Nahuatl Theatre, Vol. 3: Spanish Golden Age Drama in Mexican Translation/Nahuatl Theatre, Vol. 4: Nahua Christianity in Performance

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Nahuatl Theatre, Vol. 3: Spanish Golden Age Drama in Mexican Translation. Edited by Barry D. Sell, Louise M. Burkhart, and Elizabeth R. Wright. Foreword by John Frederick Schwaller. With contributions from Daniel Mosquera and John Bierhorst. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008. Pp xx, 420. $55.00. ISBN: 978-0-806-13878-7).

Nahuatl Theatre, Vol. 4:Nahua Christianity in Performance. Edited by Barry D. Sell and Louise M. Burkhart. (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 2009. Pp. xvi, 405. $49.95. 978-0-806-14010-0.)

The two books reviewed here form part of a collection dedicated to publicizing and analyzing a little-known cultural phenomenon: the theatrical works that were composed in the Náhuatl (Aztec) language during the colonial period in New Spain. In volume 3, the editors compiled the works translated by Don Bartolomé de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl, the nahuatlato (speaker and writer of Náhuatl). Volume 4 is the compilation of seven complete writings and a fragment that were produced in the eighteenth century, dramatize Christian doctrine, and provide a moralizing message.

The son of a cacica (an Indian noblewoman with political power) and a Spaniard, Alva was born c. 1597. He was the brother of the historian Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxóchitl, and both men were descendents of the royal lineage of Nezahualcóyotl Acolmiztli, the famous ruler of the pre-Hispanic kingdom of Tetzcoco-Acolhuacan. Unusually, Bartolomé de Alva became a member of the colonial Catholic hierarchy and established contacts with the Jesuits of the college of Tepotzotlan. Especially important was his association with the Italian Horacio Carochi, who was an outstanding scholar of the Náhuatl language. In 1640-41 Alva applied himself to translating three plays by two significant authors of the Spanish theater of the Golden Age: Lope de Vega y Carpio (The Animal Prophet and the Fortunate Patricide and The Mother of the Best) and Pedro Calderón de la Barca (The Great Theater of the World). Alva, with the help of Carochi, not only translated the European religious dramas but also adapted them for indigenous audiences - a major accomplishment. The exposition of the texts conveys the nuances of the original Spanish version, the Náhuatl translation, and the corresponding English. Along with very useful introductory essays, the editors provide footnotes that clarify various aspects of the content.

Volume 4 presents two moralizing works, two plays on the Passion, and another three plays that deal with Náhuatl history. …


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