Production of Meaning: Spectacle as Visual Rhetoric in the Auto Sacramental
AuthorKing, Errol LeRoy
Ships Highwaymen Trials
AdvisorWilliamsen, Amy R.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractFew would refute the didactic nature of stained glass windows, paintings, and sculptures used in Spanish cathedrals during the Counter-Reformation. For hundreds of years the artistic renderings of biblical narratives and of Catholic dogmata had aided both the literate and illiterate alike to internalize the teachings of the Church. In contrast, the seemingly complex web of semiotic signs that form part of the aural and visual spectacle of the auto sacramental has understandably led some to question if such productions could have truly held much meaning for commoners with little formal education. However, as a theatrical genre, the auto sacramental does not deviate much from the literal meaning and allegorical symbolism of the more static art forms that adorn cathedral walls and altarpieces. The usage of ships, highwaymen, and courtroom trials represent some of the most prominent symbols utilized by playwrights to create a Counter-Reformatory drama that facilitated the audiences' ability to decode the plays' allegorical meaning. The repeated use of these semiotic signs allowed the culturally literate public in urban centers across Spain to draw upon their intertextual knowledge of such symbols to appreciate and understand these Corpus Christi performances. Modern readers less familiar with these semiotic signs and their meaning experience an additional handicap because of their inability to see the visual spectacle designed, if not as the primary didactic tool of the genre, then at least as an effective complement to the instructive dialogue that takes place between the different characters of the auto. In spite of these additional challenges that the modern reader faces, the auto sacramental offers some insight into sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain that cannot be found in the more secular genres of the time. The added effort to investigate and understand the missing links of intertextual knowledge open a window that offers a panorama of a largely unexplored landscape of early-modern, Spanish society.
Degree ProgramGraduate College