The pastoral is the most complete and developed popular dramatic expression of Basque literature. It constitutes, together with bersolarismo, the basis of the folkloric literature produced in the Country and presents historical and geographical conditioning factors that make it evolve from the European popular theatrical tradition of the Mysteries of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, to the current representations in which historical and biographical themes predominate. We must also understand this particular genre in the context of the Suletino folk theater and in its purely traditional dimension. Indeed, it is not possible to equate, in this case, the representations corresponding to the manuscripts of the 18th and 19th centuries with those of the authors of the second half of the 20th century. The surprising survival and maintenance of this theater has been possible at the cost of the changes produced by its evolution.
In this respect, we can take into account what happened with the other three genres of the Suletine dramatic folklore: the charivaric farces (astolasterrak) have not been performed since the beginning of the century, the comic carnival pastorals (Ihauteetako trajikomeriak) were very short-lived (they were performed, as far as we know, about six times from the end of the 18th to the middle of the 19th century) and the Mascarada (para-theatrical carnival performance) continues to be celebrated, although in a quite different form to that described by Georges Hérelle, the French scholar and researcher to whom we owe almost everything we know about the traditional theatre of Zuberoa. It is clear, then, that there have been changes. The historical development of the peasant community of Zuberoa and, above all, the changes it has undergone, from the post-Renaissance popular peasant civilisation through the Counter-Reformation and the Revolution to the establishment of French nationalism and the demographic and sociological changes of the present century, have fundamentally influenced and conditioned the development and production of folk theatre.
We should not be surprised, therefore, that opposing voices have arisen, either trying to disqualify the latest representations in the sense that they bear no thematic relation to the traditional pastorals, or proposing more profound changes identified with the current reality of the country against more or less conservative attitudes. In view of this, we believe that it is necessary to highlight the capacity of the Suletine community to adapt ancestral forms of popular dramatic representation in such different historical and thematic contexts. Starting from the dramatic code of the traditional pastoral, which we will try to describe as faithfully as possible, we will mark, at the end of the article, the most important evolutionary guidelines that generate as a result the spectacle that we can witness today.
We will define the traditional pastoral as a performance carried out by a group from any village in the region and, in earlier times even in Lower Navarre, with a tragic theme, in the sense of being serious or opposed to other comic genres, not provided with the Aristotelian interpretation consisting of provoking reactions of horror or fright in the spectators, but closer to the Brechtian conception of distancing. The main function that emerges from the available texts is to indoctrinate the audience according to the moral canons of the Counter-Reformation, as well as to amuse them with choreographic elements that constitute the more or less permanent basis of the spectacle. The dramatic text thus becomes just another element which, although essential, does not have the importance conventionally given to it. This is based on the exemplary biography of a historical, biblical or legendary character or "sujet", presented on a bipolarised stage, where in the end the victory of good (Christian characters dressed in blue and characters from the divine world) over evil (Turks or infidels dressed in red and Satan if there are any) is always confirmed.
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