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Censorship in the theater of the 18th century
Among all literary genres I have chosen the theater because I personally believe that it is the most notable or the one that plays a greater role in this century (followed by the essay). I consider it for various reasons: the dramatic or theatrical genre is able to capture the reality of an era before hundreds of eyes, since it has been composed for its subsequent representation. In this way, it keeps very close to the spectators and fulfills the main purpose of the moment: didactism. On the other hand, it can be said that it was one of the most relevant entertainments and distractions during this century.
Another reasons for the choice is that the situation of theater and censorship is very peculiar.
The basis of censorship derives from the fact that power is afraid of being questioned and to protect itself from its enemies created this atrocious procedure, designed for them as effective.
First, it is necessary to make a contextualization of the century in which we are. It is worth mentioning that we talk about the Spanish case.
The main axiology of the 18th century is the illustration, approximately between 1701 to 1833. With illustration we refer to the ideological, political, philosophical and cultural movement characterized by the importance of reason and experience, as opposed to the posterior period: the Baroque.
We are facing an optimistic stage, confident in the value and need for innovations, reforms, inventions and research. In the intellectual field, it is a transcendental step, a victorious attack in the end, against the religious, scientific and political conceptions prevailing until that moment. In the words of Paul Hazard, French essayist and historian, it is the "European conscience crisis".
Kant in his essay What is the Enlightenment?, Published in the year 1784, masterfully synthesized the objective of this movement: the liberation of man to use his intelligence by himself, without protection or guide of others. His motto of him is Sapere Aude! "Dare to know".
However, the renewal of techniques, scientific methods and mental schemes was in Spain quite late and shy. However, it cannot be denied that in the second half of the century you will see symptoms of attitude change, but as we have mentioned, the evolution was slow, for being minority and fiercely fought by the prevailing ideas (the reactionary sector).
In addition to late, it was brief; He could not mature due to the pressure exerted by the French Revolution (1789). Spanish enlightened, except for exceptions such as Abbe Marchena, are not revolutionary or radical spirits. The vast majority is respectful of the monarchy; It does not seek sudden or violent changes and only fights to introduce in Spain those news that are not at odds with traditional morals and beliefs, and suppose a step towards public happiness.
So that we can talk about an enlightened movement that has a certain weight in national life, even if it remains very small, we will have to wait until the reigns of Fernando VI and Carlos III.
Next, we will present the historical stages in Spain during this period:
- 1700-1746: The War of Succession and the Reign of Felipe V.
When the Carlos II died without offspring, the Duke of Anjou, which reigned with the name of Felipe V. With this operation, French power in Europe was strengthened. England supported the candidacy of the archduke Carlos of Austria. This confrontation resulted in the so-called Succession War (1707-1714), Civil contest time (between the kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragon) and international conflict (England and Austria against France and its allies).
The political, economic and cultural consequences of dynastic change were incalculable. The importance of Spain in international politics was substantially reduced and, in internal affairs, a centralized organization of the State was passed.
The reign of Felipe V had to overcome the situation in which the monarchy had remained at the end of the 17th century and the enormous strength of the tradition of Spain. The dominant sign of its stage is political, economic and cultural reactivation. The new scientific conceptions begin to be incorporated and the first samples of neoclassical art appear.
An important event at the time of Felipe V was the foundation of the Royal Spanish Academy in 1713. The RAE developed an extraordinary normative work and for the fixation of the language.
- 1746-1759: Fernando VI reign.
Together with Carlos II, he was the most glowing reign of the 18th century. Fernando VI has gone down as a pacifist king and overturned in internal reconstruction. His stage is essential for the process of implementing the ideas of the enlightened.
- 1759-1788: The reign of Carlos III.
The arrival of him in Spain was accompanied by an extensive experience of ruler acquired in his preceding kingdoms. His ascent to the Spanish throne brought important attempts for reform; Some of these attempts collided with the interests of powerful religious orders, especially the Jesuits.
During this stage, a figure can be made with a singular relevance: the Count of Campomanes that was the president of the Castillo Council and promoter of economic activity with his speech on the promotion of popular industry, in the year 1774. This was the cause of the mass appearance of the economic societies of friends of the country (the precedent of our current chambers of commerce).
It is a stage in which a new sense of economy and urban planning is revealed, giving the construction of large infrastructure such as channels and reservoirs. In addition, from a cultural point of view, it is a moment of notorious achievements.
- 1788-1808: Carlos IV reign.
Finally, we will talk about the reign of Carlos IV. This reign lived the political difficulties of the trembling stage that was born with the French Revolution and led to the War of Independence.
In this period it is worth mentioning the person of Manuel Godoy, secretary of the State who rose to power in 1793. He was the protector of some illustrated as the writer Leandro Fernández de Moratín.
Finishing the point of the historical and social framework, we give way to the exhibition of the theater he in the eighteenth century.
Theater in the 18th century
The social presence of the theater in this period was very intense and in it there were substantial changes of direction both in the art of representing and in the conception of plot or theatrical writing. Giving frightened debates about the meaning and usefulness of scenic art.
In the second half of the century there is an offensive of the enlightened against the dramaturgy of the Golden Age, which had already been announced in the Poetics of Luzán (1737). In this confrontation aesthetic and political reasons come together. They wanted to end once with an unlikely theater, sometimes crazy (for example, with the lack of unit of time, with usual temporary jumps) and disseminator of social and archaic ideas; that was an obstacle to the transformations that they advocated. To banish these evils, they propose the scrupulous respect for the classic Aristotelian units and aspire to likelihood, through the presentation of universal types and conflicts, from which a useful teaching follows (the fundamental values were didactism and utilitarianism). The formula defended by neoclassics never went from being a camera theater, without an echo between the public and covered exclusively by the elites of power. We talk about an elitist and minority theater.
From that moment, attacks against the Calderonian dramatic system grow, still present.
On the other hand, figures such as Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo considered that the Baroque theater had been represented substantially and that for that reason the good popular Spanish taste was revealed. The representations of playurgos works such as Calderón de la Barca, Tirso de Molina, Lope de Vega were still in force ..
Against this idea, René Andioc pronounces, contradicting the theory of the good taste of the Baroque of Menéndez Pelayo. It is true that this theater continued prevailing throughout the 18th century. But he said that we should take into account his position: the baroque works were for a very short time on the billboard, being commonly represented during theatrical gaps; that is, the premieres of other works were represented as a filling of the hole. In addition to that they were wild works, he attended little audiences being elitist and very culturally formed, speaking of representations with a minority character.
For others, the baroque works represented were not what we would consider relevant or traditionally classic, which accentuates the idea of its representation as filling or wild card.
In conclusion, the taste for Baroque theater was a minority, elitist and cult.