Friday, June 20, 2008

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

The chief villain in The Dog in the Manger is probably social prejudice. The secondary villains are a pair of bumbling counts who court Diana and plot against Teodoro. Artistic Director James Palmer has given me an interesting assignment. I’m to research the feasibility of making the counts members of the Spanish Inquisition.

I was intrigued. Lope de Vega frequently introduced local politics into his tragedies and honor plays. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand appeared themselves as a deux ex machine to rescue the wronged peasants in Fuente Ovejuna and Peribanez. However as I read about the gruesome instruments of torture and the ugly politics behind the movement I wondered if the Inquisition would be too much for the comedy to bear. It seemed that if the Inquisition accused Teodoro of heresy he wouldn’t survive till Act III. It didn’t take long to convince me the Inquisition could be funny. Mel Brooks had them perform a musical number and Monty Python simply made them ninnies. I was further encouraged to read that the people of Naples, where Dog in a Manger is set, did not take the inquisition seriously.

According to The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision by Henry Kamen (1998) the “Italians felt that Spanish hypocrisy in religion, together with the existence of the Inquisition, proved that the tribunal was created not for religious purity, but simply to rob the Jews…. Moreover, the racialism of the Spanish authorities was scorned in Italy, where the Jewish community led a comparatively tranquil existence. As the Spanish ambassador at Rome reported in 1652: ‘In Spain it is held in great horror to be descended from a heretic or a Jew, but here they laugh at these matters, and at us, because we concern ourselves with them.’” (p.309).

This opens up some possibilities! Teodoro’s parentage is already at question in the play and if his rivals were members of the Inquisition they could certainly try to spread scandal against him without necessarily leading to execution by the Italian authorities. I’ll be interested to see where this path could lead us.

Paul G. Miller
Season Dramaturge

For more information on our production of The Dog in the Manger please visit


Anonymous said...

why not turned them into bullfighters? That would be even funnier. By the way, the Catholic kings (monarchs rather, since one of them was a queen) do not appear at the end of Peribanez.

Red Tape Theatre said...

Our first comment! Thank you for the correction. While a King and Queen do appear at the end of Peribanez they are not the aforementioned monarchs.