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  • Comedias varias. Volumen 3.1: Morir y disimular, Gravedad en Villaverde, La más constante mujer by Juan Pérez de Montalbán
  • Sidney Donnell
Juan Pérez de Montalbán.
Comedias varias. Volumen 3.1: Morir y disimular, Gravedad en Villaverde, La más constante mujer.
Edición de Claudia Demattè, David Arbesú y Philip Allen.
Edition Reichenberger, 2016. 356 Pp.

CLAUDIA DEMATTÈ DIRECTS THE SERIES Obras de Juan Pérez de Montalbán, which consists of critical editions of works by this celebrated author from the early seventeenth century. The present volume, Comedias varias, 3.1, is the first in the series to include three plays that never appeared in the official collected works that Montalbán and his father, Madrid bookseller Alonso Pérez, authorized for publication in 1635 and 1638. Morir y disimular, Gravedad en Villaverde, and La más constante mujer are edited and introduced, respectively, by Demattè, David Arbesú, and Philip Allen. Arbesú provides the volume’s general introduction, briefly situating this installment in relation to the remainder of the series and, immediately thereafter, placing each of the three plays in relation to Montalbán’s oeuvre in general. As Arbesú explains, Morir y disimular (circa 1618) is possibly the very first three-act play the young dramatist ever wrote, Gravedad en Villaverde (circa 1624–25) is an adaptation of his exemplary novel La villana de Pinto (1624), and La más constante mujer (1632) is one of Montalbán’s most successful plays in terms of public and critical acclaim.

Demattè’s, Arbesú’s, and Allen’s respective prologues provide concise explanations as to the provenance of Morir y disimular, Gravedad en Villaverde, and La más constante mujer and include detailed plot summaries, stemmata indicating the text’s transmission, and summaries of the metrical composition of the play texts. Works are presented in chronological order, and spelling is modernized following the standard practice among editors in the field. The volume’s editors discreetly limit their use of footnotes to clarifying usage (idioms and parlance unique to the early modern period), to explaining historical and literary references, and to elucidating published variants of [End Page 189] verse. The volume concludes with an index of footnote references (in lieu of a glossary) and a complete bibliography.

The main body of the volume opens with Demattè’s introduction to her critical edition of Montalbán’s earliest play, Morir y disimular. The scholar offers a short yet well-documented discussion of the date of composition of the work, the general literary milieu in which the young poet grew and thrived, and the emblematic writing style that appears in this and his other plays. In this last respect, Demattè convincingly supports Montalbán’s authorship of this comedia heroica due to his frequent and keen use of metatextual references, irony, and other rhetorical devices characteristic of his corpus. In this regard, the critic correctly notes that Morir y disimular echoes plays by Montalbán’s chief mentor, Lope de Vega. In her philological study, Demattè rightly takes a moment to pay homage to the Modern Language Association’s efforts in 1938 to microfilm a large number of works (including a rare suelta edition of Morir y disimular) that were housed in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin and subsequently lost during the Second World War.

Arbesú introduces the volume’s second full-length dramatic work, Gravedad en Villaverde. He summarizes scholarly debate as to the play’s authorship and settles on Victor Dixon’s definitive argument connecting the play text to its primary source, Montalbán’s exemplary novel La villana de Pinto. In addition to including a full plot summary of Gravedad en Villaverde, Arbesú compares Montalbán’s dramatic adaptation in verse with its earlier rendering in prose. The heroine of this tale of mistaken identity, which concludes with her romantic union with a nobleman, has a much more explicit origin story in Montalbán’s exemplary novel than in his play. A farmer (the young woman’s adoptive father) encounters a noblewoman (the heroine’s biological mother) who is about to kill her illegitimate baby (the future heroine). The farmer intervenes and adopts...


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