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Spain was united after the Moorish occupation (711-1400s). However, it also left Spain as a cultural powerhouse in Europe which was still largely medieval in 15th century. Spanish philosophers and scholars exerted strong influence and their craftsmen were well known across Europe.
Ferdinand and Isabella united Spain and by 1492 expelled the Moors entirely form the country. They were determined to Christianize Spain and instituted the Inquisition to hunt down and punish heretics/in addition to the Moors tey expelled all the Jews from the country.
Influences from both the Moors and Catholics are evident in the Spanish drama: Moorish heritage in the attitude towards women and honor; Catholic influence-religious faith and doctrine-God and church.
Spain was the dominant world power for almost two centuries-1492 expansion and occupation of many lands in America, Africa parts of Europe-Portugal, Sicily, Netherlands. This gave the nation a sense of stability, confidence, energy-also evident in the theater.
Religious drama-auto sacramentale- were extremely popular and performed regularly even after they had become obsolete in the rest of Europe. Professional troupes were organized for this purpose-best writers were hired to write them. They were produced on carts (carros) roughly 16 feet long and 36 feet tall-thus having two levels.
Eventually they used 4 carros as a permanent stage-actors were reharsing for a long time and were presenting for the city council before the performance could get approved for the public. Autos were performed for 200 years until the decline in mid 1700s
By the end of the 16th century-several dramatic geners appeared
Comedia-3 act dramas or comedies.
Cape and Sword-about lowly gentlemen and Cuerpo (Noise) about kings and mythological characters, saints-actions in remote places.
Lope de Vega
One of the most famous and prolific playwrights-a nobleman, soldier, businessman, lover and finally a priest. He wrote over 1600 plays some-450 have survived. Often compared to Shakespeare, he did not have the depth and insight into human nature-he preferred to end plays with happy endings-looking at the positive side.
Pedro Calderon de La Barca
Wrote about 200 plays of which a 100 survived. He wrote “Cape and Sword” comedies-love triangles that are happily resolved. He also wrote serious plays about jealousy and honor. Most famously he wrote a number of autos-his were the most popular and the form declined after his death.
LIFE IS A DREAM
A philosophical allegory about the human situation and the mystery of life. It is a tragi-comedy-has elements of both. All major characters suspended between different duties-promises and expectations of what is to be done.
Clotaldo has a duty to kill anyone who sees Segismundo but also can not kill his own daughter—as his duty is to protect her. Sgismundo kills his helpers the rebels as he has a duty to the kingdom. As in a classical comedy everyone gets married at the end but the couples are strange or unexpected-Segismundo marries Estrella instead of Rosaura-she marries Astolfo as he has ruined her honor.
Dreams to theater as theater to life
Dreams to life as life to afterlife
Basilio is rebuked in the play as he wants to find out his fate-only God knows your fate.
Women were allowed on stage from the end of the 16th century. Cross-dressing was forbidden so Rosaura appears as a half-monster-half-male, half female clothing.