During the Spanish Golden Age of the arts, one of the key figures in Spanish literature was Lope de Vega, a prolific author of plays, poetry, and novels. He was approximately contemporary with William Shakespeare (Vega 1562-1635, Shakespeare 1564-1616), and in some alternate-history fiction they met and interacted with each other. In the real world, although political relations between Spain and England were not friendly at the time, artistic influence and inspiration between the two countries might still have been possible. Vega lived twenty years longer than Shakespeare, perhaps enough time for the latter's fame and influence to spread to Spain.

Is there any evidence that Shakespeare inspired or influenced Vega?

(I hope this isn't an obvious or well-known question. I only learned about Vega yesterday, and his Wikipedia page doesn't mention Shakespeare except in relation to the above-mentioned alternate-history novel.)

Related: Is there any evidence that Lope de Vega influenced William Shakespeare? (Originally both parts were in the same question, but I split them since different types of research and expertise will be required for the two parts.)


1 Answer 1


Here’s some relevant evidence.

John Loftis in English Renaissance Plays from the Spanish "Comedia" (1984) writes:

England and Spain were at war from 1585 until 1604, crucial years in the development of their dramas; and travel between the countries was all but impossible. Because of England’s alliance with the Dutch, who had spent many years under Spanish rule, Englishmen had opportunities to read Spanish plays and perhaps to see them in performance in Amsterdam? The Anglo-Spanish dramatic relationship was one-sided: the English knew something about the comedia; the Spanish knew nothing about English drama. No Golden Age play of any consequence, so far as is known, derives from an English one.

Loftis doesn’t believe in any future source-hunting progress. His arguments are about Spanish dramatic sources for English plays, but they could be applied vice-versa:

Hispanists of any nationality are likely to be familiar with Shakespeare’s plays, and unlikely to overlook any probable source in the comedia used by him.

So it’s not clear how Hispanists could overlook a Shakespeare source used by Lope, too. Loftis adds that all (rather obscure) English Renaissance plays that have sources in Spanish drama were “identified by late nineteenth-century Germans”, and there was no progress since that.

There’s also The Relations Between Spanish and English Literature (1910) by James Fitzmaurice-Kelly:

Meanwhile, to what extent was English literature known in Spain? Not at all, so far as the external evidence goes. […] The material for La Corona Tragica was obtained by Lope de Vega from George Conn, a Roman Catholic divine long resident at Rome, whose Latin book on Mary Stuart was published there in 1624. As Latin offers few difficulties to an educated Spaniard, the fact that a contemporary Latin text was translated into Spanish argues that it was expected to interest the general public.

It is said that Shakespeare was almost unknown in Continental Europe before Voltaire published his Letters on the English – almost a century after Lope’s death. E.g. see Pujante, Ángel-Luis, “The French Influence on Early Shakespeare Reception in Spain: Three Cases of Unacknowledged Sources.” (2010) (PDF):

Shakespeare came to Spain in the 18th century, not directly from England, but via France. He arrived as the monster created by Voltaire, bringing with it the controversy about his vices and virtues.

Wikipedia article Reputation of William Shakespeare:

The knowledge of Shakespeare and his works in European countries, including Spain, arrived centuries after his death and not always easily. Even if some folios containing Shakespearean plays managed to arrive in Spain as soon as the end of the 16th century and the first half of the 17th century, they did not have an impact on the theatre and its audience.

Sur in English states that the oldest preserved edition of Shakespeare in Spain was published in 1632 (so it got there even later). Since Lope died in 1635, it’s unlikely he had a chance to encounter this book. And he probably didn’t know the language?

Soviet critic Plavskin (his article in the book “Шекспир в мировой литературе” (Shakespeare in World literature)) states that Lope didn’t know English. He doesn’t give a source, but he seems knowledgeable in the area. Plavskin also claims that Lope knew French, and his evidence for it comes from Lope’s autobiographical novel La Dorotea:

I began to collect books in every language and literature, for besides acquiring the elements of Greek, I had much practice in Latin, learned Tuscan well, and started French.

Perhaps his reasoning was this: Spaniards generally didn’t know English; there’s no evidence that Lope knew English; there’s some evidence that he didn’t know English at some stage of his life – we assume he didn’t know it.

If this is correct, it further lowers the probability of influence (doesn’t exclude an oral report as a source, though).

Shakespeare’s Early Reception in Europe by Jozef de Vos (DOI 10.1017/9781316137062.137 and this PDF) describes small impact on German and Dutch theatre via wandering actors in the seventeenth century. Impact on Spanish literature is not mentioned (presumably because there wasn’t any).

  • It's hard to prove a negative ("Lope was not influenced by Shakespeare") but this answer comes as close as can be reasonably argued. Bravo!
    – verbose
    Commented Dec 8, 2023 at 21:59

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