Formally, Tirso de Molina’s theater follows the dramatic norms established by his older contemporary, “the father of Spanish theater,” Lope de Vega Carpio . Like Lope de Vega, Tirso valued variety and thus produced a diverse collection of plays ranging from serious biblical histories to frivolous comedies about courtship. Like Lope de Vega, he violated classical decorum by including in even his most serious dramas some humor—often in the form of a stock character known as a gracioso (clown). Tirso also followed Lope de Vega’s practice of writing his plays in a mixture of verse forms and organizing the action in three acts; like Lope de Vega, he deliberately disregarded the dramatic unities of time and place, which sought to limit a play’s setting to a single place and decreed that its action should occur in a single day.
Without departing from the norms established by Lope de Vega, Tirso endowed his plays with an individual style. One notices in his works, for example, a fondness for incorporating humor based on rustics’ mispronunciation of Spanish. One also notices a surprising lack of interest in the theme of honor or reputation—a theme recommended by Lope de Vega as particularly appropriate for drama because of its power to arouse the audience. Thus, Tirso never wrote a “wife-murder play” such as Lope de Vega’s El eastigo sin venganza (pb. 1635; Justice Without Revenge, 1936) or Calderón’s El...
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