115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

“Escoltats, os ho diré”: Constructing Identity Through Language in Guillén de Castro’s Los mal casados de Valencia

Laura Muñoz, UCLA

This paper will analyze how the urban comedy Los mal casados de Valencia (1595-1604) engages with socio-political issues within the Valencian context such as immigration, regional identity, and the politics of language choice by examining Guillén de Castro's formulation of the comic servant Pierres, a character who speaks a macaronic mix of Catalan and Castilian Spanish.

Proposal: 

“Escoltats, os ho diré”: Constructing Identity Through Language in Guillén de Castro’s Los mal casados de Valencia

         Los mal casados de Valencia (1595-1604) is one of Guillén de Castro’s earliest plays and is considered by many scholars to be his first mature dramatic work. The play is a dark comedy which looks past the “happily ever after” of the conventional marriage ending so common to the comedia, ending in a flurry of broken marriages. In addition to this unexpected ending, Guillén’s original approach to theatrical convention also affects the formulation of probably the most common character type of early modern comedia, the gracioso. In Los mal casados de Valencia, the comedic weight falls not on a single gracioso, instead presenting a trio of characters who provide comic relief: Elvira/Antonio, the mistress disguised as a pageboy; Galíndez, an old Castilian squire; and Pierres, a foreign lackey. It is this last character who is perhaps the most interesting, and certainly most perplexing, of the comedic figures in this play. In this paper, I will analyze how the urban comedy Los mal casados de Valencia (1595-1604) engages with larger socio-political issues within the Valencian context through the formulation of the comic servant Pierres, a character who speaks a macaronic mix of Catalan and Castilian Spanish. While Pierres is a minor character used almost exclusively for comic relief, he is truly unique in the scope of comedia studies for the insight he provides on identity construction in a region where diminishing political power and an influx of immigration around the turn of the seventeenth century made any linguistic choice a political one. Of the handful of scholars who have written about Los mal casados few even mention this character in passing, yet Pierres deserves much more attention than criticism has thus far afforded him, as this comic figure and his impossible language mirror contemporary socio-political tensions between Aragon and France and Valencia and Castile which complicate any clear-cut understanding of identity politics in the period.