Monthly Archives: September 2016

Lope de Vega: Spain’s most prolific writer

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The Early Years of the Spanish Language’s Shakespeare

Lope de Vega, born in 1562, remains to this day one of Spain’s most prolific playwrights, poets and novelists. In his 72 years of life, Vega published more works than many of his colleagues combined, both past and present. Among his many nicknames showcasing his literary prowess are Fénix de los Ingenios, and Monstruo de la Naturaleza, meaning “The Phoenix of Wits” and “Prodigy of Nature” respectively. He was well respected all throughout his life, and continues to be respected among readers of Spanish literature long after his death.

Lope de Vega was born in Madrid, Spain, to a commoner family, but was never the less recognized as a genius child from a very young age. Rumor has it that by the tender age of 5, Vega was already able to read and write in both the Spanish and Latin language. Additionally the rumor mill suggests that by 12 years old he completed his first official play called El Verdadero Amante, or “The True Love.

Early in his life, Vega was able to attend noted institutions of higher learning, and had many venerable mentors to guide him. As was common at the time, many of these educational institutes were run by priests, and Vega’s early career aspirations were to join the priesthood. This all changed, however, when he reached adulthood and eschewed a life of celibacy in favor of continuous romantic dalliances which would, more often than not, get him into hot water.

The Tumultuous Life of Lope de Vega

During the course of his lifetime, Vega become not only famous for his vast literary works, but also for his ongoing tumultuous love affairs. The first of these appear to be with the daughter of a prominent director in the theater scene, Elena Osoria. Predictably, this romantic liaison ended badly, and Vega’s retaliations against not only her, but her well-to-do family, resulted in charges of libel, and he was banished from the then-Spanish-Province of Castille.

In the years after his banishment had been decreed, Vega lived in several cities around Spain, and married a 16 year old girl named Isabel de Aldrete y Urbina. This was not, however, the end of his string of scandalous love affairs for which he had now become famous for. His wife, Isabel, died in childbirth around the time his official exile was over, and so he returned to Madrid. Back in Madrid, he engaged in a series of trysts and adulterous liaisons, and even garnered further lawsuits against him. These experiences, however, all undoubtedly helped him develop his already incredibly rich body of work.  In addition to adding several more sonnets plays and novels to his oeuvre, he also collected several more children during this time, by several women.

The last years of his life were, by all accounts, dismal. Vega first lost a son, who was widely understood to have been his favorite child. Shortly after this time his second wife, Juana, died in childbirth, he then lost a second son in a shipwreck in South America and finally his youngest daughter was kidnaped. Lope de Vega came down with Scarlet fever and died shortly after that final incident.

The Jewel of Spain’s Literary Tradition

The Siglo de oro (Spanish golden age, or golden century) began around the discovery of the new world, and lasted until 1659, spanning much more than a century in reality.  It is characterized by the rise of many prolific artists, sculptors, musicians, architects and writers, who flourished artistically at this time. The siglo de oro was made possible in part by the immense wealth and stability enjoyed by Spain at the time, thanks in part to the vast land holdings and riches brought to them by the new world. It is because of this that Spain had such time, energy and money to devote to supporting the arts.

Vega’s work, while much of it critically acclaimed, is nonetheless often criticized for favoring quantity rather than quality. Among his accomplishments are: 3,000 sonnets, 2 novels, 3 novellas, 9 epic poems and about 500 plays. Some accounts attribute as many as 1,000 or more plays to his name, but only a few hundred have survived to the present day.

Partly due to his vast output of plays, Vega was integral to revitalizing the Spanish theater scene, contributing directly to its rise in popularity at the time. Vega’s desire to please the public led him to write in a particular style, while popular at the time, has since become emblematic of his works in particular. Vega’s plays are also well known for their rich plots, often weaving in elements of Spanish history and culture, making them even more relatable to the Spanish public of that era. He also wrote plays that included many tantalizing and titillating plot points such as adulterous affairs, liaisons between lovers from different classes and comments on Spanish culture, all without the moralizing lens often brought to these types of plays to to the previously heavy influence from the church.

It is a shame that only about 400 or so of Vega’s plays exist to this day, but the ones that do exist are here for us to enjoy thanks in part to professional Spanish language and copy editing services such as Spanish with Style. It is important to trust translation to a transaction expert in order to be able to preserve the tone, style and unadulterated meaning of a text. This is true for not just complex works such as Vega’s plethora of plays, poems and novels, but even for simple texts such as letters, emails, flyers or other business needs. Spanish with Style employs only well-trained professional Spanish language and copy editing experts, so you can be certain that your text is being conveyed in the manner in which it was intended.

Leandro Fernández de Moratín, Playwright, Poet and Translation expert

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Leandro Fernández de Moratín is known as one of the great Spanish playwrights of the modern era. Born in 1760 in Madrid, he was always destined to become a great writer. His father was the renowned Nicolas Fernandez, a poet, dramatist and major figure in the Spanish literary world. Because of his father’s prominent position in the literary community of the time, there is no doubt Moratín would have grown up among some of the most important writers and poets of 1700’s Madrid.

Moratín published his first major work in 1790 called El viejo y la niña (The Old Man and the Young Girl), which is still considered a classic in Spanish literature to this day. This work was a scathing critique of a common cultural practice in Spain at the time, which was arranged marriages between young girls and significantly older men. His second work, La comedia nueva (The New Comedy) was a satire featuring characters from other popular plays at the time and was just as popular as his first.

Having spent a significant amount of time at institutes of higher learning on scholarship in both France and England, Moratín was fluent in both French and English in addition to his native tongue, Spanish. Because of his exceptional language skills, he dabbled in translating great works such as the great William Shakespeare and Moliere from their original languages into Spanish. In reality, he was one of the first professional Spanish language translators and his translations are still read today in Spanish speaking communities.

For a brief period of time, Moratín was remarkably successful. He had several wildly popular plays under his belt, as well as books of prose and anthologies of poetry. During this time he also served as the official royal librarian under King Charles IV, who was more liberal-minded that many others at that time. His success however, at least in his home country of Spain, was doomed to be short lived.

Unfortunately, when the Spanish inquisition was reinstated with the return of King Ferdinand VII at the turn of the century, Moratín was exiled to France. His later work, El sí de las niñas (The Maiden’s Consent) appeared to be the last straw as it was a dark, satirical attack on Spanish cultural norms of the time – particularly women’s roles in society. The book was denounced by the powers that be, and Moratín was fated to live out the rest of his days in Paris and abandon playwriting. He was initially entered at the famous Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, but his remains were eventually repatriated to his hometown of Madrid.

In addition to Moratín himself being one of the original professional Spanish language translation experts, it is also thanks to professional Spanish language translation and copy editing services such as Spanish with Style that we can enjoy Leandro Fernández de Moratín’s own works in many other languages, including English. As you can imagine, being able to capture the essence and subtleties of his works and ensure the intended meaning of his prose are accurately portrayed, translation is best left up to highly trained professionals.

Ownership and Agreement: Possessive Adjectives in Spanish

Ownership and Agreement Possessive Adjectives in Spanish

Learning how to speak a new language comes with a mountain of challenges and a seemingly never ending list of vocabulary and grammar to learn. One of the most important things to master when attempting even just basic fluency in Spanish are the possessive adjectives. What are possessive adjectives? Quite simply, they are used to indicate ownership and to talk about what belongs to whom. In English these are words like “my”, “yours” “his” or “hers”. Spanish Possessive adjectives follow a very similar structure to English possessive adjectives, with some exceptions, of course.

In the Spanish language there are five different possessive adjectives depending on who possesses the noun in question. The five possessive adjectives are as follows: mi, tu, su, nuestro and vuestro. Mi  means “my”, for example if you wanted to say “my bag” you would say “mi bolsa”. Tu means “your”, so “your hand” would be “tu mano”. These first two possessive adjectives are relatively simple, it’s when we reach the word su that things get complicated. Su actually has four meanings depending on the context of the phrase, and can mean “his”, “her”, “their” and a more formal variation of “your”. With this in mind, we can see that “su copa” could mean “her cup”, “his cup”, “their cup” or even “your cup” (formally), and understanding what is being communicated requires a solid understanding of the overall context of the phrase. Vuestro can also mean “your” when you are speaking in the plural, but is more commonly used in Castilian Spain (Spanish spoken in Spain) and avoided in Latin American Spanish. Finally, nuestro means “our”, for example “nuestro auto” means “our car”.

Agreement  in Number and Gender

The first thing to consider when using a possessive adjective is, of course, who owns the noun to which you are referring. Then you can choose the appropriate term: mi, tu, su, nuestro or vuestro (my, your, their/his/her, our and your plural). For example, if I was talking about my own brother, I would say “mi hermano”, and if I was talking about your brother I would say “tu hermano”.

Using possessive adjectives correctly, however, does not simply end here. When constructing a sentence in Spanish, it is important that all of the adjectives are in agreement with the nouns they are modifying. What does it mean to be in agreement? Well if the noun in question is plural, then the possessive adjective changes to reflect that. Both must also be in agreement in terms of gender. This can be a difficult concept for native English speakers attempting to learn Spanish as the English language does not employ gendered nouns If the Spanish noun is feminine, the possessive adjective must be feminine as well, and if the noun is masculine, then the possessive adjective must also reflect this.

The first three possessive adjectives listed above, mi, tu and su, only have two forms. This means that the only alterations undertaken by these three forms are  to adjust them in order to agree with number. Regardless of the gender of the noun, they will still stay the same. The corresponding plural forms of these possessive adjectives are as follows:

Mi becomes Mis

Tu becomes Tus

Su becomes Sus

For example, if you wanted to say “my plate” you would say “mi plato”, and if you wanted to say “my plates” you would use the plural form and say “mis platos”. If you wanted to talk about “your sister” you would say “tu hermana”, and if you were referring to multiple sisters, you would say “tus hermanas”. The same structure applies for su, where his/her/their cat is “su gato” and “sus gatos” if there are more than one cat.

Using nuestro and vuestro are where things can get a little more complicated. Both nuestro and vuestro both have to agree not only in number, but in gender as well. For example, if I was talking about our (masculine) cousin, I would use the singular masculine form which would be “nuestro primo”. If there were more than one cousin, then I would use the masculine plural form, “nuestros primos”. If we are referring to one female cousin, then you would use the feminine singular form, “nuestra prima”,  and if there were more than one of female cousin, you would say “nuestras primas”. Vuestro follows the same principal, vuestro, vuestros, vuestra and vuestras.

Short-form and Long-form possessive Adjectives

The above discussion refers to short-form possessive adjectives, which are the most common, and as previously mentioned, are used to express ownership of a noun. In the Spanish language there is also something called long-form possessive adjectives. These are not used as often, but are still important to understand. The long-form possessive adjective is used to emphasize ownership in contrast with another owner, or to make explicit a relationship of a personal manner. These must also agree with the noun in question in both number and gender. These are as follows:

Mío, mía, míos and mías. (my)

Tuyo, tuya, tuyos and tuyas (your)

Suyo, suya, suyos and suya (his/hers/yours)

Nuestro, nuestra, nuestros and nuestras (our)

Vuestro, vuestra, vuestros and vuestras (theirs, yours formal)

To use the long-form possessive adjective, you place it after the noun in question. For example: My book (short-form) is “mi libro”, and my book (long-form) is el libro mío.

As you can see, there are many things to consider when choosing the appropriate possessive adjective, and there is plenty of margin for error. With so many aspects to consider, it’s evident how important it is to choose a reputable professional Spanish translation and copy editing service for any translation needs. Leaving your translations up to the Spanish language professionals is the only way to guarantee your messages are being conveyed clearly, correctly and concisely, and are that the intended message is being properly construed to the target audience.