González de Eslava, Fernán (c. 1534–c. 1601)

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González de Eslava, Fernán (c. 1534–c. 1601)

Fernán González de Eslava, Spanish playwright in New Spain. González de Eslava wsas born in Spain, probably León, but his precise birthplace, along with many other details concerning his life, remain unknown. He arrived in Mexico around 1558, and within five years there were notices of his poetic activities. As a playwright he is known primarily for his coloquios, the first of which dates from about 1567. By 1572 he was preparing to be a cleric, but two years later he was jailed for seventeen days when his writing produced a conflict between the Viceroy Martín Enríquez De Almansa and Archbishop Pedro Moya De Contreras. He became a priest, probably by 1575 or 1576, and wrote his last coloquio in 1600.

As a playwright in the New World, González de Eslava was neither first (Juan Pérez Ramírez deserves that honor) nor American (having been born in Spain). His theater is religious with didactic aims. In the second half of the sixteenth century, theater was designed for the new, primarily creole, society being formed. His dramatic works consist of sixteen coloquios, four entremeses, and nine loas. The works tended to be light and facile, and to give a clear and honest vision of life in the colony. Without pretensions, they communicated a religious message (at least eleven of the coloquios are considered "sacramental") that was easily accessible to a wide public. González de Eslava had a gift for versification, and his plays are marked by a delightful use of language that incorporated New World structures. He is particularly known for an engaging sense of humor that pervades his language, his characters, and the situations. His simple is a likely precursor of the Siglo de Oro gracioso. On occasion González de Eslava revealed his disdain for the indigenous population, but for all his defects, he is still the major writer of Mexico who anticipated Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz by a full century.

See alsoTheater .


Amado Alonso, "Biografía de Fernán González de Eslava," in Revista de filología hispánica 2, no. 3 (n.d.): 213-321.

Frida Weber Von Kurlat, "El teatro anterior de Lope de Vega y la novela picaresca (A propósito de los Coloquios espirituales y sacramentales de Hernán González de Eslava)," in Filología 6 (1960): 1-27, and Lo cómico en el teatro de Fernán González de Esclava (1963).

Julie Greer Johnson, "Three Celestina Figures of Colonial Spanish American Literature," in Celestinesca, 5, no. 1 (May 1981): 41-46.

Additional Bibliography

Marrero-Fente, Raúl. Perspectivas trasatlánticas: Estudios coloniales hispanoamericanos. Madrid: Editorial Verbum, 2004.

Terán Elizondo, Ma. Isabel, and Alberto Ortiz. Literatura y emblemática: Estudios sobre textos y personajes novohispanos. Mexico: Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas, Centro Interinstitucional de Investigaciones en Artes y Humanidades, 2004.

                                       George Woodyard

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González de Eslava, Fernán (c. 1534–c. 1601)

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González de Eslava, Fernán (c. 1534–c. 1601)