Gil Vicente divided his plays into farces, religious pieces (elaborated from medieval mimes and mysteries), comedies, and tragicomedies, but his categories overlap. For example, nothing separates some of the comedies and tragicomedies from the farces, and some of the farces are religious. The tragicomedies, or aristocratic pieces, were the result of his contact with the royal court and are more often spectacular than dramatic, depending more on music, songs, and dances, and on the lyricism of their versification. It is rather in his comedies and farces that he displays his dramatic skill, his keen powers of observation, and his generous human sympathy. Brilliant character sketches, clever dialogue, and comic situations occur in the farces Quem tem farelos?, The Sailor’s Wife, Farsa de Inês Pereira, O velho da horta, and in other plays that are devoid of conventional plot, such as The Carriers and O juiz da Beira, which are more like modern revues than any dramatic genre. The vitality of Vicente’s humorous and satiric studies is especially remarkable if indeed they lacked the stimulus of popular audiences.
Most of the plays are written in the national redondilha verse of eight-syllable lines and are introduced by rubrics stating the date, the place, the audience, and the occasion of each performance. Most of them were staged at the various royal palaces, although some were played in...
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