Lope de Vega
Language Resources

Lope de Vega

Lope de Vega is considered one of the greatest Spanish writers that have ever lived, upstaged only by Cervantes. He was a prolific poet, novelist and playwright, producing several thousand works, and is particularly famous for revolutionizing 17th century Spanish theatre, pulling it away from the strict rules that governed the genre in earlier periods.

Biography of Lope de Vega

Born in 1562 in Madrid to a rather undistinguished family, however he showed promise from a young age. He was noticed as young as five for having advanced abilities, such as being able to read and speak both Spanish and Latin. At the age of 10 he was translating Latin verse and by the age of 12 he had written his first theatrical work. When Lope de Vega was 14, he was enrolled at the Colegio Imperial, where his talents were noticed by a priest, who felt the young man's talents were good enough to enroll at the University of Alcala. There, he almost became a priest but wasn't so keen on the celibacy that went along with it.

His love affair began with Elena Osorio, though awhile into their relationship she changed suit and chose another man over him. Obviously this was quite traumatic for Lope and he was exiled for eight years due to his attacks on her and her family. During this time he signed up for a tour of duty with the Spanish Navy and got married, which is quite productive in anyone's books! The ship that he had been assigned to was bound for service in the Spanish Armada, and Lope de Vega was extremely lucky and his ship was one of the few that returned from that disastrous escapade for the Spanish. He then spent a few years living in Valencia, beginning his literary career once again. Once his exile was over he headed straight to Toledo, as he had been offered a job as the secretary to the Duke of Alba. During this period he wrote several sonnets; he went on to pen some of his best work in the 1600s.

In his twilight years, his work took on a much more religious tone, and in 1614 he became a priest. However, his desire for women still lingered and it is thought that he was provided with many girls in order to keep him happy and working as the duke's secretary. A number of tragedies then occurred in Lope de Vega's life, mainly the death of his son Lope, and the abduction of his daughter Antonia. Lope de Vega became bed bound and died in 1635 from Scarlet fever.

Style & Works

As we mentioned above, Lope de Vega wrote a massive amount of literary works, including over 3000 sonnets, 1900 plays, hundreds of comedies, and a large collection of poems, novels and novellas. He was often criticized for favoring quantity over quality, but among the many thousand works, around 80 stand out as being true literary masterpieces. However, in terms of genres and themes within those domains, Lope de Vega had its own way of writing.

One of the main characteristics of Lope de Vega's works is the fact that everything revolves around the plot. In many cases, he borrows elements and events from Spanish history more than anything else. His most famous plays however fall under the title of 'Cloak and Dagger' plays, in which the story is always about a love that is complicated with various affairs such as the honor of the lower nobility in Spain. His main aim was to amuse and entertain his audience, which shows in the times in which he lived, as theatre was becoming an ever more popular pastime for the masses.

It is this desire to please the public that drove Lope de Vega, and in fact what led him to choose writing dramas in particular. He would also use a large range of references to add to his dramatic scenes such as the Bible, mythology from the ancient period, saints, ancient and Spanish history, the legends of the Middle Ages, the works of Italian writers, current events, and the day to day life in Spain during the 17th century. He also developed his characters much more than previous writers had done.

Some of his best work includes:

  • El Acero de Madrid
  • El Perro del Hortelano
  • El Anzuelo de Fenisa
  • La Circe
  • Rimas
  • La Filomena
  • La Gatomaquia