Fray Gabriel Tellez, who wrote under the pen-name of Tirso de Molina, is the third great dramatist (with Lope de Vega and Calderon) of the 17th century Spanish theatre. If Lope heads all the rest for sheer inventive vitality and Calderon for well-wrought poetic and intellectual substance, Tirso is supreme as a creator of character. Best kwn for his Trickster of Seville, the original Don Juan play, he produced others less remarkable, of which Damned for Despair is one of the greatest. Paulo, the hermit whose obsession with his own salvation drives him to rebel against God, and Enrico, the Neapolitan gangster, drawn to repentance in spite of himself, are creations just as memorable as Don Juan Terio. Their strangely linked destinies make for a spiritual and psychological drama of extraordinary intensity and continuing relevance.
Nicholas Round is Stevenson Professor of Hispanic Studies in the University of Glasgow, and the author of a number of books and articles on Spanish history and literature. He has translated plays by Galdos and Buero Vallejo for BBC Radio, as well as other works of the Spanish and Portuguese theatre.