Spanish priest and poet, better known by his pseudonym of Tirso de Molina, b. about 1571; d. March 21, 1648
Téllez, GABRIEL, Spanish priest and poet, better known by his pseudonym of Tirso de Molina, b. at Madrid, c. 1571; d. at Soria, Aragon, March 21, 1648. Little is known of his early years except that he studied at Alcala de Henares. The exact date of his ordination to the priesthood is not known, but the earliest notice of him in that connection is in 1610 when he is mentioned by Andres de Claramonte y Corroy in his “Letania Moral”, as Padre Fray Gabriel Teller of the Order of Nuestra Senora de la Merced. He appears to have devoted the last years of his life to the affairs of his order and occupied responsible offices in it. In 1619 he was superior of a convent at Trujillo in Estremadura; in 1620, and for several years following, he lived in the monastery of the order in Madrid; and in 1645 he became prior of the monastery at Soria where he died three years later. It has been stated that he adopted his nom de plume on account of his Holy orders, but this theory is apparently disproved by the fact that both names appeared on the same title-page.
Tirso’s first printed volume, “Los Cigarrales de Toledo,” appeared in Madrid in 1624 and Barcelona, 1631. The name is taken from cigarral, a Toledian word meaning a country house. The work is patterned after Boccaccio’s “Decameron” and is a collection of tales and poems and three comedies, supposed to be recited and played by a company of ladies and gentlemen who meet at a cigarral for the purpose of diversion. A second collection, entitled “Deleitar aprovechando,” appeared in Madrid in 1635, and contains essays, autos sacramentales, and three religious tales. As a dramatic writer, Tirso was very prolific. He is credited with having written four hundred plays, but only about eighty are now available. During his life his comedies were published in five parts, the first in Seville, 1627, the third in Tortosa, 1634, the second and fourth in Madrid, 1635, and the last in Madrid, 1636. These contain fifty-nine plays. The play which has given Tirso his fame is his “Burlador de Sevilla y Convidado de Piedra”, in which he created the character of Don Juan, afterward immortalized by Mozart in his opera of that name and by Lord Byron in his poem. He is at his best in his comedies and his secular novelas. He excels in wit, originality of dialogue, and ingenuity of plot.