The Dog in the Manger by Dominic Dromgoole




It is a free platform where the characters (metaphor of the people) show old or wrong morals and explain with examples the life that goes beyond the feelings and the limits of the social class, although in the transgression of the norms it is the imposture evident.

The dog in the manger it is one of Lope de Vega’s most daring comedies in terms of psychological analysis of the characters. The work presents us, with all its entanglements, its amusement, its reflections and its jokes, the love story between two people from different social classes, the Countess of Belflor and her servant (her secretary, who seems something more honorable than pure servant , for that of which it is recognized a knowledge and a culture). Of course, for these things in which honor is present, there is (or was then) an impossibility of overcoming social barriers. Lope will make the barriers fall.

The dog in the manger, in the plot, becomes Diana, the beautiful and stubborn young woman who is harassed by several aristocratic suitors who wish to marry her, and whom she rejects. One night, after watching her secretary make love to her favorite escort, she falls madly in love with him and is sick with jealousy. And then, like the dog of the proverb, who neither eats nor lets eat, she does not know how to declare her love for him out of caste pride and, on the other hand, she does not want him to marry Marcela, a young woman from his servants. The character Teodoro is crucial, he oscillates between safe love and passion full of obstacles, until his servant Tristán resorts to a particularly drastic “deus ex machina”: to deceive the old Count Ludovico, who longs for his son lost on a journey; Secretary Teodoro’s cunning lackey, disguised as a Greek merchant, makes the count believe that his master is none other than his grandson, the son of Ludovico’s lost son. The old man swallows the mess, something that will come in handy for everyone to save the situation. And they are aware, we are, of the imposture. In fact, Theodore confesses to Diana the contrived deception, but the young countess, who knew the nobility of the young man and that as for the nobility of the title a fiction was enough, makes him her partner and thus comes out of her uncomfortable spiritual ambiguity.

Lope invents the imposture as a solution. The truth matters little if appearances save it, although appearances are not deceiving. That, in essence, is the lesson of comedy. But in the work, one of the most complete of the “Fénix de los ingenios”, there is much more. Neither love is everything, nor honor is the axis that moves lives; The richness of the work, in addition to delving into the portrait of the sentimental education of an era, offering very different types of relationships between equal and unequal couples, presents us with many other emotions such as envy, hatred, ambition, disappointment, pretense, the desire for social advancement or loyalty (so well represented by Tristan). Between the tension of love and honor, jealousy also appears, as it cannot be otherwise. In short, it is a ball from which many threads emerge creating a web of small interwoven stories that are like the mirror in which social life is reflected.

One can have fun, as in a comedy of laughter or of entanglement, or one can reflect from the adaptation of the attitudes and emotions of the characters before the changes of fortune (it is the pendular position of the protagonist Teodoro) and it is evident how the interest is above emotions and feelings. That the work ends with a triple wedding is almost the least of it. The pairing of Diana and Teodoro, Marcela and Fabio and Tristán with Dorotea is the typical and topical happy ending of many comedies of the genre and an outcome much to the taste of the public of the “corrales de comedias”, an audience that had to be satisfied, as Lope himself tells us in his New art of making comedies.

This theatrical project by Fundación Siglo de Oro, with the somewhat Shakespearean direction of Dominic Dromgoole, offers us a choral and festive representation of contained passions, with a scenic work rich in nuances in a highly conceptual and well thought out staging. The contextualization of the action in the fine, illustrated and elegant Naples of the 18th century is indicated by the figurines of Jonathan Fensom.

The acting work has been balanced in general, although the extraordinary role of Julius hidalgo in a Tristan, sometimes funny and other mischievous and always with a lot of interpretive skill, the excellent role, changing planes and registers, of Nicolas Illoro giving life to Teodoro in his tug of war of adaptation to different sentimental situations, the very well characterized Count Ludovico full of life by Mario Vedoya, the very expressive and maybe a little loud at times Rachel Nogueira in Marcela, the picturesque and contrasting Daniel Llull and Jesus Teyssiere in the roles of Count Federico and Marquis Ricardo, and the very balanced Maria Pastor, like Diana. Raquel Varela, Mar Calvo, Manuela Morales, with minor roles, they maintain the high level and give the appropriate and differentiating tone to the well-drawn Lopesco characters.

The management has chosen to emphasize the comic character more than the entanglement. The burlesque in-between in general and the story of the false Greek merchant in particular are hilarious. All this has meant an interesting break in the narrative linearity of the action, or rather of the dialogues, and this has allowed the audience to follow the more than two hours of the performance in a more pleasant and relaxed way. The winks are continuous, although in some cases it is excessively mannerist and complicated or excessive. The surprising beginning in which the ice is broken and the work is presented already predisposes the viewer to the game. Live music, dancing and singing, where the popular chaconne and the no less well-known Marizápalos were not lacking, illustrate and embellish the staging.

Meritorious work is that of a company that in current times is committed to staging a classic work of the Spanish national theater with a wide cast, given the difficulty and the work involved.

What this project of the Siglo de Oro Foundation has shown is that Lope continues to triumph after more than 300 years of writing his comedies.

The Toledo public, who are eager for good culture, filled the
, although the capacity was still kept at seventy percent by the Covid, he enjoyed the verse of a very classic classic and insistently applauded the good work of a show that entertains, educates and cultivates.

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