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Spain Literature in the 15th Century

In the fifteenth century, under the impulse of wise courtiers and poets, such as Marqués de Santillana and J. de Mena, a programmatic and mostly Italianizing Humanism was born. Since P. López de Ayala, translator of Livy and Boethius, and then with E. de Villena, who popularizes the Aeneid and Rhetorica ad Herennium and translates and glosses the Divine Comedy around 1428, with A. de Cartagena translator of Seneca, and finally with J. de Mena, who gives a summary of Homer (Iliada en romance), read in Latin translation, the attention of the literati it is aimed at classical models on the example of the Italian fourteenth century, but the sense of the rigorous interpretation of the texts remains foreign to it, since the fascination of a courtly, Latin-like rhetoric appears stronger, and the number of literati truly connoisseur of Latin is very small.. In addition to the classics, rhetorical and moral teachings are also sought in the Italian fourteenth century (this is demonstrated by the fortune of G. Boccaccio ‘s De casibus and De mulieribus claris, and of F. Petrarca ‘s De remediis), while an attempt to imitate Italian prose, more concretely technical, gradually makes its way. In the various Cancioneros of the time, by JA de Baena, by L. de Stúñiga, by H. del Castillo (15th-16th century) etc., and in the poets who participated in them, by A. Álvarez de Villasandino (15th century). 14 ° -15 °) and F. Imperial to the major ones, Santillana, Mena, F. Pérez de Guzmán (14th-15th century), you feel the conflict between an ambitious and programmatic Italianism and the inadequacy of technical means and of the literary language to the effort of imitation. And therefore in many the taste for the stylization of courteous themes, that florid gothic that enjoys formal games almost preluding to the Baroque expression, reveals itself closer to a traditional French lyric and, on average, troubadour, than to Petrarch or to the styl novo; as they are closer, perhaps, to the Breton novel than to Boccaccio, despite appearances, the short stories of a J. Rodríguez de la Cámara (El siervo libre de amor, c. 1440) or a D. de San Pedro (Cárcel de amor, composed around 1488 but published in 1492).

● According to, there is also a production of a different tone, which would seem to oppose, for its realism, the cultured literature, while in reality it is accompanied by this and appears among the very pages of the rhetoricians and courtly poets: this is demonstrated, among others, by Santillana, which collects series of proverbs and composes graceful serranillas (typical example of stylized and finely reconstructed popularism); and the cultured biographer of s. Ildefonso, l’Arcipreste de Talavera, to whom we owe the popular charlas of the Reprobación del amor mundano (1438). As for the romances, anonymity and difficult placement in time give them an undoubted attribute of popularism. Believed, during the nineteenth century, to be the primitive form of epic poems, they instead represent the result of a slow disintegration of the gestas into autonomous fragments. But beyond the generic popularism, there is a substantial analogy between the later romances and the cultured production of the early fifteenth century, since the romances operate a stylization on infinite traditional themes, which is accentuated in the later sixteenth and seventeenth-century collections.

● To an even greater extent this occurs in the cultured literature of the turn of the century and in the cultural environment that flourished under the Catholic Kings between 1474 and 1516: A. Montesino, J. de Padilla, J. del Encina (considered the founder of the Spanish theater), J. Manrique they are characterized by the encounter between an accentuated humanistic propensity and the persistence of fresh and transparent popular and traditional motifs. Both the beautiful Coplas a la muerte de su padre by Manrique, as at the end of the century the tragicomedy Celestina (1499), a masterpiece of Spanish literature attributed to F. de Rojas, are works still linked in part to medieval and courteous schemes, even if at every step a breath of modernity tends to overcome them.

● In the same years the work of the scholar and grammarian EA de Nebrija summarizes the transition to a technically more vigilant Humanism; while the more frequent contacts with the Italian humanists cause the influence of Petrarch and Boccaccio to pass from the phase of rhetorical suggestion to that of a truly narrative and metric assimilation. In this drive towards a literary cosmopolitanism, the political unity of Aragon and Castile (1479) also has decisive effects, which allows the latter to grasp the legacy of the most advanced and casual Catalan humanism, imposing however, from here on out, its linguistic supremacy. Castilian will therefore be Spanish literature in the modern age.

Spain Literature in the 15th Century