The 2018/2019 Season

The 2019/2020 Season

After the Show

Post-Play Discussion

About Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Selected Works

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, one of the first published poets of the Americas, was born in Mexico in 1648, a poor and illegitimate child. She became renowned for her intelligence and ambition when, at the age of 12, she tried sneaking into the University of Mexico by dressing as a man. The Viceregal court of New Spain heard about this phenomenal girl and invited her to join the court, where she developed an extremely close relationship with the Vicereine. By all records Juana was a very attractive, complex, witty and difficult young woman. She wrote and read voraciously. Her circumstances and intelligence provoked admiration and envy. However, when she was 17, she suddenly and inexplicably left the Viceregal court to join a convent. There are theories about failed love, fear of marriage and her sexual identity.

In the convent her focus was not God, but writing—and her work and poetry expressed a feminism centuries ahead of her time. For years while the church struggled to silence her she resisted and continued writing until, one day, she wrote a declaration in her own blood, vowing never to write again. She remained true to her word and died soon after. This play is a researched fantasy that explores the two turning points in this woman's life.

  • A Su Retrato

    Este, que ves, engano colorido, 
    que del arte ostentando los primores, 
    con falsos silogismos de colores 
    es cauteloso engano del sentido;

    este, en quien la lisonja ha pretendido 
    excusar de los anos los horrores, 
    y venciendo del tiempo los rigores 
    triunfar de la vejez y del olvido,

    es un vano artificio del cuidado, 
    es una flor al viento delicada, 
    es un resguardo inutil para el hado:

    es una necia diligencia errada, 
    es un afan caduco y, bien mirado, 
    es cadaver, es polvo, es sombra, es nada.
  • To Her Portrait
    (translated to English)

    This that you gaze on, colorful deceit, 
    that so immodestly displays art's favors, 
    with its fallacious arguments of colors 
    is to the senses cunning counterfeit,

    this on which kindness practiced to delete 
    from cruel years accumulated horrors, 
    constraining time to mitigate its rigors, 
    and thus oblivion and age defeat,

    is but an artifice, a sop of vanity, 
    is but a flower by the breezes bowed, 
    is but a ploy to counter destiny,

    is but a foolish labor, ill-employed, 
    is but a fancy, and, as all may see, 
    is but cadaver, ashes, shadow, void.
  • 1
  • Con el dolor de la moral herida, de un agravio de amor me lamentaba; y por ver si la muerte se llegaba, procuraba que fuese más crecida.  Toda en el mal el alma divertida, pena por pena su dolor sumaba, y en cada circunstancia ponderaba que sobrarban mil muertes a una vida. Y cuando, al golpe de uno y otro tiro, rendido el corazón daba penoso señas de dar el último suspiro,  no sé con qué destino prodigioso volví en mi acuerdo y dije:--¿Qué me admiro? ¿Quién en amor ha sido más dichoso?
    Con el dolor de la mortal herida
  • Love opened a mortal wound. In agony, I worked the blade to make it deeper. Please, I begged, let death come quick.  Wild, distracted, sick, I counted, counted all the ways love hurt me. One life, I thought--a thousand deaths.  Blow after blow, my heart couldn’t survive this beating. Then--how can I explain it?  I came to my senses. I said, Why do I suffer? What lover ever had so much pleasure?
    Love Opened a Mortal Wound (translated to English)
  • 1

Discussion questions

  • What do you think it is about reading and writing that Sor Juana loves so much?
  • Why do you think Sor Juana is opposed to marriage? What is it about Silvio that changes Sor Juana’s mind?
  • Sor Juana is so devastated when her books and writing materials are taken away that she goes without food for nearly two weeks. Is there anything in your life that you love so much you might be driven to similar lengths?
  • Why do you think Sor Juana tells Pedro where Silvio is?
  • Why do you think Sor Juana decided to join the convent? 
  • Why do you think the Novice picks up the quill? What do you think she might do with it?
  • When have you experienced something being taken away from you or forbidden to you unfairly? Or have you seen somebody else experience this? How does Juana's story reflect that moment, and how did you respond when it happened to you?