viernes, 18 de julio de 2014

El burlador de Sevilla

El burlador de Sevilla (Cátedra, 2010)
attributed to Tirso de Molina
Spain, c. 1630

With apologies to Amanda and Tom, who read and reread all three acts of El burlador de Sevilla [The Trickster of Seville] w/me for June's Caravana de recuerdos group read while I was out picking up the beer and munchies on the "Latino time" that's now dragged into late July, I've been putting off writing about this Siglo de Oro classic because I don't really have all that much to say about the play.  Didn't love it.  Didn't hate it.  Don't quite understand its accumulation of four centuries of hype.  On second thought, that last part isn't entirely true because one of the most understandably appealing things about the play is that it boasts the memorably unappealing title character in the form of the original Don Juan.  "Unappealing," as I've just used it, is of course a value judgement about the character's womanizing ways.  What's appealing about him as a character, though, is the way he's so dedicated to his craft!  In the first scene alone, for example, he has to flee Naples after having impersonated a duke and falsely wedded the Duchess Isabela just to enjoy the duchess' favors.  Early in the second act, in the midst of leaving a trail of seduced and deceived women in his wake upon his return to Spain, he brags about how he came about his nickname: "Sevilla a voces me llama/el Burlador, y el mayor/gusto que en mí puede haber/es burlar una mujer/y dejarla sin honor" ["Seville sometimes refers to me as the Trickster, and for me there is no greater pleasure than to deceive a woman and to leave her without honor"] (verses 1395-1399).  In the third act, the incorrigible Don Juan gleefully chides yet another "false bride" of his in an aside: "¡Qué mal conoces/al burlador de Sevilla!" ["How poorly you understand the Trickster of Seville!"] (2229-2230).  In short, the character is a singularly compelling villain in that he never seems repentant for his behavior no matter what harm it causes--and this in a play in which a friend of his can casually joke about a woman who survived a bout of "el mal francés/por un río de sudores" ["syphillis sweated out in a river of fever"] (1308-1309) and in which another woman spurned by Don Juan asks for him to be killed for having been the "homicida de mi honor" ["murderer of my honor"] (1657).  The undeniable negative charisma of Don Juan and the earthy realism of that VD reference aside, another couple of reasons I might/probably will revisit the play in the future are that it's mischievously "poetic"--loved the description of "la espumosa orilla/del mar de Italia" ["the foamy shores of the Italian sea"] as the site of Don Juan's "cárcel" ["prison"], in reference to the cad's initial expulsion from Castile to Naples (117-121); ditto the description of Isabela as a "fea" ["ugly woman"], even though she must be an "ángel" ["angel"], when compared to the daughter of the Commander of Calatrava, whose beauty moves the King of Castile to astronomically rhapsodize her as "el Sol de las estrellas de Sevilla" ["the Sun of all the stars of Seville"] (1190-1199)--and goofily entertaining w/r/t the way the poor skirt-chasing Trickster eventually receives his supernatural comeuppance at the hands of a guest of stone from beyond the grave: I mean, I understand that revenge is a dish best served cold and all, but nobody ever told me that it could be jazzed up by scorpions, fingernails, and snakes!


In his introduction to the Cátedra edition of El burlador de Sevilla, Alfredo Rodríguez López-Vázquez does a pretty convincing job of casting doubt on Tirso de Molina as the author of the work.  The arguments are too complicated to go into here, but I'll try to follow up on this in a later post if anyone's interested.  Until then, thanks again to Amanda and Tom for reading this along with me.

6 comentarios:

  1. I had reading this in mind as well but the went for García Lorca and I'm glad.
    Maybe this is one of those plays that's much more interesting when read together with other plays on Don Juan.

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    1. Caroline, it's worth reading but more for the story than the writing as Tom also mentions in his post and comments over at his blog. A reread of Lorca's La casa de Bernarda Alba might have been more aesthetically satisfying for me, but given that I haven't read very much Siglo de Oro lit in years, I'm OK with my decision to have read this. Cheers!

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  2. Wow, an authorship dispute, how amusing. I am sure that Calderón de la Barca didn't write it.

    I am not sure it needs to be read with other plays - more that it helps to know those other plays exist. But it's true that it doesn't take long - 35 years is not that long - for Molière to make a great improvement.

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    1. Tom, it's kind of crazy to think of all the sequels that the Don Juan franchise inspired. Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I've hardly read any of 'em so far! Calderón de la Barca, as you might suspect, isn't one of the candidates for "true" authorship of this play; Andrés de Claramonte, on the other hand, is.

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  3. I'm a bit relieved to see I wasn't the only one who had difficulty finding anything to write about this play. It was actually a sort of relief that I turned out to have so many issues with the translation, as that gave me something to blog about! That said, I'm very glad I did finally read this--thanks for inviting us along!

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    1. Amanda, thanks for being such a good sport about my time management issues and I'm glad you're glad that you finally read the play whatever specific things you got out of it! Translation issues are invariably interesting as we've both discussed before, so I think that's a perfectly fine fallback tactic whenever one isn't sure what else to write in a post (I should know that by now, but I appreciate the reminder). Anyway, thanks again for the group read company!

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