Spain’s hidden treasure

Prospect Magazine

Spain’s hidden treasure

/ / Leave a comment

Spanish golden age drama is more than a match for Shakespeare and co.

Don Juan, Tirso de Molina’s most abiding creation

When the National Theatre stages a play by a 17th-century Spanish friar this month, it might seem as if a jewel of exquisite rarity were going on display. To an English-speaking audience, the 16th and 17th centuries are the era of Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson and co—the undisputed master dramatists of their age. Yet for power and sheer productivity, the Spanish Golden Age—the Siglo de Oro, 1580-1680—is more than a match. Extant plays in Castilian outnumber, by many hundreds, all the work of the playwrights of Elizabethan and Stuart England put together.

Opening at the National Theatre is one of them. Damned by Despair, by Tirso de Molina, is a fascinatingly dense study of criminality and redemption. It concerns a pious hermit who chooses to test his and others’ commitment to God; but the Devil leads the hermit astray and links his

You need to be logged in to see this part of the content. Please either subscribe or Login to access.

Leave a comment


James Woodall
James Woodall is an arts writer, and author of a biography of Jorge Luis Borges 

Share this

Most Read

Prospect Buzz

  • Prospect's masterful crossword setter Didymus gets a shout-out in the Guardian
  • The Telegraph reports on Nigel Farage's article on Lords reform
  • Prospect writer Mark Kitto is profiled in the New York Times

Prospect Reads

  • Do China’s youth care about politics? asks Alec Ash
  • Joanna Biggs on Facebook and feminism
  • Boris Berezosky was a brilliant man, says Keith Gessen—but he nearly destroyed Russia