Page:EB1911 - Volume 25.djvu/602

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LITERATURE]
581
SPAIN


way into Castile through Portugal and Catalonia, poetry was now styled the arte de trobar. The arte de trobar is strictly " court " poetry, which consists of short pieces in complicated measures — love plaints, debates, questions and repartees, motes with their glosas, burlesque and satirical songs — verse wholly " occasional " and deficient in charm when separated from its natural environment. In order to understand and appreciate these pieces they must be read in the collections made by the poets of the time, where each poem throws light on the others. The most celebrated cancionero of the i£th century is that compiled for the amusement of his sovereign by Juan Alfonso de Baena; it is, so to say, the official collection of the poetic court of John II., although it also contains pieces by poets of earlier dates. After Baena's collection may be mentioned the Cancionero de Siuhiga, which contains the Castilian poems of the trobadores who followed Alphonso V. of Aragon to Naples. These cancioneros, consisting of the productions of a special group, were succeeded by collections of a more miscellaneous char- acter in which versifiers of very different periods and localities are brought together, the pieces being classed simply according to their type. The earliest genuine Cancionero general (though it does not bear the title) is that compiled by Juan Fer- nandez de Constantina, which appears to have been issued from the Valencia press at the beginning of the 16th century; the second, much better known, was published for the first time at Valencia in 1511 by Hernando del Castillo. The other poetic school of the 15th century, which claims to be specially related to the Italians, had as its leaders Juan de Mena, author of the Coronacidn and the Laberinto de fortuna, and the marquis of Santillana, Inigo Lopez de Mendoza, who in his sonnets was, perhaps, the first to imitate the structure of the Italian hendeca- syllabics. With those two chiefs, who may be designated poeias as distinguished from the decidores and the trobadores of the cancioneros, must be ranked Francisco Imperial, a Genoese by descent, who at a somewhat earlier date helped to acclimatize in Spain the forms of Italian poetry. The marquis of Santillana occupies a considerable place in the literature of the 15th century not only by reason of his poems, but through the sup- port he afforded to all the writers of his time, and the impulse he gave to the study of antiquity and to the labours of trans- lators. In the next generation the most prominent figures are Gomez Manrique and Jorge Manrique, the latter of whom has produced a short poem which is a masterpiece.

With the exception of the chronicles and some caballerias the prose of the 15th century contains little that is striking. Prose of The translation of Virgil by Enrique de Villena isth Cen- is ponderous and shows no advance on the versions iur y- of Latin authors made in the previous century.

A curious and amusing book, full of details about Spanish manners, is the Corbacho (1438) of the archpriest of Talavera, Alfonso Martinez de Toledo, chaplain to King John II.; the Corbacho belongs to the numerous family of satires against women, and this title, by which it is commonly known — borrowed from a work of Boccaccio's, with which it has otherwise nothing in common — indicates that he has not spared them.

The ancient liturgical Spanish theatre is known to us only by fragments of the play of the Magian Kings, already mentioned; but certain regulations given in the LUer'tan. ^^ te portidas (compiled between 1252 and 1257) prove that such a theatre existed, and that at the great festivals, such as Christmas, Epiphany and Easter, dramatic representations were given in church. These repre- sentations, originally a simple commentary on the liturgy, were gradually adulterated with buffoonery, which frequently brought down the censure of the clergy. Alphonso X. even thought it necessary to forbid the " clerks " playing juegos de escarnios, and permitted in the sanctuary only dramas destined to commemorate the principal episodes of the life of Christ. Of all the Church festivals, the most popular in Spain was that of Corpus Christi instituted by Urban IV. in 1264. At an early date the celebration of this festival was accompanied with


dramatic performances intended to explain to the faithful the eucharistic mystery. These dramas, called autos sacramentales, acquired more and more importance; in the 17th century, with Calderon, they become grand allegorical pieces, regular theo- logical dissertations in the form of dramas. To the auto sacra- mental corresponds the auto al nacimiento, or drama of the Nativity. In Spain, as elsewhere, the secular theatre is a product of the religious theatre. Expelled from the Church, the juegos de tscarnios took possession of the public squares and there attained free development; ceasing to be a mere travesty of dogma, they developed into a drama whose movement is no longer determined by the liturgy, and whose actors are borrowed from real life in Spanish society. This new theatre begins towards the close of the 15th century, with the pastoral pieces of Juan del Encina, which, after Virgil's example, he calls eglogas. Genuine shepherds are the interlocutors of these bucolics, into which are also sometimes introduced students, and Lucas Fernandez, a contemporary and pupil of Encina's, introduces gentlemen and soldiers. A book which, strictly speaking, does not belong to the theatre, the Tragicomedia de Calixto y Melibea, much better known as La Celestina, caused the new theatre, still rudimentary in the attempts of the school of Encina, to make a step onwards. This astonishing novel taught the Spaniards the art of dialogue, and for the first time exhibited persons of all classes of society (particularly the lowest) speaking in harmony with their natural surroundings. The progress caused by the Celestina may be estimated by means of the Propaladia of Bartolome de Torres Naharro, a collection of pieces represented at Rome in presence of Leo X. Torres Naharro is thought to have borrowed from France the division of the play into " days " (jornadas); shortly after Naharro we find the comedy of manners in Lope de Rueda, whose dramatic work is composed of regular comedies constructed on the model of Italian authors of the beginning of the 16th century, and also of little pieces intended for performance in the intervals between the larger plays (entremeses and pasos) , some of which are models of sprightly wit. Some of Naharro's, and especially of Rueda's, pieces foreshadow the comedy of intrigue, which is emphatically the type of the classic stage. But to reach Lope de Vega, the Spanish stage had to be enlarged in relation to national history. A poet of Seville, Juan de la Cueva, first brought on the boards subjects such as the exploits of the Cid, Bernardo del Carpio, and others, which had previously been treated of only in the romances. To a poet called Berrio, of whose work nothing has been preserved, are attributed the comedias of Moors and Christians, in which were represented famous episodes of the ^ge-long struggle against the infidel. And it was at this period (1585) that Cervantes experimented in the drama; in his Tratos de Argel he gives us a picture of galley-life, recollections of his long captivity in Algiers. There is no need to linger over the attempts at tragedy of the ancient type by Jeronimo Ber- mudez, Cristobal de Virues, Lupercio Leonardo de Argensoia, &c, the only successful specimen of which is the Numancia of Cervantes; these works, mere exercises in style and versification, remained without influence on the development of the Spanish stage. The pre-classic period of this stage is, as regards dramatic form, one of indecision. Some write in prose, like Rueda; others, like Naharro, show a preference for the redondillas of popular poetry; and there are those again who, to elevate the style of the stage, versify in hendecasyllabics. Hesitation is also evident as to the mode of dividing the drama. At first a division into five acts, after the manner of the ancients, is adopted, and this is followed by Cervantes in his early pieces; then Juan de la Cueva reduced the five acts to four, and in this he is imitated by most poets till the close of the 16th century (Lope de Vega himself in his youth composed pieces in four acts). Francisco de Avendaiio divided his Florisea into three acts as early as 1551, but his example was not followed till about forty years later, when this division was generally adopted in all dramatic works — with the exception of short pieces like the loa (prologue), the entrants, the paso, the baile (different kinds of entr'acte).