University of Texas, San Antonio
A review of generic approaches to Cervantes's La Numancia over the last quarter-century indicates that this play can be seen as a microcosm of the history of genre theory and the comedia16. As I will show, the generic categories have been based on the identification of specific formal characteristics, sometimes linked to ethical considerations, in a practice that is the distant offspring of Aristotle's Poetics. Perhaps as a result of this long-standing tradition of linking genre theory and intrinsic methodologies, scholars working in the emerging field of cultural studies have neglected the concept of genre in their examinations of early modern Spanish drama. This article seeks to bridge the gap between cultural studies and genre theory. Through an examination of recent developments in the revision of
marxist aesthetics17, and of the critical discourses used by Hispanists to speak about genre, I will develop a theory and practice of literary history that collapses the two binaries, literature / history and form / ideology, that initially appear to be obstacles to the creation of a practice which studies how genres operate as social formations and among social formations (Bennett 108). I will then use this materialist genre theory to study the way the
«deployment» of genre conventions in La Numancia and in Arauco domado contributes to the discourses of Christian imperialist ideology in early modern Spain18.
The quotation in the title refers to Philip Mason's observations concerning the need for an ideology that permits both the colonizer and the colonized to accept imperial power relations as the natural order; the generic indeterminacy that is the result of the combination of tragic, comic, and most importantly, anti-epic discourses in these two plays is an important component in the denaturalization of early modern Spain's imperial power relations. (Pieterse 252). In Literature Among Discourses, Claudio Guillén refers to the early modern picaresque novel as an example of a counter genre, the anti-romance, because the unheroic adventures of a person of low birth function as the negative image of the chivalric hero and his martial achievements. The inversion of heroic values that Guillén identifies is not limited to the picaresque novel, of course. In addition to Don Quijote's deflation of chivalric ideals, there exists a large body of anti-heroic sixteenth and seventeenth century European poetry and drama which deploys the epic as a counter genre. In my studies of the seventeenth century renovatio of Homer and Virgil, I have identified two variants of counter epic: the burlesque epic and the anti-epic. The anti-epic represents martial experiences in a serious tone, but emphasizes the high cost of war and depicts Christian Imperialism as barbaric. The best known anti-epic work is Ercilla's monumental Araucana. It has been well documented, particularly in David —48→ Quint's masterful Epic and Empire (1993), that this text is as much a critique as a hymn of praise to the conquest of Chile. This study will focus on Lope de Vega's dramatic revision of that poem, Arauco domado, and the Cervantine play La destrucción de Numancia. I will argue that, as anti-epic texts, they play a significant role in the cultural history of the early modern age. These counter generic works provide one of many forms of discursive mediation concerning the role of the martial aristocracy in the post-feudal world, serving as an oppositional discourse through their critique of the deployment of epic values by that class in order to maintain its dominant position in the hierarchies of power.
In arguing for the potentially oppositional nature of these counter generic texts, I follow Raymond Williams's (1972) practice of
«'epochal' analysis», a process which recognizes
«the complex interactions between movements and tendencies both within and beyond a specific and effective dominance» (120). Williams asserts that conventional, monolithic views of history often fail to recognize the significance of competing discourses within a period, and tend to grant signification only to the expression of the dominant voice (121-22). He identifies residual and emergent elements as the two formations which are most often overlooked. In the case of studies of early modern epic, I believe that the importance of the emergent anti-martial discourses has not been adequately examined, resulting in a failure to recognize that the traditional epic is, in Williams's terminology, a residual discourse -one which can no longer adequately express the lived experiences of the culture which produces it- rather than the product of a securely dominant formation.
In the following sections of this paper, I will examine the ways that the concept of genre has traditionally been used to explain La Numancia and Arauco domado as plays which support the orthodox view of imperialism, and will suggest an alternative procedure, grounded in the practices and perceptions of materialist literary history outlined here.
Ever since Aristotle's Poetics, genre theory has been a prominent tool for the analysis of western literature. Genre theory has also been a central component of classic marxist literary theory. Like marxism's view of literature as a whole, its conception of genres makes an
important contribution to the field by denying them an immanent, trans-historical nature. But this vision of genres is also flawed by the positing of changes in social reality as the base or referent for the superstructure activity of genre transformation (Bennett 78). I do not mean to imply that there exists a natural or immanent quality in either literature or theory to explain the ubiquity of genre studies; rather, it is likely that this emphasis on the marking of boundaries is a component of the binary structure that, according to post-structuralists, has been dominant in western epistemology. In this study, I will emphasize that the polyphony of generic discourses in these two texts is an indicator of the generic indeterminacy that often marks anti-epic discourse, which David Quint terms
«the epic of the losers» (46).
Studies of the generic status of La Numancia often demonstrate binary patterns of thought in their attempts to establish both boundaries and similarities in order to justify single-genre labels. Many critics have sought to place La Numancia within the boundaries of tragedy by demonstrating similarities to classical
Athenian theater or to
sixteenth-century pre-Lopean drama rather than to the comedia nueva. It is important to note that the generic status of the play is seldom the focus of this criticism; it is generally mentioned in passing, as part of the process of situating the play in its literary historical context. Jean Canavaggio, for example, identifies the speeches by the Río Duero and España as the voices of destiny, like the Greek chorus, thus linking the play to Athenian drama by evoking the concept of unavoidable fate (46). J. L. Alborg also categorizes the play as tragic because of its affinities with classical theater, despite the nationalist rather than Greco-Roman setting, because the plot is developed
«en el cauce de los modelos y teorías greco-latinos» (559). Angela Belli compares La Numancia to Euripidean tragedies, such as The Trojan Women and Hecuba, in which there is collective rather than individual suffering (121-23). In these plays, according to Belli, the tragic error of the suffering collective is its misjudgment of the
«craftiness» of the enemy, which is
«simply a mask for barbarity» (126). Raymond MacCurdy also uses the concept of
«collective» tragedy to distinguish Cervantes's Numancia from Rojas Zorrilla's seventeenth-century revision (118). For these critics, the tragic status and the orthodox tone of the Cervantine work is never in doubt; the task they have set for themselves is to identify which of the tragic models available to him Cervantes utilized, often in order to improve the reputation of a
play which, although revered by the German Romantics, had subsequently been judged as deficient (Casalduero, 1966, 259; Friedman, 2-3).
Joaquín Casalduero creates a new literary period,
«el primer Barroco», in order to set off the Cervantine
dramatic corpus from both Renaissance drama and the
comedia nueva; he identifies Senecan drama as its most significant predecessor (13). Despite the assertion that, because of its belief in free will, Christian drama contains
«pasión» rather than tragedy, he nonetheless continues to refer to La Numancia by the singular label. In his concluding description of the play's
«sentido y forma», Casalduero insists that
«el tema muerte-vida acentúa la unicidad del sentido pagano-cristiano de la tragedia en sus dos elementos: caída y levantamiento» (282). Despite identifying three sets of contradictions which have the potential to undermine the play's tragic status, and which point to indeterminacy, the critic is unwilling to consider a different generic designation. Critics who study La Numancia in the context of sixteenth-century Spanish tragedies also undermine their own generic designation, often by referring to the presence of other genres. Francisco Ruiz-Ramón classifies the play as
«la tragedia de los sitiados», but, of course, that is only one half of the plot (130). He responds to critical accusations that the play's theme is more appropriate to the epic than to drama by asserting that Cervantes has dramatized an epic theme; however, dramatization may take on many forms other than tragedy (131). In a chapter entitled
«La Numancia within structural patterns of sixteenth-century Spanish tragedy» Edward Friedman points to the superiority of Cervantes's tragic dramaturgy over that of his immediate predecessors, because La Numancia is more unified (59). But Friedman also likens Cervantes'
«superposition of art on history» to the chronicle, a decidedly non-tragic genre (35). Angel Valbuena Prat compares the Cervantine play to Lobo Lasso's La destrucción de Constantinopla in order to classify it as a Renaissance tragedy. However, he describes the tragic formula of
«heroísmo» in these plays as
«una mezcla penetrante» (51). The reference is to a mixture of themes, but such a mixture also has generic implications; the critic concedes that the work of Lobo Lasso is often
«novelesca» (53). The novel is, of course, the least determinate of literary genres.
Alfredo Hermenegildo points out that in the Quijote Cervantes refers to La Numancia in the context of the Renaissance tragedies of Argensola (45). Hermenegildo concurs, although with different
criteria and for different purposes: where Cervantes sought to demonstrate that his drama, like Argensola's, was free of the
«disparates» of the
comedia nueva, the critic seeks to link the tragic components of the two authors' works by pointing out a common plot pattern which is explicitly political. Hermenegildo writes that, through the critique
«de algunos reyes y de algunos linajes,» these two dramatists created a form of tragedy in which
«se intentaban destruir dos de las bases principales sobre las que se asentaba la sociedad cristiana vieja» (46) (The way in which Hermenegildo
«tames» this apparently subversive representation of the dominant ideology will be examined in the latter half of this article).
In more recent approaches to this play, criticism often continues to focus on Aristotelian categories such as unity or the tragic hero. Gwynne Edwards focuses on demonstrating that because there is structural unity in the play, it can be called a tragedy; past generations of Aristotelian critics had posited
«not unified» as the criterion for denying the play the label of tragedy. Edwards emphasizes structural unity as the force which actually creates the work's tragic spirit, in contradiction of Casalduero and Valbuena Prat, who had argued that the unity emerges from that spirit (293, 301). In order to claim the designation of tragedy for the play, Frederick de Armas addresses Arnold Reichenberger, whose
«not statements» are based on the belief that tragedy may not have a happy ending. De Armas seeks to demonstrate that Scipio is the tragic hero, so that the supposed absence -a catastrophe- is made present (36-37).
Several critics emphasize the epic component in this play. Carroll Johnson and Jean Canavaggio have pointed out the parallels to Virgil's Aeneid, because both works narrate the phoenix-like birth of a new civilization out of the ashes of a ruined city (Johnson 311, Canavaggio 43). In addition, Emilie Bergmann writes that the
«timeless» nature of the work, which combines projections of the future and reflections on the past through the use of allegorical figures and prophecies, is more suited to a narrative genre like the epic than to drama (88). And, in a reconsideration of his earlier article which focused on Scipio as a tragic hero, Frederick de Armas has recently demonstrated the similarities between La Numancia and Lucan's epic, the Pharsalia, which also features scenes of necromancy and prophecy. However, all of these critics except De Armas conceive of the play's epic dimensions as an element of its affirmation of the status quo, because they have in mind what Quint calls
«the epic of the winners» rather than a more problematic text like the Pharsalia. Indeed, it is De Armas's choice of this unconventional epic as a point
of comparison that enables him to identify the oppositional elements of La Numancia.
One issue that must be explored is critical reluctance to use the concept of generic mixture as a way to illuminate difficult texts. Nancy Klein Maguire writes that one possible explanation is that a mixed genre, such as tragicomedy,
«escapes» the binary compulsion that dominates western approaches to knowledge (6). To privilege indeterminacy, an even more radical form of generic experimentation, is to perform an act of deconstruction on this particular example of binary thought in order to allow this generic phenomenon to escape from its marginal position in seventeenth-century drama study. Another relevant factor is that the mixing of genres was discouraged by the two most influential classic authorities, Aristotle and Horace. In the period this article addresses, the two ancient authorities are often mentioned by those who would condemn a text that incorporates more than one genre as a
«mongrel» (Sydney) a
«minotaur» (Lope de Vega, El arte nuevo de estudiar comedias l. 176) or a
«bastard» in need of
«legitimization» (Yoch, in Maguire 115). This peculiar vocabulary highlights the fact that violating -or worse, eliminating- generic boundaries is perceived as an act whose consequences have implications outside the realm of literature; it is a transgression related to inappropriate reproductive behavior, which therefore poses a threat to social hierarchies. As we have seen, modern criticism often follows the lead of these classical and early modern theoreticians.
Paul Lewis Smith and Frederick de Armas move beyond this pattern of binary thought, and specifically point out the multi-generic dimension of La Numancia. In his rejection of de Armas's identification of Scipio as a tragic hero, Smith asserts that Scipio's fall is just; therefore the play is not wholly tragic, but also tragicomic (18-19). Still, the designation
«tragicomedy» is not entirely sufficient, in part because it does not take into account the anti-epic features of the play. The linkage of comedy and comfort provides an additional complication, because some classical Greek tragedies did have
«happy endings», a practice which Aristotle approved, although it was not his preferred mode of narration. Frederick De Armas' recent article, cited previously, offers a model for genre study because it demonstrates convincingly the many similarities between the Cervantine work and Lucan's epic poem, but does not seek to reduce the drama to a single genre. Instead, De Armas reaffirms the parallels between La Numancia and classical tragedy that he had demonstrated in an earlier article, and concludes that the
work is both epic and tragic. I would argue that the generic hallmark of La Numancia, and to a lesser extent of Arauco domado, is precisely the lack of any identifiable generic
«dominant», for the anti-epic features constitute the breakdown of one generic system without offering another to replace it. James Parr has argued that for comedias whose generic designations provide a critical quandary because of the
«juxtaposition» in the final scenes of death and marriage -the hallmarks of tragedy and comedy- the search for a generic
should be abandoned; the juxtaposition should be
the focus of generic analysis (159). In La Numancia and Arauco domado, the combination of several genres results in the even more complex phenomenon which I have termed
«generic indeterminacy». This claim of indeterminacy is similar to that which post-structuralist criticism asserts for textual meaning as a whole, in that it validates the significance of a lack of closure. In these two plays, and particularly in the final scenes, events are described in terms which demonstrate ideological faultlines through the deployment of conflicting generic terms which remain unresolved. I will show that in these two texts the lack of a generic dominant, and the presence of generic indeterminacy, makes a significant contribution to the polyphonic scrutiny of Imperialism.
Although some of the studies cited here include references to other social formations, and to their interaction with the drama of the period (usually in order to argue that Cervantes was an ardent supporter of Spanish imperialism), the emphasis is on an intertextuality that is limited to literary texts: Paul Lewis Smith compares La Numancia to Cinthio's tragicomedies, de Armas shows the parallels to Aeschylus' Persians and Lucan's Pharsalia, Belli highlights the similarities to Euripides' The Trojan Women, and Reichenberger attempts to narrow the field even further by arguing for the
«uniqueness» of the
comedia among discourses. I would like to suggest that materialist versions of genre theory, grounded in the conviction that literary studies are most valuable when literary texts cease to be considered a privileged and
«unique» discourse, can provide a useful supplement.
In Outside Literature, Tony Bennett argues that the task of genre study is not to define genres, but rather
«to examine the composition and functioning of generic systems» in order to define the boundaries which separate these systems in terms of
circumscribed fields of textual uses and effects» (112, 105). Bennett also emphasizes the importance of studying literary texts in the context of other types of writing, and of other social processes, citing Leonard Tennenhouse's Shakespearean study, Power on Display, as a model. Bennett highlights the power of Tennenhouse's diachronic practice, in which dramatic representations of the monarchy are studied in the context of
«royal speeches or proclamations, [of] ledger reports and parliamentary reports, rather than [of] earlier or later moments in the evolution of drama», so that
«the organization of the system of generic differences -conceived as a differentiated field of social uses» may be achieved (110-11). The social uses that Bennett lists include nation-formation, class-formation and guides for rulers. It is my contention that a superior practice of
comedia study includes both forms of discourse, dramatic and synchronic as well as political and diachronic, in order to examine a play's interactions with the other social practices of its time. Bennett's emphasis on non-dramatic texts runs the risk of privileging
«literature», a practice he had condemned in a previous chapter (41-43). Thus, my examination of La Numancia will place the work not only in the context of the political and theological debates of the period concerning the treatment of native Americans and the definitions of just causes for wars, but will also examine the theatrical context in which the play appears. I have found that a comparison to Lope de Vega's self-defined tragicomedy, Arauco domado, is most useful for the study of dramatic representations of imperialist ideology. In this examination, the terms anti-epic, tragedy and comedy will often appear to signify genre in the pigeon-holing manner that this has paper has criticized. That is because I will examine the way the texts themselves, under the influence of the period's conception of genres, assign generic meaning to specific textual events in a manner that resembles formalism. However, my use of generic designations, to describe the ways these texts themselves combine genres, will not duplicate this pattern, but instead will provide an analysis of the way that the absence of generic closure is a potentially subversive response to, and an influence upon, Christian expansionist discourse.
Jan Nederveen Pieterse points out that an examination of the parallels between
«nation building (the Reconquista) and empire building (the Conquest)» is relevant to the study of Spanish imperialism (132). The new world
encomienda system of labor
«recruitment» conforms to the pattern set during the peninsular Reconquista, where land grants to military leaders included rights over the inhabitants of the land (Pieterse 133). In both campaigns, military victory was
followed by the development of an explanation for the subsequent power relations. Pieterse cites Stanley and Barbara Stein and Julio Caro Baroja to assert that the Renaissance preoccupation with
«purity of blood» -the absence of Islamic or Jewish ancestors- and a focus on Spain's Gothic origins, as seen in La Numancia, were the ideological precursors to the discourses concerning European superiority over Amerindians represented in Arauco domado. These developments are, according to Pieterse, a carry-over from the civilization / barbarism binary which dates back to antiquity (240-43). And, in all of these cases, we can see that this binary produces race, which is
«essentially a social category, an expression of social relations... namely, unequal social relations» (227). These discourses are part of the process through which, according to Pieterse,
a temporary virtue has been obtained by virtue of uneven development, whether of a military nature or a combination of political and economic circumstances, and these differentials of development are masked and mystified as differences of descent.
Pieterse concludes that the determining factor in the production of racial or ethnic categories is struggle (228). It is significant that La Numancia contributes to the mystification of the status quo through its elegiac representation of the heroic
«godos», but also problematizes the
«arrogancia» of the Roman imperialists. It is also relevant that Arauco domado, which according to Glen Dille is one of less than a dozen early modern plays dealing with the Conquest (out of a corpus of hundreds), represents a native civilization which had not yet been
«domado», which was still a site of struggle at the moment of the play's production (1).
Carroll Johnson, Willard King, Francisco Ruiz-Ramón and Frederick de Armas are among the Hispanists who have begun, in the last twenty years, to recover the subversive possibilities in these two works, which had long been viewed as enthusiastic affirmations of imperial ambition19. However, these studies are only a beginning, their potential impact muted by the contexts in which subversion is
placed. King writes that the play is not a
«simple exaltation» of empire, instead,
«in the compassion, understanding and respect with which it views both colony and empire... this early play already shows the unmistakable stamp of the Cervantine mind» (217). Here, King contains the power of the questioning of imperial policy in two different fashions; first by pairing subversion and affirmation as an essential, inseparable pair and later by placing this already weakened form of subversion in the controlling context of authorial intention. The result is a glorification of a Romantic vision of genius and creativity, in which the power of the oppressed voice is reduced to paying homage to the «mind» which conceived it.
Carroll Johnson also emphasizes the
«ambiguity» in Cervantes's representation -it even appears in his title. Johnson repeats King's other containing movement, in his assertion that, because of this ambiguity,
Una lectura 'correcta', en el sentido de establecer definitivamente la superioridad de una interpretación sobre la otra, queda así imposibilitada. Precisamente, creo yo, como quiso Cervantes.
Similarly, Bruce Wardropper remarks that Cervantes
«scrupulously presents both sides of any question» (218). Alfredo Hermenegildo's observations concerning the apparent political criticism in La Numancia, cited earlier, are not granted subversive power because they are reduced to manifestations of Cervantes's psychological make-up. Hermenegildo links the author to the
«todos aquellos que no forman parte del nucleo sagrado constitutivo»; Cervantes is
«otro Numantino» (50, 123). For Hermenengildo, as for the others cited here, the political elements are ambiguous;
«son las claves interpretativas de la intencionalidad del autor» (52). The valuable insights of these critics are thus rendered unusable for progressive historical criticism by the privileging of closure and unity through the structural device of authorial intention, and by the implication that these texts constitute isolated cases of social critique from the pens of uniquely visionary writers, rather than one component of a debate that was carried out in many different discursive fields.
In his study of Arauco domado, Ruiz Ramón, like Johnson and King, argues against the earlier generation of critics who interpreted the New World plays as crude propaganda for imperialist policies (230). Unlike King and Johnson, his study does not include non-literary texts; it is purely formalist. His approach is similar to that of the other two critics in that he emphasizes the ambiguity of the
representation of empire in a play
«donde resonaba el orgullo de la empresa acometida y, al mismo tiempo, una insobornable conciencia de culpa» (246). In addition, this observation is made in the context of a universalizing view of
«el gran oximorón esencial al teatro en la sociedad occidental... desenmascarar enmascarando y vice versa» (247, emphasis mine). Here, the eternal nature of the theater is the force which tames subversion through its double role as the celebrator of the dominant ideology and as
«la función catártico-conjuradora» (246).
All of the critics cited here take for granted a conception of Art, in the form of the genius author or the unchanging theater, which neutralizes the potentially radical implications of granting meaning to the questioning of the imperial project. It is important to note that the King and Johnson articles appeared in the late 1970s, just prior to the emergence of the new forms of historical study, which problematized the study of literature / history. Ruiz-Ramón's article, written ten years later, must exclude history entirely in order to read subversion without entering into the territory where new historicists and materialists now wage a war of words concerning the relative power of subversion and containment. Frederick de Armas's thought-provoking comparison of anti-Imperialist discourses in Cervantes and Lucan is the most promising of these studies, in that he does not seek to neutralize the oppositional discourses identified. However, because representations of ideology are not the focus of the article, these ideas are not developed.
Arauco domado has not received much critical attention, but the work that has been done to date is similarly limited. In Glen Dille's study of Arauco domado, delivered at an MLA session entitled «New Historicism and the Comedia», Dille begins by noting that Lope's play
«does offer many passages that seem to question Spanish motives and advocate Amerindian liberty» (4, emphasis added). He attributes all critical attention to this topic to a
«wish to dissociate [Lope] from his nation's perceived colonial sins» (6). Dille utilizes the concept of textual unity as another building block in his argument against the significance of the subversive elements of Arauco domado. He rejects Francisco Ruiz-Ramón's assertion that the desire for freedom expressed by the Amerindians is meaningful with the contention that
«a careful reading of the entire text» reveals that the
«ubiquitous metaphor» of the Spanish yoke appears just as often as Araucan vows to escape the yoke (6). Dille also cites the final scene, in which the
«the text gives no sign that such yoking is anything but
reasonable» (7). However, the assumption that valid interpretations should produce a unified text has been rendered questionable by much recent theory (Easthope 15-18). Dollimore states that to see the final argument as a cancellation of earlier transgression requires
inappropriate notions of authorial intention, character utterance, and textual unity, (all three notions privileging what is finally said as more truthful than what went before)
Thus, in seeking textual unity Dille violates a tenet of the new historicism he claims to practice. In the very same introduction to Political Shakespeare that Dille uses to support his contention regarding the comedia as a voice for the status quo, Dollimore writes that revised historical criticisms of the drama of this period focus on three aspects of culture:
«consolidation, subversion and containment», and observes that within materialist criticisms, of which new historicism is one branch, there exist
«important differences... between those who emphasize the process of containment and those who seek to discover resistances to it» (1985, 11). Dille cites only those parts of the introduction that support his view, in effect censoring the debate among new historicisms, and weakening his own position by failing to address the debate in which his work is situated.
Dille goes against another convention of new historicism in dismissing the importance of the large body of non-literary writings during the period that questioned the compatibility of Christianity and imperialism. Dille does not dispute this idea; instead he ignores it in order to claim that, although
It is not necessary that a populace totally reject the dominant ideology in order for alternate belief systems to have an impact on a society; once again I refer to Dollimore citing Raymond Williams: the representations of
«opposition and struggle are important not only in themselves, but as indicative of what the hegemonic process has in practice to work to control» (1985, 14). Thus, even the representation of subversions that are subsequently subdued in the text is meaningful for the culture which views them and for scholars studying those cultures. In his paper, Dille uses the theories of those new historicists who argue that subversion within texts is always already contained in conjunction with new critical ideas concerning
the textual unity and the primacy of the literary text in order to produce a reading which refuses meaning both to the period's debates concerning the legitimacy of Imperialism and to dramatic representation of that debate. An examination of the
«intellectuals» Dille dismisses is an important component of a materialist reading of these two plays, and is central to identification of the anti epic component of the plays.
Politicians and theologians alike debated the validity of Spain's imperial policies. The faction of advisors to Philip II headed by the Duke of Alba was strongly Castillian and nationalist in its view, favoring an aggressive military both abroad and in Castilla's relations with the other Spanish provinces. The other group, led by the Prince of Eboli, preferred the more moderate approach developed by Furió Ceriol, which advocated negotiations with the Netherlands and the preservation of the rights of the individual provinces. Philip II allowed Alba six years in which to try to subdue the rebellious Protestant lands by force before sending in a member of the Eboli group to seek reconciliation in 1573. Unfortunately, this diplomatic effort was undermined by the inability of the King to control his troops, who were not being paid regularly, resulting in the sack of the city of Antwerp and a total breakdown in negotiations. Tensions between Spain and the Netherlands, and among royal advisors, persisted for the rest of the century (Elliott 1970, 261-64). There followed a period of relative calm under Philip III and Lerma, who sought to alleviate Spain's financial problems through truces with the Dutch, French, and English. However, the reign of Philip IV and Olivares witnessed a return of relatively unsuccessful Iberian militarism in the 1620s, whose eventual consequences included not only a decline of Spain's much-valued
«reputación», but also the permanent loss of
Portugal, and twelve years of independence
for Catalonia (Elliott 1989,
116-123). The resultant doubts about the validity of Imperialism extended to a questioning of involvement in the Indies; by 1631 the decrease in silver imported and the costs of defending Spanish interests against the encroachments of the British and Dutch caused even Olivares to describe the New World territories as more of a liability than a benefit (Elliott 1989, 25-26). These plays thus represent the tension between competing visions of Spain's foreign policy in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, and also contribute to that debate. The dramatic representation of military activity as unjust, barbaric, and unchristian thus constitutes both participation in socio-political debates and also an anti-epic literary discourse.
Furió Ceriol's writings were part of a dialogue conducted through political treatises that were called
«mirrors» for princes. Angelo Di Salvo writes that these pamphlets, in reaction to Machiavelli's political theories, advocate virtue and justice rather than ragion di stato for Christian rulers (43-46). Thus, discussions of imperial policy were conducted within the framework of ethical as well as strategic considerations. In addition, the positive portrayal of native Americans in the writings of Bartolomé de las Casas and in Guevara was a factor in this discourse. The validity of imperialism was only one portion of a larger issue debated in these guides and by the theologians of the period: how to justify the initiation of war by a Christian nation. Fox Morcillo sanctioned war to secure peace, or to enlarge the
«republic», while Antonio de Guevara's
«Dial» inveighs against all wars of conquest (Di Salvo 51, 57). Vitoria, Molina, and Suárez are prominent among the theologians addressing this question. All three were in agreement that
«barbarism», differences of religion, extension of empire and personal profit were not sufficient justifications for waging war (Hamilton 142).
The entire range of viewpoints can be heard in Arauco domado. There is support for Furió Ceriol and Fox Morcillo's definition of morally defensible conquest in Rebolledo's joyous announcement in the opening scene that Don García is coming
«a domar a Chile y a la gente bárbara que en Arauco se derrama». (The double meaning of
«derrama»: geographically located or spilling blood is particularly significant.) García's confirmation that his twin goals are
«ensanchar la fe de Dios» and
«reducir y sujetar / ... esta tierra y este mar / para que Filipe tenga / vasallos a mandar...» also follows their line of reasoning. (Act I).
In these two plays, war is represented in connection with two genres: as epic -in the sense that the play celebrates the heroism attained in battle, and as tragedy, in its haunting evocation of the price of conquest. It is this combination which is the hallmark of the anti epic genre. Showing the
«human face» of war has been a popular technique in anti epic films of the post Viet Nam era; it is equally effective for Lope and Cervantes. A positive representation of the besieged nation is also a necessary element, so that its defeat conveys a tragic tone. Ruiz Ramón indicates two key scenes which humanize the Amerinidians in Arauco domado by allowing them to use European discourses. Early in Act I, the Araucanian ruler and his wife are shown bathing together in a lake. Ruiz Ramón observes that the amorous dialogue is reminiscent of the poetic space of Garcilaso's eclogues; thus this scene not only humanizes the enemy
forces, but also contributes to the generic polyphony of the text (232). It is the emphasis on the native people's love for liberty, expressed in several scenes, that is the cornerstone of their nobility, and thus of the critique of imperialism (233). In Act III, the Araucanian leaders meet to decide how to respond to the Spanish victories which are decimating their population. Although Caupolicán, the king, urges a negotiated settlement, Galvarino carries the day with his argument
This same argument leads to the mass suicide which closes La Numancia, whose protagonists are described as the distant ancestors of Cervantes' Spain, thus establishing a link between civilization and the worship of liberty over life itself. Pieterse observes that
«challenging the empire in terms of its own stated ideals play[s] a major part in all anti-imperialist movements»; in these plays it is the representation of conquered peoples who embrace the empire's ideal of freedom which accomplishes this goal (361). In addition, the fallen indigenous leader last appears on the scene not as a dangerous warrior, but as a man who leaves behind a widow and an orphaned son. The granting of a voice, of a significant presence, to the
«losers» is also a key element for the anti epic dimension of this text, for it allows -forces- the spectator or reader to see the consequences of imperialist practices.
The legitimacy of wars of imperialism is, of course, a central theme in La Numancia. Rome's appetite for new lands is decried as
«esa arrogancia» which prevents Scipio from being willing to negotiate a settlement with the proto-Spaniards of the town Numancia (I. 279). Like the Spaniards in Arauco domado, the Romans also use the imagery of taming beasts to describe their goals. In the opening scene of Act III, Scipio chooses the verb
«domo» to describe his plans for the town of Numancia (l. 1115). Later, he rejects the challenge to resolve the conflict through a Homeric contest of individual heroes by describing the besieged Numantines as
«la fiera que en la jaula está cerrada / por su selvatiquez...» and concluding,
«bestias sois, y por tales encerradas / os tengo donde habéis de ser domados» (l. 1185-86, 1190-91). There are some passages in the play that express support for Imperial adventures; for example, in the beginning of Act I, when Scipio condemns the Roman soldiers for their laxity, the general compares their pampered hands and complexions to
those born in England or Flanders -the primary enemies in the European theater of Spain's imperialist expansion (l. 72-73). In addition, the monarch whose vision drives this venture is referred to by the allegorical figure, the Duero River, as
«el segundo Felipo sin segundo», and the leader of the king's bellicose faction is praised as
«el grande Albano» (l. 512, 493). And in Act IV, the allegorical figure War calls the imperializing reigns of Ferdinand, Charles and Philip
«la dulce ocasión» (l. 1999). However, Scipio emphasizes the tremendous cost of war, in terms of human lives lost, in his very first speech, which expresses reluctance to pursue again
«guerra y curso tan extraña y larga / y que tantos romanos ha costado» (l. 5-6). Here, the drive to conquer new territories can be linked both to epic glory -the successes of Philip and Alba- as well as to the tragedy of the many Spaniards and others who continued to die in this pursuit. The negative representation of the Roman soldiers is also relevant; as both the failed and successful sacks of Antwerp in 1574 and '76 by the unruly Spanish army demonstrate,
«el vicio sólo puede hacernos guerra / más que los enemigos de esta tierra» (I. 46-47).
The pro-epic sentiments are substantially diluted by the elegiac context in which they appear, for the Numantines' response to the rejection of their peace offers reflects a view of war that is clearly anachronistic in its emphasis on individual heroism through
«breve y singular batalla» (III. 1160). Caravino condemns the Romans as
«canalla», before launching into a tirade of fifteen pejorative adjectives in sequence, because
«estáis acostumbrados / a vencer con ventajas y mañas» rather than through the methods conventionally associated with war and glory (III. 1206-1226). Scipio, on the other hand, asserts that he has created a new definition of these terms:
This double-voiced representation of the practice of the siege, one of the most effective weapons in Spain's imperial arsenal both in the Americas and in Europe, serves to highlight the negative similarities between Counter-Reformation Spain and Imperial Rome. Willard King is one of many critics who have pointed out that the Spain of Cervantes resembles Scipio's Rome just as much as the town of Numancia. She cites the River Duero's prophecy, which depicts —63→
a victorious Spain, feared and envied by a thousand foreign nations, embroiled in constant war -in sum, a Spain which mirrors the militant, aggressive, Rome of Scipio.
In this representation, Spain itself is indeterminate, the sign which refers simultaneously to the morally victorious Numantines and to the decadent Roman Empire, its achievements in the early modern period shown to be both epic victories and tragic slaughters. The Cervantine play is able to suggest medieval heroic combat as a viable option because of its historical setting. In her examination of La Araucana, Adrienne Laskier Martín notes that Ercilla can plausibly create such an encounter in a work of contemporary history only in the Americas, because the indigenous peoples are the only enemies of Europe who do not possess the weapons and techniques of
«guerra a sangre y fuego» [total war] (101).
In order to scrutinize the effects of war on individuals, the mixture of genres in La Numancia also juxtaposes tragedy with comedy -optimism related to hope for the future expressed through a pair of young lovers. In Act II we learn that the marriage of Lira and Marandro has been delayed by the war, because
«no está nuestra tierra / para fiestas y contento» (l. 755-56). By the final act, Lira's hunger has driven her fiancé to brave the Roman camp, to bring back bread stained by the blood he shed to obtain her
«triste y amarga comida» (l. 1847). These dying words are followed up by Lira's soliloquy to the corpse in her arms, in which she bemoans that,
«por excusar mi muerte, / me habéis quitado la vida», and
«mi esposo feneció por darme vida» (1878-79, 1966). Her declaration that,
«primero daré a mi pecho / una daga que este pan» reinforces the contradictory imagery of life, bread, and death (l. 1928-29). The sufferings not only of couples, but also of families are represented with extreme pathos. The ironic link between food and death is again foregrounded when a starving mother laments that her infant also suffers because, instead of milk, it suckles blood. In another family, a mother who cannot give the food her child requests replies,
«te daré la muerte por comida» (IV. 2115) One of the companions of War, Hunger, describes the tragic role reversals that result when the townspeople decide to commit mass suicide rather than submit:
The effects of this war on lovers, parents, and children constitute an unnatural collision of the elements of life and death, conveyed through terms such as
«lastimado» that have specific generic (tragic) connotations.
The parallel scenes of prophecy in the two plays also play a role in generating multiple generic tones. After the elaborate sacrifice to Jupiter, and the priest's gloomy interpretation, one Numantine observer advises,
«lloremos, pues es fin tan lamentable, / nuestra desdicha» (II. 900-01). Leonicio rejects the prediction, declaring that for a good soldier,
«el ánimo esforzado» is more powerful than any
«agüero», and that
In a similar fashion, Tucapel, an Araucanian warrior, dismisses the prophecy of Pillán, the god summoned by their priest, Pillalonco. He boasts that he will kill his more credulous companion, to be sent to the underworld dwelling of
«ese loco» in order to demonstrate the power
«del brazo riguroso del soberbio Tucapel». Asserting his doubt even more strongly Tucapel concludes,
«no hay Pillán; yo basto y sobro / contra el mundo» (Act I, p. 243). Thus, the meaning of the future -tragic defeat or epic victory- depends upon the prophet chosen, priest or soldier. However, both Leonicio and his companion agree that the forthcoming necromantic rites of Marquino are more meaningful than the sacrifices of the priests. Nevertheless, Leonicio still finds a way to denounce the
«tristes signos»; this time using the explanation that the practices are
«diabólicas invenciones» of
«poca ciencia», and the additional rationale that
«poco cuidan los muertos / de lo que a los vivos toca» (II. 1085, 1100-04). In these passages Leonicio and Tucapel give voice to the early modern period's growing confidence in the power of the rational individual subject to affect its destiny, rejecting pagan notions of destiny. In this light, the ending may be viewed as a confirmation of the power of prophecy, but it may also serve as an affirmation of the efficacy of Scipio's (and the Spaniards') innovative method of waging war.
I will now examine more fully the way that the indeterminate juxtaposition of tragedy, comedy and the epic in the final scenes of La Numancia and Arauco domado constitutes a generic deployment that
is a meaningful element of imperial discourse. Paul Lewis Smith argues that La Numancia is both a tragedy and a tragicomedy; this identification of at least two competing genres is an important step towards recognition of generic indeterminacy in the play (23). Smith also argues that Cervantes himself was ambiguous concerning the appropriate generic designation, pointing out that Fame refers to the play as neither
tragedia, but rather as an
historia and its close relative, the novel, are the two most significant examples of early modern generic innovation; they are also
«genres» which incarnate indeterminacy in their combination of elements from many other forms, including the epic, tragedy, and comedy, and medieval chronicles and morality plays. In addition, historic and novelistic discourses are often manifested in the dramas, anatomies, and political treatises of the period. I place the word genre in quotation marks in this situation precisely because of the inclusiveness and variability of early modern texts which sought to represent national history, and because of the lack of either a stable group of features to which formalist criticism could refer, or a consistent social function upon which a materialist analysis could focus. The two plays under consideration here share the generic instability of other works of the period that were assigned the label
«historia», such as Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, Sir Walter Raleigh's History of the World, and Shakespeare's Henriad (Colie, chapter 3). However, the term
historia does not necessarily imply the collision of genres that is so striking in the Cervantine and Lopean dramas, particularly in the final scenes, where the characters' diction specifically evokes differing genres.
In the last scenes of the Cervantine drama, the Romans describe their fates in terms that resonate generically. Mario declares that the valor of the Numantine deed will earn the town eternal fame, so that
«sacado han de su pérdida ganancia» (2267). Upon witnessing the suicide of Bariato, and with it the last hope for any sort of meaningful victory, Scipio laments,
«tú, con esta caída levantaste / tu fama y mis victorias derribaste» (2407-08) Scipio's final self-description also juxtaposes tragic and epic fates, victory and defeat: he is
subiendo, queda más caído»
(2415-16). However, the
generic fate of the future Spaniards is also
equivocal, for although the
«hijos de tales padres herederos» refers to the link between Numantines and Castillians, there have been many indications that the House of Austria is also the descendant of Scipio.
The final scene of Lope's play also combines genres in an ultimately indeterminate manner, as it interrupts the celebration of the
Spanish victory over the Araucanians to give a voice to Engol, son of the slain Indian leader, as he vows,
«padre, yo te vengaré» and also to Caupolicán's wife Fresia, who echoes that threat. Historical record bears witness to the validity of those words: the Araucanians's resistance continued successfully throughout the colonial period. During the reign of Philip III, the battle against this group was considered a major drain on the Castillian treasury (Elliott 1989, 24-25). The apotheosizing tones of the closing adulation for the newly crowned Philip II are likely to have rung hollow for the audiences of the seventeenth century for another reason: this moment of epic victory was soon to be followed by a series of bankruptcies and other setbacks in the imperial project, culminating in the tragedy of the defeated Armada.
In these two plays, the deployment of multiple genres functions to collapse the boundaries between the genres; and the ascription of conflicting genres to the events and ideologies represented, without closure, further problematizes the identification of a generic dominant or of a definitive political statement. The potential for subversive ramifications outside of the theater is implicit in this open-ended staging of the controversies concerning imperialism that engaged the period. In emphasizing the oppositional nature of this discourse, I hope to contribute to the refutation of both traditional and some new historicist approaches to early modern drama, which either find no subversion at all, or which describe subversion as always already contained, and which perpetuate what Judith Newton and Deborah Rosenfelt describe as the conservative view of history:
Materialism offers a view of a more powerful literary history:
«in its elaboration of rules and procedures for the disciplined interrogation of evidences which allow new knowledges to emerge and transform the face of the past», this de-aestheticized literary history
«does indeed make a material difference to and within the present» (Bennett, 77). In their refusal to ascribe a fixed genre, a fixed signified to national policy, and in their deployment of anti-epic discourses, La Numancia and Arauco domado participated in and helped to produce the conflicting discourses concerning Christian Imperialism. A materialist
theory of genre, which examines the wider field of discourses in which the comedia was deployed, makes it possible to acknowledge genre's role in the subversions of dominant ideology which materialist criticism seeks to identify as part of its quest for progressive social change.
Alborg, Juan Luis. Historia de la literatura española. Vol. I. Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1966.
Belli, Angela. «Cervantes' El cerco de Numancia and Euripides' The Trojan Women.» Kentucky Romance Quarterly 24 (1978): 121-28.
Bennett, Tony. Outside Literature. New York: Routledge, 1990.
Bergmann, Emilie. «The Epic Vision of Cervantes' Numancia». Theater Journal 36(1982): 85-96.
Casalduero, Joaquín. Sentido y forma del teatro de Cervantes. Madrid: Editorial Gredos, 1966.
Cervantes, Miguel de. La destrucción de La Numancia, ed. Ricardo Domenech. Madrid: Taurus, 1967.
Colie, Rosalie. The Resources of Kind: Genre Theory in the Renaissance. Berkeley: U. of California P., 1973.
Correa, Gustavo. «El concepto de la fama en al teatro de Cervantes». Hispanic Review 27 (1959): 280-302.
De Armas, Frederick. «Classical Tragedy and Cervantes' La Numancia». Neophilologus 58 (1974): 34-40.
——. «The Necromancy of Imitation: Lucan and Cervantes' La Numancia, 24-58». In El arte nuevo de estudiar comedias: Literary Theory and Golden Age Spanish Drama, Barbara A. Simerka, ed. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell UP, 1996.
Derrida, Jacques. «The Law of Genre». Glyph 7 (1980): 202-32.
Dille, Glen. «Lope de Vega and the Spanish Yoke». Paper delivered at MLA, San Francisco, December 1991.
Di Salvo, Angelo J. «Spanish Guides to Princes and the Political Theories in Don Quijote». Cervantes 9 (1989): 43-60.—69→
Dollimore, Jonathan. «Subjectivity, Sexuality and Transgression: The Jacobean Connection». Renaissance Drama 17 (1986): 53-82.
——, and Peter Sinfield, eds. Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1985.
Easthope, Anthony. Literary Into Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge, 1991.
Edwards, Gwynne. «La estructura de Numancia y el desarrollo de su ambiente trágico.» Cervantes: su obra y su mundo. Ed. Manuel Criado del Val. Madrid: Edi-6, 1981, 293-301.
Elliott, J. H. Imperial Spain: 1469-1716. New York: Pelican, 1970.
——. Spain and Its World, 1500 -1700. New Haven: Yale UP, 1989.
Friedman, Edward H. The Unifying Concept: Approaches to the Structure of Cervantes' Comedias. York, SC: Spanish Literature Publications, 1981.
Hamilton, Bernice. Political Thought in Sixteenth Century Spain. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963.
Hermenegildo, Alfredo. La «Numancia» de Cervantes. Madrid: Sociedad General Española de Librería, 1976.
Jameson, Frederic. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1981.
Johnson, Carroll B. «La Numancia y la estructura de la ambigüedad cervantina». Cervantes: su obra y su mundo. Madrid: Edi-6, 1978.
King, Willard. «Cervantes' Numancia and Imperial Spain». MLN 94 (1979): 200-21.
Lanoue, David. «Calderón's Late Roman Plays and the Imperial Myth». Critical Perspectives on Calderón de la Barca, ed. Frederick de Armas et al. Lincoln, NE: Society of Spanish and Spanish American Studies, 1981, 91-102.
MacCurdy, Raymond. «The Numantia plays of Cervantes and Rojas Zorrilla: the Shift from Collective to Personal Tragedy». Symposium 14 (1960): 100-120.
Maguire, Nancy Klein, ed. Renaissance Tragicomedy. New York: AMS Press, 1987.
Maravall, José Antonio. Teatro y literatura en la sociedad barroca. Madrid: Seminarios y Ediciones, 1972.
Martín, Adrienne Laskier. Cervantes and the Burlesque Sonnet. Berkeley: U. of California P. 1991.
Newton, Judith, and Deborah Rosenfelt, eds. Feminist Criticism and Social Change. New York: Methuen, 1985.
Parr, James A. Confrontaciones calladas: El crítico frente al clásico. Madrid: Editorial Origenes, 1990.—70→
Pieterse, Jan P. Nederveen. Empire and Emancipation: Power and Liberation on a World Scale. New York: Praeger, 1989.
Quint, David. Epic and Empire. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1993.
Ruiz-Ramón, Francisco. Historia del teatro español. Madrid: Alianza, 1967.
——. «El héroe americano en Lope y Tirso: de la guerra de los hombres a la guerra de los dioses.» El mundo del teatro español en su siglo de oro: ensayos dedicados a John E. Varey, ed. J. M. Ruano de la Haza. Ottawa Hispanic Studies 3. Ottowa, Canada: Dovehouse Editions, 1989.
Sánchez y Escribano, Federico. Preceptiva dramática española del Renacimiento y el Barroco. Madrid: Gredos, 1972.
Shivers, George. «La historicidad de El cerco de Numancia». Hispanófila 39 (1970): 1-14.
Smith, Paul Lewis. «Cervantes' Numancia as Tragedy and as Tragicomedy». BHS 64 (1986): 15-26.
Valbuena Prat, Angel. Historia del teatro español. Barcelona: Noguer, 1956.
Vega Carpio, Lope de. Obras de Lope de Vega, vol. XXVII. ed. Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo. Madrid: Ediciones Atlas, 1969.
Wardropper, Bruce. «Cervantes' Theory of the Drama». Modern Philology 52:4 (1955): 217-21.
Whitby, William. «The Sacrifice Theme in Cervantes' 'Numancia'». Hispania 45 (1962): 205-10.
Williams, Raymond. Marxism and Literature. New York: Oxford UP, 1972.