The duration of a show was four or five hours, with intermissions and short skits, between acts and brief pieces, that were staged before or after the principal performance.

All of the factions went to the theaters, even though the clergy reserved themselves only for works and writers of known religious or moral content - remember the well know sacramental mystery plays of Calderón de la Barca - and they had specific zones as spectators in these theaters.


This mule seat, similar to the bunk used by king Charles I,
is being conserved in the Royal Palace's Carriages Museum .
To emphasize that, to travel in this device, it was not any pleasure.

The Madrid theater of the period not only had a dramatic tone, but also a very marked critical and satirical characteristic. Almost every group, sector and individual society was brought within this sarcasm, excluding the two untouchables, the Crown and the Church. However, the individuals of these two spheres were perfect targets of witticism or ridicule.

The government authorities frequently organized all kinds of festivals, games and celebrations to offset the many problems and financial difficulties that faced the Madrilenian society. These problems were government crisis and imperial decadence and - this cannot be denied - for the intense and deep-rooted enjoyment of the baroque society for festivals, the ridicule, and the productions. All this delighted society and Madrilenians.

Any event or spectacle was a pretext to organize a festival or parade: visits of the King or the princes, political dealings or diplomatic inspirations for the Crown and its imperial interests. Even battles won in Europe against our enemies, births, or wedding announcements of the Spanish Princes, beautification's, or canonization's of Spanish Saints, and a long list of etceteras.

Above all there were three agencies that organized these acts: The Crown, the Royal Council and the Inquisition, and sometimes, they would be done in unison.


Horses car used at the second half of this century.
It was built on semicircular section, with gyratory front axle but without suspension.

The habitual stage for these acts was the Plaza Mayor, on whose balconies watching these events were the elite and most colorful of the courtly society. The Royal House was on the balconies of the Casa de la Panadería and the Royal Council of the Carnicería.

The celebrations varied a lot, such as bull fights, parades, horse racing, sentencing, tournaments, theology and religious appearances, processions, etc.

Very few societies such as the Madrilenian of the 17th where they more predisposed for cliques, banquets, gossip, and loafing. Every notorious or public item was verbally exploited, satirically or evilly, serving as a conversation topic for months and months.

Some incidents, such as the assassination of the Count of Villamediana, a Don Juan sort of the period, had a profound impact on the popular feeling.

Any place, nook or corner was adequate for gossip and criticism, but if you wanted to stay on top of the news, and even know things not yet generally known, you had to go to the "gossip corners."

It was in these public places, where the crowds gathered, forming groups and clusters, where everything human and divine was scrutinized.

There was the "Palace", in the plaza in front of the Fortress. A multitude congregated there. Their only reason to be there was their waiting to be seen, answered, make royal requests, receive compensation or a pension from the Crown. Among them mingled all kinds of people, even peddlers, partisans against colonialism, and swindlers.

The most crowded was the "Sun Gate", as well the moneylenders and traders, multitudes that stood on the steps of the Convent of San Felipe el Real. This was a type of merchants meeting place elevated above the rest of the plaza, where a throng of unemployed people met, of an uncertain dedication, unacceptable life, and dreadful derision.

Finally, there was the "gossiping corner of representatives", in a small plaza in León Street, in the heart of the writer, actor, and comedy district, where everything took place regarding the world of the theater.

Madrid had urban districts that very well defined. The already noted "Gossiping Corners," at the top of the Sun Gate as a social, economic and neuralgic center of the entire court.

The Plaza Mayor, in addition to what was already said, was the 'Market,' with branches around it, such as Puerta Cerrada, La Cava, Toledo Street, Arenal Street or the Plaza de Santa Cruz.

The jumble of guilds, peddlers and shopkeepers, in total confusion, made the Council take steps to publish various edicts, in an intent in install the guilds and manufacturers or specialized traders in specific areas, but it had no effect.

Nevertheless, the market, shops, and stores grouped round about the Plaza Mayor and in its environs, there was a stream of people who walked up and down. The Mayor Street above all, in its path between San Miguel and the Sun Gate - on one side of the Plaza Mayor - also participated in this populated and agitated setting.

Commerce found in this street were the fine objects, such as fine-jewelers, silk-mercers, costume-jewelers, etc. Which was by and large transited by noble ladies and other women, accompanied by the intriguing gentleman - a very peculiar phenomena of baroque Madrid - even though the lady was married, a by a swirl of beaus, gallant men, wooers, and the unrefined.

It truly amazed writers of the period of the constant movement of carriages, up and down the street, that in one, the mentioned Villamediana met his death.

Another very crowded area was the Paseo del Prado, east of the city, a space at the foot of the Monastery of the Jerónimos, with a stream and large tree groves, with a long route where social groups strolled, met one another or gossiped.

Everyone in Madrid went to the Prado, but there were days and hours for each social group, inclusive of times for courting and dubious tryst. No one would even think of going during a time that did not meet their social condition, as it was something like stepping on toes.

In the Madrilenian lodging houses of the 17th century, European passengers were warned about this tradition, to avoid disagreeable or surprising experiences or incidents.

On Sundays and holidays music was played in a gazebo, situated near the current Plaza of Neptune to make the stroll of the people more enjoyable. Maybe it was in those particular days there was not a drastic separation of the social classes and all could enjoy their stroll on the Paseo del Prado.

The pictures shows:

- Madrilenian peasants from 16th and 17th centuries.
Their clothings, in accordance with the fashion previously showed, are a pathetic caricature,
exponents of the hardness life in Austria's period.
This clothing will continue, without big variations, until 19th century.

Copyright © 2001 by JLL & JRP

All rights reserved.