Molina, Tirso de
Tirso de Molina 1580?-1648
(Born Gabriel Téllez) Spanish playwright.
Tirso de Molina is regarded as one of the greatest dramatists of the Spanish Golden Age and is best remembered for his play El burlador de Sevilla (c. 1626; The Trickster of Seville), which introduced his best-known character, the seducer Don Juan, to European audiences. Influenced greatly by the most famous and prolific of Spain's Golden Age playwrights, Lope de Vega, Tirso excelled in writing comedias, dramas combining tragedy with burlesque humor and often questioning many of the time-honored social and moral traditions of the age. Tirso wrote what many consider to be Spain's greatest religious play, El condenado por desconfiado (c. 1624; The Man Condemned for Lack of Faith). Although critics continue to debate the authorship of some of the 400 plays Tirso is reputed to have written, several of his eighty surviving plays are praised as equaling the greatest work of Shakespeare, especially in regards to plot and character development. Outside his native Spain, Tirso's legacy rests almost completely with his character Don Juan, whose sexual escapades have been reinterpreted famously in Moliere's play Dom Juan, ou Le Festin de Pierre, Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, and numerous films.
Few facts in Tirso de Molina's early life are certain. Born Gabriel Téllez in Madrid around 1580, Tirso may have been the illegitimate son of a duke, a social stigma which might account for Tirso's rebellious nature and scorn for nobility, hierarchy, and social convention. He studied at the universities of Alcalá and Guadalajara, and in 1601 he joined the Mercedarian Order, where he gained high rank as a theologian and as the order's official historian. In 1613 he moved to Toledo, became a friar, and wrote a number of plays, mostly religious and philosophical in nature. In 1621 Tirso returned to Madrid, where he wrote a great number of his comedias. In 1622 he submitted poetry for a literary celebration presided over by Lope de Vega but did not win any awards. In 1625 Tirso was banished to a remote friary in Trujillo for alleged obscenities, and he was ordered to desist from writing further plays or poetry. He appears to have mostly followed this edict, yet in 1630 his most famous work, El burlador de Sevilla, was published. During the 1630s Tirso lived in Barcelona, Madrid, and Toledo. Toward the end of his life Tirso again ran afoul of his religious order and was banished to a friary in Soria, where he served as prior from 1645 to 1647. In 1648 Tirso died in Almazán.
Much of Tirso's early drama is indebted to his renowned contemporary, Lope de Vega, father of the Spanish dramatic form known as the comedia. One of Tirso's earliest plays, Los lagos de San Vicente (c. 1607; The Miraculous Lakes of Saint Vincent) clearly imitates Lope's Santa Casilda. As Tirso continued to experiment with a variety of dramatic genres, including comedies, tragedies, and historical plays, however, he began to develop a voice uniquely his own. Believing that the most successful way to write plays was to compose according to public taste, Tirso developed three-dimensional characters who despite their moral scruples could make an audience laugh. Even though Tirso's drama usually contained a great deal of the moralizing undercurrents common to plays written and produced during the Counter-Reformation, he added a new secular element, most commonly a critique of decadent nobility and social mores. Often Tirso's plots revolve around manipulative lovers intent on dominating or deceiving their victims. In El burlador de Sevilla Don Juan takes great satisfaction in seducing women, not only for sexual gratification, but also for the simple enjoyment of competitive deceit. As great as Don Juan's moral transgressions are, his most egregious crime may be disgracing his status as a nobleman. Tirso's greatest religious drama, El condenado por desconfiado, concerns itself with questions of free will versus divine determinism by contrasting an evil man who gains faith and is granted salvation with a pious hermit who is damned when his faith wavers. Among Tirso's best-known historical dramas, his Las hazañas de los Pizarros (1631; The Pizarro Trilogy) is remembered for its attempt to rehabilitate the family name of the disgraced Pizarro family, conquerors of Peru, and for its depiction of Native Americans in Spanish drama.
The overwhelming majority of critical attention given to Tirso's dramatic work is reserved for his masterpiece, El burlador de Sevilla. The psychological complexity of its main character, Don Juan, has elicited great praise, both as one of the earliest examples of a villainous hero and for the dramatic tension at the conclusion of the play, in which the great seducer is finally confronted by the ghost of the man he has murdered. A great deal of scholarly debate has emerged centering on whether or not Don Juan was actually able to seduce his final victim, Doña Ana, resulting in competing arguments of how to interpret the play's ultimate message. El condenado por desconfiado is usually considered the greatest of the religious plays of the Spanish Golden Age, its religious and philosophical underpinnings propelled by an engaging and realistic story line. Although several critics have complained that Tirso's drama contains a misogynistic streak, more commonly his work is praised for its bold and strong female characters, many of whom prove to be more clever or daring than their male competitors. In the end, most critics agree that Tirso's originality lies in his thematic concerns, challenging the established social, religious, and political institutions of his age.
Los lagos de San Vicente [The Miraculous Lakes of Saint Vincent] c. 1607 (play)
El vergonzoso en palacio [The Shy Young Man at Court] (play) 1611
La elección por la virtud [Elected for His Virtue] (play) 1612
Tanto es lo de más como lo de menos [Enough is as Good as a Feast] (play) 1612
La ninfa del Cielo [The Heavenly Nymph] (play) 1613
Santa Juana (play trilogy) 1613-14
¡Tan largo me lo fiáis! [What Long Credit You Give Me!] (play) 1616
Los Cigarrales de Toledo [The Country Houses of Toledo] (prose miscellany) 1621
Privar contra su gusto [The Reluctant Favorite] (play) c. 1621
El melancólico [The Melancholiac] (play) 1622
La prudencia en la mujer [Prudence in a Woman] (play) 1622
La venganza de Tamar [The Vengeance of Tamar] (play) c. 1623
El condenado por desconfiado [The Man Condemned for Lack of Faith] (play) c. 1624
El amor médico [Love Turned Doctor] (play) 1625
El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra [The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest] (play) c. 1626
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SOURCE: Green, Otis H. “Notes on the Pizarro Trilogy of Tirso de Molina.” Hispanic Review 4, No. 3 (July 1936): 201-25.
[In the following essay, Green argues that Tirso's trilogy Las hazañas de los Pizarros is designed to rehabilitate the family name of the Pizarros, principal conquerors of Peru.]
The reader of the three plays which comprise Tirso's trilogy Las hazañas de los Pizarros1 is at once struck by the fact that the historical material is treated in a manner differing widely from that employed in La prudencia en la mujer.2 As Hartzenbusch remarked in 1842,
… son tres comedias en que está compendiada la historia del conquistador del Perú y la de sus hermanos Hernando y Gonzalo: la del último está muy desfigurada, y en los tres dramas se descubre el empeño de engrandecer a esta ilustre familia más de lo que necesita y más de lo que permite la verdad. Francisco Pizarro, héroe de la primera parte, no está pintado en el teatro de sus glorias, sino en España: los amores de su padre, y la niñez, adolescencia y singulares travesuras del hijo llenan los tres actos de la comedia, que acaba siendo de edad de quince años el que después había de destruir imperios y fundar ciudades.3
It is not a question of an heroic personage or an heroic episode in Spain's history...
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SOURCE: Halstead, Frank G. “The Optics of Love: Notes on a Concept of Atomistic Philosophy in the Theatre of Tirso de Molina.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America LVIII, No. 1, Part 1 (March 1943): 108-21.
[In the following essay, Halstead analyzes Tirso's philosophical arguments in El amor médico regarding the connection between vision and love.]
Somewhat more than a century and a quarter past, Dugald Stewart, philosopher and critic second only to Sir William Hamilton, wrote:
In considering the phenomena of perception, it is natural to suppose that the attention of philosophers would be directed, in the first instance, to the sense of seeing. The variety of information and of enjoyment we received by it; the rapidity with which this information and enjoyment are conveyed to us; and above all, the intercourse it enables us to maintain with the more distant part of the universe, cannot fail to give it, even in the apprehension of the most careless observer, a preeminence over all our other perceptive faculties. Hence it is, that various theories, which have been formed to explain the operations of our senses, have a more immediate reference to that of seeing; and that the greater part of the metaphysical language, concerning perception in general, appears evidently, from its etymology, to have been suggested by the phenomena of...
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SOURCE: Allain, Mathé. “El burlador Burlado: Tirso de Molina's Don Juan.” Modern Language Quarterly XXVII, No. 2 (June 1966): 174-84.
[In the following essay, Allain argues that El burlador de Sevilla is “a carefully constructed aesthetic whole in which form and content are inextricably united.”]
It was Tirso de Molina, a devout Mercenarian priest, who introduced into Western literature the figure of the archlibertine, Don Juan Tenorio. Rakes there had been aplenty since the Satyricon and the Golden Ass, but Tirso gave the libertine a new dimension when he added the defiant invitation to the dead to the traditional stories of sin and retribution. Since 1630, when Tirso's Burlador de Sevilla was first published, Don Juan has been reinterpreted in every period and for every climate; the legend, its origins, and its metamorphoses have been studied until enough scholarship accumulated to justify a specialized bibliography. Yet the later versions—especially those of Molière, Mozart, Byron, Shaw, and Zorrilla—have eclipsed the original so completely that only four pages of the Don Juan bibliography1 are needed to list the critical works on El burlador.
Few of the Tirso critics, moreover, have concerned themselves with El burlador as an aesthetic product. Many Spanish studies, especially the early ones, are devoted to...
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SOURCE: Wade, Gerald E. “The Character of Don Juan of El burlador de Sevilla.” In Hispanic Studies in Honor of Nicholson B. Adams, edited by John Esten Keller and Karl-Ludwig Selig, pp. 167-78. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1966.
[In the following essay, Wade analyzes the character of Don Juan, concluding that the trickster's lone virtue is his courage.]
If measured by its progeny in world literature, El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra is the most important play of all time.1 Surprisingly, no book of criticism has been written about the play; one may contrast Hamlet, for example, about which many volumes and thousands of pages have been composed. It is true that numerous editions have been made of the Burlador (and none of them really adequate), and certain things have been said about some of its aspects, especially its possible sources. But the paucity of material is striking for such an important play, and the lack of commentary will surely be remedied as scholars begin to appreciate better the drama's supreme significance.
One element of the Burlador that demands careful consideration is the character of Don Juan. Again, surprisingly, there has been little comment on this most important element of the play. The present brief paper is an effort to remedy this lack. In the space permitted we shall have...
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SOURCE: Lundelius, Ruth. “Tirso's View of Women in El burlador de Sevilla.”Bulletin of the Comediantes 27, No. 1 (Spring 1975): 5-14.
[In the following essay, Lundelius views the moral weakness of the four women Don Juan seduces in El burlador de Sevilla as proof of Tirso's misogyny.]
That Tirso brought before his audiences a rich variety of feminine dramatis personae, whom he often drew with a certain rare verve and empathy, is now little more than a critical cliché. But a bolder view, first propounded around the turn of the century by that untiring enthusiast of Tirso, Blanca de los Ríos, would align Tirso with the more extravagant admirers and champions of womankind. For instance, she claimed that Tirso “realizó una verdadera glorificación de la mujer” and lamented that in the preceding century “a tal poeta le tuvieron los preceptistas y le tiene aun parte del vulgo por detractor y calumniador del sexo.”1 More recently, a concurring estimate of Tirso's feminist propensities has come from Dr. Esmeralda Gijón, who sees in Tirso's portrayal of women “un gran conocimiento del alma femenina,” and considers him “el más decidido defensor de la mujer.”2 In fact, “el respeto de Tirso a la mujer,” she affirms, “alcanza hasta a las más perdidas.”3 Dr. Gijón is, of course, well aware that throughout Tirso's comedias...
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SOURCE: González-del-Valle, Luis. “Doña Ana's Seduction in El burlador de Sevilla: A Reconsideration.” Bulletin of the Comediantes 30, No. 1 (Spring 1978): 42-5.
[In the following essay, González-del-Valle argues that Doña Ana was not seduced by Don Juan in El burlador de Sevilla, observing that to interpret the play otherwise would call its moral and thematic unity into question.]
For a number of years there has been a controversy concerning Doña Ana's seduction by Don Juan in Tirso de Molina's El Burlador de Sevilla. Among those critics who do not think Don Juan was successful in the consummation of the sexual act with Doña Ana are M. L. Radoff and W. C. Salley,1 Juan Villegas Morales,2 Bruce W. Wardropper,3 Francisco Fernández-Turienzo,4 and Joaquín Casalduero.5 The opposite view is held by such scholars as A. A. Parker,6 Duncan Moir,7 and Vicente Cabrera.8 In this essay I will reexamine Doña Ana's disputed seduction and attempt to arrive at conclusions true to the play, conclusions not founded upon preconceptions as to what El Burlador de Sevilla should mean.
To determine if Doña Ana was seduced by Don Juan, one must study the two passages that are directly concerned with this matter in the play:
¡Falso! no eres el...
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SOURCE: Rodríguez, Alfred. “Tirso's Don Juan as Social Rebel.” Bulletin of the Comediantes 30, No. 1 (Spring 1978): 46-55.
[In the following essay, Rodríguez concentrates on Don Juan's pattern of “social defiance” in El burlador de Sevilla.]
Ortega y Gasset's identification of Don Juan with vital authenticity—with that fundamental exigency of life that makes all impediments to its fulfillment, whether imposed by reason or society, cause for rebellion—clarified this literary creature's myth-figure status:
Tal es la ironía irrespetuosa de Don Juan, figura equívoca, que nuestro tiempo va refinando, puliendo, hasta dotarla de un sentido preciso. Don Juan se revuelve contra la moral, porque la moral se había antes sublevado contra la vida. Sólo cuando exista una ética que cuente, como su norma primera, la plentiud vital, podrá Don Juan someterse.1
We concur with this appraisal of the Don Juan: myth-symbol of the dynamic rebelliousness that underlies Western man's distinct ability—and willingness—to challenge taboos and burn totems. We feel, however, that the important textual basis for this representational myth-value (the tirsian character's constant, unrelenting offensive against the basic pillars of human sociability, against the sine qua non imperatives and codes that make social existence...
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SOURCE: Ruano de la Haza, Jose M. “Doña Ana's Seduction in El burlador de Sevilla: Further Evidence Against.” Bulletin of the Comediantes 32, No. 2 (Fall 1980): 131-33.
[In the following essay, Ruano de la Haza argues that Don Juan's actions in El burlador de Sevilla suggest that Doña Ana was not seduced by the infamous deceiver.]
Was Doña Ana physically seduced by Don Juan? In attempting to answer this question, two articles, published in the pages of this journal, have arrived at diametrically opposite conclusions.1 This was probably inevitable, for Tirso has left us with little positive evidence on which to found our assumptions. On the one hand, we have line 1563 (Act II) in which Doña Ana explicitly calls Don Juan “homicida de mi honor”.2 These words do not, however, necessarily imply that Don Juan was successful in physically seducing her, since Doña Ana may very well have been referring here to the sort of honor which is synonymous with reputation, and based on el qué dirán. According to this meaning of the word, she would have been technically correct in calling Don Juan “homicida de mi honor” from the moment he gained access to her house; for, from that moment, as Professor González-del-Valle argues, her reputation would indeed have been placed in jeopardy.3 On the other hand, there are Don Juan's words to the stone statue...
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SOURCE: Martin, Eleanor Jean. “A Consideration of the Role of Honor in Tirso de Molina's El burlador de Sevilla.” Kentucky Romance Quarterly XXVII, No. 3 (1980): 273-80.
[In the following essay, Martin argues that critics have been incorrect to depict Don Juan as the only villain in El burlador de Sevilla; society and its notion of honor, she insists, are also partly to blame for the social disorder caused by Don Juan's actions.]
The mention of El burlador de Sevilla immediately brings to mind the plight of four women, deceived and dishonored by the villainous, unscrupulous, immoral Don Juan. The protagonist's mockery of women's honor is contained in the famous words:
Sevilla a voces me llama el Burlador, y el mayor Gusto que en m í puede haber es burlar una mujer y dejalla sin honor.(1)
That Don Juan dishonors not only women, but also friends and relatives is well known. The nobles Octavio and the Marqués de la Mota, plus the peasant Batricio, suffer disgrace when Don Juan deceives their women. Don Juan discredits and kills Don Gonzalo, father of the duped Doña Ana, and also humiliates his reputable family, some of whom are pillars of the court: his uncle is ambassador to the king of Naples; his father is a privado of the king of Spain. Critics have labeled Don Juan a sinful man, a satanic rebel against heaven and earth, one who leads...
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SOURCE: Singer, Armand E. “Don Juan's Women in El burlador de Sevilla.” Bulletin of the Comediantes 33, No. 1 (Spring 1981): 67-71.
[In the following essay, Singer questions the conclusion drawn by Ruth Lundelius and others that El burlador de Sevilla clearly shows Tirso's misogyny, arguing instead that the play should be seen as an expression of men's desire to conquer women.]
Psychological analysis, Freudian or otherwise, is a mark of our introspective age.1 Recent years have seen several attempts to probe into the character of Tirso's burlador (notably two articles by Gerald Wade2) and to penetrate the nature of the women he seduces, the best of which I consider Ruth Lundelius' account in the Comediantes' Bulletin itself.3 What I intend postulating here uses her arguments as a point of departure. The interested reader is referred to her article on the basic question of whether or not Tirso actually championed women as claimed by Blanca de los Ríos and others, or, as Lundelius claims (and I would say, almost irrefutably), was pretty much a misogynist—if misogynist is just the proper term, about which more later. She limns the characters of Don Juan's four conquests, guilty as she accuses them of greed, deception, ambition, moral impotence, and various other sins deadly or venial, and concludes that for Tirso and educated clerics of his...
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SOURCE: Conlon, Raymond. “Enrico in El condenado por desconfiado: A Psychoanalytical View.” Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos X, No. 2 (Winter 1986): 173-82.
[In the following essay, Conlon makes use of Freudian theory about the connection between a person's conception of God and the relationship with one's father to examine the character of the bandit Enrico in El condenado por desconfiado. Conlon argues that “Enrico, like the rest of humanity, simply has no choice but to use his father as a model for the divine, and, therefore, to assume that his divine Father will be as tolerant as his human one.”]
A pesar del hecho de que el carácter psicológico de El condenado por desconfiado es generalmente reconocido, la obra tiene una dimensión freudiana que los estudios críticos no han tomado en cuenta hasta el presente. Este aspecto psicoanalítico radica en el personaje de Enrico. La influencia subconsciente que su padre Anareto tiene sobre las actitudes y acciones del bandido que se salva hace destacar ciertas ideas freudianas basadas sobre la relación entre padre e hijo y el modo en que ésta llega a ser identificada con el concepto de la relación con Dios.
Enrico no puede cambiar su concepción de Dios, el padre supremo, hasta cambiar su visión de Anareto, su padre humano. Por ser su...
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SOURCE: Hathaway, Robert L. “The Proto-Tenorios in Tirso's Santa Juana, II-III.” In Tirso's Don Juan: The Metamorphosis of a Theme, edited by Josep M. Sola-Solé and George E. Gingras, pp. 45-55. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1988.
[In the following essay, Hathaway finds in the final two plays of Tirso's Santa Juana trilogy early versions of the Don Juan character that would become fully developed in the playwright's most famous work, El burlador de Sevilla.]
In her edition of Tirso's Obras dramáticas completas, Doña Blanca de los Rios included within her introduction to the three Santa Juana plays a monograph on the genesis of Don Juan. The placement was well chosen: in the second and third of the plays we encounter what she called bocetos of Don Juan, sketches which illustrate “la generación del gran mito en la dramaturgia de su hacedor.”1 Her use of the term is appropriate in the sense that they are preliminary cartoons for the portrait of Don Juan Tenorio, hence my term “proto-Tenorios.” These characters are not protagonists but secondary figures which provide moral and spiritual contrasts to emphasize the virtues of the saint; as has been pointed out, “the worldly characters [in the trilogy] commit the sins avoided by the saint; then the tensions and conflicts raised through these sins are resolved through...
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SOURCE: Trubiano, Mario F. “The Theological Disputes and the Guzmán Affair in El burlador and El condenado: Theological Preoccupation or Satirical Intention?” In Tirso's Don Juan: The Metamorphosis of a Theme, edited by Josep M. Sola-Solé and George E. Gingras, pp. 95-105. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1988.
[In the following essay, Trubiano views El burlador de Sevilla and El condenada por desconfiado as reflective of contemporary debates regarding the relationship between free will and divine grace.]
The problem of whether the “new” man, novus homo, was truly endowed with free will even though, as theology teaches, everything pertaining to second cause, including man's actions, is preconceived and preordained by God, touched the very being and existence of the “new” man, affecting his essence and his metaphysical rights. In the pulse of this “new” man began to beat what Goethe two hundred years later called the “thirst for the infinite” in himself. A qualitative displacement arose in the existence of the “new” man vis-a-vis his Creator: instead of seeing himself as an obedient and reverent creature he began to view himself as His legitimate competitor and challenger—like Paulo in El condenado por desconfiado. Man grows in stature in direct proportion to his Creator's displacement from His center—like...
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SOURCE: Resina, Joan Ramon. “What Sort of Wedding? The Orders of Discourse in El burlador de Sevilla.” Modern Language Quarterly 57, No. 4 (December 1996): 545-78.
[In the following essay, Resina argues that El burlador de Sevilla reflects the growing social instability of early seventeenth-century Spain.]
As an age of transition between social paradigms, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were eminently characterized by destabilization and efforts at containment. At the beginning of the period early bourgeois individualism set off internal wars and revolts that shook all of European society. The growing emphasis on order and integration revealed the limitations of power and the contradictions between new social forces and inherited patterns of meaning. In Spain, however, the core of the absolutist state preserved the structures of a society based on privilege. The dominant class's attempt to suppress a radical transformation of society gave rise to the absolute monarchy, a protonational political framework that retained the seigniorial values of caste and honor while it abandoned feudal relations of personal dependence. To ward off the new social forces, the ruling class aimed such measures as the Inquisition, clean-blood statutes, and selective taxation at the carriers of the “new subjectivity”: the upcoming commercial and juristic bourgeoisie, the reform-oriented humanists,...
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SOURCE: Abraham, James T. “The Other Speaks: Tirso de Molina's Amazonas en las Indias.” In El arte nuevo de estudiar comedias: Literary Theory and Spanish Golden Age Drama, edited by Barbara Simerka, pp. 143-61. Lewisburg, Penn.: Bucknell University Press, 1996.
[In the following essay, Abraham deconstructs Amazonas en las Indias, the second play of Tirso's Pizarro trilogy, in order to demonstrate how the playwright privileges European culture and negates that of Native Americans.]
The encounter between Europeans and the native peoples of America provides much material for debate and analysis by scholars in all areas of study. Perhaps no other event in modern history has created more opportunities to evaluate, mostly from a European perspective, the culture and values of Western European nations during the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. Spurred by economic, religious and social pressure, Europe became obsessed with expanding its empire and with the inhabitants of its new dominions. The relationship established between the European and anything other than European took the form of a confrontation for, according to Abdul R. JanMohamed (Gates 1986, 83) in his analysis of colonialist writing, “the imperialist configures the colonial realm as a confrontation based on difference in race, language, social customs, cultural values and modes of production.” With the...
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Agheana, Ion Tudor. The Situational Drama of Tirso de Molina. New York: Plaza Mayar Ediciones, 1972, 135 p.
Full-length study concentrating on Tirso's artistic individuality.
Cabrera, Vicente. “Doña Ana's Seduction in El burlador de Sevilla.” Bulletin of the Comediantes 26, No. 2 (Fall 1974): 49-51.
Presents several critics' arguments for whether or not Don Juan seduced Doña Ana in El burlador de Sevilla, and concludes that Doña Ana was indeed seduced, which proves thematically important when Don Juan's day of reckoning finally comes.
Darst, David H. The Comic Art of Tirso de Molina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1974, 117 p.
Concentrates on seven of Tirso's comedias, in particular those that deal with the spiritual growth of their main characters.
Kennedy, Ruth Lee. Studies in Tirso, I: The Dramatist and His Competitors, 1620-26. Chapel Hill: North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures, 1974, 394 p.
Compares the dramatic work of Tirso with that of such contemporaries as Antonio Hurtado, Lope de Vega, Luis Vélez, and Juan Ruiz de Alarcón.
MacKay, Dorothy Epplen. The Double Invitation in the Legend of Don Juan. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University...
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