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Home » Language Resources » Spanish Literature » History of Spanish Literature » The Golden Age » Theater: Lope de Vega

History of Spanish literature

Spanish Literature: Theatre in the Spanish Golden Age

Theatre in the Golden Age

The Golden Age led to a development in all the theatrical fields, in terms of both structure and language. Theatre became the people´s favorite entertainment place and open air auditoriums were built in the most important cities. These were ancient theatres which had produced a stage-hand revolution. Basic questions about the three classical unities reemerged. These were:

It was known as a comedy, which was the same as a theatre piece, but was not always comic as one of its principal characteristics was its thematic plurality. The themes were based on history, on medieval epics, on diverse traditions and religious cultures, particularly the sacramental plays. Current affairs from daily life also appeared.

The plays were organized into three acts that took the following form:

Often the first act began “in media res”, meaning in the middle of the main action. This was a way of maintaining the audience´s attention from the opening line of the play.

The predominant form was verse. Normally the plays used polymeter (use of two different meters simultaneously). They used different meters depending on what the verse was about. In this way they achieved both enjoyment and beautiful poetic unity, which made the play more dramatic.

In classic theatre tragedy and comedy were kept separate: tragedies dealt with heroes and gods, whereas comedies dealt with topics of the town. In the Golden Age both comedy and tragedy were united in the same play. The hero always had a funny side which made him more human, and this allowed both traits to be mixed in the same person.

The royal figure in the play was also very important. It was a propaganda method used by the Asturians, which at the same time benefitted the writers. The figure of the King became a leader chosen by God, who imparted justice and was head of justice for man. It was a demonstration of how the Royal power had displaced the nobility and in the Baroque period took all the power for itself.

One of the most important themes in the theatre of Lope de Vega and other authors at the time was homage, which was closely related to honor. It was hierarchical honor that was related to the social class of the characters of the play, whereas honor corresponded to all men and was equal for all humans, independent of their social class. In this society honor played a part in virtue and human dignity and also intervened in ancestry.