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Reviewed by:
  • Diccionario de la comedia del Siglo de Oro
  • Charles Victor Ganelin
Casa, Frank P., Luciano García Lorenzo, and Germán Vega García-Luengos, eds. Diccionario de la comedia del Siglo de Oro. Madrid: Castalia, 2002. xxi + 429 pp.

Members of every field of inquiry sigh at one point or another, "I wish we had a handy reference book suitable for scholars and students alike." In early modern Spanish studies, Howard Mancing's compendious Cervantes Encyclopedia occupies that place, as do numerous MLA-published Approaches to Teaching collections. While Melveena McKendrick's 1989 Theatre in Spain, 1490-1700 has become essential, no other reference work to date, as far as I am aware, offers the specific detail, depth, and breadth of the Diccionario de la comedia del Siglo de Oro. Although I detail below a few minor problems, from the outset I do state that comedia students and scholars are the richer for having this volume at hand.

An impressive array of 102 international scholars gives form to the volume, all of whom have published informative studies on the comedia. Following a list of the contributors is the "Esquema para leer el Diccionario como un tratado sobre la comedia," a title that harks (intentionally?) to earlier days of learned treatises. The "Esquema" divides the work into nine groupings: Origen y Desarrollo; Los Textos; Géneros y Subgéneros; Fuentes y Temas; Personajes; Poética; Conceptos e Ideología; La Representación; and Recepción y Estudio. Following, then, a "Presentación" are the Diccionario itself, a bibliography of works referenced under the individual listings, and an "Indice Analítico" that provides motifs, character names, writers, critics, and play titles.

Entries range in length from a column and a half (in a two-column/page format) to several pages. The relative shortness of the entries is both a strength and weakness: numerous listings could have provided important details and greater understanding. At the same time, this collection functions as a handbook to help orient new readers and spectators of the comedia, to assist teachers presenting the material for the first time (I refer both to a student's first reading of the comedia and an instructor's first experience in teaching it), and to refresh the memories of scholars needing a quick definition or a bare-bones bibliography of a topic. [End Page 133]

On the whole I find the name/date reference format at the end of each article too limited. This very structure could have allowed each contributor to add as a suggestion up to a dozen references. I recognize that this would have increased considerably the bibliography itself, yet it also would have made the collection even more useful. At the same time, I note the complete absence from the bibliography of any of Edward H. Friedman's publications (although he is the author of three articles in the book).

Readers' individual perspectives will lead them to question why one finds an entry for "ingleses" as characters in comedias but not "franceses," "flamencos," "alemanes," or "austriacos." I miss, too, an entry for "indios" or "americanos" in addition to an article on "América." Under the list of character names we find "Gutierre" but not "Clarín," an odd lapse even if the compilers felt the need to be as succinct as possible. To their credit, they do anticipate the nature of the critiques they surely receive: "En todo caso, hemos itentado que los pecados fueran por exceso y no por omisión: que no faltase lo fundamental, aunque pudiera haber materiales que algunos considerasen prescindibles" (xx). Of course some readers will find certain missing entries "imprescindibles."

One area that deserves greater attention is critical approaches, both to the texts themselves and to a performance tradition. Readers do not need a detailed account of numerous schools of thought, available in a manual of literary criticism, but certainly a wider net could be cast, especially given differences in approach between North American and European scholars (I state this as an observation, not a qualitative judgment). Throughout a number of entries (for example, "Investigadores ilustres," "Revistas de investigación") passing references to general methodologies are found. It would...


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