The long-awaited edition of the preserved theater of Cairasco

Let us remember that the main figure, Bartolomé Cairasco de Figueroa (1538-1610), was canon of the Cathedral Chapter of Las Palmas from a very young age and a key figure in Canarian and Hispanic literature of these years. Part of a family well positioned in the island society of the five hundred, of Italianized origin, he will study in peninsular lands, from where he will return to become a central character of the island society of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries; moments in which it will carry out its main literary productions, among which it is necessary to highlight the plays, the first gestated with the author’s name –as far as we know– within the literary history of the Archipelago.

Precisely the delayed and definitive diffusion since last year, twice, of the reception of Bishop Vela – its publication had been announced some time ago, although it never materialized – encouraged and inflamed much more the demand and the desire to undertake a long-awaited edition the complete theater of Gran Canaria (understand the theater preserved and assembled today); because although the significant Comedy of the reception offered to Bishop Rueda has been reissued on several occasions, we lacked a volume in conditions, and accessible to all, of the other Cairasquian dramatic creations (the distant volume prepared by Alejandro Cioranescu, of the then works unpublished –which was a very important leap in the diffusion of Cairasco–, dates from 1957). The corpus made up of the five conserved works is the one that shapes this book, which, once again, extends Ediciones Tamaimos as a firm commitment to bring to light the literature of this inescapable and so peculiar silhouette of Canarian art and history, of which incomprehensibly, not a few texts remain hidden; and not only –by the way– for ordinary mortals. This edition (with two versions: one printed and one digitally annotated), for this and other reasons that we will say below, marks a before and after in the knowledge of the literature of Bartolomé Cairasco de Figueroa, and specifically of his theater. .

We also state, in the aforementioned announcement text, that the researcher Antonio Henríquez Jiménez has been for more than ten years in the persevering effort to complete, to the extent of his unrepentant possibilities, the radiography of the island writer and musician. From this work, of which I have been and continue to be a privileged witness, little by little – despite the breakdowns and compliments of history towards the Gran Canaria – are emerging some fruits of so many years of work so that we can warn with greater precision, and by countless aspects, who was and what wrote the canon. It is an obvious example of what we say in the scarcely disseminated Novelerías on Bartolomé Cairasco de Figueroa (2019), but it is still more palpable in the unpublished annotated editions of practically all of his creations (Templo militante, Vita Christi, Esdrujúleas …) , which Henríquez Jiménez has been preparing for a long time and which once again we want to confirm as a testimony of a work that, whatever happens in the future, will be known – we hope sooner rather than later – through the appropriate channels.

Antonio Henríquez Jiménez, coordinator of the edition, has spent more than ten years in the effort to x-ray the writer


The remarkable effort of the researcher to delve into Cairasco, as well as the essential fixation of texts from the guarded documentation that has been accessed, where the internet tool has been essential (meticulous contrasts of the different versions of the works; endless search for sources that lead to a comparative analysis of texts, with links and bridges to previous influential authors and to later influenced authors), lead us to underline –we said– the indubitable need for the volume that we present. As can be seen in the digital version of this edition, also accessible to those who purchase the printed copy (as explained on the credits page), the succession of verses of each of the five stories has been carefully elaborated by from the preserved manuscripts, described loosely in each note. In addition, all previous editions have been taken into account (that of Cioranescu and that of Labrador-DiFranco especially; but also others, including the one appointed by the Ramos Arteaga team to improve and correct some issues), discussing and contrasting with them to arrive at the proper choice of each line, each word, each syllable, each letter or each punctuation mark.

But the relevance is not only there. Although it is impossible to affirm that something is definitive in the field of historical research and the fixation of texts from manuscripts, what does seem clear is that the arduous task carried out by Henríquez Jiménez illuminates many nebulous corners to a high degree. so far, and especially it helps us to get very significantly closer to the ideal photocopy of Cairasco’s scenic texts. This may be possible, among several notorious factors, because the researcher was persuaded a long time ago by all the Cairasquian letters, which he currently handles with familiarity, starting with the central militant Temple, and knows like very few the tremendous arsenal of culture, literature , art, philosophy, theology … that makes up the canary’s scriptural galaxy. All this leads him, let’s say, to dare to reconstruct a non-existent verse in the manuscript of the Comedy of the soul; all this brings him closer to being able to specify, approximately, the dates of creation and representation of the comedy referred to or the Tragedy of Santa Susana. His endless immersions in the complete work of our poet illustrate him to specify bad readings or misty passages of the documents, but they also prepare him to contribute new questions about the esdrújulos or the general theatricality of all Cairasco. To which must be added, as another outstanding aspect, his fluency in knowledge of the classical languages, so important in this context, and an eloquent example of this is his microscopic and unexpected reading of the term huergo, and not huerco, in the Tragedy of Santa Susana.

Thus, the unlimited work by the researcher of the sources of Cairasco de Figueroa becomes key, specifically in his dramaturgy, in the same way as the primordial contrast (either for the precision of terms or to better understand some scenes) with multiplicity of texts written and read in the time of Gran Canaria. A clear model of what is expressed is the patenting of Alonso de Villegas and his new Flos sanctorum in the Tragedy of Santa Caterina, which even drifts precision mobile for possible composition dates. In this channel, the countless and surprising traces of Antonio Henríquez add to a few more successful strokes: no one had noticed, as far as I know, that Néstor Álamo published in an endless footnote, in his Thenesoya Vidina and more traditions, following the edition of Cioranescu, the Comedy of the reception to Rueda; Nobody had told us about the more than curious biographical closeness of Bishop Fernando de Rueda himself and Saint Juan de la Cruz; nor of the relationships he had, likewise, with the fundamental Renaissance humanist Benito Arias Montano and the vicissitudes of his Royal Bible, so important for understanding the context of Bartolomé Cairasco’s literature; In short, nobody had dared to suggest that our playwright’s occurrence of making Doramas appear on stage could be influenced by the extremely interesting play Las Cortes de la Muerte, by Micael de Carvajal and Luis Hurtado de Toledo.

A central figure in the island society, he will carry out his literary productions at the end of the 16th and 17th centuries.


These and many other branches give to understand, broadly speaking, the weight that we said that here, in this set of works, is weighed. What remains for us from now on is to read the Cairasco de Figueroa theater: both those who do it for the first time and those who do it for the second or third time, be they laymen or specialists, will discover different nuances from this new edition, many suggestions and so many ideas generated from the poet’s singular verb. This is not the time to detail the performances of Tasso’s translator’s theater (after his death, and so far as we know, only the receptions for Vela and Rueda have been staged); nor the different interpretations of content that have been made of these plays; but it does confirm that there are still many other interpretations to think about, especially if we do not lose sight of the fact that the deepening of the understanding of any style comes from a robust knowledge of the entirety of an author’s work. That is why we reiterate our great desire that the enormous effort and firm step taken to make this volume of Bartolomé Cairasco’s theater a reality will help to continue to specify in other volumes the possibility of having within our reach, for the first time in history, the complete work of a special intellectual in the Hispanic world of the 16th and 17th centuries, the founding poet of Canarian literature, after more than 400 years have passed since his death.


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