Tirso de Molina

Last updated
Tirso de Molina
Tirso de molina.jpg
BornGabriel Téllez
c. 24 March 1579
Madrid, Spain
Diedc. 20 February 1648(1648-02-20) (aged 64)
Almazán, Spain
Firma de Gabriel Tellez (Tirso de Molina).svg

Gabriel Téllez (c. 24 March 1583 c. 20 February 1648), [1] better known as Tirso de Molina, was a Spanish Baroque dramatist, poet and Roman Catholic monk. He is primarily known for writing The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest , the play from which the popular character of Don Juan originates. [2] His work is also of particular significance due to the abundance of female protagonists, as well as the exploration of sexual issues. [3]


Life and career

He was born in Madrid. He studied at Alcalá de Henares, joined the mendicant Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy on 4 November 1600, and entered the Monastery of San Antolín at Guadalajara, Spain on 21 January 1601. He had been ordained a priest by 1610. [4]

He had been writing plays for ten years when he was sent by his superiors on a mission to the West Indies in 1615; residing in Santo Domingo from 1616 to 1618 and returning to Europe in 1618, he resided at the Mercedarian monastery in Madrid, took part in the proceedings of the Academia poetica de Madrid, founded by Sebastián Francisco de Medrano, competed in the literary tournaments then in vogue, and wrote copiously for the stage. [5]

His first publication, the incomplete Cigarrales de Toledo (licensed in 1621, but not published till 1624), is a miscellany of short tales, novellas, verses and three plays. One of the novellas, Los tres maridos burlados, probably derived from Francesco Cieco da Ferrara's Mambriano, and the play entitled El vergonzoso en palacio reveal his wit and ingenuity. The preface to the Cigarrales de Toledo states that Tirso de Molina had already written three hundred plays, and at this period of his career he was second only to Lope de Vega in popularity. (Tirso de Molina was one of Lope's most ardent followers.)[ citation needed ]

He showed hostility to culteranismo in the Cigarrales de Toledo, and made numerous enemies by his attacks on the new school in such pieces as Amar por arte mayor and La celosa de si misma. The realistic character of some of his productions gave his rivals an excuse to denounce him as a corrupter of public morals to the council of Castile in 1625, and, though no legal action was taken against him, he appears to have been reprimanded privately. In 1626 it was thought advisable to transfer him to Salamanca, and Tirso de Molina left Madrid determined to write no more for the stage. Though one of his plays, La huerta de San Juan, is dated 1626, there is no proof that it was begun after his departure from Madrid, and he seems to have written nothing for eight years. [5]

He had not lost his interest in the theatre, and published twelve representative pieces as the first part of his dramatic works (1626). This was a formal protest against the weakness of those who had been persuaded to drive him out. On the other hand, he worked zealously on behalf of his order, and rose to an important position; he became superior of the monastery at Trujillo in 1626, was elected later to the posts of reader in theology and definidor general[ further explanation needed ], and in May 1632 was appointed chronicler of the Order of Mercy. His Deleitar aprovechando (1635) is a devout counterpart of the Cigarrales de Toledo, much inferior to its predecessor in interest; a sequel was promised to this collection of pious tales, pious lyrics, and autos, but, as in the case of the Cigarrales de Toledo, the continuation never appeared. [5]

Twelve plays constitute the third part of his dramatic works which was published (before the second) in 1634, supposedly edited by the writer's nephew, "Francisco Lucas de Ávila", possibly a cover identity for himself. The second part (1635), the printing of which was paid for by the confraternity of St Jerome, contains four plays by Tirso de Molina, and eight written by him in collaboration with other dramatists; one of these collaborators was Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, but Tirso de Molina was the predominant spirit in these literary partnerships. The fourth and fifth parts of his dramatic works (1635 and 1636) each contain twelve plays; the haste with which these five volumes were issued indicates the author's desire to save some part of his work from destruction, and the appearance of his "nephew"'s name on the title-pages of the last four volumes indicates his desire to avoid conflict with the authorities. A sixth volume of dramatic pieces, consisting of light comedies, was announced; but the project was abandoned. That dramatic composition still entertained the scanty leisure of Tirso's old age is shown by the fact that the fragmentary autograph copy of Las quinas de Portugal is dated 8 March 1638, but his active career as a dramatist ended two years earlier. He was absorbed by other duties. As official chronicler of his order, he compiled the elaborate Historia de la Merced (his religious order), which occupied him till 24 December 1639 and was not published until 1973. As a tribute to the count de Sastago, who had accepted the dedication of the fourth part of the plays, and who had probably helped to defray the publishing expenses, Tirso de Molina is said to have compiled the Genealogía de la casa de Sastago (1640), but the ascription of this genealogical work is disputed. On 29 September 1645 Tirso de Molina became superior of the monastery at Soria, where he died. [5]

Monument to Tirso de Molina in Madrid (R. Vela, 1943) Madrid - Monumento a Tirso de Molina - 20110418 155643.jpg
Monument to Tirso de Molina in Madrid (R. Vela, 1943)

It is only within the last century that it has become possible to give an outline of his life and only a fraction of his plays have been preserved. The earliest of his extant pieces is dated 1605 and bears no sign of immaturity; in 1624 he had written three hundred plays, and in 1634 he stated that he had composed four hundred within the previous twenty years; of this immense production not more than eighty plays, are in existence. Tirso de Molina is universally known as the author of The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest , the piece in which Don Juan is first presented on the stage; but El Burlador de Sevilla represents only one aspect of his genius. No less remarkable than his representation of perverse depravity in El Burlador de Sevilla is his dramatic treatment of a philosophical enigma in El Condenado por desconfiado, but El Burlador de Sevilla and El Condenado por desconfiado are thought by scholars such as Fernando Cantalapiedra or Alfredo Rodriguez to have been written by Andrés de Claramonte. Though manifestly attracted by exceptional cases, by every kind of moral aberration, by the infamous and the terrible, his range is virtually unlimited. He reveals himself as a master of historical interpretation in Prudence in Woman ; his sympathetic, malicious wit finds dramatic expression in El vergonzoso en palacio and Don Gil of the Green Breeches , and the fine divination of feminine character in Averígüelo Vargas and La villana de Vallecas (The Peasant Woman of Vallecas) is incomparable. [5]

Tirso de Molina has neither Lope de Vega's inventive resource, nor his infinite seduction; he has neither Pedro Calderón de la Barca's idealistic visions, nor his golden music; but he exceeds Lope in massive intellectual power and in artistic self-restraint, and he exceeds Calderón in humour, in creative faculty, and in dramatic intuition. That his reputation extended beyond the Pyrenees in his own lifetime may be gathered from the fact that James Shirley's Opportunity is derived from El Castigo del penséque; but he was neglected in Spain itself during the long period of Calderón's supremacy, and his name was almost forgotten till the end of the 18th century, when some of his pieces were timidly recast by Dionisio Solis and later by Juan Carretero. [5]

The renaissance of his fame, however, dates from 1839–1842, when an incomplete but serviceable edition of his plays was published by Juan Eugenio Hartzenbusch. He is now accepted as among the greatest dramatists of Spain. [5]

In 2012, Tirso's Condenado por Desconfiado was performed as Damned by Despair at the Olivier Theatre in London, in a new version by Frank McGuinness. [6]


Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">José Zorrilla</span> Spanish poet, writer, playwright (1817–1893)

José Zorrilla y Moral was a Spanish poet and dramatist, who became National Laureate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dos Hermanas</span> Municipality in Andalusia, Spain

Dos Hermanas is a Spanish city 15 km (9.3 mi) south of Seville in Andalusia, with a population of 131,317 as of 2015.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Juan Eugenio Hartzenbusch</span> Spanish dramatist

Juan Eugenio Hartzenbusch Martínez was a Spanish dramatist. He was the Director of the National Library of Spain until he retired in 1875.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Juan Ruiz de Alarcón</span> Spanish writer

Juan Ruiz de Alarcón was a New Spain-born Spanish writer of the Golden Age who cultivated different variants of dramaturgy. His works include the comedy La verdad sospechosa, which is considered a masterpiece of Latin American Baroque theater.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Don Juan</span> Fictional libertine

Don Juan, also known as Don Giovanni (Italian), is a legendary, fictional Spanish libertine who devotes his life to seducing women. Famous versions of the story include a 17th-century play, El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra by Tirso de Molina, a 1665 play, Dom Juan, by Molière, a 1787 opera, Don Giovanni, with music by Mozart and a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, and a satirical, epic poem, Don Juan, by Lord Byron.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agustín Moreto y Cavana</span>

Agustín Moreto y Cavana, was a Spanish Catholic priest, dramatist and playwright.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lope de Vega</span> Spanish playwright and poet (1562–1635)

Félix Lope de Vega y Carpio was a Spanish playwright, poet, and novelist. He was one of the key figures in the Spanish Golden Age of Baroque literature. His reputation in the world of Spanish literature is second only to that of Miguel de Cervantes, while the sheer volume of his literary output is unequalled, making him one of the most prolific authors in the history of literature. He was nicknamed "The Phoenix of Wits" and "Monster of Nature" by Cervantes because of his prolific nature.

Juan Bautista Diamante, minor Spanish dramatist of the school of Calderón, was the son of a Portuguese mother and a Sicilian merchant of Greek parentage who came to Madrid some time before 1631. He began writing for the stage in the early 1650s, gained favour at the courts of Philip IV and Charles II, and became a knight of St. John in 1660. It has been suggested  that Juan Bautista may have been of Jewish stock, and that the Diamante family, including the playwright's half-brothers Pablo and Francisco Diamante who also achieved success in their different spheres, falsified public records of marriage, baptism, etc. in order to obscure their marrano origins.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Alejandro Casona</span> Spanish poet and playwright (1903–1965)

Alejandro Rodríguez Álvarez, known as Alejandro Casona was a Spanish poet and playwright born in Besullo, Spain, a member of the Generation of '27. Casona received his bachelor's degree in Gijon and later studied at the University of Murcia. After Franco's rise in 1936, he was forced, like many Spanish intellectuals, to leave Spain. He lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina until April 1962, when he definitively returned to Spain.

Andrés de Claramonte y Corroy was a playwright of the Spanish Golden Age. Very few facts are known about his life. As an actor, he worked for the most important companies, such as Baltasar de Pinedo's or Alonso de Olmedo's. As a playwright, he wrote dramas with great epic style, in which he showed his talent for visual and theatrical effects.

Domingo Miras Molina was a Spanish dramatist.

<i>The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest</i> Play written by Tirso de Molina around 1616–30

The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest is a play written by Tirso de Molina. Its title varies according to the English translation, and it has also been published under the titles The Seducer of Seville and the Stone Guest and The Playboy of Seville and the Stone Guest. The play was first published in Spain around 1630, though it may have been performed as early as 1616. Set in the 14th century, the play is the earliest fully developed dramatisation of the Don Juan legend.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spanish Baroque literature</span>

Spanish Baroque literature is the literature written in Spain during the Baroque, which occurred during the 17th century in which prose writers such as Baltasar Gracián and Francisco de Quevedo, playwrights such as Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Calderón de la Barca and Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, or the poetic production of the aforementioned Francisco de Quevedo, Lope de Vega and Luis de Góngora reached their zenith. Spanish Baroque literature is a period of writing which begins approximately with the first works of Luis de Góngora and Lope de Vega, in the 1580s, and continues into the late 17th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pedro Téllez-Girón y de la Cueva, 1st Duke of Osuna</span> Spanish duke (1537–1590)

Pedro Téllez-Girón, 1st Duke of Osuna, 5th count of Ureña was a Spanish nobleman and administrator.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lluvia Rojo</span> Spanish actress and singer

Lluvia Rojo Moro is a Spanish actress and singer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spanish Golden Age theatre</span> Theatre in Spain roughly between 1590 and 1681

Spanish Golden Age theatre refers to theatre in Spain roughly between 1590 and 1681. Spain emerged as i dont like nigs a European power after it was unified by the marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1469 and then claimed for Christianity at the Siege of Granada in 1492. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw a monumental increase in the production of live theatre as well as in the importance of the arts within Spanish society.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Juan Núñez I de Lara</span> Spanish noble

Juan Núñez I de Lara y León, also known as "el Gordo" or "the Fat", was a Spanish noble. He was the head of the House of Lara, Lord of Lerma, Amaya, Dueñas, Palenzuela, Tordehumos, Torrelobatón, and la Mota. He was further known as Señor de Albarracín through his first marriage with Teresa Álvarez de Azagra.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Luis de Eguílaz</span>

Damaso Luis Martínez Eguílaz y Eguílaz was a Spanish writer and dramatist, father of playwright Rosa de Eguílaz y Renart.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Manuela Vellés</span> Spanish actress

Manuela Vellés Casariego is a Spanish actress best known for her appearances in television series and films.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Plaza de Tirso de Molina</span> Public square in Madrid

The plaza de Tirso de Molina is a public square in the city of Madrid, Spain.


  1. Pérez-Rioja, José Antonio. "Gabriel Téllez". Diccionario biográfico España (in Spanish). Real Academia de la Historia.
  2. Edwards, Gwynne, trans. 1986. The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest. By Tirso de Molina. Hispanic Classics ser. Warminster: Aris & Phillips. ISBN   0-85668-301-9.
  3. Eisenberg, Daniel (1999). "Introduction". In Foster, David William (ed.). Spanish Writers on Gay and Lesbian Themes. A Bio-Critical Sourcebook (PDF). Westport, CT: Greenwood. pp. 1–21.
  4. "The exact date of his ordination to the priesthood is not known, but the earliest notice of him in that connexion is in 1610 when he is mentioned by Andrés de Claramonte y Corroy in his 'Letanía Moral', as Padre Fray Gabriel Téllez of the order of Nuestra Señora de la Merced". Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Gabriel Téllez"  . Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Fitzmaurice-Kelly 1911.
  6. Billington, Michael (11 October 2012). "Damned by Despair – review". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 9 March 2020.
  7. edited by JE Hartzenbusch in the Biblioteca de autores españoles, vol. v.
  8. edited by Emilio Cotarelo y Mori in the Nueva biblioteca de autores españoles (supplementary to Hartzenbusch's edition)
  9. P Muñoz Peña, Madrid, 1889
  10. E Cotarelo y Mori, Madrid, 1893
  11. M Menéndez y Pelayo, segunda serie, pp. 131–198 (weslaco, 2005)
  12. R Menéndez Pidal
  13. Madrid, 1902
  14. in the Bulletin hispanique, vi. 38–43
  15. A Morel-Fatio, troisieme serie, pp. 25–72 (Paris, 1904)