- Luis Vélez de Guevara. La niña de Gómez Arias ed. by William R. Manson and C. George Peale
Although not typically a part of the traditional comedia canon, La niña de Gómez Arias stands poised to take its place among other early modern plays as an insightful window into racial and gender issues of the time period. In her introduction to this new edition of Luis Vélez de Guevara’s early seventeenth-century work, María M. Carrión stresses its importance as representative of “un episodio terrible y poco comentado en la historia de la raza y del género sexual en el mundo hispánico” (16). Referencing strife between Muslims and Catholics that resulted in massacres and enslavement on both sides of the conflict, she recognizes the female protagonists of the play as both objects of exchange between the two cultures (in public) and defenders of their cultural and religious traditions (in private). She also argues that the characterizations of these two female figures defy traditional interpretations of women who suffer physical and sexual violence as victims [End Page 241] of their own follies. For these reasons, Carrión concludes that the staging of this play was “algo impensable en su momento e, irónicamente, incluso en épocas posteriores” (19). Consequently, she deems La niña to be “teatro casi imposible” (13). The stated purpose of this edition of Vélez de Guevara’s play (only the third in modern times) is to create dramatic literature to be read aloud as a “guión . . . sin tablas” (20) in the hopes that the reader will understand the text in its theatrical context.
Carrión neatly delineates the edition’s methodology and source texts as well as the comedia’s plot and metric structure. She also offers a brief but convincing study of the points of contact between the character Gómez Arias and the playwright, as well as an analysis of each of the main characters in the play. A large portion of the introduction is dedicated to an examination of the genre of the play, noting its “condición híbrida” (49) and eventually settles on labelling it an Andalusian comedia. Again, Carrión refers to the play as “un teatro casi imposible,” not only in terms of the controversial subjects it broaches, but also because its “mezcla de capa y espada, picaresca, morisca, enredos y bandolería sobrepasa los límites genéricos” (49). Arguably, La niña’s hybrid nature and its ability to provide the reader with a window to the past while dealing directly with questions of gender and identity recommend it to the modern scholar of early modern drama. Although the introduction is not free from typographical errors and inconsistencies (for example, “No emprce” [sic] on page 31 or the two uses of the word “sexy” on page 43, one in italics and one not), these are few and far between. Moreover, the author writes clearly and persuasively. She makes several nods to performance studies, referencing theatrical elements, such as staging and movement, as she imagines a possible production of La niña. Though not expansive nor exhaustive, this type of scholarly speculation has become increasingly important in Comedia studies, as literary critics recognize the incongruity of separating these plays from their theatrical context and purpose. While Carrion’s style may sometimes feel heavy-handed (“La Niña es, no, son, en efecto, muchas niñas” ), her erudition and scholarship shine through, making her text both dulce et utile.
The edition itself, edited and annotated by William R. Manson and C. George Peale, is also excellent. Based principally on three seventeenth-century manuscripts and two modern editions, the editors have created “una edición moderadamente ecléctica” (72) meant to reach the widest [End Page 242] audience possible. Their extensive and detailed endnotes aim to eliminate possible...