Academic journal article Shakespeare Bulletin

The Hispanic Golden Age Season at the Royal Shakespeare Company

Academic journal article Shakespeare Bulletin

The Hispanic Golden Age Season at the Royal Shakespeare Company

Article excerpt

The Dog in the Manger, by Lope de Vega Presented by The Royal Shakespeare Company at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. April 14-October 2, 2004. Directed by Laurence Boswell. Translated by David Johnston. Set and costumes designed by Es Devlin. Lighting designed by Ben Ormerod. Music composed by Ilona Sekacz. Sound designed by Tim Oliver. Choreography by Heather Habens.

Tamar's Revenge, by Tirso de Molina Presented by The Royal Shakespeare Company at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. April 28-October 2, 2004. Directed by Simon Usher. Translated by James Fenton. Designed by Delia Peel. Lighting designed by Ben Ormerod. Music composed by Neil McArthur. Sound designed by Mike Compton. Movement by Gaby Agis. Fights directed by James Chalmers.

House of Desires, by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz Presented by The Royal Shakespeare Company at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. June 30-October 1, 2004. Directed by Nancy Meckler. Translated by Catherine Boyle. Designed by Katrina Lindsay. Lighting designed by Ben Ormerod. Music composed by Ilona Sekacz. Sound designed by Liz Ranken. Fights directed by Malcolm Ranson.

Pedro, The Great Pretender, by Miguel de Cervantes. Presented by The Royal Shakespeare Company at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. September 1-30, 2004. Directed by Mike Alfreds. Translated by Philip Osment. Designed by Rae Smith. Lighting designed by Ben Ormerod. Music composed by Ilona Sekacz. Choreography by Leah Hausman.

Building on the success of the previous Jacobean Season, the RSC continued its investigation of Shakespeare's contemporaries in the 2004 repertoire, under the artistic direction of Laurence Boswell, with a cluster of Hispanic plays from the Spanish Golden Age (c. 1580-1681): Lope de Vega's dark comedy, The Dog in the Manger (1613); Tirso de Molina's Biblical tragedy, Tamar's Revenge: A Tale of Rape and Retribution (1621); Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz's romantic farce, House of Desires (1683); and the world premiere of Cervantes's experimental play, Pedro, the Great Pretenden. The Tricks of a Chameleon (1615).

Four productions, four directing styles, four types of plays including a world premiere. Most enduring, at the end of the day, was the sort of inter-performance-textuality that had evolved among the productions thanks to an ensemble of actors who inspired poignant moments of theatrical deja vu throughout the season. The casting in many instances echoed the early modern formula whereby actors were hired to perform certain roles across the board: pairs of lovers played against one another in subsequent mises en scene, thereby setting the stage for multiple reviewings of the epic subjects of love and honor, manifested most frequently as the conflict between instinctual desires and socially defined roles.

Lope's Dog in the Manger shows curious affinities with Twelfth Night. Malvolio's pronouncement--"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em"--best describes the comic "resolution" of Lope's play. Dog's sense of an ending is dependent upon the invention of a noble lineage for the lower-class secretary Teodoro (Joseph Millson), concocted by his own lackey Tristan (played brilliantly with commedia dell'arte timing and physicality by the RSC's up-and-coming comic star, Simon Trinder), so that the servant could marry his smitten but volatile--dog in the manger--mistress, the Countess Diana (Rebecca Johnson), without jeopardizing her reputation. If, on the face of it, the plot turns on passion in its various manifestations--love, jealousy, and vengeance in potentia--the underlying dramatic conflict is motivated by honor, the blockbuster material prescribed by Lope in his tongue-in-cheek and anti-classical New Art for Writing Plays in this Time (1609). The loss of honor was equivalent to the loss of life itself; Iago's retort to Cassio, "You have lost no reputation at all unless you repute yourself such a loser," would not be an accurate assessment of the invulnerability of one's self-esteem within Spain's social collective, whose foundations depended upon both a man's estimation of his personal worth and society's recognition of that claim. …

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