Red Bull Theater is committed to expanding our repertoire by seeking out and sharing lesser-known texts that stand the test of time. Love is the Greater Labyrinth (Amor es más laberinto) by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz–one of the Hispanic Golden Age’s most accomplished female playwrights–is just such a play.
Get full details about our 2021 Hispanic Golden Age Classics initiative.
Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (ca.1650–1695) was a prolific Mexican writer and polymath, hailed in her own lifetime as “the Tenth Muse.” Born in what was then the Viceroyalty of New Spain as the illegitimate daughter of a Spanish father and a criolla mother (Mexican-born, but of Spanish descent), Sor Juana showed an early love of learning, mastering at a young age Latin, Greek, and Nahuatl, a local indigenous language. She entered a convent in order to continue her intellectual pursuits free from the constraints of marriage, and soon gained renown as an author. Writing for the Viceroy’s court, she designed entertainments for religious festivals and state events. Her highly regarded (and often translated) lyric poetry includes amorous verses depicting lesbian desire. She also wrote a powerful argument for women’s right to think and write, the “Letter to Sor Filotea.”
Sor Juana’s oeuvre includes three comedias—a form of secular drama that was popular throughout the seventeenth-century Hispanic world. Love is the Greater Labyrinth (Amor es más laberinto) is her last, after La Segunda Celestina (1675) and Los empeños de una casa (1683). Like the other two, Love is the Greater Labyrinth was first performed as part of a court festival, and like La Segunda Celestina, it was a collaboration with another playwright. Sor Juana’s co-author, Juan de Guevara, was a priest, author, and sometimes her competition in local poetry contests. Although little is known about Guevara today, some of his poetry survives, along with contemporary reports of his reputation as a talented writer.
Shortly after Love is the Greater Labyrinth was written, some church and state authorities became threatened by Sor Juana’s outspoken critiques of the misogynistic culture that limited opportunities for women in her time. They forced her to give up writing before she died during a plague outbreak in 1695. Yet her substantial body of work spread her fame far and wide, from multiple collected editions published in Spain during her lifetime and shortly after, to performances as far away as the Philippines (Love is the Greater Labyrinth in 1708). After a period of critical neglect and dismissal, scholars in the twentieth century took interest in her work from feminist, LGBTQ+, and Latin American perspectives. Today, her plays, poems, and fiery treatises still bring us Sor Juana’s singular voice, despite the heteropatriarchal structures which tried, but failed, to silence her. RHONDA SHARAH & AINA SOLEY