Authors: Lope de Vega Carpio

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Spanish playwright

Author Works

Drama:

Los comendadores de Córdoba, wr. 1596-1598, pb. 1609

El nuevo mundo descubierto por Cristóbal Colón, wr. 1596-1603, pb. 1614 (The Discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus, 1950)

El mayordomo de la duquesa de Amalfi, wr. 1599-1606, pb. 1618 (The Majordomo of the Duchess of Amalfi, 1951)

El anzuelo de Fenisa, wr. 1602-1608, pb. 1617

La corona merecida, wr. 1603, pb. 1620

La noche toledana, wr. 1605, pb. 1612

Los melindres de Belisa, wr. 1606-1608, pb. 1617

El acero de Madrid, wr. 1606-1612, pb. 1618 (Madrid Steel, 1935)

Castelvines y Monteses, wr. 1606-1612, pb. 1647 (English translation, 1869)

La niña de plata, wr. 1607-1612, pb. 1617

Peribáñez y el comendador de Ocaña, wr. 1609-1612, pb. 1614 (Peribáñez, 1936)

La buena guarda, wr. 1610, pb. 1621

Las flores de don Juan, y rico y pobre trocados, wr. 1610-1615, pb. 1619

El villano en su rincón, wr. 1611, pb. 1617 (The King and the Farmer, 1940)

Fuenteovejuna, wr. 1611-1618, pb. 1619 (The Sheep-Well, 1936)

Lo cierto por lo dudoso, wr. 1612-1624, pb. 1625 (A Certainty for a Doubt, 1936)

El perro del hortelano, wr. 1613-1615, pb. 1618 (The Gardener’s Dog, 1903)

El caballero de Olmedo, wr. 1615-1626, pb. 1641 (The Knight from Olmedo, 1961)

La dama boba, pb. 1617 (The Lady Nit-Wit, 1958)

Amar sin saber a quién, wr. 1620-1622, pb. 1630

El mejor alcalde, el rey, wr. 1620-1623, pb. 1635 (The King, the Greatest Alcalde, 1918)

Los Tellos de Meneses I, wr. 1620-1628, pb. 1635

El premio del bien hablar, wr. 1624-1625, pb. 1636

La moza de cántaro, wr. 1625-1626, pb. 1646?

El guante de doña Blanca, wr. 1627-1635, pb. 1637

El castigo sin venganza, pb. 1635 (based on Matteo Bandello’s novella; Justice Without Revenge, 1936)

Four Plays, pb. 1936

Las bizarrías de Belisa, pb. 1637

Five Plays, pb. 1961

Long Fiction:

La Arcadia, 1598

El peregrino en su patria, 1604 (The Pilgrim: Or, The Stranger in His Own Country, 1621)

Los pastores de Belén, 1612

Novelas a Marcia Leonarda, 1621

La Dorotea, 1632

Poetry:

La Dragontea, 1598

El Isidro, 1599

La hermosura de Angélica, 1602

Rimas, 1602

El arte nuevo de hacer comedias en este tiempo, 1609 (The New Art of Writing Plays, 1914)

Jerusalén conquistada, 1609

Rimas sacras, 1614

La Circe, 1621

La filomena, 1621

Triunfos divinos, 1625

La corona trágica, 1627

Laurel de Apolo, 1630

Amarilis, 1633

La gatomaquia, 1634 (Gatomachia, 1843)

Rimas humanas y divinas del licenciado Tomé de Burguillos, 1634

Filis, 1635

La Vega del Parnaso, 1637

Nonfiction:

Égloga a Claudio, 1637

Biography

The architect of the Golden Age of the theater in Spain was Lope Félix de Vega Carpio (VAY-gah KAHR-pyoh), often just Lope de Vega, who could justly boast that when he started writing plays only two companies of actors were performing, whereas at the end of his career forty companies employing at least a thousand people were providing the Spanish capital with plays. Scholarship sets his total dramatic output at about eight hundred plays. At least 507 of these are unquestionably his, and many of the others are in his handwriting. The total body of his work is more than any other dramatist can claim, and though many plays were written in less than one day, none is wholly insignificant, none untouched by his genius. Publishers sent shorthand experts to the theater to copy his plays and pirate them. In the provinces managers advertised their offerings as by Lope de Vega to be sure of an audience. So great was his popularity that anything excellent, from food to jewels, was referred to as “of Lope.”{$I[AN]9810000354}{$I[A]Vega Carpio, Lope de}{$S[A]Carpio, Lope de Vega;Vega Carpio, Lope de}{$I[geo]SPAIN;Vega Carpio, Lope de}{$I[tim]1562;Vega Carpio, Lope de}

Lope de Vega Carpio

(Library of Congress)

This monstruo de la naturaleza (prodigy of nature), as Miguel de Cervantes called him, was the son of a worker in gold. An ecclesiastical patron entered him in the University of Alcalá de Henares, and in 1580 he was a student at Salamanca, but a love affair with the wife of an actor kept him from taking orders as he had planned. This was the first of many love affairs, all of which he transmuted into important literary works. Friends had only to suggest a form of literature he had not attempted to have him compose for them a good example of it. The theater was his great love. Able to write a play in verse almost faster than a scribe could copy it, he seized on anything as a plot idea. The medical fad of taking iron for the blood inspired Madrid Steel. A proverb was the seed of The Gardener’s Dog.

In his rhymed The New Art of Writing Plays Lope de Vega laid down the rules under which he wrote: “In the first act, state your case; in the second, your events, so that not till the middle of the third does anybody begin to suspect what is going to come of it all. . . . Do not permit the solution till you come to the last scene.” As a result his dramas are full of suspense. Action, not philosophy, was what his audiences wanted, and he confessed that the audience dictated his plots, chose his characters, and wrote his plays. Though he knew the rules of the classical theater, he admitted that, with a half dozen exceptions, he broke them to please the people and to be true to life. Prose and poetry, he hoped, would gain him fame, and he made no secret of the fact that he wrote plays for money.

Although his genius touched all types of drama, his popularity rested chiefly on the type called comedias de capa y espada, or cloak-and-sword plays, which were full of intrigue and complications and included masked nobles and women disguised as men. The plots commanded the characters, and stock impulses motivated the action (love easily transferred, jealousy easily aroused, honor easily offended). An entertaining and involved plot kept the spectators guessing until matrimony at the final curtain washed away all stains on family honor. The outcome of these plays is not always logical. In his treatise on playwriting, Lope de Vega declared: “At times, that which is contrary to logic for that very reason is pleasing.”

He was also successful in religious plays with saints as heroes, in comedies of manners with lower-class characters, and in heroic plays with historical or legendary characters, such as The Sheep-Well and The King, the Greatest Alcalde. In addition he composed several hundred autos sacramentales, short plays for the Corpus Christi season and other Church holy days.

Lope de Vega was also fertile in nondramatic works. The epic poem La hermosura de Angélica (the beauty of Angelica) runs to eleven thousand lines, and he penned ten thousand lines in poetic tribute to Madrid’s patron Saint Isidor. The epic Jerusalén conquistada (Jerusalem conquered) is twice that long. In 1598 he composed La Dragontea, an epic in ten cantos about the misdeeds of Francis Drake, and wrote two thousand lines about the loves and adventures of a cat in his mock epic Gatomachia. Fifteen hundred sonnets resulted from his poetic musing. In prose he wrote La Arcadia, a pastoral novel. His favorite novel, La Dorotea, was inspired by his first love; frequently revised, it was finally published in 1632.

In his personal life, however, Lope de Vega’s reputation was less admirable. His sexual escapades and resulting legal difficulties were the talk of all Spain. As a boy he showed precocity, composing poetry when he was only five and writing a play at the age of twelve. He ran away from school with a companion and toured Spain until a pawnbroker grew suspicious at the wealth they displayed and turned them over to the police.

At the university he perfected himself chiefly in fencing, singing, and dancing. Once his studies were over, he surrendered to his love for the theater and by the age of fifteen was seeing his plays professionally performed. His love for adventure led him in 1583 to join a naval expedition to the Azores; he returned to an intensive life of writing. Five years later he was banished from Madrid on penalty of death for a criminal libel against the family of his mistress, Elena Osorio, the daughter of a theatrical manager for whom he provided plays. From exile in Valencia he wooed Isabel de Urbina and returned boldly to the capital to elope with her. Nineteen days after their marriage he left her to join the Armada; he used his leisure from military duties to write an epic poem.

Rough seas and the death of his brother made war unattractive, and following Isabel’s death he spent the next forty years in a succession of love intrigues and scandals. His two favorite children were illegitimate. Friend and associate of the nobility, serving the duke of Alba, the marques of Malpica, and the count of Lemos, he reached the depths as panderer for the dissipated duke of Sessa.

However, he had his moments of repentance. In 1609 he became a familiar of the Inquisition. He joined three religious confraternities in two years. When his second wife, Juana, and their son Carlos died almost simultaneously, Lope de Vega entered holy orders. In 1614, however, when he was ordained priest in Toledo, he was at the same time providing mistresses for Sessa and carrying on a love affair of his own. In 1614 he met Marta de Nevares, the great love of his life, whom he immortalized as Amaryllis in his poetry and whom he cared for tenderly during her illness, blindness, and descent into madness.

Lope de Vega was a strange compound of sensuality, pettiness, conceit, servility, and genius. Over time the last quality has outweighed all the rest, and it was that quality that all Madrid recognized on Tuesday, August 28, 1635, when he was accorded funeral honors such as have seldom been equaled for a person of letters. When his grave, San Estéban, was remodeled in the eighteenth century, no distinguishing mark was put on his coffin, so that the whereabouts of Lope de Vega’s present grave are uncertain. He left his monument in the creation of Spanish theater, however.

He established the play of three acts, set down rules of versification for the expression of various emotions and situations, and brought to the stage a richness of poetic inspiration unequaled in Spanish literature. He reflected the life, customs, and ideas of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with naturalness and poetic freedom. Inferior to Tirso de Molina in handling comedy, incapable of the poetic heights of Pedro Calderón de la Barca, less careful than Pedro Antonio de Alarcón in character portrayal and analysis, Lope de Vega Carpio nevertheless surpassed all his contemporaries in skill at blending poetry and life, which he painted in vivid colors, although he did not interpret it deeply. He gave freedom and importance to women and dignity to the lower classes and produced an enormous number of masterpieces at the time when variety was necessary to encourage a theatergoing public and bring to greatness the theater of the Golden Age in Spain.

BibliographyBrushatin, Israel. “Playing the Moor: Parody and Performance in Lope de Vega’s El primer Fajardo.” Modern Language Association of America 107, no. 3 (May, 1992): 566. Lope de Vega’s play “El primer Fajardo” chronicles the making of a Castilian hero of the Christian conquest. The parallels between the play’s motifs and Lope’s official writing as secretary to the duque de Sessa are examined.Heiple, Daniel L. “Political Posturing on the Jewish Question by Lope de Vega and Faria e Sousa.” Hispanic Review 62, no. 2 (Spring, 1994): 217. During the Spanish Inquisition, Lope de Vega wrote a poem celebrating the persecution of Jews. Manuel de Faria e Sousa, who shared Vega’s anti-Semitic views, also wrote a sonnet in tribute to Vega. Their writings are examined.Fox, Diane. Refiguring the Hero: From Peasant to Noble in Lope de Vega and Calderón. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991. Fox examines the image of the hero and class status in the works of Lope de Vega and Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Includes bibliography and index.McKendrick, Melveena. Playing the King: Lope de Vega and the Limits of Conformity. Rochester, N.Y.: Tamesis, 2000. An examination of Lope de Vega’s portrayal of the monarchy in his works. Includes bibliography and index.Morrison, Robert R. Lope de Vega and the Comedia de Santos. New York: Peter Lang, 2000. This study examines the religious drama of Lope de Vega. Includes bibliography and index.Ostlund, DeLys. The Re-creation of History in the Fernando and Isabel Plays of Lope de Vega. New York: Peter Lang, 1997. Ostlund examines the historical aspects of the dramas of Lope de Vega. Includes bibliography and index.Smith, Marlene K. The Beautiful Woman in the Theater of Lope de Vega: Ideology and Mythology of Female Beauty in Seventeenth Century Spain. New York: Peter Lang, 1998. A discussion of the feminine beauty as portrayed in the works of Lope de Vega. Includes bibliography and index.Wright, Elizabeth R. Pilgrimage to Patronage: Lope de Vega and the Court of Philip III, 1598-1621. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 2001. This study focuses on the patronage system and the interactions between politics and the life and work of Lope de Vega. Includes bibliography and index.Zuckerman-Ingber, Alix. El bien más alto: A Reconsideration of Lope de Vega’s Honor Plays. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1984. Argues that critics have misjudged Lope de Vega’s attitude toward honor. Contends that he does not condone the honor code but rather attacks it by showing the violent extremes to which the obsession with honor can lead. Explores Lope de Vega’s use of irony and his techniques of characterization in the honor plays, and how these convey his true attitude toward honor.
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