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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

The greatness of Rueda was due primarily to his own acting

[Sidenote: Lope de Rueda and the development of the national theatre.]

It was in this period that the national theatre developed, and Spaniards displayed such originality and forcefulness as to make a profound impression on the dramatic literature of the world. At the outset of the reign of Charles I, Gil Vicente and Torres Naharro were continuing the tradition of Juan del Enzina with crude farces and allegorical religious plays. Despite the fact that these were generally acted in convents, they were so frequently of a licentious character that in 1548 their publication was forbidden. Meanwhile, classical plays and compositions written in imitation of the Latin and Greek masters were proving difficult competitors to the weakly groping Spanish stage. The regeneration of the national theatre was due to Lope de Rueda of Seville, whose name first appears in 1554. The greatness of Rueda was due primarily to his own acting, which gave him an opportunity to re-introduce Spanish plays and make a success of them. While staging translations of Latin and Italian works, Rueda wrote and played short acts of a dramatic and episodical character. Others carried on the task begun by Rueda until the machinery for the Spanish theatre was fairly well prepared for the works of the great masters,--for example, the three-act comedy had developed, first employed by Francisco de Avenda?o. Cervantes wrote a number of plays, between 1583 and 1587, but while they were not without merit they were completely overshadowed by those of the great writers of dramatic literature.

[Sidenote: The great masters of the Spanish theatre.]

First of the great masters, chronologically, was Lope de Vega (1562-1635), who was also one of the most prolific writers of all time. It is said that he wrote 1800 comedies and 400 religious, allegorical plays (one of the leading types of the era), besides many shorter dialogues, of which number 470 of the comedies and 50 of the plays have survived. His writings were not less admirable than numerous, and marked a complete break with the past. An inventive exuberance, well-sustained agreeability and charm, skill in the management of fable and in the depiction of character, the elevation of women to a leading place in the dramatical plot (a feature without precedent), an instinct for theatrical effects, intensity of emotional expression, wit, naturalness and nobility of dialogue, and realism were the most noteworthy traits of his compositions, together with a variety in subject-matter which ventured into every phase of the history and contemporary customs of Spain. His defects were traceable mainly to his facility in production, such as a lack of plan and organization as a whole, wherefore it has been said that he wrote scenes and not complete plays, although his best works are not open to this charge. In the meantime, the paraphernalia of theatrical presentation had been perfected. In 1579 the first permanent theatre was built in Madrid, followed quickly by the erection of others there and in

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