In he became involved in the theater world, writing several plays for his mistress Elena Osorio, an actress and the daughter of an actor-manager. The love affair ended badly in , after which Lope vented his feelings in writing. He circulated scurrilous verses about Elena and her family that resulted in his being convicted of malicious libel and exiled from Madrid for eight years and from Castile for two years. During his banishment, Lope married Isabel De Urbina by proxy.
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In he became involved in the theater world, writing several plays for his mistress Elena Osorio, an actress and the daughter of an actor-manager. The love affair ended badly in , after which Lope vented his feelings in writing.
He circulated scurrilous verses about Elena and her family that resulted in his being convicted of malicious libel and exiled from Madrid for eight years and from Castile for two years. During his banishment, Lope married Isabel De Urbina by proxy.
In he sailed with the Spanish Armada in its ill-fated attack on England, then took up residence with his bride in Valencia, where his career as a professional playwright began in earnest.
After his exile from the region of Castile ended, Lope moved to Toledo, then to Alba de Torres, entering the service of the Duke of Alba, the first of many noblemen he would serve until deciding to become a priest in Until his death in , however, Lope conducted numerous romantic liaisons and, according to modern scholars, composed an estimated plays.
Fuente Ovejuna The Sheep-Well; also spelled Fuenteovejuna is noted for its stirring depiction of history and its critique of the abuses of political power. His death sparked a war of succession that would last until In fact, Isabel was considered to have the strongest legal claim—unlike Juana, she was unquestionably legitimate and, unlike Fernando, she was Castilian born and bred.
Within hours of receiving the news, Isabel had her succession proclaimed; next, she secured the royal treasure, and, a few days later, assumed the crown.
After Isabel was proclaimed Queen, the Castilian Cortes parliament met in Segovia and swore allegiance to her; accepting these developments, Fernando hurried to Castile, quickly establishing his own position as king consort. In May , Juana issued her own claim to the throne of Castile. After Isabel produced a healthy male heir in , opposition to her claim grew even weaker.
In September , the treaty of Alcacovas-Toledo ended the war: on behalf of himself and Juana, Afonso V renounced all rights and claims to the Castilian throne. Established in the twelfth century, the monastic knightly orders of Santiago, Calatrava, and Alcantara were created to defend the Christian states of Spain against the Muslims. The intention was for these orders to embody the religious and secular ideals of chivalry; however, over the years, the orders became distracted by mundane, materialistic concerns.
They acquired great wealth and power, with which they were reluctant to part. Many nobles eagerly sought inclusion in the orders. Members were subject only to the authority of their grand masters—the heads of the orders—and officials, and, as religious knights, they enjoyed clerical as well as aristocratic privileges, such as the right to hold land.
During the war of succession and the early years of her reign, Queen Isabel increasingly came to see the orders as a threat to her authority. After receiving a papal dispensation that allowed him to put aside the monastic vow of chastity he had taken, Don Pedro set out in to claim his bride but fell ill on the journey and died.
Don Juan Pacheco would serve as head of the order until Rodrigo came of age. Don Rodrigo raised no more rebellions but served his sovereigns loyally until his death in battle at Loja in A comen-dador mayor was second only to the Grand Master of a military order. During their years on the throne, Isabel and Fernando ruled the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon under their double crown. Two of their most notable triumphs took place in the re-conquest of Granada, the last outpost of Moorish opposition against Spain, and the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus , whose exploration was financed by Isabel and Fernando.
They have been known by this title, or by the title Catholic Monarchs, ever since. The Catholic Monarchs expanded Christendom, adding a seemingly limitless territory to the empire of Catholic Spain.
The prestige bestowed upon Isabel and Fernando by their new title was, by extension, bestowed upon Spain, which emerged as a dominant power in the Christian world. In , taking advantage of the distraction, he employed the force of arms to seize Fuente Ovejuna for himself and his military order.
Ultimately no one was punished for the crime. Control over Fuente Ovejuna reverted to the Order of Calatrava. History presents conflicting portrayals of his character and rule. Literary scholar Claude E. Evaluating his conduct as overlord of Fuente Ovejuna, Anibal argues that The Comendador must be judged by the standards of his time. Indeed contemporary testimony recognizes in him an unusually high degree of respectability.
He seems in any case to have been the victim not so much of his own extortion and vices, as of a political situation for which he himself was in no way responsible. Anibal, p. The Order of Calatrava, in turn, protested the removal of Fuente Ovejuna from its jurisdiction. Muslim invasions in the earlier Middle Ages had eroded the foundations of a feudal baronage, and Christian resettlement in the Duero Valley was, at least initially, carried out by small settlers who were not dependent on any powerful lord.
These settlers developed into a society of small proprietors who learned to defend themselves and their frontier holdings from attacks by the Moors. Historian Henry Kamen explains: The authority and lands of the king of Castile advanced during the great Reconquest campaigns, but there was little need for contracts between the crown and the warrior nobles, since these could be rewarded directly from the conquests without having to depend on the crown for reward.
Kamen, p. In central Spain, which included the kingdoms of Old and New Castile, peasants could hold or even own small pieces of land and have a share of the communal lands in their villages.
However, on the Castilian plains, large domains were often owned or held by ecclesiastical and lay lords; peasants rented lands from these lords—sometimes through long-term leases—and paid them dues in the form of rent. What remained constant was the relationship between peasant and lord, as historian Teofilo F.
Ruiz explains: There were no peasants without lords; even well-to-do farmers were never released from their obligations, rental dues, and debts of allegiance to the lord of their lands. The lord could be distant and benign, or close-by and horrible. The lord could be the king, usually the most favourable arrangement, or a neighbouring monastery or cathedral chapter.
Thus masters and peasants were enmeshed in complex networks of reciprocity. Ruiz, p. The population of Fuente Ovejuna consists of people from various walks of life: laborers, farmers, and students, for example.
The two men discuss the ongoing war between Aragon and Portugal over the throne of Castile. They then discuss his pursuit of the local women, including Laurencia herself, who has continually rebuffed his advances.
The victorious comendador mayor uses the occasion of his celebration to renew his pursuit of Laurencia, who still rebuffs him. Spying Laurencia, he seizes her, but Frondoso picks up a crossbow and threatens to shoot him unless he releases the girl. Relations between the comendador mayor and the citizens of Fuente Ovejuna further deteriorate at a town meeting to discuss the grain harvest.
A newly arrived soldier informs the comendador mayor that troops from Aragon have laid siege to Ciudad Real and exhorts him to join the other knights of Calatrava to prevent them from losing the town. The townspeople are outraged to learn of this attack but feel powerless to stand against their overlord. Meanwhile, Frondoso and Laurencia have fallen in love and received the consents of their parents to marry. The sudden appearance of Laurencia, escaped from her captors who had unsuccessfully tried to rape her , interrupts the meeting.
Shamed into action, the men vow to take up arms and kill their tyrannical overlord, while Laurencia rallies the women of Fuente Ovejuna to the same cause. King Fernando vows that the culprits will be punished and sends a magistrate to Fuente Ove-juna to investigate the crime.
The citizens of Fuente Ovejuna thank the king for his mercy and submit to his authority. Honor among peasants Since the fifth century and the advent of the Visigoths, honor—the respect and esteem accorded to one who was virtuous, worthy, or of noble standing—had been an important concept in Spain, all the more so because honor could easily be lost or compromised.
According to medieval law, such a man was socially dead until his honor was restored; he could seek redress legally in the courts or he could kill those who had offended his honor. Furthermore, public dishonor required public vengeance, while private dishonor required that vengeance, if executed, be concealed.
Throughout the Middle Ages in Spain, as in the rest of Europe, honor was considered a prerogative of the nobility, while commoners were believed to be without honor. By the late sixteenth century, however, many Spanish intellectuals had come to realize that all men, regardless of birth or station, deserved respect. Honor became increasingly associated with nobility of spirit rather than noble birth.
Significantly, despite his sympathetic depiction of the Fuente Ovejunans, Lope does not present their rebellion as the best or even the correct solution to their woes.
Carter in Fox, p. The former rebels receive forgiveness but not validation. Indeed, portraying the townspeople as distinct individuals allowed Lope to emphasize Fuente Ovejuna as a community. Such qualities made Lope a hugely popular playwright, much admired and imitated. But Lope was equally adept at depicting the countless types of common people who made up the masses. Fuente Ovejuna can also be termed a comedia villanesca, a play featuring peasant characters that dramatizes the relationship between peasants and the nobility, or even in some cases, between peasants and royalty.
Events in History at the Time the Play Was Written Spain in decline Towards the end of the sixteenth century, Spain coped with serious challenges to its economic as well as to its military and political power. Silver bullion, mined from its American colonies, was spent in several ways. Spain used it to help pay for its troops in the Netherlands and Italy, to help support Spanish forces in Germany the forces of Charles I of Spain, also known as Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor , and to help maintain conspicuous consumption among wealthy Spaniards at home.
The vast quantity of imported wealth contributed to inflation in Spain itself, an economic phenomenon occurring elsewhere in Europe too. Taxes rose, as did the price of Spanish goods until they were too expensive to compete in international markets. Spanish industry gradually declined and even agriculture suffered, after an increasing number of country people relocated to the cities. Plague and emigration reduced the overall population of Spain, which decreased from 8 million in the early sixteenth century to 7 million by the mid-seventeenth century Sol-sten and Meditz, p.
Spain also suffered from a decline in the quality of its rulers. Philip III and Philip IV demonstrated their ineffective leadership by handing over the reins of government to their favorites, the duke of Lerma and the count-duke of Olivares, respectively.
The final monarch of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty , Charles II reigned — was even worse than his two predecessors: sickly, incompetent, and, as a result of generations of inbreeding, half-mad. They are depicted as closely involved in the lives of their subjects, thus instilling great loyalty. Lope boasted that he had written 1, plays, as well as several novels, stories, and verse epics. Despite the great fame Lope enjoyed in his lifetime and in his own nation, his work did not become widely known outside Spain until the twentieth century.
Even today only a handful of his plays are performed; Fuente Ovejuna, however, is one of those plays, becoming a particular favorite in such countries as France, Germany, and Russia.
It was a formula he usually exploited throughout his career, whether writing in a serious or a lighter vein. He establishes the definitive form of the play: three acts in poly-metric verse. He is inspired mainly by the great themes of Spanish history, by folk poetry, and by national legends, which he presents without regard for Aristotelian unities. He creates the comic sidekick, the gracioso, who becomes essential in almost all plays of the time.
Fuente Ovejuna has also been performed in the United States. Dictionary of the Literature of the Iberian Peninsula. Westport, Conn.
Paintings of the Time The play opens with Gomez telling the commander that the time has come for them to take over Ciudad Real. After talking the village, the Commander tries to take Laurencia and Pascuala, women of the village, back to his castle. The women resist and escape. King Ferdinand and Isabella discuss the capture of Ciudad Real and vow to recapture it. Later Laurencia meets with Frondoso in the forest.
Lope de Vega
In that time, Spain united under the Habsburgs and become a world superpower with the discovery of the New World. The cross of the Order of Calatrava. With their marriage, the two major kingdoms of Spain - Castile and Aragon -were joined. This marriage would later ensure the successful completion of the Christian Reconquista of Spain from the Muslim Moors. When Isabella ascended the throne upon the death of her half-brother, Enrique IV , in , Alfonso V of Portugal crossed into Spain in order to secure the throne for Juana, Princess of Castile , the daughter of Enrique.
Fuente Ovejuna Full English