Lope de Vega (also Félix Lope de Vega y Carpio or Lope Félix de Vega Carpio) (25 November 1562 – 27 August 1635) was a Spanish Baroque playwright and poet. His reputation in the world of Spanish letters is second only to that of Cervantes, while the sheer volume of his literary output is unequalled: he is estimated to have written up to 1,500 three-act plays – of which some 425 have survived until the modern day – together with a plethora of shorter dramatic and poetic works.
In 1614, the twice-widowed de Vega became a Catholic priest, but this did not stop him from romancing women for the remainder of his life. In 1635, on being told that his life would soon be over, de Vega made a well-known death bed confession: "All right, then, I'll say it: Dante makes me sick."
Lope de Vega in Ruled Britannia
In 1588, after becoming involved in a forced marriage as the result of a sexual scandal with the daughter of a royal adviser, Lope joined the Spanish Armada as it prepared to sail against England.
Following the conquest of England, he remained in that country as part of Don Diego Flores de Valdes' occupation force. He was stationed in London and served under the command of Captain Baltasar Guzmán. He wrote two plays: La Dama Boba, a comedy, and El Mejor Mozo de España, a history written as a tribute to Queen Isabella of Castille and her husband King Ferdinand II of Aragon, ancestors of Queen Isabella of England. Although Guzman mocked de Vega's efforts as a playwright, he was impressed enough to arrange for these plays to be published in Spain.
A famous womanizer, de Vega also had a number of affairs during his tour of duty, having relationships with, among others, Maude Fuller, Nell Lumley, Martha Brock, Lucy Watkins, Catalina Ibanez, and Cicily Sellis. Some of these caused scandals, and others put him in personal danger.
Fluent in the English language, de Vega was a patron of English theater and a friend of its greatest contemporary playwright, William Shakespeare. He frequented The Theatre and occasionally acted as an extra in productions by Lord Westmorland's Men. In 1597 de Vega was assigned by Cardinal Robert Parsons, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to observe Shakespeare, whose loyalties were considered suspect by the cardinal. De Vega did not believe Shakespeare was at all unreliable and relished the opportunity for an easy assignment which would give him the opportunity to patronize the English theater frequently.
In fact, de Vega's assignment came just as Shakespeare became involved in William Cecil's plot to overthrow the Hapsburg monarchs. Though the players only narrowly managed to conceal evidence of their work on the English nationalistic play Boudicca, de Vega never became suspicious, partly because they were able to placate him by promising him a role in King Philip, to which de Vega contributed one line.
When Boudicca was performed in 1598 and the Spanish were driven out of England, de Vega was captured by Shakespeare and turned over to English forces. Shakespeare later obtained parole for his friend and colleague from the newly restored Queen Elizabeth, and de Vega returned to Spain via Ostend. The two plays Guzman helped to publish assisted de Vega's return to the Spanish theater.