The Spanish Language Blog

The dramatic literature of Spanish theatre has a long history, with authors who have marked an era and have influenced Spanish society over the centuries. Moreover, it has provided hundreds of very interesting characters, who belong to the imagination of Spaniards and of many foreign readers and spectators, who have helped generations and generations of people to enjoy and better understand life. Spanish theatre has made a definitive contribution to world literature and is the subject of study in schools and universities all over the world.

Medieval theatre

The theatrical production of the Golden Age was so great and so outstanding that we often forget that there was also theatre before that time. During the Middle Ages, there was religious drama (some plays are still performed today); court theatre, whose plays were performed by the king himself and his court as a pastime; or university theatre, written by students as an exercise in understanding classical plays. Another problem with this type of theatre is that there is no record of authors. Some would say that we would have to wait for the Celestina to know an outstanding author; but we must bear in mind that the name of Fernando de Rojas was not known until 1632.

The Golden Age

The Spanish Golden Age, the period of maximum apogee of Spanish Art and Literature, around the 16th and 17th century, which saw an impressive theatrical production, is especially well known and studied all over the world.

The best-known author of the Spanish theatre developed in the Golden Age is Lope de Vega, surely the most dazzling genius of those times. So much so that he was known in his time as "the phoenix of wits". He wrote thousands of works, novels and poems, including the plays Fuenteovejuna, La dama boba and El Perro del hortelano.

Calderón de la Barca is another of the great examples of that century of cultural flowering. His most outstanding and internationally best-known work is La vida es sueño (Life is a Dream).

One of the most outstanding names in classical Spanish theatre is Tirso de Molina. El burlador de Sevilla - the clear predecessor of the romantic "Don Juan Tenorio" - is his greatest work. The famous Miguel de Cervantes also wrote brilliant plays, such as El cerco de Numancia. Curiously, Cervantes' facet as a playwright is unknown to many.

The Enlightenment

The Golden Age was followed by a certain decline in dramatic art. The great playwrights had passed away and, although their continuators strove to keep the style alive, they did not achieve the greatness of their predecessors. The great renewal was influenced by the French Enlightenment movement. Reason, harmony and sobriety prevailed. The greatest exponent of Enlightenment theatre was Leandro Fernández de Moratín and his play El sí de las niñas. Less well known is the prolific work of the author Ramón de la Cruz, perhaps because of his dedication to more "popular" themes.


Another boom period of Spanish theatre is to be found in the age of Romanticism. A play from this period that has been performed millions of times is Don Juan Tenorio, by José Zorrilla. Another good emblematic example is Don Álvaro o la fuerza del sino, by Ángel de Saavedra. The works of this period are characterised by their high dramatic tone, their passionate themes and even the incorporation of supernatural elements. These works are still very popular today.

20th century

During the 20th century, the theatre of Jacinto Benavente stood out with plays such as Los intereses creados. The versatile writer Federico García Lorca offered some of the great works of this century, such as Yerma, Bodas de sangre or La casa de Bernarda Alba. For his part, Ramón María del Valle Inclán is another of the best exponents with titles such as Luces de bohemia and Divinas palabras. The 20th century also saw a vindication of humour through the theatre of the absurd, as demonstrated by the success of authors such as Miguel Mihura, author of Tres sombreros de copa or Maribel y la extraña familia; or Enrique Jardiel Poncela, author of Usted tiene ojos de mujer fatal or Las cinco advertencias de Satanás.

And with these we have practically reached what the textbooks give about Spanish theatre. What does the future hold for us? Theatre continues to be produced in Spain and of very good quality; but it is still too early to analyse. So the best thing to do is to experience it for yourselves.

Next Step

Let's talk! Browse our offer and let us help you create your own budget.


Interesting stories delivered straight to your inbox every month.