Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

"Es De Lope"" Child Martyrdom in Cervantes's Los Banos De Argel

Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

"Es De Lope"" Child Martyrdom in Cervantes's Los Banos De Argel

Article excerpt

Se han estudiado muchos de los cambios introducidos por Cervantes cuando dramatiza su experiencia como cautivo en Argel en la comedia Los banos de Argel (c. 1607-1608). En esa obra Cervantes reelabora material tratado por primera vez unos treinta anos antes, en El trato de Argel (1580). Tambien conocida es la influencia de El trato de Argel cervantino sobre Los cautivos de Argel (1599) de Lope de Vega, asi como la influencia de esta ultima obra sobre la segunda comedia argelina de Cervantes. En este articulo se reexamina la relacion Trato-Cautivos-Banos y se propone una segunda influencia lopesca sobre Los banos de Argel, anteriormente ignorada. Se arguye que al representar el martirio del nino cautivo Francisquito en Los banos de Argel, Cervantes sigue muy de cerca un episodio parecido en la comedia religiosa de Lope titulada El nino inocente de La Guardia (c. 1594-1597), ahondando en el patetismo del nino cristiano cautivo que rehusa renegar de su fe y muere crucificado.

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IN 1979 LOS BANOS DE ARGEL underwent what Jean Canavaggio has called an "inesperado rescate" (Introduction 35). Cervantes completed the play in the first decade of the seventeenth century but was unable to interest anyone in staging it; he died without ever seeing it performed. Almost four hundred years later, Francisco Nievas adaptation of Banos garnered popular and critical acclaim during its run at the Teatro Maria Guerrero in Madrid. When the production was awarded the Premio Nacional de Teatro the following year, the prize jury singled out for praise Nieva's effective staging technique. In an interview printed in El Pais the day after winning the million-peseta prize, Nieva addressed this particular aspect of the production. (1) Because contemporary theater is dominated by the visual, he observed, in his reworking of Banos he was acutely aware of the need for "un concepto visual, que no solo se refiere a lo bonito y fastuoso" (Samaniego).

Given Nieva's stated sensitivity to the visual, it is noteworthy that his version of Banos omits the most striking--even shocking--visual element of the original: the staged martyrdom of the child captive Francisquito, who refuses to abandon his Christian faith despite the threats and seductions of his Muslim captors. Nieva justified the omission by calling the scene "una concesion algo burda y lacrimosa hecha al cristianismo popular con objeto de conmover y atraerse un publico al que no ha tenido en cuenta para nada en el complejo planteamiento artistico de Los banos de Argel" (66). In this essay I disagree with Nievas assessment that Cervantes was disinterested in reaching a broad audience in this late play, and that the gruesome torture and killing of Francisquito on stage was a kind of lapse in his artistic judgment. (2) I argue that, on the contrary, Cervantes included the scene intentionally, and I explore the reasons why he did so. Ideal with both the literary and biographical contexts of the play, taking into account Cervantes's personal and professional situation in the final decade of his life, in particular, his ongoing search for patronage, his religious concerns, and his preoccupation with Lope de Vegas theatrical success, which reached its apex in those very years.

As is well known, Los banos de Argel was not the first play in which Cervantes drew on his own youthful travails as a Christian captive in Algiers (1575-1580). Some thirty years earlier, not long after his ransom and return to Spain in October of 1580, he had written El trato de Argel. Most scholars date the composition of Trato to the period 1581-1583 (Canavaggio, Cervantes 20), although at least one has suggested that Cervantes had begun working on it while still a captive (Stagg). Banos is a close reworking of Trato, most likely written--or rewritten--a few years before its 1615 publication in Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses, possibly in 1607-1608 (Meregalli 402). (3) Many of the same characters and plot elements appear in both plays; for example, chaste Christian lovers whose Muslim masters lust after them, Christian and morisco renegades who abandon Spain for Algiers and become corsairs or assist corsairs in carrying out raids on their homeland; scenes of extreme Muslim cruelty toward captives and attempted escapees; and, most pertinent to this study, two young Spanish brothers who are sold at auction and pressured to apostatize and succumb to the pedophilic lust of their captors. …

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