Renaissance and Reformation Lope de Vega
Sidney Donnell
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0352


Lope Félix de Vega Carpio (b. 1562–d. 1635) is one of Spain’s most celebrated and prolific writers. As a native and nearly lifelong resident of Madrid, he positioned himself at the very center of Imperial Spain’s cultural production. Spanish literati, in turn, acknowledged Lope de Vega’s prowess through a variety of epithets, which included Fénix de los ingenios (Phoenix of all creative geniuses), for his unique ability to stand out in a large field of true prodigies, and Monstruo de naturaleza (Wonder of nature), ostensibly for the sheer volume of his literary output. At times Lope felt ambivalent about writing for the theater; however, during his long literary career, he penned hundreds of polymetric plays (some four hundred extant), whose success on stage brought him fame and a relatively stable income. In addition to his accomplishments as a playwright, Lope was astonishingly productive in the other genres he cultivated, including lyric and epic poetry, pastoral novel, and short fiction. Over time, Lope’s notoriety and the accumulation of play titles (including hundreds of works spuriously attributed to him) have contributed to the popular misconception that he was sole founder of Spain’s national theater. In point of fact, numerous playwrights were responsible for the gradual emergence of an innovative dramatic formula, the comedia nueva (new drama/comedy), whose precepts Lope codified in a manifesto. His distinguished reputation as a dramatist is, nevertheless, indisputable. Today only two contemporaries—Tirso de Molina (b. 1579–d. 1648) and Pedro Calderón de la Barca (b. 1600–d. 1681)—are consistently elevated to Lope’s stature, especially in reference to the innovative three-act structure that became synonymous with the comedia nueva. Dozens of Lope’s plays continue to appeal to modern-day readers and playgoers, owing, in part, to his creation of a world in which performance and identity are frequently and often refreshingly at odds, and to the poet’s seemingly effortless ability to tell a good story in rhyming verse. Similarly, several books of Lope’s poetry and prose fiction are deeply admired, receiving both popular and scholarly attention. This article introduces readers to General Overviews, Reference Works, Texts and Commentaries, English Translations, Bibliographies, Biographies and Letters, Journals and Conference Proceedings, Criticism, and Lope’s location in Popular Culture. Therefore, the annotated bibliography presented here is selective, not comprehensive, as it is intended to guide preliminary research on this icon of Spain’s cultural production and very identity, both past and present.

General Overviews

Bergmann 1999 is a good starting point for those who are new to Lope de Vega or Renaissance studies. In similar fashion, Dixon 2004 provides a concise chapter-length introduction to the poet’s life and work. The edited volume Samson and Thacker 2008 is an exceptional companion, offering readers an in-depth introduction to Lope’s career and the numerous literary forms he mastered. As for the colossal task of successfully introducing readers to Lope’s drama, detailed general treatments are available in various chapters on Lope de Vega, including Thacker 2007, Profeti 2003, Arellano 1995, and McKendrick 1989. Treatments of Lope’s formative years, such as Oleza 1981, have the potential of bringing the whole of his long career into better view.

  • Arellano, Ignacio. Historia del teatro español del siglo XVII. Madrid: Cátedra, 1995.

    The chapter on Lope de Vega (pp. 169–228) consists of a classification of Lope’s dramatic work, organized by historical plays, tragicomedies, tragedies, comic plays, and other subgenres. In Spanish.

  • Bergmann, Emilie. “Vega Carpio, Lope Félix de.” In Encyclopedia of the Renaissance. Vol. 6. Edited by Paul F. Grendler, 220–223. New York: Scribner’s, 1999.

    A brief, well-written introduction to Lope de Vega’s life and work.

  • Dixon, Victor. “Lope Félix de Vega Carpio.” In The Cambridge History of Spanish Literature. Edited by David Thatcher Gies, 252–264. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

    For its brevity and scope, a superb essay-length overview of Lope de Vega’s life and work.

  • McKendrick, Melveena. Theatre in Spain, 1490–1700. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

    A formal introduction to the Spanish stage and principal dramatists of Spain’s “Golden Age.” The chapter on Lope de Vega (pp. 84–114) is essential reading.

  • Oleza, Joan. “La propuesta teatral del primer Lope de Vega.” Cuadernos de Filología III: Literaturas, Análisis 1–2 (1981): 153–223.

    Though not technically an overview, this commendable journal article on the Valencian stage and Lope’s development as a young dramatist in the late 16th century is an essential starting point for understanding the playwright’s longevity. In Spanish.

  • Profeti, Maria Grazia. “Lope de Vega.” In Historia del teatro español. Vol. 1, De la Edad Media a los Siglos de Oro. Edited by Javier Huerta Calvo, Abraham Madroñal Durán, and Héctor Urzáiz Tortajada, 783–825. Madrid: Gredos, 2003.

    An impeccable overview written in Spanish by a world-renowned authority on the theater of Lope de Vega. For a collection of essays in Italian by this prominent scholar, please see Nell’officina di Lope (Florence: Alinea, 1998).

  • Samson, Alexander, and Jonathan Thacker. A Companion to Lope de Vega. Woodbridge, UK: Tamesis, 2008.

    Highly recommended book-length overview of Lope’s life and work. Contributors to the volume provide a representative cross-section of themes and approaches to the study of Lope de Vega, with detailed analysis organized mainly by genre.

  • Thacker, Jonathan. A Companion to Golden Age Theatre. Woodbridge, UK: Tamesis, 2007.

    Grounded in the history of the Spanish comedia (comedy/drama), this book also introduces readers to play performance and the interpretative field. The chapter on Lope de Vega (pp. 23–55) is a thorough overview, and Appendix 1 (pp. 179–185) provides a concise introduction to verse forms and poetic drama in Spanish. In English with Spanish quotations.

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