In order to comprehend the cultural forces affecting St. Augustine
during the first occupation by the Spanish, it is advisable to view briefly the
renaissance of literature that was underway in Spain. Drama in the Spanish
Empire had not kept pace with the dramatic evolutions in other countries.
The actor was still considered a mountebank without place in society. The
sharp eye of the clergy was ever fixed upon dramatic attempts, and a rigid
censorship was invoked by the church. Strolling players presented their
efforts in barns, cow lots, alleys or wherever the priests would designate;
for all came under the supervision of the religious. Each performance was
taxed by the church and the proceeds given to the poor. This income was
very small, however, the annual sum being about ten dollars in the large
cities. Still it was a source of income in charitable institutions, and as such
It was not until the Golden Age of Cervantes, Quevedo, and the
great playwright, Lope De Vega, that Spain had an established theatre.
A few years before the founding of St. Augustine, religious brother-
hoods or "Confradias" began to arise in Spain. One of the most important of
these was the Confradia of the Holy Sacrament established in 1655. Such
illustrious men of letters as Cervantes, Quevedo, and Lope de Vega become
members, and the society was soon noted for its literary efforts. Members of
the brotherhood wrote and directed plays, which under the cloak of the religious
society, were allowed to be produced and the proceeds given to the upkeep of
the Spanish charity hospitals.
Other Confradias were soon formed with like intent. The "Confradia de la
Sagrada Pasion" formed 1565, and the "Confradias de la Soledad"