During the lifetime of Shakespeare, the most popular playwrightin the world was a Spaniard named Lope De Vega, an astoundingly prolific genius whose work influenced European theater for generations. The two plays offered here are both by Lope.

One, Castlevins and Monteses, is his version of the Italian story that has come down to us through Shakespeare's version as Romeo and Juliet. As most interpreters did, Shakespeare adhered to the ending of the source story and made his play a tragedy--although no one thinks it's a particularly successful or profound example of that genre. But Lope defied the common practice and cast his play in the form of a tragicomedia, a distinctly Spanish genre that passes through tragedy to achieve a redemptive ending. That is, the defining tragic incident is in the middle, not at the end, which is joyous.

The second play, The Duchess of Amalfi's Steward, is actually a tragedy, however, and has as its source the same grisly but true narrative that Shakespeare's sometime collaborator John Webster used for his famous Jacobean masterpiece, The Duchess of Malfi. Again, Lope's version reverses expectation. Although the outcome of the story is tragic, as it was in real life, the center of the play is a brief but luminous idyll of human love and family as a moral ideal.

Neither of these plays had been available in English before Rodriguez-Badendyck published--in the prestigious Dovehouse Renaissance Plays in Translation series--the verse translations offered here.

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