The circulation of Spanish books and their impact on English drama, 1604–1625


This project traces the circulation of Spanish books among English dramatists and their intellectual networks between the peace treaty signed in 1604 between England and Spain, and the death of James I in 1625, soon after the collapse of the negotiations for a Spanish match for the Prince of Wales.

The unexpected advent of peace between the two countries was an extraordinary political event that started a kind of cultural revolution.

Spain’s rich literary traditions exercised a transformative influence on English culture now that diplomatic relations had been re-established, newly enabling the circulation of people and goods, including books, between the two countries. Major dramatists writing for the London commercial theatres such as William Shakespeare, Thomas Middleton, Ben Jonson, John Fletcher, Francis Beaumont, and Philip Massinger responded to this influence by incorporating Spanish settings, stories, and characters into their works.

This project aims to shed new light on this cultural circulation by bringing together, for the first time, an examination of the European book trade, a systematic study of continental diplomatic networks, an analysis of the endeavours of private book collectors, and an assessment of the work of printers, translators, and scholars in reshaping the English drama of the period.

Against received notions of the insularity of English culture, this project embraces the international dimension of the Renaissance as a genuinely pan-European movement that transcended national boundaries, taking an ambitious interdisciplinary approach by looking at literary work from a number of complementary perspectives—historical, bibliographic, and linguistic.

Publications and outputs

  • José A. Pérez Díez, ‘Gondomar and the Stage: Diego Sarmiento de Acuña and the Lost Theatrical Connection’, Review of English Studies, 73.309 (2022): 264-88, online via The Review of English Studies website