Lope de Vega Carpio was an incredibly prolific writer. In addition to his plays, which number in the hundreds, he wrote poems, such as La Dragontea (1598; Drake the pirate), El Isidro (1599), La hermosura de Angélica (1602; Angélica’s beauty), Jerusalén conquistada (1609; Jerusalem regained), and La gatomaquia (1634; Gatomachia, 1843). He also wrote several prose works, including La Arcadia (1598), El peregrino en su patria (1604; The Pilgrim: Or, The Stranger in His Own Country, 1621), Los pastores de Belén (1612; the shepherds of Bethlehem), Novelas a Marcia Leonarda (1621; stories for Marcia Leonarda), and La Dorotea (1632). His Égloga a Claudio (1637; eclogue to Claudio), published after his death, contains autobiographical and critical material on his life and work.
Lope de Vega Carpio, “the father of Spanish theater,” is generally credited with establishing the norms for the drama of Spain’s Golden Age and is recognized as one of its most accomplished dramatists as well as its most prolific. His El arte nuevo de hacer comedias en este tiempo (1609; The New Art of Writing Plays, 1914), presented to a Madrid literary society, sets out the norms that Lope de Vega followed in writing his dramas. These norms are not entirely original with him but represent instead his synthesis of a long process of development in which many dramatists participated. It is significant, however, that once this style of theater received Lope de Vega’s endorsement, it became fixed in the Spanish canon. Thus, The New Art of Writing Plays provides a fairly accurate description of most Spanish drama from that time until the death of the last great Golden Age dramatist, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, in 1681.
The full extent of Lope de Vega’s dramatic production remains unknown and is the subject of scholarly debate. He is the undisputed author of 316 surviving full-length plays and the probable or reputed author of many more. In 1609, in The New Art of Writing Plays, he claimed to have authored 483 dramas, and, toward the end of his life, he elevated that number to 1,500. His first biographer, Juan Pérez de Montalbán, who was also a close friend, credited him with more than 1,800 dramatic works. Both sources, however, are suspect. Lope de Vega is certainly not noted for his modesty, and there is some evidence indicating that he never intended the figures he cited to be taken literally; Pérez de Montalbán’s biography is an exaggerated encomium that deliberately suppresses the various scandalous incidents in Lope de Vega’s life that would have damaged his reputation. Therefore, more cautious critics have suggested that Lope de Vega’s total dramatic production probably did not exceed 800 full-length plays.
Lope de Vega also produced a number (estimates run as high as 400, a tenth of which remain) of autos sacramentales—short, allegorical, religious dramas that were used in the Corpus Christi celebrations. His contribution to this genre, however, has been overshadowed by that of Calderón.
Lope de Vega Carpio was a contemporary of William Shakespeare. How does his place in Spanish literature compare to Shakespeare’s in English literature?
To what sort of Shakespearean character would one compare the gracioso of Vega Carpio?
Honor is an important virtue for Spaniards. How does Peribáñez achieve honor in the play named for him?
Revenge was often a motive in Renaissance theater. What is the significance of Vega Carpio’s title Justice Without Revenge?
Was dealing with governmental authority a larger problem for Vega Carpio than it was for English writers of the same period?
Brushatin, 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.
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