On the translation of “El medico de su honra” by Gwynne Edwards
“Similarly, Brenan’s suggestion that Calderon approved of Gutierre’s murder of Mencia can be shown to be erroneous, for what he shows us is the process whereby a man who is basically good and loving is destroyed by an inflexible ideology” Edwards, Introduction, xxi.
Edwards is one of the scholars that consider a mistake the thesis that I held in this paper: that Calderon supports the crime. The question is that, with the purpose of defending Calderon from this mistake, the critics are manipulating the play, and Edwards translation is the perfect sample.
On the following lines I quote the Spanish text, the Edwards translation and a completely literal translation that follows the Spanish words. As anyone can see, the textual evidences that can be argued against Edwards view of the play, are completely vanished in his translation: lines that disappear, words that change substantially, the sense of the play becoming another… Edwards, by the way an excellent translator, seems to do a reinterpretation about some aspects of the play that can sustain other thesis (that no supports his own reading).
In his version, his English version, Gutierre’s jealousy is not vile, despicable or wrong, no; he is only a man that gets worried about his honour.
In his version, Mencia’s blood is guilty, and Leonor accepts Gutierre in the condition of that he killed a guilty woman, and, of course, she doesn’t say that the crime doesn’t frighten or amazed her… These few changes modify completely the sense of the play: not even Calderon dares to say that Mencia’s blood is guilty; his vision of Gutierre is not so naïve as the one of his defenders.
Gutierre, mal informado / por aparentes recelos, / llegó a tener viles celos / de su honor;
Rey- Dásela, pues, a Leonor, / que yo sé que su alabanza / la merece.
Don Gutierre- Sí la doy. / Mas mira, que va bañada / en sangre, Leonor.
Doña Leonor- No importa; / que no me admira ni espanta. /
Don Gutierre- Mira que médico he sido / de mi honra: no está olvidada / la ciencia.
Doña Leonor- Cura con ella / mi vida, en estando mala. /
Don Gutierre- Pues con esa condición/ te la doy [...]. (vv. 2940-2951).
My master is, as you well know, Aman suspicious of his honour, and of hiswife, Mencia, in particular.
King: Then give your hand to Leonor. Her reputation merits it.
Gutierre: So be it, with the reservation that It has been cleansed with guilty blood.
Leonor: On that condition I accept it.
Gutierre: Do not forget. I have already been
The surgeon of my honour. It is
A skill, I promise you, that lasts forever.
Leonor: If I am ever sick, Gutierre, do
Not hesitate to cure me.
Gutierre: Then here’s my hand, my dear”.
Gutierre, that handles wrong information, became despicably jealousy by his own mistrust and suspicious mind about his honour
2940 King: Give it, then to Eleanor,
I know that she is worth it.
GUTIERRE: Yes I give it.
But look, which is bathed
in blood, Leonor.
ELEANOR: It doesn't matter;
not admire me or scares.
GUTIERRE: Look that I have been the doctor
of my honour.It is not aforgotten
LEONOR: Cure with it
my life in being bad.
GUTIERRE: On that condition
I give it to you.
1 Many authors exercise a political definition of the tragic genre. Only to mention, by way of example, the following: Jaeger (1933 / 1954: 248),
(1940 / 1954: 29), Luis Gil (1988),
Carlos García Gual (1988: 182-183), Adrados (1992: 4, 5), Trapp (1996: 82),
Pelling (1997: 224), Parker (1997: 146), Vidal-Naquet (2001 / 2004). I refer,
for a detailed justificaci6n, to the first chapter of Varela Álvarez (2008). Murray
2 While Lope himself considers as a tragicomedy his play “the Knight of Olmedo”, “The punishment without revenge” was conceived, I insist, by the author as a tragedy. The difference would hinge on the non-fictional origin of the story, although the author does not hesitate to modify following the first Aristotelian principle which differences the history from the tragedy according to this judgement: the History tells the particular facts while the Tragedy tells the facts as should have been. Lope is moving between the new and old art, between the comedy and the tragedy and what make the difference and serves for distinguishing between tragedy and tragicomedy is not the level of the characters, or the outcome of the play, but the historicity of the argument. It's a historic fact, taken from written sources; this is something that Lope makes clear. On the contrary, this kind of historicity is not found in plays as “The Celestina”, for example». (Ynduráin, 1987: 148). (Translation by Violeta Varela Alvarez).
3 The dedication and the preface do not appear in Kossoff edition (1985).
4. For a discussion about the sources of “the punishment without revenge” I refer to Kossoff (1985: 20 and ff.).
5 “If the protagonist, before facing his own death, has to humbly regret about all the mistakes in his life, he can be a Saint, but not a tragic hero ". (MacCurdy, 1989: I, 180).
6 It has been pointed out how such tragedies, which would be after the undermining of revenge, are connected with the reign of Felipe IV and his interest for loving affairs, as well as the adjustment to the courtly taste. (Ynduráin, 1987: 150).
7 I entirely agree with MacCurdy (1989: I, 178) and the thesis that emphasizes the incompatibility between Catholic values and the tragic perspective: « Catholicism, according to several critics, is mainly the value that avoids the tragedy, because the true tragic experience is not going with the essential optimism of the Christian faith».
8 I disagree, consequently, with Ynduráin (1987: 151): [...] It seems that there is a progression from revenge to punishment, through discretions, secrets and prudence: the one replaces the other, with all that it implies. Lope, is even pleased to lead the reader or listener into a revenge fact to, at the last moment, with one master swerve, frustrate that expectation and replacing it with an act of punishment, new and different, an unexpected outcome in any case.
9. Actually, Lope would have been pointed out, on more than one occasion, as the responsible for the extinction of the tragic genre in
. «On the contrary, Agustín Montiano, in
his “discourse on the Spanish tragedy”, does not hesitate to claim for the
Spanish a natural inclination to the tragedy: "the cause of this tragic,
serious and great inclination, would be discovered in the Spanish mentality,
that naturally prefers the tragic circumspection;»» The pity that excites; the
authenticity that exercises; the benefit that produces and the rationality that
keeps; opposite to unsuitable triviality, the insensitivity of the soul, the
impossible facts, the useless activities, the disruption of the speech: and
this, not only when it is possible to discern what’s best, but even when the
tendency to goodness is hidden». Montiano, inveterate classicist by the way,
considers Lope de Vega the responsible for the denaturising of the Spanish
propensity to tragedy» (MacCurdy, 1989: I, 176). Same opinion would be shared
by Martínez de la Rosa (apud MacCurdy, 1989: I, 177). Spain
10. I do not believe that the outcome of the play can be considered ironic (O'Connor, 1982: 788-789). The end of the play is a happy ending and is even facetious. The attitude of Leonor, the King and Gutierre communicate an absolute satisfaction about the new marriage, and the young woman, that feels confidence in her own virtue, doesn’t seem to fear anything about her future marriage with a man who is able of such a brutal act.
11 Life, in the tragic experience, is an insignificant value, but a value after all. If life is not absolutely essential, its sacrifice would be meaningless.
12 we disagree, consequently, with O'Connor’s opinion regarding to the treatment of the honour in the play: «In some way, he demonstrates [Calderon] how the honour is divorced of the virtue, its traditional source, as he describes what kind of resorts the man will use to protect its place in the social hierarchy. [...] In “The doctor of his honour” Calderon is interested more in the human problems that underline the obvious troubles caused by an unreasonable consideration of the honour» (1982: 785).
13 O'Connor says (1982: 784): “The Prince Don Enrique behaves boldly, without worrying about the problems that he provokes to Mencfa. He abuses of his position and of his royal powers, he refuses as well to consider the situation that she describes... Mencia shall be the innocent victim of this egomaniac prince, although she had already been before when she was forced by her father to marry don Gutierre». It is true, but this fact does not mean the existence in the play of any sort of social critic. Enrique's attitude serves Calderon for, through the figure of the King, the demonstration and enunciation of a doctrine in which the honour is the only fundamental only value.
14 «In this paper I propose to broaden the traditional conception of the drama by the inclusion, basically, of other problems: those that concern the relations between men and women» (O'Connor, 1982:783).
15 We must remember that Leonor refuses to marry don Arias because she believes that this union could serve as a confirmation to old suspicions (vv. 1755-1784).
16. Again, we disagree deeply with the interpretation of O'Connor (1982: 786-787): "At the end of the work, the marriage between Leonor and don Gutierre emphasizes the victimisation of women by men." We have just seen the sacrifice of Mencia due to the honour- and with his hands already bathed in her blood, the high priest of honour extends the link of marriage to Leonor, previous victim and, in this terrible scene, likely candidate for a new victimisation. [...] With the murder of the innocent Mencia and the victimisation of the naive Leonor, Calderon reveals the acceptable traditions of his society; a society established on a false and destructive pattern, the need of the subordination of women to the male power and privilege. To carry out ineluctably with this debt of honour, serves Calderon to reveal tacitly those horrible assumptions of a society dominated and driven by men».
I do not see anything naive in the behaviour and the character of Eleanor: is vindictive (she wants that the evil caused by Gutierre reverts in himself VV. 1007-1020); It is clever (knows that a marriage with don Arias will not return her previous social position); It is cruel (she tells to Gutierre, in the face of Mencia’s corpse, that if she acts badly, Gutierre can apply the same medicine to her): she takes an approving look on the murder of Mencia (Mencia introduced doubts in the honour of her husband and she deserved the punishment, but Leonor, on the contrary, considers herself as a virtuous woman whose dishonour was due to a misunderstanding and for this reason she accepts Gutierre with the confidence possessed by those that believe themselves better); and, finally, she does not feel any pity or sorry for Mencia (she couldn’t care lees and she says it clearly: the crime does not frighten or amazes her, as well as she is not worried about the bloody hands of her future husband). Calderon performances for sure a horrible act, but it doesn’t mean that he makes a critical approach. Finally, it is true, as O'Connor says (1982: 787), that Leonor represents the exposed situation of a woman without males in the family that can protect her, but it is not true that Calder6n intends to denounce the indefensi6n of Leonor: what Calderon shows us is that even the more humble and unprotected vassals can expect relief and protection of their King.
For the translations:
Lope de Vega, Three Major Plays, Gwynne Edwards, Oxford University Press (2008).
Calderon de la Barca, Plays: one, Gwynne Edwards, Methuen Drama (2000).
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