European Theories of the Drama: An Anthology of Dramatic Theory and Criticism from Aristotle to the Present Day

By Barrett H. Clark | Go to book overview

written on the drama, but his Defensa de la comedia has not yet been published. The various Prefaces contain very little dramatic theory. One of the most important critics of the period was the celebrated Balthazar Gracián, whose Agudeza y certe de ingenio was published in 1648. In 1650 appeared Diego Vich Breve discurso de las Comedias y de su representacion. With the decline of the drama came a corresponding decline of dramatic criticism and theory. Not until the advent of Luzan was there any outstanding Art of Poetry, criticism, or preface.


THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

The eighteenth century in Spain marks the decline of the Golden Age of Spanish drama, and the ascendancy of foreign, chiefly French, influence. The outstanding figure is Luzan, whose Poética was published in 1737. It was the author's purpose to make Spanish poetry conform to "rules prevailing among the cultured nations." He drew largely upon Boileau, Aristotle and the contemporary Italian critics: Muratori, Gravina, etc. His ideas were opposed in the Diaro de los Literatos de España, founded in 1737 by Francisco Manuel de Huerta y Vega and Juan Martinez Salafranca, and Leopoldo Geronimo Puig. He was likewise defended, in the same paper, by José Gerardo de Hervás y Cobo de la Torre, who in 1742 wrote a Satira contra los malos escritores de su tiempo. Feyjoo's magazine, in imitation of the Spectator, the Teatro Critico universal, first appeared in 1726, and continued until 1739. His Cartas eruditas y curiosas ( 1740-60) went far to disseminate European ideas of literature into Spain. Martin Sarmiento is the author of a posthumous Memorias para la historia de la poesia, y poetas espanoles ( 1745). In 1749 Blas de Nasarre wrote a preface ( Dissertacion o prologo) to two of Cervantes' plays, and attempted to discredit the old plays of Spain. Joseph Carillo attacked Nasarre the following year in his Sin Razon impugnada, and Zabaleta in his Discurso critico ( 1750) defended Lope and his school. In the same year, Thomas de Yriarte published a translation of Horace Ars Poetica. Montiano y Luyando furthered the work of gallicizing Spanish literature in his defense of the French rules as used in his plays; his Discurso sobre las Tragedias appeared in 1750; one of comedies being published the same year, and a third in 1753. Among the more pedantic writings was the Retorica ( 1757) of Gregorio Mayáns y Siscar, chiefly derived from the Latins. Luis Joseph Velazquez published his Orígines de la Poesia Castellana three years before. Nicolas Fernandez de Moratin, a dramatist of unequal power, wrote a number of tractates and prefaces, some of which defended his own plays, while others attacked the old autos, which were at the time prohibited. In 1762 he plead for the French rules in the preface of his unsuccessful play, La Petimetra. The same year he published three discourses, chief among which was the Desengano al Teatro Español. In 1770 he published the preface to his play Hormesinda, which was written, however, by Bernascone. It was attacked by Juan Pelaez in the Reparos sobre la Tragedia intitulada Hormesinda. The quarrel continued, and in 1773 Sebastian y Latre issued a defense of the Unities in his Ensayo sobre el Teatro Español. The publication, in 1785-86, of Vicente Garcia de la Huerta's selection of old plays in his Theatro Hespañol, and the prefaces, especially the Escena Española defendida ( 1786), called down upon him the wrath of a number of writers, who blamed him for omitting such dramatists as Lope de Vega, Tirso, and Alarcón. The tracts and pamphlets of the time were numerous, though few of them are of any value. Among Huerta's antagonists may be mentioned Forner, Samaniego, Yriarte and Jovellanos. The popular dramatist, Ramon de la Cruz, especially in his preface to the Teatro ( 1786-91), did much to free the drama from formal restrictions. He was also the first to introduce Shakespeare to his country. His version of Hamlet is dated 1772. Leandro Fernandez de Moratin, one of the best dramatists of the late eighteenth century, was an ardent admirer of Shakespeare (he made a version of Hamlet in 1798), and of Molière. His early plays were written according to the French "rules," but he

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