Among the earliest examples in verse are the Representaciones and Eglogas of Juan del Enzina, many of which were written for performance before the duke of Alba and end with lyrical villan cicos set to music by the author himself. The Cancionero con taining most of his works was printed in 1496. Among his Nativity, Passion and Resurrection plays, the Auto del Repelon stands in curious contrast, its subject being the relation between "town" and "gown" in the University of Salamanca. His shep herds and peasants have become comic characters, speaking a definite rustic dialect (sayagues) which afterwards became a dramatic convention. In imagination, plot, characterization, and a sense of the stage, he was surpassed by his Portuguese con temporary, Gil Vicente, I I of whose 43 plays are written entirely in Spanish. His lyrics are the gems of Spanish poetry of the period; his vivid, plastic representation of allegory looks forward to Calderon. The Barca da gloria (a ship in, which all the pas sengers are dead) suggests an English play of the 2oth century, while the Auto da sibilla Cassandra has a psychological intere3t un surpassed by any play of its period : the heroine refused to marry, believing herself destined to become the mother of God. Bar tolome de Torres Naharro, who settled at Naples, had a greater sense of the stage than Enzina, and more technique in the man agement of dialogue. He also had a sense of humour. While his Comedia soldadesca (1517) satirizes an army of occupation, his Tinellaria is the comedy of the servants' hall in the palace of a Roman cardinal, where the mixture of languages must have sounded irresistibly comic when brought on to the stage, how ever tiresome it may be to a modern reader. His Aquilana and Calamita (152o) look forward to the romantic, novelesque plays of Lope de Vega; Seraphim and Imenea foreshadowed the comedy of cloak and sword. Torres Naharro wrote for a private Italian stage and an audience of cardinals.
The public stage in Spain is first known from the works of Lope de Rueda (d. 1565; not to be confused with Lope de Vega), a famous travelling showman who had been inspired by the vivid acting of a company of Italian players, touring Spain with Commedia dell' arte. His longer plays (six in prose, three in verse) are mainly founded on Italian originals. His comic prose pasos (interludes performed during the pauses of other plays), though admirable as examples of the actual spoken Spanish of the period, lose the reason for their existence without the tradi tional and often obscene comic business and "gag" with which they must inevitably have been presented. Lope de Rueda was, in his turn, an inspiration to Cervantes, who afterwards described his simple staging and properties, and whose own Interludes (entremeses) whether in verse or prose, are masterpieces in the style. The prose theatre in Spain developed no further until the 18th century. The first dramatist to realize what might be made of the Romancero in the theatre (although he never used the actual metre of the romances) was Juan de la Cueva, whose plays were printed in 1583. With Lope de Vega and his followers, however, the Romancero was brought bodily on to the public stage, and in Las Mocedades del Cid (1618) of Guillen de Castro, ballad-characters from the cycle of the Cid's youth come on to the stage and recite the romances in which they occur. The plays
of Cervantes belong to an earlier and, as he believed, a better tradition; had they been written in prose they might have received more of the attention which they deserve.