El Calderón Cómico

Projekt No.: FWF P 29115
Funding Agency: FWF Austian Science Fund
Funding Period: 01.01.2017 – 31.12.2021

From 1620 to 1655, Calderón wrote about forty plays whose main objective seems to be entertainment: La banda y la flor/ The Ribbon and the Flower, Mejor está que estaba/ ‘Tis Better than It Was, No hay burlas con el amor/ Love is no Laughing Matter, Las manos blancas no ofenden/ White Hands do not Offend etc. Either set in Spanish cities or courts of European dukes and countesses, they deal with the follies of young gentlemen and ladies striving for love and marriage. With the exception of La dama duende/ The Phantom Lady, these plays are hardly remembered outside Spain.

We would like to engage in a critical reappraisal, utilizing a four step approach: First, we will explore all levels of expression from sound and verse to dialogue, images and figures of speech. We will also look at the indications of staging which Calderón carefully included in the text.

Second, we will ask what sets the play in motion and consequently examine the deeper meaning of masquerade, mistaken identities or the multiple perspectives created through mystification and misunderstanding. We will study the causal chains which are created on stage and ask whether the possible worlds thus emerging in theatre could be perceived as possible worlds in life by 17th century spectators. Third, this will lead to the question, whether comedy implicitly conveys Calderón’s vision of fate and the general status of human life in earthly time. We would finally ascertain the cultural relevance of what comedy states about its main topics: courtship and wedding, even though it seems to deal with these matters in a light-hearted way and in accordance with the conventions of genre. Analysis will include literary and non-literary sources of Calderón’s time and draw on models provided by cultural theory and critical writing on comedy.

In a parallel endeavour, three plays will be studied for bilingual editions in Spanish and German. They account for the enormous popularity of Calderonian formulae outside Spain. In order to better understand these comedies we will study the history of their tradition, staging and translation in the German lands assessing their influence on Mozart, E.T.A. Hoffman and others.

Critical studies have either insisted on the stock elements of Calderón’s comedic plays or on the extreme artificiality of their plots. They have even turned them into serious drama by a one-sided focus on the motif of honour. We will follow a new path of investigation that aims at a reassessment of comedy’s cultural importance without losing sight of its main function as a trigger of laughter, mirth and entertainment.

Anuario calderoniano 10 (2017). La comedia cómica de Calderón.
Anuario calderoniano 10 (2017). Prólogo.
Secrets and Secrecy in Calderón’s Comedies and in Spanish Golden Age Culture.
Instituto Cervantes. Jugarse la vida. La comedia cómica de Calderón.
Congreso Internacional. Jugarse la vida. La comedia cómica de Calderón