(IN THE SPANISH COMEDIA)
AS AN AID TO READING
The following passage is taken from the introductory materials to
Raymond MacCurdy's anthology, Spanish Drama of the Golden
Age. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1971, pp. 12-13.
Generally, speaking, Spanish grammatical usage in the seventeenth
century does not differ greatly from modern usage. There are,
however, certain recurring grammatical practices in Golden Age
plays which are either rare or which have fallen into disuse in
modern Spanish. Familiarity with the most common of these
practices, which are listed below, will enable the student to read
the plays with greater ease. The examples are drawn from plays in
- The definite article el is sometimes used before
feminine nouns and adjectives beginning with unstressed a-
or ha-, and occasionally before other initial vowels. This
el is an old form of the feminine article, not the
masculine. Examples: el afrenta, el alfombra, el acerada
cuchilla, el hermosura.
- The definite article la may be used before feminine
nouns beginning with stressed a- or ha-. [Example:]
- The feminine indefinite article may be apocopated. [Example:]
un hora, un aya.
- Pronouns of address. The king is addressed vuestra
majestad or vuestra alteza, other royalty by vuestra
alteza (Often capitalized but not in this anthology). The
usual forms for formal address are vuestra merced and
vuesamerced (The equivalent of modern usted).
Vos and tú are used for informal or
disrespectful address; however, in many plays vos and
tú are used indiscriminately among equals and between
master and servant, with no intention of disrespect and with no
apparent change in attitude on the part of the speakers.
Vos is also used for the familiar plural (the equivalent of
modern vosotros). Since the use of a given form of address
is often determined by stylistic or metrical considerations, no
fixed rules can be given for their use.
- The relative quien may be used for both the singular
and plural, and may refer to things as well as persons.
[Examples:] "todos aquéllos a quien/ hará en
este mundo bien"; "Y yo me parto en tu nombre;/ por quien
venzo mis desdichas."
- The interrogative ¿quién? is occasionally
used for the plural ¿quiénes? [Example:]
"¿Quién fueron/ los crueles sacristanes?"
- The masculine directo object le is often used instead
of lo to refer to things. [Example:] "Muestra el papel, /
que primero le tengo de aderezar."
- The feminine indirect object la is often used instead
of le. [Example:] "Mentalmente la dije mi deseo."
- The object pronoun may precede the addirmative imperative
provided that the imperative does not begin the sentence.
[Example:] "De lo hecho te contenta, / y ten por
cárcel tu casa."
- Object and reflexive pronouns, which normally precede finite
forms of the verb in modern usage except in highly elevated style,
frequently follow the verb and are attached to it. [Example:]
"Recójome a mi aposento."
- Object and reflexive pronouns, which normally are appended to
the infinitive, may precede it. [Example:] "Ya, Jimena / no tiene
que se cansar."
- Pronominal periphrasis. One of the most common stylistic
feature of the comedia is its frequent use of pronominal
periphrasis. The periphrasis can often best be translated by
paraphrasing. A few examples and suggested translations follow:
"De Rodrigo la cabeza / te promete mi valor" ("I, because of
my bravery, promise you Rodrigo's head.") "No piense tu
bobería / que está la casa vacía." ("Don't
be stupid enough to think that the house is vacant.") "Yo un medio
sé que mi silencio calla" (freely, "I know a way
that I cannot divulge.")
- [Occasionally the object pronoun will be found "infixed"
between the verb stem and its ending in the future tense. Example:
"verlo he" for "lo veré."]
- Archaic verbe forms. Among the archaic verb forms which occur
most frequently are: habemos (hemos), vais (vayáis),
fuérades (fuerais) and érades (erais).
Similar to the last two cases, other verbs may have the ending -
ades instead of the modern -ais.
- The second person plural of the preterit often ends in
-astes instead of -asteis, and in -istes
instead of -isteis. [Examples:] dejastes, partistes,
- Singular verbs with plural subjects. When two or more
subjects are closely related and viewed as a unit they may take a
singular verb. [Example:] "¿Qué ruido, grita y lloro
/ ...rompe el silencio en mi casa?" This construction also
occurs, but probably less frequently in modern Spanish.
- The subjunctive is used after como meaning "provided
that" or "if". [Example:] "Aceto (Acepto) el tratarme ansí,
/ como no comience en mí."
- The future subjunctive, which has largely fallen into disuse
in modern Spanish, is common. [Example:] "Yo creeré lo que
- The imperfect subjunctive is frequently used instead of the
conditional tense, and in the result clause of sentences involving
a condition contrary to fact (a fairly common practice in modern
Spanish). [Examples:] "Por la misma razón yo no /
tratara de más venganza." "¡Si no
fuérades mi padre, / diéraos una bofetada!"
- The imperfect subjunctive is also used for the pluperfect
subjective in an if clause of implied negation and for the
conditional perfect in the result clause. [Example:] "Si arder le
vieras..., / no dudo, gran señor, que te
("If you had seen it burn..., I don't doubt, great loard, that you
would have been astonished.")
- Present participle. The preposition en followed by the
present participle (or gerund) is often used instead of al
plus infinitive to denote simultaneity of action or to indicate
that something happens after the completion of the action expressed
by the aprticiple. [Examples:] "En siendo los suegros
turbios / han de ser los yernos claros." "Y en habiendo
sucedido / habremos los dos quedado..."
- The objective possessive (genitive). The objective use of
possessive adjectives is very common. [Examples:] tu
obediencia (my obedience to you); tu amor (my love for
you); vuestro respeto (my respect for you).
- Personal a. The preposition a is frequently
omitted before a personal direct object. [Examples:] "Ana, llama
esa mujer." "Castigaré mis vasallos."
- The metathesis (transposition) of the letters in the third
person object pronoun and the plural imperative ending (-ad, -
ed, or -id) is common. [Examples:] matalde
(matadle), prendelde (prendedle), seguilde (seguidle).
- The r in the infinitve ending frequently assimilates to
the following l of an appended pronoun. [Examples:]
matalle (matarle), cortalla (cortarla), vella (verla),
ceñilla (ceñirla). The resulting ll is
pronounced like any other ll, so that mirallo rhymes
Texto electrónico por Vern G. Williamsen
y J T Abraham
Formateo adicional por Matthew D. Stroud
Most recent update: 30 June, 2002