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Ana Caro

Personal information
Surname: Caro
First name: Ana
Commonly known as: Ana Caro
Other versions of the name: Doña Ana Caro de Mallén, Doña Ana Caro de Mallén de Soto, Doña Ana Caro de Manlleu, Doña Ana Caro Mallen de Soto, Doña Ana Caro y Mallén de Soto
Born: c. 1600, Seville or Granada, Spain
Died: ?31 January 1652

It is thought that Ana Caro was born around 1600 and that she died on 31 January 1652, and she was buried in Utrera, just outside of Seville. Although biographical information about her is sparse, it is apparent that she was born of a noble family and that she was privately educated, as formal institutions of learning did not admit women when she would have been learning languages; her 1639 writing of the Loa sacramental in Portuguese, French, and the ethnic dialects of Spain as well as her familiarity with mythical, religious, historical and literary people and places proves her learning (Caro 1998: 6). Between 1628 and 1645 she published her studies of festivals and cultural activities, and was well known primarily as a poet. Her popularity and fame as a writer during her lifetime is documented; Diego de Logroño and Luis Vélez de Guevara named her the ‘Tenth Muse’. As a dramatist, she was the author of two autos sacramentales (religious plays written for Corpus Christi celebrations in 1641 and 1642). Two of her entremeses (entr’actes) survive: a Loa sacramental and Coloquio entre dos, but only two of her full-length plays survive; El conde Partinuplés published in 1653 and Valor, agravio y mujer, published between 1680 and 1700. Another impressive woman playwright during this period, María de Zayas, knew Caro’s work, and the two women wrote complimentarily of one another.

See (Caro 1998) and (Caro 1993)

  • Caro, Ana. 1993. El conde Partinuplés, ed. Lola Luna. Kassel, Reichenberger (in Spanish)

  • Caro, Ana. 1998. Las comedias de Ana Caro, ed. María José Delgado. New York, Peter Lang (in Spanish)


Ana Caro’s comedias are typical only in the sense that they treat typical comedia themes—honour, revenge, love triangles, and intrigue. Yet in both Valor, agravio y mujer and El Conde Partinuplés Caro takes familiar, even archetypal themes (in Valor, the restitution of a woman’s honour as she seeks vengeance from a man who has wronged her, and in Conde the Cupid and Psyche myth), and inverts the gender roles so that the woman is allotted agency and freedom to manipulate events and people to get what she wants. Caro uses fantastic elements such as magic and illusion, and stock-in-trade comedia devices such as long ship voyages in between acts, fast-paced turns of plot, and conniving servants. Yet she inverts these as well, such that the comic male servant does not marry a female of his own social class as might be expected of the genre, but in both comedias the comic servant is left alone and penniless as poetic justice for his grasping, sarcastic, lying ways. As Luna comments, it is not the originality of the themes treated by Caro that is important, but the way she arranges them in unique and surprising ways (Caro 1993: 14). Anticipating the more visual, spectacular theatre that was to come shortly after her, her plays are full of metatheatre, stage machinery, fantastic characters, encounters with nonhuman subjects (like the lion and savage woman in Count Partinuplés), and characters making elaborate entrances and exits on ‘clouds’. The use of deception, mistaken identity, portraits and mirrors underlines this Baroque obsession with the disparate nature of illusion (calling overt attention to the theatrical illusion) and reality.

  • Caro, Ana. 1993. El conde Partinuplés, ed. Lola Luna. Kassel, Reichenberger (in Spanish)


Known primarily as a poet in her lifetime, though renowned also for her plays, the poetic features of her two comedias are notable in their innovative use of verse, such as in Valor, agravio y mujer the clever single-stanza verse shifts within the dialogue, and the characters’ engagement in an exchange of metaphors in duelling ten-line stanzas. The characters call direct attention to the images and arguments used, in a meta-poetic exchange of consummate skill. Yet her servant characters speak in a witty, bantering style that reveals Caro’s range; she is able to vary her style between the lowbrow jokes of the servants and the Gongorine complexity of the images used by her more nobly born characters (Caro 1993: 14). Yet despite its poetic virtuosity, it is surprisingly clear, often making incisive comments about the political and social realities of seventeenth-century Spain. One of her modern editors, Delgado, rightly claims that Ana Caro’s work is of great interest to the contemporary reader because of its satirical political commentary as well as its incisive portrayal of the condition of women during the period in which she wrote.

  • Caro, Ana. 1993. El conde Partinuplés, ed. Lola Luna. Kassel, Reichenberger (in Spanish)

Plays in the database
Useful reading and websites
  • Armas, Frederick de. 1986. 'Ana Caro Mallén de Soto'. In Women Writers of Spain: An Annotated Bio-Bibliographical Guide, ed. Carolyn L. Galerstein, pp. 66-7. New York, Greenwood

  • Ordóñez, Elizabeth J. 1985. 'Woman and Her Text in the Works of María de Zayas and Ana Caro', Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, 19, 1, 3-15

  • Armas, Frederick de. 1976. The Invisible Mistress: Aspects of Feminism and Fantasy in the Golden Age. Biblioteca Siglo de Oro. Charlottesville, Virginia

  • Caro, Ana. 1993. El conde Partinuplés, ed. Lola Luna. Kassel, Reichenberger (in Spanish)

  • Caro, Ana. 1998. Las comedias de Ana Caro, ed. María José Delgado. New York, Peter Lang (in Spanish)

  • Delgado, María José. 1993. Valor, agravio y mujer y El conde Partinuplés: una edición crítica. Doctoral thesis, University of Arizona (in Spanish)

  • Foley, Luisa F. 1977. Valor, agravio y mujer, by Doña Ana Caro Mallén de Soto: Annotated Critical Edition with Introductory Critical Study. Master’s thesis, Temple University

  • Kaminsky, Amy. 1993. ‘Ana Caro Mallén de Soto’. In Spanish Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Source Book, eds. Linda Gould Levine, Ellen Engelson Marson and Gloria Feiman Waldman, pp. 86-97. Westport, Connecticut, Greenwood

  • Luna, Lola. 1992. Ana Caro, una escritora profesional del Siglo de Oro: Vida y obra. Doctoral thesis, University of Seville (in Spanish)

  • Lundelius, Ruth. 1989. ‘Ana Caro: Spanish Poet and Dramatist’. In Women Writers of the Seventeenth Century, eds. Katharina M. Wilson and Frank J. Warnke, pp. 228-50. Athens,Georgia, University of Georgia Press

  • Mujica, Bárbara. 2004. ‘Ana Caro: La mujer se desquita’ . In Women Writers of Early Modern Spain: Sophia's Daughters, pp. 175-92. Yale language series. New Haven, Yale University Press (in Spanish)

    Includes short excerpts of Valor, agravio y mujer.

  • Rhodes, Elizabeth. 2005. ‘Redressing Ana Caro's Valor, agravio y mujer’, Hispanic Review, 73, 3, 309-28

  • Soufas, Teresa S. 1991. ‘Ana Caro’s Re-evaluation of the Mujer varonil and her theatrics in Valor, agravio y mujer’. In The Perception of Women in Spanish Theater of the Golden Age, eds. Anita K. Stoll and Dawn L. Smith, pp. 85-106. Lewisburg, Bucknell University Press

  • Stroud, Matthew D. 1986. ‘La literatura y la mujer in el Barroco: Valor, agravio y mujer de Ana Caro’. In Actas del VIII Congreso de la Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas, eds. A. David Kossoff, José Amor y Vázquez, Ruth H. Kossoff et al. pp. 605-12. Madrid, Istmo (in Spanish)

  • Vollendorf, Lisa. 2005. ‘Women Onstage: Angela de Azevedo, María de Zayas, and Ana Caro’. In The Lives of Women: A New History of Inquisitional Spain, pp. 74-89. Nashville, Vanderbilt University Press

    Review of this book by Kathleen Costales. 2008. Comedia Performance, 5, 1.

  • Williamsen, Amy R. and Valerie Hegstrom, eds. 1999. Engendering the Early Modern Stage: Women Playwrights in the Spanish Empire. New Orleans, University Press of the South

  • Williamsen, Amy. 1992. ‘Rewriting in the Margins: Caro’s Valor, agravio y mujer as Challenge to Dominant Discourse’, Bulletin of the Comediantes, 44, 21-30

Entry written by Kathleen Jeffs. Last updated on 19 January 2012.

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