Plays by Lope De Vega

Fuente Ovejuna

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Lope de Vega's play Fuente Ovejuna is a recognised masterpiece by a major writer of the Spanish Golden Age, depicting one of the most memorable acts of resistance in world drama. First published in Madrid in 1619, the play is believed to have been written between 1612 and 1614. It is based upon an actual historical incident that took place in the village of Fuente Ovejuna (now called Fuente Obejuna) in Castile in 1476.

This translation by Laurence Boswell was published by Nick Hern Books in its Drama Classics series in 2009.

The play's action follows the historical incident closely. A military Commander, Fernán Gómez de Guzmán, under the command of the Order of Calatrava, mistreats the villagers of Fuente Ovejuna, who revolt against their tyrannical overlord and murder him. When a magistrate sent by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella arrives at the village to investigate, the villagers, even under the pain of torture, respond only by saying 'Fuente Ovejuna did it'. In the face of this claim to collective responsibility, the village is pardoned and placed under the direct jurisdiction of the Crown.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Tanya Ronder's adaptation of Lope de Vega's classic 17th-century tragicomedy, Peribáñez y el Comendador de Ocaña, was first performed at the Young Vic Theatre, London on 7 May 2003 (previews from 1 May).

The play is about a peasant named Peribanez, and a regional Commander who falls in love with his wife Casilda. The trouble starts during the wedding of Peribanez and Casilda, when the Commander is unhorsed while trying to control a raging bull and is forced to recover in Peribanez' house. Smitten with the beautiful bride, the Commander's ungovernable passion leads him to spy on Casilda, fruitlessly besiege her and eventually send her husband into battle against the Arab enemy. However, Peribanez asks the Commander to knight him before sending him into battle, so that he might fight with honour. The Commander obliges, unwittingly elevating the peasant to his own level and giving him the right to do battle with him.

The Young Vic premiere was directed by Rufus Norris and designed by Ian MacNeil, with David Harewood as the Commander, Michael Nardone as Peribanez and Jackie Morrison as Casilda..

Lope de Vega (1562-1635) was Spain's first great playwright. The most prolific dramatist in the history of the theatre, he is believed to have written some 1500 plays of which about 470 survive. He established the conventions for the Spanish comedia in the last decade of the 16th century, influenced the development of the zarzuela, and wrote numerous autosacramentales. He is regarded as the founder of the Spanish commercial theatre and the most influential writer of Spain's Golden Age. In his New Art of Writing Plays (c. 1609), Lope analysed the essentials of drama and admitted that he played to the popular taste. "I allow myself to be borne along in the vulgar current," he wrote, "wherefore Italy and France call me ignorant." His personal life was as flamboyant as his dramas. The son of an embroiderer, he took part in the conquest of Terceira in the Azores (1583) and sailed with the Armada in 1588, an event that inspired his epic poem La Dragentea (1597), which attacks Drake and England. He was also known for his passionate love affairs, which continued after he became a priest in 1614 and created a great scandal. Lope wrote initially for Madrid's open-air theatres and subsequently for the royal court, drawing his subject matter from history and chivalric legend, peasant life, and biblical and mythological stories. His lyrical verse plays, most of which have happy endings, are noted for their dramatic action, use of suspense, and lively and natural dialogue. Many were based on the conflict of love and honour. Among his many notable works are Fuenteovejuna (c. 1614) in which villagers murder their tyrannous feudal lord and are saved by the king's intervention, and El castigo sin venganza, in which a licentious duke maintains his public reputation by killing his adulterous wife and her illegitimate son.