Lope Félix de Vega Carpio was born in Madrid on November 25, 1562, to Félix de Vega Carpio and Francisca Fernández Flores, humble Asturian (northern Spanish) parents, who had moved to Madrid less than a year earlier. Very little is known about his childhood and early youth. His biased biographer, Pérez de Montalbán, claims that Lope de Vega studied at the prestigious Jesuit school the Colegio Imperial de San Pedro y San Pablo, but court records indicate that he studied at the smaller Colegio de los Teatinos. He attended the University of Alcalá de Henares (as did Miguel de Cervantes, Calderón, and Tirso de Molina), and he may have studied at the University of Salamanca as well. He enlisted in the armed forces in 1583 and fought in the Azores.
On returning to Madrid, Lope de Vega engaged in a love affair with Elena Osorio, the married daughter of a theater manager for whom he wrote plays. This affair lasted until 1587, when Elena (apparently at her parents’ instigation) rejected him in order to establish a liaison with a wealthier man. Lope de Vega reacted violently, circulating anonymous poetry in which he insulted Elena and her family. He was consequently accused and convicted of criminal libel and was sentenced to eight years of exile from Madrid. It was apparently at this time that he recorded in La Dorotea his impressions of this, the first of many amorous affairs that were subsequently reflected in his writing; this novel, however, was not published until 1632.
During his exile, which he apparently violated on several occasions, Lope de Vega lived first in Valencia and then in Toledo, where he was in the service of the duke of Alba. In 1588, he was married by proxy to Isabel de Urbina (the Belisa of his poetry), by whom he had a daughter, Antonia, and who died giving birth to another, Teodora, in 1594. Neither daughter lived to maturity. In the same year as his marriage, Lope de Vega may also have participated in the ill-fated expedition of the Spanish Armada against England.
Lope de Vega returned to Madrid in 1596 and was indicted the same year for concubinage with Antonia Trillo de Armenta, a wealthy widow in her early thirties who was noted for her easy virtue. Shortly afterward, he began a more lasting (until 1608) affair with Micaela de Luján, an actor’s wife, whom he referred to in his writings as Lucinda or Camila Lucinda. In 1598, apparently motivated by the promise of a huge dowry (which he never received), he married Juana de Guardo, the daughter of a wealthy fish and meat merchant. Through his writings, he managed to maintain two households, moving...
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