Out of the Wings

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El caballero bobo (1595-1605), Guillén de Castro

English title: The Foolish Gentleman
Date written: sometime between 1595 and 1605
First publication date: 1608
Keywords: morality > honour, morality > justice-revenge, violence > personal, violence > revenge, family > brothers/sisters, family > marriage, ideology > morality, power > war, love > friendship, identity
Genre and type: tragicomedy
Title information

First published ‘in a volume of twelve plays by four Valencian dramatists which was published in 1608’ (Wilson 1973: 15). (El amor constante was also included in that volume)


Two pairs of brothers and sisters are caught in a battle between family duty and love. In the taut final scene both brothers attempt to murder their sisters, whose lives are saved by love in the nick of time.


Lotario, Prince of Hungary, and Henrico, Prince of England, are exact look-alikes.  Henrico is to marry Aurora, Lotario’s sister. Astrological predictions warned of calamity should anyone see Aurora’s face before she marries. No one, therefore, knows what she looks like, as she has been covered up since birth. For her brother Lotario, this precaution is not enough. He decides to kill his sister to protect the world from the threat of anyone seeing her face.

Aurora is no fool, however, and arranges for her cousin, Estrella, to disguise herself as her.  And so, when Lotario sees Estrella’s face, he falls in love, despite the fact that he believes she is his sister, Aurora.

Estrella’s brother Anteo, who had sworn off society and lived in the wilderness as a savage, discovers Aurora when she is sleeping. He lifts her veil, and when she wakes she claims to be Estrella. Anteo falls instantly in love with ‘Estrella’ (really Aurora). He thus becomes the titular caballero bobo (‘Foolish Gentleman’), for he’s madly in love, albeit with his sister, and vows to protect her. He kills some soldiers, and seeing his bravery, Aurora falls in love with him too.

Meanwhile, Lotario plans to kill his look-alike Henrico and wear his clothes, enabling him to marry his sister Aurora in Henrico’s guise. Anteo learns of his sister Estrella’s love for Lotario, and he ties her up, accusing her of being a traitor for loving the man who had dishonoured their father. He vows to kill her lover Lotario in front of her as his revenge against them both.

For protection, the girls swap places again, and when Anteo comes, he finds that it is his lover, Aurora, tied up, and they run away together. When Henrico goes to see his bride, Anteo intercepts him, killing him in front of the women.  This is a disaster for Estrella, who believes it was Lotario who died. But Lotario is alive and well, and he impersonates Henrico in order to marry Estrella. Estrella hopes she won’t be found out to be an imposter as her ambition to be queen is growing strong. The city is divided between supporters of Anteo and the Duke, and those who want revenge for Lotario’s murder.  The second act concludes in chaos and impending war.

The final act opens with the solution to the problem of the two Auroras; the King and ‘Henrico’ will choose which one is the real Aurora. The King embraces Estrella (giving the impression he thinks she is Aurora) but once the Count comes in to say that the real Henrico is dead and this is actually Lotario, Estrella also reveals her true identity. Lotario says he’d like to marry this Estrella.

The King stops Estrella’s and Lotario’s honeymoon by enlisting them both to fight against the Duke and Anteo. Estrella names herself the General, and they go to fight. Hearing that the real Aurora is in love with Anteo, the man who killed Henrico when intending to kill him, Lotario vows to kill his sister Aurora as well. Aurora, for her part, declares herself General of Anteo’s and the Duke’s side, and they fight against the English as well (because Anteo killed Henrico).

In the heat of the battle, Anteo chases Estrella up a mountain and threatens to throw her off a cliff. Meanwhile Lotario begins to strangle his sister Aurora. It is a violent stand-off, until both brother and sister pairs begin to negotiate when they realise they are killing each other’s wives. The King and the Duke come to beg for their respective daughters’ lives. Lotario and Anteo relent, releasing the women to run to their lovers. The King announces that after a one-month truce (to celebrate all the marriages), they will resume the war.

Critical response

García Lorenzo cites the play as an example of one of Castro’s most profound studies of honour (1976: 97). Wilson (1973) points out that many of the statements about honour in El caballero bobo are also found in El nacimiento de Montesinos (The Birth of Montesinos). As El caballero bobo is one of Castro’s early works, like El amor constante with which it was also published in 1608, Wilson disparages the play’s plot and characterisation as being inferior to the playwright’s later and superior work, such as Progne y Filomena (1973: 30). Despite this, he credits this play as the partial inspiration for one of the Golden Age’s greatest plays: ‘The Foolish Young Gentleman […] has so many points in common with Calderón’s Life is a Dream, that it is probable that Calderón did borrow several details from it when he composed his masterpiece’ (1973: 131). Wilson goes on to enumerate several comparisons that can be made between the two plays (1973: 131-2).

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

  • Wilson, William E. 1973. Guillén de Castro. New York, Twayne

  • Castro, Guillén de. 1925. El caballero bobo. In Obras de Gullén de Castro y Bellvís, ed. Eduardo Juliá Martínez, vol. 1, pp. 47-86. Madrid, Real Academia Española, Imprenta de la Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos

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

  • Wilson, William E. 1973. Guillén de Castro. New York, Twayne

Entry written by Kathleen Jeffs. Last updated on 4 October 2010.

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