Flower motifs decorate the paper-binding of Bd.w. DC203.4 .S7 Cage, a sammelband containing six plays printed in mid-1830s Mexico City. A handwritten index on the front flyleaf lists the book’s contents, and parchment tabs with embossed numbers sit on the first page of each play. This post comments on the volume’s Spanish adaptation of Othello and one curious printer.
The sammelband’s Otelo, printed in 1835 by Miguel Gonzalez, used Teodoro de la Calle’s 1802 translation. His Otelo is the second known Spanish translation of a Shakespeare play, the first being a 1795 publication of Hamlet in Madrid.1 By far the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays in 19th century Spain, Otelo premiered in Madrid on January 1st, 1802, and starred famous Spanish actor Isidoro Máiquez who played the titular character 19 times that year alone. In fact, the actor gave de la Calle a copy of the tragedy to translate—a French adaption by Jean-Francois Ducis. 2
The French dramatist based his Shakespeare adaptations off previous French translations, as he did not know English. Even though Ducis’ translations took creative liberties by revising plots and renaming characters, some translations of Shakespeare still relied on his adaptations. PQ1981.D6 H2 D9 1786 Cage, for example, is a Dutch translation of Ducis’ adaptation of Hamlet.3
De la Calle, too, made Othello his own. He later published an adaptation with musical accompaniment of the scene in which Othello contemplates the murder of Desdemona, renamed as Edelmira, and the events leading up to it. See the booklet below:
The title page of each play in the book, except for Otelo, indicate that they were performed at the National Mexican Theatre. The fourth play, La sonámbula, shows this on its title page, though I am more concerned with the play’s printer, Tomás Uribe y Alcalde. My investigation of him quickly developed into a case study on printing in Mexico after independence.
Tomás Uribe y Alcalde and his brother José Uribe y Alcalde helmed print shops that produced polemical texts from 1828-1836. After Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, political actors wielded print as a weapon in their struggle over power; with print they put forward proposals for the nascent Mexican Republic and challenged their political rivals.4 A consumer market did not flourish, understandably, under a Mexican Republic marked by debt, foreign invasions, and political instability. Printers, then, sought out lucrative business deals with politicians.5 He even gained the Bustamante administration’s support on three publications—El Sol, El Gladiador, and Regeneración política de la república Mexicana—which defended the unpopular government.6
Now, how do the plays in this book relate to the politics of printing post-independence Mexico? This is a question I have yet to answer, though an initial thought is that theater may have spurred debate or communicated certain political messages. Perhaps it was a marker of class and status, distinguishing elites from the common person. A further study into post-independence Mexican theater would paint an interesting picture of culture’s role in the young republic—and who it might be for. If this sparks your interest, here’s a short further reading list I’ve compiled for you to get started:
Campa, Mariano de la, Ruth Fine, Aurelio González, and Christoph Strosetzki. “Prensa Popular: Los Cuadernillos Teatrales de La Imprenta de Vanegas Arroyo,” 335–50. Spain: Iberoamericana Editorial Vervuert, 2019. https://doi.org/10.31819/9783964568588-020.
“Público teatral y formación de identidad en la Ciudad de México (1820-1850).” Sonus Litterarum, October 1, 2021. https://sonuslitterarum.mx/publico-teatral-y-formacion-de-identidad-en-la-ciudad-de-mexico-1820-1850/.
Rivera, Manuel Suarez. “La Imprenta de Luis Abadiano y Valdés: Un Acercamiento al Mundo Tipográfico Decimonónico.” https://www.academia.edu/36394917/La_imprenta_de_Luis_Abadiano_y_Vald%C3%A9s_un_acercamiento_al_mundo_tipogr%C3%A1fico_decimon%C3%B3nico.
Ybarra, Patricia. “Mexican Theater History and Its Discontents: Politics, Performance, and History in Mexico.” Modern Language Quarterly 70, no. 1 (March 1, 2009): 133–45. https://doi.org/10.1215/00267929-2008-033.
Negrón, Sergio Gutiérrez. “La impresión conservadora: los hermanos Uribe y Alcalde y el campo tipográfico del primer conservadurismo mexicano, 1828- 1836,” n.d.
Sumillera, Rocío G. “A Tribute to Shakespearean Drama in Nineteenth-Century Spain: The Case of Manuel Tamayo y Baus’s Un Drama Nuevo.” Journal of Adaptation in Film & Performance 7, no. 1 (March 2014): 97–111. https://doi.org/10.1386/jafp.7.1.97_1.
Zeltsman, C. Ink Under the Fingernails: Printing Politics in Nineteenth-Century Mexico. University of California Press, 2021. https://books.google.com/books?id=Xu0lEAAAQBAJ.
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