Lope (Félix) de Vega (Carpio)



  • (1562 - 1635) Spain's first great playwright. The mostprolific dramatist in the history of the theater, he is believed tohave written some 1500 plays of which about 470 survive. He establishedthe conventions for the Spanish comedia in the last decadeof the 16th century, influenced the development of the zarzuela,and wrote numerous auto sacramentales. He is regarded asthe founder of the Spanish commercial theater and the most influentialwriter of Spain's Golden Age.

    In his New Art of Writing Plays (c. 1609), Lopeanalysed the essentials of drama and admitted that he played to thepopular taste. "I allow myself to be borne along in the vulgarcurrent," he wrote, "wherefore Italy and France call meignorant."

    His personal life was as flamboyant as his dramas. The sonof an embroiderer, he took part in the conquest of Terceira in theAzores (1583) and sailed with the Armada in 1588, an event that inspiredhis epic poem La Dragentea (1597), which attacks Drake andEngland. He was also known for his passionate love affairs, whichcontinued after he became a priest in 1614 and created a great scandal.

    Lope wrote initially for Madrid's open-air theaters and subsequentlyfor the royal court, drawing his subject matter from history and chivalriclegend, peasant life, and biblical and mythological stories. His lyricalverse plays, most of which have happy endings, are noted for theirdramatic action, use of suspense, and lively and natural dialogue.Many were based on the conflict of love and honour.

    Among his many notable works are Fuenteovejuna (c.1614) in which villagers murder their tyrannous feudal lord and aresaved by the king's intervention, and El castigo sin venganza,in which a licentious duke maintains his public reputation by killinghis adulterous wife and her illegitimate son.