Zayas y Sotomayor, María de (1590–c. 1650)

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Zayas y Sotomayor, María de (1590–c. 1650)

Spanish poet and short-story author during the 17th century. Born in Madrid, Spain, in September 1590; died, possibly around 1650; daughter of Fernando de Sayas y Sotomayor and Catalina Barrasa.

Baptized in Madrid on September 12, 1590, the daughter of Fernando de Sayas y Sotomayor and Catalina Barrasa , María de Zayas y Sotomayor gained renown first as a poet and then as a novelist. Historians and literary critics have discovered few firm biographical details about her, in part because both María and Zayas were very common names in Madrid. Thus, even the date of her death is uncertain, as is the question of whether she married.

Although she had made a reputation as a poet earlier, Zayas achieved her greatest fame for two collections of short stories. The first, containing ten tales, appeared in 1637 as Novelas amorosas y ejemplares (Amorous and Exemplary Tales). Its publication in Zaragoza has led some biographers to believe that she must have moved there from Madrid, but no documentation has surfaced to support that speculation. A decade later, in 1647, Zayas published a second volume of stories, sometimes called the second part of the Novelas. Her tales show the influence of Boccaccio: a group has gathered to entertain an ill friend and does so by recounting slightly ribald stories. But Zayas also integrates in her work a concern for women, calling for better education and greater respect for their rights.


Sylvania, Lena E.V. Doña María de Zayas y Sotomayor; a Contribution to the Study of Her Works. NY: AMS, 1966.

Vasileski, Irma V. María de Zayas y Sotomayor: su época y su obra. Madrid: Playor, 1973.

Kendall W. Brown , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah