Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Francisco Martínez De la Rosa's Edipo and Antonio García Gutiérrez's El Paje: Lessons on Penning an Oedipal Drama in 1830s Spain

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Francisco Martínez De la Rosa's Edipo and Antonio García Gutiérrez's El Paje: Lessons on Penning an Oedipal Drama in 1830s Spain

Article excerpt

In 1829, Francisco Martínez de la Rosa attempted to cast the Oedipal story 'en un molde moderno', without the 'liga ni mezcla de material extraña' (1829: 57), in his drama Edipo, which premiered in Madrid three years later. According to José María de Carnerero, founder of the literary periodical Cartas Españolas, Edipo was so popular that it became necessary to erect barriers at the ticket booths to ensure the vendors' safety (1832: 180). There were 25 productions of Edipo in Madrid alone during the 1830s (Simón Díaz 1963: 71), and Pedro Ojeda Escudero (1997: 28-29) has documented 45 productions throughout Spain between the years 1830 and 1846. In his review of the play, Carnerero proclaimed that he could not think of a single tragedy in the Castilian language that could rival it in terms of being more polished, straightforward, interesting and well composed, 'y en cuanto a las extranjeras', he wrote, 'no será difícil probar que está en el caso de no temer comparaciones con las del primer orden y mayor crédito' (1832: 180-81).

Five years later, Antonio García Gutiérrez penned his own Spanish Oedipus play, El paje (1837), which was performed seven times in 1837 (Caldera 2001: 134; Simón Díaz 1963: 75). Critics had unanimously praised his first play, El trovador (1836); with the same unanimity, they panned El paje. The reviewer for El Semanario Pintoresco Español, presumed to be Mesonero Romanos, because of the initial 'M.' at the bottom of the page, stated that the play lacked moral or philosophical relevance, and its characters were 'odiosos y voluntariamente criminales' (M. 1837: 166). Similarly, the reviewer for the Gaceta de Madrid (1837: 4) remarked, 'nosotros no hallamos otra idea que [depravación] en El paje, idea exclusiva, y no seguramente poco tratada'.

Edipo's continued popularity throughout Romanticism's apogee in Spain, and the father-son tension that characterizes Spanish Romantic drama, according to Francisco Ruiz Ramón (1988: 492), suggests that the Oedipal theme resonated with Spanish audiences and critics during the late-Fernandine and the immediate post-Fernandine era. Nonetheless, El paje's disappointing reception demonstrates that an intergenerational struggle was not a sufficient condition for a drama's success. The purpose of this study, consequently, is to contribute to ongoing scholarly discussions of the father-son relationship in Spanish Romantic drama (Blackshaw Naberhaus 2012; Rauch 2000; Materna 1998; Labanyi 1995) by examining Oedipal paradigms in Edipo and El paje in the context of canonical Spanish Romantic theatre. With this in mind, we begin with an overview of the aforementioned scholarly discussions before shifting to analyses of the individual plays. As we hope to demonstrate, although El paje adheres more faithfully to Oedipal paradigms found in other popular Spanish Romantic dramas, the depictions of the paternal authority in Edipo better convey the political, social and existential anxieties audiences and critics experienced throughout the 1830s. This could help account for why Edipo enjoyed greater popular and critical acclaim than El paje.

Spanish Romantic Drama and the Oedipal Conflict

Like Oedipus, the Spanish Romantic hero is an orphan, unaware of his origins, and compelled to search for his progenitor. In Spanish Romantic drama, the immediate consequence of this orphanhood is social: members of the aristoc- racy refuse to recognize the hero because, although he exhibits noble characteristics, he lacks a noble last name. Rivas's Don Alvaro (1835) and García Gutiérrez's El trovador (1836), for example, begin with secondary characters describing the hero's noble gait and appearance. Subsequently, these same characters cite the protagonist's unknown paternal origins as reason alone for not deeming him a viable suitor for the Romantic heroine, who is a noblewoman (Rivas 1986: 68; García Gutiérrez 1985: 116). The hero's desire to be recognized for his deeds, instead of his last name, corresponds to the desires of the Madrid audiences at the time, which were comprised largely of 'precisely the "bourgeois men" who were struggling to understand their place in the new society and anxious to see themselves reflected, and resolved, on the stage' (Gies 1994: 106). …

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