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the Church had the best light the political state of a people, such of the day, while the laity were as on the one hand begets a general still dark and rude, those histrionic feeling of enlarged self-consciousshows which the former admitted ness, and on the other imparts the or encouraged should be the most leisure and security necessary to complete and famous; and, con. the growth of an art in which the sequently, that notices of them co-operation of many is required for should have been preserved, while its exercise as for its enjoyment. the obscure pastimes of the vulgar, That these conditions are indisor the buffooneries of strolling pensable, it might be hazardous to minstrels, were forgotten. But of aflirm. But it is certain that no these enough has been recorded to national drama has hitherto been show that, from the earliest days, a produced without the union of both. distinct secular type of mimic re- No sooner is this consummated, presentation, however base and than the rude embryo begins to poor, was always extant_beyond stir : and the organic process reaches the pale of the Church. Towards its full term when the combined the close of the Middle Ages, still causes have exerted their atmost more during the century which force, and are on the eve of subsid. preceded the birth of the national ing. In this form of poetry the drama, we see it continually gain- season of maturity arrives soon after ing ground, and displaying its ac- the period of birth, while the original tivity in various shapes. As the impulse is still vigorous: from that development proceeds, rustic dia- point there is a gradual decline, as logue begins to clothe itself, with the momentum grows weaker; and no small elegance, in forms of verse when it is thoroughly exhausted, and which the Provençal bards had new influences, in whaterer directaught their followers in Spain, and tion, prevail, the drama expires. which, a little later, tended to de. Such, at all events, was its his. termine the fashion that afterwards tory in Spain. While the kingdom prerailed on the stage. A similar was divided between the Christian improvement, the while, appears in and the Moor, and their only breaththe treatment of religious subjects; ing-time was an armed truce, the but on the whole it is clear that seeds of the drama lay for ages in the profane was rapidly overtaking a torpid state ; not that the soil the devotional movement through- was inapt for its production, but out this period.. At its close it because the surface of life was too certainly had the leading part in much agitated to receive any but the formation of a national theatre. hasty and broken reflections of the
Although the germ of dramatic national mind. These we find in the art lies, as I have said, in human Romances, the offspring of a time nature itself, and so is common to of excitement and insecurity in a all races and ages, stiil, its derelop- race full of poetic gifts. They ment in a complete and living form ceased, as a voice of popular feeliny, appears to depend on special con- when that stormy period passed ditions; wanting which it is dormant away; bequeathing all their cordial or abortire. Of such requisites two influence, and much of their fami. would seem to be essential-a stage liar tone, to a new form of native of culture, namely, in which the
from the mind, become apt for ideal excur teeming earth as soon as the atmosions, is still powerfully acted upon sphere grew calm, and the genius of by the senses, and has few intellec- the people had leisure to expand in tual pleasures but such as are ad- a broader mould and with more dressed to the eye and ear. The perfect development. The Romance* other essential may be described as belongs to the epoch of internal a certain breadth and settlement in strife and alarm ; it is the strain
Although sung, as well as recited, the Romance has more of the epic than of the purely lyric tone. This is only found unmixed in the Cancion and Coplama legacy froin Provençal minstrelsy-from which the dramatic Eclogucs, &c., of the sixteenth century borrowed their versification, and transmitted it, in the redondilla, quintilla, decima, &c., to the comedy of the seventeenth, in which all the three poetic modes are represented.
Its sources various.
of the bivouac and the leaguer, re- poetry. It was no result of chance ; peated by the shepherd in the still less did it proceed from any lonely plain, and the watchman on want of power to frame a well. the beacon height. The drama is compacted story, and to set forth all the child of peace, nurtured in its essentials in action and dialogue. cities; & social pleasure, apt for In the art of dramatic exposition, holidays and festivals, requiring and in thorough mastery of every preparation and expense.
scenic device, the Spanish theatre Of all kinds of Spanislı poetry, the has no rival, -and needed no help Romances are the best known; but from without. Beyond this, the their part in the national comedy, liberty of changing the scene at if noticed at all, has not, so far as I will, and the independence on time, kuom, been sufficiently regarded. relieved the poet from any pressure Their intluence on its tone and like that which imposed on the character was transmitted through French the necessity of relating so a popular feeling, which Lope much that the true dramatic prin. divined and obeyed. How much ciple requires to be shown. It was, they contributed to its rhythmical therefore, not for want of skill that form, was perhaps less apparent at he had recourse to narrative, where the outset than afterwards, when action might have sufficed; but bethe romance measure began to pre- cause it added to the delight of his vail over the rhymed redondillas, hearers to suspend the business of in which the earliest plays of Lope's the scene, while they listened to the age were almost exclusively writien. old familiar strain. The degree to which the spirit of Thus we have three streams the drama was modified by them flowing from distant springs, the may not be seen at the first glance, confluence of which spread out into but will not escape an attentive the national drama ; which, shaving eye; and the longer it is studied, absorbed and blended their several the more will the tone of the currents, was itself divided into the Romancero be felt pervading its two branches, wherein it entire structure, by all who have afterwards continued to flow; a quick sense of aslinities. I do not known as comedy on the stage, and merely refer to the practice, pecu. mystery (autos) for the Church :liar to Spanish comedy, of giving each of them retaining a taste of long descriptive passages in the ro- all the three sources from whence mance style,—which modern critics they were derived ; miracle-plays, condemn as adverse to dramatic namely; mimes, jocular farces, and effect, but which especially de- mummeries of the vulgar; and lighted the audiences of the day. national lays or romances. Nor do I simply point to the fre- There was another, of foreign quent and direct use of the old origin, which had tried to overpopular lays, whether in quotations, come all the rest. Classic imitation in allusions, or in the choice of sub- was attempted by the learned, jects from them ; although all these and offered to the people, while are lively reminders of an unceasing the rude native drama was stirring echo on the boards from the ancient into life throughout the sixteenth minstrelsy. It will be found,
century, - but offered in vain : further, that its spirit penetrated their healthy taste refused all invi. to the very core of the drama, and tations to feed on the dry bones of imbued it with a narrative propen- antiquity. As such academic essays sity; that it mainly owes to the had no effect on the national stage, roniance the diffuseness of outline, to which these Notes are restricted, and contempt of material limits, I refrain from dwelling upon them; ever leaning towards the epic mode, although it would be no unwel. -which have so grieved Unitarian come task to give some account critics.
of a class of poets whose efforts, For this leaning, in a direction though unsuccessful, deserve re. the most opposed to dramatic art spect. Among them were men of strictly considered, there could, in- no vulgar genius-Bermudez, Ardeed, be no other motive than the gensola, and the great name of influence of the older national Cervantes. It must sufice to say
that the public, with a true poetic ance; and false steps are not wantinstinct that cannot be too highly ing.* But in every new trial, in praised, were deaf to their eloquence, every failure, even, something is and regardless of learned authority gained for future efforts, or some in a matter which concerned their error that might frustrate them own gratification. They required discovered; until by degrees the a drama, racy of the Spanish soil, material for a genuine national clothed in forms of their own poetry, theatre has been so gathered, and speaking a language which no sifted, and prepared, that it only study was needed to enjoy ; various awaits the electric impulse of genius and free as their own fancies; and to start into its destined form. flattering a taste for excitement Of the many who busied themwhich the national temper and the selves in this field before the true events of recent times had made vein was found, it will suffice to too strong to be subdued by critical name the most important only. The rules. That in this impulsive way, simple Eclogas of Juan del Encina intent only on the pleasure of the date before the beginning of the moment, they were unconsciously sixteenth century. After him Gil evoking a form of poetry as perfect Vicente (1502) and Torres Naharro and genuine, according to the (1517) made considerable advances, canons of just criticism, as that by introducing variety of characwhich they rejected-they knew ters, and something like dramatic not, nor cared to know. But such plot; while both, but especially was, in truth, the nature of their Vicente, did much towards provid. achievement.
ing the nascent drama with a poetic In the sixteenth century, Spain dress. The versification of the had begun to enjoy the internal latter, indeed, is exquisite, and his security which has been described dialogue runs with nearly as much as propitious to the birth of scenic ease and elegance as Lope's. Toart. By the final subjugation of wards the middle of the century the Moors, which triumphantly (1540), Lope de Rueda, a man of the closed a feud of eight hundred people,—sometime gold-beater in years' standing, her spirit had Seville, afterwards manager of a already been exalted, when the company of strollers,—struck out a accession of Charles to the Empire, new path with a vigour which gave and the exploits of Cortes and his humble stage a popularity until Pizarro in the New World, came to then unknown. His subjects, treated enhance her pride and fire her ima- in unaffected prose.t were taken gination. In this ferment, the from common life, in a tone mainly latent and dispersed elements of secular ; whereas, with those who dramatic poetry begin to move : preceded him, religious pieces have they attract each other by natural the preference. It was, no doubt. affinity, and the genetic process
because of his thus popularizing the commences. In every quarter in- theatre, that Cervantes accounts him genious minds are busy with im- the father of the national drama ; provements on the ancient shows, or which otherwise cannot have oired trying experiments with something much to a homely style so different new :--the development gathers from that which it afterwards strength as it proceeds, and soon adopted. Although his right to becomes rapid and decisive. There this merit is questioned, he ceris nothing, indeed, to direct its ad. tainly has the credit of having been
* Such, for instance, as the celebrated Celestina (1499) and its imitations ; which, though effectual in advancing the perfection of Castilian prose, were, so far as they concerned the drania at all, experiments in a direction altogether false.
+ These, at least, are all that have come down to us. Cervantes indeed (Prologue to bis Ocho Comedias, &c.) praises his skill in pastoral poetry;' and even inserts a specimen, in the 3rd act of his Baños de Argel, taken from one of Lope de Rueda's Coloquios Pastoriles, the verses of which have a certain Doric prettiness. Pellicer also informs us that one of these pieces is preserved-I suppose in MS.in a volume in the Library of the Escorial; but this kind of writing can hardly have been generally considered his forte, as none but his essays in prose were chosen for publication by his editor, Timoneda.
Its Precursors in the Sixteenth Century.
the first, as Cervantes says, ' to take the whole, indeed, throughout this it out of baby clothes,'— by making century, down to the time of Lope's plays, which before him had been appearance, all the poets who fol. mostly composed for a select few, lowed the stage, Cervantes included, an established recreation of the are seen incessantly wavering bepeople at large. At the time of his tween the ancient and the modern. deaih (in 1567) scenic performances, Juan de la Cueva, who flourished in still rude and artless enough, had Seville (circa 1579), with more become pretty general throughout genius than any of his predecessors, the southern parts of Spain. At first niust on this ground be ranked, with they were carried about by itinerant the rest, among the pioneers rather players; but as the liking for this than the founders of the drama.* pastime increased, the court-yards Such, also, was Cervantes, who ap. of houses in some of the chief cities pears busy in the foreground down to – as in Seville, Valencia, and the moment when Lopecameandtook Madrid-were fitted up for the possession of the field, or "carried use of resident companies. In off the monarchy of the stage,' as Valencia a theatre of this kind was Cervantes bimself expresses it. Beone of the first to become famous : tween 1581 and 1588 he produced on its boards Andres Rey de Artieda in the Madrid theatres, as he inand Christoval de Virues (1580-90) forms us, some twenty to thirty exhibited their pieces; which, pieces, with entire success; and in though written on the false prin- these he claims to have first set the ciple of blending the classic and example of what became a standard popular styles, no doubt prepared rule, by reducing the number of the public for happier attempts. On the acts from five to three. At
Several of the works of these precursors of the national drama were pub. lished during the sixteenth century; but the original editions are of the utmost rarity. They are, however, to be found in modern reprints in sufficient number to afford a general idea of their character. Of such the following may be named:
- Moratin, Origenes del Teatro Español, reprinted, with additions, by Ochoa, in vol. i. of the Tesoro del Teatro Español, Baudry, Paris, 1838 ; Bohl von Faber, Teatro anterior á Lope de Vega, Hamburg, 1832 ; Barreto y Monteiro, Obras de Gil Vicente, 3 vols. 8vo, Hamburg, 1834. (The Teatro of Bohl von Faber contaius all the Spanish pieces of this author.)
Of the best specimens of the classical essays within the same period, the following are gow accessible :— The tragedies of Bermudez, Perez de Oliva, and Argensola, in vol. vi. of Sedano's Parnaso Español, 9 t. 8vo, Madrid, 1768. Cervantes' Kumancia (with the Tratos de Argel) was first published with the l'iage del Par. Mutso, by Sancha, Madrid, 1784. This, as well as the pieces in the Parnaso Español (excepting Oliva’s, which are translations), will be found in the first volume of Ochoa's Tesoro. A single play by Virues, La Gran Semiramis, has lately been published here (18mo, Williams and Norgate, 1858) by an anonymous editor, who gives nothing but the bare text, and even that full of errors.
+ Lope (Arte Nuevo de hacer Comedias, Obras Sueltas, iv. 405) gives Virues the credit of this important change. Both may have been right, if, as likely enough, the plan was introduced in both places about the same time--by Cervantes in Madrid, by Virues in Valencia-neither of the two being at the moment aware of any experiment but his own. However this may be, the value of the new method is indisputable. It is, indeed, the only arrangement of a dramatic subject conformable to the primary laws of nature and reason, that adınit of no other divisions of a complete fable but the three essential ones of beginning, middle, and end. I need not reinind the reader that this is the Aristotelian canon (Ilepi mount. G.), but may remark the inconsistency of those moderns who tormented the drama in professed obedience to his dictates on other points, yet in this have neglected an obvious deduction from his rule, that would have given them authority for a privilege which the Spanish poets alone, caring nothing for Aristotle, had the good sense to take from their own perception of its advantage. By what perverse accident this was overlooked, and the unmeaning five-act system imposed on every other stage but the Spanish, it is not my business to inquire. This, however, may be affirmed--that its only use has been to multiply without reason the difficulties of composition where the drama is cultivated as an art ; and to condemn it to an utter want of symmetry wherever (as in our Elizabethan period) it owes more to genius than to study.
this period, to judge from the two comedies of Lope's school, may be of his acted plays which alone have cited as evidence that his notions of been preserved, Cervantes seems, as what the stage should be, could I have said, to have been feeling his never hare been reconciled to the way in each of the two opposite irresistible tendency of the day, directions; his own bias probably and, indeed, that his ideas on the tending towards the classical school, subject were on the whole too narwhile necessity forced him to the row and prosaic for the romantic popular side.
His Numanciu, a theatre of any day. But these, it work of far higher merit than is must be remembered, were the commonly ascribed to it, belongs to utterances of his old age, as to which the former, although he has im- some allowance must be made for a ported into it allegorical fancies of spirit of contradiction, not unnatu, his own invention. The other piece, rally provoked by the rebuff he had Los Tratos de Argel(Life in Algiers), recently endured from the players, is of the homeliest kind, approach- if not by something like jealousy of ing, so far as it goes, to the type the success of his junior and rival, which Lope adopted; but in a dry, Lope. Twenty years earlier he artless manner, in which not a spark might have thought more justly of of genius is visible. That Cervantes the stage, and written for it, on due was not wanting in dramatic faculty, encouragement, without having the whether of the high or humorous fear of Aristotle before his eyes. kind, is shown in many passages of On the whole, however, it seems the Numancia and in the Entre- that the bent of his genius was not meses (interludes),-if not in the towards the drama; nor need we comedies, which he wrote in his old lament the fortune that, estranging age, in emulation of Lope.* It must, him from it, led him to another field, therefore, remain an open question in which no one could compete with how much he might have done for him. On the stage he left no imthe national drama, had he not left pression ; and hardly had he quitted Madrid at a critical period, in search it when Lope de Vega appeared. of a better living than he had The hour was come, and the man ; earned as a playwright. The and from that moment a new order famous diatribe which he delivers of things commenced.t in the person of the Curate (Don With an inborn dramatic genius Quixote, Pt. i. chap. 48) against the of the first order, an inexhaustible
* Ocho Comedias y Entremeses, Madrid, 1615; republished, with a preface, by Blas Nasarre in 1749. They were never acted, the players having wisely refused them. Worse attempts, indeed, no man of transcendent genius has ever made; yet Cervantes looked on them with complacency-and they seem to have been written about the same time as the first part of Don Quixote. The Entremeses are more worthy of their author : though trifles, they are among the pleasantest of this class of slight farces.
+ Of the changes wrought by this sudden revolution, two should be especially noted. Until Lope took possession of the stage, it mainly depended everywhere for the supply of pieces on the manager, who composed the entertainments or farsas which his company acted, and, probably in virtue of this function, was styled Autor de Comedias ; a title which, we learn from Luzan (Poética, ii. 13), he retained as late as 1737. This class of playwrights may be said to have been extinguished by Lope's appearance. The only professional author of whom anything is afterwards heard was Andres de Claramonte, who continued to write in the new manner pieces of his own invention during the first eight or ten years of the seventeenth century. He might have been forgiven for composing mediocre plays, had he not ventured on altering the works of poets whose comedies were performed by his company. The only text now remaining of the masterpiece (by Lope or Tirso) — El Rey D. Pedro en Madrid–from which Moreto stole his Valiente Justiciero, is supposed to have been mangled by Claramonte; yet in this state, even, it surpasses Moreto's. From the period in question, with the sole exception damned, the dramatists were altogether of a superior class--men of good birth and education, and most frequently either churchmen, members of the military orders, or in honourable public employments.
It is another reinarkable circumstance that, from this date, the drama, which previously had been cultivated, such as it was, in various other provinces of the