FÉLIX DE LOPE DE VEGA CARPIO

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Félix Lope de Vega Carpio was born on November 25, 1562 in Madrid.   This was two years before Shakespeare and 15 years after Cervantes.  He died at age 72 on August 27, 1635.  Although his full name was Félix Lope de Vega Carpio he is most often referred to as just Lope de Vega.His parents were of noble birth but they were very poor.  They both died when Lope de Vega was quite young. 

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It was recognized at a very early age that Lope de Vega was quite smart.   He could read and write latin at age 5 (he was of course already reading and writing Spanish). By age 14 he had already written his first play.  The term "monstruo de la naturaleza" (freak of nature) was applied and stuck to him throughout his life.

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By age 14 he was a student at the Imperial College of Madrid.  But Lope de Vega was looking for some adventure so with a classmate he ran off and joined a military unit to fight against Portugal.  But before he could get into any real harm, the Bishop of Avila, became aware of Lope de Vegas talents and helped him to enroll at the University of Alcalá. 

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Lope de Vega graduated with a bachelor's degree. He was about to become a priest when he fell in love. 

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The church's loss of Lope de Vega was a gain to Spanish theatre.   (Actually it was only a temporary loss as you will read later.)   Lope de Vega did some of his best writing when he was in love.   Lope de Vega first fell in love with the daughter of man who was producing his plays.  The problem was she was already married.  The affair lasted for 5 years.  When the affair ended Lope de Vega stopped writing plays for the father.  He then wrote some plays that made fun of the man.  As a result Lope de Vega was first thrown in jail and then told to leave the Kingdom of Castile.

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Three months later Lope de Vega returned to Madrid.  Since he was not supposed to do this, he risked being back to prison.  But Lope de Vega was returning for love.  He married Isabel de Urbina.  He was with her for only a little while when he left her to join the Spanish Armada.  Spain at the time was thought to have the strongest navy.  They sent a group of ships (an armada) to wage war against England.  Unfortunately Spain did not do very well against England and lost most of their ships.  Lope de Vega's ship, the San Juan, was one of the few to return safely.  Lope de Vega spent the six month voyage completing his epic poem "La hermosura de Angélica" (The beauty of Angelica).

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Lope de Vega's first wife died in 1597.  Lope de Vega once again married in 1600.  This time it was to Juana de Guardo.  Lope de Vega was not too faithful to his second wife.  He had affairs with many actresses.  (His son, Lope Félix was born to one of these actresses.)  His second wife died in 1612, greatly sadden because Lope de Vega was not faithful.

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Lope decided at this point to become a priest.   Unfortunately he could not could not stop falling in love.  He carried on an affair with Marta de Neveres until her death in 1632.  At this point Lope de Vega life was beginning to end.  Before his death he was to suffer some heartbreaks of his own.  His son died at an early age.  One daughter, Antonio Clara eloped with a court noble.  His other daughter entered a convent and he was not able to speak to her again.

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When Lope de Vega died he was very famous.   Many people came to his funeral.  He knew that his daughter who was a nun would not be able to leave her convent.  So he put in his will that the funeral procession must pass by the convent.

 

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Lope de Vega wrote over 1,800 plays during his lifetime, of which 1,500 were considered to be comedies.  500 of these plays are still being performed today.  He was one of the first person to make money from writing plays.  Lope de Vega wrote many plays that were short, written to be easily understood and contained funny characters.  He actually invented a comic style called la gracioso.  Usually the la gracioso was a servant.  People liked seeing this character because he was always funny.  

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Lope de Vega also wrote poems.  He wrote epic (long) poems.  He wrote poems with mythological characters.  He wrote historical poems.  He wrote religious poems.  He wrote poems about adventures and of course about love.

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Lope de Vega is not as well known as Cervantes.  He lived on the same street and died on the same street where Cervantes happened to have lived.  The house where Cervantes lived no longer exists (a plaque marks where it was).  Lope de Vega's house still stands (the pink two story structure in the picture).  But, the street is named Calle de Cervantes.  Calle Lope de Vega is located one block away.  The people of Madrid had to name a street after him, it just wasn't going to be the one on which he lived.

Lope de Vega certainly deserved the title of "Father of the Spanish Theatre".  He even had a great influence on the development of the theatre in other European countries.  Perhaps one day he will also be as well-known (outside of Spain) as is Cervantes.

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