In Spain the term 'comedia' corresponded to 'play'
in our own English drama and ' Schauspiel' in the German
theatre. The 'Siglo de Oro' permitted a fusion of genres,
and the 'comedia' designated a fusion of tragic and comic
elements, which the majority of other(1) theatres have
kept separate. A Spanish piece therefore might be emotional
and tragic in parta and yet remain a 'comedia'.
In one of his works Morel -Patio has given the following
definition of the Spanish 'Comedia':(2) "C'est un terme
"très large qui embrasse tous les genres de drame, que les
"effets en soient comiques ou tragiques, a l'exclusion
"d'une part, d'un certain drame religieux ou liturgique
"que les Espagnols nomment auto, et d'autre part, des
"genres inférieurs, de la farce, de l'interwede, du vaudeville,
des pieces de circonstance, des féeries mythologiques
. " Lope de Vega, who perfected the 'Siglo de Oro comedia', had a definite theory about the fusion of genres.
He stated that this type of dramatic production was the
mirror of life, and, as comedy and tragedy were inseparable
in the lives of men, so they must appear side by side
in the Spanish 'comedia', which was the reflection of
reality. He recommended to playwrights "Lo trágico y lo
cómico mezclado",(1) and, developing this idea, he gave
them further advice:
"Hayan grave una parte, otra ridícula;
"Que orquesta variedad deleita mucho.
"Buen ejemplo nos da naturaleza,
"Que por tal variedad tiene belleza. "(2)
English Elizabethan drama exemplified this theory also;
Shakespeare delighted in mingling the tragic with the
The works of the national Spanish theatre dealt with
neither philosophy nor abstract theories but primarily
with human beings. The never -ending passion and interest
of the Spanish audience was in the individual, struggling,
hating, loving, suffering, dying - in short, the complete
man. He was often represented as a little better or worse than he really was, and the interpretation of his character
became highly conventionalised in most Spanish Dramatic
works. Yet the 'comedia' was born of direct contact with
humanity, and man remained the centre of interest.
The first essential of a successful Spanish 'comedia'
was a good story with thrilling intrigue and abundant action.
The plot had to be complicated and skilfully developed.
The members of a Spanish audience demanded from
their theatre entertainment before all else. They had
little desire to listen to preaching or moralising; they
mainly asked to be amused. The analysis of character
interested them little. The subtle psychological works
of many modern Spanish playwrights would have made little
appeal to a 'Siglo de Oro' audience. A national background
was preferred for the 'comedia', in which were to
be found certain elements inherent in the national consciousness.
Therefore the same subjects, for example,
patriotism, religion, 'pundonor', appeared and reappeared
persistently in Spanish 'Comedias': subjects which made
particular appeal to the people of Spain but were not of
great interest to the peoples of other European nations.
When considering the strength of Spain's dramatic
production, we must not forget that Spanish genius seemed
to possess gifts and qualities eminently suited to the
writing of plays. First of these qualities was realism,
without which the theatre could never have reached such
heights. This power of observation and truthful reproduction
made of the drama a real thing which appealed to
and held its audience. Warm, living, Spanish realism
laid the foundation of the success of the national 'come - dia'. Along with this realism there was a sense of the
theatre, which was possessed by most Spanish dramatists.
They excelled in creating situations and unravelling
plots, while many of them showed remarkable perfection of
technique. Nor did they lack creative power, imagination,
and a certain spontaneous passion necessary for the achievement
of any really great work. This national Spanish
'comedia' was more a product of intuition than of studied
thought. It was a vital, spontaneous thing which throbbed
and pulsated with the life of a nation.
Spanish 'comedia' of the 'Siglo de Oro' was indebted
hardly at all to the ancient Greek and Roman drama or to
the contemporary French classical drama. Lope de Vega
admitted that he was acquainted with the rule of the Three
Unities and with the precepts for the correct writing of
plays; but he confessed that in practice he ignored