Out of the Wings

You are here:

Guillén de Castro

Personal information
Surname: Castro
First name: Guillén
Other versions of the name: Guillén de Castro y Bellvís
Born: 1569, Valencia, Spain
Died: 28 July 1631

Guillén de Castro y Bellvís was born in Valencia in 1569 (baptised on 4 November 1569). His parents, Don Francisco de Castro and Doña Castellana Bellvís, had three other children: Juan, Francisco and Magdalena. From an early age Castro fought in the military, reportedly being named the Captain of the Cavalry of the Coast at 16 years of age. On 17 December 1595 he married Doña Marquesa Girón de Rebolledo, daughter of the Marquis de Antilla. They had one child, Juana, born on 19 September 1596, but she died while very young. His first wife, the Marquesa, died only a few years after their union.  Castro enjoyed the patronage of many noble figures, although he seems to have been poor in later life. The extent of his late poverty is, however, disputed by current critics.  As a widower he worked for Carlos de Borja and the Duke of Gandía, and he later travelled to Italy, where he was named Governor of Scigliano, thanks to the favour and friendship of the Count of Benavente, Viceroy of Naples. By 1609 Castro was back in Valencia, and two of his plays were published (El amor constante and El caballero bobo). In 1616 he was elected president of ‘Los Montañeses de Parnaso’, a literary circle which followed in the footsteps of the ‘Academia de los Nocturnos’, a group which had been prominent in Valencian literary life.  By 1619 he had moved to Madrid, and there he took part in several poetic events honouring the beatification and canonisation of saints; he wrote for the celebrations of San Isidro, St Ignatius Loyola and St Francis Xavier during 1620-2. On 20 June 1626, he married his second wife, Doña Angela María Salgado (who was closely related to his patron) and she outlived him. Castro died on 28 July 1631 at the age of 62 (or 61, depending on where you fix his date of birth).


García Lorenzo, Luciano. 1976. El teatro de Guillén de Castro. Barcelona, Planeta

Weiger, John G.  1958.  ‘Another Look at the Biography of Guillén de Castro’, Bulletin of the Comediantes, 10, 1, 4

Further information

Less has been written about Guillén de Castro than about his major contemporaries, but his work continues to be studied and admired for its breadth of subject matter and his unusual view of marriage, the honour code and the implications of tyrannicide.  Most of the scholarship on Castro focuses on Las mocedades del Cid, the first of his two plays on El Cid, Spain’s national mediaeval epic hero.


Guillén de Castrowas the star of the Valencian playwriting scene until he moved to Madrid at the age of 50. He is predominantly associated with Las mocedades del Cid, the first of two plays about the Moor-fighting warrior and mediaeval Spanish hero, El Cid. Corneille’s renowned Le Cid was based on Castro’s work. Castro is famed for transforming historical, mythological and epic heroes into popular comedia protagonists (El Cid, Progne y Filomena, and Dido y Eneas, for example), which deal with large themes such as war, betrayal and filial loyalty, and which feature noble and royal characters. Yet his comedies, often depicting middle-class or minor nobility, surprise readers with their modernity in portraying marital problems (such as those humorously depicted in Los mal casados de Valencia) and investigating notions of gender (La fuerza de la costumbre). Three of his plays were inspired by the prose of Cervantes, and he wrote only one saint’s play (El mejor esposo).


Castro’s association with Lope de Vega and his dramatic school (from about 1600) led his plays to develop in the Lopean style of the comedia nueva; Castro’s own Valencian style, however, shines through in his unique treatment of the themes of honour, marriage, duty, and the role of comic servants and women. He is creative in his use of versification; Los mal casados de Valencia is written entirely in redondillas, four-line stanzas which rhyme ABBA, for example. He depicts both high and low-born characters with a variation of stylistic register that includes a facility with wordplay (such as the alphabet game played by the couples in Los mal casados de Valencia), a sensitivity for ceremonial (the first scene in Las mocedades del Cid when the Cid is knighted) and epic-scale language (such as Dido’s impassioned but highly poetic speeches to Aeneas).

Plays in the database
Useful reading and websites
  • Bruerton, Courtney. 1944. ‘The Chronology of the Comedias of Guillén de Castro’, Hispanic Review, 12, 89-151

    This is a wonderful resource which deals with this play on p. 123. Bruerton dates La fuerza de la costumbre ‘1610?-20? (1610?-15?)’ p. 150, and says it is an authentic play by Castro.

  • García Lorenzo, Luciano. 1976. El teatro de Guillén de Castro. Barcelona, Planeta (in Spanish)

  • McKendrick, Melveena. 1989. 'Guillén de Castro (1569-1631)'. In Theatre in Spain 1490-1700, pp. 127-9. Cambridge, University Press

  • Rubiera, Javier. 2003. ‘Guillén de Castro’. In Historia del Teatro Español, ed. Javier Huerta Calvo, pp. 827-54. Madrid, Gredos (in Spanish)

  • Thacker, Jonathan. 2002. ‘Patriarchy in Action: Guillén de Castro’s La fuerza de la costumbre and the Distribution of Roles’ and ‘Patriarchal Excess and the Emergence of the Desiring Self’. In Role-Play and the World as Stage in the comedia, pp. 19-48. Liverpool, Liverpool University Press

  • Thacker, Jonathan. 2007. ‘Cervantes, Tirso de Molina, and The First Generation’. In A Companion to Golden Age Theatre, pp. 56-91. Woodbridge, Tamesis

  • Weiger, John G. 1958. ‘Another Look at the Biography of Guillén de Castro’, Bulletin of the Comediantes, 10, 1, 4

    This work includes a full chronology of Castro’s life and works, several wide-ranging chapters, and a fantastic bibliography up to its publication date.

  • Wilson, William E. 1973. Guillén de Castro. Twayne’s World Authors Series. New York, Twayne

Entry written by Kathleen Jeffs. Last updated on 25 February 2011.

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment. Please log in or sign up for a free account.

  • King's College London Logo
  • Queen's University Belfast Logo
  • University of Oxford Logo
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council Logo