This was not the case for the second edition in , a severely mutilated version of the works, displaying a Counter-Reformation mentality in full spate. Despite the corrections produced by the best efforts of scholars such as Braamcamp Freire and Vasconcelos, the chronology of the works remains tentative. Not all scholars have accepted this. In his preface to Don Duardos, c. The moralities, too, have a looser meaning than do their French and English 9 Thomas R. Hart ed. Understandably, given his Christian faith in redemption and salvation, the one genre missing is tragedy.
Another critical concern has been the lack of unified action, whether real or perceived. Many of the plays are episodic in structure, reflecting the processional nature of proto-theatrical representations, religious and secular, liturgical and courtly, with which Gil Vicente would have been familiar. A fruitful comparison may be with the law court, where witnesses are called, questioned and heard, and then leave the room rather than linger to take part in a generalised discussion. In common with his contemporaries, Gil Vicente wrote for a bilingual court, at which Spanish poets and dramatists were well known and highly regarded.
The four Queen Consorts who spanned his literary lifetime were all Spanish. Out of his forty-seven plays and dramatic monologues, fifteen are totally in Portuguese, twelve are totally in Castilian, and the rest are a mixture of both. The speech of Portuguese gypsies, Jews, Moors and Africans is also characterised, and comic mileage is gained from foreign characters speaking their respective languages.
A major element in Vicentine theatre itself totally in verse is its lyric poetry. Songs permeate the plays, whether as extracts or in full.
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Many were pre-existing, but some were composed expressly by him. They develop both the argument of the plays and the psychological characterisation of the personages. The autos were almost all performed on royal premises, whether in chamber or chapel, in Lisbon or wherever the king was residing. It is likely that the royal members of the audience sat on a dais, their ladies-in-waiting perhaps on cushions whilst other spectators stood. GIL VICENTE 61 and indicates that Gil Vicente had available to him, at least at some of the locations where his plays were put on, elaborate scenery and sets, a raised stage, and some means of control of lighting, to allow the performance of the numerous scenes which take place at night.
For indoor performance he would have used torches or candles, to be dimmed at will; outdoors, curtains could have been positioned to allow or exclude light.
As court playwright, Gil Vicente was obliged to reflect royal policy and power, its overseas enterprises in military, religious or colonising spheres. Where panegyric and propaganda are evident, they are expressed with subtlety. This intimate circle, however, was not a watertight compartment. He was a conduit of knowledge, presenting a crosssection of society that Court and courtiers might choose to ignore, whether or not it was meant to constitute a source of amusement.
His plays kept in view also the countryside from which many had recently gravitated to Lisbon, left depopulated by the peasantry and undirected by the landowners and gentry. In return, the chapbook editions of his plays bear witness to their wider reception by the populace. All the texts repay close attention, not the least for their inexhaustible source of information and insight into sixteenth-century Portugal.
The following discussion of plays which makes no pretence at being comprehensive will be grouped under three broad categories: religious plays, comedies, and occasional plays. His sudden access of erudition amazes his companions, an erudition that he accepts as the God-given gift of tongues. This opposition between the contemplative and active life is sketched out in the next play, Auto dos Reis Magos Play of the Wise Men , with the additional hint of class differences when the shepherds come across the page attending the Three Kings on their journey to Bethlehem.
In this play, performed at Madre de Deus, she asserts her refusal to marry on the grounds that it is a form of captivity.
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On the other hand, she rejects the idea of becoming a nun. Her head is turned by her conviction that it is she who will bear the Messiah. Though spiritual enough to receive a divine message, she fails to understand that her presumption disqualifies her from being the Blessed Virgin. During the action, Cassandra progresses from resistance to the good advice given by the Old Testament prophets and the sibyls of Classical Antiquity, through her refusal of the truth, towards acceptance of the reality when faced with the Virgin and Child, and finally her joining in worship and hymn singing, urging on the soldiers of Christ.
For all their apparent simplicity, the pastoral autos contain ambiguity and irony. Such is the ornateness of a cross, that they fail to recognise it as such. It is left to Faith speaking Portuguese to enlighten these rustics. However, the last laugh is not on her, nor on the congregation at Matins. We have, in embryo, the dichotomy that Gil Vicente would raise more than once, between the lost simplicity of the early Church and its sheepskin-wearing pastors, and the over-elaborate and empty ritual of his day.
This fantastical work, based on a series of monologues by the various characters and personifications, is another illustration of universal homage to the Christ Child. His talent for sweetening the bitter pill of dogma comes to the fore in the Auto da Barca do Inferno, the first of three satires in which the dead face judgement and are sent on their way to Hell, Purgatory or, very rarely, to Heaven.
In this evergreen morality, a series of characters traipse to and fro between the ships of Hell and of Heaven, learning from a garrulous devil and a laconic angel why they are condemned to eternal damnation. A nobleman, a usurer, a cobbler, a friar, a bawd, a Jew, a magistrate, an advocate and a hanged thief have all sinned according to the opportunities their station in life or occupation have allowed and have failed to earnestly repent. The only characters to escape damnation are a simpleton, pure in intention if not in speech, and four knights who have died defending the Faith in North Africa.
Since Cassandra also rejects the veil, she is not seeking the independence and autonomy that the religious life was able to give. See Jorge A. What distinguishes these souls is that they are penitent, albeit only at the last minute. At their piteous tears, Christ arrives to bear them off, rather as if he were harrowing Hell, except that He is already risen.
Whether they go directly to Heaven or have to pass through Purgatory is not specified. For his most elevated religious play, the allegorical Auto da Alma Play of the Soul , performed for Maundy Thursday, Gil Vicente eschews damnation and punishment as he tracks the path of a Soul along the journey of life to an inn Mother Church , alternately urged on by an angel and delayed by a devil.
This beautiful and serene play combines wit, compassion, theology and optimism. In the late s, this serenity had disappeared. In the latter play, Rome, personified as a young girl over whom her friends are fighting, can bring nothing to the Christmas exchange-fair that will allow her to acquire peace, truth and faith.
Into this picture of religious discord are integrated two farmers, discontented with their respective wives, epitomising the disharmony of the world. The last part of the play features a lively band of country lads and lasses who raise spirits with their flirting chit-chat and exchanges with the Seraphim. From him, they learn of the true purpose of the Fair and its patroness, the Virgin, to whom they sing a beautiful lyric of praise.
The details of their complaints reveal harsh lives, blows of fate and injustices. Juggling Portuguese and Castilian lovers with skill while her husband is away on this voyage to get rich — though against a seemingly illogical chronology — the wife is a born survivor. Both accept at face value the account that each gives of their lives during their separation.
The farce of the Velho da Horta The Old Man and the Garden is pitiless in its mockery of an old man lusting after a pretty young girl. His cupidity leads to his penury, since he falls into the clutches of a rapacious procuress, Branca Gil. The girl warns him at the outset that his folly will bring his downfall, but he will not be deterred. He even tries to court the maiden in the language of palace poetry, which the courtiers in the audience would recognise as theirs. In part, a victim of love when taken out of its appropriate framework, the old man brings his wife and four children down with him, for they are left penniless.
Quem Tem Farelos? Most acutely observed is the argument that ensues between the two women. Isabel furiously points out the inconsistency of presenting an elegant, leisured face to a suitor, whilst having to do the household chores.
Full text of "Gil Vicente"
Gil Vicente treated courtship and marriage seriously as well as humorously. It opens with the widower lamenting the death of his beloved wife, with whom he had lived a harmonious existence. Through obstinacy or lack of experience, she prefers good looks and sweet talk from an impecunious squire, who turns tyrant on marriage. The last scene shows her riding on his back to a meeting with a former admirer, now a hermit.
The first two are comic characters but the Castilian is presented seriously no doubt in deference to the importance of that country in relation to Portugal. Fama treats her suitors to a history and geography lesson, turning them down on the grounds that Portuguese conquests, commerce, military power and defence of Christianity against Islam, render insufficient anything that they can offer. As she is crowned with laurel by Faith and Fortitude and borne away in a triumphal car, the message is made clear: Christian Portugal has achieved superiority over the Ancient World.
As a contrast to the main action, a parody of courtly love is supplied by a wild man, Camilote, and his ugly lady, Maimonda. Occasional, festival and allegorical plays These spectacular entertainments, to mark royal betrothals, births, ceremonial entrances, and so forth, allowed Gil Vicente free reign to his fantasy.
They have never proved the most popular texts for analysis, and it is all too easy to relegate them as examples of superficial flattery and propaganda. Aubrey Bell ed.
In accordance with the spirit of regeneration that the love match will bring to Portugal, a Forge of Love is set up in which a succession of characters are transformed. If the crooked figure of Justice is a predictable candidate, the most touching individual is a black African from Guinea.
He enters the forge with the desire to emerge white. This he does, but his speech remains that of a black African. Comedy moves into pathos as Gil Vicente sketches the isolation and dismay of a man with a split racial identity, rejected by both white and black women. Gil Vicente was very far from being the only Portuguese dramatist of the sixteenth century to put a black man on stage. They figure in the work of other playwrights, and the traffic was not all one way, because it is very likely that one writer of religious autos had an African mother.
His work, and the autos of many other popular dramatists of the sixteenth century, are only now beginning to appear in modern editions. Their study and appreciation will be a task for future generations of scholars.
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When we add to these the experiments in humanistic comedy of Jorge Ferreira de Vasconcelos we have another body of work which remains for the most part hardly known. It owes nothing to Gil Vicente and it had no immediate successors. It belongs to a brief period in the s in which a fully developed classical aesthetic could blend with a Catholic world view to produce a play of the highest literary and human quality.
That blending will be the theme of this brief account. Ferreira was probably aware of contemporary Italian tragedy, and he certainly had before him the Roman tragedies of Seneca. These are: the lack of action, the use of tiradas, long and highly rhetorical soliloquies sometimes delivered in the presence of a confidant ; sticomythia, or the exchange of metrically parallel units of dialogue; and finally, the presence of a chorus. Ferreira approached this material with the sensibility of a sixteenth-century Catholic.
One of the features of classical, and of all tragedy is a sense of fate. The king tries to absolve himself of responsibility, but cannot. The fate of which he speaks is not the pagan fatum but his own weakness and his failure to control his son.
Related Auto da Alma (Literatura Lingua Portuguesa) (Portuguese Edition)
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