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Home » Language Resources » Spanish Literature » History of Spanish Literature » The Renaissance

The Renaissance in Spanish Literature

Renaissance in Spain

At the beginning of the 15th century the western Christian world was about to undergo great changes. A revolution was coming that would destroy the medieval conscience of the time. In both the intellectual and artistic fields new figures appeared who would impose their new vision. The Renaissance was the return to ancient culture. Greece and Rome became examples for what Europe should be, they were held up as the ideal.

The Turks invaded the eastern Roman Empire, where until that time many books written by the classic authors had been stored. Eastern sages came over to Italy bringing the classic culture with them, and the rest of Europe was greatly attracted to it. The Christian kings still dreamt about bringing back the glory of the Roman Empire.

They opened new trade routes towards the East, which increased the wealth of the Mediterranean. Traders from Genova and Venice brought gold to Europe. From this the notion of patrons was developed. They were people from a certain social status, from the church or nobility, and formed a new social class that would define the following centuries: the bourgeoisie. The new commercial achievements ensured that the traders united in their posts and created a small business network.

The introduction of the printing press brought a huge change to the literary world. Books no longer had to be copied by hand in the monasteries. These new editions were known as incunabula (books that were printed at the time of the invention of the printing press). Alongside this came new geographical development, which led to new ways of thinking. The Earth stopped being the center of the universe, and became just another planet that revolved around the sun. Man became aware of his own identity, and discovered that he could be guided by his own hand. The theory of anthropology appeared. God stopped being the axis on which human life rotated. The idea that the world was a valley of tears was replaced by a sense of joie de vivre. The Renaissance was a tribute to human beauty and love. Even divine representations became more human. Medieval super-realism disappeared from art, which was now full of depth and expression. The world adapted to man, not just to God. Gardens and palaces were made for the enjoyment of their inhabitants.

The importance of courtesan love grew, as literature now belonged to the halls of the palace. During the Middle Ages literature had belonged to the monasteries, but now the nobles began to show an interest in the liberal arts. Garcilaso de la Vega was one of the poets who wrote poems to a married woman who he was in love with. Women were pleased that a man who was not their husband could be attracted by their beauty. But the majority of the time it was an idealization of this beauty.

Courtesan love was a common literary genre that came from Provence. Boscan and Garcilaso added two adapted Italian meters to the Spanish version. The influence of this contribution to the sonnet was highlighted in later literature.

In short, the Renaissance revolutionized the way of thinking in Western culture in all the intellectual and artistic fields. The improvement in communication between the European kingdoms meant that this new phenomenon spread rapidly.