Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/416

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


reform included the education of the nobility; by her command Peter Martyr opened a school at Court. His success exceeded his hopes, and learning became so fashionable that the sons of grandees lectured at the universities. The Church, though impoverished, aided the cause with splendid benefactions. Schools were founded at Toledo (1490); the decayed studium generate of Valencia was revived (1500); Barcelona followed suit (1507). The noble college of Santa Cruz at Valladolid was finished in 1492; that of Santiago at Salamanca some thirty years later. Both were founded by Archbishops of Toledo. As a patron of learning no less than as a statesman Ximenes de Cisneros led the way. In 1508 he founded the University of Alcala (Complutum), alma mater of • so many famous Spaniards, with professorial chairs of grammar, philosophy, and medicine. Its chief purpose, however, was the study of the Holy Scriptures, and its first-fruits were the earliest Polyglot Bible (of which the First Part was published in 1514). The Semitic text is the work of converted Jews; a Greek cooperated with Spanish scholars on the Latin and Greek texts. The level of education was raised, and foundations were laid from which the Golden Age of Spanish Literature could take its rise.

But the notable books of the period owe little or nothing to classical or foreign influence. Play-acting did not become popular till the time of Lope de Rueda (about 1550) and even then its methods were rude and simple; but the secular drama emerged from the religious early in the century. In the annus mirabilis 1492 the first drama was publicly acted by a regular company. The "representations" of Juan del Encina (1468-1534), the "comedies" of Torres de Naharro (published in 1517), and those of Gil Vicente (1470-1534), are much more than mere dialogues without action, like the one in which Princess Isabel had taken the part of a muse on a birthday of her brother Alfonso (who died in 1468). Gil Vicente was a Portuguese, and the other two lived long in Italy; but, although there the drama was already established, the Spaniards took their own line. Encina calls his simple plays "eclogues'1; Torres de Naharro cites Horace for method, and awkwardly divides drama into fact (noticia) and fiction (fantasia); but these classical reminiscences are merely superficial. Figures of everyday life were put upon the stage, and dialogue was cast in Castilian octosyllabic verse instead of in foreign hendecasyllables.

A book that may be read for its own sake as well as for its historical importance is the Tragicomedy of Calixto and Melibea (published in 1499), generally known as La Celestina. The authorship of the first part is disputed; but probably the whole is the work of Fernando de B,ojas. La Celestina is a story told throughout in dialogue, and divided into twenty-two acts. Its length is only one of the circumstances that unfit it for acting; but its vivacious and natural dialogue furnished a model for the drama. Its hero and heroine are the typical lady and gallant,