Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/172

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158
[LITERATURE
PORTUGAL


there existed no educated middle class to support a national theatre. At the same time the old dramatists had to face the opposition of the classical school, which appealed to the cultured, and the hostility of the Inquisition, which early declared war on the popular plays on account of their grossness, and afterwards through the index prohibited altogether even the religious autos, as it had condemned the Italian comedies. The way was thus clear for the jesuits, who, with their Latin tragi-comedies or dramatized allegories written to commemorate saints or for scholastic festivals, succeeded for a time in supplanting both the popular pieces of the old school and the plays modelled on the masterpieces of Greece and Rome. The old dramatists came to write for the lower classes only, and though the school lingered on, its productions were performed solely by travelling companies at country fairs. Though we know that much has perished, the four Indexes of the 16th century give some idea of the rich repertory of the popular theatre, and of the efforts necessary to destroy it; moreover, the Spanish Index of 1559, by forbidding autos of Gil Vicente and other Portuguese authors, is interesting evidence of the extent to which they were appreciated in the neighbouring country.

The Renaissance.—The movement commonly called the Renaissance reached Portugal both indirectly through Spain and directly from Italy, with which last country it maintained close literary relations throughout the 15th century. King Alphonso V. had been the pupil of Matthew of Pisa and summoned Iustus Balduinus to his court to write the national history in Latin, while later King John II. corresponded with Politian, and early in his reign the first printing-press got to work. In the next century many famous humanists took up their abode in Portugal. Nicholas Cleynarts taught the Infant Henry, afterwards cardinal and king, and lectured on the classics at Braga and Evora, Vasaeus directed a school of Latin at Braga, and George Buchanan accompanied other foreign professors to Coimbra when King John III. reformed the university. Many distinguished Portuguese teachers returned from abroad to assist the king at the same time, among them Ayres Barbosa from Salamanca, André de Gouveia of the Parisian college of St Barbe, whom Montaigne dubbed “the greatest principal of France,” Achilles Estaco and Diogo de Teive.

At home Portugal produced André de Resende (q.v.), author of the Historia da antiguidade da cidade de Evora and De antiquitalibus Lusitaniae, and Francisco de Hollanda, painter, architect, and author of, inter alia, the Quatro dialogos da pintura antiga. Moreover, women took a share in the intellectual movement of the time, and the sisters Luisa and Angela Sigéa, Ioanna Vaz and Paula Vicente, daughter of Gil Vicente, constituted an informal female academy under the presidency of the Infanta D. Maria, daughter of King Manoel. Luisa Sigéa was both an orientalist and a Latin poetess, while Publia Hortensia de Castro, after a course of humanities, philosophy and theology, defended theses at Evora in her eighteenth year.

The Italian school was founded by Sá de Miranda (q.v.), a man of noble character who, on his return in 1526 from a six years' stay in Italy, where he had fore gathered with the leading writers of the day, initiated a reform of Portuguese literature which amounted to a revolution. He introduced and practised the forms of the sonnet, canzon, ode, epistle in oilava rlma and in tercets, and the epigram, and raised the whole tone of poetry. At the same time he gave fresh life to the national redondilha metre (medida velha) by his Carlas or Saliras which with his Eclogues, some in Portuguese, others in Castilian, are his most successful compositions. His chief disciple, Antonio Ferreira (q.v.), a convinced classicist, went further, and dropping the use of Castilian, wrote sonnets much superior in form and style, though they lack the rustic atmosphere of those of his master, while his odes and epistles are too obviously reminiscent of Horace. D. Manoel de Portugal, Pero de Andrade Caminha, Diogo Bernardes, Frei Agostinho da Cruz and André Falcao de Resende continued the erudite school, which, after considerable opposition, definitely triumphed in the person of Luiz de Camoens. The Lima of Bernardes contains some beautiful eclogues as well as carlas in the bucolic style, while the odes, sonnets, and eclogues of Frei Agostinho are full of mystic charm. Camoens (q.v.) is, as Schlegel remarked, an entire literature in himself, and some critics rate him even higher as a lyric than as an epic poet. He unites and fuses the best elements of the Italian and the popular muse, using the forms of the one to express the spirit and traditions of the other, and when he employs the medida velha, it becomes in his hands a vehicle for thought, whereas before it had usually served merely to express emotions.

His Luslads, cast in the Virgilian mould, celebrates the combination of faith and patriotism which led to the discoveries and conquests of the Portuguese, and though the voyage of Vasco da Gama occasioned its composition and formed the skeleton round which it grew, its true subject is the peito illustre lusitano. Immediately on its appearance The Lusiads took rank as the national poem par excellence, and its success moved many writers to follow in the same path; of these the most successful was Jeronymo Corte Real (q.v.). All these poems, like the Elegiada of Luis Pereira Brandao on the disaster of Al Kasr, the Pflmelro céreo de Diu of the chronicler Francisco de Andrade, and even the Affonso Africano of Quevedo, for all its futile allegory, contain striking episodes and vigorous and well-coloured descriptive passages, but they cannot compare with The Lusiads in artistic value.

The return of Śa de Miranda from Italy operated to transform the drama as well as lyric poetry. He found the stage occupied mainly by religious plays in which there appeared no trace of the Greek or Roman theatre, and, admiring what he had seen in Italy, he and his followers protested against the name auto, restored that of comedy, and substituted prose for verse. They generally chose the plays of Terence as models, yet their life is conventional and their types are not Portuguese but Roman-Italian. The revived classical comedy was thus so bound down by respect for authority as to have little chance of development, While its language consisted of a latinized prose from which the emotions were almost absent. Though it secured the favour of the humanists and the nobility, and banished the old popular plays from both court and university soon after Gil Vicente’s death, its victory was short lived. Jorge Ferreira de Vasconcellos, who produced in the Eufroslna the first prose play, really belongs to the Spanish school, yet, though he wrote under the influence of the Celeslina, which had a great vogue in Portugal, and of Roman models, his types, language and general characteristics are deeply national. However, even if they had stage qualities, the very length of this and his other plays, the Ulislpo and the Aulegraphia, would prevent their performance, but in fact they are novels in dialogue containing a treasury of popular lore and wise and witty sayings with a moral object. So decisive was the success of Jorge Ferreira’s new invention, notwithstanding its anonymity, that it decided sa de Miranda to attempt the prose comedy. He modelled himself on the Roman theatre as reflected by the plays of Ariosto, and he avowedly wrote the Eslrangelros to combat the school of Gil Vicente, while in it, as in Os Vilhalpamlos, the action takes place in Italy. Antonio Ferreira, the chief dramatist of the classical school, knew both Greek and Latin as well as Miranda, but far surpassed him in style. He attempted both comedy and tragedy, and his success in the latter branch is due to the fact that he was not content to seek inspiration from Seneca, as were most of the tragedians of the 16th century, but went straight to the fountain heads, Sophocles and Euripides. His Brislo is but a youthful essay, but his second piece, O Cioso, is almost a comedy of character, though both are Italian even in the names of the personages. Ferreira’s real claim to distinction, however, rests on Ignez de Castro (see Ferreira).

The principal form taken by prose writing in the 16th century was historical, and a pleiad of distinguished writers arose to narrate the discoveries and conquests in Asia, Africa and the ocean. Many of them saw the achievements they relate and were inspired by patriotism to record them, so that their writings