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.
16th CENTURY - MEANS OF
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
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.
16th CENTURY - MEANS OF
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
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
It was in these public places, where the crowds
gathered, forming groups and clusters, where everything human and divine was
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
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
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
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
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
Their clothings, in accordance with the fashion previously
showed, are a pathetic caricature,
exponents of the hardness life in
This clothing will continue, without big variations, until
Copyright © 2001 by
JLL & JRP
All rights reserved.