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the character of that poet whom he has tried to popularize in Germany, and in regard to whom the Germans, as they so often do, have run into a thoughtless and visionary admiration! But, in regard to the position which Calderon occupies in art, nothing is said; and the author confines himself either to general elucidations of the Spanish character, or rhetorical eulogies of the poet himself. .
As to the point of view from whence Calderon views human life, his manner of contemplating the world, his characteristic qualities, his composition, and exposition, we find not a word."
Where Schlegel has failed, we certainly are not vain enough to think we should succeed; on the contrary, we confess we shrink from the haz ardous task of attempting a general characteristic of Calderon. In some
En el teatro del mundo
points, we find it difficult, even after considerable study of the subject, to come to any satisfactory conclusion in our own minds: as, for instance, how far Calderon adopted the affectation and extravagance of the Estilo Cultothe euphuism of Madrid-from choice, or simply in compliance with a fashion which he knew to be contrary to good taste and good sense, but believed to be indispensable to the popularity of his dramas at Court. On this point, we think the internal evidence of his works extremely contradictory. It is certainly true, that no one can occasionally express an image, or illustrate a comparison more simply and effectively.
Witness the following quaint but forcible lines from the speech of the captive Portuguese knight, Don Alvar de Viseo, in Saber del Mal y del Bien:
On the theatre of earth
All mankind are merely players.
Or the following couplet, in which a fine sentiment is briefly and tersely expressed.
Que al cuerpo le viste el oro
Pero al alma la noblezi.
Gold may be the body's dress,
But the soul's is nobleness.
-A Secreto Agravio Secreta Venganza.
Calderon sneers at times, too, at the professors of the Estilo Culto, including himself.
And, again, in Hombre pobre todo es Trazas, in the description of Clara.
Dejo a parte locutiones
And yet to find a whole play, even in those of a level and domestic character, undeformed by some of the very hyperboles or subtilties which he reprobates, would be difficult, if not impossible. In his more extravagant plays, such as the Judas Maccabeus, La Gran Zenobia, or La Hija del Ayre, nay, we are constrained to add,
in the first act of the much-lauded Constant Prince, Calderon might dispute the palm of pompous affectation with the Italian Marino, or with the prince of the Cultoristos, Gongora himself; and, like Shadwell
Be own'd, without dispute, Through all the realms of nonsense absolute." The few remarks, then, with which
we intend to preface our translations, shall be confined to such points in the literary character of Calderon, as we conceive to be attended with the least dispute.
I. That there are certain general points of resemblance between the drama of England and that of Spain such as the disregard of the unities and the union of the comic and tragic in the same composition, is sufficiently known. It is more important to discriminate the points of distinction between them. And here, in comparing the general character of Calderon's dramas with those of Shakspeare, we at once perceive one important difference. The drama, as a picture of human life, exhibits actions as resulting from the combined operation of two influences the native character and disposition of the actor, on the one hand, which may be considered as representing the principle of free-will, and the combination of external circumstances, over which he has no control, which represent the antagonist and necessitating principle. Man cannot, indeed, escape from the influence of circumstances, nor mo dify his external position; but, according to the constitution of his own intellectual or moral being, these circumstances act differently upon his volition, and lead to different results. One man, in a certain position, yields to temptation; another struggles against and overcomes it; a weak mind bends submissively to fancied obligations, which have no better foundation than fashion or national prejudice; a strong mind, in the same circumstances, rises above these, and, under the direction of a higher morality, braves the tyranny of custom, and the opinion of the world. In the representation of this action and reaction of circumstances and character upon each other; in the harmonious and natural adjustment of their respective provinces, so as neither to necessitate the action, as if by a blind fatality, nor, on the other hand, to insulate the characters from the operation of events, no one has ever been so successful as Shakspeare. In his works, the influence of circumstances on the one hand, and the natural strength of character on the other, keep their re
spective places, as in the world of reality. The action seems to grow out of their joint operation, as the boughs which spring from a trunk which has been grafted, partake of the character of both the original trees. Hence as the same events, or the same combination of circumstances, produce the most opposite or varying effects on different beings in the world of reality, so on Shakspeare's dramatic system, something of the same variety is obtained. No one in his plays can predict, from the mere announcement of the position in which a particular character stands, even combined with a general knowledge of his character, such as that he is ambitious, jealous, revengeful, and so on, what course the action is to take. Looking at it retrospectively, we shall rarely fail to perceive that it is in precise accordance with what may be supposed to be the result of the combined forces, subjective and objective, which have been brought into collision; but, as the possible combinations resulting from the ever-varying action of mind upon unvarying circumstances are endless, it is impossible to anticipate them beforehand; and the result, therefore, possesses for us at once the charm of nature and of novelty.
On the Spanish stage, and particularly in the dramas of Calderon, this balance between the principle of liberty and that of necessity is by no means preserved. The independent energy of character in a great measure disappears; the human beings are surrounded by certain external events, or by certain real or supposed fixed principles of religion and morality, which operate upon them like so many necessities, against which, in general, they scarcely struggle, and never with any hope or chance of success. What may have led to this radical distinction in the spirit of the dramas of the two countries, giving to that of Spain much of the fatalistic character of the Greek, is an enquiry both curious and difficult. A late German critic, Ulrici, in a comparative view of the dramatic principles of Shakspeare, Calderon, and Goethe, to which we willingly acknowledge our obligations, and from whose temperate, judicious, and intelligible criticisms, a far more satisfac
* Ueber Shakspeare's Dramatische Kunst, und Sein Verhaltniss zu Calderon und Goethe. Von Dr Hermann Ulrici.-Halle, 1839.
tory estimate of Calderon may be formed, than from the eloquent rhapsodies of Schlegel, ingeniously attempts to trace this distinctive difference between the systems of the English and Spanish poets, to the respective influences of the Protestant and Catholic religions; and, as applied to one class of Calderon's works, there is a considerable degree of truth in his theory. It is, undoubtedly, the tendency of Catholicism to reduce religion to an objective, external, and almost sensible form; to encourage the idea that it is something not growing out of, and contained within, the mind itself, nor even operating through the medium of intelligence and the moral sense in guiding human conduct, but acting upon it through the permission of the Deity, like an irresistible outward force; the effects of which the morality or reason of man neither furthers nor prevents; a proposition, not perhaps in itself untrue, if taken merely in the sense that all good influences spring from God, but which, when embodied in the form which it assumes in the Spanish drama, is calculated to lead to the most startling and revolting
Now, this total isolation of religion from morality, and the unconditional and irresistible influence attributed to the former- a practical result of Catholicism, which Calderon adopts to its fullest extent in all his religious plays-has one obvious consequence. It annihilates all free agency on the part of his heroes, and makes the intended result, as explained by Frederick Schegel, viz. their spiritual purification, in no way dependent on the character or disposition, which remain, up even to the very moment of their apotheosis, just as desperately wicked and apparently irreclaimable as before. For example, in the Devotion to the Cross, up to the time when Eusebio, after being fairly slain, is miraculously recalled to life for the purpose of having his confession heard, and of being thereafter, as an immediate consequence, received into paradise, what has been his life? That of a profligate, a robber, a habitual murderer; not to mention the unconscious incest which Calderon has added to this catalogue of offences; while the solitary gleam of a better nature which enlightens this dark mass of crime, is a superstitious reverence for the cross, a feeling which he has never been
entirely able to eradicate; and one which Eusebio, we believe, shares with most of the Italian Banditti, who seldom fail to erect a cross above the grave of their victims, and are generous enough to afford, out of the plunder, a small per centage to provide masses for the repose of the deceased. In the Purgatory of St Patrick, the hero, Ludovico Ennio, describes hi previous career to his mistress Polonia, in the following agreeable colours:No te contare piedades
Ni maravillas del cielo
"Thefts, murders, sacrilege, treachery, and falsehood"-a general description, to which the particular enumeration which follows adds rape and adultery. To be sure, there is one redeeming point in this catalogue on which Ludovico piques himself considerably; and that is, having slain a bumbailiff who attempted to apprehend him; a kind of compensation to the cause of morality, which he thinks not without its importance in balancing the ulti-, mate account of good and evil.
Ya en la resistencia puesto A un corchete di' la muerte Algo habia de hacer bien hecho Entre tantas cosas malas ; Tengale Dios en el cielo. Yet this monster, for he really is no better, is selected as the special object of this principle of irrespective grace in which Calderon so much delights. He is destined to be converted and saved through the sudden horror produced by an awful apparition, specially commissioned for that purpose, and apart from the slightest evidence of any moral change in the character of the individual, and though, as far as any one can see, "cut off even in the blossoms of his sin," is pronounced at once a fit candidate for heaven. But we
should, at the same time, be doing great injustice to Calderon, while objecting to this principle of a wondrous and external agency controlling human volition, without the aid of natural reason or moral feeling, and thus extinguishing all legitimate dramatic interest, if we did not acknowledge the wild and terrible grandeur of the scene which occasions the conversion of Ennio, though even there, we think the conception better than the
[Descubrele la capa, y halla debaxo un esqueleto.
Que miro? Ay Dios, que espantoso
Espectaculo! que horrible
Vision! que mortal asombro!
Quien eres, yerto cadaver,
Que deshecho en humo y polvo
Emb. No te conoces ?
Este es tu retrato propio,
Yo soy Ludovico Ennio.
Lud. Valgame el Cielo ! que oigo?
Valgame el Cielo ! que veo ?
II. Calderon's Catholicism, then, municated this character of fatalism may certainly be supposed to have com to his religious dramas, making the
agency of visions and miraculous interpositions from without, not the reflections or energies of the mind within, the mainspring of the action. It is not, however, so easy to see how Catholicism should be chargeable with the introduction of a similar principle into his other dramas; and yet that it is found in almost all of them is undemiable. For as in the religious plays an objective power, over which man has no command, operates, so in the Comedias the sense of honour in men, the passion of love in women, the feeling of jealousy, the obligations of friendship, the laws of knightly gallantry, seem all erected by mankind into so many external necessities, which act with a uniform and irresistible effect upon the dramatis personæ, overpowering differences of character, and leading to invariable results. The consequence of this is, that while in Shakspeare's plays we are curious to know how an individual will think and act in a given situation, according to the peculiarities of his individual nature, on the Spanish stage, our only curiosity is as to the series of events by which the dramatist will surround him, and by which he will mechanically be put in motion. Once placed in a given situation, his course seems susceptible of almost mathematical calculation. That Calderon, whose characters are always at bottom Spaniards of the seventeenth century, found these unbounding laws of honour, jealousy, love, and courtesy, (the relics of a past period of the national history, when chivalrous feeling, national and individual pride, and a system of artificial gallantry, established by custom, had prevailed,) actually influencing the society of his time, there can be no doubt. Had not the audience sympathized with the despotism which such feelings were supposed to exert over the will and conduct of the personages of the drama, they never could have been reconciled to a system, the uniformity and monotony of which were so obvious; by which individuality of character was in a great measure effaced-and the personages of the piece reduced to classes like the père noble, premier amoureux, &c., of the opera, whose line of business and whole conduct were chalked out beforehand, with little possibility of deviation.
Of all the feelings which are thus influential on the Spanish stage, hon
our is represented as the most despotic and unalterable. "Spanish ingenuity," says Ulrici," had reduced its laws to a highly refined system, rigorously pursued into the minutest details, and pervading life in all its vital relations. It was a part of the harshness and indolence of the national character, not to move a hair's breadth from its fixed notions and principles-to carry them out into relentless execution-to be sensitively suspicions of every infringement of them. The national history, too, contributed its part, as any one will at once perceive who recollects the protracted and chivalrous contest, with the conclusion of which, in Spain, the middle ages may be said to merge into modern times; and remembers also how, in the sixteenth century, Spain raised herself to the foremost rank in the politics of Europe;-what additional nourishment was thus imparted to the national pride, and how much more rigidly the feudal distinctions between the nobility and the common people, and in the former, between different ranks and classes, were adhered to in Spain than elsewhere. But in consequence of this separation, the conception of honnour had only a particular and limited application. The system had immediate reference to the nobility; the citizens and the populace had no part in it-they had their own peculiar code of morals. Thus Calderon's servants have always a different morality from their masters, generally, no doubt, to the disadvantage of the former-sometimes, however, to their advantage, when contrasted with the perverted and inflated system of the latter. Calderon never undertakes to paint the people; he deals with kings, princes, and knights. To the former he cannot descend, since in doing so he would be under the necessity of stepping entirely out of the sphere to which alone his views of the world and of life are suited. Two entirely different circles, moving beside each other, but without any point of contact, could not possibly have been united in one work without destroying its external and internal unity.'
It may be noticed, that while this observation is in the main correctsince Calderon deals chiefly with certain aristocratical and conventional notions of honour, love, and gallantry, which he found either traditionally or actually existing among the