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Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) had a daughter by Ana Franca de Rojas a year or two before he married 19-year-old Catalina de Salazar y Palacio of Equivas on December 12, 1584. They lived together for the remainder of his life, but his wife had no children. The death of his father in 1585 left Cervantes with responsibility for a household that included sisters and a niece. That year he published the pastoral novel, La Galatea and sold the license to print it for 1,336 reals; but the second part he promised never appeared even though he considered this his favorite book. In 1587 he was commissioned to collect wheat and oil in Andalucia for the Armada. In May 1590 he applied for four positions in the American colonies but was turned down. He ran up his own debts and in 1592 was arrested. He was released on bail and continued his official work until 1594 when he collected taxes in Granada. He was imprisoned again for suspected debt because of irregularities in his accounts in 1597. He was held for three months and never worked in public service again, but he was apparently in prison at Seville in 1602 while writing Don Quixote.
In Voyage to Parnassus Cervantes narrated his imaginary journey to the sacred mountain where Apollo rules over the Muses, but this book published in 1614 is mainly a review of contemporary poets. In 1615 he was paid for the publication of eight plays and eight new interludes which had not been performed. The Bagnios of Algiers reflects his experience as a captive and portrays a romance between a valued Christian soldier, Don Lope, and the Moor Zara, who wants to become a Christian. The Great Sultana describes Ottoman life in their capital. The eight interludes are short farces. His last work, The Labors of Persiles and Sigismunda, is based on the Ethiopian History by Heliodorus from the third century which had been discovered and printed in 1534, and Cervantes finished it in early March 1616 the month before his death in Madrid on April 23.In 1617 Persiles and Sigismunda was published, and within two years it was translated into French twice and into English. This last novel by Cervantes reflects the religious aspirations of a dying man who admits in the prolog that he does not want to give up drinking.
Cervantes published the first part of The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha in January 1605, but that year he and his family were arrested for his killing a famous rake. The novel was popular and had several printings. Cervantes returned with the court to Madrid in 1607 and was saved by the success of Don Quixote from investigation of his accounts in Andalucia. In 1609 he was admitted into a new religious fraternity, the Slaves of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The first translation of Don Quixote was in English by Thomas Shelton in 1612. That year Cervantes joined the new literary club, Academia Selvaje. He completed the second part of Don Quixote in February 1615. Don Quixote was published with both parts from 1617 on.
After a humble prolog and a few sonnets to the characters, Cervantes began his long novel by describing the “famous gentleman Don Quixote” who spent so much leisure time reading books of chivalry that his reason became unhinged. His imagination was carried away by what he read in books about enchantments, battles, challenges, wounds, courting, love, torment, and other follies. With his mind gone he got the idea of serving his nation by becoming a knight errant and traveling the world to right wrongs and win everlasting fame. He saw the peasant girl Aldonea Lorenzo and called his lady “Dulcinea of Toboso.” Determined to undo evils, right wrongs, correct injustices, ameliorate abuses, and rectify offenses he leaves home before dawn in July. He comes to an inn and sees it as a castle, and two prostitutes he takes as fair damsels; they and others laugh at him but humor him by going along with his fantasies. The innkeeper agrees to dub him a knight; but mule-drivers are not so cooperative, and they fight.
The next day Don Quixote sees a farmer whipping his servant-boy, and the knight threatens to punish the man and gets him to stop. Don Quixote comes across merchants and demands that they praise his Dulcinea. They quarrel, and a mule-driver thrashes the knight. A farmer recognizes him as the honorable Señor Quixano, but the knight claims he is a peer of France and one of the paragons. A priest notes that books have caused him to lose his fine mind. They go through most of his library and decide which books to burn; they mostly choose those about chivalry, but some are burned without being examined. His niece asks her uncle if it would not be better if he stayed home in peace rather than go wandering. Don Quixote offers to make Sancho Panza his squire and says he will win him an island to govern, and the man whose last name means “Paunch” gladly accepts and leaves his family.
In their first adventure together Don Quixote attacks a windmill thinking it is a monster and gets into a fight with a Basque. Sancho suggests they take refuge in a church, but Don Quixote says a knight is never brought before the law no matter how many murders he commits. They are given food by goatherds who tell them a story about a man who was driven to suicide by the beautiful but chaste shepherdess Marcela. A traveler asks the knight why he goes about armed during peacetime, but Don Quixote justifies it as the work of soldiers to defend the world. He is also asked why knights are always devoted to a lady instead of to God. Don Quixote contends they are religious but that every knight must have a lady. Marcela explains that a beauty cannot be expected to satisfy the desires of every man who wants her.
At night the horse Rocinante is not tethered and goes after some mares who attack him. Don Quixote and Sancho find them, and the knight insists on punishing the Yanguesans, though Sancho warns there are more than twenty of them. They are both thrashed, and Don Quixote loses several teeth. They find an inn, which the knight says is a castle. That night Don Quixote, even though he is loyal to Dulcinea, puts his arms around a woman who is going to pleasure a mule-driver. They all fight in the dark. Afterward Sancho asks for the remedy of rosemary, oil, salt, and wine, and he and the knight end up vomiting on each other. The knight and Sancho refuse to pay for the lodging, and men toss Sancho in a blanket; but the innkeeper takes their saddle-bags of food as payment. Don Quixote wants revenge, but Sancho says they are going “from pillar to post and from bad to worse.”
On the road they see dust clouds from two flocks of sheep, but Don Quixote says they are two armies, attacks, and kills seven animals. The shepherds beat them up. Next they meet twenty soldiers with a funeral procession, and the angry knight attacks one of them. One man has his leg broken. Sancho steals some food and names his master the “Knight of the Sorrowful Face.” They move on but have nothing to drink. Sancho warns his master not to seek evil. At night they hear a loud sound, and Don Quixote insists on attacking again; but Sancho hobbles the knight’s horse to prevent that. In the morning they discover the sound is from a mill.
Don Quixote says proverbs are always true, such as “One door closes, and another opens.” He sees a man wearing the golden helmet of Mambrino, but it is a barber covered by his brass shaving basin because of the rain. The knight demands he hand over what is rightfully his, and the barber complies. As they go on, Sancho suggests they serve some emperor or great prince in a war so that he can get his reward; but the knight says he must first gain a reputation by seeking adventures. They come across men chained and being taken to serve their sentences as galley slaves. Don Quixote wants to liberate them but first asks them about their crimes. One is the famous Ginesillo de Parapilla who uses the proverb, “Man proposes, and God disposes.” He is the kind of thief often portrayed in the popular picaresque novels such as Lazarillo de Tormes. The knight reasons that honorable men should not persecute other men who have not harmed them, and he knocks the commissary to the ground and helps the galley slaves break free. When the knight orders them to take their chains and testify to his lady, they throw rocks at him, steal Sancho’s coat, and run away.
Don Quixote and Sancho are afraid the Holy Brotherhood will come after them, and so they go into the mountains to hide. They find a case with shirts, money, and a diary. The knight reads in the diary poems by a scorned lover, and they find the tattered knight Cardenio who tells them his sad story. He and Luscinda plan to marry, but the lusty Don Fernando persuades her to marry him. At the wedding she says, “I do” and faints, and Cardenio runs off to the mountains. When Don Quixote interrupts the story, Cardenio knocks him down and leaves them. Don Quixote decides to do chivalrous penance. When Sancho asks why, the knight claims that a great achievement is to lose one’s reason for no reason so that he can persuade his lady what he would do if he had a cause. He writes a letter to Dulcinea and sends Pancho to deliver it so that he can get three mules. The knight takes off his clothes except his shirt.
Pancho goes back to the inn but dares not enter. Outside he confers with the priest and the barber, and they come up with a plan to have a lady ask Don Quixote for a favor. They return to the mountains and learn the rest of Cardenio’s story. They see the beautiful Dorotea and learn her sad story of love, how Don Fernando promised to marry her and then wedded Luscinda. Cardenio tells her his situation, and he learns that after the wedding Luscinda declared she really loves Cardenio. Dorotea agrees to play the role of the lady because she has read novels about chivalry. They find Don Quixote, and she makes her appeal to him, pretending to be Princess Micomicona. The knight agrees to grant her boon, and she gets his commitment to right her wrong before engaging in any other adventure. Sancho urges him to marry her, but the knight knocks him down for insulting the beauty of Dulcinea.
The boy whom Don Quixote had freed from punishment finds them and says that after the knight left, his master refused to pay him and punished him even more in revenge. At the inn the priest reads to them the novel, The Man Who Was Recklessly Curious. Then Sancho reports that Don Quixote is battling the giant and has cut his head off, but the innkeeper finds that the knight has slashed skins of red wine which he thinks is blood.
Four men, a woman in white, and two servants arrive at the inn. Don Fernando recognizes Dorotea, and he and Luscinda see Cardenio. Dorotea swoons and explains to Don Fernando that she is his true wife. He releases Luscinda, who is embraced by Cardenio. Don Fernando gallantly accepts Dorotea, and they are all very happy. Only Sancho is sad to learn that Dorotea is not Queen Micomicona. Luscinda had gone into a convent, but they abducted her. Don Quixote has been sleeping. Don Fernando urges Dorotea to go on playing Micomicona so that they can cure the errant knight.
A man and a young woman dressed like Moors arrive. During dinner Don Quixote discusses the differences between the lives of a literary man and a soldier, and he condemns those who invent worse weapons of war. The man tells how he was a soldier and was captured by the Moors and ransomed and his adventures with the beautiful Zoraida who became his wife and a Christian.
A judge and his daughter arrive at the inn and are surprised to hear the knight call it a castle. The judge learns that the man, who was captured, is his brother, Captain Viedma. That night Don Quixote stands outside the inn to guard the castle. Young Don Luis has run away from his family, and four men have been sent by his father to bring him home. The barber wants his basin and pack-saddle taken by the knight and his squire returned to him, but they argue that they were taken in “righteous combat.”
An officer from the Holy Brotherhood comes to arrest Don Quixote; but the priest explains to them that he is mentally ill. The priest pays the barber for the basin. The innkeeper demands to be paid also, and Don Fernando covers their bill. The barber and the priest arrange for Don Quixote to be put in a cage on an oxcart so that he can be taken home and cured of his madness. As they travel, the priest and a canon discuss books of chivalry with the knight. The priest refers to Cicero’s comment on drama, that it
should be a mirror of human life,
an example of customs, and an image of truth,
but those that are produced these days are
mirrors of nonsense, examples of foolishness,
and images of lewdness.1
Don Quixote promises he will not escape, and he is released from the cage. One evening during their journey a goatherd tells them of his adventures. When the goatherd implies that Don Quixote has an empty head, the knight hits him in the face with a loaf of bread. They fight as others laugh until the knight hears a trumpet and suggests a truce. Penitents arrive with an image of the Blessed Virgin, but the errant knight says they are taking a lady against her will and charges with his sword which breaks. Then a man wounds the knight’s shoulder. They come home, and Sancho’s wife asks what he has earned and brought her. Don Quixote is welcomed and put to bed by his housekeeper and niece. Thus ends the First Part of the novel Don Quixote.
The Second Part is dedicated to Don Pedro Fernandez de Castro, the Count of Lemnos who was Viceroy of Naples 1610-16 and a patron of Cervantes and other writers. Cervantes was concerned that an anonymous second part of Don Quixote had been published at Tarragona.
For a month Don Quixote is cared for by his housekeeper and niece. He becomes concerned that the Turks are threatening Christendom and notes that King Felipe III is fortifying the coasts of Naples and Sicily. He tells his niece that he will die a knight errant because he will take responsibility for “the defense of kingdoms, the protection of damsels, the safeguarding of orphans and wards, the punishment of the proud, and the rewarding of the humble.”2 Sancho tells him that a book has been published about him and that the common people consider the knight a madman, and Sancho admits he is a simpleton. The knight is thought to be “crazy but amusing, brave but unfortunate, and courteous but insolent.” Don Quixote decides to go to a tournament at Zaragoza. The knight and Sancho talk with the bachelor Sanson Carrasco who notes that a poet writes about things as they should have been while the historian writes about how they were. Sancho has a pleasant talk with his wife Teresa and tells her he is going away with the knight again. She thinks he should be paid for his service, but Don Quixote explains to Sancho that he never read of a knight errant paying his squire a salary.
Supplied with provisions, money, and Sancho’s old donkey they set out for Toboso. On the road they discuss different ways of living, and Sancho says they should begin by being saints. Don Quixote replies that chivalry is also a religion, but there are more friars than errant knights. At midnight they arrive in Toboso and look for Dulcinea, but neither man has ever seen her. The next day Sancho sees three peasant women on donkeys and tells his master that Dulcinea is one of them. The knight speaks to her, and she gallops off and is thrown to the ground. Don Quixote goes to help her up, but she stands up quickly, jumps on her donkey, and rides off. He complains she is ugly and smells of garlic, and he assumes Dulcinea has been transformed.
Don Quixote and Sancho see a small troupe of actors, and the leader who plays the Devil rides off on Sancho’s donkey. The knight reprimands them for their bad treatment of animals, and they prepare to throw stones at him; but Sancho says none of them are knights and persuades the knight not to fight. He urges his squire to fight them, but Sancho says good Christians do not take revenge.
At night they meet the Knight of the Wood who says that his lady Casilda of Vandalia has been honored as most beautiful by several knights including Don Quixote of La Mancha. The squire with the large nose shares food and wine with Sancho, and they compare their lives. Don Quixote challenges the Knight of the Mirrors for claiming he has defeated him, and in the morning they prepare to fight. Don Quixote gets his old horse to gallop, and the other knight stands his ground and is knocked off his horse. Don Quixote demands that the knight go to Dulcinea, and he agrees. The knight reveals that he is Sanson Carrasco, and without the false nose Sancho recognizes the squire as his neighbor Tomé Cecial. Their plan had been to defeat Don Quixote and make him return to his village and stay there two years.
Don Quixote meets Don Diego de Miranda who is concerned that his son wants to study poetry, but the knight persuades him that it is a noble calling. He quotes Ovid who wrote, “Est Deus in nobis” which means “God is in us.” The knight shows his courage and recklessness by challenging a lion, who is released from his cage but turns around and goes back in. He renames himself the “Knight of the Lions.” Don Quixote meets Diego’s son, the poet Don Lorenzo, and explains to him why the science of knight errantry must include being a jurist, a theologian, a physician, an herbalist, an astrologer, and a mathematician as well as being virtuous and knowing how to swim, shoe a horse, and repair a saddle and bridle. He must have faith in God and his lady, be chaste, honest, liberal, valiant, long-suffering, charitable, and an upholder of the truth. However, he notes that what triumphs now are people’s sins of sloth, idleness, gluttony, and self-indulgence.
Don Quixote and Sancho are invited to the wedding of the wealthy Camacho who is to marry beautiful Quiteria; but the poor poet Basilio is also in love with her and intends to commit suicide with surprising results. The knight stops a fight and orders Sancho to leave the elegant feast. In an apocryphal story later denied by the knight, Don Quixote is lowered into a cave by a rope for an hour. When brought back, he awakes and tells of his dreamlike experience of three days in which he sees the three peasant women and gives Dulcinea the only money he has with him.
Master Pedro has a monkey whom he claims can tell people the present and the past. Don Quixote says that for God there is no past or future because everything is present. Pedro puts on a puppet show for them, but the knight destroys the Moorish puppets who are chasing the heroes on horses. Pedro demands to be paid for his loss, and the knight gives him nearly 45 reales. They find out that Pedro is Ginesillo de Parapilla whom the knight freed from the chain gang.
Before entering Zaragoza they come across a squadron of soldiers, and Don Quixote lectures them on their duty, saying that prudent men only fight for four reasons: to defend the Catholic faith; in self-defense; to defend honor, family or fortune; and to serve the King in a just war. He even argues that no revenge can be just because holy law commands them to do good to their enemies and love those who hate them. Thus by God and humanity they are obliged to make peace. Then Sancho begins talking and brays like a mule. A man knocks him to the ground with a long pole. Facing many crossbows and arquebuses, the knight quickly gallops away. The soldiers do not follow but send Sancho on his donkey after him. Sancho is in pain and wants to quit, and the knight offers to pay him a salary for all his days of service; Sancho decides to stay.
Don Quixote persuades Sancho to go on a fishing boat with him; but near a mill it is smashed to pieces, and the millers rescue them; the knight pays fifty reales to the fisherman for his boat. They meet a beautiful Duchess hunting, and she invites them to stay with her and the Duke in their castle. They have been reading about his adventures and like hearing Sancho talk. The Duke questions whether he is really a knight errant and urges him to go home. The indignant Don Quixote challenges him to equal combat. However, the Duke offers Sancho an insula to govern, and the squire kneels and kisses his feet. The Duke and Duchess promise to have Dulcinea disenchanted, and a courier arrives who says he is the devil and will help them disenchant her. The Duke says that Sancho must receive 3,300 lashes, though he can inflict them upon himself; then the beautiful Dulcinea will appear. Sancho is persuaded to try and dictates a letter to his wife. One of the Duke’s stewards pretends to be the dolorous Countess Trifaldi and tells the knight and Sancho that they must ride while blindfolded the magical horse Clavileño through the sky to remove the beards from enchanted duennas. These and other elaborate games were devised by the Duke and Duchess to make fun of the knight and his squire.
Don Quixote advises Sancho to be a merciful and just governor and not to use so many proverbs, and Sancho goes to govern the Insula Barataria. He immediately begins judging cases to settle disputes and shows his cleverness at discerning who is in the wrong. Meanwhile at the castle the girl Altisidora is pretending that she is in love with the knight who is still faithful to Dulcinea. A doctor dismisses food to protect the Governor’s health, and Sancho has trouble getting enough to eat. The page who impersonated Dulcinea brings Sancho’s letter and one from the Duchess to Teresa Panza, who is thrilled to get a letter from her husband Governor and a string of corals from the Duchess.
Doña Rodriguez appeals to Don Quixote to get the man who abandoned her daughter to marry her, and the knight promises to challenge the man to do so. Governor Panza is warned to take up arms against an invasion and is put in armor that traps him like a tortoise in a shell. He learns the enemy has retreated, and they are victors. Sancho complains he is beset by troubles, and he announces he is leaving the governorship without taking any money with him. They say he must make an accounting, and he promises he will do so to the Duke.
A royal proclamation is forcing the Moriscos (former Muslims) to leave Spain. On his way Sancho falls into a deep hole and cries out for help. Don Quixote comes along and rescues him. Sancho says he quit and did not even have time to take any bribes or collect fees; he did not try to implement his proposed laws because they would not be enforced. The knight is prepared to fight the footman Tosilos to make him marry the Duenna’s daughter, but the man says he wants to marry her. The knight tells the Duke he is leaving to participate in a tournament at Zaragoza.
On the road Don Quixote and Sancho enjoy their freedom and consider it the greatest gift with captivity being the worst thing. The knight wants to whip Sancho so that Dulcinea can be restored, but the squire overcomes him physically and makes him agree to let Sancho use his own free will in the lashing. They meet some Catalan thieves who commit a robbery but fairly distribute the money. Sancho notes that justice is such a great good that even thieves use it. They arrive at Barcelona and learn the fate of a refugee Morisca. Don Quixote is challenged to a joust by the Knight of the White Moon and is defeated. He agrees to go home to his village and give up knight errantry for one year. Thus the Bachelor Sanson Carrasco achieved his objective on the second try.
Don Quixote decides to become a shepherd with help from Sancho and others. They visit the Duke’s castle and see the funeral of Altisidora who turns out to be alive. The knight and Sancho travel to their village and are welcomed home. Don Quixote gets a fever and stays in bed. He dictates his will and realizes that he was badly affected by books of chivalry and plans to read better books. He says he is no longer a knight but is only Alonso Quixano who was called the Good because of his virtuous life. After completing his will he collapses and dies three days later.
This novel is very popular because of its humor and entertainment value as an adventure story with amusing characters and incidents; but it also satirizes the warlike customs of imperial Spain by portraying a knight following the medieval code of heroic chivalry in which he tries to fight for what he thinks is right. Such picking of fights for flighty reasons with peculiar rationalizations to try to fit everything into his prejudices is considered madness by the other characters. Yet the knight and his squire both exhibit much knowledge of the world and wisdom in other ways. Their ineptness keeps them from doing too much damage, and they are the ones who suffer most of the time. Medieval chivalry is already absurd in that era; but the story also reflects how novels and in our era movies can use the depiction of violence to obtain popularity as the heroes rarely are badly hurt or killed. Yet the conflicts and violence played out in fantasies during fading empires still symbolizes the tremendous suffering that results from imperial wars.
Cervantes published twelve Exemplary Novels in August 1613. In the Prologue to this collection of short novellas Cervantes explained that he called them exemplary because “some profitable example” can be extracted from each one of them. He also intended to entertain because time for recreation enables a tormented spirit to rest.
At the beginning of the first exemplary novel, “The Little Gypsy Girl,” Cervantes admits that gypsies are brought up to be thieves and become expert in this dangerous occupation. Putting that ethical issue aside, Preciosa is a beautiful 15-year-old girl and an entrancing dancer with remarkable wisdom and virtue. She attracts a young poet who sells her “clean” ballads for her to sing. She explains how young gypsies learn quickly by experience. She notes that no poet knows how to hold on to his money nor how to acquire money. Don Juanico falls in love with her and becomes a gypsy even though she will not marry him for two years. He gives up being a gentleman, is initiated, and is called Andrés. He gives the gypsies 200 gold crowns, and not liking to steal, he secretly buys things and pretends that he stole them. When the poet arrives and is called Clemente, Andrés becomes jealous. Clemente has 400 gold crowns but is fleeing after having killed two men in a fight. Juana Carducha asks Andrés to marry her, but he declines. As the gypsies are leaving, she hides her jewels in his bundle and accuses him of robbing her. A soldier picks a fight with Andrés who takes his sword away and kills him. He is arrested, but by an extraordinary series of discoveries, everything is happily resolved. This story shows that even a tribe that lives by stealing can be virtuous in other ways.
In “The Generous Lover” the Christian Ricardo is captured by Turks on Cyprus and becomes friends with his captor Mahamut. Ricardo is in love with the beautiful Christian Leonisa, and with Mahamut’s help he contrives a way to ransom her and himself that involves playing off the old and new pasha (viceroy), a Cadi, and a Jew. When free, Ricardo generously offers to let his rival lover Cornelio have Leonisa and his estate; but Ricardo changes his mind, and she declares her love for the one who saved her and marries Ricardo.
“Rinconete and Cortadillo” is about two 14-year-old boys who cheat at cards and snatch purses on their way to Seville where bad government allows crime to run rampant. Amid this competition the boys are admitted into the school of Monipodio who controls the thieves. He modifies the boys’ names and lets them skip a year of apprenticeship. Unscrupulous people hire bullies to attack their enemies, and the police collect protection money. At the end of the story Rinconete wants to reform but for a while continues on in the school of crime.
“The Spanish English Girl” is a romantic adventure in which the Spanish girl Isabella was captured during a raid on Cadiz and brought up in England. The English officer Ricaredo, who is also a Catholic, falls in love with her and goes off to fight the Turks. Near Gibraltar he rescues her parents from Turkish pirates. Queen Elizabeth gives him Isabella as a prize, and she is reunited with her mother and father. Count Arnesto also falls in love with Isabella and challenges Ricaredo to mortal combat; but the Queen has the Count arrested. A lady-in-waiting tries to poison Isabella who survives but loses her beauty. Ricaredo sees her virtue and still loves her, and after two months her beauty has returned. They promise to marry, and he refuses to marry a Scots lady as his parents wanted. Isabella and her parents return to Spain, and she waits for Ricaredo. He goes to the Mediterranean and is captured by Turks; but he is ransomed and returns to Seville just before Isabella is to enter a convent. The story is intended to teach the power of virtue and beauty.
“The Glass Graduate” is about Tomas Rodaja who dedicates himself to learning in Italy, but a tempting woman gives him a quince which poisons him. In his weakened condition and madness he is so afraid of dying that he believes he is made of glass. Yet he is able to entertain people with his knowledge by answering their questions and becomes very popular. His frank comments are often satirical. Eventually a friar heals him, and he regains his reason and judgment. Rodaja earns a law degree from Salamanca University and becomes a lawyer; but now when he answers questions, people lose interest. He goes to Flanders and becomes a valiant soldier. As in Don Quixote, this story combines a form of insanity with satire.
In “The Power of Blood” the young gentleman Rodolfo rapes the beautiful Leocadia while she is unconscious; but another time she is able to defend herself. Her father tells her that virtue is true honor and only sin is dishonor, and therefore she is honorable. She becomes pregnant and secretly gives the child to others for four years. She lives according to Christian charity and eventually is honored to marry Rodolfo who now loves her for her virtue.
“The Jealous Old Man from Extremadura” is about Felipo de Carrizales who while young is promiscuous and then works hard in Peru. Many years later he returns to Spain in old age and marries young Leonora so that he can shape her. He keeps his house closed, but young Loaysa is intrigued and plays guitar for the servant Luis who helps him find his way in to teach Leonora the joys of love while Carrizales is sleeping. Before he dies, the old man gallantly doubles her dowry so that she can marry Loaysa. However, she becomes a nun instead.
In “The Illustrious Kitchen-Maid” Don Diego de Carriazo and Tomas de Avendaño tell their parents they want to go study at Salamanca, but instead they send their tutor home with a letter, sell their mules, and adopt the poor clothes of rogues (picaros). At the Sevillano Inn in Toledo they see the beautiful kitchen-maid Costanza, and Tomas falls in love with her. Diego uses the name Lope, and they work in the inn. The Corregidor’s son also loves Costanza, and the Corregidor learns that her parents are nobles. Costanza marries Tomas, and Diego weds the Corregidor’s daughter.
“The Two Damsels” is about four young nobles. At an inn Teodosia is suffering because Marco Antonio promised to marry her and had his way with her but has abandoned her to keep his freedom. He has also promised to marry Leocadia and deserted her without having been intimate with her. Both girls want revenge and dress as men. At the inn Teodosia tells her brother Rafael what happened. He says they will find his fellow student, Marco Antonio, in Barcelona and advises her to use the name Teodoro whom Leocadia thinks is a man. Rafael falls in love with the noble Leocadia whom the jealous Teodosia considers her enemy. At Barcelona they see a fight on the shore, and in the brawl Marco Antonio’s head is injured by a rock. All four stay at an inn. As Marco Antonio is recovering, Leocadia reminds him of the promise he made to her; but he explains that he has kept his promise to Teodosia. Rafael says that his sister can be his and presents her as his wife; they are reconciled. Then Rafael tells and shows Leocadia that he loves her, and they are married too. Marco Antonio wants to go on a pilgrimage to Santiago to be healed, and they accompany him. The fathers of the girls had challenged his father, but this is also resolved. This story shows how strong passions and jealousy can be overcome by love.
“Lady Cornelia” is another story about aristocrats, but it takes place in Italy. At a wedding the Duke of Ferrara meets the usually secluded Cornelia. He manages to see her, and she becomes pregnant. His dying mother does not want him to marry her. The Duke tries to protect the baby which is mistakenly given to the Spaniard, Don Juan de Gamboa. When the Duke is attacked, Juan rescues him. Juan’s friend, Don Antonio de Isunza, finds abandoned Cornelia and takes her into his home where she is reunited with her child. Her brother Lorenzo asks Juan to help him find the Duke so that his family’s honor can be restored. Eventually the two Spaniards reconcile the Duke and Lorenzo; but Cornelia has left with a housekeeper, and the men find only a prostitute, who is also called Cornelia, sleeping with a page, contrasting the morality of the aristocrats and the common people. The Duke visits a priest and happens to find Cornelia and his son there, and they are married. This story implies the imperial influence of Spain in Italy.
The last two stories in Cervantes’ Exemplary Novels are interrelated. In “The Deceitful Marriage” Ensign Campuzano tells the well educated Peralta how he suffered from his marriage to 30-year-old Estefania de Caicedo who falsely told him that she owned the house in which she was living, though he admits he also tried to deceive her about how well off he is. Soon after they are married, he learns that she has to leave that house; but she steals his clothes, and he ends up in the hospital with a venereal disease. Then the Ensign says he will tell the incredulous Peralta about a dialog he heard in the hospital between two dogs.
“The Dialogue of the Dogs” satirizes Spanish society by accounts from a dog’s perspective. Berganza tells Cipion what he has learned about people from observing the masters he has served. Cipion notes that dogs are appreciated for their memories, gratitude, and loyalty. Berganza tells how his first owner works in a slaughterhouse where the employees keep the best meat for themselves. Those skilled with knives often fight and cut each other. When his angry master tries to cut him, the dog escapes. He joins shepherds but finds that their lives are not like those in pastoral poetry. They use the excuse of wolves to blame the dogs and take the best sheep for themselves. He goes back to Seville and serves a rich merchant, and he is well fed. He notices that children learn to do wrong and seek vengeance. An African woman bribes him with food so that she can secretly visit her lover; but when she is about to poison him, he leaves. His next owner is a police officer who appears to be courageous at arresting criminals, but he is actually bribed by them to put on a show and go after their competitors. The dog obeys a magistrate and attacks his corrupt master and is allowed to escape. He is adopted by a drummer among soldiers and sees what thugs and deserters they are. He is taught two dozen tricks and performs for people. The drummer accuses a woman of being a sorceress, and she expels him from a hospital and takes over the dog. She advises her son to be as good as he can and when bad, to try not to appear so. After she dies, the dog goes to a gypsy camp. He observes they are busy perfecting tricks so they can steal things. In Granada he escapes from the gypsies and serves a Morisco. He notes they are not chaste and not religious nor are they involved in war. He finds his master mean, and one day learns he is a poet. His play is produced, and the dog is trained to act on stage. He joins two other acting companies but is wounded and taken to the hospital where he meets an alchemist and a political theorist who suggests the Cortes could require men to fast once a month and give the money to the King. Cipion likes the stories and promises to tell about his masters too.
Lope Felix de Vega Carpio was born on December 2, 1562 in a working-class district of Madrid. The poet Vicente Espinel taught him Castilian and Latin, and Lope studied at the Jesuit Imperial College and at the University of Alcala de Henares until he was twenty. He was influenced by the works of Plautus, Terence, Seneca, Virgil, Horace, and Ovid with whom he felt a special kinship. He participated in the Spanish expedition against the Azores in 1583 and for the next four years he served the Marqués de Las Navas. During those years he wrote plays for the theater company of Jeronimo Velazquez and had an affair with his married daughter, Elena Osorio. After she chose a cardinal’s nephew as her lover, he accused her parents of selling her as a prostitute. Lope was arrested at a theater on December 29, 1587 and was convicted of libel. In jail for 42 days he railed at Elena and her mother Inés so much that his sentence was doubled to banishment from Castile for two years and from Madrid for eight years.
Lope de Vega married 16-year-old Isabel de Alderete y Urbina by proxy on May 10, 1588, and he joined the navy and was on a ship in the armada that sailed for England on May 29; his brother was wounded and died in his arms. In December he and his wife settled in Valencia, but in 1590 they moved to Toledo and later to Alba de Torres near Salamanca where he took university classes while he was secretary to Francisco de Ribera Barrosos, who later became the Duke of Alba. His wife Isabel died during childbirth in early 1595, followed by the child a few months later. The next year he was accused of cohabiting with the widow Antonia Trillo de Armenta.
In 1598 Lope de Vega published the pastoral romance, La Arcadia and the epic poem Dragontea about the last voyage of Spain’s enemy, Francis Drake. That year Lope married Juana de Guardo whose father was a wealthy butcher. He became secretary to the Duke of Sarria who later became the Count of Lemnos. Lope made more money writing love letters for him and others than he got from his plays. In 1599 he became involved with Macaela de Lujan for nearly two decades, and she bore him four children. In 1602 he published 200 sonnets in Rhymes (Rimas). His prose work, The Pilgrim in his Homeland appeared in 1604. From that year until 1608 Lope had two houses in Toledo, one for his wife and the other for Macaela. He had six children by his two wives and at least ten illegitimate children from about ten women.
From 1605 until his death in 1635 most of the time Lope de Vega was the secretary and confidential advisor to the Duke of Sessa. In 1609 Lope published his epic Jerusalem Reconquered to show Spain’s contribution to the Crusades and A New Way to Write Plays in Our Time, based on a lecture he gave at the Academy in Madrid. He indicated that his plays are for the common people. He pioneered the three-act play with exposition in act 1, plot complication in act 2, and climax and conclusion in act 3. He abandoned the Aristotelian unities of time and place, though he tried to have the time short within each act while years might pass between acts. He mixed comedy and tragedy, noble and base characters, and a variety of verse forms. He also admitted that he wrote for money.
Lope de Vega joined the Third Order of St. Francis on September 26, 1611. His son Carlos Felix died in 1612, and his wife Juana passed on after childbirth on August 9, 1613. Lope published Sacred Rhymes and renounced his earlier dramas in 1614 and became a priest on May 24, the day he began living with the actress Jeronima de Burgos; but he left her to follow the actress Lucia de Salcedo to Valencia. The Duke was afraid of losing his services and instigated a former mistress to seduce Lope and return him to his job as secretary. In 1616 Lope met 26-year-old Marta de Nevares and wrote her poems calling her “Amarilis.” Two years later her husband died. She eventually went blind and lost her reason in 1622 but regained it before her death in 1632. That year Lope published the autobiographical novel, Dorotea in the form of a dialog with “Fernando” representing himself, “Dorotea” Elena Osorio, and “Teodora” her mother Inés. More than 500 personal letters he wrote between 1604 and 1633 have survived.
In 1634 Lope de Vega published Human and Divine Rhymes, and he wrote a mock epic called The Battle of Cats. He kept his house full of cats and experimented with their responses to conditioning as Pavlov would do with dogs three centuries later. He sinned and repented often and confessed weekly. In his last years he would flagellate himself. He died of scarlet fever on August 27, 1635. He was very famous, and people would parody the Catholic ritual by saying, “I believe in Lope de Vega all powerful, poet of heaven and earth.” To say something is “Lopean” (Es de Lope) meant that it is excellent. Not only did the Catholic Church accept him as a priest, but the Inquisition made him a judge and an official censor. In 1627 Urban VIII granted him an honorary doctorate in theology. His funeral lasted nine days with more than 150 orations even though officials tried to limit it.
Lope de Vega wrote his first play in verse, The True Lover (El verdadero amante) when he was twelve years old. His best plays were published in 25 volumes of 12 plays each between 1604 and 1647. The first eight volumes were published without his permission, and he sued in 1616 and continued the series himself, publishing and preparing volumes 9-22 before his death. The last three volumes were published in 1638, 1641, and 1647. According to Juan Pérez de Montalban he wrote 1,800 secular plays and more than 400 shorter autos sacramentales (religious acts), but only about 426 plays and 42 autos remain. Near the end of his life Lope de Vega claimed that he wrote 1,500 plays. Love, honor, and self-respect (pundonor) are primary motivations in his plays, and they reflect the chauvinism of imperial Spain in his time.
Spanish drama developed during the 16th century, but only at the end of the 1580s did the government permit plays on days other than Sundays and holidays. A few years later Tuesdays and Thursdays were added along with more religious holidays such as Shrovetide. Doors opened at noon with plays beginning at 2 during the cold half of the year, at 3 in the spring and at 4 in the summer. The theater had to be empty one hour before sunset. People came early to get a seat. Women came in a separate door and could only sit in the rear balcony. Rowdy men stood in the courtyard and when displeased threw fresh fruits and vegetables. An orchestra played music. Authors were usually paid about 450 reales for a three-act play, but Lope usually got about twice that.
Felipe II closed the theaters because of the death of his daughter Catherine of Savoy in November 1597, but his son Felipe III re-opened them on April 17, 1599. In 1600 a royal council of nine men formulated regulations to control licentious portrayals and immodest dancing. They banned women from acting in female parts that were to be played by boys. They prohibited monks and prelates from attending and performances during Lent and on Sundays during Advent; churches and convents were allowed only devotional plays. No theater company could stay in a town more than a month nor play more than three days each week, and only one company could play each month. They tried to reduce the number of companies to four, but 21 remained in 1603 when they changed the number allowed to eight. More regulations were issued in 1608 and in 1615 when twelve companies were approved. During the reign of Felipe IV (r. 1621-65) palace theaters presented lavish productions.
Lope de Vega wrote The New World Discovered by Christopher Columbus (El Nuevo mundo descubierto por Cristobal Colon) about 1600. In the first act Columbus asks the King of Portugal to support his audacious expedition and sends his brother Bartolomé to England’s Henry VII; but they are rejected. Granada’s King Muhammad decides to capitulate to King Fernando. Columbus reasons that the curved shadow of the Earth on the moon during an eclipse shows that the world is round, and Imagination and Religion persuade him to persevere. Fernando and Queen Isabel agree to fund his voyage west. In the second act Columbus faces a mutiny on his ship. Natives are portrayed on the island of Guanahami as the Spaniards arrive. Captain Pinzon asks pardon for misjudging Columbus. Natives react to the cross in different ways, and muskets frighten them. Spaniards tell Columbus that Spain wants gold. In the third act some Spaniards are left behind, and conflicts occur as Columbus returns to Spain. The native Dulcan says, “With your false tales and false gods you come to take our gold and carry off our women.”3 Fernando and Isabel welcome Columbus at Barcelona and are happy to see six new baptized subjects.
In 1604 Lope de Vega compiled a list of 448 plays he had written, and #395 was the tragicomedy, The Capulets and the Montagues, which was based on sources similar to Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. In Lope’s play Roselo hopes to end the feud between the two families by marrying Julia. Witnesses agree that Roselo’s killing of Julia’s cousin Ottavio was self-defense. The Count of Paris tells Roselo about the sleeping potion Julia took, and tragedy is averted. In the end her father Antonio’s wedding to his niece Dorotea to continue his family line is prevented when he learns that Julia is alive and married to Roselo. She persuades her father to respect her Montague husband.
Lope wrote his revenge tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi’s Steward about 1605 some eight years before John Webster wrote The Duchess of Malfi. The story is from Mateo Bandello’s novella. Lope’s version emphasizes the love between the beautiful Duchess and her steward Antonio and the jealousy of two men—Ottavio de Medici, who also loves her, and her secretary Urbino, who is in love with her lady-in-waiting Livia and is jealous because he believes that Antonio is in love with Livia. The Duchess is a widow and lets her son the Duke rule; but the animosity comes from her brother Julio of Aragon, who resents her marrying her steward, and he refuses to recognize their two children. Lope portrays a deep love between the Duchess and Antonio, and the haughty Julio is primarily responsible for the gruesome ending.
The tragicomedy of Peribañez and the Commander of Ocaña may have been performed as early as 1605 when Lope de Vega was 42. The farmer Pedro Ibañez (Peribañez)weds the beautiful peasant Casilda, and they both love each other very much. After the ceremony a wild bull gets loose and injures the Commander of Ocaña who is cared for by Casilda. The noble Commander Don Fadrique is immediately smitten by her and contrives to have her. He sends the couple two mules and to decorate their house his tapestries which Pedro has requested. The newly weds go to Toledo for a festival, and Fadrique hires an artist to paint a portrait of Casilda without her knowing. The gentleman Leonardo, who serves Fadrique, courts Casilda’s cousin Inez, and his servant Lujan gets hired by Pedro for the harvest. The guild appoints Pedro to have their statue of San Roque repaired, and he takes it to the artist in Toledo. The Commander visits Casilda at night, and she turns him away. Pedro sees the portrait of his wife in Toledo commissioned by the Commander. In 1406 Fadrique gets a letter from King Enrique III that soldiers are needed, and he appoints Pedro a captain. Pedro has the tapestries taken down. The Commander makes Pedro a knight and buckles on his sword. Pedro leads a hundred peasant soldiers; but he uses a horse to return home at night when Fadrique hopes to seduce Casilda with the aid of musicians. Pedro slays him with the sword and rides off with his wife. The King offers a reward of 1,000 ducats to catch the killer; but Pedro and Casilda explain what happened, and the King pardons him and gives her the reward. The virtuous love of the peasants has overcome the privilege and arrogance of a noble with the help of Enrique the Just.
Lope de Vega became an officer of the Inquisition in 1608 and probably wrote The Innocent Child of La Guardia before 1610 when the Moriscos were expelled from Spain. The tragedy dramatizes the legend of the holy child of La Guardia which was the explanation for the historical accounts based on transcriptions of the trial and execution of several Jews by the Inquisition in 1490. In Lope’s play Queen Isabel announces the expulsion of the Jews which occurred in 1492, and this provides a motivation of revenge for the Jews, though the Spanish Inquisition had been established in 1478. The only English translation of the play was not performed but was read publicly in 1998 after musicians refused to participate in London because of concerns about anti-Semitism, sadism, and pedophilia.
In the first act Isabel orders the Jews expelled, and Jews learn that 200 families have already embarked for exile after selling their land cheaply. They plan revenge, and a rabbi purchases a Christian boy from Bernardo for 1,500 ducats so that his other nine children can be supported. Bernardo and his wife Rosela arrange to buy the heart of a pig and pretend that a child is dead. The Jews discover the charade, and Benito Garcia kidnaps the Christian child Juanico. His mother Juana prays for her lost child. Juanico is turned over to the Jew Francisco who scourges the child in imitation of the passion of Jesus which the Jews re-enact as a play that blends the distinction between a play and the supposed reality within a play. Isabel has convoked the Inquisition Tribunal for an auto da fé. Juanico pleads for pity, exposing the cruelty of corporal punishment as Francisco says, “The rod is never used in vain when a child is being unruly.”4 In the third act Benito plays the role of Judas in betraying the Christ child who is judged and then crucified offstage. Finally angels appear and take Juanico to heaven, a legend developed by Christians because no child’s body was ever found. The play clearly exposes the evil of anti-Semitism in Spain which could have been Lope’s purpose.
Lope de Vega’s Lo fingido verdadero, literally The Feigned Truth, has been translated as Acting Is Believing andwas probably performed in 1608. In the first act Roman Emperor Aurelius Carus is killed by lightning and is succeeded by his sons Carinus and Numerianus, whom Aper soon finds dead in a closed carriage. Senate Consul Laelius blames Carinus for raping his wife and kills him. The soldier Diocletian slays Aper and claims the crown. In the second act Emperor Diocletian appoints Maximian Caesar and asks the writer, director, and actor Genesius to put on a play about love. Genesius writes the play, hoping to win the love of Marcella who favors Octavius; but the actors alter the lines to suit their desires, and Marcella runs off with Octavius. Genesius asks Diocletian to arrest Octavius, and the Emperor accuses him of tricking him into entering the play. In act three Diocletian marries Camilla who gave him bread on credit when he was only a soldier. Rutilius describes the beasts they have acquired for the circus, and Camilla says there is one that is greater and more cruel called “Love.” Diocletian asks to see the play Genesius has written about a Christian. Genesius accepts Marcella and Octavius back into his company. Genesius hears a voice telling him he will be saved for playing the role of the Christian, and once again he changes the play. He calls the emperors tyrants, and Diocletian sentences him to death. This brilliant tragicomedy blurs the distinction between reality and drama as the actors mix up the plays with their own lives while those watching comment and are drawn into them.
Lope de Vega’s The Best Boy in Spain (El mejor mozo de España) was performed in 1610. This historical drama takes place in 1468 and begins with Princess Isabel spinning cloth and talking with her lady-in-waiting Doña Juana about the destiny of Spain. In a vision Spain tells her that she will expel the Muslims and Jews. She learns that her younger brother Alfonso has died. Don Gutierre de Cardenas, the Marquis of Villena, and the Duke of Najera are looking to find a husband for her. She wants her much older brother, King Enrique IV of Castile, to declare her his heir, and he demands that she not marry without his permission. Isabel agrees as long as he does not deceive her or fall back into his evil ways. She needs money, and the King promises to get her debts released. Prince Fernando of Aragon also intends to expel Jews and Moors from Spain. During civil strife Isabel asks noble men to protect her. In the second act she rejects the Duke of Segorbe and the French ambassador representing King Louis XI’s brother Prince Guianne. In Act 3 Pedro de Giron, grandmaster of Calatrava, defies the will of Heaven and dies. Isabel and Fernando manage to meet disguised as peasants and are attracted to each other. They quickly fall in love, and he is chosen as the “best boy in Spain” to be her husband. This drama also credits Felipe III with the final expulsion of the Moriscos, reflecting the racial and religious bigotry that infected the Spanish empire.
Fuente Ovejuna by Lope de Vega was probably written between 1612 and 1614 and is set in 1476.Fuente Ovejuna is a village near Cordoba governed by the Grand Commander Fernan Gomez under the Master of Calatrava, Rodrigo Tellez Giron. The peasants Laurencia and Pascuala know how men treat women and do not trust them. Frondoso and Laurencia satirize the hypocrisy of many. Mengo believes people love themselves. The Commander’s servant Flores tells how the Master punished a town by beheading people. Queen Isabel and King Fernando are fighting against the claim of Portugal’s Alfonso who married Juana Beltraneja. When the Commander is molesting Laurencia, Frondoso picks up his crossbow, enabling her to run away. Jacinta considers her peasant father more noble than the Commander who has her arrested. Frondoso asks Laurencia to marry him, and she accepts. Her father Esteban is a magistrate and learns that Mengo was flogged. At the wedding the Commander and his men take away Esteban’s rod of office and arrest Laurencia and Frondoso. Esteban and the aldermen organize a meeting to remove the criminal Commander who is dishonoring so many in their town. Laurencia arrives disheveled, having fought for her honor. She urges the men to act and then enlists the women too. The villagers of Fuente Ovejuna favor Fernando and Isabel and shout, “Death to all false Christians and foul traitors!”4 They kill the Commander, and his wounded servant Flores reports this to King Fernando, who sends a judge to investigate. The people all agree to say only “Fuente Ovejuna” when tortured and interrogated. Even the weak Mengo answers the Judge so. The Master of Calatrava complains to Fernando and Isabel, and the Judge reports that he tortured 300 people. Esteban explains about the tyranny and cruelty of the Commander, and the King pardons them all. This revolutionary drama supports the Catholic monarchs Fernando and Isabel while affirming the right of the people to overthrow a tyrant.
Lope de Vega’s The King’s Peace Treaties and the Jewess of Toledo was written about 1612 and takes place during the Crusades. King Alfonso VIII (1155-1214) is shown at the age of ten intent on ruling and becoming a knight as his men are claiming Toledo for him. Lope de Arenas is true to the will of the late king and will not surrender his castle; but his friend Dominguillo betrays him for a reward from Alfonso who adds the punishment of blinding him. The young King rewards the man who volunteered to be wounded by Dominguillo by giving him Lope’s castle. After many years have passed, King Alfonso has married Leonor but soon after that falls in love with the beautiful Jewess Rachel. In the third act Queen Leonor is upset that for seven years Alfonso has been ignoring her and his royal duties because of Rachel, and the Queen urges Beltran, Blasco, Garceran, and Illan to kill Rachel for the good of the kingdom. She is killed, and Alfonso plots revenge; but an angel persuades him to reconcile with Queen Leonor. She goes to pray at the hospital and sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin by St. Ildefonsus in Toledo, and Alfonso arrives and prays there too. They overhear each other and then are reunited in love and make peace in their marriage.
Lope wrote the comedy, Lady Nitwit (La dama boba), in 1613. The gentleman Liseo with his servant Turin wants to wed the beautiful but ignorant Finea because her father Octavio is offering a dowry of 40,000 ducats while Laurencio, Duardo and Feniso are courting her beautiful and well educated sister, Nise, whose dowry is only 10,000 ducats. During the play Finea learns from love, and Laurencio decides he would rather marry her while Liseo changes his mind too and wants Nise. Laurencio promises before witnesses to marry Finea and hides with her in the attic while she tells her father that Laurencio went to Toledo and that she can be a nitwit when she wants to be. The respective servants also fall in love, and the play ends with four couples planning to marry.
Lope de Vega wrote the romantic comedy, The Dog in the Manger about 1614. The title comes from a popular metaphor found in the early 2nd century CE in the Gospel of Thomas 102:
Jesus said, “Woe to the Pharisees,
for they are like a dog sleeping in the manger of the oxen;
neither does he eat nor does he let the oxen eat.”6
Diana, Countess of Belflor, does not realize that she is in love with her secretary Teodoro until she finds out that he loves her maid Marcela. Diana declares her love for Teodoro, and he is glad and rejects Marcela. The Marquis Ricardo and Count Federico are courting Diana and become jealous. To make Teodora jealous Diana says she will marry Ricardo. She suggests that Marcela marry her squire Fabio. Teodoro vacillates between Marcela and Diana. Teodoro’s servant Tristan provides comic relief as the gracioso and tells Ricardo and Federico he will kill Teodoro and gets money from them but warns his master. Finally Count Ludovico learns that Teodoro is his long-lost son, making him a noble and more suitable for Diana. Lope shows how jealousy can reveal love even kept secret from oneself. As usual love conquers all, and the deus ex machina ending does not take away from the point that Diana loves her secretary even though he is not a noble and would have married him anyway. Thus for Lope love is more important than social class.
In 1620 Madness in Valencia was published in Volume 13 of Lope’s comedias, showing the insanity of romantic love in the context of its famous mental hospital which endeavored to cure the people it housed.
Lope’s tragicomedy The Knight of Olmedo was performed about 1620 and was published in 1625. The story takes place while King Juan II was ruling Castile 1419-54. Don Alonso is in love with Doña Inés and hires the bawdy sorceress Fabia to take his letter to her. Don Rodrigo is also in love with Inés, but she dislikes him. She does like Alonso’s letter and sends him a reply. However, the ribbon she leaves for him is taken and divided by Rodrigo and his friend Fernando, who wants to marry her sister Doña Leonor. Their father Pedro considers Rodrigo and Fernando as prospective husbands for his daughters. Alonso meets with Inés, and they want to marry. When Pedro advises Inés to marry Rodrigo, she replies that she is already married because she intends to become a nun. She will study Latin, and Alonso’s servant Tello pretends to be her tutor, bringing letters from Alonso. Rodrigo is very jealous of Alonso and wants to kill him. King Juan II intends to appoint Alonso as Knight Commander. Alonso has a nightmare in which a hawk kills a goldfinch. Alonso excels in the bullfights and saves the life of Rodrigo, whose mind is poisoned by jealousy, envy, and humiliation. Alonso wants to return to Olmedo to see his father, and on the way he is attacked and mortally wounded by Rodrigo, Fernando, and other men who use guns. Tello finds Alonso and learns who murdered him. Leonor tells her father that Inés will not wed Rodrigo because she wants to marry Alonso, and Pedro is delighted. The King honors Pedro. Rodrigo and Fernando want to marry his daughters. but Tello arrives and tells how they murdered Alonso. The King has them arrested and orders their execution. Inés decides to enter a convent after all.
Lope de Vega wrote The Greatest Alcalde the King in the early 1620s. An alcalde is a local judge and administrator. Sancho and Elvira are in love, and he gets permission to marry her from her father, the farmer Nuño, and his employer, Don Tello de Neira. Before the wedding at Nuño’s home, Don Tello is smitten by Elvira’s beauty and prevents the priest from entering. Then with his men he abducts Elvira and takes her to his castle. His sister Feliciana persuades him not to ravish her, and Elvira fights for her honor; but Don Tello keeps Elvira as a prisoner, hoping she will give in and claiming she is not Sancho’s wife. Sancho and talkative Pelayo travel to appeal to Alfonso VII (r. 1126-57), King of Leon and Castile, who writes a letter for them to give to Don Tello. The letter orders him to release the peasant girl, but Don Tello refuses to do so. Sancho and Pelayo return to the King who sets off with Count Don Pedro and Don Enrique to remedy the situation. Alfonso summons Elvira and a headsman and orders Don Tello to marry Elvira before he is beheaded, and half his lands and wealth are to be a dowry for Elvira; Feliciana is to be at his court until she finds a worthy husband. This drama shows how a wise king can over-rule an oppressive noble to bring about justice.
In Lope’s comedy A Certainty for a Doubt King Pedro (r. 1350-66) wants to marry Doña Juana; but his brother, Count Enrique, loves her, and she loves him. The King banishes Enrique from his court at Seville. Her lady-in-waiting Doña Ines advises Juana to marry the King because she is in love with Enrique too. Enrique returns to Seville because of his love for Juana, and Teodora welcomes him into her house. Ines admits to Juana that she loves Enrique. He writes a letter to Juana; but his servant Ramiro gives it to Ines, who reads it to show the King that Enrique loves her, not Juana. The King summons Enrique and gives the hand of Ines to him. Juana tells the King that only she is worthy to marry Enrique. The King refuses to let her marry Enrique because of his jealous love for her. Enrique explains to the King that his letter was written to Juana, not Ines. The two men quarrel, and the King calls his brother a traitor; but Enrique refuses to fight him. In the third act Teodora tells Juana that Enrique loves her, but Juana says the Count is courting her cousin. Teodora admits she loves Enrique too. He tells Juana that he wrote to her, and he suspects she wants to marry the King. Juana says she will inform the King and promises to marry Enrique. He still doubts her, and she says she will forget the Count; but if she can remove his suspicions, she will be his wife. She chooses love over glory. The King has prepared for his wedding to Juana, but she tells Enrique that she would rather die than marry the King. Enrique decides to leave Seville again. The King expects the Adelantado to present Juana as his bride; but Juana says she will forgo the certainty of marrying the King for the doubtful hope of having Enrique. When the King hears this, he orders Enrique to be killed. Juana wants to warn him and learns he has returned. Finally the Adelantado comes in with Enrique and Juana who have been married by the Archbishop, and the King wishes the couple a happy life.
Lope de Vega’s tragedy Punishment Without Revenge was written in 1631 and had only one performance in May 1632 as the womanizing Duke may have been embarrassing to King Felipe IV. The original incident occurred at Ferrara in May 1425, and the story comes from a novella by Matteo Bandello. The Duke of Ferrara is known for his many affairs, and his only son is the illegitimate and grown-up Count Federico who is sent to escort the Duke’s bride Casandra. Mutual attraction occurs at first sight before he knows who she is. The Duke notes that a play is a mirror whereby all kinds of people “can by example learn of honor and of life.” Yet most people ignore the truth about themselves. Aurora is the daughter of the Duke’s brother and wants to marry her cousin Federico, and the Marquis of Gonzaga is courting her. In Act 2 Casandra complains to a servant that her new husband treats her badly, and the Duke tells Federico he regrets marrying her. Casandra asks Federico if he is jealous because of the Marquis and no longer wants to marry Aurora, or is he jealous because she married the Duke? She complains the Duke seeks immoral women and is tyrannical to her. She urges Federico to confess whom he loves. Aurora tries to awaken his jealousy and love by pretending to love the Marquis. The Duke is summoned by the Pope to fight for the Papal States and leaves. Federico tells Casandra that he loves her.
In Act 3 Aurora tells the Marquis that Federico and Casandra are having an affair. The Duke is about to return, and Federico tells Casandra that he will marry Aurora; but Casandra warns that, if he does, she will announce their guilt. The servant Ricardo says that the Duke has changed and is now dedicated to Casandra and his son; but when the Duke gets a letter about their affair, he feels dishonored and vows to punish them without taking revenge. The Duke wants Federico and Aurora to marry; but she refuses, and Casandra warns him that love must be free and not forced. Federico advises Casandra that they must protect her reputation. The Duke tells Aurora that Casandra wants her to marry the Marquis, and Aurora is glad. The Duke has Casandra tied up with her face covered and sends his son to kill a traitor. Federico kills her with his sword and then discovers who she is. The Duke orders the Marquis to kill Federico, and he obeys. The Duke believes they have been punished without his exacting personal revenge, though he ordered both murders. This tragedy about honor shows that the affair, though not genetically incestuous, is a betrayal of the social relationships while marrying a cousin was considered socially acceptable. Lope depicted how powerful love can be, in this case with tragic results.
Lope de Vega also wrote dozens of biographical three-act plays about saints that often include miracles, visions, angels, and the devil. Some of the saints dramatized in the order they were written from 1594 to 1629 are James (Santiago), Teresa of Avila (d. 1582), Basil (d. 379), Dominic Guzman (d. 1221), Isidore (d. 1170), Juan de Dios (d. 1550), Jerome (d. 420), Augustine (d. 430), Barlaam and Ioasaph, Francesco of Assisi (d. 1226). Nicholas of Tolentino (d. 1305), Ildephonsus (d. 667), Brigid (d. 1373), and Peter Nolasco (d. 1258).
Gabriel Josepe Téllez was born on March 24, 1579 and was educated in Madrid. He joined a convent in January 1600. He was a vicar of the Soria convent and was ordained a priest in 1608. He had already started writing plays about the lives of saints, and after moving to Toledo in 1611 he used the pen name, Tirso de Molina. In April 1616 he went to Santo Domingo where he was appointed Definidor General and represented the province on the governing committee for the Order of Mercy. He attended a meeting at Guadalajara in June 1618. He resigned in 1620 and became a master of theology and lived in Madrid near his friend Fray Gaspar Prieto, head of the Order. He wrote plays considered profane and was banished on March 6, 1625 to a remote monastery. The next year he became Commander of the Trujillo convent for three years. He published the first edition of his plays in 1627. He moved to Salamanca in 1629 and became historian of the Order of Mercy. In 1632 he was appointed Definidor of Castile, serving in Madrid until 1636. He was involved in the movement against the Prime Minister Olivares, and in October 1640 the Junta de Reformaciones exiled Tirso to Cuenca. His History of the Order of Mercy was completed in 1639 but was not published until 1973. In 1645 he was appointed Comendador of the convent of Soria, and he died on March 12, 1648.
Tirso de Molina was inspired by the successful plays of Lope de Vega and agreed with his new ideas on theater. When Lope published Lo fingido verdadero (Acting Is Believing) in 1624, he dedicated it to Tirso, praising him for being arte y natural. Tirso published prose, plays, and poetry in To Teach and Delight. In 1634 he claimed that he had written 300 plays, but only 55 remain.
Tirso de Molina’s first play, The Bashful Man at Court, was probably written about 1606 but was not published until 1621. This romantic comedy has sexual innuendo and cross-dressing by sex and social class. The Duke of Alvero’s secretary has been murdered, and the Duke learns that the Count of Estremoz was framed by a forged letter. Ruy Lorenzo hired the assassin and hides in the forest as a peasant. Mireno exchanges clothes with him because he wants to look like a noble and calls himself Don Dionis of Portugal. The Duke agrees to let the Count marry his daughter Serafina, but Don Antonio falls in love with her. The Duke’s daughter Magdalena and Mireno are attracted to each other, but he is bashful. Antonio becomes the Duke’s secretary, and Mireno tutors Magdalena who has been promised to the absent Count Vasconcelos. Mireno is jealous and inhibited; but Magdalena draws him out by expressing her feelings while pretending to talk in her sleep. Serafina dresses as a man, and Antonio’s cousin Juana is attracted to her. The Portuguese Duke Pedro of Coimbra is disguised as the peasant Lauro. Finally at the court of the Duke everyone’s identity is made clear, and the two happy couples are to marry.
Tirso’s Dom Gil of the Breeches Green, performed in 1615, is another comedy with disguises and false identities. Doña Juana tells her servant Quintana that Don Martin promised to marry her; but his father wants him to wed Doña Inés, who has 70,000 ducats in Madrid, and to use the name Don Gil in case Juana sends officers after him. Juana has already dressed in green pants so that she can pretend to be Don Gil first. Don Juan is courting Inés, but she falls in love with Juana’s Don Gil and rejects Martin’s Don Gil de Albornez. Juana leases the house next door to Inés who urges Juan to kill Don Gil de Albornez. Juana learns that Martin is going to pretend to be Don Miguel, and she dresses as the woman Elvira and tells Inés that she is in love with Miguel who betrayed her and is claiming he is Gil. Quintana tells Martin that Juana entered a convent and is pregnant and later that she died in childbirth. Martin fears she is haunting him. Pedro is the father of Inés and gives her hand to Juana (Don Gil) who has also attracted the love of Inés’s cousin Clara. Martin wears green pants, and Juan tries to fight him. Clara also dresses as a man to be Don Gil, and Juan threatens to kill her. Juan pretends to be Don Gil, making four of them. Finally Quintana arrives with Juana’s father Don Diego and a law officer who arrests Martin for killing his wife. Juana appears as a man and explains, and Martin accepts her love. They are to be married after each has played three roles. This complicated plot is farcical but shows the skill and determination of Juana to win back her fiancé.
Tirso de Molina’s most famous play is The Trickster of Seville which was written about 1615 and began the legend of the ruthless lover Don Juan. At Naples in the dark Don Juan Tenorio, disguised as Duke Octavio, makes love with the Duchess Isabel. He is caught by his Uncle Pedro who covers over his crime to the King of Naples, causing Octavio to be blamed. Don Juan escapes and is found on a seashore by the fisherwoman Thisbe, whom he seduces by promising to marry her. The King of Castile in Seville and Don Juan’s father Don Diego arrange a marriage between Don Juan and Don Gonzalo’s daughter Ana. Don Juan is often warned that he will be punished for his crimes after his death, but he considers that credit for a long time. Diego tells the King that it was his son who seduced the Duchess, and the King cancels the wedding and exiles Don Juan to Lebrija as its count. Don Juan arranges for the lusty Marquis de la Mota to visit Ana at night so that he can impersonate the Marquis and have his way with her. Gonzalo comes in with a sword, and Don Juan kills him; but the Marquis is arrested. Diego advises his son to behave better and says goodbye. At a wedding among peasants Don Juan manages to replace the bridegroom Batricio so that he can sleep with the bride Aminta and annul her marriage. The King pardons the Marquis who is to marry Ana. Octavio wants a duel with Don Juan and helps Aminta to tell her story. Don Juan takes refuge in a church in Seville where he sees a statue of Gonzalo moving toward him. They agree to meet the next day to dine. Isabel is to wed Don Juan, but the next day the statue or ghost of Gonzalo kills Don Juan. At court Batricio and Thisbe complain about Don Juan, and his lackey tells how he died in punishment for his crimes.
Tirso’s tragedy Tamar’s Revenge was written by 1624 and is based on 2 Samuel 13. King David is ruling Israel, and the four princes in order of seniority are Amnon, Absalom, Adonijah, and Solomon. Absalom had the same mother as their sister Tamar. In the first act Amnon tells Absolom, Eliazer, and Adonijah why he rejects each of fourteen women. Amnon in the dark hears Tamar talking and singing, converses with her, and kisses her hand. He becomes depressed, and wearing a mask he sees Tamar in a red dress at a wedding celebration. He kisses her hand again and says he will have his way with her. She orders the guards to kill him, but he has left. In act 2 Amnon goes after his fencing master with a real sword. David returns victorious from a battle and learns that his oldest son is sad. Amnon wants to be left alone, but he asks Tamar to restore his health. He speaks of love and eventually says he wants to win her love. She agrees to let him woo her; but when he kisses her, she warns him. She promises to love him and says he can visit her that night. Joab overhears and plans to tell the King; but Tamar says that Amnon is mad and urges Joab to marry her. Amnon coming back sees Joab kiss her hand and becomes jealous. Jonadab advises Amnon to pretend he is ill and to request that Tamar serve him. Amnon tells David he can’t eat unless Tamar cooks for him. She warns Amnon about incest, but he says he wants to love her; she calls his honor and love a whore.
In the third act Amnon tells Tamar to get out of his room, and she castigates him for dishonoring her and insulting her. He gets help to eject her, and she promises vengeance. Absalom hopes to become king now; but Adonijah says Absalom is in love with himself and sells his beautiful hair to women. Disheveled and mourning, Tamar tells King David what happened and urges him to punish Amnon as a traitor. David summons Prince Amnon. The King weeps, remembers how God forgave his sins, and is merciful. Absalom plans to kill Amnon and puts the crown on his head. David sees him, and Absalom lies about who he is going to kill. He swears that if he rebels, he can be hung up by his golden hair. Tamar takes refuge with peasants, and Laureta tells the future of the four princes. Amnon is left alone with Tamar who promises revenge. Finally Amnon is found dead on a banquet table, and her honor is restored. Absalom hopes to be king. David prays and learns from Solomon that Absalom murdered Amnon. This tragedy depicts the isolation of a royal family and the insanity that can result when inhibitions are lost.
After being threatened in 1625 with excommunication if he wrote any more profane plays, Tirso de Molina wrote dramas with moral lessons and biblical plays. In The State Upside-down he portrayed the decadence of the Byzantine Empire during the reign of Constantine IV (r. 652-685). He deposed and banished his mother, provoking rebellion and subverting justice throughout the society. Constantine had his own brothers mutilated so they could not rule. The Reluctant Favorite satirized the Spanish Empire, especially the prime minister Olivares. The corruption of the government spreads to others. Saint Bruno’s life is depicted in The Great Disillusion as his romantic adventures and ambitions are transformed by serving God. Jealous of Herself describes how sensual passions can be transmuted by spiritual love. Prudence in Woman depicts how a wise Queen can apply Christian charity toward enemies and overcome the ambition and violence of her ministers.
Other biblical plays by Tirso include The Best Gleaner about Ruth, The Woman Who Rules the Roost on Jezebel, and Life and Death of Herod who slaughtered innocent children. These plays show how the common people can starve and suffer because of the vices of the powerful.
A lively theological controversy for more than a century was the attempt to understand the relationship between God’s omnipotence and human free will because to many they seem mutually exclusive. Since the Reformation this issue related to whether souls are saved by their own actions or only by the grace of God or by both. Tirso may have chosen the name Molina because he agreed with the ideas of the Jesuit Luis de Molina (1535-1600) who defended human freedom and attempted to resolve this with God’s grace in his Concordia in 1588.
Tirso de Molina’s The Doubter Damned (El condenado por desconfiado) is a later play (1635). Paulo has been a religious hermit for ten years with his helper Pedrisco. Paulo has a dream that he offended God; because his sins outweigh his goodness, he is to be condemned. The Devil comes and warns him to consider Anareto’s son Enrico who calls himself a devil and uses his sword on men so that he can win Celia. Paulo comes with Pedrisco to find Enrico because an angel told him that he and Enrico will either be damned or saved together. Enrico tells how he began stealing from his father, became a gambler, a thief, and a murderer. He has raped six maidens, stripped church altars, and despises the law. Paulo is worried that both will go to hell and decides to become a bandit leader like Enrico. Yet Enrico is kind to his father Anareto and says if he were always with him, he would commit no crimes. Later Octavio demands his money back, and Enrico stabs him. The Governor orders Enrico executed but is killed by him. Paulo orders Pedrisco to hang three men, but a shepherd boy tells Paulo that God is merciful to sinners. Paulo wonders if Enrico will find forgiveness too. Pedrisco comes across Enrico unarmed and has him tied up but not harmed. Paulo returns as a hermit and asks Enrico to confess because he is to die. Enrico refuses, and Paulo has him untied and tells him his story. Enrico says he trusts in the great love of God. He offers Paulo a gem in Naples and goes with Pedrisco to get it.
In act 3 Enrico and Pedrisco are in jail. Celia visits them and says they are to be hanged. Enrico breaks his chain and kills a guard but is recaptured. The Devil urges Enrico to escape, but musicians sing for him to stay. Enrico trusts in God’s mercy and hopes to be saved. Anareto visits his son Enrico and grieves for him. Paulo dreams about a shepherd boy who warns him he is clinging to evil. Paulo wakes up and sees two angels bearing the soul of Enrico to heaven. Armed peasants and a judge come for Paulo, but he drives them away with his sword, runs down a mountain, and is badly wounded. Pedrisco arrives and says they found him innocent of Enrico’s crimes. He and Paulo embrace, and Pedrisco tells how Enrico confessed and died a Christian death and is now with God; but Paulo is in hell for doubting. Paulo realizes that he brought this on himself and is cursed because of his lack of faith. The judge lets Pedrisco go so that he can learn from this, and Pedrisco advises others to learn from Robert Bellarmine who became a cardinal in 1599 and died in 1621.
Juan Ruiz Alarcon was born about 1582 in Mexico City. He studied law and came to Spain in 1600, earning his bachelor degree in civil law at Salamanca University in 1602 and getting his licentiate in civil and canon law in 1605. He went back to Mexico in 1609 but settled in Madrid in 1614. He published eight plays in 1628 and twelve in 1634. In June 1633 he was appointed Permanent Court Reporter for the Royal Council of the Indies. He died on August 4, 1639.
Alarcon’s comedy The Walls Have Ears (Las paredes oyen) was performed in 1617. Don Juan de Mendoza tells his servant Beltran that the rich and beautiful widow Doña Ana is far superior in every way to himself, but he has hope for his love. He sees her alone and tells her he loves her even though he does not expect her to love him back. He asks if it is a sin to love her more than he loves himself. Don Mendo de Guzman tells the Count that he loves Ana and that Lucrecia is jealous. Dorothea wants to marry him, but he loves Ana most. Mendo feels lovable because he is a Leo, and the love of Venus and the desire of Mars are intensified by a conjunction at his birth. Ana tells Mendo that she feels a longing, but her heart is cautious. The Count tells Lucrecia that he is in love with her. Mendo is afraid that Duke Urbino will fall in love with Ana, and so he tells him that she is ugly and old. Ana overhears this and leaves town.
In act 2 Juan learns Ana has changed, and he believes she may respond to his love. Lucrecia has a love letter from Mendo that praises her and denigrates Ana, and she shows it to Ana. This lady no longer has love for Mendo. Her servant Celia says Juan’s love for her is selfless, and she suggests that the heart and mind are more important than face and figure. The Duke tells Ana he is smitten by her. Mendo tries to win Ana back, but she says he is his own enemy. Mendo stops Ana on a highway. He grabs her, and Lucrecia tries to help Ana. The Duke and Juan arrive and draw their swords against Mendo and his servant, and they fight.
In act 3 the Duke says Mendo intended violence. Juan declares his love for Ana, and she says it is madness. He offers to help her gain the love of the Duke; but she says he is beyond her and that she would rather marry a farmer. Celia urges Ana to declare her love for Juan. Mendo tells the Count he will go back to Lucretia. Beltran urges Juan to marry Ana. The Count shows Lucrecia a love letter from Mendo to Ana, and Lucrecia shares it with Ana and Juan. Mendo tries again to win back Ana, but she rejects him. Mendo, Juan, the Duke, and the Count all draw their swords, but Ana prevents a fight and gives her hand to Juan. Lucretia tells Mendo that the walls have ears, and they heard him speak ill of her; she gives her hand to the Count. This comedy shows how a selfless and more spiritual love is greater than a selfish attachment based on physical attraction.
Alarcon’s best known comedy The Truth Suspected (La verdad sospechosa) was published in 1634. Don Beltran gives his servant Tristan to his son Garcia who has just come home to Madrid. An elderly lawyer warns Beltran that Garcia has a habit of saying things that are not true, but it is just a phase. Beltran wants his son married before people find out. Garcia asks Tristan about the women there. Garcia tells wealthy Don Juan de Luna and his friend Felix about a fabulous banquet he attended which Tristan knows is false. Garcia also claims he is from Peru. Juan is courting Jacinta and suspects she spent the night with a man. Garcia heard that Lucrecia is prettier than Jacinta and desires her. Beltran advises his son to say no more than necessary, but Tristan tells Beltran that Garcia is telling many lies. Jacinta learns that Garcia is the son of Beltran and not from America. Beltran warns his son to act like a gentleman, and he wants him to marry Jacinta. Garcia thinks he wants her friend Lucrecia and tells his father he is already married to a woman in Salamanca and is believed. Garcia challenges jealous Juan, and they fight until Felix stops them and explains to Juan that Garcia lies. Jacinta and her friend Lucrecia pretend to be each other to fool Garcia who courts Jacinta thinking she is Lucrecia, who hopes that Garcia will stop lying and love her truly. Garcia forgets some of his lying, and Tristan notes that a liar needs as good a memory as an imagination. Garcia sends a love letter to Lucrecia. Garcia tells Tristan that he killed Juan, but the servant sees Juan approaching and realizes Garcia even lies to him. They explain to Beltran that Garcia lied about being married to avoid marrying Jacinta. Finally Juan is to marry Jacinta, and Garcia realizes he has been tricked but will have to marry Lucrecia as he promised. This comedy shows the craziness that can result from a pathological liar who loses all trust.
Pedro Calderon de la Barca was born on January 17, 1600 in Madrid. His Flemish mother died in 1610, and his father was Secretary of the Council of the Treasury until his death in 1615. He had been a harsh disciplinarian and in his will ordered Pedro to leave a certain woman alone. That year Pedro left the University of Alcala and went to Salamanca where he earned a degree in canon law. He returned to Madrid in 1618, and by 1620 he was entering poetry contests. In 1621 his brothers Diego and José and he were involved in a murder and had to pay compensation to the victim’s family. In 1622 he won third prize for poetry and was praised by Lope de Vega, and his plays were first performed in 1623. Starting in 1625 Pedro Calderon did military service in Italy and Flanders for three years. In 1629 the actor Pedro de Villegas wounded his brother Diego in a duel and fled into a Trinitarian convent where Pedro Calderon molested the nuns including Lope de Vega’s daughter Marcela. He was put under house arrest for a few days.
Calderon’s comedy The Fake Astrologer was written about 1624. Doña Maria tells her maid Beatriz she loves Don Juan, but she dislikes Don Diego. Don Juan de Medrano tells her he is going to Flanders to serve King Felipe IV. Maria confesses she loves him, and he promises his devotion. She asks him not to tell anyone or let himself be seen there. Diego has his servant Moron give a gold chain to Beatriz for her help in courting Maria. Don Juan secretly remains in Madrid and is aided by Don Carlos who loves Violante. Beatriz tells Moron that Maria adores Juan, and Moron tells Diego that the lovers meet secretly. Don Antonio assures Diego he will keep the secret, but he tells Carlos who tells Violante. In act 2 Maria talks with Moron and Diego and blames Beatriz for revealing her secret. Moron claims that Diego is a famous astrologer. Diego tells Leonardo that his daughter Maria will marry a poor man. Leonardo wants to learn about the future from him. Antonio learns of this and tells Carlos that Diego has fantastic abilities. Carlos takes a letter to Violante who wants to see Don Juan, and Carlos says Diego can help her see him. Diego goes to Violante and realizes he cannot do magic, but he has her write a letter to Juan and expect him that night. Carlos finds the letter. Don Juan visits Violante and her servant Quiteria, and they both are scared and run away. In act 3 Maria gives Juan a jewel and then tells her father her jewel is gone. Diego is asked to find the jewel, but he says he is not a sorcerer. Diego tells Violante that Juan secretly loves her. Leonardo asks Diego to find the jewel. Diego says he does not know astrology, and Leonardo thinks he is being humble. Juan tells Leonardo that Maria gave him the jewel. Violante confesses her love for Juan. Violante pretends to love Carlos in order to make Juan jealous. Maria agrees to marry Juan. Violante tells Leonardo that Juan loves his daughter. Diego says the stars decreed her husband would be poor, and Leonardo gives her hand to Juan. Diego promises to stop prophesying and to quit astrology. This farce shows how people can be fooled by something (astrology) they do not understand.
Calderon probably wrote Devotion to the Cross initially when he was a soldier in Italy in 1625 and later revised it for performance in 1633. Near Siena two young men are quarreling. Lisardo objects to Eusebio marrying his sister Julia because she is entering a convent. Eusebio tells how the cross has been present at his birth and several times at key moments in his life. They fight, and Lisardo is mortally wounded. At Curcio’s house his daughter Julia does not want to forget Eusebio and become a nun as her father insists. Eusebio arrives and asks her to run away with him. Julia says Curcio dominates her life but not her freedom of conscience. Her maid Arminda comes in and says her brother Lisardo is dead. Julia forgives Eusebio and urges him to escape. He says he will always love her and leaves. In act 2 Eusebio has become a leader of bandits. Their prisoner Alberto is a holy hermit with the book, The Miracles of the Cross. Eusebio sends a message to Curcio and breaks into the convent and demands that Julia submit to him. He sees that she also has a cross on her breast and promises to pray with her. Julia escapes from the convent, dresses as a man, and is captured by highwaymen who take her to Eusebio. She tells him she killed several people, but he advises her to return to the convent. Eusebio fights Curcio and begs him to forgive him. They stop fighting. Eusebio refuses to surrender to the law and is attacked by peasants and falls off a cliff. Curcio sees the cross on his chest and realizes he is his son. Eusebio seems to have died but revives and confesses to Alberto. Curcio sees Eusebio die. Julia admits her crimes. Curcio is about to kill her when she embraces a cross and is taken up to heaven. This early drama reflects Spain’s violence, religion, and code of honor.
Calderon wrote The Purgatory of Saint Patrick in 1628. King Egerius of Ireland and his daughters Polonia and Lesbia find Patrick and Luis Enius on the seashore. Patrick is an orphan from an Irish cavalier and a French lady who became a Christian and read lives of the saints. Luis is a Spaniard who has murdered several people and was captured by Captain Philip. The King embraces Luis for his courage and makes Patrick a slave. Patrick prays, and an angel frees him. Luis quarrels with Philip and is arrested. Polonia helps Luis escape, but then he murders her. Philip finds her body, and in the presence of the King by prayer Patrick brings Polonia back to life. The King asks if she was in heaven or hell, and Patrick explains that she was temporarily in purgatory. The King asks him to show them purgatory. Patrick takes them to a cave and says that those confessing sins will be forgiven. Luis travels with Paul and sees his own spirit. By a mountain Luis finds Polonia, and he asks her to guide him. At Patrick’s cave Luis is counseled by a canon and taken into the cave. Luis emerges astonished and tells Polonia and others how he was advised by angels and came out unmolested by the infernal spirits. This religious drama shows how faith in God can overcome and transform the life of a violent Spaniard.
Calderon’s romantic comedy, The Phantom Lady, is from 1629. Don Manuel is traveling with his comical servant Cosme to visit his friend Don Juan whose sister Doña Angela is a widow. She is veiled and with her servant Isabel and asks Manuel for protection from her other brother Don Luis, who, not recognizing her, is attracted to her. Cosme asks Luis for help reading an address, but Luis beats him. Manuel challenges Luis, and they fight. Don Juan arrives with Doña Beatriz and wants to help Luis, who stops the fight that would become unfair. Juan takes Manuel to his house. Angela is staying at Juan’s house, and a secret door covered by a mirror connects her room to the guest room where Manuel stays. She has Isabel place letters in his room and becomes the phantom lady who Cosme thinks is a devil. This contrivance makes for many intriguing and amusing situations. While Angela writes a letter, Isabel steals money from Manuel and throws his clothes around. Manuel answers the letters and suspects the lady is the mistress of Luis, who loves Beatriz; but she rejects him and is coy with Juan. Manuel nearly catches Isabel and Angela, but they escape. In act 3 Angela leads Manuel to her room, but she puts off identifying herself. Luis is looking for Beatriz and gets into a fight with Manuel. Finally Angela explains everything. Luis says Manuel can not take Angela away without marrying her, and he agrees. Despite some sword play no one is seriously hurt, and conflicts are resolved honorably.
Calderon’s most famous play, Life Is a Dream (La vida es sueño), was written about 1629 and published in 1635. Poland’s King Basil, worried about bad omens, has kept his son Segismund in a prison with only Clotaldo as a guard and tutor. Clotaldo’s daughter Rosaura in a man’s clothes arrives with her servant Clarion, and she keeps the resentful Segismund from killing her. Clotaldo with soldiers wearing masks takes Rosaura and Clarion away and realizes that Rosaura is his child. King Basil tries to reconcile his nephew Astolfo and his niece Stella. Basil says he will let Segismund rule; but if he does so badly, he will be imprisoned again. Then the cousins Astolfo and Stella will marry and succeed him. Prince Segismund is drugged and returned to the palace. Basil hopes he will think his previous suffering was a dream or that his ruling is a dream. Segismund quarrels with a servant and Clotaldo, and he has the servant thrown off the balcony to his death. Basil criticizes him and warns him he is dreaming. Rosaura becomes a lady in waiting to Stella, and Segismund says her resistance poisons his patience; but Clotaldo prevents him from killing her. Astolfo stops Segismund from killing Clotaldo, and Segismund threatens to take vengeance; but Basil has him arrested, drugged, and taken back to the prison. Rosaura discovers that Astolfo is giving her portrait to Stella and intervenes. Segismund insists he was awake but that the strange world is like dreaming. Clotaldo advises him to do good even in dreams. In act 3 soldiers come and liberate sleeping Segismund from prison, but Clarion is left there. Clotaldo opposes the revolt, and Segismund lets him serve Basil and says virtue matters. Stella and Rosaura support Segismund. Basil is losing and flees with Clotaldo, and Clarion is killed. Basil comes and kneels before Segismund who forgives him and says, “He who foresees an evil cannot conquer it thus in advance.”7 Segismund has Astolfo marry Rosaura, and he will wed Stella. The soldier who claimed he led the revolution is imprisoned. Segismund says a dream taught him and notes that all human happiness passes away like any dream. This play dramatically shows the need to control one’s vices and overcome circumstances with virtuous behavior.
Calderon’s Love After Death (1633) is also known as El Tuzani de la Alpujarra and is set during the Moriscos’ revolt in the Alpujarra mountains 1568-70. On January 1, 1567 Felipe II had ordered the termination of all Muslim customs and names by the end of the year. The insurrection began in December 1568. An old Cadi convenes a secret meeting of Moors in Granada. Don Juan Malec is from a long line of African kings and explains the oppressive new laws. He argues that it is better to suffer fate without flinching than to lord it over others. He notes that wounds of steel can be cured faster than injuries by words that never heal. He has no son but only his daughter Clara to redress the injustice, and several people pledge support. At home Clara says she is willing to die to gain revenge, and Don Alvaro Tuzani asks for her hand. She is devoted to him but must punish their enemy first. The Morisco leaders Malec, Don Alonso Zuñiga, and Don Fernando de Valor have Don Juan de Mendoza a prisoner and want Clara to marry him, and she agrees to gain revenge. Alvaro is jealous and also wants to kill him. Alvaro’s sister Isabel Tuzani visits Mendoza and Garces in prison. While she hides, Alvaro comes in and challenges Mendoza. When Alvaro trips and falls during the sword fight, she intervenes to save him. Valor and Zuñiga come in. Alvaro says he is related to Malec, and the conflict is resolved.
In act 2 Spanish forces are led by Don Juan of Austria and Mendoza near Galera against 30,000 Moors. Grand Corregidor Zuñiga was assassinated. Valor has made Tuzani’s sister Isabel his queen. Muslims have renounced their Christian names. Don Lope de Figueroa arrives from Flanders. Garces carries Alcuzcuz in, and the Moor says he will guide the Spaniards. Malec arranges for Clara to marry Alvaro. Alcuzcuz escapes to the Moors. Garces is wounded but makes it back to the Spanish camp. Alvaro was sent to Gavia but promises to visit Clara at Galera. She prevents Alvaro from killing Alcuzcuz. A cannon destroys Galera which surrenders, and Spaniards loot the town. Alvaro finds Clara badly wounded, and she recognizes him before dying. Valor’s forces arrive too late. Lope and Mendoza counsel that they should not kill so many Moors, and Juan of Austria proclaims a pardon to all who ask and obey. He demands his share of the jewelry, and Alvaro notices pearls he gave to Clara. He tries to find the man who killed her. Alvaro and Alcuzcuz are arrested. Garces in shackles joins them, and he tells how he captured a beautiful Moorish woman, admired her jewelry, tried to rape her, and finally stabbed her. Alvaro realizes it was Clara and kills Garces. Mendoza and soldiers come in. Alvaro kills a soldier and escapes, and he finds Isabel by Beria. Juan of Austria pardons them and Alcuzcuz. Calderon showed his tolerance in this sympathetic portrayal of the Moriscos’ revolt.
After the death of Lope de Vega in 1635, Calderon replaced him as theater director at court. In 1636 King Felipe IV dubbed him a knight in the Order of Santiago. His brother José was a soldier but helped edit the first two volumes of Pedro’s plays which were published by 1637. In two decades Calderon wrote more than seventy plays for the commercial theaters. From 1640 to 1642 he fought under Duke Olivares against the rebellion in Catalonia until he was discharged because of illness. After the death of Prince Baltasar Carlos in 1646 the theaters in Spain were closed for three years. Calderon served the Duke of Alba probably as secretary 1646-50. During this period both his brothers died, and his illegitimate son was born. Calderon joined the Third Order of Saint Francis on October 11, 1650, and he was ordained a priest in September 1651. After that he wrote religious plays and for the court theater. His first musical play was The Garden of Falerina in 1648, and two of his operas were performed in 1660. He published his short religious plays (autos) in 1677, and in 1680 he listed 110 secular plays and 70 autos he had written. Calderon died on May 25, 1681. His plays continued to be popular for two centuries, but in the late 19th century the trend toward realism revived the plays of Lope de Vega.
The tragicomedy Secret Vengeance for Secret Insult by Calderon is from 1635. The play takes place in Lisbon and begins with the entrance of Portugal’s King Sebastian. The protagonist is the Portuguese army commander, Don Lope de Almeida, who is granted leave to complete his proxy marriage. His friend Don Juan de Silva arrives in ragged clothes and tells Lope of his misfortunes from seeking honor. Lope says he is about to meet his bride and invites his friend to stay with him in his elegant house. Doña Leonor and her maid Sirena arrive from Castile, but what she says are tears of joy are actually because she learned that her lover, Don Luis, is dead. She is suicidal and is marrying to avenge herself. The Castilian Don Luis arrives to sell diamonds and gives one to Leonor, who recognizes it is the one she gave him as a pledge; but she tells him he came too late. He says she broke her pledge. She has him hide and listen to what she has to say to him and to Lope. She honors him as her husband but cannot love him as he was in former days. Luis tells his servant Celio he wants to die for Leonor. In act 2 Lope’s servant Manrique comically woos Sirena. Lope tells Leonor that King Sebastian is going to war in Africa, but he is staying to be with her. She urges him to join the King, but Juan advises him not to go. Lope suspects her motive and becomes jealous of the Castilian gentleman. Leonor receives a letter from Lope that reminds her of past love. Sirena arranges for Luis to visit Leonor in the dark. He urges her to remember their romance, and she says he went off to Flanders to fight and was reported killed. Someone is coming, and Juan and Luis draw their swords. Luis slips away. Leonor brings a light, and Lope and Manrique find Juan who says he saw a man. Leonor says he must be a robber, but she stops Lope from searching her bedroom. Lope with a sword captures Luis who makes up a story why he is there, and Lope offers him hospitality. In act 3 Juan counsels Lope who decides that secret revenge will hide the insult to his honor. He tells the King he will go to war. Lope wonders if Leonor is really guilty and puts off revenge. On the seashore Juan kills a soldier who insulted him but is wounded. Leonor writes Luis to visit her, and Lope offers him a ride on a boat he hired. They are alone, and Lope kills Luis and then sets his house on fire, killing Leonor. Lope expects to be killed in battle. This tragedy reflects the violent militarism of the Spanish empire, though the villain is portrayed as a Portuguese killing Spaniards for a Spanish audience.
Calderon’s The Surgeon of His Honor is a tragedy of misguided honor and jealousy. Prince Enrique falls from his horse and is carried to the home of the physician Don Gutierre, whose wife Mencia attends to Enrique. He insists on being moved because he was in love with her before she married. She urges him to put aside his jealousy and stay. Mencia wonders if Gutierre is going to see Leonor whom he declined to marry because he suspected her fidelity. Leonor was innocent and appeals to King Pedro to restore her honor, and he promises he will. Gutierre defends himself before the King and wants to fight Arias with his sword. He and Arias are put in jail. Mencia asks Prince Enrique not to tarnish her honor and has him hide from her husband who arrives on parole unexpectedly. Enrique escapes unseen but leaves behind his sword which Gutierre finds. King Pedro has Gutierre and Arias released, and Enrique has them promise to be friends. Arias proposes to Leonor who declines because she wants her name cleared. Gutierre sneaks into his house and calls to Mencia, and her replies feed his suspicion that she is expecting Enrique; Gutierre has diagnosed her dishonor. In act 3 he tells the King that he suspects Enrique but guarantees his safety. While Gutierre hides, the King questions his brother Enrique. When the King returns his sword, Enrique accidentally cuts Pedro’s hand. Mencia is worried that Gutierre is jealous. His servant Coquin delivers a message from Enrique to Mencia who dreams she is drowning in blood. Gutierre leads the physician Ludovico with his head covered to Mencia and forces him to bleed her to death. The King learns what happened from Ludovico, but instead of punishing Gutierre he has him marry Leonor to restore her reputation. This startling ending shows how strong the Spanish sense of honor was and how men could get away with such crimes.
Calderon wrote Three Judgments in One about 1636. Don Mendo Torrellas and his daughter Doña Violante are captured by outlaws, but their leader Don Lope de Urrea prevents a fight. Mendo knows Don Lope’s father of the same name and promises to seek redress on his behalf. Lope tells how he loves his mother Blanca and came to hate his father and became a criminal. The elder Don Lope tells King Pedro of Aragon what happened, and the King gives the case to the new Minister of Justice Mendo. Young Lope and his man Vicente see Violante undressing and admire her beauty. Lope and Violante fall in love. Lope goes home, gets a lecture from his father, and promises to reform. Mendo arrives with his servant Beatriz. Vicente provides comic relief flirting with Beatriz and Elmira. Don Guillen tries to woo Violante, but she finds him boring. He becomes jealous of Lope, and they fight. The elder Lope breaks it up and sides with Guillen against his son Lope who strikes his father. The elder Lope gives his account to the King who orders Mendo to arrest young Lope. Mendo detains him and tells the King what actually occurred, and they decide to arrest Guillen and the elder Lope as well. Doña Blanca tells the King how Mendo and her late sister Laura gave birth to Lope whom Blanca raised with her husband Lope. Blanca also tells Mendo to plead for his son Lope. The King promises a triple judgment against young Lope, Mendo, and Blanca which is discovered to be the hanging of young Lope. This tragedy reflects Calderon’s difficult relationship with his strict father and the harshness of Spanish justice.
Calderon wrote The Mighty Magician (El mágico prodigioso) in 1637 for the feast of Corpus Christi in the town of Yepes. Cyprian and Justina were Christian martyrs executed under Emperor Diocletian in 304. Cyprian is studying theology, and the Demon offers to take the opposite view. Lelius and Florus are competing for the love of Justina, and Cyprian tries to mediate their conflict by finding out whom she prefers. She rejects them both and says that Cyprian’s love is too bold. In act 2 Cyprian realizes he loves Justina, though she will only love him in death. He offers his soul, and the Demon accepts. Cyprian wants to possess her and promises his immortal soul in a contract written with his blood. The Demon promises to teach him magic in twelve months so that he can attain his goal. In act 3 after a year voices try to influence Justina. The Demon says winning over her thoughts is halfway, but she retains her free will over action. A phantom of Justina is created, and Cyprian embraces it, only to find it is a skeleton. He complains the Demon deceived him and argues the contract is annulled. Cyprian tries to use his sword but cannot touch the Demon who admits he is the Devil. Cyprian prays to God, and the Demon says God saved his life. Lelius says Cyprian is acting like a madman in Antioch. Cyprian calmly tells Governor Aurelius that Justina is protected by God, and he also acknowledges the Infinite and Eternal One. He says the headsman can cut off his head. Justina and Cyprian are prisoners. He says his sins are immense, but she replies that God’s mercy is even greater. In the final scene a scaffold shows the heads and bodies of Justina and Cyprian.
The Mayor of Zalamea by Calderon is from the early 1640s. Soldiers camp near the town of Zalamea. Rebolledo and his sweetheart La Chispa sing that officers can fight the war and kill Arabs who are not their enemies. A Captain and a Sergeant have designs on Isabel, the daughter of the richest farmer Crespo, and Don Mendo is trying to court her. Crespo and his son Juan have Isabel and her cousin Inés stay in the attic to be safe. The Captain and Rebolledo pretend to quarrel and run up to the attic. Crespo and Juan have swords to protect their honor. The strict commander Don Lope de Figueroa arrives and orders the rope treatment for the Captain and Rebolledo. Lope confines all soldiers to quarters and stays with Crespo. He and Lope argue for their honor and eventually become friends, and they dine with Isabel and Juan. Mendo and soldiers disturb the house, and Lope and Crespo make them go away. Lope appoints Juan his orderly, gives Isabel a diamond medallion, and departs. Crespo advises Juan to be humble and courteous. The Captain and soldiers break in and abduct Isabel. Crespo follows them, fights the soldiers, and is wounded and carried away. In the forest Isabel has lost her honor and cries out. She finds her father and unties him, and both want to be killed. She tells how she was brutally treated and saw her brother Juan wound the Captain, allowing her to escape. Crespo and Isabel go home. The Town Clerk arrives and says Crespo has been chosen Mayor; he also says the King is coming and that the Captain was wounded. The Captain expects a military trial, but Crespo assumes authority as the new Mayor. First he offers the Captain all his property as a dowry if he will marry Isabel; but he declines and says he spared Crespo’s life. Farmers arrive, and Crespo has the Captain arrested and shackled along with two soldiers. Juan comes home, and Crespo has his son detained for attacking the Captain. Lope returns and quarrels with Crespo over the prisoners. Crespo says his daughter was raped, and he is gathering evidence from witnesses. King Felipe II arrives and decides that Mayor Crespo’s verdict was justified, but he must turn over the prisoner. They discover that the Captain has already been executed by garroting, and the King accepts that as justified too. He makes Crespo the permanent Mayor, and Isabel has decided to become a nun.
Calderon’s The Painter of His Dishonor was written in the 1640s and is set in Naples, a kingdom dominated by the Spanish empire. The painter Don Juan Roca is married to beautiful Serafina. His old friend, Don Luis, has a son Alvaro and daughter Porcia, who is courted by the Prince of Orsino. Serafina tells Porcia that she was secretly engaged to Alvaro, but he was drowned in a shipwreck. Serafina faints, and Porcia goes for help. Alvaro was rescued and arrives as Serafina wakes up; but she is married to Roca and rejects Alvaro. In act 2 he returns disguised as a sailor and tries to win her back. Masked Alvaro dances with her at a ball. Roca rescues her from a fire and turns her over to Alvaro so that he can rescue others. Alvaro abducts Serafina and takes her away on his ship. Roca vows revenge. In act 3 Porcia gets her father Luis to forgive his son Alvaro. He is keeping Serafina as a prisoner, where Porcia meets with the Prince. Roca searches for his wife and offers the Prince a new painting. The Prince is smitten with Serafina and arranges for Roca to paint her while he is concealed, and he recognizes her. She has a bloody nightmare and screams. Alvaro rushes in to comfort her, and Roca shoots both of them dead. The Prince protects Roca, and both fathers of the dead agree that revenging honor was justified. The Prince says he will marry Porcia. In this tragicomedy one character describes Spain as “a warlike nation and jealous,” and this play shows how these can manifest in some circumstances. This drama explores protecting women from soldiers, a common problem in the Spanish empire. A peasant Mayor’s authority is respected but only because the King approves.
1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, tr. Edith Grossman, chapter 48, p. 416.
2. Ibid., Part 2, chapter 1, p. 465.
3. The Discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus by Lope de Vega, tr. Frieda Fligelman, p. 58.
4. The Innocent Child by Lope de Vega, tr. Michael Jacobs, p. 153.
5. Fuente Ovejuna in Three Major Plays by Lope de Vega, tr. Gwynne Edwards, p. 61.
6. The Good Message of Jesus the Christ, tr. Sanderson Beck, Thomas 102, p. 158.
7. Life Is a Dream by Calderon de la Barca, tr. Roy Campbell in The Classic Theatre, Volume III: Six Spanish Plays, ed. Eric Bentley, p. 478.