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The villancico in the works of early Castilian playwrights (with a note on the function and performance of the musical parts)

Alberto del Río

To Tom from Desolation Row

In an essay that is indispensable for an understanding of why the Portuguese writer Gil Vicente introduced the singing of musical compositions into the framework of his plays, Eugenio Asensio wrote with characteristic insight: «Theatre, like liturgy and momos, offers the temptation and the opportunity to link word with dance and melody»1. On the one hand, therefore, liturgical drama, which initially arose from the evolution of the tropes in ecclesiastical ceremonies as these spread from the Mass in the strict sense and came to be sung before the Te Deum at Matins2, can be regarded as an example of the conjunction of song and theatrical dialogue, at least in the works that celebrate the Birth and the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet in spite of the importance of liturgy, the court stage practices connected with momos should also be borne in mind as an incentive for the use of music and dance in the works of the early Castilian dramatists. A brief look at the various accounts given of these court divertimentos from the end of the 15th century onwards reveals the importance attached to these gatherings of musicians and dancers3. Note, for example, the following paragraph from the letter written by Ochoa de Ysásaga in which he tells the Catholic Monarchs of the Christmas Eve festivities of 1500 in Lisbon, where the informant held the post of ambassador:

After that, at eight o'clock, the king came to the queen's chamber and they went to Matins just as they had gone to Vespers; and the king, leaving the queen in the tribune, descended to where his throne was placed, behind the curtain; and they heard Mass solemnly, with organ music, songs and shepherds who entered the chapel at the appropriate moment dancing and singing «Gloria in excelsis Deo»; and the pontifical Midnight Mass was celebrated by the Bishop of Fez...4.

The account leaves no record of the words spoken, which can be presumed to be stereotypical, derived from the celebration connected with Christmas Matins, but it does not fail to mention the chançonetas and dances performed by a number of «shepherds». This is not the case with the strictly secular part of the festivities. The text, minimal though it is, is given a far from negligible position, even if it does not usually give rise to genuinely dramatic interventions in dialogue form. As a general rule, it plays with the clichés of the world of chivalry and those aspects most closely linked to the marvellous and the exotic: sea journeys, dragons and serpents, savages and giants, magicians and fairies. Yet it also deals with conflicts between Moors and Christians, and the recreational world of courtly love: amorous prisons, hermits doing sentimental penance, erotic pilgrimages... The momos are indeed on many occasions nothing more than an invitation to take part in court dances [Asensio, 1974: 25-36].

Then came eight pilgrims, en route for Santiago with their staves and shells in an artificial brig, and they disembarked as they reached the door to the hall, and one of them, on behalf of them all, presented a text to the king which read:

Las nuevas van tan creçidas,
rey santo, de tu pasaje,
que siendo por nos sabidas,
fecha la peregrinajen,
ofreçemos las vidas
a seguirmos tu viajen.
Sabe que nuestra tençión en
esta guerra que tant'amas
que es servirmos las dos damas
de las muy famosas
    Enrríquez y de Millán.

The news of your journey,
holy king, is so widespread
that knowing of it, after our
we offer our lives
to follow you.
Know that our intention
in this war you love so much,
is to serve the two ladies
of the celebrated Enríquez and
   Millán families.

And after this each of the pilgrims took off their disguises and masks and gave their written verses to the ladies and danced with them5.

Of more relevance to this chapter is the cenobite theatre. Viewed as a complement to the liturgical ceremonies in convents, it presents from the outset a remarkable example of a text being sung to round off a piece and bring actors and spectators together in the celebration marked by the final villancico. So it is with the Representación del Nascimiento de Nuestro Señor composed by Gómez Manrique for the Convent of Calabazanos. The last stanza of the final lullaby, which has the concise and delicate lines «Hush, my Son, / my child» («Callad, Fijo mío, / chiquito») as its refrain, thus runs: «Let us, gracious and / joyful sisters sing / for we are brides / of the blessed Christ» («Cantemos gozosas, / ermanas graçiosas, / pues somos esposas / del Jesú bendito»)6. This is a clear invitation to take part in the final climax, where the boundaries are eliminated between what is represented (the commemoration of a sublime moment for Humanity, acted out anew in the liturgy and recalled in the representation) and the reality of the actual moment when it is celebrated, since this final villancico allows every one of the convent's nuns -without ceasing to be so- to establish a special communion with the Virgin trying to lull her child to sleep.

It is clear that the Christian liturgy, as understood by deep-rooted tradition, encourages this fluid conception of time and space that Ronald Surtz [1979] has shown to be so characteristic of court spectacle. Yet what doubt can there be that the mechanism central to the transmutation of time and roles in the Castilian convent is the song sung to hush the infant Jesus with which Gómez Manrique rounded off the work commissioned by his sister, Mother Superior at the time in the Convent of Calabazanos.

A few years later, in a piece based on civic life written by Francisco de Madrid for the festivities celebrating the peace treaty signed in 1493 by Ferdinand the Catholic and Charles VIII of France, the spectators are likewise invited to participate in the thanks given to God with which the Égloga reaches a climax, with the final singing of a Miserere7:

Pues tal poder diste que a tus sacrifiçios,
loores y honor su vida exerçita,
consienta, Señor, tu graçia infinita
que goçe seguro de tus benefiçios.
Y todos nosotros, con las manos juntas,
rodillas por suelo, digamos Amén.
Vosotros cantando rogalde tanbién
que sean las respuestas
según las preguntas.

Cançión del fin

Miserere al mundo aflito,
Regum Rex, que solo puedes;
con tus graçias y mercedes
haz contento su apetito.
Tú el camino nos muestras
de hazer lo que Tú quieres.
Júzganos como quisieres,
no según las obras nuestras.

Since you gave such power through your sacrifice,
to your life accrue praises and honour,
grant, Lord, your infinite grace
that securely enjoys your advantages.
And let each of us, with hands clasped together,
kneeling on the ground, say Amen.
You singers pray to him as well
that the answers correspond
to the questions.

Final song

Have mercy, King of Kings, as only you can,
on this troubled world;
with your grace and favour
quench its appetites.
You show us the way
to do your bidding.
Judge us as you will,
not according to our actions.

The final song clearly does not adopt the zejelesca structure of the villancico. It is worth mentioning in this context, however, as an illustration of the role played by the lyrical coda on those occasions when the separation between actors and spectators breaks down and their voices unite in praise of God as the performance comes to a close. There is no shortage of other examples, and once again it is Eugenio Asensio who draws our attention to the close of the Auto de los cuatro tiempos by Gil Vicente, which repeats on stage the service to Our Lady that has just been recited by the spectators/parishioners in the liturgical ceremony of Advent8. And Gillet discusses the possibility of collective participation at the end of the Trophea by Torres Naharro, which culminates with a joyful villancico where the conquest of the New World and immortal glory are raised to the same level of exaltation. Although in this piece it remains uncertain who sings the villancico that Fame hands over in written form to Mingo Oveja, it should not be forgotten that other copies of the villancico would have been distributed throughout the hall: «This villancico would hardly be in character for the rustic. It is printed following the traditional Valete et aplaudite addressed to the audience, and it might well have been sung by all the performers together, and more probably still by the audience (to what tune we do not know)»9.

If certain doubts persist as regards this particular work by Torres Naharro, however, the invitation is explicit in the villancico of the Representación a la Santíssima Resurreción de Cristo by Encina [1991: 137]:

Por tan ecelente bien
las gracias a Dios se den,
digamos todos Amen
por santamente acabar.

In the face of such good
let thanks be given to God,
let us all say Amen
to end [this play] in a devout manner.

As has just been seen, this close bond between religious ceremony and the dramatic representation that celebrates it fosters the use of villancicos to round off the theatrical work. It is a deeply rooted commonplace of primitive theatre that was to have consequences for the beginnings of modern drama and brought to the stage a standard mechanism from the field of the cancionero poetry to which early Castilian theatre owes so much in its technique and subject matter. I am referring here to the use of the villancico -as a desecha- to round off the songs or romances, a final flourish that can be found on numerous occasions in the songbooks10. Terni [1974: 39] notes how frequently in the work of Encina a villancico is used to conclude romances or songs in the manner of a desecha -witness ff. 87-90 in his Cancionero of 1496. According to the Italian musicologist, a comparison with the Cancionero Musical de Palacio [CMP], which foreshadows a solo form for the song and the romance and a choral form for the desecha, reveals a composite form not all that far removed from the cantata, not forgetting that the desecha is defined in the Diccionario de Autoridades as a «cantilenae reflexio», a reminder -«ripensamento»- of what has been sung, something approaching the function of the aria in the oratorio, even if the aria is for solo voice and the desecha solo-choral11.

In some of the theatrical texts that so closely follow either the liturgical routines in the Christmas and Passion cycles or the cancionero themes in secular pieces, there is a seamless adoption of this final flourish that recalls to mind the final verses of certain sacred ceremonies or the conjunction of verse genres from 15th- and 16th-century songbooks [Beysterveldt, 1972; Battesti-Pelegrin, 1987]. And if Juan del Encina closes his second Christmas eclogue with a villancico for the birth of the Saviour, which -as Professor Álvarez Pellitero has pointed out [1994]- in its pastoral chorus «Huy, ha! Huy, ho!» translates the trope «A et O, O et A, cum cithara et cantico, benedicamus Domino», the same author, playwright, poet and above all musician proves capable of conceiving the contrafactum from the structure of his Christmas plays in the sixth Shrovetide Eclogue, which he closes with a similar canticle except that it is now Carnivalesque in spirit in honour of the burlesque saint and the good tidings that the feast brings to shepherds [Stern, 1965: 18; Pérez Priego, 1991: 261, n. 231]. This is the case with one of his most widely known villancicos, the music of which was included in the CMP [Angles, 1947: 203]. The shift towards the secular is not long in coming with this carefree song inviting listeners to the pleasures of life: «Oy comamos y bevamos / y cantemos y holguemos, / que mañana ayunaremos».

The custom of closing theatrical works in this manner becomes so deeply rooted in the eclogues, farces and autos of these early playwrights that a number of arguments or rubrics clearly betray that it is felt to be indebted to a firmly established dramatic tradition. Pedro Manuel de Urrea's adaptation of the first act of the Celestina thus reads: «It is presented in verse up to the point where Calisto remains alone, and there it ends; and to make a better ending, they go off singing the villancico included at the end»12. This «y por no quedar mal» seems to bear eloquent witness to something that was seen as an established practice [Urrea, 1993: 95]. This is not to forget Urrea himself and his Égloga llamada nave de seguridad, where the end of the piece -once Bertol is cured of his lovesickness after Menga has come to his aid- is preceded by a dialogue in the following terms [Urrea, 1950: 12]:

Vámonos todos, que este hombre es curado
do no es menester tiempo no se gaste
ya me paresce que es razón que baste
lo que avemos hecho, pues que está acertado.
No nos yremos sin aver cantado
del alegría de nuestro negocio.
¿Cómo entendéys estaros en ocio?
cantemos, cantemos
con gozo chabado.

Let's all depart, for this man is cured,
no more time need be spent
for I think it's the case that
we have done enough, since he's right.
We'll not go without singing
of the joy of the matter in hand.
How do you intend to enjoy yourselves?
Let's sing, let's sing with
cheerful pleasure.

On more than one occasion the practice ended up giving rise to the mechanical inclusion of lyrical pieces that had little bearing on the course of the theatrical action simply because this inclusion was accepted as an essential tribute to a deeply rooted dramatic tradition. This is something that seems to emerge from the following elucidation in the anonymous Farsa compuesta para se representar el día del Corpus Christi en presençia del Santissimo Sacramento en cuyo loor se compuso («Play written to be performed on the feast of Corpus Christi before the Most Holy Sacrament in whose honour it was composed»), in which the rubric reads «which ends with a villancico that bears some relation to the subject-matter» («en que concluyen con un villancico no disimile a la materia») [García-Bermejo Giner, 1996: 76]. The text, which apparently dates from around 1521, implies that at this stage the villancico -understood as an indispensable feature at the conclusion of theatrical works- could on occasion diverge to some extent from the subject matter that was represented. Given this context, the double coda in Lucas Fernández's Farsa o quasi comedia provides an interesting case in point. Here the dispute over the maiden between the shepherd and the nobleman ends with two villancicos. The first of these is clearly a dialogue between the two male characters, even if there are no indications of verse divisions in the sole edition printed in 151413:

Pastorcico lastimado,
descordoja tus dolores.
¡Ay, Dios, que muero de amores!
¿Cómo pudo tal dolencia
lastimarte? Di, zagal.
¿Cómo enamorado mal
inficiona tu inocencia?
De amor huye y su presencia.
No te engañen sus primores.
[P. (& C.?)]
¡Ay, Dios, que muero de amores!
Dime, dime, di, pastor,
¿Cómo acá, entr'estos boscajes
y entre estas bestias saluajes
os cautiua el dios de amor?
Sus halagos, su furor,
¿sienten también labradores?
[P. (& C.?)]
¡Ay, Dios, que muero de amores!
¡Alahé!, ¡juro [a] san Pego!
Hablando con reuilencia,
¡miafé! grande pestilencia
ños embía amor de fuego.
También nos da mal sosiego
acá a los tristes pastores,
como en villa a los senores.
Sí, mas eres muy chequito
para sentir tú su llaga.
¡A la mía fe! yo, Dios praga,
la sentí de pequeñito.
En la cuna oí su grito
prometiéndome fauores,
y agora me da dolores.
Di ¿con quién te cautivó
y te lastimó su espina?
La hija de mi madrina
fue el anzuelo que me asió;
con ella me percundió
dándome mill sinsabores,
y assí muero con amores.
No me aprovecha enxalmar,
ni curas, ni medicinas,
ni las trïacas más finas
me pueden desponçoñar.
Ni aun el crego, sin dudar,
físicos, saludadores,
saben curar mis dolores.
No es mal que tiene cura,
por esso ten gran paciencia.
Como en mi mal, no ay hemencia;
¡ay, triste de mi ventura!
Esfuerça ya, ten reposo,
descordoja tus dolores.
[P. ¿y C.?]
¡Ay, Dios, que muero de amores!
No seas tan congoxoso,
i te ahogues en poca agua.
¡Ay, que ardo en viva fragua
de fuego muy centelloso!
Esfuerça ya, ten reposo,
descordoja tus dolores.
[P. ¿y C.?]
¡Ay, Dios, que muero de amores!
Es amor vn mal amargo
más que ruda y que torbisco.
Es red que lleva auarrisco
todo el mundo, sin embargo.
Es vn muy pesado cargo
de pesares y dolores,
y de estraños disfauores.
¡Juri al mundo! es gran passión
según triste siento y veo,
de vn muy hambriento desseo,
el qual mata el coraçón.
Es centella de afición
y dulçor con amargores,
y amargor con mill dolores.

Miserable shepherd
give vent to your torment.
Oh God! I'm dying of love!
How could such pain
trouble you? Tell me, shepherd boy.
How does lovesickness
infect your innocence?
It flees from love and its presence.
Don't be deceived by its beauty.
[Sh. & K. (?)]
Oh God! I'm dying of love!
Tell me, tell me, shepherd,
how did the god of love
ensnare you in these woods
and among these wild beasts?
Love's fury, love's delights:
do labourers feel these things?
[Sh. & K.(?)]
Oh God! I'm dying of love!
Aha! I swear to St Pego!
Speaking to the point,
my faith, a great plague
of fire love sends us.
Love also troubles
us sad shepherds here,
as in the lord's palace.
Yes, but you are very young
to feel its dart.
By my troth! I, so it pleases God,
felt it very early.
In the cradle I heard Love's cry
promising me favours,
now it gives me grief.
Tell me, with whom did love's dart
capture and wound you?
My godmother's daughter
was the hook that caught me;
with it she trapped me
giving me a thousand torments,
and thus I'm dying of love.
No balsam does me any good,
nor remedies or medicine,
nor the best antidotes
can rid me of this poison.
Doubtless not even the priest,
doctors or healers
know how to heal my pains.
It's a sickness that has no cure,
so be very patient.
As there's no cure for my ills,
ah! How unlucky I am!
Be calm, make an effort,
give vent to your torments,
[Sh. & K. (?)]
Oh God! I'm dying of love!
Don't be so troubled,
you're drowning in very little water.
Ah, I'm burning in a fiery furnace
of leaping flames and spooks!
Make an effort, be calm,
give vent to your torments.
[Sh. & K. (?)]
Oh God! I'm dying of love.
Love is a bitter pill
more than rough and clumsy.
It is, however, a net that meshes
everyone together.
It's a very heavy burden
of grief and pain,
and strange disfavours.
I swear on my life! It's great suffering,
given how I feel and see,
of a terrible hunger,
that kills the heart.
It's a spark of liking
and a bitter-sweetness,
and a bitterness of a thousand torments.

If the first villancico deals with the presence of love in the village (one of the play's central themes), the second speaks of its omnipotence in much more courtly tones: «Love has such strength / that he who tries to defend himself / is either killed, wounded or kidnapped» («Tiene tanta fuerça amor, / que a qualquier que se defiende, / o le mata, o hiere, o prende») [Fernández, 1976: 30]. The piece perhaps has to finish with another canonical villancico because the first feels more like what it in fact is, a continuation of the dialogue14.

Yet these are not the greatest difficulties faced by writers when it comes to including the final villancico. Musicological criticism was quick to detect a strange tyranny exerted by the concluding composition in the dramatic practice of Juan del Encina. It was Gustave Reese [1954] who ascribed to the Salamancan playwright a pioneering role in the introduction of polyphony in his pastoral works by producing numerous examples of quatro de empezar, sung either during the play for a change of scene -a practice that was inaugurated in the last égloga of his Cancionero from 1496- or as a finale. And the requirements imposed by polyphony come to be so essential that they influenced key structural factors such as the number of characters on stage to round off the play with the final song15. Witness how this demand is made during the exchanges prior to the villancico that concludes Encina's fifth eclogue:

¡O, Senor, por tu cremencia,
danos tiempo paziguado!


Todos, todos nos juntemos
y cramemos
el Senor muy reziamente.
¡Hes, allí viene Lloriente!
No comiences. Esperemos.
Ven, Lloriente, cantaremos.
Que me praz.
Roguemos a Dios por paz.
Miafé, Beneito, roguemos.


Roguemos a Dios por paz,
pues que d'Él sólo se espera,
qu'Él es la paz verdadera16.

Oh Lord! In your mercy
grant us a time of peace.


Let's all join together
and acclaim
the Lord most righteously.
Ha! Here comes Lloriente!
Let's begin.
No, don't start. Let's wait.
Come along, Lloriente, we'll sing.
Fine by me.
Let's pray to God for peace
By my troth, Beneito, let's pray.


Let's pray to God for peace,
as peace can come only from Him.
for He is true peace.

Pedruelo's impatience, opposed by Bras who recommends that they wait for Lloriente to arrive before beginning a quartet, is symptomatic of the author's concern to adapt to the new modes of composition. And it is clear that this is no trivial matter, since it comes to imply a new conception of the cosmos and man, with its progressive emancipation from the cantus firmus, from a technique of successive composition and previous models of form and rhythm, in the direction of simultaneous composition and polyphony. It is Encina who pioneered the extension of these new forms to the theatrical and lyrical world of his peasants17.

Even so, as has already been noted in the case of Encina, adding the final touch to the pieces in question is not the only function of the villancico, in spite of being the one that is most frequently exploited by the earliest playwrights. In fact, it is not unusual for verses to be used to signal the transition from one scene to the next, a feature in evidence in compositions as early as the Auto de la huida a Egipto, a play contemporaneous with the first works written by Encina, if not even preceding them by a year or two. This includes among its dialogues five villancicos whose primary function is to mark the rhythm of the many movements made by the characters, in this way helping to articulate the diverse changes of scene in the multiple spaces of the auto [Amícola, 1971; Fernández, 1976: 208-10].

Encina makes use of this device in a number of his eclogues. In particular in the one known as Égloga de Mingo, Gil y Pascuala, the conclusion to the first part ends with a harmonized villancico for four voices, the final flourish to a scene dominated by the promised handing over of the Cancionero of 1496 to the dukes, another of the many tributes made by the author to the structure of the momos as a spectacle [Maurizi, 1994; De Lope, 1987; Río, 2001]:


   ¡Gasagémonos de huzia,
qu'el pesar
viénese sin le buscar!

   Gasagemos esta vida,
descruziemos del trabajo.
Quien pudiere aver gasajo,
del cordojo se despida.
¡Dele, dele despedida,
qu'el pesar
viénese sin le buscar!

   Busquemos los gasajados,
despidamos los enojos.
Los que se dan a cordojos
muy presto son debrocados.
¡Descuidemos los cuidados,
qu'el pesar
viénese sin le buscar!

   De todos los enojos huyamos
con todos nuestros poderes.
Andemos tras los plazeres,
los pesares aburramos.
¡Tras los plazeres corramos,
qu'el pesar
viénese sin le buscar!


   Let us make merry,
for there's enough grief
without looking for it!

   Let's enjoy this life,
let's not worry about work.
He who can enjoy himself
says goodbye to anxiety.
Go on, bid it farewell
for there's enough grief
without looking for it!

   Let's seek out pleasure,
say goodbye to troubles.
Those who give way to anxieties
are soon overwhelmed by them.
Let's not care about our cares,
for there's enough grief
without looking for it!

   Let's flee from all our troubles
with all our might.
Let's go after pleasure,
let's shun grief.
Let's hie ourselves after pleasure,
for there's enough grief
without looking for it!

In the Egloga de Plácida y Vitoriano, the villancico intoned by Plácida brings to a close the regionally flavoured scene between Gil and Pascual and reverts to the play's tragic tone after the rustic interlude:


   Si a todos tratas, Amor,
como a mí,
renieguen todos de ti.

   No miras, Amor, ni catas
quién te sirve bien o mal.
A mí, que soy más leal,
más cruelmente me tratas.
Si a todos los otros matas
como a mí,
renieguen todos de ti.

   En mí, que más fe posiste,
sembraste más desventura,
más dolores, más tristura,
más días de vida triste
A los que tal pago diste
como a mí,
renieguen todos de ti.

   No valen contigo ruegos,
fuerças, mañas ni razones.
Al mejor tiempo me pones
en dos mill desassossiegos.
Si a todos tienes tan ciegos
como a mí,
renieguen todos de ti.


   If you treat everyone, Love,
as you treat me,
they will all deny you.

   You do not see, love, or take note of
who serves you well or ill.
I, who am so loyal,
you treat most cruelly.
If you kill all the others
as you kill me,
they will all deny you.

   You who instilled more faith in me
sowed more misfortune,
more grief, more sadness,
more days of wretched life.
Those whom you rewarded in this way
as you rewarded me,
they will all deny you.

   You disregard prayers,
force, tricks and reasoning.
At best you give me
two thousand anxieties.
If you keep everyone as blind
as you keep me,
they will all deny you.

The device is rapidly taken up by other authors. In the Comedia de Bras Gil y Beringuella Lucas Fernández thus uses a villancico to seal the first scene, which focuses on the encounter between a shepherd and shepherdess and their intention to retire to the country to live out their love for one another. Having set the scene with verses alluding to a bucolic setting and anticipated plans for a shared future based on the lovers' desire -(«We will have a bower / of roses and flowers, / in this mountain / surrounded by love» («Haremos cabaña / de rosas y flores, / en esta montaña / cercada de amores»)- the villancico helps create a tension between the scene as it ends and the unexpected arrival of Beringuella's grandfather, Juan Benito, who bursts in abruptly: «Oh! How badly off you are / in great celebration and pleasantness / what is this? It's a betrothal, / you have such gifts?» («O! que [e]ñoramala estéys / en gran grolia y prazentorio / qué es aquéste? es desposorio, / que tal regolax tenés?») [Fernández, 1976: 88-89].

A few years later, Diego Sánchez de Badajoz also makes frequent use of song for introducing new protagonists into the action and for changes of characters or location, as is made clear by numerous stage directions in his Recopilación en metro, which appeared posthumously in 1554. In the Farsa teologal, we thus read: «Here comes a negress singing and playing a drum to the measure of a villancico» («Aquí viene una negra cantando y tañendo con un pichel al son del villancico»)18; and in the Força moral we find: «Justice now enters dressed in scarlet and carrying the scales and a vihuela on which she accopmanies her singing» («Aquí entra la justicia vestida de colorado y trae un peso y una bihuela en que viene tañendo y cantando») -and the text includes a villancico; «Perversion goes to one side and Prudence enters dressed in blue and carrying an open book in one hand and a pair of compasses in the other singing the following [song]» («Desvíase Nequicia a una parte y entra la Prudencia vestida de azul con un libro abierto en una mano y en la otra un compás cantando lo siguiente»)- and there follows another villancico: «Fortitude now enters with a sword in her right hand and a shield in her left, dressed in green, she comes singing to the melody of Dios es namorado de natura humana» («Aquí entra Fortaleza con un espada en la mano derecha y un escudo en la yzquierda vestida de verde, viene cantando al tono de dios es namorado de natura humana»)19.

It is this stage direction in the Extremaduran dramatist's Recopilación that confronts us with interesting questions that philological criticism -with certain notable exceptions20- has tended to overlook because of its failure to apply an interdisciplinary perspective in certain areas where the expertise of musical specialists seems indispensable. There exists a whole body of interesting rubrics on how to interpret the songs, which on many occasions go beyond the extent of stage directions (which did not exist anyway for much early theatre), to enter the realm of the internal instructions, or explicit directions within the dialogues [Hermenegildo, 1986; Hermenegildo, 1991]. This process can already be found in Encina's Égloga representada en la mesma noche de Navidad, where just before leaving for Bethlehem to worship Jesus, Juan commands: «But come along, let's jump to it / and sing two by two / so we are rehearsed» («Mas dad acá, respinguemos / y dos a dos cantiquemos / porque vamos ensayados»). It is a command that serves equally for the staging of songs integrated into theatrical works (the village dance or salto is explicitly alluded to in the word «respinguemos») and for the way in which they are to be sung, since from a musical point of view the «dos a dos cantiquemos» provides us with the key for how it is to be performed21.

It is clear, therefore, that in these theatrical texts from the end of the 15th century and the first half of the 16th century the preceding dialogues are of considerable significance for questions concerning the interpretation, the number of participants and the pattern of movements to follow, as I hope is clear from the following brief sample: in the Comedia de Bras Gil y Beringuella by Lucas Fernández the girl is heard to ask «What song do you want to sing?» («Qué cantar quieres cantar?»), to which her beloved responds: «A dance song, / because we'll have more fun» («Uno que sea de vaylar, / porque más nos reolguemos») [Fernández, 1976: 88].

Without leaving the realm of the village dance, it is worth turning to the play by Encina entitled Égloga nuevamente trobada por Juan del Encina adonde se introduze un pastor que con otro se aconseja queriendo dexar este mundo y sus vanidades por servir a Dios, where Cristino, accompanied by Justino, returns to his village after giving up his life as a hermit [Encina, 2001: 253-54]. The text highlighted in bold type is so clear as not to necessitate commentary:

Ora, sus, sus, caminemos,
no tardemos;
vamos al lugar, carillo,
que nuestro poco a poquillo
todo lo remediaremos.
¿El bailar has olvidado?
¡Dios loado!
Cuido que no, compañón;
hazme por provar un son.
Que me praze muy de grado.
¿Qué son quieres que te haga?
Haz, Dios praga,
qual quisieres, compañero.
¿Quieres uno vigillero,
de los de Jesú de Braga?
Tienta, tiéntalo, Justino.
¡Sus, Cristino!
ponte en corro como en lucha,
otea, mira, escucha,
que yo creo que es muy fino.
No le puedo bien entrar
ni tomar, que es un
poco palanciano.
Hazme un otro más villano,
que sea de mi manjar.
Di quál quieres, noramala,
que te haga.
¿No dizes lo que querrías?
Uno de los que tañías
a la boda de Pascuala.
Aquésse, aquésse es galán,
¡Juro a san!
Mira cómo lo repico,
yo te juro y certifico
que los pies tras él se van.
Pega, pégale, moçuelo,
muy sin duelo.
No ay quien en medio se meta,
alto y baxo y çapateta,
y el grito puesto en el cielo
A ello, no te desmayes.
¡Qué bien caes
punto por punto en el son!
Dale, dale, compañón,
esfuerça, que te descaes.

Come along, hurry, hurry, let's
go, don't tarry;
let's set off, my lad,
our diminishing supplies
we'll replenish.
Have you forgotten the dance?
God in heaven!
Certainly not, mate;
give me a tune to try out.
I'm mighty pleased about that.
What tune would you like?
May it please God, play
whichever you like.
Do you want a rustic one,
of those of Jesus of Braga?
Play it, Justino, play.
Here we go, Cristino!
take up your position as if
ready for a fight, watch, look,
listen, I think it's really good.
I can't come in right or pick it
up, as it's a bit too courtly.
Play another more rustic one,
one better suited to me.
Tell me which one you want, for
goodness' sake, and I'll play it.
Won't you say which one you want?
One of those you played
at Pascuala's wedding.
That's a really good one,
on my life it is!
Look how I can do it,
I swear and promise you
that my feet will dance to it.
Go at it, my lad,
don't stint.
No one'll get in the way,
alta and baxa and çapatela,
and a cry out loud
don't hold back.
How well you dance
each step to the tune!
Come on, come on, my boy,
keep it up, you're slacking.

To return to Lucas Fernández's Comedia de Bras Gil y Beringuella, where the second villancico serves to bring the play to a close: there are three youths (including Miguel Turra) involved, who -before the finale- bid Olalla sing and dance since Juan Benito the grandfather is too old to be chasing about much. Two hypotheses can be suggested for this change in singers. Either it is a concession to decorum, since, as will be seen, the song is accompanied by zapatetas (or jigs) as well as the skips and jumps typical of village celebrations, or perhaps the actor playing the part of the old man was not in a fit condition to participate in the song. I am inclined to favour the first hypothesis. (As will be seen, the introductory dialogues and even the verses of the villancico itself set out the conditions for the staging and characterize the song and dance as openly rustic). At nightfall it is time to leave, a much-used temporal convention in the pastoral texts [López Estrada, 1974]22, and Juan Benito bids them be on their way:

aballá, arrancá de ay,
que bien podéis ir habrando.
Habrando no, son cantando
un cantar como serranos.
Pues asíos por las manos
y ir lo emos vaylando.
¿Queréys dançar con nosotros?
Dançay, que ¡miafé! yo...
ya mi tiempo se passó.
Hazey lo vuestro vosotros.
Pues no stemos en quellotros,
sus, cantemos voz en grito,
con prazer demos apito
y saltemos como potros.
Gran plazer es el gasajo.
Digo, digo, digo, ha.
¡Juro a diez! muy bien nos va.
Demos tortas y vaylemos
con gran gloria y gran plazer;
demos saltos y cantemos
hasta en tierra nos caer;
no ay quien se pueda tener.
Digo, digo, digo, ha.
¡Juro a diez! muy bien nos va.
Ayna, Bras, tú y Beringuella
salí, salí acá a vaylar.
Que nos praz, ¡juro a Santella!
por más nos regozijar;
gran plazer es el olgar.
Digo, digo, digo, ha.
¡Juro a diez! muy bien nos va.
El cordojo que passamos
en plazer se nos volvió,
¡miafé! Pues nos desposamos
gran suerte nos percudió.
Ñunca tal fue; ñunca, ño.
¡Huy, ha, huy, ho, he, huy, ha!
¡juro a diez! muy bien nos va.
Çapatetas arrojemos
repicadas por el cielo;
mill altibaxos peguemos
por acaronas del suelo.
Reholguémonos sin duelo,
presto, todos, ¡sus!, acá.
Vamos, qu'escurece ya.

Come along, get away with
you, you can very well talk as you go.
Not talking, they're singing
a song like mountain lads.
Well grab their hands
and we'll go dancing.
Will you dance with us?
Dance, by my troth! Me...
my time for dancing is over.
But don't let me stop you.
Well let's not quibble,
come along, let's sing at the
top of our voices, let's shout
with joy and jump like colts.
It's a pleasure to have fun.
That's what I say, ha!
I'll take an oath on it! It's right up our street.
Let's twist and turn, let's dance
with great pleasure and fun;
let's go leaping and singing
until we fall down on the ground;
there's none who can do it better.
That's what I say, ha!
I'll take an oath on it! This is the life.
Get to it, Bras, you and
Beringuella come along, join in the dancing.
It's great fun, on my life!
And we'll enjoy ourselves all the more;
it's fun to have fun.
That's what I say, ha!
I'll take an oath on it! This is the life.
The anxiety we had
has turned to pleasure,
my goodness! Since we married
our luck has changed.
Never was it like this, never, no.
Ho, ho, ha, ha, ha, ho, ho!
I'll take an oath on it! This is the life.
We'll leap and jig,
our steps ringing in the sky;
we'll dance a thousand altibaxas
and fall down flat.
We'll have a brilliant time
with no grief,
come on, everyone, hurry along!
Come on, it's getting dark already.

Most interesting of all perhaps is the vocabulary employed by Fernán López de Yanguas in his dramatic eclogues, for example in this dialogue prior to the villancico and in the villancico itself in his Égloga de la Natividad. The conversations taking place between the interlocutors Mingo Sabido, Gil Pata, Pero Pança and Benito explicitly reveal the distribution of voices that are to harmonize in the quartet23, as well as the directions for the performance of the village dance (see text on p. 96):

Si sabes de musica alguna cosilla
cantemos en grita aquí
todos yuntos.
Toma qué pregunta sé
todos los puntos
del sol, fa, mi, re, que
habrás maravilla.
Y tú, Pero Pança, ¿en
tono de villa
sabrás chillar algo
aquí, si te yuntas?
¡Mira qué donoso, qué
necias preguntas!
Sé todos los tonos con [su]
Y tú, Benitillo, ¿harásnos ayuda
con voz agudilla, bailando
la dança?
Yo, par diez, que cante
diapente y mudança
y al canto de guérfano
yo le saguda
octavas, novenas, con
voz bien aguda,
¡por alto los pies, que
habrás gasajado!
y cortos y breves, tú
pierde cuidado,
con máxima y longa yo
hago que acuda.
Chapémosle agora
sonetos, canciones,
y ande la trisca subida
con saltos,
que suenen las vozes
por cima los altos.
Parece, Gil Pata, que
en orden te pones,
tú, mira, carillo, que
no desentones,
aguarda que en falta
ninguna caigamos.
A este divino moçuelo
que no coge cosa
sino coraçones.
Pues ande la dança
aquí al rededor,
trabemo[nos] todos muy
bien de las manos,
con gestos alegres,
jocundos y ufanos,
comiençe la música
con dulce primor.
Y lleva Gil Pata, si
quies, el tenor;
tú frísale al tripe,
Benito, las martas;
tú di, Pero Pança,
requintas y cuartas,
que yo diré luego la
cuentra y mayor.


¡Ah, Gil Pata! ¿Qué es, carillo?
¡Pero Pança!
Hamos aquí una dança,
por servir este chiquillo.
Demos çapatetas, saltos,
cada cual con su respingo
haz una vuelta, tú, Mingo,
vayan los corcovos altos.
¡Passo, passo! ¿Qué es, carillo?

Ten crianza,
no desconciertes la dança,
por servir a este chiquillo.
Ande en compás el ñailar
conc hapadas castanetas;
vayans las voces perhetas,
que suene bien el cantar.
Digo, digo, da gritillo
con mudança.
Ande derecha la dança
por amor de este chiquillo.
Da acá toste esse caldero,
sopemos huerte las migas,
hinchamos estas barrigas.
Sopa tú, Mingo, primero;
traga, traga, Benitillo,
con temprança.
Demos ya fin a la dança,
tornemos al ganadillo.

If you know any music
Let's all sing at the
top of our voices.
What kind of question is
that? I know all the notes
of the sol-fa, you'd
be surprised.
And you, Pero Pança,
in rustic vein
could you shout out
something, if you join in?
Oh what a wit, what
stupid questions!
I know all the modes
with their intonation
And you, Benitillo, will you
help us with your high voice,
tripping the dance?
I, by heaven, can sing at
the octave and mutation
and I can better the
orphan's song
octaves, ninths, with a
good high voice,
get those feet in the air,
you'll have fun!
and short notes and
breves, don't worry,
I don't stand for longas
or maximas.
Let's now teach him
sonnets and songs,
and, leaping, let's make
an even greater uproar,
letting our voices resound
above the contraltos.
That seems, Gil Pata, a
good way to go about it,
take care, you, my lad,
not to sing out of tune,
and take care everyone not
to make any mistake.
Let's serve this divine Child,
who takes nothing except our hearts.
So let's take up the dance
right around here,
let's work well with our hands,
with joyful, happy and cheerful
let the music begin with
excellent sweetness.
And you, Gil Pata, sing the
tenor part, if you will;
you, Benito, tack on the
trimming to the treble;
you, Pero Pança, add
fourths and fifths,
and then I'll add the
contra and more.


Ah, Gil Pata! What's up, my lad?
Pero Pança!
Let's dance here and now
to serve this small child!
Let's stamp our feet and leap,
each making his contribution,
take your turn, Mingo,
how high are your capers
Step out, step out! What's up, my lad?

Behave yourself
don't mess up this dance
in honour of the Child.
Keep the dancing in time
with jolly castanets;
keep the voices together
so the singing sounds good.
I say, I say, cry out
With the mutation.
Keep the dance going
for the love of this little Child.
Bring that cooking-pot over here,
let's dunk the breadcrumbs,
lets fill these bellies.
You eat first, Mingo;
Eat up, eat up, Benitillo,
don't overdo it.
Let's dance now,
and go back to our flocks.

The need to re-examine both the introductory dialogues that lead to the final songs and the development of the villancico itself is clear from the few examples provided here. For want of an adequate system such as musical notation (which for obvious reasons had spread little, if at all, by this time) or the formula «para cantar al tono de» (which, as has been seen, was not so very common) in the theatrical texts, performance directions in the manner of instructions integrated into the characters' exchanges prove to be the most suitable alternative for giving information about the conditions of musical and choreographic interpretation24.

NB: González Ollé [1967] offers interesting theories on the significance of certain problematic terms, tripe and martas among others, to which I refer the reader. More information on the «comic trappings» of the singing in a romance setting can be found in Hess [1976: 93-95]. On the other hand, the Farsa del mundo y moral, by the very same Fernán López de Yanguas, even manages to play with the vocabulary of music theory interpreted allegorically, both in the preceding dialogues and in the second verse of the final song that returns to this interpretation:

Hagamos ya tiempo, que
sale la luna, que ha rato que
estamos aquí razonando.
Bien dizes, hermano.
Pues vamos cantando, que
todos tenemos razón oportuna.
Pues sea como dizes.
¡Sus, alto cantemos!
Entona tú, Fe, con
dulce armonía.
¡Alto, pues, alto! Tú, Fe,
danos guía,
que en pos de tu rastro
nosotros iremos.
Si tú nos entonas,
jamás erraremos.
Yo quiero entonaros.
Di, padre, el tenor;
dirás tú, Apetito, la
contra mayor;
dejadme a mí el tiple.
Pues, ¡sus, comencemos!


Pues este mundo acarrea
pesares tristes y daños,
huyamos de sus engaños


Ganemos en este suelo,
con arte de bien vivir,
cómo podamos subir
sin impedimento al Cielo.
Tengamos con Dios el zelo
y con sus bienes extraños,
y no temeremos daños
Llevemos la Fe por guía,
que sabe bien el camino
con la cual, con muy buen tino,
no erraremos la vía.
El mundo con porfía
es causea de graves daños:
huyamos de sus engaños.

Now's the time, the
moon is coming out,
we've been here a while talking.
Well said, brother.
So let's go singing, we're
each right in our way.
As you wish. Come
along, sing up!
Faith, you give us the pitch,
with sweet harmony.
Hold on, contraalto! You, Faith,
guide us,
we'll follow your trail.
If you give us the note,
we won't go wrong.
I'll gladly give you the note.
Father, you sing the tenor;
you, Apetite, take
the contratenor;
leave me to sing the tiple.
So, let's begin!


Since this world brings with it
sad trials and tribulations,
let's flee from its illusions.


Let's earn down here on earth
through the art of living well,
how we can climb up
to Heaven without difficulty.
God brings us the zeal
and with his extraordinary goodness
we'll fear no harm.
Faith is our guide,
for she knows the way well,
so that, with her great skill,
we won't stray.
The world with its continuous struggle
is the cause of terrible harm:
let's flee from its illusions.