65 Pages

Thomas Sydserf, Tarugo’s Wiles: or, the Coffee-House. A Comedy. As it was acted at his Highness’s The Duke of York’s Theatre (London, Henry Herringman, 1668), [8], 54pp.; 4° BL:644.f.44. ESTCR27882

Tarugo’s Wiles: or, the Coffee-House, by the Scottish dramatist Thomas Sydserf (also spelled St Serfe), is a reworking of a Spanish comedy by Moreto. The setting is announced as ’A Coffee-house, where is presented a mixture of all kind of people’ (p. 52). The bulk of the play is set in non-specific urban locations in Madrid, except for the coffee-house of Act III, which is located in London. At this period there were no coffee-houses in Spain: of this contradiction the play remains silent. The play is a translation of No puede ser [It Cannot Be] (Madrid, 1660), by Agustín Moreto y Cabaña, itself derived from Lope de Vega’s El Mayor Impossible. The plot turns on a complex series of courtship reversals, gender stereotypes and transgressive disguise scenes. Sydserf’s prose translation is fairly close to the original, except for the gratuitous addition of the third act, and the elevation of Tarugo from a servant to the brother of Don Horatio. No puede ser was translated again in 1685 by the English dramatist John Crowne as Sir Courtly Nice (see James Castañeda, Agustín Moreto (New York, Twayne Publishers, 1974), pp. 97–9).