Date of Degree

9-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Literatures & Languages

Advisor

Lía Schwartz

Committee Members

William Childers

José Miguel Martínez Torrejón

Subject Categories

Spanish Literature

Keywords

Spanish Golden Age, Cervantes, Lope de Rueda, Early Modern, Theater

Abstract

This study closely examines the eight interludes and eight full-length plays that Cervantes published in a collection on the thirteenth of September, 1615. Although these theatrical works were published together, the collection has seldom been examined in its entirety as a coherent unit. The purpose of this study, therefore, will be to re-cast a critical focus upon these theatrical works as a whole, in order to provide insight into Cervantes as both a playwright and as an inquisitive and unconventional thinker of his day. Typically, Cervantes was seen as a fairly conventional dramatist until around 1950, when a significant number of scholars began to point out his great innovative tendencies and departure from the conventional theatrical traditions of his day. In this regard, I wish to re-examine the theatrical compilation he published in his later years, in order to demonstrate what he learned from other pre-teatro nuevo playwrights like Lope de Rueda, as well as to indicate some of the major dramatic innovations he brought to light. I consider Cervantes' particular interpretation of the Horatian dictum aut prodesse volunt aut delectare poetae as a guiding principle in crafting his unique brand of theater. I argue that rather than providing an explicit moral message, Cervantes chooses instead to present a focused theme and subject matter for the consideration of his audience, inviting them to participate actively in drawing a moral, rather than having his characters explicitly articulate how the public is supposed to think and feel about the events just witnessed. This technique was not common in Cervantes' time period, and indeed represents a major stylistic innovation. Furthermore, I have classified each of the eight plays and eight interludes according to the subgenre to which it pertains, in order to explore in depth his particular variations within each genre. I also consider the ways in which his meta-theatrical tendencies shape both his reflection on the nature of theater as well as his stagecraft itself. I conclude with an analysis of Cervantes' deliberate resistance to specific dramatic tropes, such as the "happy-ending" in marriage, or the anticipated conflict and pairings of certain stock characters within the comedia de enredos genre. I demonstrate that Cervantes was always looking for ways to surprise his audience and defy convention, and was never content to simply accept established paradigms. While he is very critical of innovation for its own sake, he is also deeply invested in employing intricately crafted and novel techniques in order to awaken the consciousness of his audience to consider fundamental moral, political, and religious conflicts of his day. He defends the role of dramatic art in illuminating these conflicts, indirectly countering the religious polemic against theaters prevalent in late sixteenth and early seventeenth-century Spain.

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