Tirso de Molina

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Tirso de Molina

Tirso de Molina (tērˈsō dā mōlēˈnä), pseud. of Fray Gabriel Téllez (gäbrēĕlˈ tĕlˈyĕth), 1584?–1648, outstanding dramatist of the Spanish Golden Age, b. Madrid. His fame rests on El burlador de Sevilla (1630; tr. The Love Rogue, 1924), the earliest known literary version of the Don Juan legend. Among the 300 or 400 plays by Tirso de Molina are El vergonzoso en palacio [the bashful man at the palace], La prudencia en la mujer [prudence in a woman], El condenado por desconfiado (tr. The Saint and the Sinner, 1954), Marta la piadosa [pious Martha], and El castigo del pensé que (tr. by James Shirley as The Opportunity, 1640). He also wrote short novels, included in his prose collection Los cigarrales de Toledo (1621). He joined the Mercedarian monks in 1601 and wrote a history of the order (1637–39). His dramas, influenced by Lope de Vega, excel in wit and sympathetic characterization.
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Tirso de Molina


(pen name of Gabriel Téllez). Born 1571 or circa 1583 in Madrid; died Mar. 12, 1648, in Soria. Spanish dramatist.

Tirso de Molina studied at the University of Alcalá de Henares. He held high positions in the monastic Mercenarian order and became the historian for the order in 1632. His first published book, Villas of Toledo (1621), is similar to the genre of the pastoral romance; united by a general plot, it comprises several short prose works and three plays, including A Bashful Youth in the Palace (1605–06). The collection To Delight While Being of Use (1635) is a pious antithesis to Villas of Toledo. Between 1627 and 1636, Tirso de Molina published five collections of plays. The preface to the third collection indicates that he had written 400 plays. Approximately 90 have survived; however, the authorship of a number of them remains in dispute.

Tirso de Molina wrote several plays on historical themes, such as The Luck of Don Alvaro de Luna and the Unhappy Fate of Ruy Lopes d’Alvalos (1615–21, published 1635) and Woman’s Wisdom (1630–33, published 1634). Some of his plays deal with biblical subjects, for example, Tamara’s Revenge and More Is Less (1614, published 1627), and with hagiography, notably a trilogy on the life of St. Juana. Other works include religious and philosophical dramas, the best known being The Doubted Damned (1614–15 [?], published 1634), and autos (one-act allegorical dramas). Tirso de Molina also wrote comedies, in which he combined plots typical of cloak-and-sword plays—the classic example being Don Gil Greenpants (1615, published 1635)—with profound psychological insight, as in Jealous of Herself.

Tirso de Molina developed the principles of Renaissance drama established by L. F. de Vega Carpió. At the same time, however, his works belong to the baroque age. They reflect the end of the humanists’ faith in man’s nature and express disillusionment with love as an elevated emotion ennobling the soul and with honor in the sense of unconditional devotion to the good of society. His plays express all the artificiality and deceptiveness of life. Observing the general social disharmony and moral decline in Spain, Tirso de Molina, like many of his contemporaries, turned to religion as a means of improving morals.

The best-known drama by Tirso de Molina is The Scamp of Seville, or The Stone Guest (El Burlador de Sevilla y convivado de pietra, 1619–20 [?]; published 1630), which is based on a folk tale of a young roué who insults a dead man and pays dearly for his blasphemy. Its hero, Juan Tenorio, is the first Don Juan in world literature. In the interpretation of Tirso de Molina, he is a skeptic and a thorough egoist; endowed with a destructive mind, he rejects morality entirely.

In Russia, the works of Tirso de Molina became popular in the late 19th century.


Obras dramáticas completas, vols. 1–3. Madrid, 1946–58.
Obras. Madrid [1970]. (Biblioteca de autores españoles, vol. 236.)
In Russian translation:
Komedii, vols. 1–2. [Moscow, 1969.] (Introductory article by V. Siliunas.)
Toledskie villy. Moscow [1972]. (Preface by N. Tomashevskii.)


Krzhevskii, B. A. Stat’i o zarubezhnoi literature. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960.
Nougué, A. L’oeuvre en prose de Tirso de Molina. Toulouse, 1962.
Maurel, S. L’univers dramatique de Tirso de Molina: Thèse. [Paris] 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.