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Authors: Lope de Vega,Gwynne Edwards

Tags: #Fiction, #Drama, #Classics, #English; Irish; Scottish; Welsh, #Continental European

Three Major Plays

OXFORD WORLD'S CLASSICS

THREE MAJOR PLAYS

LOPE DE VEGA ( 1562-1635) was one of the three great dramatists of
the most vital political and cultural period in Spanish history, the
Golden Age, when Spain ruled much of the western world. Born in
Madrid, where he spent most of his life, Lope's passionate and impulsive
nature led to his involvement in numerous sexual relationships, even
after he took holy orders at the age of 51, and often landed him in
serious trouble with the law.

Lope's
sexual appetites were equalled only by his energy as a writer. During a
literary career of some fifty-five years, he wrote both poetry and
prose and, it was claimed, more than 2,000 plays. At a time when the
theatre was beginning to flourish in Spain, Lope largely shaped the
three-act play, with its exciting action, vivid characterization, and
mixture of serious and comic elements, which would be adopted by his
contemporaries and successors.

Drawing for his material on history, the Bible, and contemporary life,
Lope's theatre had a vitality which thrilled contemporary audiences and
made him the most popular dramatist of his day.
Fuente Ovejuna, The Knight from Olmedo,
and
Punishment Without Revenge
are three of Lope's greatest plays and exemplify not only the
characteristic themes of his drama -- love, honour, revenge -- but
also his consummate artistry.

GWYNNE
EDWARDSis Professor of Spanish at the University of Wales,
Aberystwyth. He has written critical studies of Lorca and Buñuel, as
well as of Spanish theatre and cinema in general. He has also translated
more than forty Spanish plays, of which more than twenty have been
published and performed professionally.

-i-

OXFORD WORLD'S CLASSICS

THREE MAJOR PLAYS

LOPE DE VEGA ( 1562-1635) was one of the three great dramatists of
the most vital political and cultural period in Spanish history, the
Golden Age, when Spain ruled much of the western world. Born in
Madrid, where he spent most of his life, Lope's passionate and impulsive
nature led to his involvement in numerous sexual relationships, even
after he took holy orders at the age of 51, and often landed him in
serious trouble with the law.

Lope's
sexual appetites were equalled only by his energy as a writer. During a
literary career of some fifty-five years, he wrote both poetry and
prose and, it was claimed, more than 2,000 plays. At a time when the
theatre was beginning to flourish in Spain, Lope largely shaped the
three-act play, with its exciting action, vivid characterization, and
mixture of serious and comic elements, which would be adopted by his
contemporaries and successors.

Drawing for his material on history, the Bible, and contemporary life,
Lope's theatre had a vitality which thrilled contemporary audiences and
made him the most popular dramatist of his day.
Fuente Ovejuna, The Knight from Olmedo,
and
Punishment Without Revenge
are three of Lope's greatest plays and exemplify not only the
characteristic themes of his drama -- love, honour, revenge -- but
also his consummate artistry.

GWYNNE
EDWARDSis Professor of Spanish at the University of Wales,
Aberystwyth. He has written critical studies of Lorca and Buñuel, as
well as of Spanish theatre and cinema in general. He has also translated
more than forty Spanish plays, of which more than twenty have been
published and performed professionally.

-i-

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-ii-

OXFORD WORLD'S CLASSICS
LOPE DE VEGA

Fuente Ovejuna The Knight from Olmedo Punishment Without Revenge

Translated with an Introduction and Notes by
GWYNNE EDWARDS

Oxford New York OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 1999

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Translation and Editorial Matter à Gwynne Edwards 1999

First published as an Oxford World's Classics paperback 1999

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British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Vega,
Lope de, 1562-1635. [Plays. English. Selections] Three major plays /
Lope de Vega; translated with an introduction and notes by Gwynne
Edwards. ( Oxford world's classics) I. Edwards, Gwynne. II. Vega,
Lope de, 1562-1635. Fuente Ovejuna. English. III. Vega, Lope de,
1562-1635. Caballero de Olmedo. English. IV. Vega, Lope de, 1562-1635.
Castigo sin venganza. English. V. Title. VI. Series: Oxford world's
classics ( Oxford University Press) PQ6459.A2 1999 862'.3 -- dc21
98-26991 ISBN 0-19-283337-5

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Typeset by Ace Filmsetting Ltd, Frome, Somerset Printed in Great Britain by Cox & Wyman Ltd, Reading, Berkshire

-iv-

CONTENTS
Introduction
vii
The Staging of Golden Age Plays
xxxii
Translator's Note
xxxv
Select Bibliography
xxxvii
Chronology of Lope de Vega's Life
xl
FUENTE OVEJUNA
1
THE KNIGHT FROM OLMEDO
81
PUNISHMENT WITHOUT REVENGE
169
Explanatory Notes
267

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INTRODUCTION
The Golden Age

The Spanish Golden Age, in which Lope de Vega was one of the
brightest jewels, embraced, broadly speaking, the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries, when Spain was, in territorial terms, the most
powerful nation in the world. In 1492, with the conquest of Granada, the
Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabella, had succeeded in ending the
Muslim domination of Spain which had lasted for eight centuries, and
in unifying, both in a political and a religious sense, a country
which had long been divided. The same year also witnessed,
significantly, Columbus's discovery of the Indies, a momentous event
which would lead in the years which followed to Spain's conquest and
exploitation of the New World. Under Charles I, the grandson of the
Catholic Kings who succeeded to the Spanish throne in 1516, Spain's
influence in Europe also increased significantly, for in 1519 he was
elected Holy Roman Emperor (as Charles V of Austria), which meant that
large areas of northern Europe were effectively under Spanish
control. He was, in short, the most powerful ruler in Europe, with an
empire in the New World which grew larger by the year.
1

In 1556 Charles, exhausted by his efforts, abdicated in favour of his
son Philip II, who ruled Spain almost until the end of the sixteenth
century. Less imperialist in outlook than his father, Philip's dream,
nevertheless, was to be the sole ruler of a Catholic Europe, as well
as to spread the Catholic faith in the New World, regardless of the
cruelty and suffering which this might involve. By the end of the
sixteenth century, however, the image of a powerful and successful
country scarcely concealed the underlying reality of serious and rapid
decline, due in no small measure to the economic demands of maintaining
a large empire. The wealth imported from the New World, though vast,
proved insufficient, and led to inflation in Spain itself. High
taxation became crippling, Spanish industry gradually declined,

____________________
1
Authoritative studies of the history of the Golden Age include J. H. Elliot,
Imperial Spain, 1469-1716
( London, 1963) and J. Lynch,
Spain under the Hapsburgs
, 2 vols. ( Oxford, 1964 and 1969).

-vii-

and agriculture was seriously affected as countrypeople abandoned the
land in the hope of a better life in the towns and cities. When
Philip II died in 1598, his prophecy that God had given him many
kingdoms but no son fit to rule over them was uncannily accurate.

Philip III ( 1598-1619) and his successor Philip IV ( 1619-65) lost
little time in handing over power to a succession of powerful royal
favourites in order to spend their leisure in often facile amusements.
During their reigns Spanish influence in Europe was slowly whittled
away, while at home the economic situation reached a stage where
devaluation became common, the cost of collecting taxes became greater
than the value of the taxes themselves, and neither soldiers serving
overseas nor the palace guards at home received their wages. When
Philip IV died in 1665 he was replaced by his wife Mariana of Austria,
acting as regent until their son, Charles II, came of age. The result
of constant inbreeding, he was, however, a sickly individual whose
poor health in a way mirrored that of his country. His death in 1700
at the age of 40 marked not only the end of Spain's Golden Age but
also the end of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty.

In cultural terms Spain's achievements during the two centuries in
question reflect her political and territorial supremacy, though,
paradoxically, the greatest triumphs in the arts occurred during the
years of Spanish decline. Lope de Vega, born six years after the
accession of Philip II, achieved his greatest theatrical successes
during the reigns of Philip III and Philip IV, a period which also
witnessed the flowering of many other dramatists, and which in that
respect was the equal of its English counterpart. These were years
which saw too the publication of Cervantes
Don Quijote
, as well
as a string of picaresque novels which would eventually influence
English writers such as Fielding, Smollett, and even Dickens. Velázquez (
1599-1660), arguably the greatest Spanish painter, was Court painter
to Philip IV. It was the age, too, of the greatest works of the
Spanish poets Francisco de Quevedo ( 1580-1645) and Luis de Góngora (
1561-1627). In short, at a time when Spain's political and economic
fortunes were increasingly shaky, there occurred in the arts an outburst
of creative energy the like of which Spain would never experience
subsequently.
2

____________________
2
On the cultural achievements of Spain during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see P. E. Russell (ed.),
Spain: A Companion to Spanish Studies
( London, 1973).

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