Lope de Vega: Spain’s most prolific writer


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.

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