The Divine Narcissus, based in part on the Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus, is considered Sor Juana’s masterpiece of religious theater. The characters are all allegorical. The divine Narcissus represents Christ. Human Nature appears as a woman searching for her lover, Narcissus. Echo represents fallen nature or evil and is accompanied by Pride and Self-Love. The play is written in verse and divided into five tableaux with fifteen scenes. Although there is little action, the play is notable for Sor Juana’s beautifully lyrical descriptions, as well as the imaginative use of two well-known stories.
In the introductory scene, Synagogue and Gentilism decide to stage a play in which revelation and pagan antiquity will be represented. Human Nature explains the imagery and announces that she must find a spring to cleanse her image, distorted by guilt, so that the Divine Narcissus can again recognize his image in her. Then Echo appears, telling of Narcissus’s rejection, which makes her wish to keep Human Nature from achieving a union with him. The second tableau portrays the temptation of Narcissus by Echo. In one of the best scenes of the play, Echo approaches Narcissus as a shepherd maid who pays in unhappiness for the gift of her great beauty. The association of unhappiness and beauty is a common theme of the period. The parallel is to Lucifer, the most beautiful of angels, who, in exile from God, was also the most unhappy. The temptation scene...
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