El Muerto Lives Again: Two Translations from the Spanish Golden Age

de gira y de fiesta vaya (Goodwood 11-18-17)

By Francisco Bernardo de Quirós

Translated by Ben Gunter, Kerry Wilks, and Samuel (Chip) Worthington

Volume 7, Issue 1 (Spring 2018)

Plays from the Spanish Golden Age offer multiple attractions to translators. This period, covering the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, provides an unparalleled wealth of material to explore, since thousands of plays were written in Spanish during the Siglo de Oro, in a dazzling array of dramatic flavors, lengths, and subjects. The plays can feature major roles for women – roles written to be played by women, sometimes scripted by professional female playwrights. They comprise three-act comedias that can startlingly reinterpret classical myths, scathingly probe contemporary politics, adventurously explore speculative theology, and hilariously poke fun at gender expectations. They include one-act autos sacramentales that can stage psychomachias, re-set Bible stories into everyday life, and allegorize the world as a theater. And they feature one-act entremeses that can turn the world upside down like a funhouse mirror, satirizing values that people unthinkingly hold sacred, and providing star vehicles for talented performers.[1]

A major attraction for translators is the proven performance potential of these plays onstage. Seasons of Spanish Golden Age plays in translation have succeeded recently for the UK’s Royal Shakespeare Company and the Theatre Royal in Bath. In the US, the world’s longest-running festival of plays from early modern Spain – the Siglo de Oro Drama Festival presented by the National Park Service at El Chamizal National Monument in El Paso, Texas – is now entering its 43rd year, years periodically enriched with world premieres of comedias, autos, and entremeses in English. Translating Golden Age plays for production has proved such a fruitful field for rediscovering “lost” theater treasures that the Association for Hispanic Classical Theatre (which maintains an impressive streaming-video library of performances at http://www.comedias.org) founded the journal Comedia Performance to explore the dynamic dialog that is in progress among textual scholarship, production practice, and translation.

The two translations presented here are a direct result of that dialog – new translations of a lively old one-act named El muerto (The Dead Man). This sparkling entremés has thoroughly proved its power onstage in Spanish, and is here making its English-language debut in print. As a prolog to the translations, let us briefly introduce you to El muerto’s genre, author, and history.

An Introduction to the Entremés

Historians of dramatic literature trace the origins of the Spanish entremés back to the late fifteenth century, with the genre exploding in popularity during the seventeenth century. Entremeses then enjoyed a substantial period of interest until a decline in the eighteenth century, when these one-act interludes began their metamorphosis into a new style called sainete.[2] Though an entremés can have varying characteristics depending on the period in question, a good working definition of the entremés is a short, comical, one-act play that was performed in between the acts (jornadas) of a comedia.[3] While comedias were written with the knowledge that short performance pieces would be inserted between the acts, entremeses typically were written as stand-alone works that were not directly tied to the action of the full-length play. The characters in the one-acts trace their origins to Rojas’s La Celestina, as well as to picaresque literature, and to the stock characters of Italy’s commedia dell’arte.[4] As a result, the entremés is populated by characters who represent the common man or the underbelly of Spanish life. The themes of entremeses, though often similar to themes explored in three-act plays, were generally presented in subversive or satiric contrast to the comedia. For example, Lope de Vega, the defining playwright for the Spanish comedia, is often cited for his assertion that honor is an element in the plot that theatergoers find universally engaging. In the dramaturgy of the comedia, the theme of honor tends to tilt dangerously towards tragedy, until (most often) this tragic tilt is resolved at the end of the third act. In the world of the entremés, the theme of honor gets turned upside down, with young brides cuckolding inappropriately aged husbands and underdogs satirically subverting the prescribed social order. The characters (often stock characters or tipos) use racy, colloquial language, with satire, topsy-turvy (mundo al revés), and trickery/practical jokes (burlas) being the underlying foundation of the plays.[5]

Because their themes and characters parody high-culture conventions, entremeses can be tricky to translate. The language of these one-acts poses particularly complex challenges for translation.  By the seventeenth century, most entremeses utilized strophic verse (as did most comedias). Due to the topsy-turvy tone of the genre, however, the language of the entremés is the reverse of elevated, even though it uses the same verse forms and rhyme schemes found in the comedia. Ironically, the prose style of Miguel de Cervantes, who is one of the best-known writers of entremeses in the English-speaking world, is more of an exception rather than the norm.[6]

The Author and His Plays

Francisco Bernardo de Quirós (1594-1668) was both a prose writer and a playwright (poeta or dramaturgo) in seventeenth-century Spain. While Luis Quiñones de Benavente (1581-1651) is the acknowledged master of the entremés, Quirós seems to have enjoyed a fair degree of popularity among the autores (company managers/producers) of the period, and most modern anthologies of entremeses include one of his works. Quirós was born in Madrid and inherited a court position from his father that more than likely allowed him to work in the theater world, traveling in search of performers and theater companies to bring to Madrid.[7] Quirós also participated extensively in Madrid’s cultural life and court events, including the literary competitions held for such occasions as holy days or church dedications. In 1656, Quirós published a collection entitled Obras de Francisco Bernardo de Quirós y aventuras de don Fruela, which contains ten entremeses (though El muerto does not appear in this volume), several poems, a full-length comedia, and a narrative work in the picaresque tradition (a novella describing Fruela’s adventures). While this was the largest collection of his works that was published during his lifetime, Quirós’s entremeses, including El muerto, were also included in other anthologies.

El muerto – Its History and Performance

El muerto was first published in Zaragoza in 1658, two years after Quirós’s Obras, in a collection entitled Teatro poético.[8]  This lively play about a “dead man” was subsequently republished in 1670, in the volume Primera parte del Parnaso nuevo. In addition to drawing on the playtexts printed in these two publications, translations and performances of El muerto can be enriched by consulting the multiple versions of this entremés that are extant in manuscript form. The wide availability of these texts during the seventeenth century, at least some of which appear to be actor- or company-owned, are a very good indication of the popularity of this one-act during the Spanish Golden Age. While the manuscripts are all very similar with respect to the text, each of them is labeled with a distinct title and there are variants among them that are very useful for translators, with particularly significant variations located at the end of the play.[9] This cache of manuscripts, combined with the pair of seventeenth-century printed texts, gives a wealth of resources from a dramaturgical perspective and key information with respect to El muerto’s performance shape during Spain’s Golden Age.

What is it, then, that makes this play so appealing? Despite the seemingly unrealistic premise of the play – that his family and friends succeed in manipulating a male authority figure by convincing him that he has actually died and that only a man he despises can resurrect him – El muerto follows a dramatic arc that is very appealing to actors and audiences, offering a plethora of options for performing comic moments and a variety of interpretations for making sense of the characters. The play opens with a young woman named Eufrasia telling a male confidant named Tronera that she is dying to marry a dashing Astrólogo, but her brother Lorenzo, patriarch of the family, refuses to give permission for this marriage. Tronera, who appears to be a male servant of long standing or a relative, reassures Eufrasia that she has nothing to worry about since everything is ready for playing a trick (burla) on Lorenzo. From this moment on, the stage is set to convince Lorenzo that he has just expired, and that only Eufrasia’s Astrólogo can bring him back to life. Even Eufrasia’s friend, the seamstress-next-door Marta, joins in the conspiracy to convince Lorenzo that he has become un muerto. Marta actually sews Lorenzo into his burial shroud, immediately before the Astrólogo dashes onstage specifically to resuscitate Lorenzo. Bit by bit, Lorenzo’s animus against the Astrólogo, and his contempt for the Astrólogo’s cienca (expertise), give way to his survival instinct. Threatened with the prospect of being left un muerto forever, Lorenzo finally sets his seal of approval on Eufrasia’s union with the Astrólogo. The Astrólogo summons life back to Lorenzo’s “lifeless corpse,” and the play ends with singing and dancing, punctuated (in most versions of the script) by a series of seguidillas which offer a sardonic set of morals to the story.[10]

Despite evidence to indicate that El muerto enjoyed success onstage and on the page during the seventeenth century, Quirós’s most celebrated play effectively disappeared in the eighteenth century, in company with most other plays from the Siglo de Oro. Audiences had to wait until the twenty-first century to rediscover this delightful one-act. In 2005, Celsa Carmen García Valdés published an anthology of Golden Age one-acts that has been widely circulated by Cátedra; she included El muerto in this high-profile collection. The play’s modern production history appears to begin shortly thereafter, with Morfeo Teatro’s 2007 production of De burladores y burlados, which included El muerto in a collage of four classical Spanish one-acts.[11] Morfeo’s production brought El muerto to the United States, to appear (in Spanish) at the 38th Annual Siglo de Oro Drama Festival at the Chamizal National Memorial Park in El Paso, Texas (2013).[12] This performance immediately sparked the interest of translators in the United States, who shortly afterwards premiered the first English translation of the play during a working session of the American Society for Theater Research in Dallas (2013).

Designed as an exercise in finding ways to translate El muerto’s powerful performance appeals – its strongly-drawn characters, strikingly-managed dramatic situations, brilliantly-crafted economy of language, and provocatively-developed transgressions of cultural norms – the American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) script soon inspired translations that are more finished, and more informed by performance feedback. The ASTR script had emerged scene by scene during a series of Skype sessions among a team of three collaborators, and had then been read aloud during a working-session meeting of scholars and practitioners from the USA and Canada. Exploratory in technique and contemporary in tone, the ASTR translation experimented with strategies such as translating character names to reveal their performance implications (rendering Tronera as “Thunderfart”), transmitting the subtext embedded in character situations (featuring in Eufrasia’s opening monolog a complaint that Lorenzo is “carrying his basic male stupidity to ridiculous extremes!”), and decoding wordplay out of Spanish and Latin text and recoding it into contemporary US English (making the Astrólogo’s doggerel-Latin greeting “Nausi friti” into “Frito-La-ser”).

Origin and Purpose of these Two Translations

The two translations printed here spring from origins that differ significantly from the ASTR script, and inspire instructively different results. In 2014, Theater with a Mission (TWAM) re-translated El muerto for presentation as post-nuptial entertainment during a Historic Indian/Spanish Wedding at the most important Spanish mission in colonial La Florida. As you will see, performance context fundamentally shapes TWAM’s translation, defining Lorenzo’s occupation as a military Capitán, his character type as a miles gloriosus, and his approach to doble entendimiento as family-friendly. TWAM double-casts productions to provide multiple perspectives on roles and maximum opportunities for touring. Performance considerations visibly influence TWAM’s translation of El muerto, generating alternate versions of key passages to help performers suit the script’s sexual innuendo to the age range of the cast and the cultural tolerance of the performance venue. Part of TWAM’s mission is to build bridges across language barriers, so you will find TWAM’s version of El muerto strategically preserving the original Spanish text as the preferred performance option for some high-profile turning points in the play. Because TWAM finds that music and dance are indispensable tools for connecting classical Spanish plays with contemporary American audiences, you will find that rhythm and rhyme play prominent roles in TWAM’s translation, and this performance script builds to a finale in which character couplets sum up the plot while dance steps set the mood and punctuate the dialog. From start to finish, performance resources and performance considerations shape TWAM’s translation.

In 2015, Kerry Wilks and Chip Worthington of Wichita State University (WSU) premiered a translation of El muerto that is profoundly shaped by dramaturgical resources. The WSU script originated when the Association for Hispanic Classical Theatre issued a call for translators to supply dueling versions of Quirós’s play to showcase in a practicum on translating and performing plays from the Spanish Golden Age. As Wilks and Worthington researched El muerto’s Spanish text, they found overlooked stage directions and undocumented textual variants that refocused their reading of the play. As you will see, WSU’s dramaturgical research inspires a translation in which Eufrasia takes charge of her own destiny, Lorenzo’s “death” scene is precisely located by a 17th-century acotación (stage direction), Marta’s shroud-sewing becomes explicitly scatological, and the Astrólogo proclaims his presence with a greeting that is part Latin and part techno-speak (“Lorem ipsum”). Other indications of this translation’s attention to dramaturgical resources become evident in WSU’s performance-friendly presentation of the dramatis personae, providing an introduction to the world of the play that offers producers and performers insight into the performance cues that are encoded in character names.

Divergences and Convergences Between the Translations

Both translations of El muerto here published for the first time are the result of inquisitive, strategic, and ongoing collaboration – collaboration designed to build on each translation group’s collective strengths in order to create a stageworthy script. For TWAM, with access to an established acting company and an active touring schedule for field-testing translation choices, it is productive for the translation process to mine the rich performance possibilities that are inherent within the playtext. Using a variety of performance contexts, casts, and even alternative dialog to accommodate the script’s performance challenges (e.g., rhythmically rhymed couplets and sexual humor), TWAM’s translation continues to evolve as performance opportunities shape the translation for presentation to general-public audiences in civic-festival settings (witness the scripted introduction that prefaces TWAM’s translation). For WSU, with access to unpublished stage directions and textual variants that open up new performance possibilities for the play, the translation process productively focuses on teasing out nuances in unique dramaturgical resources interrogated by translators with strong backgrounds in philology. WSU’s translation continues to grow as research uncovers and clarifies variants in El muerto’s manuscripts, and as translators analyze these new readings, assess their performance potential, and utilize variants as the basis for translation.

The divergent choices open to translators using these two different modus operandi are detailed in Gunter and Wilks’s publication entitled “El muerto Revived in the USA.”[13] Equally instructive are the surprising points of convergence between two scripts produced by translators who were using different methods – convergences that occurred, we believe, because both groups were paying close attention to the performance possibilities of the play. The best example of a convergence between divergent approaches to translation can be seen in Lorenzo’s death scene. During table work, TWAM’s translators intuited that there was a point in the play where Lorenzo would act an overblown “death scene” on stage, and rehearsals located this moment at a specific line in the scene where Eufrasia and Tronera succeed in convincing Lorenzo that he has just died. When the scripts were compared, TWAM was delighted to find that WSU’s translation also included a death scene, in which Lorenzo shows that his sister’s arguments have overpowered him by dramatically falling to the floor “like a dead man.” WSU discovered a stage direction precisely locating this action in one of the manuscripts that had not been available to the TWAM group. Though the two translations approached this moment of high comic impact from divergent directions, the two acting scripts will show you that the death scene occurs at a moment when both scripts converge – whether by stage direction unearthed through archival research, or by rehearsal exploration informed by audience response.

In addition to instructive divergences and convergences, these two translations of El muerto demonstrate the hybrid vigor that is available to translators who are eager to enrich their work by every resource at their disposal, including consultations and collaborations with other translators. Neither WSU nor TWAM focused solely on either rehearsals or research as a stand-alone resource. Instead, they aggressively combined dramaturgical and performance resources, WSU mixing feedback from public readings with its analysis of textual variants, and TWAM mixing lexicological research into seventeenth-century definitions for key terms and character names with its audience field-tests. Instructively, the two groups have communicated with each other repeatedly, as each group’s translation process has evolved. We fully expect that these scripts will develop further as TWAM continues to tour performances of El muerto in English across the southern part of the US and as Wilks continues her research into the play to share with her friend, colleague, and “dueling” partner, Gunter. In the game of translation, there are no winners and losers in the duel – but a competition that allows for both teams to be winners.

Works cited

Asensio, Eugenio. Itinerario del entremés desde Lope de Rueda a Quiñones de Benavente. Con cinco entremeses inéditos de D. Francisco de Quevedo. Madrid: Gredos, 1971.

Bergman, Hannah. Ramillete de entremeses y bailes nuevamente recogido de los antiguos poetas de Espana. Madrid: Castalia, 1970.

Cervantes, Miguel de. Entremeses. Ed. Nicholas Spadaccini. Madrid: Cátedra, 2005.

García Valdés, Celsa Carmen. Entremesistas y entremeses barrocos. Madrid: Cátedra, 2005.

Gunter, Ben. “De burladores y burlados” (review). Bulletin of the Comediantes 67:1 (2015):177-81.

Huerta Calvo, Javier. El teatro breve en la Edad de Oro. Madrid: Ediciones del Laberinto, 2001.

Navarro, Luis. Entremeses barrocos. Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico, Cuadernos Pedagógicos 38. http://www.teatroclasico.mcu.es.

Ben Gunter holds a PhD in dramaturgy from Florida State University, and serves as Artistic Director for Theater with a Mission.  His translations have been featured in workshops by the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, the American Society for Theatre Research, and the Association for Hispanic Classical Theatre; taught in classes at Florida State, Wichita State, and Arizona State; and staged by community theaters in north Florida and south Georgia.

Kerry Wilks holds a PhD from the University of Chicago and is Associate Professor of Spanish and Associate Dean of the Graduate School at Wichita State University. She has dramaturged university productions of classical Spanish comedias; presented textual research and criticism at conferences in the US and Spain; and translated one-acts ranging from Juan del Encina to Francisco de Quevedo. She serves on the board of the Association for Hispanic Classical Theatre, and has managed working sessions for the American Society for Theatre Research.

Samuel (Chip) Worthington graduated with his MA in Spanish from Wichita State University in 2016. During his time at WSU, he worked as a research assistant to Wilks. He is currently working as a professional interpreter (legal and medical).

[1] For a searchable overview of the remarkable variety and scope of classical Spanish dramaturgy, see the extensive catalogs of plays from the Spanish Golden Age (indexed to English translations) that are curated on the websites http://www.outofthewings.org and http://www.comedias.org.

[2] While many historians trace the evolution of the entremés from roots in medieval theater, mentioning Juan del Encina (1468-1529) as a foundational figure, most agree that it was Lope de Rueda (1510?-1565), whose playwriting and performance style was immortalized by Cervantes’s praise, who had the most formative impact on the entremés. Lope de Rueda’s works, called pasos, garnered him the moniker of the “grandfather” of Spanish theater. See Bergman for Encina’s influence on Spanish theater history and Huerta Calvo for a concise outline of the origin and development of the genre.

[3] During the seventeenth century, the word entremés encompassed two definitions. The second definition derives from the world of the theater, while the first one, and possibly the origin of the term itself (“entremès”) from the Catalan language and gastronomic world, signified a delicacy served between two courses. This is related to the placement of the entremés between two acts of the play. A day at the theater in seventeenth-century Spain consisted of a variety of events that were combined with the three-act comedias presented in the corrales (open-air theaters). The entire event was called a fiesta and lasted many hours, since short pieces of theater (teatro breve, including the entremés), as well as music and dance, were included before, during, and after the three-act play.

[4] For more information as to the origins of the entremés, see Eugenio Asensio and the previously mentioned Hannah Bergman. Other critics also link the entremés’s development to the carnival rituals and farce that occurred across Europe during the medieval period (see Huerta Calvo).

[5] See Asensio for a description of the typical categories of entremeses. Asensio also outlines the development of the genre and offers analysis of five of the primary authors of the entremés (Lope de Rueda, Cervantes, Hurtado de Mendoza, Quiñones de Benavente, and Quevedo).

[6] It is interesting to note that while Cervantes’s entremeses are often selected for staging today, both in English and in Spanish, they were originally published in 1615 with the title itself indicating that these plays had never been staged (Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses nunca representadas), and an introduction stating that they had been sold to a printer because no theater manager would produce them.

[7] See García Valdés’s introduction to Quirós in her collection of entremeses (281-89). García Valdés has worked extensively on Quirós, researching his biography, editing his works, and setting him in the context of other Golden Age authors. Quirós enjoyed the position of alguacil at court. During the reign of Felipe III, there were fifty of these positions, three of which were specifically designated for “las comedias” (281-82).

[8] The complete title of the Zaragoza publication is Teatro poético en veinte y un entremeses nuevos escogidos de los mejores ingenios de España, which contained twenty-one different entremeses.

[9] All of the manuscripts consulted for this work can be found in Madrid’s national library: MSS 14,089; 17,375; 16,574; 16,976; 14,514/25.

[10] A seguidilla consists of four verses of alternating meter (heptasyllabic and pentasyllabic) with assonant rhyme. Apart from the poetry, the seguidilla also exists as a folk song with accompanying dance. The seguidillas in this text conform to the poetic genre and are also listed as a song/dance in the script, though there is no score to verify if this was in fact the musical form also used in the play.

[11] Other revivals of El muerto in Spanish soon followed, with Madrid’s national theater company producing a group of entremeses during the 2010-2011 season. The production was billed as Entremeses barrocos, and adapted by Luis García-Araus for the Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico. This venture gave four young directors the opportunity to each direct one of the entremeses: Pilar Valenciano, Elisa Marinas (director of Quirós’s play), Aitana Galán, and Héctor del Saz. As indicated in the “cuaderno pedagógico” that accompanies the production, Marinas places Quirós’s piece in a jazz club, where Eufrasia sings “Stormy Weather” and the Astrólogo responds with the blues song “Stormy Monday.” Tronera is converted to a customer drinking in the bar and the piano player joins in to form part of the group who will convince Lorenzo he has died. This section of the production ends when Lorenzo is brought back to life by the Astrólogo in a festive ambience punctuated with a rock-and-roll beat (38).

[12] For a review of this production, see Gunter.

 

[13] Gunter, Ben and Kerry Wilks. “El muerto Revived in the USA.” Cervantes, Shakespeare y la Edad de Oro de la Escena. Eds. Jorge Braga Riera, Javier J. González Martínez, Miguel Sanz Jiménez. Madrid: Fundación Universitaria Española,  2018. 579-595.

 

El muerto: or Better Wed than Dead

Theater with a Mission (TWAM) translation of an entremés by

Francisco Bernardo de Quirós (1594-1668) published in Zaragoza, 1658

INTRO

(spoken by the 5 members of the acting company,

who enter singing a rousing military march:

see special note on music at the end of the script;

here, the numbers suggest one way of assigning lines in the intro;

we frequently adapt this introduction to fit specific performance locales)

 

1                      Damas y caballeros –

2                                  Ladies and gentlemen,

1                                              we are

ALL:               Theater with a Mission,

1                      and we’re here to take you back
into Florida’s Spanish past.

3                      Three hundred years ago,
the land we’re standing on was part of the
Spanish Empire.

4                      All over Spanish La Florida,
people loved plays.

5                      Priests used plays to teach,

4                      royal officials used plays to raise money for charity,

3                      and everyday people used plays to celebrate special occasions.

2                      The play you’re about to see on this special occasion
is a light-hearted spoof about long-lasting family values called…

ALL:               El muerto,

2                      or Better Wed than Dead.

1                      In El muerto, you’ll meet:

                        Eufrasia,
                                                the little sister of big shot
                                                                      Capitán Lorenzo.

                        Eufrasia wants to marry the dashing
                                                                        Astrólogo-Sailor,
                                                                        who uses the sun and stars
                                                                        to guide ships in and out of port.

2                      You’ll also meet Eufrasia’s friends:

                                                                        there’s Tronera, a kindly Sargento,

                        and needle-witted neighbor Marta.
                                                Together, they’ve plotted a trick
                                                to play on big brother Lorenzo.

1                      You see, Capitán Lorenzo can’t stand
                        the dashing Astrólogo-Sailor –

2                      Lorenzo says they’ll marry

ALL:               “over his dead body!”

1                      Watch what happens when Eufrasia and her friends
                        get everybody in the neighborhood involved
                        in making Lorenzo think he’s …
                        dead, difunto, in a word,

ALL:                                                   un muerto!

 

2                     In Spanish,
                                                “muerto” means “dead, departed, difunto.”

                                                But in this performance
                                                we’re asking everybody in the audience to look alive.

                                                Every time you hear anyone onstage say “muerto,”
                                                we want you to shout back with all your might
                                                “muerto!”

                        Let’s rehearse.

3                      This is the most famous play written by Francisco Bernardo de Quirós.
                         
It’s called El muerto.

4                      In this play, you’ll meet a Capitán who thinks he’s “caído muerto.”

5                      You’re about to see a little sister make her big brother believe he’s
                       
“deceased, dead meat, in a word … un muerto.”

2                      Well done, audience! Clearly, you’re quick, not dead.

1                      Actores, time for you to be quick, too:
                                               Places! ¡A prevenille sin empacho!

2                      Damas y caballeros

1                      Ladies and gentlemen,

2                      Theater with a Mission brings you
                                               a sparkling Spanish farce from 1658,
                                               resurrected for you today as…
                        El MUERTO! [audience repeats]

1          or, Better Wed than Dead.

 

ENTREMÉS

Setting: Interior of Spanish soldier’s house at Mission San Luis in colonial La Florida, c. 1700. One wood-and-leather (arm)chair, serving as Lorenzo’s private domain, the 17th-century equivalent of Archie Bunker’s easy chair. One trestle table, plain wood. On the back wall, period paintings of weddings (e.g., Wedding of Mary and Joseph, late 17th-century, Cuzco School, oil on canvas, 32 5/8 x 48 1/4 in., Brooklyn Museum, Carll H. de Silver Fund, 41.1251).

Starting Points: Onstage, Eufrasia and Tronera are waiting for Lorenzo to make it all the way home from the Fort (Fuerte San Luis), easy chair at the ready. Offstage, Lorenzo patronizes the “cas’ del tabernero mi vecino” next door, raucously toasting his drinking buddies with occasional snatches of song.

Eufrasia wears comically overblown wedding garb, with a portrait of her Astrólogo-Sailor as a necklace. Tronera calmly waits for the Capitán to complete his carousing and come home, but Eufrasia slowly loses her patience. Tronera redirects her attention to the Astrólogo-Sailor’s portrait, which makes Eufrasia swoon with delight.

To the discordant music of Lorenzo’s carouse (set to the theme of the military march that links the entrance procession to scene 3 and the dance in scene 5), Eufrasia and Tronera pattern through a cycle of prepping Lorenzo’s chair for his homecoming, losing patience with his long stay at the bar next door, and mooning over the portrait of the Astrólogo-Sailor.

NOTE: indented, bracketed lines in English translate lines that are designed for delivery in Spanish. In scenes two, three, and four, indented, bracketed lines in the original Spanish may be substituted for the English. Scene four offers the actor playing Lorenzo the choice of English or Spanish at pivotal points.

SCENE ONE

Eufrasia

Is the stage all set, sargento Tronera?

Tronera

(saluting)

Ma’am, yes, ma’am. Plot’s perfect. Verá de la manera 
Que se logra la burla en nuestro intento.        
           [You’ll see how our cleverness will pay off.]

(from the tavern, another snatch of song)

Eufrasia

This brother of mine, señor… ¡es mi tormento!
Though I’ve patiently pushed him, he says, “No! You can’t marry!
Over my dead body you’ll even court with any Tom, Dick, or Harry!”
Marching to the drumbeat of his own jealous fears,
only hearing what he wants to hear,
seeing things that aren’t even there:
hateful’s how he’s acting, stubborn as a mule,
cocky, bullheaded, like some back-country fool.
Rústico, zafio, y sin discurso alguno,
y ha dado ahora en necio y importuno.
[Redneck, boorish, shut-mouthed, and mean,
His latest trick’s so stupid it could make you scream.]

Now Big Brother Capitán insists he’s my jailer:
He’ll “bar me from marrying that Astrólogo-Sailor!”
He’s standing between me and the man who adores me,
while I’m dying for my starry-eyed husband-to-be!

(Eufrasia faints – a well-practiced routine – and Tronera calmly catches her)

Tronera

Patience, Princess. We’ve plotted it out.
This trick will fix everything you’re worried about.

(offstage, Lorenzo finally bids the tavern a beery “Hasta luego”)

Eufrasia

Your friends in the wings – rehearsed in their parts?

Tronera

They’ll meet him in the street, on your cue to start.

Eufrasia

Así conviene. Well done, sargento!

(coming home, Lorenzo indignantly demands, “¿Qué dices?!”)

Tronera

(saluting)

Ma’m, shh, ma’am! Here comes Lorenzo.

Eufrasia

Places! Quick! ¡A prevenille sin empacho!
[We’ll take him by surprise.
He’ll never know what hit him.]

SCENE TWO

(Enter Lorenzo, shouting at someone offstage.)

Lorenzo

¡Valga el diablo los hijos de un borracho!
[Oh yeh? Who needs you, goddam sons of a lousy souse!]

(Lorenzo circles his easy chair, performing a homecoming ritual of kissing his sister and saluting his sargento – a ritual which is about to go comically awry.)

Eufrasia

¡Hermano!

Lorenzo

            ¡Hermana!

Tronera

¡Capitán!

Lorenzo

                                    ¡Tronera!

Lorenzo

(back to doorway, shouting offstage)

You think that’s funny?! Drunken scum!

(another circle around the easy chair)

Eufrasia

¡Hermano!

Lorenzo

            ¡Hermana!

Tronera

¡Capitán!

Lorenzo

                                    ¡Tronera!

Lorenzo

(back to doorway, shouting offstage)

Devil snatch you from the door to Kingdom Come!

(reversing the circle around the easy chair)

Tronera

¡Hermano!

Lorenzo

            ¡Tronera!

Eufrasia

¡Capitán!

Lorenzo

                                    ¡Hermana!

(double-take, as Lorenzo realizes something has gone wrong with the rhythm of kissing his sister and saluting his Sargento)

Tronera

Sir, what’s wrong?

Eufrasia

Why so upset, sir? Won’t you say?

Lorenzo

Estadme atentos, (military salute)

pues soy yo muy amigo de esos cuentos.
[Listen close: I’ll tell you why.
Ask anyone at the Mission – I’m an even-keeled guy.]

Tronera

Decid.

Lorenzo

Here I am, walking home from the Fort,
When I meet this private, who salutes and reports,
staring me in the face, muy atento,
then tells me I’m looking … “macilento
como un difunto.” (gasps of horror from Eufrasia & Tronera)

For pity’s sake, Princess, Eufrasia mía,
what’s a phrase like that supposed to mean here?
“¿¡Macilento … como un difunto?!”

Eufrasia

“Macilento como un difunto” describes to a T
someone who’s dead, or about to be.
Means you’re pale-faced as a ghost, your cheeks with no color,
Like someone pining for her forbidden lover.

Lorenzo

Oh! (big laugh of relief) Joke’s on him, then!
(shouting offstage) Hey, Private So and So,
You’re the one who’s “macilento!”
¿Entiende? The moment we met,
my face was pale ’cause my throat was wet!

(to Eufrasia) Get it? I could feel my color come & go    ’cause I’d just had a stiff one en cas’ del tabernero mi vecino!
[Get it? porque yo en aquel momento
de un trago que bebí con poco tiento
en cas’ del tabernero mi vecino,
una color y otra se me vino.]

(toasts, belches, and changes tone)

Two steps closer to home – behold!
a pickle-brained ship’s purser’s grabbed hold of my shoulder,
eyeballed me, heaved a wine-scented sigh,
“Get right with God, Capitán – your end draweth nigh!
Just in case it’s escaped your notice,
You got the look of a man setting sail for … rigor mortis.”

Is that so? Says who? ¿Acaso, señor cuero,
piensa que yo no sé lo que me muero?
[Yes, Mr. Brains-in-a-Bottle, I’ll die someday,
but my last breath’s still a long haul away.]
Never felt better, ¡Dios sea loado!
(big Viva!, with a slap on the chest that knocks the breath out of himself)
Only thing wrong with me is all this palaver
From a bunch of drunks talking bunk all day!

(Tronera starts moaning and making the sign of the Cross)

What? Tronera? Why’re you looking at me that way?

Tronera

(to Lorenzo) ¡Dios te haya dado el cielo! (to Eufrasia) He’s expiring fast!
[St. Peter, throw open those pearly gates!]

Eufrasia

Poor orphaned me! He’s gasping his last!

Lorenzo

¿Qué dices?

Tronera

                        Death comes to take you … ¡de repente!

Lorenzo

Has all La Florida gone mad … ¿tanta gente?

Eufrasia

Lorenzo! Dead – and left me all alone!

Lorenzo

Mas ¡por Dios, Princess! (demonstrating liveliness with marching and singing)

Eufrasia

                        ¡Ay, hermano de mi vida! Hear me moan…

Tronera

¡Qué lástima! Lord –

Eufrasia

– have mercy! You could knock
me over with a feather.

(starts to faint – Lorenzo catches her)

Lorenzo

Stop, little sister! Don’t give in to the shock!
Let’s examine the facts. Just what do we know?

I met a private. A raw recruit. To him, I looked “macilento
como un difunto.” But the big stiff drink
I’d just swigged explains that completely … don’t you think?

(Eufrasia shakes her head “no”)

Then a sloshed ship’s purser started testifyin’
that without my knowing it, I was a-dyin’.
Sure, that made me feel a little queasy,
but once I got home, explaining that seemed easy…

(Tronera shakes his head “no”)

… Now you and Tronera are swearing it’s cierto.
I’m wondering … could it be? what if … ¿¡he caído muerto!?

(audience shouts, “muerto!”)

No, no – I’m Lorenzo! Not muerto!

(audience shouts “muerto!” again)

Say it’s not so! Anything, anything but … Muerto!

(audience shouts “muerto!” for a third time, sending Lorenzo into a big death scene, grabbing his throat, clutching his chest, and finally sprawling in his chair, a stiffened “corpse”)

Eufrasia

Bet your life you’re dead! Why else would you see me,
shattered by sorrow, wailing like a banshee?

(Eufrasia & Tronera burst into a loud, long wail, startling the “corpse”)

Luto me he de poner desde mañana
hasta los pies.
[Tomorrow I’ll have to be shrouded in expensive orphan-sister black
from crown to soles.]
I must dress all in black to honor this loss:
A rush order, from Marta, no matter the cost!

Lorenzo

                                                Not so quick, hermana,
We could find a cure …

Tronera

                                                I’d take a bullet to save you, Sir,
But too late now – I can see you’re a goner!

Lorenzo

(to the audience) When your nearest and dearest tell you it’s so
You know that your time has come … to go.

(Tronera & Eufrasia start composing the “body” for burial.)

Tronera

Woe for Lorenzo! ¡hombre honrado!

Eufrasia

                                    Belovèd Brother! ¡Qué bien quisto!

Tronera

His timing was perfect!

Eufrasia

                                    Always open to direction!

Lorenzo

                                                                                    ¡Juro a Cristo!
They’re starting my eulogy – singing my praises!
That settles it – soon I’ll be pushing up daisies.

Eufrasia

Such a good-looking corpse! So young to fall!

Lorenzo

And here I sit, like a fly on the wall.

Eufrasia

Tronera, go call my Astrólogo here!

Tronera

Three sheets to the wind, he’ll come support you, no fear.

(to Lorenzo, who’s trying to intercept his exit)

O Capitán, my Capitán! Our fearful trip is done!
My grief’s so great, I’m overcome!

Lorenzo

Before making your exit, walk this way:
There’s something vital I want to say.

(Lorenzo zombie-walks away from Eufrasia; Tronera shrugs and follows suit)

(aside to Tronera) Swear to me, Sargento, you’re absolutely cierto
that I’m deceased, dead meat – in a word, un muerto.

Tronera

(as audience shouts “muerto,” Tronera draws his weapon to defend his honor from the slur on his trustworthiness implied by Lorenzo’s “Swear to me”)

Some soldiers’ behavior shows their word’s a disgrace, Sir.
But three men in a row lying to your face, Sir?!
And even, Sir, were that not clearly implausible,
you think that your sister … deceiving her brother … is possible?!

(Tronera pretends to take Euphrasia hostage; Lorenzo talks the situation down)

Lorenzo

No offense, Tronera! Let’s all settle down.
I know I’m deceased … departed … difunto …
I just had to bury all doubt. Oh, woe! No, no, no, no, no, no, no!
¡He caído muerto!

(audience shouts “muerto”)

Tronera

Time to procure services for digging your grave.

Lorenzo

Get ‘em cheap! I’m poor! It’s my last chance to save!

(Tronera exits. Lorenzo sobs, seeking sympathy from attractive ladies in the audience. Eufrasia clears the chair, making space for the trestle table to get moved into center stage during the shrouding sequence.)

SCENE THREE

Eufrasia

(to the audience) Now my girl-friend next door
comes to tighten the knot.
While he’s still off balance,
she’ll start playing her part.

(Eufrasia calls a “ready” signal to Marta. Enter Marta, with an expensive black outfit for Eufrasia, and an enormous darning needle and a shroud for Lorenzo.)

Marta

Princess! God lighten your cross!

Eufrasia

Soul-sister! Ay-ay-ay, what a loss!

Lorenzo

Who’s that?

Eufrasia

Our neighbor Marta.

Lorenzo

Why?!

Eufrasia

She’s just brought a
sheet to fit for your shroud.

Lorenzo

(to the audience)

A shroud? She’ll sew me up like a mummy!
Help! This isn’t funny!

(Lorenzo bargains with God, while Marta and Eufrasia set the table)

Marta

(chanting as she flings open the shroud)

God in heaven rest the soul
of loudmouth Lorenzo.

Lorenzo

Amen! (aside) Devil take all parts of
nosy neighbor Marta. A–

Marta

Hush! Now you behave,
silent as the grave.

Lorenzo

Verily I’ve passed on,
but there’s a liveliness left in my tongue!

(Lorenzo sticks his tongue out at Marta)

Eufrasia

(to Marta, as she sits Lorenzo on the table)

I’ll get the next step in his journey started,
while you sew up my dearly departed.

(Exits with her fancy new outfit, overcome with woe.)

(Marta unsheathes her darning needle.)

Lorenzo

¡Zape! Never saw a needle
quite that long or sharp. Ah …
What could be its purpose
at a deathbed, Marta?

Marta

(using the needle to mark his body with the sign of the Cross)

Give your mouth a rest
and think about it. Guess!

(points needle toward his seat)

Lorenzo

Oh! …. So … Sew?!
No!!!
Won’t need that needle’s offices.
I’ll just squeeze shut all my orifices!

Marta

Good – so now we’ll concentrate
On sewing up your winding-sheet.

Lorenzo

¡Norabuena! Perfect –
and give me your best whipstitch!

(He starts to sing a lively anti-marriage marching song, moving in time to the music.)

Marta

(rigor mortis lazzi: Marta forces down Lorenzo’s leg, other one pops up, she shows the needle, and the body goes limp – or Lorenzo goes stiff as a stone statue and moves only his mouth to speak)

Hold still!

Lorenzo

Still as a stiff! Say Marta,
swear on your granny’s gravestone:
[Decidme, Marta, por vuestra vida,]
Why’d I die? What reason?

Marta

(enjoying this ridiculous cause of death)

Classic case of apple-plexy:
Here one minute, gone the next!
Too much food and drink,
croaked quick as a wink.

Lorenzo

(feeling all the tragedy of the situation)

Killed by drinks and eats?!
Wish I remembered that feast!

(for mature actors/audiences)                              (for juvenile actors/family audiences)

Wonder when my soul’ll                                      Wonder when my soul’ll pass
start walking those streets of gold… ?               over into Paradise – like a puff of gas…

Marta

Couldn’t offer a single suggestion                       Couldn’t offer a single suggestion
when you pop that question:                               when you pop that question:
Don’t know a thing about streetwalking!          I’m not the person to ask about passing gas.

Lorenzo

Oh no? To hear the soldiers talking –                  Oh no? I know what I’ve heard
and I know what I know –

(Marta jabs the needle home in Lorenzo’s hindquarters – can repeat, with a jab punctuating each remaining speech in the scene)

¡Hala! La aguja me habéis hincado
por la carne, ¿estáis borracha?
[Your needle just punctured my skin!
What are you – three sheets to the wind?]

Marta

You can still feel that?

Lorenzo

(whimpering) ¡Como un vivo!

Marta

Abracadabra! You’re shrouded, Lorenzo.

(Marta calls the “all clear.” Enter Eufrasia, luxuriously draped in black)

Eufrasia

¡Albricias, hermano, albricias!
[You’d pay a pretty penny for my thoughts, brother dear.]

Lorenzo

What’s the good news, little sister?

Eufrasia

¡El Astrólogo viene a resucitaros!
[My Astrólogo-Sailor is coming to resurrect you!]

Lorenzo

Oh, how nice!
The Astrólogo is coming to bring me back to life!

(news sinks in)

¿¡El Astrólogo?!
¡Guarda! ¡Tronera!

(enter Tronera) ¡Juro a Dios!

¡Solo por no verle en casa,
I’d rather remain a corpse!
[On guard! Swear to heaven,
best thing about death is not dealing with that bum!]

SCENE FOUR

(Enter the Astrólogo-Sailor, navigating his way toward Eufrasia by calling “Nausi” as she answers “friti.” Lorenzo orders Tronera to fire – “¡Dispara! – but Tronera manages to make his weapon refuse to cooperate.)

Astrólogo-Sailor

Nausi friti, nausi friti.

Lorenzo

(aborting the lovers’ meeting)

¡Nabos fritos!
[Nasty fried dough!]
¿Qué queréis aquí, fantasma?
[What could you want here, useless?]

Astrólogo-Sailor

(saluting) Courageous Capitán, ¿cómo estáis?

Lorenzo

(trying to return the salute, but straight-jacketed by the shroud)

Lamebrain Astrólogo, can’t you see?
Stiff! You’re talking to a defunctee.

Astrólogo-Sailor

Pues, hala, this is your lucky day!
The Stars have aligned and
Yo … Quiero … ¡Resucitaros!

Lorenzo

All right, impress me. Show off your skill.
[Verdad que yo me holgara.]
(aside) Truth to tell, being dead is relaxing,
but socially, it’s terribly taxing.

Astrólogo-Sailor

Let Miss Eufrasia come escort me
to a private exhibition
of the most jealously-guarded space in the house –
porque importa mucho.
[that’s essential for the cure.]

Lorenzo

¿Importa? What for?

Astrólogo Sailor

(for mature actors/audiences)                              (for juvenile actors/family audiences)
To erect the image                                                  To project the image
of a new-rising star!                                               of a new-rising star!

Lorenzo

¡Pues no quiero, ni me pasa
por la puerta de la calle!
[No, no, no, no, no, no, no!]

(for mature actors/audiences)                              (for juvenile actors/family audiences)
You can make your erections                              You can make your projections

right here where we all are,
o ¡váyase al infierno a alzarla!
[Permission denied!
Stand there in the doorway!
Any projections/erections necessary can take place in this room,
with me present – otherwise, to hell with your resurrections!]

Astrólogo-Sailor

Fine – we’ll do it right here … let’s operate!
Mi ciencia en cualquiera parte obra.
[My expertise can operate anywhere.]

Lorenzo

Well get to work, then,
if work’s what you call it,
pues porque obra me enfada.
[‘cause I’m getting antsy.]

Eufrasia

Señor Astrólogo, apriesa.
[Hurry up, Mr. Astrologer!]

Astrólogo-Sailor

(dramatically intoning the introduction to his incantation, as Eufrasia, Marta, and Tronera move like planets orbiting at his command)

¡Ea!

¡de conjuro …

vaya!

[Listen! The magic … begins!]

Here I summon you, planets!
Plutón, Saturno, come embrace me,
as I embrace this …
fabulous star –

(whirling Eufrasia onto his knee)

Lorenzo

¡Quedo! ¡Quedo! Hands off my sister!

Eufrasia

Hush, hermano – no interjections!
Everything we’re doing is for your resurrection.

Lorenzo

Oh!
Well if it’s all part of the magic, I’ll play along.

Astrólogo-Sailor

Come, planets! Kiss, caress, possess me,
Y así, como aquesta mano
pongo en mi boca –
[just the way I kiss, caress, and take possession of this celestial hand …]

Lorenzo

Hold your horror-scopes!

Eufrasia

Que es del conjuro, menguado.
[Silly Brother – it’s all part of the incantation!]

Lorenzo

Oh!
Pues si es del conjuro, vaya.

Astrólogo-Sailor

Set my course, planets,
as my arms complete their orbit
around this heavenly … Eufrasia!

Lorenzo

¡Déjelo con Barrabás!
Is he incantating me or my sister’s a–

(Marta and Tronera interrupt)

Eufrasia

Sit still, brother. This is the deepest-reaching part of the spell!

Lorenzo

Oh!
Well I’m giving his magic a hail & farewell!

As God is my witness, I guarantee                              Yo le voto, a non de Dios,
If I were alive, … not a defunctee,                               que si yo ahora me hallara
deceased, dead meat, in a word, un muerto …         vivo, como me hallo muerto

(audience shouts “muerto!”)

I’d give this Astrólogo the old heave-ho!                    que yo le echara de casa.

You cheap, chugalugging Astrólogo brat:
I’d like to incantate you with a stickball bat!

Astrólogo-Sailor

Suit yourself – enjoy life as a corpse!

(intoning his most ferocious spell)

Pues yo os dejo …

¡para un muerto!

¡Muerto!

¡MUERTO!

(as audience shouts, Lorenzo melts, like the Wicked Witch of the West splashed with a bucket of water)

Lorenzo

Esa es la mayor palabra
que me ha podido decir.
[That’s the first sensible word you’ve said!]

Astrólogo-Sailor

¡Nausi friti!

(grand exit, calling “friti” back to Eufrasia’s forlorn “nausi!”)

Lorenzo

¡Aguárdese, no se vaya!
[Wait! Don’t leave!]
Resurrect me! I’ll give you anything!

(Lorenzo offers various items cadged from the audience. The Astrólogo declines, refusing to change course. Finally, cued by Eufrasia holding out her ring finger, Lorenzo thinks of …)

Maybe even … my sister’s hand in marriage …?

(bit by bit, Astrólogo reenters Lorenzo’s orbit)

Hear me say …

que ahora le dé …

a mi hermana la mano de …

(finally forced to the sticking point by Tronera’s nudges and Marta’s needle)

… de casamiento!

Astrólogo-Sailor

Capitán, you’ve said the magic word!

(Lorenzo repeats “hermana” and “mano” before realizing the magic word is “casamiento”)

Life! Return to this corpse!
Make him ready, head to toe –
to dance at her wedding … (big kiss from Eufrasia)
… as my brother-in-law! (big kiss from Astrólogo)

SCENE FIVE

(As Astrólogo revives Lorenzo with an elaborate series of “Nausi friti”, Eufrasia divests her mourning to reappear in wedding dress with a giant ring, and Marta de-shrouds Lorenzo like a chrysalis giving birth.)

Lorenzo

I’m ALIVE!
Hatched like a brand-new butterfly!
¡De gira y de fiesta vaya!
[Incredible! Let’s party!]

ALL

¡De gira y de fiesta vaya!

(They sing the first verse of Lorenzo’s lively marching song – which now endorses marriage – and dance a circle dance, tossing the shroud in the air in time to the music. At the end of that verse, they call:)

¡O Astrólogo!

Tronera

Funerals and weddings – what’s the big difference?

Astrólogo-Sailor

(scaring, and then comforting Lorenzo)

One stirs your fears, the other frees your feelings.

ALL

¡Vivan las bodas!

(They sing the second verse of the marching song, continuing to praise the married state, and dance a circle dance that moves them side-to-side with turns. At the end of that verse, they call:)

¡O Lorenzo!

Marta

(brandishing her needle)

What’s the greatest success a man can win?

Lorenzo

(making a getaway out of needling range)

To exit this world to get away from women.

ALL

¡Vivan las bodas!

(They sing the last verse of the marching song, now praising marriage, and dance the seguidilla in a line, holding hands. At the end of that verse, they call:)

¡O Eufrasia!

Astrólogo-Sailor

What marks a woman’s crowning achievement?

Eufrasia

Making men believe in … their own bereavement.

Lorenzo

Amen! ¡Vivan las bodas!

ALL

¡Viva la fiesta! ¡Nausi friti!

(Bows & exeunt.)

 

a NOTE on the MUSIC: A simple, satisfactory option for the marching song that’s called for periodically throughout this performance can be found in “La Guerra (Ensalada)” by Mateo Flecha (1481-1553). Like Lorenzo, Flecha’s march sounds hard-core, old-school, simple, and insistent; and because its tune tends to stick on one note, it can be learned quickly and then tweaked interestingly for different situations.

This link will take you to a wonderfully pompous performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LcUI7lKXdo. Here is the Spanish text and the English translation used in Theater with a Mission’s performances:

To-dos los bue-nos sol-da-dos
que a-sen-ta-ren a es-ta gue-rra,
no quie-ran na-da en la tie-rra
si quie-ren ir des-can-sa-dos.

Men, if you want to make hist’ry
& win fame in the fierce fight that’s coming:

(anti-marriage version)                                              (pro-marriage version)
Don’t fall in love with some woman,                      Go fall in love with some woman,
That’s how to fight lightheartedly.                           That’s how to live lightheartedly.

NOTES on the TRANSLATION: This script transmits discoveries made by actors and audiences in performances staged between January 2015 and August 2017. We expect the translation, like Lorenzo, to keep developing as it revives.

Scenes one and four are based on a 2013 translation by Christiana Molldrem Harkulich and Ben Gunter, revised by Ben Gunter and Idy Codington in 2014.

Scenes two and three are based on a 2013 translation by Ben Gunter, revised by Ben Gunter and Idy Codington in 2014.

Scene five is based on a 2013 translation by Alyssa Rumple and Ben Gunter, revised by Ben Gunter in 2014.

Current translation is © Ben Gunter 2017.

This translation/acting version is fully protected for reproduction in any medium and for performance rights.

 

For further information on performance rights, please contact:
Theater with a Mission (TWAM)
516 Miccosukee Road
Tallahassee, FL 32308-4963
info@theaterwithamission.com

 

 

Dead or Wed

a translation of

El muerto, Eufrasia, y Tronera / Entremés del muerto (entremés)

by Francisco Bernardo de Quirós (1594-1668)

(published in Zaragoza, 1658)

Translators: Kerry Wilks and Samuel Worthington[14]

Eufrasia: Lorenzo’s sister who wants to marry an astrologer, but her brother refuses. Greek origin meaning cheerful, joyous, etc. In the Spanish dictionary of the period, it refers to a loving, honest, beautiful woman, which is ironic given her role in the play. It also refers to a plant that was used to cure the “evil eye.”

Tronera: Appears to be a servant in Eufrasia’s family who helps her trick Lorenzo into believing he’s dead. The word has various meanings in Spanish including a toy that makes a loud noise or a disorganized person who makes things up as they go along.

Lorenzo: Eufrasia’s brother, who encounters two men (placed there by Eufrasia and Tronera) on the street after leaving the local tavern. The men try to convince him that he’s dead.

Marta: Neighbor of Eufrasia and Lorenzo who comes to help with burial arrangements. In addition to the biblical reference, the character name also refers to a small mammal similar to the weasel.

Astrologer: Suitor for Eufrasia who promises to bring Lorenzo back to life if he will give his sister’s hand in marriage to him. Although astrology was considered a science at the time, astrologers were often made fun of by Spanish playwrights.

Setting: This one-act play takes place in the home of Lorenzo and Eufrasia. There are also allusions to the neighbor’s tavern and to the street in between the two locales. Though written in the 17th century, the piece is easily transposed to any time/location.

Enter Eufrasia and Tronera.

Eufrasia

Is everything ready, Tronera?

Tronera

You will soon see

how our trick is bound to succeed.

Eufrasia

Señor, my brother annoys me no end,

and though I try very hard to be patient,

he won’t let me marry, no matter what.

He’s a rash and overzealous man,

and on top of his ignorance, he’s irrational,

common, vulgar, and malicious.

And now he’s being foolish and insistent,

saying that my beloved astrologer, who loves me so much,

will not be my husband,

but I’m dying for my astrologer.

Tronera

Patience, Señora Eufrasia,

as I hope, that with all I’ve done,

this plan will put an end to your worries.

Eufrasia

But do our friends know the plan?

Tronera

They’re waiting for him on the street

and know exactly what to do.

Eufrasia

That works.

Tronera

Hey!, watch out, Lorenzo’s here.

Eufrasia

Come on then…the show’s about to start.

Enter Lorenzo, shouting offstage.

Lorenzo

[slightly inebriated] To hell with those drunkards!

Tronera

Lorenzo!

Eufrasia

Brother!

Lorenzo

What a bunch of nonsense!

Tronera

What’s the matter?

Lorenzo

To hell with those fools!

Tronera

Won’t you tell us what’s going on?

Lorenzo

Then listen up…you all know I love a good story.

Lorenzo pauses, looking expectantly at Tronera and Eufrasia.

Tronera

Out with it.

Lorenzo

As I was walking down the street,

I came across a well-dressed man,

who, staring me right in the face,

told me I looked rather peakèd,

like a cadaver. (Hesitantly.) Eufrasia, dear,

do you know what peakèd means?

Eufrasia

As far as I can tell,

peakèd means you’re somewhat pale,

ashen, sunken like a man close to death.

Lorenzo

Well he’s the peakèd one, whoever he is,

right?, because I had just downed a shot

at my neighbor’s house –the innkeeper–

and I was flushed with color.

So I kept going, and then, right in my face,

with a heavy sigh, some other fool

told me to hurry up and get right with God

because my time was just about up;

and even though I might not realize it,

I was going downhill fast towards death.

Humph, does Mister Tipsy think

I wouldn’t notice if I were dying?

I’ve never been healthier

a day in my life, praise be to God.

Have you ever heard such drunken nonsense?

What are you looking at, Tronera?

Tronera

God’s got you in his glory! He’s met his death!

Eufrasia

Oh woe is me! He’s drawn his last breath.

Lorenzo

What are you saying?

Tronera

That you just died.

Lorenzo

How can so many people be so wrong?

Eufrasia

You’re dead, Lorenzo. Oh what sorrow!

Lorenzo

But…by God!

Eufrasia

Oh my life! My brother!

Tronera

Dear God! What a blow!

Eufrasia

With just a feather

they could knock me over.

Lorenzo

I don’t think so.

I’ll get to the bottom of this.

The truth is, when that man told me

I looked peakèd, I’d just run into him

on the dark street;

and then some other guy showed up;

said I was dying, and didn’t even know it.

I just thought he was wrong,

assumed he was leading me on.

But, what if it’s true what they said?

And…well…now that I’ve heard it,

I might just be dead.

Eufrasia

How can you say might if it’s true? Let my

sorrow, my suffering, my grief and my cries

tell you the truth. By this time tomorrow,

I’ll be dressed in full mourning.

Lorenzo

Oh sister, don’t weep,

it might not be true.

Tronera

Some trick that would be!

Not true?! You’re dead from head to toe.

Lorenzo

Well, if you want somebody to believe something,

you just have to get three or four people to say it.

Lorenzo falls on the floor like a dead man.

Tronera

He was such an honorable man!

Eufrasia

How well loved!

Lorenzo rises slightly and opens one eye to see what other compliments they will say.

Eufrasia and Tronera continue with difficulty.

Tronera

How punctual!

Eufrasia

How attentive!

Lorenzo

Good God!

I really believe it.

I guess it’s time to meet my maker.

Eufrasia

Too soon departed and so handsome.

Lorenzo

I went peacefully.

Eufrasia

Tronera, tell my astrologer to come quick.

Tronera

Never you fear, he’ll be just a moment.

So sorry, dear friend, I’m a bit upset,

because, well, you’re dead.

Lorenzo

That said…

come here, Tronera, are you sure,

are you certain I’m dead?

Tronera

I’ll say this, some men do tell tales,

but would three honorable men deceive you?

And if that’s not enough,

do you think your own sister would lie to you?

Lorenzo

Don’t be mad, Tronera, or get so upset,

I’m well aware that I’ve died,

it was just a doubt, that’s why I asked.

Tronera

I’m going to find someone to do the burial.

Lorenzo

I’m poor, better find someone cheap.

Tronera exits.

Eufrasia

[Aside.] My neighbor knows all about this

and she’s coming now to thicken the plot.

Enter Marta, with sewing materials and a sheet.

Marta

Eufrasia, God grant you comfort.

Eufrasia

Oh!, my dearest friend!

Lorenzo

Who’s there?

Eufrasia

Marta, our neighbor.

Lorenzo

What does she want?

Eufrasia

She’s brought the sheet

to make your shroud.

Lorenzo

Wow!,

this is really happening.

Marta

May your soul

find peace in heaven. Amen.

Lorenzo

May yours go straight to hell.

Marta

Look, Lorenzo, you’re dead now,

don’t talk, not a word.

Lorenzo

It’s true that I’m dead,

but I still have my voice.

Eufrasia

I’m going to take care of a few things

while you get all shrouded.

Eufrasia exits.

Lorenzo

What’s the needle and thread for?

Aren’t you going to tell me?

Marta

Really?!

You don’t know what they’re for?

Lorenzo

Well you can just forget that,

I’ve already closed my “eye”. [While covering anus.]

Marta

Well, I’ll just sew up

your shroud for now.

Marta puts a sheet on him for the shroud.

Lorenzo

Nicely done,

and fine, tight stitching.

Marta

Hold still.

Lorenzo

I’ll be as still as a

dead man. Marta, tell me,

God’s truth, do you know

what killed me?

Marta

It had to be something,

a terrible seizure;

a drop-dead illness;

too much eating and drinking.

Lorenzo

I didn’t feel a damned thing.

Tell me, if you know,

is my soul on the road to

salvation, if you know?

Marta

I don’t know a thing about roads.

Lorenzo

I’ll bet you’ve seen a lot of miles

in your day. What the hell?!

You just stuck the needle right

through my flesh, are you drunk?

Marta

So you feel that?

Lorenzo

Like I’m alive.

Marta

Then my work here is done.

Exit Marta and enter Eufrasia.

Eufrasia

Congratulations brother, good news.

Lorenzo

What are you saying, sister?

Eufrasia

The astrologer is coming

to bring you back to life.

Lorenzo

Hold on!

I swear to God I’d rather be dead

than see him in my house.

Enter the Astrologer, looking a bit ridiculous in clerical garb

(short cut, to the knees and tied at waist)

Astrol.       

Lorem Ipsum, Lorem Ipsum.

Lorenzo

Lorenzo eat some?!… What are you doing here?

Astrol.

And how are you?

Lorenzo

Wonderfully cold,

can’t you see? I’m dead.

Astrol.

Well, look here,

I want to resurrect you.

Lorenzo

That would be nice,

being dead’s not that great

although it is refreshing.

Astrol.

Señora Eufrasia should come

and show me every nook

and cranny of this house –

it’s very important.

Lorenzo

Why?

Astrol.

To consult the heavenly orbs.

Lorenzo

Well I don’t want that, she isn’t

even going out the front door.

Look in this room to see if

you can consult them here, or if not,

go straight to hell to do it.

Astrol.

My craft works anywhere.

Lorenzo

Well your craft is annoying.

Eufrasia

Mr. Astrologer, hurry.

Astrol.

Aha! Let the spell begin…

Pluto, Saturn, just as

I embrace this beautiful lady…

Lorenzo

Who-a, who-a!

Eufrasia

Don’t say a word, brother,

it’s all part of the spell.

Lorenzo

Well if it’s part of the spell, go ahead.

Astrol.

And now, just as I place my lips

upon this hand…

Lorenzo

Enough already!

Eufrasia

It’s part of the spell, fool.

Lorenzo

Well if it’s part of the spell, go ahead.

Astrol.

And now, as I return

to embrace Eufrasia again…

Lorenzo

Hands off, Judas,

are you trying to conjure me or my sister?

By God, I swear,

if I were as alive right now as I am dead,

I would cast this drunken

astrologer out of my house

by the spell of this stick.

Astrol.

Well I’m leaving you for dead.

Lorenzo

That’s the best thing

you could have said to me. [Astrologer begins to exit.]

Hold on, don’t go.

Bring me back to life…

I’ll give you my sister’s

hand in marriage.

Astrol.

With those magic words my friend,

you’ll soon be up and dancing

at the wedding.

Lorenzo gets up.

Lorenzo

I can’t believe I’m alive.

Let the party and feast begin!

Musicians enter and the dance begins. The verses below could be sung.

Eufrasia

What’s the difference in the end

between being married and being dead?

Lorenzo

One of them leads straight to regret,

the other puts suffering to an end.

Eufrasia

Tell me then, I’m eager to know:

what’s the triumph men celebrate most?

Lorenzo

Leaving this world for a better place

where they never have to see a woman’s face.

Eufrasia

Tell me then, I’m eager to know:

what’s the triumph women celebrate most?

Lorenzo

Making men actually believe

anything a woman might conceive.

 

Current translation is © Kerry Wilks and Samuel Worthington 2017

This translation is fully protected for reproduction in any medium and for performance rights.

For further information on performance rights, please contact:

Kerry Wilks, kerry.wilks@wichita.edu

 

[1] For a searchable overview of the remarkable variety and scope of classical Spanish dramaturgy, see the extensive catalogs of plays from the Spanish Golden Age (indexed to English translations) that are curated on the websites www.outofthewings.org and www.comedias.org.

[2] While many historians trace the evolution of the entremés from roots in medieval theater, mentioning Juan del Encina (1468-1529) as a foundational figure, most agree that it was Lope de Rueda (1510?-1565), whose playwriting and performance style was immortalized by Cervantes’s praise, who had the most formative impact on the entremés. Lope de Rueda’s works, called pasos, garnered him the moniker of the “grandfather” of Spanish theater. See Bergman for Encina’s influence on Spanish theater history and Huerta Calvo for a concise outline of the origin and development of the genre.

[3] During the seventeenth century, the word entremés encompassed two definitions. The second definition derives from the world of the theater, while the first one, and possibly the origin of the term itself (“entremès”) from the Catalan language and gastronomic world, signified a delicacy served between two courses. This is related to the placement of the entremés between two acts of the play. A day at the theater in seventeenth-century Spain consisted of a variety of events that were combined with the three-act comedias presented in the corrales (open-air theaters). The entire event was called a fiesta and lasted many hours, since short pieces of theater (teatro breve, including the entremés), as well as music and dance, were included before, during, and after the three-act play.

[4] For more information as to the origins of the entremés, see Eugenio Asensio and the previously mentioned Hannah Bergman. Other critics also link the entremés’s development to the carnival rituals and farce that occurred across Europe during the medieval period (see Huerta Calvo).

[5] See Asensio for a description of the typical categories of entremeses. Asensio also outlines the development of the genre and offers analysis of five of the primary authors of the entremés (Lope de Rueda, Cervantes, Hurtado de Mendoza, Quiñones de Benavente, and Quevedo).

[6] It is interesting to note that while Cervantes’s entremeses are often selected for staging today, both in English and in Spanish, they were originally published in 1615 with the title itself indicating that these plays had never been staged (Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses nunca representadas), and an introduction stating that they had been sold to a printer because no theater manager would produce them.

[7] See García Valdés’s introduction to Quirós in her collection of entremeses (281-89). García Valdés has worked extensively on Quirós, researching his biography, editing his works, and setting him in the context of other Golden Age authors. Quirós enjoyed the position of alguacil at court. During the reign of Felipe III, there were fifty of these positions, three of which were specifically designated for “las comedias” (281-82).

[8] The complete title of the Zaragoza publication is Teatro poético en veinte y un entremeses nuevos escogidos de los mejores ingenios de España, which contained twenty-one different entremeses.

[9] All of the manuscripts consulted for this work can be found in Madrid’s national library: MSS 14,089; 17,375; 16,574; 16,976; 14,514/25.

[10] A seguidilla consists of four verses of alternating meter (heptasyllabic and pentasyllabic) with assonant rhyme. Apart from the poetry, the seguidilla also exists as a folk song with accompanying dance. The seguidillas in this text conform to the poetic genre and are also listed as a song/dance in the script, though there is no score to verify if this was in fact the musical form also used in the play.

[11] Other revivals of El muerto in Spanish soon followed, with Madrid’s national theater company producing a group of entremeses during the 2010-2011 season. The production was billed as Entremeses barrocos, and adapted by Luis García-Araus for the Compañía Nacional de Teatro Clásico. This venture gave four young directors the opportunity to each direct one of the entremeses: Pilar Valenciano, Elisa Marinas (director of Quirós’s play), Aitana Galán, and Héctor del Saz. As indicated in the “cuaderno pedagógico” that accompanies the production, Marinas places Quirós’s piece in a jazz club, where Eufrasia sings “Stormy Weather” and the Astrólogo responds with the blues song “Stormy Monday.” Tronera is converted to a customer drinking in the bar and the piano player joins in to form part of the group who will convince Lorenzo he has died. This section of the production ends when Lorenzo is brought back to life by the Astrólogo in a festive ambience punctuated with a rock-and-roll beat (38).

[12] For a review of this production, see Gunter.

[13] The article, set to be published in late 2017 by Ediciones Antígona with the title Cervantes, Shakespeare y la Edad de Oro de la Escena, offers an in-depth exploration of the themes touched upon in this introduction.

[14] Special thanks to Alyssa Rumple, former master’s student for her assistance with the initial project and to Dr. Harley Erdman for his guidance and advice as we embarked upon the translation.

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