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  • Calderón: texto, reescritura, significado y representación by Santiago Fernández Mosquera
  • Dian Fox
Santiago Fernández Mosquera.
Calderón: texto, reescritura, significado y representación.
Iberoamericana / Vervuert, 2015. 353 Pp.

THIS ENLIGHTENING BOOK by Santiago Fernández Mosquera, an eminent literary scholar with the sensibilities of a philologist, synthesizes and advances his studies on matters of textual integrity and literary value in Calderón. Among the author’s many accomplishments is the 2007 edition of the Segunda parte of Calderón’s comedias for the series in the Biblioteca Castro of the Fundación José Antonio de Castro. Therefore, he writes with intimate knowledge of the responsibilities of producing a trustworthy text, and this book is a cri de coeur for the primacy of the authenticated work. When established, it clears the way for genuine advances in our understanding of the oeuvre. The author is refreshingly attached to careful close reading, and the riches of his commentary distinguish the volume. The tenor is at times polemical, but always backed by thoughtful study of appropriate works in the service of his positions.

One of his concerns is “la ola espectacular” (35), the current popularity in Spain of staged performance over respect for the word on the page. For Fernández Mosquera, the original plays “pueden y aun deben ser representadas siguiendo cada uno de los versos que escribió el poeta” (35). With the recent proliferation of theater festivals, most significantly at Almagro, too often professional directors indulge their own creative muses, assuming the mantle of co-author without regard for the poetry or the historical stature of the work. They slight the glories of these masterpieces in favor of an ephemeral show (36). Modern audiences, better at watching than reading, are overly susceptible to this trend (24), deprived of the pleasures of knowing their cultural heritage.

In order to make available to the public a culturally truer theatrical experience, it is crucial to work from authenticated versions. Unlike Shakespeare, Lope and Calderón achieved widespread celebrity and acclaim during their own times. Because their names had commercial value in the theatrical marketplace, they began to take care with publication; this was not so much the case with the Elizabethan dramatist—although argumentation on Shakespeare is evolving (33). However, some Calderón plays staged or read [End Page 151] today are based on flawed versions, whether due to reliance on Vera Tassis; to the mistranslations of German Romantics (38); or to other slings and arrows of fortune that philology can put right, particularly with Spain’s comparatively robust autograph textual tradition. Since so many of these verified texts are available, there is no need to garble them for fleeting entertainment value.

Esteem for the original also bears on Fernández Mosquera’s discomfort with the presentism in some current Calderón scholarship. In the 1970s José Antonio Maravall influentially expounded that the comedia was conformist propaganda for absolute monarchy. Arising from a healthy reaction against this totalizing view, following upon New Historicism, and propelled with Calderón’s quadricentenary in 2000 (199), “el nuevo calderonismo” (212) has ventured too far in the other direction, finding subversive political messages lurking behind every portrayal of state power misused. Fernández Mosquera reminds us that Calderón was always professionally near to power and benefited from this proximity (189). It certainly would have been impolitic, to say the least, for him to pass negative judgment on his superiors, particularly in court entertainment. It is hard to believe that hidden à-clef criticisms would have gone over the heads of Philip IV and the prickly Olivares but be evident to others in attendance (213). Indeed, following highly acclaimed events such as the stagings of El mayor encanto, amor and Los tres mayores prodigios in the mid-1630s, Calderón was appointed director of palace performances and elevated to a knighthood. The poet could impart moral lessons without leveling at his powerful benefactors what would be taken as personal criticism (217): he was discreet and cautious without being servile (239).

Fernández Mosquera champions the text, with sensitivity to its cultural and historical contexts, but also with an understanding of the playwright’s personal...


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pp. 151-154
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