The Great Galeoto, by José Echegaray, translated by Eleanor Bontecou
The Duchess of San Quentin, by Benito Pérez Galdós, translated by Philip M. Hayden
Daniela, by Angel Guimerá, translated by John Garrett Underhill
From the Preface:
The drama of Spain, early and modern, has in English-speaking countries been sadly neglected. It is a regrettable fact that one of the most gorgeous and passionate outbursts of national dramatic genius has received but scant attention from English readers. Cervantes’ name is at least not unknown to the great mass of readers in every language, but to the majority of English and Americans, Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Calderon — to mention only the greatest of dozens of dramatists of the time — are a closed book. About fifteen Calderon plays are available in some form in English translation or adaptation, only two or three of Lope and, to my knowledge, not one of Tirso. Of the eighteenth century lesser lights I should venture to say that there is in English no translation. The case is the same with the dramatists of the early nineteenth century, if we except one or two notable translations and studies, like that recently issued by the Hispanic Society (a translation of Un drama nuevo). And yet this period saw a rebirth of the national spirit in the drama unequalled in any other country save France.
Jose Zorrilla was born 200 years ago in Valladolid on Feb 21st, 1817. He was educated by the Jesuits at the Real Seminario de Nobles in Madrid, wrote verses when he was twelve, became an enthusiastic admirer of Walter Scott and Chateaubriand, and took part in the school performances of plays by Lope de Vega and Calderón de la Barca.
In 1833 he was sent to study law at the University of Toledo, but after a year of idleness, he fled to Madrid, where he horrified the friends of his absolutist father by making violent speeches and by founding a newspaper which was promptly suppressed by the government. He narrowly escaped transportation to the Philippines, and passed the next few years in poverty.
The suicide of popular writer Mariano José de Larra, at age 29, brought Zorrilla into notice. His elegiac poem, read at Larra’s funeral in February 1837, introduced him to the leading men of letters. In 1837 he published a book of verses, mostly imitations of Alphonse de Lamartine and Victor Hugo, which was so favourably received that he printed six more volumes within three years.
After collaborating with Antonio García Gutiérrez on the play Juán Dondolo (1839) Zorrilla began his individual career as a dramatist with Cada cual con su razón (1840), and during the next five years he wrote twenty-two plays, many of them extremely successful. His Cantos del trovador (1841), a collection of national legends written in verse, made Zorilla second only to José de Espronceda in popular esteem in XVI century.
National legends also supply the themes of his dramas, which Zorilla often constructed by adapting older plays that had fallen out of fashion. For example, in El Zapatero y el Rey he recasts El montanés Juan Pascual by Juan de la Hoz y Mota; in La mejor Talon la espada he borrows from Agustín Moreto y Cavana’s Travesuras del estudiante Pantoja.
His famous play Don Juan Tenorio is a combination of elements from Tirso de Molina’s Burlador de Sevilla and from Alexandre Dumas, père’s Don Juan de Marana (which itself derives from Les Âmes du purgatoire by Prosper Mérimée). However, plays like Sancho García, El Rey loco, and El Alcalde Ronquillo are much more original. He considered his last play, Traidor, inconfeso y mártir (1845) his best play.
Upon the death of his mother in 1847 Zorrilla left Spain, resided for a while at Bordeaux, and settled in Paris, where his incomplete poem Granada was published in 1852. In a fit of depression, he emigrated to America three years later, hoping, he claimed, that yellow fever or smallpox would kill him. During eleven years in Mexico he wrote very little. He returned to Spain in 1866, to find himself half-forgotten and considered old-fashioned.
Friends helped Zorilla obtain a small post, but the republican minister later abolished it. He was always poor, especially for the 12 years after 1871. The publication of his autobiography, Recuerdos del tiempo viejo in 1880, did nothing to alleviate his poverty. Though his plays were still being performed, he received no money from them.
Finally, in his old age, critics began to reappraise his work, and brought him new fame. He received a pension of 30,000 reales, a gold medal of honor from the Spanish Academy, and, in 1889, the title of National Laureate. He died in Madrid on 23 January 1893.
In his early years, Zorrilla was known as an extraordinarily fast writer. He claimed he wrote El Caballo del Rey Don Sancho in three weeks, and that he put together El Puñal del Godo in two days. This may account for some of the technical faults—redundancy and verbosity—in his works. His plays often appeal to Spanish patriotic pride, and actors and audiences have enjoyed his effective dramaturgy.
Don Juan Tenorio is his best-known work. A new English verse translation with parallel Spanish text, translated by N. K. Mayberry and A. S. Kline, is available at this link.
In The Poetics of Piracy, author Barbara Fuchs challenges the hegemony of a nationalist English literary history that all too often ignores the rest of Europe, particularly Spain.
With its dominance as a European power and the explosion of its prose and dramatic writing, Spain provided an irresistible literary source for English writers of the early modern period. But the deep and escalating political rivalry between the two nations led English writers to negotiate, disavow, or attempt to resolve their fascination with Spain and their debt to Spanish sources. Amid thorny issues of translation and appropriation, imperial competition, the rise of commercial authorship, and anxieties about authenticity, Barbara Fuchs traces how Spanish material was transmitted into English writing, entangling English literature in questions of national and religious identity, and how piracy came to be a central textual metaphor, with appropriations from Spain triumphantly reimagined as heroic looting.
From the time of the attempted invasion by the Spanish Armada of the 1580s, through the rise of anti-Spanish rhetoric of the 1620s, The Poetics of Piracy charts this connection through works by Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, Francis Beaumont, John Fletcher, and Thomas Middleton. Fuchs examines how their writing, particularly for the stage, recasts a reliance on Spanish material by constructing narratives of militaristic, forcible use. She considers how Jacobean dramatists complicated the texts of their Spanish contemporaries by putting them to anti-Spanish purposes, and she traces the place of Cervantes’s Don Quixote in Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle and Shakespeare’s late, lost play Cardenio. English literature was deeply transnational, even in the period most closely associated with the birth of a national literature.
Recovering the profound influence of Spain on Renaissance English letters, The Poetics of Piracy paints a sophisticated picture of how nations can serve, at once, as rivals and resources.
Barbara Fuchs is Professor of Spanish and English and directs the Center for 17th and 18th Century Studies of the Clark Memorial Library at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her Exotic Nation: Maurophilia and the Construction of Early Modern Spain and “The Bagnios of Algiers” and “The Great Sultana”: Two Plays of Captivity are both available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.
Professor Barbara Fuchs leads a great initiative in Los Angeles: diversifying the classics. As part of her work there are available online three translations of Spanish Golden Age comedies:
The Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala is the home of the fantastic MOOC Discover Don Quijote de la Mancha, what many call the greatest book of all time. The Don Quijote MOOC, which was the brainchild of the brilliant Giancarlo Ibarguen, is beautifully created by professor Eric Graf and the UFM video production team in both English and Spanish versions. It has been made possible thanks to a donation from the John Templeton Foundation, with additional support from the Earhart Foundation.
This MOOC uses many of the vibrant teaching techniques that makes the Internet a revolutionary teaching and learning tool. MOOC in English:http://donquijote.ufm.edu/en/