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The theatre of the Golden Age of Spain

1. The theatre of the Golden Age of Spain differed from theatre elsewhere in Europe during the same time period in three ways: (a) in its departure from the classical unities, (b) in its mixing of genre elements of tragedy and comedy in the same plays, and (c) in its populism, or appeal across social classes. An additional element that can be inferred, especially from the work of Lope de Vega, is an emphasis on entertainment, not didacticism. This may have been a function of the performance venues for Spanish plays--public squares--as opposed to French and Italian performance venues--aristocratic theatres or royal court. Now Cervantes, Lope's elder contemporary, preferred classical dramatic discipline to what he called Spain's "natural taste" (Cervantes 62) for a more open dramatic style than that articulated by Aristotle and Horace and apotheosized by the French neoclassicist and Italian Golden Age contemporaries of dramatic criticism.

Lope de Vega's work exemplified departure from classical norms, and his dramatic theory justifies his narrative strategy. This does not mean that Lope discarded the example of plays from earlier eras or the Aristotelian theoretical foundation of tragedy. It does mean he subordinated critical and theoretical guidelines to dramatic effect. Like Aristotle, Lope saw the need for action that was appropriate in developing the idea; a plot must be embedded with necessary and probable actions, even in its use of the marvelous. But Lope's focus on discourse, verse, and harmony as fundamental to "poetic imitation" (= drama) was deliberately "contrary to the ancient rule" (Lope 64-5) to the degree it was meant to shift toward a more naturalistic (= closer to nature) mode of presentation. Accordingly, in a three-act structure, although the subject of a play "should contain one action only," this did not mean that three acts should be constricted by an artificial unity of time. He suggests making each act cover o...

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The theatre of the Golden Age of Spain. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 12:45, April 26, 2019, from