Lope Félix de Vega Carpio. La moza de cántaro.

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[1] Professor Hugo Albert Rennert, in his excellent and exhaustive work entitled The Life of Lope de Vega, from which many of the details of this Introduction are taken, quotes at length from Tomillo and Pérez Pastor's Datos Desconocidos the Spanish criminal records of the Proceso de Lope de Vega por Libelos contra unos Cómicos. In the course of the procedure much light is thrown upon this period of Lope's life.

[2] Égloga á Claudio, Obras Sueltas, Vol. IX, p. 367.

[3] Lope was by no means unaware of his important influence on the Spanish theater. In his Epístola á Don Antonio de Mendoza he evinces it in the following lines:

Necesidad y yo partiendo á medias
el estado de versos mercantiles,
pusimos en estilo las Comedias.
Yo las saqué de sus principios viles,
engendrando en España más Poetas,
que hay en los ayres átomos sutiles.
Obras Sueltas, vol. I, p. 285.

[4] Obras Sueltas, Vol. IX, p. 368.

[5] I have not been able to verify on what foundation Hartzenbusch bases the statement that the play was written first in 1625. It is true that several historical events which took place about that year are alluded to in the work in a way to indicate that they were fresh in the mind of the author, but they do not offer conclusive proof. It does not appear in the twenty-five Partes or collections of Lope's dramas, and it is doubtful if it was published in any regular edition during the poet's life. In a note, Act II, Scene III, Hartzenbusch mentions "la edición antigua de la comedia," but does not specify to what edition he refers. The play appears in Comedias de Diferentes Autores, Vol. XXXVII, Valencia, 1646, but it is not certain or even probable that this is the first time it was published.

[6] The sun was setting and a comedia was approaching its last phase, precursor of the denouement. It was presented in a theater of Madrid (or corral as it was then called) by four gallants, two ladies, an old man, two graciosos, two graciosas, and other minor characters, before an audience with hats pulled down as those who had no other roof above them than that of heaven. Already the leading lady had made her last entry, decked in the richest costume of her wardrobe; her lover, absorbed by the noble bearing of that woman who, although a humble servant, knew, nevertheless, the pompous farthingale as if in all her life she had not worn any other style of skirt; blind with passion and trampling on the respect due his lineage, had approached her and, beside himself, seizing her hand, had offered her his. The second gallant had resolutely opposed the irregular and hasty match, but on hearing that the supposed Isabel bore as true name the illustrious one of Doña María Guzmán y Portocarrero and was, although a water-maid, a relative of the Duke of Medina, his resistance had vanished. Then with a sweeping and silent bow to the fiancée the actor approached the front of the stage to pronounce this brief address to the public:

Puso fin á esta comedia
Quien, si perdiere este pleito,
Apela á Mil y quinientas.
Mil y quinientas ha escrito:
Bien es que perdón merezca.

From the gradas and barandillas, from the windows and desvanes, from all the seats, but especially from those which filled the patio, there must have gone forth then amid clamorous applause a unanimous shout of admiration, of enthusiasm, and very just national pride. "¡Vítor, Lope!" shrieked that tumultuous multitude time and again. "Long live el Fénix de los ingenios! Long live Lope de Vega!"

[7] See Comedias Escogidas, Vol. I, p. xxviii, and Gassier, Le Théâtre Espagnol, p. 60.

[8] Ticknor, History of Spanish Literature, Vol. II, p. 275.

[9] The Ticknor collection in the Boston Public Library contains two copies of the play; the one is entitled "La Moza de Cántaro, comedia en cinco actos por Lope Félix de Vega Carpio y refundida por Cándido María Trigueros, Valencia, 1803," and the other, idem, "con anotaciones, Londres" (probably about 1820). These are probably the only editions of the play with which Ticknor was familiar when he made his classification of it, for certainly he could not reconcile it with his definition of "comedies on common life," but he could easily accord it with his definition of "comedias de capa y espada." (See Ticknor's History of Spanish Literature, Vol. II, pp. 243 and 275.) Quoting from Lista's classification, Romualdo Alvarez Espino says: "Comedias de costumbres in which are painted vices of certain persons who, since in that epoch they could not be represented to be of the nobility, were drawn from the dregs of the people. Perhaps his very object in these compositions drew Lope away from the culture and urbanity which distinguish him in others; but fortunately they are few. Let us mention as examples El rufian Castrucho, La Moza de Cántaro, El sabio en su casa, La doncella Teodor." (Romualdo Alvarez Espino, Ensayo Histórico Crítico del Teatro Español, p. 116. See also, Alfred Gassier, Le Théâtre Espagnol, p. 38.) In the broader sense of the term, comedias de costumbres could easily include not only the Moza de Cántaro but generally all comedias de capa y espada, for true comedy is the presentation of the customs of society in a diverting manner. However, the Spanish critics usually narrow the class to include only the dramas of Lope which deal with the lower strata of social life and make the error of classing the Moza de Cántaro among them. This error may be explained by the fact that the critics, especially those cited above, have probably referred directly or indirectly to the refundida edition of the play which makes prominent the part of the servants and minimizes the rôles of the masters.

[10] Fitzmaurice-Kelly, Spanish Literature, p. 257.

[11] In his Dorotea the character Fernando is known to present an authentic biographical account of the author's youth and early manhood, while others of his heroes, as Don Juan in el Premio de bien hablar, furnish unmistakable details.

[12] One can scarcely say that the character is purely Spanish in origin, for servants had long been given a prominent part in dramas. Without seeking further we may well recall the place they have in the works of both Plautus and Terence. The early Italian comedies inherit this character from the Latins, and it appears in most of the plays of Ariosto, Machiavelli, and Aretino. It is found in the early Spanish dramas, and the debt to Italy is unmistakable; for example, in La Celestina the name of one of the leading servant characters—Parmeno—is the same as appears in the three plays of Terence: Eunuchus, Adelphi, and Hecyra. And in the hands of Rojas and Naharro the type is not markedly different from the Latin and Italian originals. It remained for Lope to perfect it and make it truly national.

[13] Philip IV's passion for the theater was so great that he himself, Martin Hume tells us, appeared in private theatricals upon the stage in roles that scarcely did credit to his lofty station. Of the young queen, Isabel de Bourbon, who may be considered as well representing contemporary tastes, the same author says: "Not only was she an ardent lover of the bullfight, but she would in the palace or public theaters countenance amusements which would now be considered coarse. Quarrels and fights between country wenches would be incited for her to witness unsuspected; nocturnal tumults would be provoked for her amusement in the gardens of Aranjuez or other palaces; and it is related that, when she was in one of the grated aposentos of a public theater, snakes or noxious reptiles would be secretly let loose upon the floor or in the cazuela, to the confusion and alarm of the spectators, whilst the gay, red-cheeked young Queen would almost laugh herself into fits to see the stampede." Martin Hume, The Court of Philip IV, pp. 149 and 203.

[14] Obras Sueltas, Vol. IV, p. 415.

[15] While this is not the place to treat in detail with Spanish versification, it may be well to define briefly the forms used in the play which are not met with in English. The redondilla is composed of four verses of seven or eight syllables each, the first verse riming with the fourth and the second with the third. The romance is composed of any number of seven or eight syllable verses, in the even numbers of which there is a correspondence of vowel sounds in the last two syllables, which is called assonance. The décima consists of ten octosyllabic verses, of which generally the first rimes with the fourth and fifth, the second with the third, the sixth with the seventh and tenth, and the eighth with the ninth. The octava has eight hendecasyllabic verses of which the first rimes with the third and fifth, the second with the fourth and sixth, and the seventh with the eighth.

Lope Félix de Vega Carpio. La moza de cántaro.
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