By What Means Does Calderón Structure His Play in Terms of Action, Text and Spectacle?

By What Means Does Calderón Structure His Play in Terms of Action, Text and Spectacle?

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Fundamental to our understanding of El Médico de su Honra, and of any other play is the notion that it was for performance and not intended for reading. Therefore, the action, text and spectacle all work together in producing an overall effect upon the audience. Calderón is described as a `craftsman' of drama and is famous for the dramatic devices which appeal to the various senses in order to convey the play's message with greater profundity. However, the seventeenth century playwright was limited by the facilities available to him. The rudimentary nature of their theatres affected the way in which a play was staged and therefore its interpretation. Public theatres were situated in courtyards, or `corrales', surrounded on three sides by private dwellings. A basic, but nevertheless important point is that theatres were generally exposed to the elements. By necessity, plays were performed during daylight hours and inevitably this would affect the presentation of the play. Atmosphere and mood were of paramount importance in a play, and this is of particular significance in El Médico de su Honra, where darkness is crucial both to the plot and the underlying themes.

That is not to say, however, that simple staging prevented an effective presentation of a play. Basic staging could be made productive, and in some cases actually more striking and powerful. Essentially, the lack of an elaborate stage merely shifts the focus elsewhere, the focus being on the actors - their actions, dialogue and how the dialogue is delivered, how they perform, costume. In El Médico de su Honra, Calderón, therefore had to structure the `actions, text and spectacle' very carefully since there are many different settings ...


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...ition to costume, language and dialogue is what fixes the atmosphere and the action. In a manner very similar to Shakespeare, Calderón weaves description of the scene and of what is occurring into the main thrust of the play. In this sense, he is more than a poet, he is a dramatic craftsman who predominantly through his verse alone, creates a drama in its own right. All the clues to the plot and its themes lie in the text; the use of staging, costume, music and props can be used to enhance what lies in the script. What they give to the play is a fuller and more entertaining dramatic production. Thus, if used sensitively and intelligently by a director, these factors can increase the dramatic power of the work. The primary focus, however, remains the language, which relies on a high standard of acting in order to do justice to the subtleties of the play.

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