Auto Sacramentales (Fuente Ovejuna Act 1)

Lesson 2:

Auto Sacramentales (Fuente Ovejuna Act 1)



Students will demonstrate their understanding of the style of auto sacramentales by creating a contemporary loa scene.  Students will read Act I of Fuente Ovejuna together as a class.


Materials Needed:


Fuente Ovejuna scripts

Loa to the Divine Narcissus copies  Lesson 2.Loa to the Divine Narcissus.SGA Script



Show ten minutes or so of the filmed play.  Have the students look for a theme or message of the play so far.  What is something that the audience needs to learn from the play?  Ask some students to share in one phrase “the moral of the play is….”.



Be sure that every student has a script of Fuente Ovejuna.  Assign students to read for each role (take note who are readers so that others will be used in the future to give everyone an opportunity to read from the play out loud.


Remind students to remember what they have learned about Structuralism and Spanish society to help them understand better the context and culture of the play.  Students may want to jot notes down as the act is being read in order to better follow the storyline as well as make connections to Structuralism and Spanish society—these notes will come in handy in later lessons when they choose a scene to perform and they’ve already got a foundation of insights, observations, etc. for the text.


Once the play exposition is firmly in place, pause the reading and ask the students: What kind of message or theme have you picked out of Act One of Fuente Ovejuna?  Discuss briefly some of their answers and then continue reading.  You can ask this again at the end of the act reading, or perhaps you can ask students what notes they jotted down; what elements of structuralism came into play or what other insights did they note, etc.?


Tell students there will be a quiz next class period on act 1 of Fuente Ovejuna.


INSTRUCTION: (depending on how long the reading takes you go into this instruction – natural “break” points would be after the instruction/lecture; after reading the loa; and after giving students some time to begin creating their own contemporary loa—where you end can pick up at the beginning of the next class period as a hook)


Ask the students to review for you what a miracle or a morality play is.  Help students understand that the miracle and morality plays of the Spanish Golden Age were called autos sacramentales.


An auto is a one-act theatrical piece that is performed during Corpus Christi.  They were initially performed under the watchful eyes of ecclesiastical authorities in churches across the country, but by the start of the 16th Century they moved out of churches and into the public plazas.  When they moved from churches civic authorities saw to the finances and directions of the performances and with more money came more professional authors and actors.


In larger cities contractors sent in bids annually to make the stage and the carts (carros) that would carry all the stage machinery and props for the performance.  The carts were so elaborate that when the company would do their rehearsal outside the city a few days before Corpus Christi, people would travel to the spot and camp out overnight to be able to see the carts.


The elaborate set-up of the autos and the festival atmosphere created by the procession were two of the main factors that contributed to the longevity of the auto in Spain, but it eventually strayed from their original purpose of portraying the sacrament in a reverent and sacred manner.  Authorities contended against the elaborate nature of autos as well as the use of professional actors whose lifestyles were considered to be immoral.  Obviously the use of a prostitute playing the part of the Virgin Mary would have its opponents. 


In 1765 a royal decree was issued prohibiting autos sacramentales.


Have students take notes on the following information – this will be a part of the final unit test.  Highlight elements of autos sacramentales:

  • Associated with Corpus Christi, a festival that emphasizes the power of the church’s sacraments
  • Human and supernatural characters with allegorical figures (Sin, Grace, Pleasure, Grief, Beauty, Time, etc.)
  • Stories could be drawn from anywhere as long as they illustrated the value of the sacrament and validity of church doctrine
  • Plays were mounted on carros; wagons that served as entrances to the stage and dressing rooms for the actors
  • Troupes were chosen during Lent and in addition to being paid a sizeable fee, these companies were awarded exclusive rights to give public performances in Madrid between Easter and Corpus Christi. After Corpus Christi, the actors toured the autos to neighboring towns and performed them in public theaters of Madrid as well.
  • Eight-twenty days before Corpus Christi the actors were required to give a preview performance before the city council. The council would then specify where they could perform.
  • Autos were finally forbidden in 1765 because of the carnival spirit and objectionable content of farces and dances that were undesirable in religious plays, as well as the questionable morality of the actors who were performing religious plays.



Together the class will explore an auto sacramentales text called a loa.  This is a short theatrical piece, a prologue, written to introduce plays of the SGA.  They can be for comedias (secular plays) and autos sacramentales (sacred/religious plays).


Hand out copies of the Loa to the Divine Narcissus.  The FEMALE author, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, is from Mexico.  She wrote this in 1687 to enter in a competition for new autos in Madrid.  She uses this loa here to introduce the themes of the auto, which uses the Greek story of Echo and Narcissus to allegorize the theological doctrine of the Eucharist (sacrament).


Assign roles and read the loa together as a class.  Have students look for elements of Spanish culture and history in the text as they read.


At the end of the loa, discuss what students discovered in the text.



Split students into groups of 5-6 to create a short modern loa.  They can use contemporary themes, original ideas, or base their loa on an existing event or story.  Think of a story with a moral – how can you portray that moral lesson theatrically?  Their loa should be just a couple minutes long and should incorporate every group member somehow.


Give groups time to rehearse and develop their loa.



Encourage students to write down their contemporary loa idea in enough detail to be able to pick it up next class period and continue working on it.  If an assessment is needed, have students submit their contemporary loa brainstorming sheet for points and return next class period.