Dias Gomes, Alfredo (1922–1999)

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Dias Gomes, Alfredo (1922–1999)

Alfredo Dias Gomes (b. 19 October 1922, d. 18 May 1999), Brazilian playwright. Born in Bahia, Dias Gomes tried and mastered all forms of drama, whether on the stage, radio, or television, and his theater continually evolved. Always he was both artist and social commentator. With his play O pagador de promessas (1960), Dias Gomes gained national prominence as a playwright. The central theme of the play is the tragic uphill struggle of the strong individual for true personal freedom in a capitalist society. This theme, a recurring one in Dias Gomes's theater, is closely related to two others: the problems of communication and intolerance, particularly religious intolerance, in modern society. The willful priest, every bit as intransigent as Zé, the title character, stands as the play's principal antagonist, and although Dias Gomes describes him as the symbol of universal rather than merely religious intolerance, the priest's attitude and actions constitute a rather caustic commentary on religious dogmatism. Yet another strength of the play is the adroitness with which the dramatist parallels the "Afro-Catholic syncretism" that characterizes the religious views of Zé and several other characters with a similar syncretism in setting and symbol. O pagador, then, with a compelling plot, a carefully elaborated classical structure, and a protagonist who is perhaps the most memorable character of all Brazilian drama, deservedly ranks as one of the best plays of that country's theatrical tradition.

It is in O berço do herói (1965) that the satiric humor and the expressionistic techniques introduced in A revolução dos beatos (1962) and Odorico, o bem amado (1962) find their fruition. The work concerns itself chiefly with the problem of true individual liberty in a capitalist society, much as does O pagador. Various critics, in fact, have stated that O berço is a very pessimistic answer to the questions concerning individual freedom and liberty that are raised in O pagador. Both heroes experience one phase of Calvary—Zé the journey with the cross and Jorge the trial. The similarity between the plays is such, in fact, that they seem to comprise a dramatic experiment in which the same set of basic ingredients is poured into two distinct molds—one tragic and the other burlesque. The play, although long banned, is perhaps the best satire to be found in the contemporary Brazilian theater.

Dias Gomes's sixth major play, O santo inquérito, was first presented in Rio in September 1966. Based on the life of Branca Dias, it is the only one of his works whose setting is in the rather distant past: the year 1750, in the state of Paraíba. The major concerns or themes, just as in O pagador, are individual freedom within a tightly structured societal boundary (i.e., the church), existential communication, and religious fanaticism. The Inquisition is employed primarily as a metaphor to describe military and political repression in Brazil in the 1960s. Following O santo inquérito and representing yet another experiment in structure and technique is Dr. Getúlio, sua vida e sua glória, a piece in two acts in which verse and prose are mixed. It dramatizes the period of ultimate crisis in the life of the president-dictator Getúlio Vargas—the crisis that precipitated his suicide in 1954.

In Os campeões do mundo, Dias Gomes tells the story of two lovers who are involved in terrorism during the World Soccer Cup in Rio in the 1970s. It is a story of political oppression and torture whose outcome is known to the public; the dialectic of how and why things happened takes precedence over plot. With little of the usual interest in the denouement, spectators can be more objective and better able to exercise critical judgment, which was the goal of the author.

See alsoLiterature: Brazil; Theater.


Leon F. Lyday and George Woodyard, Dramatists in Revolt: The New Latin American Theater (1976), pp. 221-242.

Additional Bibliography

Albuquerque, Severino João Medeiros. "Alfredo Dias Gomes (1922–1999)." Latin American Theatre Review 33:1 (Fall 1999): 169.

                              Richard A. Mazzara