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A propos of Lope de Rueda's Las aceitunas Carroll B. Johnson University of California, Los Angeles The seventh paso of Lope de Rueda's El deleitoso, as everyone knows, dramatizes a ridiculous quarrel between a rustic husband and wife concerning the price to be charged for the fruit of an olive tree which has just been planted . The clash between Toruvio and his shrewish wife occupies the attention of the audience from the very beginning. Toruvio is spoiling for a fight with Águeda in his first speech. "Pues dezí agora: ¿qué os terna aparejado de comer la señora de mi mujer? ¡Assi mala ravia la mate!"' Similarly, Agueda 's first speech reveals a certain lack of charity toward her husband, who has just hauled a load of wood in a driving rain. "Ya, ya, el de los misterios, ya viene de hazer una negra carguilla de leña, que no hay quien se averigüe con él." (260) The antagonism between husband and wife is thus firmly established before the subject of the olives is ever broached. Águeda accuses Toruvio of having neglected to plant them. "Yos asseguro, marido, que nunca se os acordó de plantar aquel renuevo de azeitunas que rogué que plantássedes." Toruvio springs to his own defense: "¿Pues en qué me he detenido sino en plantalle como me rogastes?" (261) Instead of being gratified, Águeda seems miffed by the fact that her husband has indeed remembered to plant the tree. She attacks in a new direction : "Callad, marido: ¿y adonde lo plantastes?" Toruvio's answer, besides demonstrating again his own competence , is well calculated to turn away wrath. "AUi junto a la higuera breval, adonde, si se os acuerda, os di un beso." (261) The quarrel, which Toruvio has attempted to avert, is truncated by the appearance of Mencigüela with her father's dinner. While Toruvio is eating Águeda reopens the subject of the olives, this time in a more reasonable manner. The principal altercation grows out of her suggestion that the olives be harvested and sold. As we have seen, Rueda has taken good care to situate this quarrel against a background of animosity, to leave no doubt in the minds of his audience as to the respective attitudes of Toruvio and Águeda toward each other. The ensuing battle is not a direct confrontation of husband and wife; rather, each attacks the other by attacking Mencigüela. Águeda finally abandons her verbal attack in favor of a physical one, and Mencigüela cries out to her father for help. It is during this indirect confrontation that the full irony of the situation and the couple's stupidity are brought home to the audience . We see Toruvio and Águeda arguing over the price of the olives; we know the olive tree has just been planted because Toruvio himself has told us so. We are therefore in full possession of all the information necessary to enjoy the quarrel as farce. We also see first hand the ungenerous treatment of Mencigüela at the hands of her parents. At this point a new character, Aloxa, makes his appearance . Aloxa's function in the play has been described thus by Philip Ward. "[Rueda's] narrator appears as a neighbor in the second half of the scene and underlines the moral; he is a foil for the absurdity of Toruvio and Agueda . .. . He acts for the audience in putting their (sane) point of view befor the quarrellers."2 But is Aloxa a narrator, and does he form a bridge between the audience of the corral and the actors on the stage? If this were the case, Aloxa's appearance would amount to a shocking admission by Rueda that he had failed in his task of dramatizing, of acting out before our eyes the ridiculous quarrel between Toruvio and Águeda. Such a failure to make irony apparent through dialogue, much less the admission of this failure, seems unworthy of the precursor of Lope de Vega and acknowledged master of Cervantes. As we have seen, Rueda has taken care to preface the quarrel with all the information necessary for our understanding and enjoyment of it as it is being...


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