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by LOPE DE VEGA in a new rhyming verse translation by DAKIN MATTHEWS

This online-only event premiered LIVE on September 12, 2022.
A recording was available by Tuesday, September 13 at 2:00 PM ET thru Sunday, September 18 at 11:59 PM ET.

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This event is part of HISPANIC GOLDEN AGE CLASSICS | LOPE DE VEGA, a multi-part initiative of Red Bull Theater and Diversifying the Classics | UCLA. GET DETAILS HERE

Directed by Melia Bensussen

Featuring Anita Castillo-Halvorssen, Christian DeMarais, Carson Elrod, Topher Embrey, Alejandra Escalante, Jake Hart, Paco Lozano, Dakin Matthews, Junior Nyong'o, Cara Ricketts and Timothy D. Stickney.

The star-crossed lovers as you’ve never seen them before!  Red Bull Theater & Diversifying the Classics continue their exploration of the Hispanic Golden Age Classics with this fascinating take on the world’s most famous star-crossed lovers. Influenced by the same source material that inspired Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Lope takes the audience on a different and altogether delightful journey in his tragicomic telling of the classic tale. Dakin Matthews’s rhyming verse translation brings the Spanish classic back to sparkling life on stage–and, in this case, ONLINE.

View the event program book.

Sample Lope's verse in the hands of translator Dakin Matthews here.


This event is supported by the

Cultural Office of the Embassy of Spain

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An interactive discussion of the play and its themes with members of the creative team including director Melia Bensussen


The star-crossed lovers as you’ve never seen them before! Lope de Vega’s The Capulets and the Montagues (Castelvines y Monteses) takes the iconic story of young love threatened by old familial hates in surprising directions, and Dakin Matthews’ rhyming verse translation brings the Spanish classic back to sparkling life on stage.

Lope wrote his witty take on the feuding families around the same time as Shakespeare’s version was appearing on English stages, but the two masters probably did not know each other’s plays. Instead, they were working from a shared font of popular tales and legends that circulated throughout Europe during the sixteenth century, inspiring many of Shakespeare’s English contemporaries as well as the prolific Spanish comedia playwrights. Matteo Bandello’s Novelle—a story collection that was translated into many languages—contains a well-known version of the Romeo and Juliet tale, but Lope freely adapts his source to fit the strengths of the comedia form that he was helping become popular in his native Spain.

One of Lope’s main innovations was the more tragicomic tone, which masterfully mixes humor and pathos to deliver a modern entertainment unbound from classical rules of drama. Lope advocated for this free approach in his treatise on playmaking, New Art of Making Plays in Our Time (Arte nuevo de hacer comedias en este tiempo). He was writing this “essay in verse” around the same time as Castelvines y Monteses, and the play exemplifies much of what he argues playwrights should prioritize in their work for modern audiences. His most important point was, in fact, that audience pleasure must be the guiding light for new plays, even if they did
not strictly conform to Aristotle’s unities or other purely theoretical principles.

Accordingly, Lope expands the course of the love affair between Romeo and Juliet from a few days to several months, deepening the relationship beyond just the first rush of meeting and falling in love at first sight. The lovers are also much more mature than their Shakespearean counterparts, particularly Juliet who gets much more opportunity to shine here. This comes as no surprise in a Spanish play of this time, due to a major difference between Spanish and English stages: in Spain women were allowed to act and were often the stars of the show (as well as playwrights and producers in their own right). Lope notes the popularity of the “cross-dressing” plot in New Art and its attendant opportunity to see women displaying their legs in fetching stockings. As Spanish playwrights wrote for female actresses, the plays give them central roles, and Lope’s Juliet is no exception. She takes the lead in the romance from the beginning and is
the mastermind behind several schemes to bring it to fruition.

Dakin Matthews’s translation, now published by Diversifying the Classics, captures the witty banter and soaring emotions of Lope’s play through the use of rhyming verse. Lope and other comedia writers used a wide variety of verse forms in the original Spanish, and Matthews has dazzlingly turned much less cooperative English rhymes into a fresh and lively version of the classic story that will delight audiences. The Capulets and the Montagues shows the remarkable creativity of the early modern period and the border- and language-crossing power of theater through the ages.


Lope Félix de Vega Carpio (1562–1635) is a towering figure of the Spanish Golden Age, a theatrical innovator and prolific author in multiple genres. He is known as a master of the comedia—witty three-act plays popular across the globe-spanning Spanish empire during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He composed hundreds of plays, in addition to poetry and prose, earning him the name Fénix de los ingenios (“Phoenix of Wits”), as the expression es de Lope (“it’s by Lope”) became a shorthand for praising quality.

In his own time, Lope’s fame grew from his prodigious literary talent as well as his colorful biography, Born in Madrid to parents who had migrated to the capital from Spain’s northern regions, he saw in his youth the emergence of the urban outdoor corral theaters where
he would go on to make his name. Though he took religious orders in 1614, he continued romantic affairs throughout his life which often put him on the wrong side of the law, and left an unknown number of illegitimate children. Sor Marcela de San Félix, Lope’s daughter with the actress Micaela de Luján, went on to become a poet and playwright herself, one of many successful female authors of the period, including her fellow literary nun—Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.

Despite the varied scandals of his life, Lope was a truly successful commercial playwright, who earned income as well as fame through his literary efforts. Today he is best remembered for his work in the comedia form he came to define. After Calderón’s Life Is a
, Lope’s Fuenteovejuna is perhaps the best-known comedia in the English-speaking world, and others such as Peribañez and The Dog in the Manger exemplify the well-constructed Lopean plot.

Miguel de Cervantes, his contemporary and rival, may not have meant it entirely as a compliment when he called Lope a “monster of nature” (monstruo de la naturaleza). Yet Lope’s prodigious output was fundamental to developing the theater of his age, and to our understanding of it today. The monster of nature left us many gifts.

Rhonda Sharrah


Castelvines y Monteses is the sixth comedia I have translated, and my first Lopean adventure—after three Alarcóns, one Tirso, and one Moreto. It was a bracing experience to dip for the first time into the font from which sprang all later comedias. And it was just as bracing to work with material that so closely accorded with that of Shakespeare, who has been the subject of my lifelong fascination and study. And there, of course, lies the first trap that I—and any translator who comes to Lope’s version of the Romeo and Juliet story—must try to avoid. (Which I did not make any easier on myself, I confess, by my determination to use the equivalent Shakespearean proper names in an effort to make the play more appealing to English-speaking producers and audiences.)


One simply must not seek for Shakespeare in the Lope retelling. In fact, just when you may think you’ve got a parallel in text, in treatment, in tone, you can be sure that Lope will veer off and effectively undercut either the romanticism, the fatalism, the tragedy, or the beauty (or any combination of the four) which centuries of Shakespearean tradition have conditioned you to expect. But as Lope clearly did not know the Shakespearean version, it is neither lampoon nor parody, but simply a different take on the story and a different plan for the finished product and different dramaturgical intentions for the audience’s experience. KEEP READING


Dakin Matthews has translated eleven Golden Age plays into rhyming verse, five of which are currently published by LinguaText in critical editions, with the remaining six scheduled to come out soon. He has won five Walker Reid awards for these translations from the Association for Hispanic Classical Theatre, and a 2011 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for The Capulets and the Montagues. His original verse play, The Prince of L.A, also won the 2005 Ted Schmitt Award for Best New Play from the LADCC. His Henry IV adaptation of two Shakespeare history plays won a special Drama Desk Award for its Lincoln Center Theater 2004 production. His ten-minute play ”Her Father’s Daughter” was a winner in the Red Bull Shorts Festival of 2016. He has translated twenty plays in all and written eighteen full-length plays of his own, including a simultaneous trilogy about the Essex Rebellion, a seven-play history cycle about the nineteenth-century papacy, and one musical (with B. T. Ryback). He has published scholarly articles on Shakespeare and on Spanish theatre, as well as a widely used textbook on Shakespeare’s verse called Shakespeare Spoken Here. He is also a busy actor on stage and screen, with over 30 films, 300 TV appearances, and 250 stage plays, including eight on Broadway. He is a Professor Emeritus of English from Cal State, East Bay, and a former Juilliard Drama instructor.


Romeo | Junior Nyong’o

Juliet | Cara Ricketts

Marin | Carson Elrod

Celia | Alejandra Escalante

Octavio/Paris | Christian DeMarais

Tybalt/Rutilio | Paco Lozano

Capulet/Mauricio | Dakin Matthews

Benvolio/Captain/Lucio Jake Hart

Celio/Lidio/Fesenio/Fernando/Loreto/ 1st Halberd | Topher Embrey

Montague/Prince/Fabio/Silvio/Belardo/ 2nd Halberd | Timothy D. Stickney

Dorothea/Silvia/Servant/Tamar | Anita Castillo-Halvorssen


Director | Melia Bensussen

Zoom Coordinator | Victoria Gelling

OBS Manager | Jessica Fornear

Producing Director | Nathan Winkelstein

General Manager | Sherri Kotimsky

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