The bobo: This was the signature role of Lope de Rueda, the actor. To paraphrase one of his bobos: he wrote it for himself and he kept it for himself. The bobo is not stupid. He is not ignorant. He is guileless. He is innocent, with the eternal hopefulness of a child, trying with all his might to be good. And that is what makes him so endearing. He represents the pastoral, the world that exists out at the edge of town and beyond. When he visits the urban world, he is overwhelmed, and focuses all the more tightly upon only that which is right in front of him, and upon those concepts of which he is totally certain. He shuts out everything else, and out of this erupts the humor. Most of the bobos are servants to the household of an Hidalgo, some of them grown quite wise in the ways of the house, having spent a lifetime there. These characters include: Alameda in The Servants and in The Mask. Martín in The Contented Cuckold. Mendrugo in The Land of HaHa. Cebadón in To Pay or Not to Pay. Monserrate: in The Buttered Loaf. Juan de Buenalma in The Elderly Thief. Leno in the pasos excerpted from Tymbria including The Rat, The Puff Pastry, and Leno’s Dream. In the scripts published in the original Spanish, the character description simply reads: “simple”
which translates as “single, simple, silly.” Some dictionaries translate the word as “simpleton.” But in our modern world, “simpleton” leads to scientific discussions of mental capacity, which have no place in Lope’s world. I have chosen to call most of these “simple” characters just that: “simple” as in innocent, unsophisticated. (Also listed as “simple” is Toruvio in The Olives, although in our experience he seemed to fall outside the parameters of the classic Bobo.)
The page: Boys born to the nobility were often sent off to neighboring great houses to continue their education away from family ties, to learn about working and about how to make their way in the world. The page characters generally played “straight man” to the Bobo’s “top banana” comedian. A clever page, outranking a mature, “simple” servant, and ordering him about while bent upon mischief, made for high comedy. Such a page is Luquitas in “The Servants,” paired with Alameda, and Coladillo in “The Buttered Loaf”paired with Monserrate.
The Lackey: A hired gun, or in Lope’s time a hired sword. An hidalgo’s household was not complete without at least one or two of these tough types. Humor in “The Duelists” plays off the rough, bragging, lowborn but pretentious lackey against the younger, inexperienced but well-born page.
An Hidalgo: In the 16th Century, Spain had an overabundance of Hidalgo’s, the word being a contraction of hijo de algo, or son of something. This was important as it meant he was not an “hijo de nada” or son of nothing, which would give him no place of any importance at all in the scheme of things. Hidalgos had been rewarded with land, after assisting Ferdinand and Isabella in the re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, but while they might have land, most had little or no money. Eventually many of these poverty stricken, newly-landed gentry would make their way to the New World in search of their “fortunes.” A few came back laden with gold. Most were never heard from again.
Some spent their own wealth financing settlements from the Floridas and the Caribbean south to Brazil, and from the Straight of Juan de Fuca off the Northwest corner of Washington State to Tierra del Fuego, on the southernmost tip of South America. By the year of Lope’s death, 1565, Spain had established more than 200 cities in the New World, many of them private ventures.