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Defining the comedia is a challenge that is rarely addressed directly in the pages of the Bulletin of the Comediantes. Those of us who spend our professional lives working with the plays that are brought together under this cover term have a visceral or intuitive understanding of what falls into the category of comedia and what lies outside of it. We are hardly exempt from having to articulate our definitions in concrete terms, however, because students, colleagues, and organizations to whom we write grants all want us to establish the limits, scope, and parameters of our field of study. Sometimes it is easy enough just to toss off a working but imprecise definition such as ''the cover term for sixteenth and seventeenth- century Spanish theater," sometimes we go into more detail, noting that the term is applicable not just to early modem Spanish comedies but to serious and religious works of theater as well. Frequently mention is made of the corrales or the fact that, in general, comedias are written in verse and presented in three acts. Categorical definitions always involve a process of establishing criteria that include some plays under the rubric of comedia and exclude others, and demarcating the boundaries at the fringes where one finds gray areas of indeterminacy and difference of opinion. The purpose of this overview is to take another look at some of the generalizations that were taught and accepted as essential characteristics of the comedia thirty years ago, and to note the ways in which assertions that were widely, if perhaps not universally, held when I began my studies of the comedia are no longer considered to be eternal and incontrovertible truths.




Auburn University

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Bulletin of the Comediantes