Out of the Wings

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El rufián viudo llamado Trampagos (1610-1615), Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

English title: The Widowed Pimp
Date written: sometime between 1610 and 1615
First publication date: 1615
Keywords: morality, morality > vice-virtue, identity > class/social standing, identity > sexuality, family > marriage, love > relationships, love > lust
Genre and type: entremés
Title information

The play has been translated with the following titles in addition to 'The Widowed Pimp': Trampagos, ‘Trampagos, the Pimp Who Lost His Moll’, ‘Dirty Fraud, the Widowed Pimp’, ‘Trampagos, the Widower Bully’


When the best prostitute of the pimp, Trampagos, dies, he mourns her briefly then selects a new partner from a group of competitors for her place. The result is a wedding, presided over by the revered and feared ruffian overlord.


A pimp, Trampagos, mourns the loss of Pericona, his best prostitute, whose death also marks the loss of his income. He speaks of her as if she were a saint, when in fact she has been martyred to her profession, in an unpleasant death from syphilis. Other prostitutes come and offer themselves as Trampagos’ new partner, and after considering their merits, he chooses one of them. As they prepare for the wedding, a figure created by the writer Quevedo, Cervantes’ contemporary, shows up; this figure is Escarramán, a well-respected ruffian leader within this comic underworld. He is recently returned a hardened criminal. from imprisonment in the galleys. During his imprisonment, he had been hung and disembowelled in effigy, and tales of his infamy had become the stuff of local songs and legend. Musicians appear to lead a song and dance (and to take part in the wedding feast, especially the wine), and everyone dances, although Escarramán insists on performing one of the dances on his own, as his skill as a dancer is also well known. The play ends in song, dance and praise for the ruffian anti-hero.


The character of Escarramán was made famous by Francisco de Quevedo in two short pieces (jácaras). That character then became popular in songs and dances around 1612 (Asensio 1965).  In the play there are also allusions to Garcilaso’s Eclogues;the play may, in fact, be a parody of the death of the beautiful nymph as mourned by the shepherds in the eclogues, as Trampagos refers to his dear departed prostitute as a nymph (although Ninfa was also slang for prostitute) (Zimic 1992). Cervantes’ play is also influenced by and mocks the highbrow language of Góngora and Senecan tragedy, and even links with Cervantes’ own work including his short story Rinconete y Cortadillo, his full-length play Numancia and also his pastoral work La Galatea (see Spadaccini’s introduction to Cervantes 1995 and Asensio 1965). See also Smith’s introduction to the play in Cervantes 1996.

Critical response

Trampagos laments the death of his prime prostitute with all the courtly and flowery Petrarchan language he can muster. The parody of this poetry in an unusual context is part of the comedy, and is what allows Trampagos to fulfil his role as a ridiculous and parodic character. Critics have gone as far as describing this mix of language and context as ‘polyphony’, but the juxtaposition is literary as well as dramatic, for Cervantes may be ribbing contemporary writers for their high-flown language about the earthly matters of love (see Asensio 1965 and Zimic 1992, Cervantes 1998: xxi and Cervantes 1995: 56)

  • Cervantes, Miguel de. 1995. ‘Entremés del rufián viudo llamado Trampagos’. In Entremeses, ed. Nicholas Spadaccini, pp. 111-42. Madrid, Cátedra

  • Cervantes, Miguel de. 1998. ‘El rufián viudo llamado Trampagos’. In Entremeses, eds. Florencio Sevilla Arroyo and Antonio Rey Hazas, pp. 39-61. Madrid, Alianza

Useful readings and websites
  • Asensio, Eugenio. 1971. Itinerario del entremés desde Lope de Rueda a Quiñones de Benavente, 2nd edn Madrid, Gredos (in Spanish)

  • Beardsley, Jr., Theodore S. 1986. ‘Cervantes on Stage in the United States’, Hispanic Review, 54, 4, 397-404

  • Casalduero, Joaquín. 1966. Sentido y forma del teatro de Cervantes. Madrid, Gredos (in Spanish)

  • McKendrick, Melveena. 2002. ‘Writings for the Stage’. In The Cambridge Companion to Cervantes, ed. Anthony J. Cascardi, pp. 131-59. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

  • Spadaccini, Nicholas and Jenaro Talens. 1993. Through the Shattering Glass: Cervantes and the Self-Made World. Minneapolis and London, University of Minnesota Press

  • Zimic, Stanislav, 1992. El teatro de Cervantes, Madrid, Castalia (in Spanish)

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Entry written by Kathleen Jeffs. Last updated on 24 February 2011.

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