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Tirso's La vida y muerte de Herodes is a curious play for a number of reasons. Dating most likely from 1620-21, it is one of several plays based on Herod's life both in Biblical accounts and in Josephus' Antiquities. Lodovico Dolce was the first Renaissance playwright to take advantage of the historical but very dramatic subject matter in his Marianna of 1565, and, closer to Tirso's era, Alexandre Hardy and Tristan l'Hermite created French versions; Hardy's dates from the period 1625 to 1632 and Tristan's was published in 1637. Of course, Calderón published in 1637 the version best known to Hispanists, El mayor monstruo los celos. Tirso's play is also-extraordinarily long (3935 lines), and remarkably poorly structured, never quite succeeding in combining the three dramatic elements in Herod's life: his political maneuvering between Augustus and Mark Anthony; his relationship with his wife Mariadnes and her unfortunate demise; and the Christmas tale of Herod's order to kill all male children under the age of two, including his own. Perhaps because of the limitations and defects of the dramatic qualities of the play, it has not been the subject of a great deal of criticism. More curious, however, is the fact that it has almost never been mentioned among the wife-murder plays that have been the subject of so much investigation. This study will consider the play as part of a tradition of wife-murder plays, with some speculation concerning its omission from the usual discussions of those plays.


University of Texas at El Paso


El Paso

Publication Information

Proceedings of the Third Annual Golden Age Spanish Drama Symposium: Texto y Espectaculo, March 9-11, 1983