Auto, Auto Sacramental

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Auto, Auto Sacramental

Auto Sacramental, a theatrical genre originating from a dramatic form developed especially in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the miracle (France) or auto (Iberian Peninsula) presented episodes involving a miracle, usually the intervention of the Virgin Mary in favor of a poor sinner, commonly of the lower classes, guilty of some unpardonable crime before the law, human or divine. The theater of the early Renaissance in Spain (Juan del Encina) and Portugal (Gil Vicente) is essentially a stylized form of that of the Middle Ages, combining the religious and the profane with more realistic characterizations and dialogue. Whereas Encina's autos were no longer liturgical or ecclesiastical, Vicente continued the medieval tradition and introduced the allegory. In this genre he was a precursor of Calderón de La Barca, whose autos sacramentales epitomize the form in content and technique.

All variations were utilized in the New World by the Jesuit missionaries from Spain and Portugal. In their efforts to convert and colonize Indians in their missions, the priests not only followed Iberian models, but also incorporated much that they observed in native settings and culture, including language, in order to present the teachings of the church to their catechumens. These traditions have evolved to the present day, with Ariano Vilar Suassuna as perhaps the chief proponent in Brazil in his Auto da compadecida and other works.

See alsoJesuits .


Sábato Magaldi, Panorama do teatro brasileiro (1962).

Additional Bibliography

Arellano, Ignacio and J. Enrique Duarte. El auto sacramental. Madrid: Ediciones del Laberinto, 2003.

Díaz Balsera, Viviana. Calderón y las quimeras de la culpa: Alegoría, seducción y resistencia en cinco autos sacramentales. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1997.

Kurtz, Barbara Ellen. The Play of Allegory in the Autos Sacramentales of Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1991.

Rull Fernández, Enrique. Arte y sentido en el universo sacramental de Caderón. Pamplona: Edition Reichen-berger, 2004.

                                  Richard A. Mazzara