Did Lope have a patron?


Lope contributions were decisive in the change that the theater underwent in the second half of the 16th century, in which it became a solid public social event that generated money and created work. The success he had with his comedies and plays and the money he earned from them was, nevertheless, not enough to maintain two families (something he had to do at many points in his life) or to survive the long periods of time that, by order of the King, the theaters closed. So, Lope de Vega searched for a livelihood as a secretary to the nobles. He worked in the service of the Bishop of Avila, the Duke of Alba de Tormes, the Marquis of Malpica, the Marquis of Sarría, the Count of Lemos... until August of 1605 when he met Luis Fernández de Córdoba and Aragón, the sixthDuke of SessaThe Epistolario de Lope de Vega clearly documents the relationship that existed between the poet and the Duke of Sessa. Lope did any type of work for the nobleman, he was his secretary and, at times, his servant. For years he wrote the letters that the Duke sent to his lovers, a task he abandoned in 1614, when he became a priest and his confessor prohibited him to continue.
Luis Fernández de Córdoba y de Aragón admired Lope's literary creations and in 1611 he began to gather together his works, manuscripts and printings. He protected the poet and got him different positions, like that of the fiscal attorney of the Apostolic Chamber of the archbishopric of Toledo, and a prestamera (pension) in the diocese of Cordoba. Furthermore, the Duke facilitated Lope's presence at events at Court, like the marriage ceremony of the Princess Ana de Austria with Luis the XIII of France in Burgos.
The protection that the sixth Duke of Sessa gave him marked his life and his work, but despite his generosity, it was not the only one he sought, something that is known from his own letters. In a missive sent in 1620 to the Count of Lemos, Lope wrote:
"Yo he estado un año sin ser poeta de pane lucrando: milagro del señor Duque de Ossuna, que me envió quinientos escudos desde Napoles, que, ayudados de mi beneficio, pusieron la olla a estos muchachos, entre los quales hay quince años de una doncella, virtuosos y no sin gracias. Passo, Señor Exc.º, entre librillos y flores de un huerto lo que ya queda de la vida, que no debe de ser mucho, compitiendo en enredos con Mesqua y Don Guillen de Castro, sobre cuál los hace mejores en sus Comedias. Qualquiera destos dos ingenios pudiera servir mejor a Vex.ª en esta ocasión." (Amezúa: Epistolario de Lope de Vega)
whose relationship of service and friendship lasted his whole life.

The eagerness of the artists of the time to seek a patron, a protector, is more than understandable in the case of the dramatists, who faced long periods of the theaters being closed, and they could not earn a livelihood with the performance of their works. They were also prohibited from printing their plays. So, they aspired to have a direct guardianship from the royal house or the custody of a noble, a patron that gave them economic and social stability.

"... the theater patronage of the nobility has two sides: one, more evident, of the specific engagement of theater pieces for specific circumstances. The other, less visible, has to do with the desire to obtain the protection of the nobility by the artist, an aspiration that could lead the playwright to see his own works as a cultural object with a bartering value in the courtier social market, a useful means to achieve the desirable status of protégé of someone, but also to achieve in-kind benefits, positions in court, chaplaincies, positions, income, gifts..." (Teresa Ferre Valls)

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