Academic journal article Romance Notes

Dissembled Identities: Felipe II as a Possible Character in Antonio Coello Y Ochoa's Celos, Honor Y Cordura

Academic journal article Romance Notes

Dissembled Identities: Felipe II as a Possible Character in Antonio Coello Y Ochoa's Celos, Honor Y Cordura

Article excerpt

Courtly literature and art have long been utilized as propagandists tools to exalt ruling dynasties, to propagate certain political interests, and even to recast historical events in order to portray a given monarch in a more favorable light. The disjunction between the private lives and public images of monarchs of the Habsburg court in Spain present a particularly compelling example. In artistic representation, we need only look at the iconographical programs crafted for public festivals celebrating the birth, death or marriages of members of the royal family for evidence of politically motivated image shaping, such as the funeral exequies for Philip IV. (1) Literary encomia of Spanish monarchs for the sake of projecting aggrandizing public images are most evident in the patronage plays, often commissioned by the dignitaries themselves. These have come to constitute a genre of their own, known as genealogical comedies, more than thirty of which were composed by Lope de Vega (Zugasti 25). (2) Viewed in their most positive light, such plays served as a school, "en donde al publico se le hacia participe de una vision triunfante de la historia, mediante la exhibicion de acontecimientos historicos recientes o la evocacion de los hechos del pasado de la monarquia o de algun gran linaje" (Ferrer Valls, "El juego del poder" 160).

A more cynical view, however, might posit that some dramatic works depicting monarchs do not serve as a mirror of history, but rather as a distortion of it with ulterior motives. Such are those genealogical comedies by Lope de Vega that made Menendez Pelayo irate due to their manipulations of historical facts: "Su desprecio se transformaba en colera cuando Lope se permitia transgredir la verdad con mayusculas, la verdad de las cronicas, en favor de cualquier apologia familiar, como en La fortuna merecida" (Ferrer Valls, "Lope de Vega" 16). The extravagant staging of theatrical works that exalted the monarchy, such as those performed at Aranjuez in 1622 to celebrate the seventeenth birthday of Felipe IV, had several purposes:

Podian servir de instrumento para asentar la union entre la corona y sus subditos; o podian funcionar como medio muy eficaz para iniciar, o fortalecer, un viraje politico, o una campana propagandistica. Pero mas que nada, causaban impresion la inmensa riqueza de la Corona Real, y la magnificencia y ostentacion que exigia en todas partes el ejercicio del poder. De vez en cuando un derroche extravagante podia justificarse como arma de la Realpolitik. (Davies 71)

I wish to explore in this brief study a play by Antonio Coello, Celos, honor y cordura, that may be a rewriting of a historical episode in the private life of Felipe II and despicts him in a rather nefarious light.

Antonio Coello y Ochoa (1611-1652) is usually ascribed to the school of Calderon and is best known for his collaborations with him and other Spanish Golden Age dramatists of some renown such as Rojas Zorilla, Perez de Montalban, Velez de Guevara and Solis. (3) Perez de Montalban is one of several contemporaries to laud our dramatist in the Indice de los ingenios de Madrid that he included in his miscellany Para todos: "Don Antonio Coello, cuyos pocos anos desmienten sus muchos aciertos, y de quien se puede dezir con verdad, que empieca por donde otros acaban, escrivio [...] otros muchos versos a diferentes sujetos que tiene echos de grande profundidad y valentia, y entre ellos dos o tres Comedias" (f. 228r). Of the works that Coello penned on his own, the tragedy El conde de sex, which details the queen's complicated relationship with the young favorite Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, is the most widely-known. It is a work celebrated by critics as early as Bances Candamo (4) for its depiction of regal decorum, as the queen steadfastly suppresses her own amorous passions and jealousy for the sake of propriety (Wilson and Moir 213-15).

The little-read comedy (La gran comedia de) celos, honor, y cordura has been attributed to Coello. …

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