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higher classes; he has occasionally stepped beyond this limited circle, and has excited a warm interest in the reader, plainly because he was himself impressed with the truth and poetry of the conception, in the character of a personage selected from the humbler ranks-a simple country magistrate, with no pretensions to nobility, whose conceptions of honour are those only of an honest peasant, but who has encountered the most grievous wrong, in an outrage offered to his daughter by one of these privileged aristocratic tyrants, in whose mouths the maxims of chivalrous courtésy, gallantry, and honour which are so rife, are constantly in contradiction to their practical conduct. No character in Calderon is painted with stronger and more characteristic traits, or in a manner more calculated to convey the impression that the dramatist fully sympathized with the native simplicity and nobleness of the man, than the old peasant judge Pedro Crespo, in the Alcalde de Zalamea. We see him boldly determined, at all hazards, to do himself justice on the titled ravisher of his daughter;-proceeding with strict form to his arrest and condemnation; afterwards when accused before his King, Philip II. of Spain, satisfying him by his simple eloquence of the truth of his story, and of the guilt of Don Alvaro; and then, when the King, admitting the justice of the sentence, orders him to deliver over his prisoner to the royal custody, directing the doors of the Court to be thrown open, disclosing to view the guilty officer strangled and sitting on a chair-and calmly telling the King, that the surrender of the prisoner would now be difficult, as in Spain it was the custom of the Court which pronounced the sentence to carry it also into execution.
If Calderon, while giving full play to this extravagant conception of honour, and representing it to be, as it probably was, omnipotent over inferior minds, had occasionally exhibited a picture of the collision between this airy phantom and higher duties, in a mind of greater strength and compass, and of the triumph of the latter over the former, he might unquestionably have imparted to some of his subjects of this class, an originality, variety, a tragic depth and interest, which at present they do not possess. As it is, Calderon's plays, which turn on
the feeling of honour, as applied to the marriage tie, appear to be the gloomiest developments of an iron principle of destiny, frequently wreaking its vengeance on the innocent, suffering the guilty to escape, or even rewarding the author of crime with worldly favour, and exalting his cruelty into a virtue.
Thus, in the Medico de su Honra, this principle of honour, which impels Don Gutierre to the murder of his wife, merely because he suspects that her affections have been alienated from him by Henry of Transtamara, the brother of Pedro the Cruel, forbids him, in the shape of loyalty, to attempt any thing against the brother of his sovereign. The royal seducer escapes; the innocent wife is sacrificed. The same principle, too, which exacts vengeance requires that it shall be secret. Donna Mencia is secretly bled to death, that all memory of the wrong may be buried with its author. This maxim is carried still further in A Secreto Agravio Secreta Venganza, where Donna Leonora has yielded to the seductions of Don Luis. The last act of the play is one of the most dramatic and terrible in its character with which we are acquainted. Leonora is awaiting her lover in the garden of her husband's country house, looking out upon the Tagus. Instead of the expected lover Don Luis, her husband Don Lopé enters; his clothes are dripping with wet; he informs his wife that he had with difficulty escaped a watery grave; that a certain Don Luis de Benavides, a stranger to him, had solicited a place in the boat in which he was crossing to the summer residence of the king, which he had granted; the boat, he regrets to say, had struck on a sand-bank, and his companion had perished. Leonora faints; her husband, with the deepest apparent sympathy, assures the bystanders it is the effect of terror at the danger he had encountered; she is conveyed to her room. The scene changes to the sea-shore; it is midnight. Don Sebastian and his army are preparing for their African expedition, and the king, walking up and down with the Duke of Braganza, admires the twinkling lights in the ships at sea, and in the numerous country houses which line the shore, among which is that of Don Lopé de Almeyda. Suddenly a cry of fire is heard, and the house of Don Lopé is
seen in flames. He himself rushes out, bearing Leonora dead in his arms. She has perished, he says, in the flames; after the loss of such a pattern
He consigns his secret
To the waves, and to the flames,
III. The consequence of these objective inflexible principles of action is, of course, a very considerable monotony, both in the characters of Calderon, and in the general treatment of his themes. All his characters of the same class have the strongest resemblance to each other. They are brothers of a great Spanish noble family; all brave, punctilious, chivalrous, courteous, somewhat arrogant and overbearing; in short, their leading features are so alike, that they leave upon the mind no impression of individuality, as those of Shakspeare do, but become confounded with each other in the memory. Who, for instance, could point out any characteristic differences between the heroes of the two plays, Mejor esta que estava, and Peor esta que estava-Count Carlo Colonna, and Don Cæsar Ursino; except that the latter has a little of the disposition of Don Galaor about him; and, though not absolutely faithless to his first attachment, cannot resist the temptation of an intermediate love passage with the daughter of the governor of Gaeta? Again, in his picture of jealous husbands, what feature of distinction can be pointed out between Don Gutierre in the Medico de su Honra, Don Juan in the Pintor de su Deshonra, and Don Lopé in A Secreto Agravio? How different, on the contrary, in Shakspeare, is the jealousy of Leontes from that of Othello or Posthumus; as the passion acts on different natures, and its blind impulses are modified by an energy from within! Generally speaking, then, Calderon's characters are simply the representatives of classes: husbands, fathers, princes, lovers; all partaking of the same type, and rarely, if ever, discriminated from each other by any marked differences in the strength of passion in tragedy, or of humours and peculiarities in comedy. Indeed, the portraiture of humours or oddities of any kind, Calderon has never attempted. All his characters of the higher classes are grave and serious ; they quibble and refine in the dialectics of love and compli
of female virtue, his home is loathsome
Al aguay, fuego le entrega,
Solo la venganza sepa.
ment, but they never jest; and the province of humour is entirely abandoned to the servants, one of whom is invariably the established jester of the piece. The part of the Gracioso, with his satirical observations on the pompous sentiments of the higher personages, his cowardice or covetousness, his perfect insensibility to the punctilios of honour, courtesy, or gallantry, by which they are distracted or embarrassed, is, in fact, a perpetual commentary of vulgar common sense upon the sentimental refinements of chivalry; and nothing but the secret consciousness which probably existed in the breast of every spectator—namely, that much real meanness of spirit, or baseness of heart, often lurked beneath these high-sounding manners of morality, just as a ragged doublet was often concealed beneath the cloak of some knight of Calatrava-and the pleasure of thus gratifying the imagination, and satisfying the reason at the same time, by a picture of romance in the Master, and of homely reality in the Man, could explain the invariable introduction of these privileged buffoons into the most serious scenes, and the pleasure with which their sallies appear to have been received. Generally speaking, then, the plays of Calderon are in the highest degree conventional as to character. Among the pieces with which we are acquainted, we should be disposed to say that the comedy entitled, Guardate de la Agua Mansa, (Beware of Still Water,) is the one in which the characters appear to us to have most the air of being taken from real life. Another, Hombre Pobre todo es trazas, (The Poor are full of Projects,) of which the hint appears to have been taken from the Picaresco Romances of Mendoza, has also more of characteristic delineation, though not of a very pleasing kind, than is usual with Calderon.
IV. While the characters appear thus stereotyped, there is also not a little monotony in the constant recurrence of the themes. In all Calderon's plays, the motives are nearly
the same; love and jealousy, honour and revenge, gratitude for services rendered, the obligations of loyalty or friendship, appeals to generosity, which convert the foe for a time into the friend, or make a lier encounter any risk to shield the fame of a lady to whom he is an utter stranger. But herein lies the dramatic strength of Calderon, that with characters which are little more than fixed masks, and a set of themes of a very limited compass, his boundless invention enables him so to vary the incidents by which the characters are set in motion, and so to discriminate the shades of situations, that, while the main theme may correspond exactly in two plays, the details shall appear entirely new. A fertile invention of incidents is, indeed, characteristic of the Spanish stage. It was possessed in no ordinary degree by his predecessor Lopé. "Among the many plays I have read," says Lord Holland, "I have not fallen on one which does not strongly fix the attention; and, though many of his plots have been transferred to the French and English stage, and rendered more correct and more probable, they have seldom or never been improved in the great article of exciting curiosity and interest." But what in Lopé we cannot help thinking was accidental, is in Calderon the result of the most ingenious and artful combination. Lopé, while he fixes curiosity, startles, surprises, and not unfrequently puzzles us, by a maze of intrigue. Calderon, on the contrary, leads us on step by step, through a combination of incidents at once complicated and clear; the plot is involved in the most ingenious manner, so that, while the actors themselves are in doubt, the spectator possesses the key to the whole, and enjoys their perplexities. Then, when the spectator or reader begins to believe that the resources of the author are exhausted; that he is fairly driven to the wall, and that the denouement must take place; he finds some new loophole or means of escape, at once unexpected and yet perfectly natural; the mystery remains unsolved, or, as one doubt is cleared up, another more puzzling and inextricable is found to arise. As models of these felicitous escapes and masterpieces of a progressive dramatic interest, in which all appears
plain, simple, and well devised to the reader, while the characters seem the sport of malicious accident, and are lost in a maze of wonder, we would point to the scene in the second act of the Dama Duende-where Donna Angela is detected in her chamber by Don Manuel, when the secret of her visits in her goblin character seems about to be abruptly disclosed to him, and yet where Calderon, by an ingenious contrivance, effects her escape, and leaves Don Manuel in deeper perplexity than be.. fore; and to the series of incidents in the house of Don Cæsar in Mejor esta que estava, where the interest of the reader is constantly kept on the stretch by the dangers which threaten Count Colonna, the fugitive who has taken refuge there, and the happy and natural turns by which they are evad. ed. But, indeed, it is hardly possible to refer to any of the Comedias de Capa y Espada, without meeting with instances of this mastery of invention, both of serious and comic incident. In the serious class, Calderon's Casa con dos puertas mala es guardar, ('Tis ill guarding a house with two doors,) which has only the fault of a needless complication of incidents, though of a very ingenious kind; Mananas de Abril y Mayo, (Mornings of April and May ;) El Encanto sin Encanto, (Enchantment without Magic,) a sort of pendant to his favourite Dama Duende; Los Empenos de un Acaso, (The complications of Accident,) a title which, indeed, might be applied to all his comedies, are conspicuous. Among the comic, Guardate de Agua Mansa, and La Senora y la Criada, (Mistress and Maid,) particularly the latter, are proofs, that Calderon was not less successful in devising comic distresses, or ludicrous mistakes, than in the creation of those dilemmas, mysteries, and hairbreadth escapes, through which he delights to hurry his more earnest and dignified characters.
A dull play, then, with Calderon is a phenomenon of rare occurrence; indeed, except in his merely religious pieces, when the object is rather to embody in a visible form some dogmatic doctrine of faith, or some subtile distinction of school divinity, than to present a picture of human life, however conventional, it is scarcely possible to take up any one of his many plays without being irresistibly
attracted by the ingenuity of the incidents, the clear, rapid, and at the same time unexpected march of the story. Even into his mythological plays, or those founded on subjects of ancient history, he throws the same spirit of adventure, love, and gallantry which characterise those based on mo. dern or Spanish incidents. Ulysses, in El mayor Encantò Amor, and Semiramis, in the Hija del Ayre, differ little, except in name, from the enamoured dukes and princesses of the Secreto a Vozes, La Vanda y la Flor, and Nadie fie su Secreto; they are surrounded with nearly the same web of difficulties, misunderstandings, collisions of duty and inclination, and the same fantastic array of Graciosos and waiting-women, which form the chief source of interest in the latter class of plays; while the points of resemblance between the rhodomontades of Judas Maccabeus, and the heroes of the Puente de Mantible, are obvious. Calderon has, in truth, treated subjects of mythology and ancient history much in the same way as Scuderi, Calprenede, and Gomberville, in their tedious romances; that is to say, he has, like the French novelists, applied, without ceremony, incidents, manners, and conventional modes of expression, borrowed from the romances of chival ry, to the classic times; with just this difference, that the French romances (the popularity of which is one of the strangest phenomena in the history of literature) are unredeemed by any ray of talent, while Calderon, by the magic of an exhaustless invention, by the happy traits of comprehensive reflection and knowledge of human nature, which, without any elaborate display, are scattered over even his worst pieces, and by the glow and fire of an imagination pouring forth imagery almost spontaneously, and arraying its images in a rich attire of poetical and musical expression, imparts a species of unity and amalgamation even to these apparently conflicting elements;-and, at all events, stamps the undoubted character of genius upon many scattered scenes and passages of plays, which upon the whole are little in harmony with a cultivated taste.
V. Yet, in recognising Calderon's astonishing invention of incident, and that prodigious variety which enables him, under circumstances which in their general complexion are nearly
identical, to give a new turn to the situa tions, so as to give to the second version of the same theme all the charms of an original, it is necessary to remind the reader, that certain postulates are assumed, as of constant occurrence, to which it is not very easy to accommodate our notions of the probable. Secret doors and sliding passages may be allowed as necessary and not improbable instruments for furthering those intrigues and strange rencontres, on which many of the Spanish plays turn; and, with the aid of night and darkness, we may allow also that some happy escapes may be made, and some confusion naturally caused by the use of the invariable cloak, which is worn by the male personages of the play; to which, indeed, along with the use of the mantilla on the part of the ladies, Calderon laughingly alludes as part of the indispensable machinery of his plays.
Es comedia de Don Pedro
-No ay Burlas con el Amor. But the extent to which, in broad daylight, the mere use of the veil is supposed to disguise the person, and to occasion those equivoques which are necessary for the complication of the plot, we must fairly confess goes far beyond the concessions which we think a dramatic poet is entitled to demand. Fathers are represented, notwithstanding the resemblance of height, figure, &c., as unable to detect their own daughters, with whom they have just been talking half an hour before, (Peor esta que estava, Act I. ;) brothers their sisters, lovers their mistresses, (Mejor esta que estava, Act III.)-and on this very simple, but we must be allowed to think not very probable nodus, is suspended the denouement of nearly one-half of Calderon's Comedias de Capa y Espada. At the same time, let us add, that nothing can be more conspicuous than the skill with which Calderon contrives, in such cases, to avoid the additional improbability which would arise if the disguised he roines were allowed to speak: he contrives, with uncommon art, to fill up the dialogue in such a way, as to allow them to remain entirely silent, and ultimately to withdraw them from the scene without subjecting them to any such ordeal; as he probably felt
that this would have been generally considered a demand upon the credulity of the spectator too violent to be admitted-except, perhaps, in an English farce or a French vaudeville.
After all, however, nothing on the Spanish stage exceeds, if indeed it approaches, in point of improbability, the equivoques and mistakes which are attributed by Dryden and his followers, of the close of the seventeenth and commencement of the eighteenth century, to the use of masks in England. That this established piece of stage mechanism must have had its origin in the facilities which masks actually afforded to licentious gallantry, and the occasional escapes which they had facilitated, we suppose admits of no doubt; but there can be just as little, that the effects attributed to them, as in the case of the Spanish basquiña and mantilla, are altogether disproportioned to the cause. Nothing but wilful blindness, perhaps, could, in either case, account for the result; but certainly a Marriage in a Mask, which is a result not uncommon in Shadwell, and we rather think, though we have not time to verify the fact, in Dryden, is a pitch of improbability surpassing any of the dramatic postulates of the Spanish stage.
VI. And here, also, while referring to our English comedies of the Spanish school, let us notice, to the honour of the Spanish stage, the infinite superiority in point of decency and morality which the plays, both of Lopé and Calderon, (even those in which gallantry plays the most conspicuous part,) possess over the whole of our English comedies, from Shakspeare downward. That the Spanish national character was better than the English in point of morality, we do not believe; if the Spaniards were more temperate in some respects, they were more passionate and unserupulous in others; the obligations of chastity, the sanctity of the marriage tie, were not merely more rigidly enforced in England by public opinion, but appear to have been more in harmony with our inborn northern noticns, which treated the female sex not with a delusive gallantry, but a real respect, and acknowledged in woman the sanctum aliquid et providum,' which their Gothie ancestors recognised as their peculiar appanage. And yet, while even Shakspeare sins
grievously against good feeling in some of his plays, while Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger, Ben Jonson, and Shirley, set all decency, so far as regards expression, at defiance and while Dryden, Shadwell, Congreve, Vanbrugh, and Etherege, carry the license which their predecessors had applied to expression into the whole body of the drama itself, and represent society as little better than a mass of intrigue, unchastity, and brutality, in which the coarseness of the language is but the reflection of the general corruption of heart from which it flows; the plays of Calderon scarcely contain an indecent allusion, and never a single scene of that licentious character which deforms almost every play of Beaumont and Fletcher, or Dryden. We may revolt against the morality of the Spanish stage, from the false notions of honour which it inculcates, the boundless toleration for sanguinary. revenge which it sanctions, the dangerous, nay, even detestable maxims which it encourages, in regard to the omnipotence of simple belief in matters of religion, though combined with the darkest crimes; but at least it contains nothing to inflame the passions, and nothing to revolt the moral feeling in point of decency. Even the Graciosos, while indulging in the most reckless saturnalia of merriment, and laughing throughout (at the expense of frequent drubbings) at the failings, misfortunes, or perplexities of their masters, cautiously abstain from those coarse equivoques, or sometimes very unequivocal ribaldries, by which even Shakspeare's clowns and servants found it necessary to enliven the scene, and bespeak the favour of the populace at the Globe or Blackfriars, and which seem to have become the staple of the piece in the time of Dryden. The same contrast of a surface dramatic morality, with great internal laxity of morals in real life, it may be observed, is afforded by the French stage; which, next to the Spanish, was (until lately) the most moral in Europe in point of expression, a phenomenon which certainly verifies to some extent the observation of Voltaire, La pudeur s'est effugiée des cœurs pour se refugier sur les lèvres; and which seems to indicate a much earlier progress in civilisation and outward refinement in those nations, than Britain could