- Sor Juana’s Double Crossing to the Boards of the Bard:Los empeños de una casa and Helen Edmundson’s The Heresy of Love
Sor Juana’s El festejo de los empeños de una casa (1683) was, in effect, a prequel to the diaspora festival at London’s Globe Theatre in 2012, for it had been staged in English under the direction of Nancy Meckler as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2004 Spanish Golden Age Season. This major baroque literary figure of Mexico found herself on the boards of the bard in the illustrious company of Lope, Tirso, and Cervantes, whose works were also part of that season’s repertoire. This essay purports to re-read and re-view that RSC production of House of Desires in Catherine Boyle’s judicious and eminently playable translation. It also treats Helen Edmundson’s play, The Heresy of Love (2012), which maps Sor Juana’s struggles as nun and writer as she fought against an inflexible church establishment and the envy of some of her sisters. The Heresy of Love, also directed by Meckler, enjoyed a short run early in 2012 in Stratford-upon-Avon’s Swan Theatre.
For Maureen Mary Murphy (alias Sister Jude Marie)1
House of Desires or The Trials of a Noble House: Encloistered Tour de Farce and the Interrogation of an Ending
The inspiration for the first jornada of this essay comes from the “Shakespeare Found in Translation” diaspora project at London’s Globe Theatre in the spring of 2012, which mapped the journey of Shakespeare in translation, but not without representing things Hispanic in the “Read Not Dead” section. The project kicked off with a reading of Life’s a Dream (5 February 2012), and it included a Mexican staging of Henry IV, Part 1 as part of the Globe to Globe festival (14 May 2012).
Sor Juana’s El festejo de los empeños de una casa (1683) was in some sense a prequel to the 2012 Globe to Globe festival, for it had been staged—albeit without the accompanying loa, letras, sainetes, and sarao that arguably “elevate it to the level of musical court spectacle” (Hernández Araico 328)—in Catherine Boyle’s eminently playable translation (House of Desires or The Trials of a Noble House) under the direction of Nancy Meckler (30 June-1 October 2004).2 As part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) 2004 Spanish Golden Age Season, this baroque literary figure of Mexico found herself on the boards of the bard with a play originally penned, not for the public stage, but for the viceregal court and aristocratic palaces. Even more importantly, perhaps, she found herself in the illustrious company of Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Cervantes, whose works were part of that season’s Spanish repertoire.3
As the lights went down in Stratford-upon-Avon’s Swan Theatre with its meter high thrust stage surrounded on three sides by spectators, the public was [End Page 133] immediately confronted with a set covered in shimmering polished brass. A wall of brass rising at the rear of the stage held up a pseudoaltar with glimmering candles and a clutter of iconic and ornamental objects—a sacred space that may have evoked an inner world of memory. As two novices polished the brass floor to the sound of Church music, a figure in a nun’s habit sat at a desk in front of the altar, quill in hand, undoubtedly penning the play we were about to see: a baroque festival about “the trials of being in love” (HD 2.5, 60), with its intrigue, deceit, mistaken identities, jealousy, dishonor, unrequited desire, loss of mutual love, search for correspondence. Or, perhaps, as the production’s translator posited—evoking another of the meanings of empeños—Sor Juana was moving her characters into place as “pawns in her imagination, […] foregrounding the sense of the lack of real agency of the characters, who are puppets to abstracted codes that will guide them to an inevitable end: reconciliation with the codes that dictate their destiny” (Boyle, “Loss” 179). In effect, the passing...