Ambiguous Allegories What the Mythological Comedia Reveals About Baroque Tragedy
Volume 46.2, Summer 2012
This essay attempts a reconsideration of the serious mythological comedia as practiced first of all by Lope de Vega and Calderón.
Despite the fact that a considerable number of the mythological comedias in question (three out of eight plays by Lope; seven out of seventeen plays by Calderón) qualify as tragic, in part or in full, existing studies fall short of accounting for the specific tragic mode that characterizes the mythological comedia not to mention the special relation between this genre and tragedy. Quite to the contrary, the mythological comedias are often seen as insignificant showpieces or dramatic bagatelles meant to divert a decadent royal audience interested in nothing but idle amorous intrigues and pretty words.
In fact, we find some of Lope and Calderón’s most solemn involvements with the tragic among the serious mythological comedias. Not fullblown realizations of the tragedia patética,clearly, but exactly ‘involvements’, experiments, or preoccupations with this tragic mode, these plays are a series of rather clear examples of how the Baroque period effectuated the effective affective exploitation of the dramatic possibilities and ethical issues afforded by the tragic pagan universe yet simultaneously relativized tragedy “à la greque”.