From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 17.2 (1997): 143-45.
Copyright © 1997, The Cervantes Society of America
REVIEW


Cervantes, Miguel de. Eight Interludes. Trans. and ed. Dawn L. Smith. Everyman Series. London: Orion House, 1996. 178 pp.



     Students and instructors in Comparative Literature programs throughout the English-speaking world have reason to be thankful for what Dawn Smith and the Everyman editors have wrought here, a solid critical edition (in English) of the eight one-act plays Cervantes published in 1615. Although this volume is essentially a translation of Nicholas Spadaccini's scholarly edition of

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Cervantes's Entremeses (Cátedra, 1982), Professor Smith has supplemented the text with a number of valuable critical tools that will assist both students and teachers.
     The edition begins with a very effective eight-page schematic chronicle of Cervantes's life and times. The most important events in the author's biography are placed in context and proper perspective vis-à-vis contemporary literary, artistic and historical landmarks. Undergraduates should find this an invaluable feature. The general introduction that follows is well documented (40 endnotes) and covers a variety of subjects related to Cervantes's dramatic production. Smith touches upon historical and cultural issues like the development of the public theater in Spain during Cervantes's lifetime, the origin and evolution of the entremés subgenre, and the circumstances surrounding Cervantes's belated decision to publish six —a number later expanded to eight— unperformed interludes that he had penned in previous years.
     Each interlude is subsequently prefaced by its own particular introduction, with the exception of The Widowed Pimp (El rufián viudo) and The Election of the Magistrates of Daganzo (La elección de los alcaldes de Daganzo), which share the same introduction. In the prefatory remarks for The Man Who Pretended to Be from Biscay (El vizcaíno fingido), for example, Smith provides a valuable explanation of the social significance of the work as both a reflection and a criticism of the 1611 “Premática de los coches,” a misguided attempt to legislate morality by clamping down on the use of coaches for amorous liaisons. Modern-day students with little or no understanding of the sexual practices of Cervantes's day will benefit from the knowledge that prostitutes in seventeenth-century Spain were accustomed to plying their trade in what amounted to horse-drawn brothels. As Smith points out, the 1611 regulation had serious implications for both sexes: on the one hand, the government was attempting to prevent prostitutes from masquerading as high-born ladies; on the other, it was a sincere effort to improve the physical fitness of Spanish men, who were becoming soft and effeminate. Smith's introduction contextualizes the action of the play by adding this significant but often overlooked socio-historical note.
     Wisely following the example set by Spadaccini, Smith supplements the text with twenty-one pages of notes that are very useful and often enlightening; in many cases, scholarly references and suggestions for further investigation are provided. Veteran teachers and researchers in the field (such as this reviewer) tend to prefer the footnote style of the Spadaccini edition over the endnotes used here, but the new economic realities of publication seem to have dictated the demise of the older, more reader-friendly format. The notes are followed by a section entitled “Cervantes and His Critics,” in which Smith provides the reader with a concise history of the critical reception of Cervantes's short dramatic works, a range of commentary that stretches from the mid-1700s to the present. For the most part, Smith's account is both enlightening and accurate. On page 170, however, Smith has Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo commenting on the Interludes in 1941, a date which follows the noted Spanish scholar's death by almost thirty years. The last two figures of the date given have surely been transposed.


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     The volume concludes with two pages of bibliographic references that students may find helpful for research purposes and/or further reading on the subject. Happily, the number of typographical errors is small. This reviewer found one of the characters in The Divorce Court Judge claiming to have been “decieved” (18); in footnote 150, reference is made to the country of “Abyssina”; and the heading of pages 117-25 refer to the Cave of “Salamanac.” Aside from these spelling infelicities, I found the text to be free of annoying distractions.
     Although the Everyman edition of Cervantes's Interludes is not likely to become a standard text for any doctoral or master's program in Spanish or Hispanic letters, it certainly has a place as a critical guide for programs that feature the works of notable authors in translation. The present edition is reasonably priced and very serviceable. As such, it is to be recommended for any course or program in which translations of Cervantes's work are dealt with in a serious, scholarly fashion.


E. T. Aylward
University of South Carolina


Prepared with the help of Sue Dirrim
Fred Jehle jehle@ipfw.edu Publications of the CSA HCervantes
URL: http://www.h-net.org/~cervantes/csa/articf97/aylward.htm