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Spanish Renaissance literature is the literature written in Spain during the Spanish Renaissance.

Overview

Jorge Manrique

Political, religious, literary, and military relations between Italy and Spain from the second half of the 15th century provided a remarkable cultural interchange between those two countries. The papacy of two illustrious Valencians, Calixto III (Alfonso de Borja) and Alejandro VI (Rodrigo de Borja y Oms), narrowed cultural relations between Castile, Aragón, Catalonia, and Rome. The Spanish literary works of greatest prominence were published or translated in Italy. This was the case with Amadís de Gaula, The Celestina, Jail of Love, the poetic compositions of Jorge Manrique, Íñigo López de Mendoza, 1st Marquess of Santillana and popular productions such as romances, carols, etc. The same thing happened in Spain with Italian works, among them the Jerusalén liberada of Torquato Tasso. Hispanic-Italian relations were very important, since they brought to the Iberian Peninsula the intellectual ferment and tastes that precipitated the Spanish Renaissance.

The Spanish Renaissance began with the unification of Spain by the Catholic Monarchs and included the reigns of Carlos I and Felipe II. For this reason, it is possible to distinguish two stages:

  • Reign of Carlos I: New ideas are received and the Italian Renaissance is imitated.
  • Reign of Felipe II: The Spanish Renaissance withdraws into itself and its religious aspects are accentuated.

With respect to ideology, the Renaissance mentality is characterized by:

  • Esteem of the Greco-Latin world, in the light of which a new, more secular scale of values for the individual is sought.
  • Humanity is the focal point of the universe (anthropocentrism), able to dominate the world and to create its own destiny.
  • Reason precedes sentiment; balance, moderation and harmony prevail.
  • The new ideal man is the courtier, capable as poet and soldier.
  • A new conception of beauty that idealizes the present world (as opposed to heaven) not as it is, but as it should be in terms of nature, woman, and love.

The Spanish Renaissance

Classically, 1492 is spoken of as the beginning of the Renaissance in Spain; nevertheless it is complex to consider a date, due to the multiple circumstances that happened. The situation of Spain was always very complex but even so the humanism managed to maintain its innovating characteristics, in spite of the interferences that limited the study of the classic works.

An important fact is the heterogeneity of the population, a fact that dates from the year 711 when part of the peninsula was conquered by the Muslims, whose last governors were expelled from the last of their possessions in 1492 during the Reconquista. Later, the period was characterized by its vitality and renovation. The Inquisition became an organ which also depended on the State and not only on the Church.

One can speak of erudition since the Catholic Monarchs. Within this period the first important author is Antonio de Nebrija (1442–1522), with his Spanish grammar. In 1492, he published the first book of grammar in the Spanish language (titled Gramática Castellana in Spanish), which was the first grammar produced by any Romance language. At this time, Castilian became Spanish, the official language of Spain, replacing Latin.

A great patron during the Renaissance was cardinal Gonzalo Jiménez de Cisneros, whose humble origin contrasts with his austere character and with the fact that he put his greatest effort in reforming the indisciplined customs of the religious orders. He thought that the reform had to be the fruit of an educational reform, and although not an erudite, he was the maximum protector of the new studies. In 1498 he founded the University of Alcalá de Henares, that surpassed in prestige and influence all the others except the University of Salamanca, its greatest rival. The direction of his reform agreed partly with the ideas of Erasmus in a moment in which these were the booming doctrines in Europe and Spain.

Italy and Spain from the second half of the 15th century provided a remarkable cultural interchange between those two countries. The papacy of two illustrious Valencians, Calixto III (Alfonso de Borja) and Alejandro VI (Rodrigo de Borja y Oms), narrowed cultural relations between Castile, Aragón, Catalonia, and Rome. The Spanish literary works of greatest prominence were published or translated in Italy. This was the case with Amadís de Gaula, The Celestina, Jail of Love, the poetic compositions of Jorge Manrique, Íñigo López de Mendoza, 1st Marquess of Santillana and popular productions such as romances, carols, etc. The same thing happened in Spain with Italian works, among them the Jerusalén liberada of Torquato Tasso. Hispanic-Italian relations were very important, since they brought to the Iberian Peninsula the intellectual ferment and tastes that precipitated the Spanish Renaissance.

The Spanish Renaissance began with the unification of Spain by the Catholic Monarchs and included the reigns of Carlos I and Felipe II. For this reason, it is possible to distinguish two stages:

  • Reign of Carlos I: New ideas are received and the Italian Renaissance is imitated.
  • Reign of Felipe II: The Spanish Renaissance withdraws into itself and its religious aspects are accentuated.

With respect to ideology, the Renaissance mentality is characterized by:

  • Esteem of the Greco-Latin world, in the light of which a new, more secular scale of values for the individual is sought.
  • Humanity is the focal point of the universe (anthropocentrism), able to dominate the world and to create its own destiny.
  • Reason precedes sentiment; balance, moderation and harmony prevail.
  • The new ideal man is the courtier, capable as poet and soldier.
  • A new conception of beauty that idealizes the present world (as opposed to heaven) not as it is, but as it should be in terms of nature, woman, and love.

The Spanish Renaissance

Classically, 1492 is spoken of as the beginning of the Renaissance in Spain; nevertheless it is complex to consider a date, due to the multiple circumstances that happened. The situation of Spain was always very complex but even so the humanism managed to maintain its innovating characteristics, in spite of the interferences that limited the study of the classic works.

An important fact is the heterogeneity of the population, a fact that dates from the year 711 when part of the peninsula was conquered by the Muslims, whose last governors were expelled from the last of their possessions in 1492 during the Reconquista. Later, the period was characterized by its vitality and renovation. The Inquisition became an organ which also depended on the State and not only on the Church.

One can speak of erudition since the Catholic Monarchs. Within this period the first important author is Antonio de Nebrija (1442–1522), with his Spanish grammar. In 1492, he published the first book of grammar in the Spanish language (titled Gramática Castellana in Spanish), which was the first grammar produced by any Romance language. At this time, Castilian became Spanish, the official language of Spain, replacing Latin.

The Spanish Renaissance began with the unification of Spain by the Catholic Monarchs and included the reigns of Carlos I and Felipe II. For this reason, it is possible to distinguish two stages:

With respect to ideology, the Renaissance mentality is characterized by:

  • Esteem of the Greco-Latin world, in the light of which a new, more secular scale of values for the individual is sought.
  • Humanity is the focal point of the universe (Classically, 1492 is spoken of as the beginning of the Renaissance in Spain; nevertheless it is complex to consider a date, due to the multiple circumstances that happened. The situation of Spain was always very complex but even so the humanism managed to maintain its innovating characteristics, in spite of the interferences that limited the study of the classic works.

    An important fact is the heterogeneity of the population, a fact that dates from the year 711 when part of the peninsula was conquered by the Muslims, whose last governors were expelled from the last of their possessions in 1492 during the Reconquista. Later, the period was characterized by its vitality and renovation. The Inquisition became an organ which also depended on the State and not only on the Church.

    One can speak of erudition since the Catholic Monarchs. Within this period the first important author is Antonio de Nebrija (1442–1522), with his Spanish grammar. In 1492, he published the first book of grammar in the Spanish language (titled Gramática Cas

    An important fact is the heterogeneity of the population, a fact that dates from the year 711 when part of the peninsula was conquered by the Muslims, whose last governors were expelled from the last of their possessions in 1492 during the Reconquista. Later, the period was characterized by its vitality and renovation. The Inquisition became an organ which also depended on the State and not only on the Church.

    One can speak of erudition since the Catholic Monarchs. Within this period the first important author is Antonio de Nebrija (1442–1522), with his Spanish grammar. In 1492, he published the first book of grammar in the Spanish language (titled Gramática Castellana in Spanish), which was the first grammar produced by any Romance language. At this time, Castilian became Spanish, the official language of Spain, replacing Latin.

    A great patron during the Renaissance was cardinal Gonzalo Jiménez de Cisneros, whose humble origin contrasts with his austere character and with the fact that he put his greatest effort in reforming the indisciplined customs of the religious orders. He thought that the reform had to be the fruit of an educational reform, and although not an erudite, he was the maximum protector of the new studies. In 1498 he founded the University of Alcalá de Henares, that surpassed in prestige and influence all the others except the University of Salamanca, its greatest rival. The direction of his reform agreed partly with the ideas of Erasmus in a moment in which these were the booming doctrines in Europe and Spain.

    During this time a work like the one by Pedro Mexía was common, who compiled miscellaneous scientific information. It is an example of the Renaissance tendency towards idealization, because of the conviction that wisdom could be extracted from the common people, whose pure tradition was thought to have conserved it, because people had always been close to nature.

    Within the idealism and the humanism of the Renaissance the controversies of the colonial activity of Spain in the New World are very well represented. The main promoter was the Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas (1474–1566), who had as basic principles: that war is irrational and opposite to civilization; that force does not have to be used against the native people, because even forced conversion to Christianity is reprehensible; that the irrationality and freedom of man demand that religion and all the other of its forms be taught only by means of a smooth and amiable persuasion.

    The resurgence of the new spirit of the Renaissance is incarnated by

    Within the idealism and the humanism of the Renaissance the controversies of the colonial activity of Spain in the New World are very well represented. The main promoter was the Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas (1474–1566), who had as basic principles: that war is irrational and opposite to civilization; that force does not have to be used against the native people, because even forced conversion to Christianity is reprehensible; that the irrationality and freedom of man demand that religion and all the other of its forms be taught only by means of a smooth and amiable persuasion.

    The resurgence of the new spirit of the Renaissance is incarnated by Francisco de Vitoria (1483–1546), Dominican theologian, professor at Salamanca, who rejected all argumentation based on pure metaphysical considerations because he was in favour of the study of the real problems raised by the political and social contemporary life. He was among the first to establish the basic concepts of the modern international law, based on the rule of natural law. He affirmed fundamental liberties, such as freedom of speech, communication, commerce. But these liberties were inherent to human society, within which the natives were not considered because they were underdeveloped communities, without political organization nor commerce. Consequently, he advocated a mandate system where the inferior races had to be governed by superior races, a doctrine based on natural servility, and so if the uncivilized nations refused to be voluntarily subjugated, the war was morally legitimate.

    With Erasmus, the spirit of tolerance dies in Spain, as no reconciliation or commitment between Protestants and Catholics was reached, and the Counter-Reformation began; religious unity was persecuted, even within Christianity itself, so the Renaissance had finished. Nevertheless, the Spanish religiousness maintained its own parameters thanks to a new order, the Company of Jesus, founded by San Ignacio de Loyola (1491–1556). Also Neoplatonism arrived in Spain, coming from Italy.

    The poetry of this period is divided in two schools: the Salmantine (e.g. Fray Luis de León) and the Sevillian (e.g. Fernando de Herrera).

    The Salmantine School has as distinguishing characteristics:

    • concise language;
    • ideas expressed simply;
    • realistic themes; and
    • preference for short verse.

    However, the Sevillian school is:

    • grandiloquent;
    • extremely polished;
    • focused on meditation rather than feeling, more about documentation than about observation of nature and life;
    • composed of long, complex verses; and
    • filled with adjectives and rhetorical language.

    However, this second school served as immediate base and necessary bridge to connect with the poetic movements that in the 17th century were included under the general denomination of Baroque.

    The Renaissance lyric is originated from:

    • The tradition, which perpetuates themes and forms of the medieval lyric. This tradition is made up of the traditional lyric, oral and popular (carols, love songs...) and the not-written lyric transmitted by the Romancero, as much as of the cultured lyric (of authors like Juan de Mena or Baroque.

      The Renaissance lyric is originated from:

      • The tradition, which perpetuates themes and forms of the medieval lyric. This tradition is made up of the traditional lyric, oral and popular (carols, love songs...) and the not-written lyric transmitted by the Romancero, as much

        The Renaissance lyric is originated from:

        Its characteristics are:

        • Concerning the metric used, verses (eleven syllables), strophes (lyre) and poems (sonnet) coming from Italy are adopted. Characteristic genres as the égloga (the protagonists are idealized shepherds), ode (for serious matters) or the epistle (poem in form of letter) also appear.
        • The language at this time is dominated by the naturalness and simplicity, fleeing from the affectation and the carefully searched phrase. Thus the lexicon and the syntax are simple.
        • The subjects preferred by the Renaissance poetry are, fundamentally, the love, conceived from the platonic point of view; the nature, as something idyllic (bucolic); pagan mythology, of which histories of Gods are reflected; and the feminine beauty, always following the same classical ideal. In relation to these mentioned subjects, several Renaissance topics exist, some of them taken from the classical world:
          • The Carpe diem, whose translation would be "seize the day" or "take advantage of the moment". With it the enjoyment of the life before the arrival of the oldness is advised.
          • The feminine beauty, described always following the same scheme: young blonde, of cle

            With respect to imitation and originality in the Renaissance poetry, the Renaissance poet used the models of the nature; on this base he did not put into doubt the necessity of imitating, because these procedures were justified by coming not from the reproduction of models, but from the same spirit that gathered other thoughts. If other people's creations, unavoidably dispersed because of being multiple, are recast into a unique creation, and if the spirit of the writer shines in it, nobody will be able to deny the qualification of original to it. There was a self-satisfaction component, since the sources gave prestige to the one that discovered them. Those searches mostly meant a struggle between the old and the modern, to exhibit the own culture. The writer of the time assumed the imitation as the center of his activity. The absolute originality constituted a remote ideal that was not refused, but it was not postulated to themselves demandingly, because it was a privilege granted to very little people, and in addition the possibility of reaching it with imitative means existed. In the imitation one must go to several sources that must be transformed and reduced to unit.

            Garcilaso de la Vega

            In the lyric poetry of the first half of the 16th century, this critic recognizes several parallel currents that co

            In the lyric poetry of the first half of the 16th century, this critic recognizes several parallel currents that converge in two great lines.

            • Traditional: which perpetuates the themes and forms coming from the medieval tradition. It includes the traditional lyric (carols, little songs of love, romance texts, etc.) as much as the song book poetry of the 15th century in its loving and didactic moral side. It is bound to the use of short verses, specially the verse with eight syllables.
            • Italianizing: more innovative, introducing the Petrarchian-inspired poetic models which were popular in Renaissance Italy to Spain. It reflects the development of the innovations of Juan Boscán and Garcilaso, according to the pattern of the Italian cultured lírica of their time. It is bound to the use of eleven syllables, the sonnet and diverse strophes derived from the Petrarch-like song.

            A rigid dichotomy between the two currents is inappropriate since both descend from the common source of Provençal poetry. In the Spanish lyric a Petrarch-like climate already existed, coming from the troubadour background that the poets of the new style had taken up in Italy. The rise of the italianizing lyric has a key date: in 1526 Andrea Navagiero encouraged Juan Boscán to try to put sonnets and other strophes used by good Italian poets into Castilian. In Italy, enthusiasm about Greco-Latin works brought about a resurgence of feeling for the bucolic as

            A rigid dichotomy between the two currents is inappropriate since both descend from the common source of Provençal poetry. In the Spanish lyric a Petrarch-like climate already existed, coming from the troubadour background that the poets of the new style had taken up in Italy. The rise of the italianizing lyric has a key date: in 1526 Andrea Navagiero encouraged Juan Boscán to try to put sonnets and other strophes used by good Italian poets into Castilian. In Italy, enthusiasm about Greco-Latin works brought about a resurgence of feeling for the bucolic as well, in addition to the pastoral stories of the Golden Age and other classical myths that could be used to communicate feelings of love.

            Garcilaso de la Vega (1501–1536) was a courtesan and soldier in imperial times. It is virtually impossible to reconstruct his external life without autobiographical details inspired in greater part by the Portuguese Isabel Freire, passing first through jealousy at her wedding, and later through the pain of her death. The poetry of Garcilaso is linked with the names of three other influences: Virgil, Petrarch and Sannazaro (from Virgil, he takes the expression of feeling; from Petrarch, metre and the exploration of mood; and fr

            Garcilaso de la Vega (1501–1536) was a courtesan and soldier in imperial times. It is virtually impossible to reconstruct his external life without autobiographical details inspired in greater part by the Portuguese Isabel Freire, passing first through jealousy at her wedding, and later through the pain of her death. The poetry of Garcilaso is linked with the names of three other influences: Virgil, Petrarch and Sannazaro (from Virgil, he takes the expression of feeling; from Petrarch, metre and the exploration of mood; and from Sannazaro, the artistic level). He stood out because of the expressive richness of his verses.

            The poetic trajectory of Garcilaso is forged by the experiences of a spirit shaken between contradictory impulses: to bury oneself in conformity or to take refuge in the beauty of dreams. But these states of the soul encountered traditional literary forms, which moulded the sentimental content and expression, intensifying or filtering them. Garcilaso begins to concern himself with the beauty of the outer world, with feminine beauty, with the landscape. Elements of a new style are present, that impel him to idealize love, enshrining it as a stimulus of spirituality.

            Boscán, that had cultivated previously the courtesan lyric, introduced the Italian eleven-syllable verse and strophes, as well as the reasons and structures of Petrarch-like poetry in the Castilian poetry. The poem Hero and Leandro of Boscán is the first that deals with classic legendary and mythological themes. On the other hand, his Epistle to Mendoza introduces the model of the moral epistle in Spain, where he exposes the ideal of the stoic wise person. In addition, Boscán demonstrated his dominion of the Castilian by translating Il Cortegiano (1528) of the Italian humanist Baldassare Castiglione in a Renaissance model prose. In addition, he prepared the edition of the works of Garcilaso de la Vega, although he died before being able to culminate the project, reason why his widow printed the work in 1543 with the title The works of Boscán with some of Garcilaso of Vega.

            Other poets

            Within the so-called traditional line, the figure of Cristóbal de Castillejo stands out, whose loving poems, fit to the to

            Within the so-called traditional line, the figure of Cristóbal de Castillejo stands out, whose loving poems, fit to the topics of the courteous love, and satires have been admired. He has been perceived as a person full of the ideal of Erasmo and gifted with a moral superiority over the courtesan baseness. In his work there is a mixture of comedy and moral. He was against the Italianizing school, and headed the defense of the national language of the new empire, that postulated that this language would surpass and revitalize the insubstantialness and affectation of the Castilian songs of his time, already moved away from the previous models. This vitality meant the incorporation of folkloric and traditional elements, the populist Erasmo-like tendency of the proverb and the colloquy, and the literary linguistic nationalism.

            Religious literature

          San Juan de la Cruz