Anthony Lappin
Anthony Lappin.

Anthony John Lappin was born in Liverpool, studied at Oxford, taught both Spanish and Portuguese literature at the University of Manchester, and is currently Research Professor at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. His teaching and research interests stretch from the early medieval period to the modern, both in the matter of translations and editions (most recently, Fernando Pessoa and Lope de Vega, respectively), and he is currently investigating the rise of the individual through performance- and reading-cultures.


The story of Jason and Medea became a favourite tale for twentieth-century Latin American writers to express elements of the experience of colonialism. In this paper, I will show how an awareness of the potential of the myth to define and describe the colonial relationship of centre and periphery, exploiter and exploited, in the performance and reception of several key eigtheenth-century works written on the Iberian peninsula, whose popularity reflected an eagerness to re-inscribe the past combined with a willingness to undermine the official hierarchies of space and artistic decorum implicit in the imperial project. Attention will thus be focused upon the Brazilian-born crypto-Jew, Antonio José da Silva, who presented his comic rewriting of the story of Jason and Medea as a fashionable adaptation of over a century’s worth of Iberian versions of the tale. Os encantos de Medeia was first performed in Lisbon – with marionettes – in the late 1730s, but was still gracing the stages of Brazilian opera houses right at the end of the century. Empire triumphant is found in the thematics of a zarzuela – itself an auctoctonous form consciously deployed against Italianized opera – Jason, o la conquista del vellocino. Zarzuela heroica, performed by 1768; but the 1793 Pantomima trágica by the prolific dramatist, Luciano Francisco Comella, uses the tale as a counterpoint to loyalty to and self-sacrifice for the nation. Finally, the Ovidian Medeia by Barbosa de Bocage of 1799 is inspired by his visceral reaction to revolutionary horror.

The discussion will conclude with a consideration of the post-Baroque political language developed through a classical frame, which harnessed popular interest in magic and spectacle for commercial, combined with ideological, gains.