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Luis Vélez de Guevara

Luis Vélez de Guevara Luis Vélez de Guevara[1†]

Luis Vélez de Guevara (born Luis Vélez de Santander) was a renowned Spanish dramatist and novelist, born on August 1, 1579, in Écija, Spain[1†]. He was of Jewish converso descent[1†]. Vélez de Guevara is best known for his fantastic satirical novel, “El diablo cojuelo” (1641; “The Crippled Devil”), which gained popularity from its adaptation by the French dramatist Alain Lesage as “Le Diable boiteux” (1707; The Devil upon Two Sticks)[1†][2†][1†].

Early Years and Education

Luis Vélez de Guevara was born in Écija, Spain, in July 1579[1†][2†]. He was of Jewish converso descent[1†][2†], which indicates that his family had converted from Judaism to Christianity, a common occurrence in Spain during that period due to religious pressures.

Vélez de Guevara’s educational journey began at the University of Osuna, where he graduated as a sizar in 1596[1†]. The term “sizar” refers to a student who receives financial assistance in exchange for certain duties, suggesting that Vélez de Guevara might have faced financial challenges during his early years.

After his graduation, he joined the household of Rodrigo de Castro, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Seville[1†]. This was a significant step in his early career, as it provided him with the opportunity to be part of an influential and intellectual environment. During this time, he celebrated the marriage of Philip III in a poem signed Vélez de Santander, a name which he continued to use until some years later[1†].

These early experiences, both educational and professional, played a crucial role in shaping Vélez de Guevara’s literary career. His exposure to diverse cultural and intellectual influences during his formative years likely contributed to the development of his unique writing style, which would later earn him a place among the most respected Spanish dramatists and novelists of his time[1†][2†][1†].

Career Development and Achievements

After his early education and experiences in the household of Rodrigo de Castro, Luis Vélez de Guevara served as a soldier in Italy and Algiers[1†]. He returned to Spain in 1602 and entered the service of the count de Saldaña[1†]. This period marked a significant transition in his life as he dedicated himself to writing for the stage[1†].

Vélez de Guevara was a remarkably successful playwright, composing more than 400 plays[1†][2†][1†]. His works are known for their unique blend of humor, wit, and social commentary. Several of his plays were based on those of Lope de Vega, a prominent Spanish playwright and poet[1†][2†][1†]. Despite the volume of his work, Vélez de Guevara often struggled financially. His productivity brought him little reward, and he was constantly in debt[1†][2†][1†].

Among his most notable works is “El diablo cojuelo” (1641; “The Crippled Devil”), a fantastic satirical novel that gained popularity from its adaptation by the French dramatist Alain Lesage as “Le Diable boiteux” (1707; The Devil upon Two Sticks)[1†][2†][1†]. The novel presents a rascal student who hides in an astrologer’s mansard and frees a devil from a bottle. As an acknowledgment, the devil shows him the apartments of Madrid and the tricks, miseries, and mischiefs of their inhabitants[1†].

Despite the challenges he faced, Vélez de Guevara left a significant mark on Spanish literature. His ability to create engaging characters and his gift for satire have earned him a place among the most respected Spanish dramatists and novelists of his time[1†][2†][1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Luis Vélez de Guevara was a prolific writer, authoring over four hundred plays[1†][3†]. His works are celebrated for their complex wordplay and tense, equivocal style[1†][2†]. Here are some of his most notable works:

These works, particularly “El diablo cojuelo”, have had a significant impact on literature. For instance, “El diablo cojuelo” was adapted by the French dramatist Alain-René Lesage as “Le Diable boiteux” (1707; The Devil upon Two Sticks)[1†][2†][1†]. Furthermore, Charles Dickens refers to “El Diablo cojuelo” in "The Old Curiosity Shop"[1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Luis Vélez de Guevara was a significant figure in the Spanish Golden Age of literature, ranking high among the followers of Lope de Vega[2†][1†]. His work displays a gift for creating character[2†], and he was known for his complex wordplay and tense, equivocal style[2†][1†].

His novel, “El diablo cojuelo”, is particularly noteworthy. It presents a rascal student who frees a devil from a bottle, and in return, the devil shows him the apartments of Madrid and the tricks, miseries, and mischiefs of their inhabitants[2†][1†]. This novel abounds in complicated wordplay and is written in a tense, equivocal style[2†]. Its popularity grew when it was adapted by the French dramatist Alain-René Lesage as “Le Diable boiteux” (1707; The Devil upon Two Sticks)[2†][1†].

Vélez de Guevara’s plays, of which he wrote over four hundred[2†][1†][4†], were also significant. They were based on those of Lope de Vega and were known for their gaiety and animation[2†]. Despite his productivity, Vélez de Guevara struggled with financial difficulties throughout his life and died in poverty[2†].

His influence extends beyond the literary world. His novel “El diablo cojuelo” was referenced by Charles Dickens in "The Old Curiosity Shop"[2†][1†]. Despite the challenges he faced in his life, Vélez de Guevara’s work continues to be celebrated for its complexity and creativity[2†][1†].

Personal Life

Luis Vélez de Guevara was born in Écija, Spain, in July 1579[2†][1†]. He was of Jewish converso descent[2†][1†]. After graduating from the University of Osuna in 1596[2†][1†], he joined the household of Rodrigo de Castro, Cardinal-Archbishop of Seville[2†][1†]. He seems to have served as a soldier in Italy and Algiers, returning to Spain in 1602 when he entered the service of the count de Saldaña[2†][1†].

Despite his success as a playwright and novelist, Vélez de Guevara’s life was marked by financial struggles. His productivity brought him little reward; constantly in debt, he eventually died in poverty in Madrid on November 10, 1644[2†][1†].

Unfortunately, not much is known about his personal relationships or family life. His work, particularly his novel “El diablo cojuelo”, suggests a keen observer of human nature and the social dynamics of his time[2†][1†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Luis Vélez de Guevara left an indelible mark on Spanish literature. Despite his financial struggles, he was a remarkably successful playwright, composing more than 400 plays[1†]. His works, particularly his novel “El diablo cojuelo”, are celebrated for their complex wordplay and tense, equivocal style[1†][2†][1†].

Vélez de Guevara’s influence extends beyond Spain. His novel “El diablo cojuelo” was adapted by the French dramatist Alain-René Lesage as “Le Diable boiteux” (1707), bringing it to a European audience[1†]. Even Charles Dickens refers to “El Diablo cojuelo” in "The Old Curiosity Shop"[1†].

Despite dying in poverty, Vélez de Guevara’s legacy as a gifted dramatist and novelist endures. His works continue to be studied and appreciated for their lyrical quality and visual effect[1†][6†]. He is remembered as a key figure in Spanish Golden Age literature, and his works continue to be read and performed today[1†][2†][1†][6†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Luis Vélez de Guevara [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Luis Vélez de Guevara: Spanish author [website] - link
  3. Wikisource (English) - 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Guevara, Luis Velez de [website] - link
  4. JSTOR - A Romance of Luis Vélez de Guevara [website] - link
  5. Oxford Reference - Luis Vélez de Guevara [website] - link
  6. Oxford Reference - Vélez de Guevara, Luis [website] - link
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