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The plague of comedies: Praise and criticism of Spanish theatre in Oporto at the end of the seventeenth century

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The inclusion of the Portuguese territory in the itinerary of Spanish theatre companies, at least from the late sixteenth century onwards, contributed towards shaping a truly Iberian theatrical landscape during the seventeenth century. The influence of the Spanish language and theatrical models on Portuguese playwrights, the creation of a playhouse in Lisbon that followed almost exactly the Spanish reference of the corral de comedias and the constant presence of Spanish actors in Portugal during this period support that idea of a common cultural history shared by Portugal and Spain. Most of what is known about this chapter of Iberian theatre history, particularly when it comes to the presence of Spanish theatre companies on the Portuguese stage, conveys the idea of an unquestioned and uncriticized acceptance of this phenomenon in Portugal. However, if such might be the case in Lisbon, a recently found corpus of documentation concerning the theatrical activity in Oporto at the end of the seventeenth century shows a completely different attitude towards Spanish theatre companies. The opposition of both religious and secular Oporto authorities against commercial (Spanish) theatre, which was even considered to be a plague, was particularly evident in two different episodes that took place in the final decade of the seventeenth century. The analysis of these incidents proves the existence, at least in Oporto, of a certain resistance against the dominant theatrical practices, which uncovers a new space of enquiry in Iberian theatre history and the cultural exchanges between Portugal and Spain during the Golden Age.
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Keywords: Golden Age; Oporto; Spanish theatre companies; comedies; lawfulness of theatre; seventeenth century

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Lisbon

Publication date: June 1, 2019

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  • The International Journal of Iberian Studies (IJIS) is the academic journal for scholars from around the world whose research focuses on contemporary Spain and Portugal from a range of disciplinary perspectives. IJIS is interested in history (20th century onwards), government and politics; foreign policy and international relations.
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