By What Means Does Calderón Structure His Play In Terms Of Action, Text And Spectacle?

1946 words - 8 pages

Fundamental to our understanding of El Médico de su Honra, and of any other play is the notion that it was for performance and not intended for reading. Therefore, the action, text and spectacle all work together in producing an overall effect upon the audience. Calderón is described as a `craftsman' of drama and is famous for the dramatic devices which appeal to the various senses in order to convey the play's message with greater profundity. However, the seventeenth century playwright was limited by the facilities available to him. The rudimentary nature of their theatres affected the way in which a play was staged and therefore its interpretation. Public theatres were situated in courtyards, or `corrales', surrounded on three sides by private dwellings. A basic, but nevertheless important point is that theatres were generally exposed to the elements. By necessity, plays were performed during daylight hours and inevitably this would affect the presentation of the play. Atmosphere and mood were of paramount importance in a play, and this is of particular significance in El Médico de su Honra, where darkness is crucial both to the plot and the underlying themes.

That is not to say, however, that simple staging prevented an effective presentation of a play. Basic staging could be made productive, and in some cases actually more striking and powerful. Essentially, the lack of an elaborate stage merely shifts the focus elsewhere, the focus being on the actors - their actions, dialogue and how the dialogue is delivered, how they perform, costume. In El Médico de su Honra, Calderón, therefore had to structure the `actions, text and spectacle' very carefully since there are many different settings for the action of the play. For example, one of the greatest difficulties would have been creating the air of secrecy and imprisonment at Don Gutierre's house when Mencía is incarcerated and when Don Gutierre is in jail given that the stage was an open and exposed courtyard. One way of creating this effect was the addition of an `inner' stage - a room that was revealed by the curtain at the back of the main stage. This is also useful in the garden scene when Don Gutierre approaches his wife in slumber and moves a curtain to see her. Furthermore, the use of the curtain portrayed the darkness which was so crucial to the play. The essential element of drama from the Golden Age was the rudimentary nature of the staging which controlled the stricture of the play. Consequently, the language, which is used to create atmosphere and describe action, becomes of vital importance affecting the audience's interpretation.

Another fundamental structural and staging aspect of the play was the screen in the King's chambers behind which Leonor, and then later Don Gutierre hide in order to eavesdrop conversations. In addition to the dramatic significance of this item, it is important as regards to the plot and the thematic...

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