Talking About Talking: Word and Deed in Calderón's El alcalde de Zalamea

"­Vive Dios, que han dicho bien!" "Would you like to hear a short example of what I mean?" "Tell me." "Go on." "Speak, tell the truth." "Don't say anything!" "What's said is said, and what's done is done." "You'd better shut your mouth." "You, who wanted to hide our offense, now wants to make it public?" "What will people say?" "I have told you a thousand times . . ." "If saying it doesn't work, let me show you." "I always respond with the same tone and words that are used with me." "I don't know how to tell you this." "I'm here to talk." "How can he talk to me like that?" "Let's speak clearly to one another." "I'm going to complain to the king about this injustice." "Watch what you're saying." "Tonight I'll be able to speak to her." "What a sad voice!" "I want to recount my misfortunes." "Let my voice be silent!" "Listen to what I'm going to tell you."

El alcalde de Zalamea talks a lot about discourse, as the examples above and they are only a few of many help to illustrate. In a true metalinguistic display, Calderón seems to suggest that this play is about communication as much as it is about honor, justice, Christian morality, social upheaval, gender anxiety, or any of the other themes that have been explored through the years. Calderón's abundant references to discourse in the drama and, specifically, to the relationship between words and deeds call to mind a number of key questions: what types of conversational exchanges take place in the text, and which types are privileged? What are the implications of metalanguage for metatheater? As we examine such questions in this study, one thing becomes clear: Calderón made the decision to have his characters talk about talking for a reason "Watch what you're saying." That reason may well have to do with the link between self-conscious discourse and self-conscious theater. Keir Elam, in The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama, defines metalanguage as "every time language serves as object of discourse"; specifically, he cites reference to message, code, idiolect or style, particular rhetorical or stylistic features, type of speech act, the act of speaking, the act of listening, silence/non-speaking, and language at large (190). Interestingly, every single type of metalanguage that Elam lists in his study is found in El alcalde de Zalamea, and many appear multiple times. Elam further examines the role of metalanguage in the theater:

As a result, esthetic distance increases, causing the reader/spectator to experience what Richard Hornby calls "seeing double" (Drama 32). In El alcalde, the connection between metalanguage and metatheater is substantive. Calderón not only gives us numerous examples of the various types of metalanguage, but he also provides a thorough examination of many of the categories of metatheater that Hornby and others have described specifically, the play within the play, role-playing (including directing) within the role, references to other literary texts, and the ceremony within the play.(1) Clearly, the drama's metadiscursive elements point toward and mutually inform its metatheatrical ones. Seen together, the play's self-conscious linguistic and theatrical elements function as a central structuring device that affects our appreciation of virtually every aspect of El alcalde, from its theme(s) to its characterization and from its individual status to its place in the entire Calderonian canon.

Critical attention with regard to the play has centered more on its characters and themes than on its language, but linguistically oriented studies have also played a significant role in El alcalde criticism. Ángel Valbuena Briones ("Una interpretación de "El alcalde de Zalamea" [El estilo retórico en El garrote más bien dado]") represents a group of critics who have explored the drama from a more global linguistic perspective: "es una de las piezas de Calderón en las que con el arte bene dicendi se obtiene la pureza, el esplendor y la sonoridad que le valen a su autor el epíteto de clásico" (39). More recent approaches to the play have often analyzed the ways in which its language relates to social class and hegemonic relationships among the characters. Carolyn Morrow, for example, examines the thematic and structural representations of competing discourses:

Morrow's study, which views the text as Calderón's discursive presentation of the problems of the Spanish upper class, offers a compelling treatment of the language in the play from a socio-political perspective. Bradley J. Nelson looks at El alcalde by examining the contradictory juxtaposition of verbal images and discursive frames which can lead to confusion but which can also often be explained in the play's many asides in terms of the emblem ("Pedro Crespo's Marvelous Game" 41).

The overwhelming number of self-conscious linguistic interactions in the play led me to undertake this more comprehensive study of the nature and number of references to speech itself. One is immediately struck by Calderón's ability to exploit virtually every possibility that language offers him, for El alcalde is a study in the dramatist's linguistic pyrotechnics. Throughout the play, as characters comment on the act of speaking, they continually underscore the importance of their words vis-á-vis their deeds. The characters constantly exhort each other to talk ("Decid," "Contad," "Hablad, decid la verdad" "Proseguid"), listen ("Esc£chame"), or be silent ("Calla," "que nada digas"), and they frame a large percentage of their dialogue exchanges with self-conscious references to language. Moreover, Calderón offers an amazing variety of discursive styles, from the often pompous style of the various aristocrats to the earthy speech and songs of the soldiers and the more ordinary, everyday language of peasants like the Crespo family. In addition, Calderón emphasizes legal discourse as yet another significant element in the play, and he relates that type of formal linguistic interaction to the relationship between speech and writing. This plurality of voices puts before us the idea that speakers always act from within a community and in El alcalde, that community is truly representative of the society of the time. Calderón focuses our attention on the ways in which his interlocutors interact by using abundant anaphoras, the conflict between speech and silence, commands, asides, and wordplay. Virtually no page of the play is free of direct allusions to the act of speaking. El alcalde de Zalamea is truly about the act of communicating, about the relationship between words and deeds: "Lo dicho, dicho; lo hecho, hecho." Calderón utilizes language as an organizing principle in the play, continually reminding his readers and spectators of the ways in which all of us interact linguistically. Such a pragmatic focus on language as action points towards Stanley Fish's work with speech-act theory, which he describes as "an account of the conditions of intelligibility, of what it means to mean in a community" (Is There a Text in This Class? 245).

The community in El alcalde consists of a diverse group of interlocutors, and some of the most interesting are the marginalized characters Rebolledo, La Chispa, and Don Mendo. The play begins with an expletive tied to the Eucharist ("¡Cuerpo de Cristo,"; Peter N. Dunn sees this as "an oath expressing annoyance" 124 n. 1), when the soldier Rebolledo complains about having to keep marching without a break or a town that will board them, to which the rest of the soldiers reply with gusto, "¡­Amén!" . Nelson calls this opening scene a " ceremony' [that] initiates a virtual parade of recognizable types" (39), and Hornby's work with metadrama would further confirm that Calderón has, indeed, crafted a religious mini-ceremony, a brief parodic mass, within the play. Metadrama is then intimately related to metalanguage: as Rebolledo twice threatens desertion from the army, he reiterates, "pues yo haré lo que yo digo" (60). When the soldier's lover, La Chispa, enters, we see immediately that, as Morrow puts it, she "dresses like a man, fights like a man, loves like a man, swears like a man" ("Gender Anxiety" 50). The following exchange highlights self-conscious discourse as Rebolledo requests that La Chispa entertain the soldiers:

          Rebolledo . . . con su voz al aire inquieta
                    una jácara o canción.
          Chispa               Responda a esa petición
                    citada la casteñeta.
          Rebolledo Y yo ayudaré también.
                    Sentencien los camaradas
                    todas las partes citadas.
          Soldado 1 ¡Vive Dios, que han dicho bien! (93-100)

La Chispa follows with the first of two jácaras. Throughout the text, Calderón plays with the idea of singing, either noting La Chispa's propensity to express her life via music ("yo a cada cosica canto / y oirá usé jácaras ciento," 128-29) or using the term in the sense of singing like a canary, or becoming a stool pigeon. When Pedro Crespo threatens the two with torture and death for not revealing what happened between the Captain and Isabel, the metaphor appears in a multitude of ways:

          Pedro Crespo   Este el pícaro es que canta.
                    Con un paso de garganta
                    no ha de hacer otro en su vida.
          Rebolledo ¿Pues qué delito es, señor,
                    el cantar?     
          Pedro Crespo            Que es virtud siento,
                    y tanto, que un instrumento
                    tengo en que cantéis mejor.
                    Resolveos a decir . . . (2383-90)

But La Chispa doesn't want Rebolledo to tell the truth, and she promises to sing his story if only he will deny everything: "Rebolledo, determina / negarlo punto por punto; / serás, si niegas, asunto / para una jacarandina, /que cantaré"(2394-99). Still, the threat of torture or death eventually leads La Chispa to give in to Pedro Crespo's request that she give a legal deposition: "Resolveos a decir / vuestros dichos" (2410-11); she responds that she will testify most enthusiastically: "diremos, / y aún más de lo que sabemos; / que peor será morir" (2411-13) and adds, "pues para cantar nací, / he de cantar, vive Dios. /¡­Tormento me quieren dar! [Canta]" (2416-18). Calderón revisits the connections between talking and singing more than once in El alcalde; in fact, he makes just this point in the last example of dialogue at the end of the play. Immediately prior to the formulaic request that the audience excuse the drama's defects, he sets up the following exchange between his interlocutors:

          Rebolledo Yo no pienso ya cantar
                    en mi vida.
          Chispa                  Pues yo sí,
                    cuantas veces a mirar
                    llegue al pasado instrumento. (2761-64)

Recapitulating the motif he has developed throughout the text, Calderón thus ends the play and leaves the audience with a final laugh at the wordplay in yet another example of self-conscious language.

Just as Rebolledo and La Chispa unite speech and song in their ironic inversion of courtly discourse and its concomitant impact on their deeds, Calderón's other interlocutors also highlight language and its effects. Don Mendo may represent a higher social class than does Pedro Crespo, but his words make explicit his portrayal as a caricatured hidalgo, an impoverished and ridiculous victim of unrequited love for Isabel. As in so many other examples in the play, Calderón has this character and his servant, Nu¤o, make numerous references to speech itself. In the space of only a few verses, Don Mendo tells his servant, "más no me hables / de esto" and "No hables / más, Nuño, calla" (314-15, 324-25), and adds other references to telling the truth, using proverbs, etc. His hyperbolic, courtly love style and Isabel's firm response manifest themselves self-consciously:

          Don Mendo      Hasta aqueste mismo instante     
                                        [a Isabel]
                    jurara yo a fe de hidalgo,
                     que es juramento inviolable 
                    que no hab¡a amanecido;
                    mas ¿qué mucho que lo extrañe,
                    hasta que a vuestras auroras
                    segundo d¡a les sale? 
          Isabel.        Ya os he dicho muchas veces,
                    señ:or Mendo, cuán en balde 
                    gastáis finezas de amor, (369-75)

Don Mendo finds an angry Isabel even more beautiful, requesting, "decid, decid más pesares" (388); she answers:

          Isabel:        Cuando no baste el decirlos,
                    don Mendo, el hacerlos baste
                    de aquesta manera: "Inés,
                    éntrate allá dentro, y dale
                    con la ventana en los ojos." (389-93)

The soldiers, La Chispa, and Don Mendo and his servant all contribute to the total effect of Calderón's emphasis on the interaction of words and deeds in the play. Nonetheless, his principal characters the Crespo family, Don Álvaro, and Don Lope de Figueroa most clearly delineate the dramatist's comprehensive approach to the topic.

Wordplay and the act of naming come together in a discussion of the types of women that Don Álvaro and his sergeant prefer; the captain makes a telling observation, reflective of his personal prejudices regarding women of the lower social classes, and once again, Calderón stresses references to the world-creating power of language:

                    Quieres saber
          ¿cuál dice bien de los dos?
          El que una belleza adora,
          dijo, viendo a la que amó:
          "Aquella es mi dama"; y no:
          "Aquella es mi labradora."
          Luego si dama se llama
          la que se ama, claro es ya,
          que en una villana está
          vendido el nombre de dama. (203-12)

In stark contrast to the entrance of the captain, Pedro Crespo and his son, Juan, first appear on stage as the elder Crespo waxes eloquently about his crops and lands. Typically for this play, Juan's first words stress speech. As he confesses his gambling debts, he begins, "No sé cómo decirlo, sin enojarte" (443). Their discussion then moves from gambling to honor and social status, with Juan suggesting that his father buy an ejecutoria, thus earning his hidalguía through legal means. Yet Pedro Crespo is not interested in what other people will say about him:

          ¿Dirán entonces, que soy
          mejor que ahora? No, es dislate.
          Pues, ¿qué dirán? Que soy noble
          por cinco o seis mil reales;  
          y esto es dinero y no es honra;
          que honra no la compra nadie.
          ¿Quieres, aunque sea trivial,
          un ejemplillo escucharme?  (495-502)  

Calling attention to his honor via the conventional linguistic allusion to reputation ("el qué dirán"), Crespo follows with a story about a bald man who suddenly appears with a wig, fooling no one as to his real status. And once again, echoing Calderón's epic utilization of allusions to discourse, he self-consciously frames his narration by asking his filial interlocutor to hear a story that will illustrate his point.

Calderón sets up a discursive tour de force in the scene in which Don Álvaro plots a ruse to lure Isabel out into the open; he asks Rebolledo to feign a fight with him and run upstairs, where Isabel is hiding, so that he can follow. Don Álvaro explains his plan (and La Chispa and Rebolledo add in their respective asides, "Bien le habla el capitán" and "Bien quedo informado"; 629, 649), and the "quarrel" begins:

          Chispa                   [aparte]
                              (Ya empieza su tronera.)
          Don Álvaro   Pues, ¿cómo me habla a mí de esa manera?
          Rebolledo ¿No tengo de enojarme,
                    cuando tengo raz¢n? 
          Don  lvaro               No, ni ha de hablarme;
                    y agradezca que sufro aqueste exceso.
          Rebolledo Ucé es mi capitán, sólo por eso
                    callar&eaccute;. (656-62)

Rebolledo then asks his captain again, underscoring language to treat him better: "que me hablara mejor" (666). Their ruse works, but Juan and his father enter and put a stop to the "swordfight." Although both father and son suspect that the fight was staged, only the rash Juan tries to provoke the captain; he replies:

          Don Álvaro        . . . ved mejor
                    lo que decís.
          Juan           Yo lo veo
                    muy bien.
          Pedro Crespo   Pues ¿cómo habláis vos
                    así? (753-77)

Juan's accusation produces a real swordfight, but at the moment it begins, Don Lope enters and demands that they tell him what has happened: "Hablad;" (785) "Hablad, decid la verdad." (795) "Decid" (798). In the final scene of Act 1, Don Lope and Pedro Crespo, the incarnations of military and local authority, resolve the problem caused by the younger men, and they engage in a verbal game to measure both their manliness and their authority: in their famous exchange, whenever Don Lope comments, threatens, or swears, Pedro Crespo matches him, imitating his rhetorical style and even his exact words, especially "voto a Dios" and "juro a Cristo." In a move that accentuates symmetry, Calderón has begun and concluded the first act with his characters swearing, drawing the attention of the reader or spectator to the function and purpose of discourse itself. The scene in which Pedro Crespo echoes Don Lope's words and actions is replayed early in the next act when the two men discuss their previous encounter:

          Don Lope            Pues
                    ¿c&oaccute;mo ayer, sin que os dijera
                    que os sentarais, os sentasteis,
                    aun en la silla primera?
          Pedro Crespo   Porque no me lo dijisteis,
                    y hoy, que lo decís, quisiera
                    no hacerlo. La cortesía
                    tenerla con quien la tenga.
          Don Lope  Ayer todo erais reniegos,
                    porvidas, votos y pesias;
                    y hoy estáis más apacible,
                    con más gusto y más prudencia.
          Pedro Crespo   Yo, señor, siempre respondo
                    en el tono y en la letra,
                    que me hablan. Ayer vos 
                    así hablabais, y era fuerza
                    que fuera de un mismo tono
                    la pregunta y la respuesta.
                    Demás de que yo he tomado 
                    por pol¡tica discreta,
                    jurar con aquel que jura,
                    rezar con aquel que reza. (1117-38)

This metadiscursive passage illustrates beautifully how Calderón uses language in El alcalde. Words do not merely describe the world; in a real sense, they create it. In resolving questions of honor, Pedro Crespo believes himself equal to those of higher social or military rank. He states his case overtly in his famous "el honor es patrimonio del alma" speech; here, he expresses the essence of his identity and presages his future acts in linguistic terms.

Similar examples of parallel linguistic behavior will be played out yet again in the next scene, as both are annoyed when a rowdy group of soldiers arrives to try (with songs and rocks thrown at her window) to induce Isabel to come out. Don Lope scornfully refers to the discordant music as "cantaletas," which Valbuena Briones describes as "el ruido de bulla, canto desordenado acompañado de instrumentos mal acordados" (El alcalde, 119, n.1238). Once again, the emphasis on words (here, badly sung) gives way to deeds, as the older men use both parallel words and actions, such as throwing pieces of furniture. The letrilla is followed by another of La Chispa's jácaras, and for a third time, Don Lope and Pedro Crespo act and speak in complementary ways this time, accidentally attacking each other in the dark, since both believe that the other is one of the soldier-singers ("¡Voto a Dios, que riñe bien!" and "¡Bien pelea, voto a Dios!", they echo). In a drama full of parallel scenes and speeches, this ongoing pattern with the two older men enables Calderón to explore the question of honor as he creates complex, dynamic characters and begins to prepare us for the final, climactic scenes of the play.

El alcalde de Zalamea is famous for a number of its set speeches, but one of the most famous is surely Pedro Crespo's advice to his son before Juan leaves to join the army. His farewell, reminiscent of that of Polonio to Laertes in Hamlet, is also linguistically self-conscious.(8) The father begins by asking for the floor: "escucha lo que te digo" (1579), and ends with "Adiós, hijo: / que me enternezco en hablarte" (1637-38). Father and daughter bid Juan farewell, and, illustrating how "speaking makes it so," Pedro exclaims,

               ¡Ea, vete presto!
          que cada vez, que te miro,
          siento más el que te vayas,
          y ha de ser, porque lo he dicho. (1650-53)

Speech does produce action, and no one better than Pedro Crespo understands the links between word and deed: "Ahora, que no le miro, / hablaré más consolado" (1657-58).

In this key second act of El alcalde, Calderón continues to accumulate abundant references to speech.(9) Don Álvaro does not succeed in seducing Isabel, but he nonetheless kidnaps her, taking her to a nearby mountainside, where he rapes her; when Pedro Crespo follows, he is tied to a tree. Calderón expresses the pathos of the final scene of the act by focusing again on language. Juan hears faint voices crying out in the dark for help, but he does not recognize them other than by gender. Ironically, these "[t]ristes voces" belong to Juan's own father and sister, but since he fails to identify the speakers, he determines to help the woman first. The second act thus ends with the nexus of speech and action.

Words and deeds are also the focal point of Isabel's soliloquy, which begins Act 3.(10) After bemoaning her fate, Isabel ends with the decision to call to her brother, so that he will kill her, now that she has been dishonored. Calderón continues the motif of the voice ("wQué voz es esta, que mal / pronunciada y poco oída, / no se deja conocer?", 1858-60), and Isabel finally discovers that it belongs to her father. As Isabel describes her situation to Pedro, Calderón again highlights the act of narrating the story: she doesn't dare untie her father until he hears her tale ("a contarte mis desdichas, / a referirte mis penas", "quiero, antes que las veas, / referirte a mis fatigas", "Hay muchas cosas que [quiero que] sepas, / y es forzoso que al decirlas, / tu valor se irrite, y quieras / vengarlas antes de oírlas", "antes que me des la muerte, / te he contado mis desdichas", 1884-85, 1888-89, 1894-97, 2053-54). These linguistically self-conscious markers both frame and focus attention on Isabel's inset narrative, which is inherently metatheatrical. Moreover, when she tells her tale, Isabel describes the impact of her lost honor in terms of language, most specifically, the relationship between words and deeds:

          ¡Qu‚ ruegos, qu‚ sentimiento,
          ya de humilde, ya de altiva,
          no le dije! Pero en vano;
          pues ¡calle aqu¡ la voz m¡a!,
          soberbio ¡enmudezca el llanto!,
          atrevido, ¡el pecho gima!,
          descort‚s, ¡lloren los ojos!,
          fiero, ¡ensordezca la envidia!,
          tirano, ¡falte el aliento!,
          osado, ¡luto me vista!...,
          y si lo que la voz yerra,    
          tal vez el acción explica.
          De vergüenza cubro el rostro,
          de empacho lloro ofendida,
          de rabia tuerzo las manos, 
          el pecho rompo de ira.
          Entiende tú las acciones;   
          pues no hay voces que lo digan. (1968-85, my emphasis)

In trying to prevent her rape, Isabel found that words failed her. Now, stating that language alone cannot adequately convey all that she wants to express, she seeks to show via her actions the depths of her suffering.

Curiously, Juan the very character who earlier in the play displayed a tendency to speak rashly arrives in the middle of Isabel's speech, hears enough to determine what happened to his sister, and without saying a word takes out his dagger, presumably to kill her. Juan's action typifies the conventional Comedia notion of secret revenge for a secret grievance, the idea that a dishonored sister must be killed before her loss of virtue is made public. Yet Calderón has much more to say on the topic. Later in the act, we will see that Pedro Crespo encourages his daughter to make the assault public knowledge by signing a legal document of accusation, although she protests:

          ¡Tú, que quisiste ocultar
          nuestra ofensa, eres ahora
          quien más trata publicarla?
          Pues no consigues vengarla,
          consigue el callarla ahora.  (2489-93)

Calderón follows this exchange on secrecy, on choosing not to speak, with other examples, such as when the Escribano tells Pedro Crespo that Don Álvaro has been brought back to town secretly in order to treat his injuries: "Él no dice quién le hirió; / pero si esto se averigua, / será una gran causa" (2112-14). Yet Pedro Crespo's decision to bring the case before the highest authority in the land, the king and his corresponding decision to provide legal documentation of the events, thus accentuating the primacy of legal language and the printed word over "mere" spoken discourse(12) is central to his conception of honor and his own personal right to enforce the laws of the town under his jurisdiction. Before he acts to execute Don Álvaro, however, Pedro Crespo speaks with him in private, exhorting the captain to resolve the issue by marrying Isabel. Not surprisingly, the exchange is filled with metadiscursive elements as Pedro attempts to speak to the captain not as the representative of legal authority, but simply as a man, a father:

          . . . para obligaros a oírme,
          la vara a esta parte dejo,
          y como un hombre no más
          deciros mis penas quiero.  
                    Arrima la vara.
          Y puesto que estamos solos,
          se¤or don Álvaro, hablemos 
          más claramente los dos,
          sin que tantos sentimientos
          como tienen encerrados 
          en las cárceles del pecho,
          acierten a quebrantar
          las prisiones del silencio. (2194-2205)

Although Don Álvaro answers Crespo with derision, the new mayor seems astonished that his words have meant nothing: "¿Que en fin no os mueve mi llanto?", to which the captain replies, "Llantos no se han de creer / de viejo, niño y mujer." (2318-20). Pedro Crespo tries one more time to persuade Don Álvaro:

          Pedro Crespo   ¨No hay remedio?
          Don Álvaro             El de callar
                    es el mejor para vos. 
          Pedro Crespo   ¿No otro?
          Don Álvaro             No.
          Pedro Crespo                  Pues ¡juro a Dios,
                    que me lo habéis de pagar!  (2334-37)

Crespo's oath, a promise to God that the captain will pay for his crime, is made manifest when the mayor picks up his staff of office and orders Don Álvaro arrested. Although the captain plans to plead his case before the king, Crespo counters that he will also make his own presentation to Felipe II.

As the play draws to a close, we discover that Crespo has already executed the captain, which shifts the action from two competing presentations of the facts to Crespo's justification of his actions to Don Lope and the king. When Don Lope arrives, he angrily asks Pedro to tell him what is going on ("me haced merced de contar" 2528), because he has heard that the mayor of Zalamea has taken his captain prisoner. Don Lope plans to find that presumptuous mayor and beat him to death, but the manner in which he asks for information is decidedly metadiscursive: "decidme do vive o no," "Pues a decirme vení / quién es el alcalde" (2562, 2564-65). Pedro Crespo admits that he is the mayor:

Don Lope ¡Voto a Dios, que lo sospecho! Pedro Crespo ¡Voto a Dios, como os lo he dicho! Don Lope Pues, Crespo, lo dicho dicho. Pedro Crespo Pues, señor, lo hecho hecho. (2566-69)

Indeed, in an inversion of the proverb "Del dicho al hecho hay gran trecho," justice was no sooner articulated ("os he de ahorcar, juro a Dios," 2377) than it was done, as Don Lope and the king discover when the body of Don Álvaro is revealed the means of execution may have changed, but the captain is surely just as dead. All that remains is for Pedro Crespo to justify his actions, and the medium he chooses is one he handles exceedingly well. Crespo exhibits great rhetorical skill. Although Don Lope cannot help but ask why Pedro didn't speak with him before acting ("¿No fuera mejor hablarme," 2740), the labrador provides the perfect answer to this and every other question posed. His responses are reasoned and persuasive, and he utilizes certain key discursive strategies to maximum advantage, for Pedro knows how to pose questions and then instantly furnish the answers. As Melveena McKendrick describes the situation, "Having drawn the king into admitting that the case against the captain is proven, the substance of his case is won; only the mechanics remain" (107). Nelson observes in Pedro Crespo an ability to mirror the king's words back to him in order to turn the game around to the point that the king begins to mirror him: "The peasant mayor does not subvert legal discourse so much as manipulate its rhetoric for his own ends, which become one with the ends of the monarchy" (51). Speaking self-consciously, Crespo acts self-consciously, simultaneously serving as the dramatist, director, and protagonist of a drama of his own making.

Of course, as might be expected in a play replete with metalanguage, at the key moment of his speech Pedro Crespo asks the king to respond to his question: "decid." The mayor of Zalamea has demonstrated throughout the play that he knows the power of words. Whether he is dispensing sound advice to his children, matching Don Lope word for word and oath for oath, or stating his legal case before the king, Pedro Crespo exemplifies the successful communicative act, because the linguistic chameleon is able to adapt his discourse to fit the needs of each discursive exchange: "Yo, señlor, siempre respondo / en el tono y en la letra, / que me hablan" (1129-31). In so doing, he makes language less descriptive than performative; his deeds are not separate from his words, but seem to derive from them in a kind of symbiotic union. Calderón continually points us towards this discursive paradigm by filling his play with a massive number of direct references to speech. As his characters talk about talking, he calls to his readers and spectators to listen carefully, for El alcalde de Zalamea isn't just about honor or social strife, but about the power of words, about what it means to mean. Dicho y hecho.

Works Cited

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.... "Signature Event Context." Limited Inc. Trans. Samuel Weber and Jeffrey Melman. Evanston, IL: Northwestern UP, 1988.

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Texto electrónico por Vern G. Williamsen y J T Abraham
Formateo adicional por Matthew D. Stroud

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Most recent update: 03 Aug 2005