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Courtly Love and the Comedia

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses the broad array of theatrical activity in early modern Spain. The mainstays of the professional theater industry's popular success were the modes of secular comedy and tragicomedy developed during the 16th century and popularized by Lope de Vega. These comedies, including comedias de enredo and comedias de capa y espada, invariably build plots based on a mode of representing heterosexual love and desire that was hardly new to early modern Spain. Courtly love, developed by 12th-century Provençal troubadours, exercised a decisive influence on both lyric poetry and prose and verse narrative throughout Western Europe from the Middle Ages. Spain's theatrical "golden age" is therefore a convenient angle from which to perceive the ways in which the comedia connects with broader European literary traditions; this approach can contribute to current efforts among scholars to explain why the popular theater of early modern Spain generated considerable controversy.

Keywords: comedia; Courtly love; Lope de Vega; professional theater industry; Western Europe



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