Spain Literature – Medievalism

Under the Catholic Kings (1474-1504), whose work concludes the political and cultural movement which began with the Reconquest, Castilian literature becomes truly Spanish. The monarchic unity coincides with the hegemony of the Castilian on the various regional languages, which pass to the dialectal state. This unity is corroborated by a progressive unification of the laws, which are inspired, through Bartolo’s comments, by the precepts of Roman law and canon law. The universality of the law, supported by the writers and lawyers who swarmed from the universities favored by the Catholic kings, opposes noble anarchy and forms of municipal autonomy. According to, the new order drew the bourgeois class into the light of history, ready to level and strengthen Caesarean authority; gave the “man of letters” a function of discipline and honors; it favored the spread of culture which has become an instrument of action. University life intensified and transformed with masters and professors called from abroad (Pietro Martire d’Anghiari and Lucio Marineo di Sicilia), who brought there methods and ideas, which constituted the cultural background of the Renaissance. It is a leaven of life, whose synthetic notations can be found in the Crónica de los Reyes Católicos by Hernando del Pulgar. Men and things, but especially when it focuses on the most significant characters (Claros varones de Castilla), he portrays them in a providential light of which events are the tangible expression. Among the many and manifold influences to which Castilian literature has subjected, among the many varieties of intellectual temperaments that have gradually given it the color of time, what constitutes its fundamental character up to now is a certain decorous passionate seriousness, which sometimes reaches to gloom of imagination and which hardly ever allows her to smile. Spanish art, dominated by an absorbing subjectivism, remains at the essential lines of a logical ideation or construction or is schematized leaving us the desire for objectively cultured reality and for a wider, more lively and profound human experience. Spanish literature is the one, among the European literatures, which has maintained characteristics and tendencies for the longest time, spirits and forms of the medieval tradition, keeping alive elements and motifs that would otherwise have been lost. However, it imprints them with his soul, to give them back, especially in the novel, to their countries of origin.

At its bottom, the Amadís de Gaula is nothing more than the episodic amplification of a French novel that took place on the motifs of Lancelot du Lac: the falling in love with Lancelot and Guinevere is reflected in the falling in love with Amadigi and Oriana. But brought back to the Spanish courtier environment of the century. XV, the novel is reworked and reshaped by Gálvez de Montalvo, who turns it, at the end, elaborating the fourth book, towards the ideals of absolute monarchy. Pedro del Corral with the Crónica sarracina romanticizes the old Crónica del Moro Rasis and gives it an ideally chivalrous color. The acutely sentimental novels by Rodríguez del Padrón (Estoria de los dos amadores), by Diego de San Pedro (Cárcel de Amor) and Juan de Flores (Grimalte y Gradissa ; Grisel y Mirabella) exasperate medieval, French and Boccaccio love motifs, with dark hues, violent contrasts of passions, with an intellectualism that almost always cancels any positive psychological determination. In Juan del Encina’s Arte de trobar itself, which is also influenced by the Renaissance, it is late troubadour poetics that dominates, with its abstract rhetorical norms and the didactic purpose of art. This is the direction of the major poets of the time of the Catholic Kings, both in the allegorism with which Juan de Padilla intends to become an imitator of Dante (Triunfos de los doze Apóstoles), and in the ingenious and singing grace with which Ambrosio de Morales and Garcí Sánchez de Badajoz adapt to short-term popular poetry. The medieval theater closes with the Celestina by Fernando de Rojas: an “acción en prosa”, the tragedy of two lovers; or rather, since all the actors fall to ruin, the tragedy of love as a natural impulse that yearns for the beauty that delights it and errs in the means and creates the abyss beneath it. We are on the same doctrinal line from Archpriest de Hita; and it is an error of historical perspective and little knowledge of the Middle Ages to affirm that here we are at a new conception of life and love and a foretaste of a pagan renaissance. The work has been romantically interpreted as a crisis of impetuous and overwhelming passion and languid abandonment to the enticements of meaning. In reverse; it hinges on the same Augustinian conception of the “pondus” love of the will, which leads into the real, a conception that is objectified in concretely determined creatures and, with aesthetic satisfaction, put into action in an atmosphere of disenchanted and sad reality. “Libro en mi opinión divino si encubriera más lo humano”.

Spain Literature - Medievalism