José de Alencar’s O Jesuíta and the Making of the Nation 
Assistant Professor of Portuguese & Spanish
Department of Spanish and Portuguese
The University of New Mexico
When, in 1822, Brazil achieved its political independence from Portugal, the country’s intelligentsia set out to define what it meant to be Brazilian. Just as the Spanish-speaking nations of the continent, Brazil had to grapple with a violent colonial legacy that had nevertheless left a strong imprint on the nation’s cultural discourse. This colonial heritage made the question of national origins at the same time pertinent and problematic. In both the Spanish American and in the Brazilian contexts, the recently emancipated states defined themselves as autonomous political and socio-cultural entities to a large degree against the culture and society of their former colonial metropolis while also acknowledging their European cultural and ethnic legacy. Consequently, in Brazil, much of the literature of the post-independence period reflects a struggle to differentiate the country’s culture from European, especially Lusitanian traditions (Bosi 177) and, at the same time also recognizing its importance in the formation of the Brazilian nation. In the context of identity-articulation, literature became a privileged site of debate and of enunciation of national identity (Bellei 14).
In Brazil, Romantic writers played an important role in the process of national identity-articulation (Cândido 11-12). Brazilian Romanticism started officially in 1836 with the publication of Antônio Gonçalves de Magalhães’s book of poems, Suspiros poéticos e saudades. However it is in the lyrics of Antônio Gonçalves Dias and in the prose of José de Alencar that the nationalistic vein of Brazilian Romanticism comes to a full fruition. Principally Alencar bequeathed the Brazilian public with a large number of fictional works in which he directly and indirectly affirms his patriotic sentiments.
For Alencar, literature should express the national soul. He thus proclaims his belief in literature’s function in nation building in his novel Sonhos de ouro (1872), stating that “A literatura nacional que outra coisa é senão a alma da pátria, que transmigrou para este solo virgem com uma raça ilustre, aqui impregnou-se da seiva Americana desta terra que lhe serviu de regaço; e cada dia se enriquece ao contacto de outros povos e ao influxo da civilização?” Alencar resolved the conflict between the colonial and the colonized legacies of Brazil by perceiving the country’s national identity in terms of conciliation instead of struggle and repudiation. Hence, rather than rebutting Portuguese traditions, Alencar formulated his vision of Brazilian national identity as a fusion of European and native (i.e. indigenous) elements . In this framework, he composed many fictional works in which he delineates a foundational mythology for Brazil, one through which his readers could develop their nationalistic sentiments. Joana Courteau maintains that “José de Alencar dedicou-se conscientemente a constuir o mito da fundação da nação brasileira com o fim de consolidar a noção de nacionalidade de tal modo que impedisse qualquer possibilidade da retoma da posse do Brasil pela família real portuguesa” (155). Nationalism hence consolidates political independence.
A prolific writer, José de Alencar is widely known for his multi-faceted novelistic production. But beyond prose, Alencar wrote for the theater as well. However, unlike the often romantic and idealizing tendency of several of his novels, many of Alencar’s plays such as O demônio familiar (1857), Mãe (1860) and As asas de um anjo (1858) are imbued with a strong socio-critical message. Therefore, O demônio familiar and Mãe deal with the issue of slavery and racial prejudice in Brazilian society. As asas de um anjo treats the question of social values and morality through the story of Carolina, a high-class prostitute who finds redemption in familial love and chastity. The themes as well as the plot-structure and character development posit the majority of Alencar’s theatrical works within a realist aesthetic. One notable exception in Alencar’s dramatic oeuvre is O Jesuíta, written in 1861 but performed for the first time in 1875. This play does not follow the realist mold of many of his other dramatic compositions but rather is Romantic in its conception.
José de Alencar composed O Jesuíta at the request of renowned Brazilian actor and producer João Caetano, who approached the author asking him to create a play with a Brazilian theme in order to be performed during the celebrations of the country’s thirty-ninth anniversary of independence, on the seventh of September of 1861 . Alencar affirms that his intention, when writing O Jesuíta was to commemorate the “grande festa patriótica do Brasil” (1013). Accordingly, the play should reflect the noble sentiments that the nation was capable of inspiring in its citizens. However, Caetano was not satisfied with O Jesuíta and declined to perform it. The play was put aside and languished until its debut in 1875.
Despite the popularity of several others of Alencar’s plays, O Jesuíta was not very successful among the theater-going public of Rio de Janeiro . According to Lothar Hessel and Georges Raeders, “à estréia de O Jesuíta, a 18 de setembro, compareceram apenas umas oitenta pessoas. Na sessão seguinte, menos ainda; e na terceira, quase ninguém. Um rotundo fracasso” (4). The nonsuccess of the play was a bitter disappointment to Alencar’s artistic vanity and came quite unexpectedly.
Alencar reacted to the failure of O Jesuíta in a series of essays in which he expressed both his disenchantment and his anger at the lack of public support for a drama dealing with a national theme. In one of these articles, the writer from Ceará chastises his audience for not appreciating Brazilian culture and being instead enslaved to the cultural fads from Europe. Thematically, the essays parallel the play, since they appeal to the nationalism of its audience and rail against the evils of colonial domination - be it political or cultural. Nonetheless, whereas in the drama the final act foreshadows the possibility of political emancipation, the articles paint a bleaker picture and the cultural elites of Brazil are deemed hopelessly alienated from their socio-historic realities. Alencar complains that “os brasileiros da côrte não se comovem com essas futilidades patrióticas; são positivos e sobretudo cosmopolitas, gostam do estrangeiro; do francês, do italiano, do espanhol, do árabe, de tudo, menos do que é nacional” (1010). For Alencar, the fervent nationalist, the poor reception of his play was akin to a rejection of Brazilian culture. In his opinion, his patriotic play was lost on an audience that continued to posses a colonized mentality.
O Jesuíta is a drama in four acts that takes place in colonial Brazil, more precisely in Rio de Janeiro in 1759, the year in which Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the Marquis de Pombal decreed the expulsion of the Jesuits from Portuguese territories. In Brazil, this law affected more then five hundred Jesuits. The plot of O Jesuíta revolves around the figure of Dr. Samuel, the protagonist, and his machinations to emancipate Brazil from Portuguese colonial rule. Samuel is, in appearance at least, a generous Italian doctor whose “ciência é tão profunda, quanto sua bôlsa é rasa; ao passo que uma serve ao rico, a outra pertence aos pobres” (479). In the fourth act however, it is revealed that the main character is none other than the Vicar-General of the Jesuit order in Brazil. Samuel disguises himself in order to secretively and thus more effectively carry out his plan to create in Brazil a utopian society, free from colonial rule and its intolerant culture but nevertheless subordinated to a Jesuit ideology.
With O Jesuíta, Alencar wanted to craft a story that would adequately represent the “national drama,” this is, the formation of a liberated national consciousness, opposed to any type of extraneous domination. But, in the absence of a historical event that could provide a satisfactory plot-model, Alencar decided to “criá-lo de imaginação, filiando-o à história e à tradição, mas de modo que não as deturpasse” (1015). As observed by Décio de Almeida Prado, the historical “point of departure” for O Jesuita is the Company of Jesus’ missions in southern Brazil. And indeed, Samuel’s dream for a freed Brazil resembles the Jesuit “republic” on the Uruguay River. Alencar reinforces the play’s historical affiliation through the characters of the Conde de Bobadela, governor of Rio de Janeiro and a young José Basílio da Gama. The Count’s figure is based on the historical Gomes Freire de Andrade, who in 1752 commanded the expedition against the insurgent Colônia de Sete Povos das Missões. As a reward for his successful campaign, Gomes Freire de Andrade received the title of Count of Bobadela. The poet and former Jesuit Basílio da Gama later wrote the epic poem O Uruguai (1769) about Gomes Freire de Andrade’s campaign.
The historical attachment of the play is further emphasized by Pombal’s expulsion order that threatens to thwart Samuel’s emancipatory designs. In this frame of reference, colonial authority, represented by the menacing shadow of Pombal and, more concretely through the figure of the Count of Bobadela, the uncompromising enforcer of colonial rule, is cast as a doubly tyrannical power, subjugating its overseas dominions not only politically and economically but also threatening religious freedom within its colonies. The despotic control of the European metropolis is therefore portrayed not only as stifling but also as intolerant, since it does not allow for any type of dissension or power sharing. The dictatorial, narrow-minded nature of the regime justifies colonial liberation, for as the protagonist makes it clear, Brazil’s destiny surpasses the strictures of colonial control.
In contrast to the oppressive colonial rule, Samuel’s vision for the future Brazilian nation assumes utopian colors. He imagines the country as a safe haven for the persecuted peoples of the Old and the New Worlds, a land of “liberdade e tolerância, onde tôda religião poderia erguer o seu templo, onde nenhum homen seria estrangeiro” (535). This description of Brazil as a realm of religious and ethnic forbearance asserts a moral dichotomy between colonial metropolis and colony. In casting Brazil as a promised land of tolerance and freedom, Samuel reverses the hierarchical logic in which the colonized country is seen as culturally inferior when compared to the colonial metropolis. Through Samuel’s dream, Alencar proposes a model for a post-colonial identity that not only seeks to question the colonizer’s culture but also to articulate an empowered sentiment of national identity. In this sense, O Jesuíta is prototypical of what Renata W. Mautner Wasserman calls the “literature of nationality.”
For Wasserman, Latin America’s “literature of nationality” “faces the task of asserting a national self against an externally imposed definition as other, it posits an independent history that obeys local, not alien standards in the valuation of events, and provides a written record that defines and validates its own culture” (9). The “literature of nationality” has thus a dual function: to define and to sanction the autonomy of a nation’s culture. In O Jesuíta, Alencar asserts Brazil’s cultural emancipation by linking it to a (albeit invented) history of anti-colonial resistance. But Alencar also sanctions the country’s cultural richness by associating it with its natural grandiosity.
In this respect, Alencar’s play repeats the ufanista impulse that reoccurs in Brazilian letters since Pêro Vaz de Caminha’s Carta de Achamento. Similar to the Portuguese scribe and other ufanista writers such as Sebastião da Rocha Pita, Alencar’s Samuel proceeds to characterize his native country through a glorified description of its natural richness and beauty. And, according to the Romantic ideology expressed in O Jesuíta, nature engenders culture . In the tenth scene of the third act, the protagonist declares that it is the Brazilian nature itself that inspires thoughts of freedom. In a dialogue with his adoptive son, Estevão de Mendonça, Samuel exclaims that “Não sei que perfume de liberdade respiram as flôres dêstes campos; que voz solene tem o eco destas florestas; que sentimento de independência excita a grandeza dêste continente e a amplidão do oceano que o cinge!” (534). Estevão replies in an equally exalted tone, “Oh! Eu também sentia a mesma coisa, quando contemplava esta natureza esplêndida!” (534). The dialogue indicates that Samuel’s utopian project is but an inevitable product of the greatness of the environment in which it is conceived. Nature is a fundamental aspect in the formation of national identity.
This association between nature and nationalistic sentiment is common in Brazilian Romanticism. It is in part through the particularities of Brazil’s geography, of its fauna and flora that Romantic writers establish a differentiation between their native country and the colonial metropolis (Ribeiro 393). Paradigmatic is Antônio Gonçalves Dias’ sonnet “Canção do exílio.” In the famous poem, instead of the colony being defined by lack, it is the colonial center that is geographically (and hence also culturally) poorer. The poetic voice in “Canção do exílio” announces that “Nosso céu tem mais estrelas,/Nossas várzeas têm mais flores,/Nossos bosques têm mais vida/Nossa vida mais amores.” The enumeration of Brazil’s natural advantages culminates in the declaration of the country’s spiritual pre-eminence (“Nossa vida [tem] mais amores”). The latter is the result of the former. Gonçalves Dias praise of the Brazilian landscape becomes a manner of overcoming the perceived cultural gap that separated the new nation-state from its former colonial metropolis.
Likewise, in O Jesuíta Alencar emphasizes the hierarchical distinction between Old and New Worlds privileging the latter. The playwright clearly highlights Brazil’s cultural superiority at the end of the first act, when the Doctor pronounces a patriotic monologue in which he points towards the dichotomy between the dilapidated powers of a despotic and monarchic Europe and the democratic destiny of a liberated Brazil.
Samuel calls attention towards what he perceives to be the natural deficiency of the Old World, indicating the relationship of dependency between a decadent Europe and a generous, vital Brazil. The main character exclaims “Brasil! … Minha pátria!... Quanto tempo ainda serás uma colônia entregue à cobiça de aventureiros, e destinada a alimentar com as tuas riquezas o fausto e o luxo de tronos vacilantes?...” (493). Not only does the New World “feed” the material voracity of a deteriorating colonial Europe but; furthermore, Samuel’s utopian national project also implies that the Americas will ultimately provide the Old World with ideological nourishment. The model whereby the colony has a dependent and derivative culture is therefore inverted.
Nonetheless, despite his lofty ideals, critics (Bier Appel 1986, Aguilar 1984) have noted that the figure of Samuel is morally ambivalent. At one level, the main character possesses a visionary quality that endows him with a heroic, quasi supra-human stature. Samuels’s prophetic abilities are highlighted in the final scene of the play in which he disappears, eluding the Portuguese authorities. In a typically Romantic scene, permeated by mystery and intrigue, Samuel vanishes through a false door in an altar but cautions his nemesis, the Count of Bobadela that, in a century, “A tua sombra se erguerá do túmulo para admirar êste império que a Providência reserva a altos destinos” (536). Samuel’s warning foretells the anti-colonial and nationalistic aspirations that flared up in the late eighteenth-century in movements such as the Inconfidência Mineira, (1788-1789) and the Conjuração Baiana (1798-1799) and which would culminate in the country’s sovereignty in 1822. Through the Jesuit’s words, Alencar reminds his audience of the tradition of liberation struggles in Brazilian history. In this context, political emancipation is portrayed as the result of the gradual but inexorable development of a national consciousness. In O Jesuíta, the writer from Ceará imagines a genealogy of freedom struggles that lead to the inevitable emancipation of Brazil from Portuguese colonialism. Thus, through Samuel, Alencar suggests that the longing for freedom is ingrained in the national psyche. Nonetheless, despite his noble aspirations, Samuel’s idealism is marred by a fanatic resolve that renders him a less sympathetic character.
In his idealism as well as fanaticism, the protagonist of O Jesuíta is perhaps emblematic of the part of that the Company of Jesus played in the colonization of Brazil. The Jesuits arrived in Brazil in 1549 with its first governor, Tomé de Souza. Even though they fulfilled an important role in the establishment and propagation of European culture in the New World, the Jesuits, in their zeal to convert the indigenous subjects, also had several confrontations with other European settlers, including members of the colonial authority in Brazil. At the same time, the Jesuits were not exempt of the accusation of exploiting the Indians that lived under their “protection” in the missionary reductions.
Moreover, it was suspected that the Jesuits had the intention of creating in the Americas a “grande império temporal no interior do continente Americano, que lhes possibilitasse a realização do movimento de expansão religiosa e da reconstituição da cristandade” (Nadai and Neves 74). During colonial times and after independence, such theories created, in the popular imagination, the perception of the Jesuits as duplicitous, Machiavellian figures. It was precisely the suspicion that the members of the Company of Jesus planned to establish an independent state within Portuguese colonial dominions that lead the Marquis de Pombal to declare their expulsion from Brazil in 1759.
That the Jesuits continued to maintain their dubious status in the nineteenth-century is evident in fictional works such as Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) and Eugène Sue’s The Wandering Jew (1844). Both novels contain sinister Jesuit villains. Alencar himself worked with the topic of the iniquitous Jesuit previous to O Jesuíta, namely in the indianist novel O Guarani (1857). In this work, the monk Loredano brings about the demise of the aristocratic Mariz family through his illicit desire for the heroine of the narrative, the pure Cecília (Ceci) and through his treason of her father, the brave Portuguese nobleman Dom Antônio de Mariz.
In O Jesuíta, Alencar is unable to completely disengage from the ambivalent image associated with the Company of Jesus. Accordingly, the play’s plot alludes to the threat of a seditious Jesuit state. In the tenth scene of the third act, the Count of Bobadela accuses the religious order of greed and of treason. The Count describes the Jesuits as a “Ordem rebelde e ambiciosa, que, traindo o Instituto do seu fundador e a santidade da sua missão, abusa da hospitalidade que lhe concederam os reis de Portugal e do poder que êles lhe conferiram e bem da religião, para conspirar contra a majestade” (521). Samuel’s national design is modeled after the Jesuit reductions that existed in northern and southern Brazil and which constituted, in effect, an almost autonomous state within Brazilian territories. Desiring to expand the worldly power of his order, Samuel wants to extend this sovereignty to the entirety of Brazil.
In this framework, the protagonist’s dream of a Jesuit state, albeit one governed by religious and ethnic tolerance, ultimately would imply the substitution of one colonial authority for another. In contrast, Alencar’s play suggests that true political emancipation cannot be a consequence of the intervention of outside powers but has to be the result of the endeavors of the Brazilian population itself. Therefore, Samuel’s nationalistic plan, even though it foreshadows Brazil’s political emancipation, must ultimately fail. It is only through the figure of Estevão de Mendonça, who breaks the ties with both colonial rule and Jesuit domination - while nonetheless also maintaining some of the connections that inevitably link him to these two legacies - that the promise of freedom can be articulated more fully.
Additionally, Samuel’s emancipatory machinations must founder because, in his desire to liberate Brazil from the clutches of Portuguese colonialism, the protagonist is willing to sacrifice the fate of the individual for the success of the larger, national project. Indeed, for Samuel, individuality is inexistent since the subject is nothing more than the pawn of “great ideas.” The Vicar-General’s exacerbated idealism endangers the very lofty goal he pursues. In this frame of reference, Flávio Aguilar describes O Jesuíta as a “tragedy of the political ideal” (tragédia do ideal político). According to him
Samuel, levado pelo ideal, pelo seu caráter inflexível, pela confiança exacerbada na razão e seus poderes, vai calcar, … os direitos dos cidadãos; particularmente, como se verá, irá calcar a moral de uma donzela, conspurcando o sagrado direito familiar. Este será seu ‘crime’, seu ‘desafio’, sua ‘queda’” (177).
Oscillating between noble impulses and Machiavellian behavior, Samuel cannot completely fulfill the role of the romantic, foundational father of the nation. His dream imperils what Alencar believed to be the fundamental principle of the nation: the heterosexual family.
Sábato Magadi observes that, for Alencar, the nation can only come to full fruition through the substantiation of the familial structure. Magadi affirms that, “A família feliz, estruturada no amor dos cônjuges, surge sempre na obra de Alencar como o ideal a alcançar e a culminação da sociedade” (99). In O Jesuíta, familial happiness is threatened but not destroyed by Samuel’s nationalistic obsession. For Samuel the romantic union between spouses must give way to the patriotic union between the nation and its citizens. Nevertheless, O Jesuíta makes it clear that the nation cannot exist without the formation of marital alliances, for, in the end, it is the productive marital union that promises true emancipation (“… cada homem que surgir do seio desta terra livre será um novo apóstolo da independência do Brasil” 536). O Jesuíta not only pays homage to Brazil’s independence struggle but also offers the public a glimpse into how the nation should be constructed in ideal terms: as a coming together of races and through the formation of societal alliances that would encourage national productivity and support political and cultural emancipation.
In Foundational Fictions. The National Romances of Latin America (1991), Doris Sommer maintains that in the post-independence period, Latin American literatures saw the proliferation of “foundational fictions,” literary works that spread the message of productive heterosexual relationships. In these romances, the family is seen as the basis of the newly emerging societies. Familial bonds not only helped the demographic growth of recently formed states but; at least in the idealized realm of fiction, also consolidated the alliances between different segments of the divided, post-colonial societies. According to Sommer, the fecund unions between diverse segments of society told a tale of national reconciliation and, therefore, created a stratagem for a prosperous future. In this framework, it becomes clear that neither is Alencar’s Samuel a satisfactory foundational father nor does his national dream provide a truly viable model for post-colonial Brazil since it does not extrapolate from the abstract realm of a utopian coming-together of ethnicities into the more concrete sphere of individual alliances.
Despite his idealistic undertaking, Samuel is a priest bound by his celibacy vows. He is without a progeny to whom he could bequeath his visionary project. The protagonist hence cannot participate in the productive dynamic of the familial drama. Fate however bestows the Doctor with an adoptive offspring and potential heir to his patriotic ideals, Estevão de Mendonça, who as an infant is abandoned at the Jesuit’s door. Orphanhood binds the two men together, replacing genetic ties. Samuel, similar to his protégé, also lacks a recognizable lineage. The main character in Alencar’s play tells his adopted son that, “ignoro de quem sou filho: não tive família, não conheci meus pais” (534). Nonetheless, for the Jesuit, the absence of familial ties does not constitute a deficiency since the greater national family replaces the individual family. Samuel establishes the linkage between motherhood and national soil, declaring that “nasci no seio desta terra virgem, que me nutriu como mãe; o meu berço embalou-se ao sôpro das brisas americanas; os meus olhos abriram-se para contemplar êste céu puro e azul” (534). For the Vicar-General, Brazil is both mother (land) and father (land).
The Jesuit’s words idealize the national territory. In Alencar’s play, the Brazilian land is holy, uncorrupted, a virgin soil (“esta terra virgem” 534). The sanctity of the virginal motherland is threatened, however, by the experience of colonialism that exploits and desecrates the protagonist’s native soil. Consequently, Samuel’s endeavor to redeem his motherland from Portuguese domination is equivalent to a restoration of the familial honor. Nonetheless, the redemption of honor is insufficient without the continuation of the family. The fertile land needs the fertility of its citizens to prosper. But Samuel cannot satisfy this necessity for fecundity. It is because of the ultimate sterility embodied by the figure of Samuel that Estevão has to become the true rescuer of the nation. Only Estevão, who rejects the barren love for country and kin imposed by the religious order and chooses instead the productive affection of matrimony can successfully epitomize the national future.
Doris Sommer classifies foundational fictions as “stories of star-crossed lovers who represent particular regions, races, parties, economic interests, and the like. Their passion for conjugal and sexual union spills over to a sentimental readership in a move that hopes to win partisan minds along with hearts” (5). In O Jesuíta the star-crossed lovers Estevão and Constança de Mendonça are metaphors of different, one might even say, conflicting segments of colonial society. On the one hand, Estevão represents the national populace, engendered and raised on Brazilian soil. Similar to Samuel, his unknown origins only strengthen his ties to his mother country. For Estevão too, family is replaced by pátria (Fatherland).
On the other hand, Constança epitomizes - at least partially - the European element. She is the natural daughter of the Count of Bobadela. Her illegitimate status is a metaphor of the problematic relationship between the colonial power and the subjugated colony in which the former imposes its dominance over the latter through often-illegal means. The Count’s illicit union with Constança’s mother represents an anti-foundational fiction for not only does it betray familial values; but the relationship is also counter-productive, it disrupts the familial structure and the result is tragedy instead of romance. Constança’s mother has to pay the price for her forbidden love with her death. Because it stands outside societal law, the love affair is disrupted and the family dynamic can only be restored in the following generation with the, now sanctioned, union of Constança and Estevão.
Constança’s problematic origin, although it criticizes the arbitrariness and immorality of colonial rule, also associates her (albeit indirectly) with Portuguese authority. In this manner, Constança’s marriage to Estevão (sanctioned by both their fathers), establishes a symbolic reconciliation between colonial metropolis and colonized society. Nonetheless, since Constança is ultimately an innocent victim of colonial dominance - she ignores that her mysterious protector, the Count of Bobadela, is also her father - she is dissociated from colonial power and exculpated from its contamination. Although the Count protects Constança and has her best interest at heart, she is never recognized as his legitimate daughter. Paradoxically, being an illegitimate child, born of abuse as well as being ignorant of her father’s sins, absolves Constança, who can become the virginal bride and pure mother that will engender the national progeny. Similar to the romances discussed by Sommer, it is through the happy and legitimate union of the romantic lovers Constança and Estevão that the future nation is symbolically conceived.
Through the characters of Estevão de Mendonça and Dona Constança de Castro, Alencar generates in O Jesuíta a foundational fiction that reconciles Brazil with its native as well as its colonial heritage. This reconciliation is essential in a society marked by the violence of the colonizing process. In the logic of Latin America’s foundational discourse, it is only through the coming together of diverse societal factions that the wounds of colonialism can be healed. Grappling with the dual legacy of colonial and colonized cultures, Latin American nations had to find a manner in which to resolve these conflicting elements into their national identities. The foundational fictions of the nineteenth-century are conceived, in part, as a response to the problem of identity facing the recently coined Latin American states.
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 I would like to thank Margo Milleret for reading this article and for her commentaries on it.
 Maria Aparecida Ribeiro argues that “No imaginário de Alencar, Portugal tem, na formação da nacionalidade brasileira, um papel de um pai cujos defeitos se conhecem e se escondem, cujas qualidades não podem ser negadas, mas precisam de ser vistas dentro da tradição” (392). To continue the familial analogy, in Alencar’s indianist works, Brazil is the motherland in which the maternal culture of the Indians comes together with the paternal traditions of Europe to engender a true Brazilian culture and identity.
 João Caetano’s wish for a play with a “national” theme owes more to the policy of state-subvention for the dramatic arts then to his patriotic sentiments. As explained by Alencar himself, “A emprêsa do Teatro de S. Pedro de Alcântara recebia uma subvenção do Estado, como auxílio ao desenvolvimento da arte dramática; e era obrigada por um contrato a montar peças brasileiras de preferência a estrangeiras, determinadamente nos dias de gala” (1013).
 Previous to O Jesuíta, other of Alencar’s plays had been enacted in Rio de Janeiro, namely Verso e reverso, O demônio familiar, O crédito, As asas de um anjo, Mãe, Expiação. The carioca public’s lack of enthusiasm for O Jesuíta came therefore as an unwelcome surprise to the author. Moreover, in 1874, an operatic version of Alencar’s novel, O Guarani, directed by Carlos Gomes was performed to great national and international acclaim.
 The notion that culture result from nature is prevalent in Romanticism. The idea can be traced back to Jean Jacques Rosseau (1712-78), who believed that nature inspires noble emotions and augments the human sensibility. Later, Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744-1803) articulated the inherent link between nature and culture and his ideas were taken up by several of the German Romantics (Goethe, Schiller among others). The Brazilian Romantics in turn, were influenced by the ideas of European (French, German and English) Romanticism.
© Leila Lehnen 2005
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