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Intermediate Spanish Terminology for Dramatic Literature

Instructor: Aida Vega Felgueroso

Aida has taught Spanish at the University in Italy. Spanish is her mother tongue and she has a master's degree in Spanish Language and Literature.

Increase your vocabulary about dramatic literature in Spanish in this lesson, which will cover terms and concepts like plot structure, characteristics of different genres, stage directions, and more.

The Emotion of the Theater

When we read books, we imagine the characters, which can be fun. But in the theater we get to see them. This is the strength of the theater, which makes us get excited and dream about the scenarios.

Let's improve our dramatic literature vocabulary in Spanish by learning some specific terms of this art. When you finish, you will know how a character can talk to the public and it will be easier to read the funny comedies of the Spanish Golden Age. Let's see these terms.

Organizing the Plot

The acción dramática (dramatic action) is the set of actions, interior and exterior, that occur in the play. External actions are the movements made by the characters. The inner actions are the ideas and emotions of the characters. The dramatic action develops in the plot of the play.

The plot of a play can be structured in many ways. Let's look at the classic structure, but don't forget that in modern theater there are plays with a plot structured differently, or even without apparent structure.

The classic way to structure plot is in three blocks:

  1. Exposición (exposition): the characters, the scenario and the situation are presented.
  2. Nudo o clímax (central point or climax): the central part of the work where things begin to happen.
  3. Desenlace (resolution): once the action has reached the point of highest tension, something happens that puts things back in order, solving the conflict for better or worse.

In classical theater, these three parts of the argument used to coincide with the three acts in which the work was divided. For example, in the exposición (and therefore first act) of the play Fuenteovejuna, the author introduces us to the characters, the people and the historical moment. We understand that the peasants hate the commander because he is a tyrant.

In the nudo o clímax (second act), the commander delivers more injustices, and the mayor incites the peasants to rebel. In the desenlace (third act), the peasants kill the commander and the judge cannot condemn anyone because the people tell him that the whole town killed him.

Portrait of the evil commander of Fuenteovejuna.
comendador

Important Notes in the Play

The acotaciones (stage directions) are the texts that the author writes to explain how the characters are, how they are dressed, whether they speak in low or high voices, whether they enter or leave, how the stage should look, etc. The stage directions are usually written in parentheses and in italics. Let's see a fragment from La zapatera prodigiosa ('The Prodigious Shoemaker') where the anotaciones are in bold.

ZAPATERA: (Llora. Llaman a la puerta.) Quién es? (No responden y llaman otra vez.) Quién es? (Enfurecida.)
NIÑO: (Temerosamente.) Gente de paz.

Which translates as:

SHOEMAKER WOMAN: (She cries. They knock on the door.) Who is it? (They do not respond and knock again) Who is it? (Enraged.)
BOY: (Fearfully) People of peace.)

Apartes (asides) are interventions made by an actor addressing the public. In an aparte, the character does not dialogue with the other characters but with the audience. When there are several characters in the scene and one of them makes an aside, we have to assume that the other characters have not heard it.

Representation of La zapatera prodigiosa, a play with many apartes.
zapatera

Plays from Different Historical Moments

The Comedia del Siglo de Oro (comedy of the Spanish Golden Age) was a type of comedy that was written in the 16th and 17th centuries. This era was called the Spanish Golden Age because there were a large number of important authors and masterpieces.

The creator of the comedia del Siglo de Oro was the dramaturgo (a person who writes theater) Lope de Vega. Comedies of the Spanish Golden Age:

  • Offer a realistic view of the society of its time.
  • Have dynamic action.
  • Have a mixture of tragic and comic elements.
  • Are divided into three acts.
  • Have characters that appear in various plays, such as the maid or the squire.
  • Have three dominant ideas: honor, the Catholic faith and the monarchy.
  • Use language reflective of the different social classes.

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