, Volume 94, Issue 2, pp 251-263
Date: 04 Nov 2009

Torres Naharro’s Rhetorical Skirmish in Comedia Himenea

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Bartolomé de Torres Naharro’s (1485–1530) most well known comedy to the modern reader is his Himenea (1516?). There are outstanding similarities between this work and works that would be written by the later dramaturges, especially Lope de Vega. In Torres Naharro’s plays, a wide range of characters appear, each generally speaking in a register appropriate to his or her station. Another notable use of language is Torres Naharro’s deployment of formal rhetoric in the work. I demonstrate that throughout the play, characters often use the precepts expounded in classical rhetoric in an attempt to persuade or convince other characters of their guilt or innocence (the judicial genre) or to convince others to follow a course of action (the deliberative genre). I conclude that far from being a casual or accidental characteristic of the work, these highly stylized rhetorical passages, the context in which they are delivered and the effect that they have lead the spectator to consider the very nature of rhetoric. Torres Naharro consciously exposes the seamy underside of rhetoric and exposes its weaknesses—the inherent corruptibility of the art by the unscrupulous, and rhetoric’s ultimate failure even when expertly deployed.