Tirso de Molina

Tirso de Molina

Spanish playwright
Country: Spain

  1. Biography of Tirso de Molina
  2. Travels to America and Historical Trilogy
  3. Collaboration with Lope de Vega and Persecution
  4. Prolific Works
  5. Style and Contributions

Biography of Tirso de Molina

Tirso de Molina, born Gabriel Tellez, was a renowned Spanish playwright, theologian, and monk. He was born into a noble family and in 1601, he became a monk of the Order of Mercy (La Merced). In 1634, he was appointed as a member of the order's governing body, and in 1635, he became its historian. In 1639, Tirso de Molina obtained a doctorate in theology.

Travels to America and Historical Trilogy

Tirso de Molina's journey to America, specifically the island of Santo Domingo, in 1616 had a significant impact on his historical trilogy dedicated to the conquistadors of Francisco Pizarro. This trilogy includes "One Goal Resolves Everything," "The American Amazons" (Amazonas en las Indias), and "Loyalty in the Face of Envy" (La lealtad contra la envidia). These works reflected his experiences and observations during his time in America.

Collaboration with Lope de Vega and Persecution

In 1620, Tirso de Molina established a close relationship with Lope de Vega and his fellow writers in Madrid, such as Montalván, Alarcón, and Mira de Amescua. He began his artistic career successfully during this period. However, in 1625, his open theatrical activities as a playwright-monk led to persecution and exile to a provincial monastery in Trujillo.

Prolific Works

Like Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina was highly prolific, having composed over 400 comedies according to his own admission. Many of his plays gained fame outside of Spain, including in Italy, America, and France. Among his surviving works are 81 comedies, 5 autos, and two books of mixed content, including novels, comedies, and lyrics: "The Cigarrales of Toledo" (Cigarrales de Toledo, 1621, 2nd edition, 1624) and "Delight and Profit" (Deleytar aprovechando, 1635). He also wrote the manuscript "History of the Order of Mercy" (Historia de la Orden de la Merced, written in 1639, 2 volumes) and the biography "Life of the Saint Servellonian."

Style and Contributions

Tirso de Molina was a direct follower of the new dramatic style developed by Lope de Vega. He remained faithful to the realistic method and maintained the genres and principles introduced by Lope, such as historical dramas, religious plays, and domestic comedies. However, in the context of the overall development of Spanish drama, Tirso de Molina's work signaled a weakening of the realistic tendencies of Lope de Vega's system, despite his notable achievements and innovations.

Tirso de Molina's historical plays often focused more on private and personal interests of the characters rather than direct political issues. However, in some of his finest historical plays, such as "The Prudent Women," he reached the level of his teacher's mastery. He also displayed originality in creating a genre of socially-philosophical dramas, such as "The Trickster of Seville" and "Condemned for Doubt," which later served as a starting point for philosophical plays by Calderón. These works reflected the contradictions of Spain's "Golden Age" culture, combining materialistic aspects of late Renaissance with feudal and ecclesiastical spirit of the Counter-Reformation.

In "The Trickster of Seville" (El burlador de Sevilla, 1630), Tirso de Molina created the character of Don Juan, embodying a feudal hedonist who rebels against the intimidating apparatus of church morality and doctrine. The protagonist of "Condemned for Doubt" (Condenado per Desconfiado), the hermit Paulo, attempts to unravel the secrets of salvation through cunning experiments, representing a counter-reformation version of the Faustian theme and the problem of free knowledge.

Overall, Tirso de Molina made significant contributions to Spanish literature and drama, combining realism, social commentary, and philosophical depth in his works.