The Jealous Officer, or The Fearsome Slave Catcher

Luís Carlos Martins Pena (Brazil, 1845)
Translated by Sarah J. Townsend

This witty parody of a melodramatic French adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello is an example of the comédia de costumbres, a popular genre that depicted local customs and ‘types.’ The plot was inspired by a series of scandals involving the police and revolves around an imperious officer who moonlights as a slave catcher and keeps his wife and daughter under lock and key. First performed at a time when Brazilian patriots were struggling over who would determine the face of the new nation, The Jealous Officer reveals the absurdity and self-deception involved in basing one’s authority and sense of self on keeping certain people out while locking others in.