Lope, Pinedo, Some Child Actors, and a Lion


By Thornton Wilder Bad times had fallen on the theater. In November 1597 the playhouses of Madrid were closed while the Count went into mourning for the death of the King's sister; in May 1598 a council of theologians prevailed upon the King to close them throughout all Spain; then Philip II himself died in September of that year. Actors and dramatists were starving. Porras took his company to Lisbon; other managers betook themselves to Valencia and Barcelona and to the remoter regions, where the edicts were less strictly enforced. Lope de Vega turned to writing narrative poems. Finally, however, there was news in the air that the royal double wedding was to take place in Valencia in the spring of 1599, and there was promise that the theaters would be reopened.

Baltasar de Pinedo and his wife, Juana de Villalba, were among the most admired actors of Spain. They had long held the primeros papeles—leading rôles-in the company of Gaspar de Porras, Lope's old friend. Pinedo was no longer sufficiently young and dashing to play the type role of primer galán, but he was very fine at mad scenes and frantic laments, and Lope obligingly provided him with such opportunities in many a play. Juana de Villalba was a mujer varonil, a Diana cazadora, an Hércules, a "gigante hecho de nieve y de rosas. " She frequently bestrode the stage in man's armor and overcame all contestants in tourneys at a play's finale. From the moment the theaters were closed this couple broke away from Porras's company and prepared to launch one of their own, and they called upon Lope to furnish them with the greater part of their repertory. The first play that Lope wrote for them for which we have an exact date is La Varona Castellana, completed by the poet on 2 November 1599. He had probably furnished them several during the preceding months, but I think it can be said with considerable assurance that no "Pinedo play" was written before 1599. This paper represents an effort to establish a chronology for a number-though not all-of the plays which Lope wrote for this new company between 1599 and 1606.

Pinedo had neither the money, the company, nor the texts to launch out at once. He first joined forces with his brother-in-law Melchor de Villalba. Villalba was held in such high esteem that he was the only autor—actor-manager—who was invited to perform at the wedding celebration in Valencia. Pinedo remained with him, and together they furnished the Corpus Christi festival in Madrid, 1600. Thereafter Villalba disappears from our records, and it is safe to assume that Pinedo took over the strength and direction of his company. This company included a number of figures who were to play an important part in the theater of the Siglo de Oro and in Lope's life, but none more remarkable than Micaela de Lujan, Lope's Lucinda. Writers on the period have long affirmed that Micaela de Lujan was in Pinedo's company during the first few years of its existence, but no document has been found to confirm the fact. Strength is lent to the conjecture, however, by the recent discovery that she was, at least, a member of Villalba's company in the fall of 1599[i] and therefore probably continued in it when it passed into the hands of Pinedo. Lope's movements in the next two years will be related to the peregrinations of Pinedo's company, in which Micaela was playing tercera dama to the primera and segunda of Juana de Villalba and Ana Martínez (ossia de los Reyes ossia la Baltasara).

There are four ways in which we can determine which plays were sold to Pinedo. In 1616 Pinedo drew up a document listing the titles of twelve comedias which he affirmed had been sold to him by the poet. Secondly, when Lope finally undertook the publication of his plays himself, he frequently furnished the names of the autor who had first produced them. Thirdly, the licenses for performance attached to the manuscripts often permit us to establish the company producing them; and, finally, the position of the title in the so-called Peregrino lists. In "New Aids Toward Dating the Early Plays of Lope de Vega" I was able to show that the apparently incoherent list of titles of his plays which Lope printed at the beginning of his novel El Peregrino en Su Patria, 1604 (licensed 25 November 1603), is not so haphazard as it first seems. The titles there are listed—although with many a puzzling exception—according to the manager to whom Lope sold them. The plays from P-205 La Serrana de la Vera, through P-216 El Catalan Valeroso—twelve plays which include four lost plays about which we know nothing—are indubitably "Pinedo plays," written before the end of November 1603. The order of the titles in the second Peregrino list of 1618 does not tell us much relative to autor; Lope is (in the earlier part of this list) merely copying down the titles in the order in which they appear in the table of contents of the pirated Partes.

In these ways we arrive at the tides of some nineteen comedias of which we can feel fairly certain that they were written for Pinedo by Lope between 1599 and 1606. In attempting to arrange them in chronological order I am going to omit a discussion of several whose dating would unduly lengthen this paper.

The first thing that we notice about many of these plays which Lope wrote for Pinedo in the earlier years (he was still writing for him as late as 1617—Lo Que Pasa en Una Tarde) is that they call for the services of first one, then two, highly accomplished child actors. This requirement becomes of such importance that by 1603 an entire play, El Niño Inocente de la Guardia, turns upon the child as central figure rather than (as usually) a character appearing in one act only. Children occasionally make their appearance in other companies; but it should be noted that in the twenty-seven plays which we know to have been sold to Porras there is no child who is assigned more than twelve verses. In the eighteen plays which are certainly or probably from the repertory of Nicolás de los Ríos there is only one child (the muchacho Pelayo in El Sol Parado) and he is fourteen years old and is an expectant father. So little did the companies lean on child actors that when Lope dramatized Boccaccio's great story of the falcon for Riquelme (El Halcón de Federico, ca. 1605), he robbed the story of much of its poignancy and force by making a sick child a young man of sixteen already in search of a wife.

All the more striking, then, is the recurrent use of children in the Pinedo repertory. These roles might have been played by girls or women (we remember Lope's admiration for Jusepa Vaca's performance in Los Mocedades de Roldán ); but two observations support our feeling that Pinedo's child players were indeed boys. There are two boy roles in plays for other companies where Lope inserts into the dialogue an express explanation or apology for the fact that the boys have disconcertingly long hair. Young Adonis ("es tan niño '') in Adonis y Venus (autor: Luis de Vergara) says (Acad. VI, 26b):

Si mi rostro y mi cabello Señas feminiles son, Mira que un hombre, si es bello, Tiene más oblicación . . . De no parecello.

Similarly, in El Rey sin Reino, written for an undetermined autor, two courtiers exclaim in the presence of the boy King (Acad. VI, 591Ia):

¡Qué hermoso cabello cría! . . . Casi hasta el hombro le llega. 

Moreover, it seems likely that the principal boy player in Pinedo's company was Pinedo's own son. When this child plays a rôle which is the son of the character played by Pinedo (and Pinedo rôles are easily recognizable), Lope expatiates on the resemblance of the child to his father. This is particularly noticeable in Las Pobrezas de Reinaldos and in La Fuerza Lastimosa. Such family resemblance would be more striking in a son than in a daughter.

The increasing age of this child actor (even though the age is "stage age") will help us toward dating some of the plays. In a play whose date we know—Los Benavides, June 1600—the child is specifically said to be six years old. In a play which gives evidence of being 1604-1605, Los Porceles de Murcia, the plot requires that the child be nine; in Las Paces de los Reyes, which I have other reasons for thinking to be about 1605, the action of the play turns on the fact that the boy King is just under ten years of age. Hence when in La Fuerza Lastimosa we hear that a child was born at the end of the first year of a marriage which took place (six times affirmed) six years before, we can state that the child is five years old and that the play is among the earliest that Lope wrote for Pinedo—a supposition confirmed by the position of the tide in the Peregrino list. This growth in the boy's years will be accompanied by an increase in the number of lines which he will be given to memorize and the increase of responsibility accorded to him as actor. El Niño Inocente is the only play in which he appears in all three acts; it is a little surprising to feel that the play is even as early as 1603.

For a year or two Pinedo was in possession of a lion or a costume made from a lion-skin. It figures in three plays, one of them the dated play La Varona Castellana, 2 November 1599. It is in La Serrana de la Vera, and two lions appear briefly in a sort of pageant at the close of Los Palacios de Galiana. I am inclined to think that Pinedo enjoyed the services of a poor aged and edentate beast, simply because the lion is always called upon to do the same thing—to come to the feet of a leading player and lie down. Were it an actor in a skin, the lion would certainly have been given more varied and more thrilling things to do. The appearances of this lion are not necessary to the plot, and the scenes can easily be cut out. I suspect that Pinedo called upon Lope to introduce them and for a short time they furnished a considerable theatrical sensation for the Pinedo season. It confirms for us the fact that all three plays belong to Pinedo's first and second years. Similarly, the manager Vergara had a lion or a lion-skin some five years earlier, and Lope wrote several plays for its appearance, including one on the subject of Androcles and the lion (El Esclavo de Roma); there too the animal is required merely to subside at Androcles’s feet with a show of affection and gratitude. In Bernard Shaw's play on the same subject the actor in the lion-skin is given a wide variety of actions to perform.

Another incidental aid in assigning dates to these plays is to remark the gradual decline of the róle of the autora Juana de Villalba; from primera dama she dwindles to brief, though impressive, appearances in the last acts only. Ambitious, rising actresses would not join a company in which the manager’s wife enjoyed all the big róles. We have contracts in which actresses demand assurance that they will play half the primeros papeles and that they will never be assigned less than the segundos.

Now to consider the plays. Note the sequence of many of the Peregrino numbers. In counting the verses assigned to the child players I have counted any part of a verse as a full verse. On a number of occasions I have altered the assignment of a speech to a given character where a corruption in the printing of the text seems to have mistaken the speaker.

     P-205 La Serrana de la Vera. Acad. XII. M-B 1595-1598. The lion. No child. This is probably the first play Lopewrote for the new company. The Juana de Villalba role in excelsis. She slays scores of men; is amazona and a fiera. M-B places this play before 1599 because it seems to be alluded to in El Galán Escarmentado and THAT play, in turn, seems to have been written before the death of Philip II. This antedating is unnecessary. Philip III and his Court do not seem to have been offended by hearing the King's father referred to as "Filipo sin segundo"; the expression even more strongly phrased occurs in a play which we know to have been finished by Lope on 15 February 1600—La Contienda de García, etc. (Acad. XI, 493a):

El príncipe Filipo, aunque segundo, Para ser sin segundo vino al mundo.

 Both plays give other evidence of having been written after 1598. The second act of El Galán Escarmentado closes with an allusion to a popular song which was all the rage in 1601 and for many years thereafter, "Hey, hey, hey" (see a loa in El Viaje Entretenido, and the baile preceding El Ejemplo de Casadas).

P-206 La Fuerza Lastimosa. Acad. XIV. M-B “1595-1603 (probably 1599-1600)." Child: aged five (Lope contradicts himself on the time-scheme in Act II). Child has 129 verses. The Juana de Villalba rôle is segunda. The heroine is Isabella, model of conjugal love. Lope's wife, Isabel de Urbina, died in 1594. This tribute tends to date the play before his attachment to Micaela de Lujan in the summer of 1599, and the additional factors confirm it.

P-207 Los Palacios de Galiana. Acad. XIII. M-B 1597-1602. No child. Two lions! Juana de Villalba prima.

P-209 La Santa Liga (La Batalia Naval). Acad. XII. M-B "1598-1603, probably 1598-1600." Child: "soy muy chico"—44 verses. Juana de Villalba prima.

P-85 La Varona Casttllana. Acad. VIII. Autograph: 2 November 1599. Lion. Child: "apenas ocupo la Real silla"—364 verses. Big role for Juana de Villalba: "nací con inlinación / a las armas y al ser hombre." Fights all night with Alfonso el Batallador of Aragón and overcomes him. Note the large number of verses assigned to the child at this early date. This appears to be the last play in which Juana de Villalba overwhelmingly out-tops all the women's roles.

P-213 Las Pobrezas de Reinaldos. Acad. XIII. M-B 1599. Child: "ser tan niño no es falta"—138 verses. Probably the first Lucinda play written for Pinedo (the first dated Lucinda play was El Amigo por Fuerza, finished for Porras on 14 October 1599).

P-210 Los Benavides. Acad. VII. Autograph: 15 June 1600. Child: aged six—55 verses. He is carried "en brazos." Juana de Villalba enters in Act III, "gran cazadora . . Diana debe de ser."

We now pass on to plays furnished a few years later, though several plays written by Lope for Pinedo fall within the years 1600-1602: P-212 La Ocasión Perdida, P-216 El Valeroso Catalán, and P-224 El Castigo del Discreto.

P-276 El Niño Inocente de la Guardia. Acad. V. M-B "1598-1608, probably 1604-1606." This powerful but horrifying play was surely finished before the birth of the future Philip IV on 8 April 1605. St. Dominic's prophecy that the Inquisition would be carried on by Philip III and the two Infantas would certainly have been extended to an Infante, heir apparent, if be had been born. Who then are the lnfantas? Ana Mauricia de Austria, born 22 September 1601, and Maria de Austria, born 1 February 1603. Little Maria lived only a month, despaired of daily, but I do not think that there can be any doubt that the play was written between 1 February and 1 March, when she died. The fact that the child player “ya es grande para los brazos") has only 170 verses gives a misleading impression of his participation; the demands upon his performance are enormous.

P-227 Los Porceles de Murcia. Acad. XI. M-B "1599-1608 (probably 1604-1608)." Two boys: Don Luis, aged ten—112 verses; Don Pedro, aged nine-132 verses. A passing allusion tends to assign this play to the years 1604-1605. Apparently a ghost story was gaining wide circulation in Madrid and perhaps throughout the whole country. A student named Osorio claimed to have seen the dismembered body of a man descending some stairs at midnight. In La Prueba de los Amigos, which Lope finished for Granados on 12 September 1604, we read (Acad. N. XI, 122a):

Mas que ha de dares el cuitado como los cuartos de Osorio.

In Los Porceles de Murcia (XI, 579a) a character urges another to show no surprise even if he were to see before him "las sombras qut vió Osorio el estudiante"; the other replies that he would control himself even

Si viese descender del propio modo Los curators de aquel hombre á media noche.

As there is no other mention of this episode in all the discursive conversation of scores of graciosos in the plays throughout those years, we may assume that the story was "hot" toward the latter half of 1604.

P-225 El Gran Duque de Moscovia. Acad. XI. M-B 1606 (later information admits the possibility that details of the story of Boris Godunov and the "False Demetrius" may have reached Spain at an earlier date). Two boys of the same age, “tan niño”—Demetrio, Cesar, 18.

P-226 Las Paces de los Reyes. Acad. VIII. M-B "1604-1612, probably 1610-1612." Here is the only time I must diverge from the preferred recommendation of the Chronology. The child actor is presented in Act I as just under ten years of age (in Act II he is full-grown and played by another actor). He has 240 verses. A boy actor who was six in 1600 is approximately ten in 1604, but there is a more persuasive reason for ascribing this play to late 1605. In September of that year Lope writes the Duke of Sessa that he has just sent off his epic poem La Jerusalén Conquistada to the censors in Valladolid. The events of the second and third acts of this play are also treated in that poem. In the epic a large company of nobles, incited by the Queen, crosses the Tajo to kill Raquel, the King's mistress. In the play four nobles plan the murder without any intervention of the Queen. All have reason to fear the King's wrath and vengeance, and in the epic, Book IX, they advance "caminando delante la hidalguía/y detrás la lisonja y cobardía. " Lope remembered this, and in the play Garcerán Manrique advances, saying (p. 553a ):

El que se quedare atrás, Ó es villano ó es lisonjero.

The speech is suitable as applied to a throng; it is insulting as addressed to three resolute patriots. Had a considerable time elapsed between the writing of the epic and the play, Lope's imagination would have prevented his memory from obtruding itself thus inappropriately. It is highly likely that the epic was written first and the play very soon after.

Such work as this, inevitably involving a great deal of supposition, would not have been possible prior to the publication of The Chronology of Lope de Vega's Comedias by Professors Morley and Bruerton, a work which has been confirmed as so notable a landmark in Lope studies. By its aid we are at last able to isolate within Lope's immense dramatic oeuvre small groups of approximately contemporaneous plays in the hope of establishing an ever more precise chronology. [In the light of such a chronology it will be possible to attempt an entirely new appraisal of his art, his ideas, and the autobiographical details which he continually poured into his plays.] The work is difficult and detailed; it involves combining conjecture with conjecture until their sheer multiplicity affords sufficient grounds for confidence. Each clarification, however, expands our admiration for the poet’s variety, for the unfailing felicity of his versification, for his dramatic resourcefulness, [for his profound knowledge of human nature,] and for the fascinating complexity of his personal character.*

© The Wilder Family LLC Reprinted from Romance Philology, August 1953.

(Thornton Wilder used the editions of Lope de Vega's works published by the Royal Spanish Academy: Obra, 15 volumes, Madrid, 1890-1913, and Obras . . . (Nueva edición) Obras Dramaticas, 13 volumes, Madrid, 1916-1930, cited, respectively, as "Acad." and " Acad. N .")

[i] In the still unpublished reparto of the text of El Blasón de los Chaves de Villalba furnished by Lope on 20 August 1599. A transcription of Lope's manuscript is described by the editor in Una Colección Manuscrita y Desconocida de Comedias de Lope de Vega Carpio. The present writer is greatly indebted to Dr. Amezúa for permission to transcribe this reparto during a visit to Madrid.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: This concluding paragraph substantially repeats the final paragraph originally printed with the preceding essay. A sentence and a phrase which appears only in the conclusion to the first essay are here printed within square brackets.