Lope de Rueda, Spain's 16th Century Comedian - The Pasos: translated and staged as living history
The Comedian’s Wife
Actress, singer, dancer--- a career woman ahead of her time…the curious story of Mariana de Rueda, wife & stage partner of the great comedian….
 
This material compiled and translated from the original Spanish
by Joan Bucks  Hansen,
at St. Augustine FL in 1984, from the following sources:
—(1) Fernando Gonzalez Olle, Introduccion a Classicos Castellanos—Lope de Rueda—Los Engañados/Medora and (2) Real academia Española, Biblioteca de Classicos Españoles, “Obras de Lope de Rueda” Madrid Librería de los sucesores de Hernando Calle de Arenal II
 
 
By 1554, Lope de Rueda was married to a singer, dancer and actress of great talent and ability, Mariana, who in later centuries has been much maligned in most short English language biographies of her husband.  Encyclopedia Britannica allots only two words to Lope’s love, “disreputable actress.”
 
It is fairly certain that she performed with Lope’s company as well as being his wife.  Unlike English theatre where men played women’s roles—In Spain, women acted on the public stage and often played the roles of young boy servants and pages.  Mariana may well have played such roles which were abundant in Lope’s pasos.
 
Mariana had, prior to her marriage, been in service to the Duke of Medinaceli, Don Gaston de la Cerda, a frail and solitary professed friar who thoughtlessly died without having paid Mariana for her services of six years as a greatly acclaimed singer and dancer in his court. 
 
On July 6, 1554.  about a month after his acclaimed performance for the Prince at Benevente, Lope de Rueda presented a demand at Valladolid that the new Duke Don Juan de la Cerda pay Mariana’s wages for six years of service from the estate of Don Gaston, in the amount of 25,000 maravedis for each year. He received three favorable decisions in the case which must have remained in the courts for nearly three years, because the last judgment was dated March 16, 1557, and ordered the Duke Don Juan to pay Mariana a total of 60,000 maravedis (160 ducats).
 
Testimony in the case revealed the following story:
 
Don Gaston de la Cerda was born in 1504, frail, ill and crippled.  As the second son of his house he was destined to enter the church and he professed as a friar in the convent of San Bartolome de Lupiana.  His older brother, the natural heir to the family estate died without producing an heir and the friar being the next in line of primogeniture, obtained a pontifical license of secularization to allow him to live outside the church.  Then he asked that his father declare him the heir to the patrimonial estate.  So did his younger brother Don Juan de la Cerda.  Juan’s mother supported him in his claim and the father compromised by making Don Gaston the heir only to enjoy the estate in his lifetime, but being a friar in the Church, he was to remain celibate  and was not to marry. At his death the estate was to pass to Don Juan and his heirs.
 
Palace of the Duke at Cogolludo 
The old duke died and Gaston entered into possession of the estate, professing in the Order of Malta and becoming Grand Prior of Castilla.  He assigned a good part of the rents from the estate to his brother who carried on the formal duties of the Ducal house and Gaston retired to Cogulludo where he passed the rest of his life beset by illness, in light recreations and  sports that were not too fatiguing…
In the year 1545 two women passed through the village of Cogulludo on their way to Aragon.  They were singers and dancers most likely on their way to join some company of players in Seville.  The Duke heard about them and ordered that they be brought before him.  Satisfied with the talent and ability of the one called Mariana he asked her to remain in his company; she accepted and her traveling companion continued on her way.  Thus did the future wife of Lope de Rueda enter the house of Don Gascon the Duke of Medinaceli.
 
For six years Mariana remained in the service of the frail friar who was now both duke and prior, entertaining him with her singing and dancing and “sweet words.”  So indispensible did she become to him that he made her cut her hair and dress as a page in doublet and puffed breeches so that she could accompany him on hunts and travels.  It was said that  “the Duke took great satisfaction in seeing her dressed as a boy.” (It was not uncommon in 16th Century Spain for women travelling without entourage to dress as boys, so as not to attract the attention of potential predators.)
 
The Duke had promised Mariana good pay for her services and even had spoken of marriage, but on Dec. 29, 1551 the Duke died.    Within six months Mariana married Lope de Rueda.
 
Among the witnesses in the suit for her wages was Pedro de Montiel, a silk spinster, who traveled with Rueda’s company, acting in his farces and comedies.  He said in his testimony that he had performed before the Duke “some delightful comedies and he paid us very well.” Mariana had worked with the company in that performance and this was probably when she met Lope de Rueda.
 
Another witness was Alonso Getino de Guzman “dancer and musician” 25 years old, married and a resident at court.  He followed the dance profession for many years and was master of dance at Madrid. Ultimately he became a peace officer at the court.  He was quite close to the Cervantes family and a close friend of Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra.  In 1569 it was he who guaranteed the bond for Cervantes’ mother in her diligent efforts to rescue her son from captivity in Argel.
 
With respect to Mariana’s ability as an actress, singer and dancer, all the witnesses in the case and all the expert testigents, musicians and masters of the dance agreed that her ability was consummate.  One affirmed that “the said Mariana is of the highest degree and alone and unique in what she does.”  Another added, “She is a very gracious woman and a great singer and dancer.”
It is from the testimony of one of the witnesses at the hearing on July 14, 1554, that we receive the approximate time of her marriage to Lope de Rueda—that on that date Lope and Mariana “have been married now for more than two years,” which would place the date prior to July, 1552.
 
Information about Mariana, other than that in the lawsuit, is scarce, or has not come to light. By 1561 Mariana de Rueda had died, and we know this because in that year, Lope de Rueda, a widower, married his second wife Angela Rafaela of Valencia, while at the Royal Court in Madrid.
 
 
This material compiled and translated from the original Spanish by Joan Bucks  Hansen,at St. Augustine FL in 1984, from the following sources:
—(1) Fernando Gonzalez Olle, Introduccion a Classicos Castellanos—Lope de Rueda—Los Engañados/Medora and (2) Real academia Española, Biblioteca de Classicos Españoles, “Obras de Lope de Rueda” Madrid Librería de los sucesores de Hernando Calle de Arenal II
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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