The flourishing of theatre, and of literature in general, in the politically turbulent 1600s in Spain is well known. The 17th was the century of Lope de Vega, Vélez de Guevara, Calderón de la Barca, Rojas Zorrilla, Tirso de Molina, Quevedo, Góngora, Baltasar Gracián, Zurbarán, the last Cervantes; and Shakespeare, Molière or Racine. But it was also the century of sister Ana Abarca de Bolea, sister Ana de Jesús, Mariana de Carvajal, Ana de Castro, Isabel de Liaño, Cristobalina Fernández de Alarcón, sister Úrsula de Jesús, sister Juana de la Concepción, Leonor de Ovando, Luisa de Padilla y Manrique, Leonor Meneses Noronha, madame de La Fayette, Francesca Caccini or Lucy Hutchinson.
From that time, there are no more than a dozen Spanish women dramaturges whose names have reached us: María de Zayas (¿1590?-post 1647), Leonor de la Cueva y Silva (early-end 17th), Feliciana Enríquez (1619-1627), Ana Caro (1628-1645), sister Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648-1695), Margarita Ruano (mid-end 17th), sister Gregoria Francisca de Santa Teresa (1653-1736), or sister Marcela de San Félix (1660). Very few of their writings have survived.
But there are many sources that mention the names of actresses and businesswomen of the era. Mainly municipal and notarial documents, but also royal documents, such as that preserved by the Archives of the Crown of Aragon, since the companies’ activity was subject to administrative license. Actresses like Catalina de la Rosa, Isabel de Góngora, Luisa Antonia López, Francisca López, María Jiménez, Josefa Antonia Mazana, Josefa Lobaco, Luisa de Santa Cruz, Leonor de Velasco, Mariana de Morales, Inés de Lara y Arnalte, Ana María Franco, María de Neyra, Leonor María, Magdalena López “la Camacha”, Antonia Bernarda, María Vallejo, Juana and María de los Reyes, Ana de Montenegro, Micaela Fernández Bravo, Isabel María, Ana María de Dios, Manuela Godoy, Ana de Vargas, Mariana Engracia “la Vanolera”, Hipólita María de Quiñones, Manuela Blanco, Tomasa Josefa, Mariana de León, Isabel de Gálvez, María de Córdoba “Amarilis”, María Candasno, Ana de Coca, María Candado “Maritardía”, Lucía and Jerónima de Salcedo, María de los Ángeles, Jerónima de Burgos, María Calderón, María de Vergara... If you add their names to those of many authors or businesswomen, such as Inés de Lara, Jusepa Vaca, María de Heredia, Catalina de la Rosa or Juana de los Reyes, there are close to seventy.
Founded in 1636 by Pedro de la Rosa (circa 1613-1675), after leaving the company of Tomás Fernández, when he was already united with Catalina Nicolás, who had changed her married name. Their son Pedro was born in Valladolid in 1635.
The De la Rosa Theatre Company enjoyed decades of great success in all the theatrical settings of the time: it performed for kings, for nobility and for cities, in palaces, theatres and streets. Queen Elisabeth of France (1602-1644) was among its devoted audience, as noted in the application. Between 1636 and 1675, it put on interludes and comedies by the leading writers of the time. The same year it was founded, the company was chosen for the Corpus Christi festivities in Madrid, and the corresponding contracts already named both Pedro and Catalina. The company was a brilliant success, and after Madrid came Segovia and Burgos (1636), Valencia (1637 and 1645), Cádiz (1638), Seville (1638 and 1639), Madrid (1639, 1641, 1642 and 1644), Málaga (1640), Granada (1640), Valladolid (1641 and 1644), Toledo (1642 and 1644), Paris (1643), and Salamanca (1644 and 1646), before Catalina’s death. In later years, after Pedro married the actress Antonia de Santiago, the De la Rosa company’s success continued in Valencia, Seville, Madrid, Salamanca, Valladolid, Córdoba, Segovia and Paris (1661-1673). From this final period, the Historical Archive of the Nobility preserves a document requesting the Queen increase funds to cover travel expenses.
In his will from 1660 Pedro de la Rosa declares that when she married Catalina neither of them had assets, and when she died the common property amounted to 1,000 ducats.
On November 19, 1645, Pedro and Catalina de la Rosa, “authors of comedies”, asked King Philip IV to pay them their due for the “private shows” – theatrical performances offered in private salons – staged for their majesties over the previous four years, which amounted to 9,400 reales. Failing that, they begged him to grant them two or three knighthood privileges, which could be bought in Catalonia and the Kingdom of Valencia, thus providing them with payment on account.
The request ends with the quatrain:
"That using money
When, with vain apparatus,
Buy another the nobility,
We will be the knights”
On November 24, 1645, Pedro de la Rosa signed a receipt for 2,000 silver reales that the king, who presided over the last Valencian Parliament, had ordered released to him.
Documents about comedies, authors, actresses, actors, musicians, or theatrical companies recorded by Crown officials and scribes document the views of the royal administration. The testimonies about comedy houses or corrals, the theatre in palaces or universities in the Archives of the Crown of Aragon illustrate topics such as authorizations (ACA,CONSEJO DE ARAGÓN,Legajos,768,nº47; 602,nº38; o 911,nº162), controversies raised in hospitals – in Mallorca or Valencia, for example – for whom the theatre was an important source of funding (ACA,CONSEJO DE ARAGÓN,Legajos,870,nº291; 725,nº38; 729,nº038; 899,nº39 o 936,nº18), scandals due to altercations at the entrance or exit of the theatre (ACA,CONSEJO DE ARAGÓN,Legajos,873,nº67), moralizing tirades about plays or actresses (ACA,CONSEJO DE ARAGÓN,Legajos,1008), and censorship of costumes and clothing (ACA,CONSEJO DE ARAGÓN,Legajos,662,nº072 o 904,nº128).
All documents can be consulted through PARES
ACA,CONSEJO DE ARAGÓN,Legajos,1355,nº 033