One of those Calderón comedies in the vein of La dama duende. It is intriguing to pick up on just what distinguishes this play from, say a tragedy such as El médico de su honra. The similarities are many. This is a play all about honour – the aged head of the house is afraid he will lose honour if don Luis does not get betrothed to his daughter Beatriz, simply because it has been a matter of discussion with his relatives. It is full of elaborate rhetoric – both Beatriz and Luis take every chance to declaim elaborately with lots of trans-elemental imagery and Petrarchist paradoxes. It is given to don Alonso to deliver the most elaborate summation-schema – the whole “he is a fool who makes a fool of love” speech. The play is very clearly laid-out as a quasi-legal case – as prescribed by Lope: at the start, don Alonso even sets out to adjudicate between the views of his valet Moscatel and don Enrique.
But of course the differences are instructive. Beatriz is treated as a ridiculous, parodic figure because of her preciosity – was Calderón indulging in anti-Gongorism here? No noble in the “serious” plays is treated with such levity. No one in this play is unjustly killed, unlike the wives in the big three wife-murder tragedies. Although jealousy is often invoked, it never has quite the same “pasos de ladrones” intensity that it has for don Gutierre in El médico. Perhaps most interestingly, the sub-plot of the love of the servants Inés and Moscatel mirrors the confusions and deceptions of their masters. If their trials are ridiculous, then so are those of their social betters. And, at the end, Luis, the hidalgo who does not declare his real affections suffers. Because this is a Calderón play, Beatriz has never even noticed him, so it is a perfectly satisfactory resolution that she ends up with Alonso.
It was a good, lively production. The small cast lent itself to the very confined stage available. A resourceful set design allowed for changes in locale, and even permitted Alonso and Moscatel to do a balcony jump.