What was the theatre of Lope´s time like?

maqueta-corral-de-comedias

In Lope de Vega’s time there was court theatre, religious theatre and popular theatre. The first was presented in the royal palaces, and the religious theatre had to take place during the day. In the second group belonged the celebration of the eighth day of the feast of Corpus Christi, the interpretation of the sacramental religious plays. Lastly, the popular theatre, which took place in the corrales de comediasThe first corrales de comedias were interior courtyards of homes where the stage and seats were improvised. As they gained in popularity, they become more complex. They were organized into different parts: the stage, which was a platform without a curtain or decorations; the cazuela on the opposite side and which was reserved for women, the chambers, balconies and windows of the houses that faced the courtyard and were reserved for the nobles, and the patio, for the people from the town. The back was for the musketeers who earned their name from their shouts and the troublemaking attitude at the performances they did not like. Usually they threw vegetables at the stage. Lastly, in front of the stage, there were benches reserved for the tradesmen and artisans who could afford to pay for a slightly better seat., with performancesThe function generally began with a ‘loa’ (prologue) that bid the public’s favor and tried from that first moment to win over the attendees and get them on the company’s side. With that introduction they also tried to get the spectators to be quiet.
In the first act, the jesters set the stage with their recitations with which they tried to compensate for the poverty of the stage.  The spectators had to be entertained at all times, avoiding lulls, so pauses were few.
Between the first and second acts an ‘entremés’ was performed and between the two acts there was a dance or comic ballad sung. A ‘farce’ –act with music, dancing and hustle and bustle—ended the performance.
, which anyone could attend, as long as they paid. The corrales were run by confraternitiesAt the beginning of 1574, the Confraternity de la Soledad rented the Corral de Burgillos. Their intention was to earn extra money with the performance of comedies, in the same way that the Confraternity de la Pasión had been earning since 1668. Both then became involved in a lawsuit, started by the Pasión, which tried to maintain the monopoly. The ended with the agreement ratified by the Council of Castile, according to which the two institutions shared the income and expenses related to the performance of the plays. The La Confraternity de la Pasión would have two thirds, and the remaining third went to the Soledad.
 “Porque dando un real a la comedia, se da medio al hospital y a los pobres, y somos
de tan ruin naturaleza, que aunque veamos a nuestra puerta los pobres como llovidos y las camas de los hospitales llenas de ellos, no nos alargamos a darles dos maravedís de una vez, y por este camino se paga un tributo grande a los hospitales [...] sin duda, el provecho que sacan de las representaciones es grandísimo, y se había de mirar en esto con mucho cuidado; y así, considerándolo, todas las ciudades de España donde quiera que hacen teatro aplican su provecho al hospital”, advertía Francisco Ortiz en su Apología en defensa de las comedias que se representan en España, escrita a principios del siglo XVII.
and were companies of actor, many of them with a set structure, which maintained the theater.

The success of the theater in the corrales de comedias was such that the companies went on to perform the functions every day, forgoing the custom to only act on holidays. The works ran for one or two days –very few times they went on for five— the shows lasted between two and a half and three hours, usually at two or three in the afternoon in the winter and a four in the summer. The theatrical performancesThe function generally began with a ‘loa’ (prologue) that bid the public’s favor and tried from that first moment to win over the attendees and get them on the company’s side. With that introduction they also tried to get the spectators to be quiet.
In the first act, the jesters set the stage with their recitations with which they tried to compensate for the poverty of the stage.  The spectators had to be entertained at all times, avoiding lulls, so pauses were few.
Between the first and second acts an ‘entremés’ was performed and between the two acts there was a dance or comic ballad sung. A ‘farce’ –act with music, dancing and hustle and bustle—ended the performance.
, that were suspended in the event of rain had to be finished before sunset for moral reasons and public order.

The authors wrote the works for their performance and in many cases, they were then printed. The actors were part of the company of actors, who were established and legally regulated. There were different types of companies: royal or titled, league or traveling, puppet or comic… But with the corrales, the first fixed theaters, there also appeared the established companies. These were made up of a minimum of fifteen actors, and tended to have a repertoire of around fifty plays.

The Confraternities ruled the corrales de comedias and used the money earned to run hospitals and works of charity. The Confraternity of Sagrada Pasión and the Confraternity of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad ruled the two corrales de comedias of Madrid, the most famous of all, the Confraternity de la Cruz and del Príncipe.

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