Spanish Tale and Echoes: Aphra Behn's
The Amorous Prince; or,
The Curious Husband
AT THE END OF THE 1660S AND BEGINNING OF THE 1670S, ENGLISH playwrights were mixing Continental sources to produce complicated tragicomic double plots to create their own versions of Spanish originals. Rose A. Zimbardo perceives that at the time “the effect upon the audiences is respectively for the heroic mode 'admiration'; for the comic mode 'satire.' “Therefore, drama still needs “verisimilitude,” that is, “likeness to a shape of reality, an Idea of nature as cosmic design” (Z, 5–6). With verisimilitude, vice can be mocked, which in turn encourages morality. The more elaborated its design appears and the more balanced its plot is conceived, the closest to nature is a play considered. Thus, “character is concept, structure is dialectical debate moving in ascending progression to ideal truth, and dramatic imitation of ideas is transgeneric” (Z, 58). During the 1670s, the three-tiered play gradually gives way to a two-tiered structure that corresponds to Stage Two.
During this period, most “English dramatists … envisaged the Spaniards as grave and dignified though suspicious,” which logically altered the concept of the characters and resulted in “differences in plays” (L, 68). In 1668 three such plays were presented on the stage: Davenant's Man the Master, which is a rendering of Francisco de Rojas Zorrilla's Donde hay agravios no hay celos (Where there's offense there's no jealousy); Dryden's The Indian Emperour, from the Spanish conquest of Mexico led by Cortés; and Dryden's An Evening's Love; or, The Mock Astrologer, which mainly derives from Calderón's El astrólogo fingido. Deducting from these plays and the other borrowings, “there is nothing impossible in the assumption: Dryden could read Spanish” (L, 6).