F is for Fuente Ovejuna

¿Quién mató al comendador?
Fuenteovejuna, señor.
¿Y quién es Fuenteovejuna?
Todos a una.

These are some of the most famous lines of Spanish dramatic text. They come from the play “Fuenteovejuna”, by Félix Arturo Lope de Vega, a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, whose talent is definitely comparable. Lope de Vega wrote over 1,500 plays but his most famous one is  Fuenteovejuna.

Fuenteovejuna is the name of a town which literally could be translated as  “fountain for the sheep”: “fuente” means “fountain” and “ovejuna” means “derived from sheep” (“oveja”). This town still exists today and the square housing its town hall has been named after Lope.

Fuenteovejuna is full of drama. Set in feudal times, the “comendador” (military commander) rapes Lucrecia, one of the town’s women. After she lashes out (verbally) at the town’s men for doing nothing to defend her, one of them kills the commander on his next visit. In order to protect him and take collective responsibility for the crime (and hence avoid punishment) the whole population takes the blame. Hence the lines at the beginning of this post. I will try to translate them here, I hope Lope doesn’t turn too much in his grave.

Who killed the commander?
Fuenteovejuna, sir.
And who is Fuenteovejuna?
All together we are one.

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