand, transfers to the stage the office for Christmas Eve, the Officium Pastorum. In this service the Church celebrates the occasion on which Christ became known to simple, illiterate men whose faith—la fe del carbonero—is assailed by no doubts. In Gómez Manrique's play the only character who doubts the Child's divinity is Joseph; and he does not doubt through intellectual scruples but on the anti-rational grounds of jealousy. The other characters — Mary, the shepherds, and...


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