Out of the Wings

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Los cabellos de Absalón (c.1634), Pedro Calderón de la Barca


This is a three-act comedia.


The staging needs for this play are very much like those for the second and third act of Tirso’s La venganza de Tamar; a discovery space (an area at the back of the stage with a curtain that can be drawn across to reveal and conceal) is used to reveal the melancholy Amnon at the start of the play. From their scene together in which she play-acted the part of his lover, Tamar knows that her brother has unnatural feelings for her; she thus only reluctantly brings Amnon a meal on a tray. Unable to defend herself although she does draw a sword on him, Tamar is raped offstage. Amnon orders musicians to sing outside the door to mask the sound of her protests. The scene continues in the royal palace. Absalom discovers his father’s crown and tries it on.

Out in the country, Tamar appears veiled and the shepherds sing about various kinds of plants and trees; Teuca gives Tamar and her brothers each a flower or plant that is symbolic for them. Amnon’s murdered body is revealed at the end and Tamar and Absalom gloat as their father mourns.

A discovery space at the back of the stage would have been used to conceal the rape of Tamar, and the curtain would have been drawn away to reveal Amnon’s dead body laid out on the banquet table in a bloody tableau.

In the third act of Calderòn’s play, David reads petitions from his soldiers and the Ethiopian prophetess, Teuca, dresses in mourning clothes to address the King. Tamar reads a letter from Absalom. The scene with the King’s crown is repeated with Solomon. A battle and fighting are heard offstage.  The most important staging requirement is for Absalom’s long hair to become entangled in tree branches so that Joab can hurl spears at him and kill him. Absalom is described as riding horseback when his hair becomes tangled in the branches above him. The horse tries to flee the scene but this movement only entangles Absalom more in the tree branches.

Cast number
Minimum Maximum
10 males 15 males
2 females 4 females
12 (total) 19 (total)
Cast information
Plus additional shepherds or musicians. Teuca is referred to as black, coming from Ethiopia.
  • DAVID, King
  • JOAB
  • TEUCA, Ethiopian prophetess

Entry written by Kathleen Jeffs. Last updated on 25 February 2011.

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