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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

The last named an outgrowth from the picaresque novel


the other large cities. Travelling

companies staged plays in all parts of Spain, until the theatre became popular. If Lope de Vega profited from this situation, so also did the stage from him, for he provided it with a vehicle which fixed it in public favor at a time when the balance might have swung either way. The fame of Lope de Vega eclipsed that of his contemporaries, many of whom were deserving of high rank. In recent years one name has emerged from the crowd, that of Friar Gabriel T?llez, better known by his pseudonym, Tirso de Molina (1571-1658). In realism, depiction of character, profundity of ideas, emotion, and a sense of the dramatic he was the equal and at times the superior of Lope de Vega. The successor in fame and popularity of Lope de Vega, however, was Pedro Calder?n de la Barca (1600-1681), whose compositions faithfully represented the devout Catholicism and chivalric ideals (exaggerating the fact) of his contemporaries. Calder?n was above all a writer of religious, allegorical plays. In the domain of the profane his plays were too grave and rigid to adapt themselves to the comic, and they were characterized by a certain monotony and artifice, a substitution of allegory for realism, and an excess of brilliance and lyrical qualities, often tinged with rhetoric and obscure classical allusions. Not only were these three masters and a number of others great in Spain, but also they clearly influenced the dramatic literature of the world; it would be necessary to include most of the famous European
playwrights of the seventeenth century and some of later times if a list were to be made of those who drew inspiration from the Spanish theatre of the _siglo de oro_.

[Sidenote: The three types of the sixteenth century novel.]

The history of the Spanish novel in this era reduces itself to a discussion of three leading types, those of chivalry, love, and social customs, the last-named an outgrowth from the picaresque novel, and more often so-called. The novel of chivalry, descendant of _Amad?s de Gaula_, was by far the most popular in the sixteenth century, having almost a monopoly of the field. Like the reprehensible "dime novel" of recent American life its popularity became almost a disease, resulting occasionally in a derangement of the mental faculties of some of its more assiduous readers. The extravagant achievements of the wandering knights ended by proving a bore to Spanish taste, and the chivalric novel was already dead when Cervantes attacked it in _Don Quixote_. Meanwhile, the amatory novel had been affected by the introduction from Italy of a pastoral basis for the story, which first appeared in the middle of the sixteenth century and endured for about a hundred years. This novel was based on an impossible situation, that of country shepherds and shepherdesses who talked like people of education and refinement. Only the high qualities of the writers were able to give it life, which was achieved by the excellence of the descriptions, the lyrical quality of the verse, and the beauty of the prose style. The true Spanish novel was to develop out of the picaresque type, which looked back to the popular _La Celestina_ of 1499. About the middle of the sixteenth century and again just at its close there appeared two other works, frankly picaresque, for they dealt with the life of rogues (_p?caros_) and vagabonds. The name "picaresque" was henceforth employed for works which did not come within the exact field of these earlier volumes, except that they were realistic portrayals of contemporary life. Such was the state of affairs when Cervantes appeared.

[Sidenote: Cervantes and _Don Quixote_.]


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