Bartolome de Torres Naharro's "Comedia Seraphina": The comedia a fantasia and lengua (de la) cortesana

Sara Anne Taddeo, University of Pennsylvania


The Comedia Seraphina, one of Torres Naharro's first works, has been given little attention in the past fifty years, and has generally been viewed as awkward and foolish. This polyglot comedia is the product of an age in transition: echoing the general movement in literature of the time, Torres Naharro outlines characters who escape from the strictures of competing monologues in the course of the play and move towards the modern "dialogic" form. A better appreciation of the playwright's masterful control of his craft emerges from a study of the polyphonic technique he uses in combination with polyglossia and polivalence to give a voice to women characters. The key to understanding the Comedia Seraphina is to observe the interplay of comedia, fantasia, lengua, and cortesana which enables Torres Naharro to give a new definition of all these terms. He mixes languages, classes, and styles (the serious and the comic), to elucidate possible positions on the "woman question" and the "questione della lingua," two topics hotly debated in the Renaissance, especially in Italy. The characters of the Comedia Seraphina enunciate stereotypical positions on these two questions, which Torres Naharro cleverly combines by an implicit play on the double meaning of cortesana (or cortigiana). By the final scene, the characters have abandoned these positions in favor of a liberating transformation--a literal translation since the play is quatrilingual--which permits them to escape from the labyrinths of language as of plot. Torres Naharro's belief in fantastic imitation, fantasia, based on free interpretation, is what makes this happy ending possible. His aesthetic mirrors the debate over free will and supports dialogue, and it will be crushed by the forces of imposed orthodoxy. In spite of this, by giving women characters a voice as "personas," he opens the way for the heroines of the later comedia, as well as suggesting a new way to "dar la paz a las mugeres."

Subject Area

Romance literature|Theater

Recommended Citation

Taddeo, Sara Anne, "Bartolome de Torres Naharro's "Comedia Seraphina": The comedia a fantasia and lengua (de la) cortesana" (1994). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9427625.