The same period also saw the introduction of the Renaissance epic. The Lazarillo , with its anti-hero, as a response to the romances of chivalry has been suggested by many scholars But certainly one of the principal causes, if not the single most important cause, of the decline in composition of new romances was the abdication of Carlos V in favor of his son Felipe.
That Carlos' reign ended in is no coincidence. Olivante de Laura , published in , bears a dedication from the printer rather than the author, which suggests that it had been written earlier. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that the romances of chivalry disappeared even though the composition of new romances had been abandoned. The reprinting of the major romances, and even some of the minor ones, continued throughout the last half of the sixteenth century. As I have explained elsewhere infra , this publication of new editions of familiar texts did not occur evenly, but in several waves of publication, and the dates of these waves allow the conclusion that the romances were still read by the upper and upper-middle classes.
Detailed information on the sixteenth-century book trade within Spain is not available, the only surviving documents being prepublication contracts, inventories of books made at death, and fragmentary information about private libraries But information is available, in considerable detail, about the book trade between Spain and the Spanish colonies in the New World in the later sixteenth century, because of the legal requirement for inventories of goods shipped, and the systematic conservation of such documents.
These inventories are particularly valuable for the years after Leonard, p. Although the Spanish colonies' reading tastes may not have been identical with those of Spain, the mother country and her colonies were closer culturally at that time than they were ever to be again, and the publications, for example, of the Cromberger family, which benefited from its Sevillian location to publish to a considerable extent for the New World trade, do not differ as dramatically as Leonard believes from those of publishers in other parts of Spain whose New World trade was less Lacking evidence to the contrary, then, these documents provide some information about Spanish reading tastes in the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.
It was Irving Leonard, however, who has most thoroughly investigated these documentary materials He found that romances of chivalry remained an important item in the book trade throughout the last years of the sixteenth century and in the opening years of the seventeenth, since the book dealers continued to sell, and the public to buy, those romances which had remained available since their last printings of ten to twenty years before.
Were this the case, of course, Cervantes' repeated declarations that he intended to attack the romances by writing the Quijote could be interpreted as a disguise of his true, perhaps philosophical, intention. Yet the facts do not support this conclusion, since the romances were read right up until , and their disappearance was even more remote in the last decades of the sixteenth century, when Cervantes probably began the composition of Part I It is true, of course, that no new romances, and few reprints, were published after There is evidence, however, to attack the notion, even more commonly held than the one just referred to, that the Quijote achieved with its publication its declared purpose of completely ending the popularity of the romances of chivalry.
When Lope praises the romances in Thomas, p. A useful parallel can be drawn with the Western movie of the United States, also an art form of escapist intent, whose connection with the past on which it claims to be based can at times be very loose indeed. The Western was one of the earliest types of motion picture, which reached its greatest heights during the first half century after the beginning of motion pictures.
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The genre has been so exploited and become so hackneyed that parodic Westerns, such as Cat Ballou , can be made. Yet it would be a serious mistake to consider the Western film dead. Perhaps most significant is the undisputed fact that even those who are bored with and contemptuous of Westerns, and would never see one, know what they are, and have a general acquaintance with the main works and the stock situations of the genre. When, then, did the Spanish romance of chivalry die? The answer to this question must be that it did not die suddenly, on any specific day or within any specific year or even decade.
Like an aged person, it lingered on, gradually failing for years, well into the seventeenth century, before it could be said to be completely dead. It is more a case of it fading away, losing gradually the interest of larger proportions of the public , being restricted to ever smaller circles of active readers. Whether this is the case or not I have not the data to determine, but from the nineteenth century onward those romances which were available have been read fairly widely, culminating in the current interest in the romances by modern novelists Certainly the present revival has not run its course, and we will see further editions and influence of the romances in this, the twentieth century.
Previous books on romances of chivalry, such as that of Henry Thomas, have tended to talk about the externals of the romances -their popularity, their publication-, rather than give the readers a complete picture of what a romance of chivalry was. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the complicated plots of the romances are inevitably confusing and hard to Summarize, and those writers who do include such summaries often abandon them after a few pages, feeling that they are surely boring their readers and perhaps boring themselves as well To avoid this pitfall and yet give the reader of this volume a taste of what a romance of chivalry was like, this chapter offers a composite summary of the action of a romance of chivalry, made up of the elements commonly found in them.
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What follows, therefore, is not a description of any one romance, but is true in spirit to all of them. I have offered in footnotes a series of selections from various romances which illustrate the points being discussed. The romance of chivalry is always set in the past, even far in the past, though never before the birth of Christ.
As is well known because of Cervantes' imitation of this feature in the Quijote , the romances are surrounded by trappings intended to give them an air of pseudo-historicity.
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Following classical and medieval precedent, the protagonist of a romance of chivalry is always male and invariably of royal blood -a prince. His lineage is usually specified. Through some mishap he is separated from his parents and his homeland when still a baby; he may be stolen away by evildoers, or carried off by a boat, or simply be abandoned by his mother because of the circumstances surrounding his birth, which often was illegitimate He grows up in the court of another king, far away, though he may have been sheltered at first by farmers or other such humble people He will eventually learn his true identity and be reunited with his parents and family, either at the midpoint or near the end of the book The protagonist shows signs from a very early age of his royal blood and the corresponding great abilities which were thought of as the natural endowments of a great ruler.
He is exceptionally handsome , so much so that he captivates and gains the affection of all who see him, save those of evil nature. He may walk or talk at a younger age than normal. Being fearless, like mythological infants such as Hercules, he may perform extraordinary feats as a baby or young boy. Lions, symbols of royalty, instinctively respect him. He is exceptionally strong and vigorous, possessed of excellent health, never ill unless wounded. He can easily defeat a boy of the same age, who will more than likely be physically smaller, since the protagonists of the romances of chivalry are swarthy individuals, taller and huskier than the persons they come in contact with see the text quoted in note As stated above, the prince and king-to-be, in short, conforms very closely to the image of the ideal medieval ruler.
While still at the court in which he has grown up he will receive instruction from tutors, such as a Spanish prince would; his attitude toward his studies will be respectful, not rebellious. He will learn what is taught him, which often includes a variety of languages , later to serve him in good stead, but his inclination is obviously not to books nor to the world of learning.
His studies do not continue past his youth.
The protagonist has Wanderlust. There is always opposition to this desire of his, some attempt made to convince or force him not to leave -scarcely surprising considering that he is so young He may have to depart secretly an action that Don Quijote was to imitate By this time he will have been or will seek to be dubbed a knight, by the person of highest status he can manage to find and convince to do so -a king or an emperor is ideal -, and will have received as gifts his first set of arms and armor, his shield white as befits a new or novel knight Later, after some especially noteworthy or significant adventure, he will take as a heraldic symbol an animal, natural phenomenon, flower, or some similar item, such as are found in any inventory of coats of arms, which in their origin were based on just such a practice.
Once he has left the court where he has grown up, the knight-errant for such he now is will travel extensively. His travels will be both through familiar and unfamiliar parts of the world: Europe, Asia, sometimes North Africa, sometimes to imaginary places made up by the author.
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The New World, of course, had not yet been discovered. He may visit London, Paris, or Constantinople, cities already with some chivalric tradition, but never Rome, Jerusalem, nor a Spanish city such as Toledo or Santiago. The travels of the knight offered the author of the romance an opportunity to entertain his readers, always eager for discussions of new and marvellous places, and display whatever geographic knowledge he might have, and his powers of imagination. The knight will primarily travel by land, on horse or occasionally on foot, but he may well have occasion to journey by sea or by means of some supernatural means of transportation.
His travels may be for various purposes: to see, serve, elope with, or retire from his lady, to attend a tournament announced in some more or less distant city, to go to the aid of kings or queens in need of military assistance to repel invaders or to claim what is rightfully theirs, to obtain a healing agent for someone ill, to help free someone held captive, to catch a glimpse of some beautiful woman, to get to know the identity of or to find his parents There may be no more significant reason than the fact that someone he encounters has requested his company.
The knight never seeks money; indeed, money is so seldom mentioned, as Don Quijote correctly points out to Sancho, that it seems that the protagonists of the romances live in a primitive era, outside the money economy altogether. The only times we find money mentioned at all is in terms of a prize or reward more often a valuable object , or as a tribute or tax demanded by an evil ruler as, for example, in Cirongilio de Tracia , III, The knight expects and receives hospitality from those he meets along his way; similar to the modern Indian holy man, it was considered both a duty and an honor to provide for someone as valuable to society as the knight.
His physical needs, modest in any event, are thus easily met. To the extent that the knight seeks anything, he seeks prestige, fame, and reputation, and his adventures are a means of obtaining these. However, besides his extraordinary deeds, he also attains fame and reputation because of the qualities of his personality -the gracious way the knight treats others, for example, magnanimously setting free the enemies he has vanquished.
Although he will never boast of or even recite his feats -for that would be a symptom of pride-, and may often disguise his identity, using, for example, borrowed armor with a different heraldic symbol, the news traveled fast in the chivalric world, and the knight-errant rapidly became well known and sought after. He is, in effect, proving that he is of royal abilities, and a fit ruler for the kingdom or empire which he will in the course of time inherit. Part of the knight's reputation, as we have just indicated, is based on something besides his ability as a fighter.
He will, in fact, have a great many desirable qualities: intelligence, a calm temper, magnanimity. His mesura and cool temper were important virtues, for one with a hot temper too easily gets into unnecessary fights. The knight has a highly developed ethical sense, and always helps the more deserving of two parties to a conflict; in fact, he feels he has a responsibility to help those deserving persons in need of his help, of which there are many.
The knight does not seek occasions for serious fighting, though he does for the less serious fighting which was intended as entertainment. He avoids conflict whenever possible, and only engages in it when reconciliation with his opponent is impossible, when the adversary cannot be made to see the inevitable error of his ways.
He will be a good courtier, even though court life is not to his taste He is neither wordy nor taciturn, and may be able to play musical instruments and compose verses. With all these desirable qualities and abilities, it is scarcely surprising that the knight is widely liked and respected. They may be simply jealous of him, jealousy being both a sin and a flaw in one's personality, or they may seek revenge for some defeat they have received at his hand Not infrequently he may gain an enemy as a consequence of an interest in, or from, a female.
Such enemies may invent falsehoods about the knight, accusing him of treason which he would never dream of committing. He may be accused of love for an inappropriate person, such as a married queen Or the accusations may be less serious. Usually the ultimate fate of the knight's evil accusers is death, either because a battle is required to show, through combat, which party is telling the truth and to cleanse the knight's honor and reputation, or because the malcreants are put to death by the king when exposed, or because they cannot bear living in humiliation, which in the chivalric world, again reflecting contemporary Spanish values, was felt to be intolerable.
The knight-errant and protagonist will not, however, seek the death of his enemies. Among the evil characters the knight will come into contact with on his travels are giants. As I have explained elsewhere , the giants were not supernatural beings but merely very large and ugly men, who believed themselves to be superior to ordinary men and therefore free from the troubling need to follow society's rules.
Giants are clearly the villains of the romances of chivalry.
Never Christians , they usurped kingdoms because of their whim, and carried off women with the intent of raping them and men to be sold as slaves. One may well note here a reflection of the Spaniards' attitude toward the Moors. The giants are haughty and disrespectful.
They offer the knight the chance to show his extraordinary abilities in defeating and killing them; in the case of giants, he does not hesitate to put them to death. Occasionally one finds a good or reformed giant , and sometimes dwarfs , evil or otherwise. Several other characteristics of the knight in the romances of chivalry need mentioning. Because he is such a likeable person and a good companion, the knight is seldom alone. This is not because he has a squire, since the role of squires in the Spanish romances of chivalry, as Don Quijote knew, is a very secondary one.
It is rather because friends of similar age, or relatives, accompany him on his travels. Often he travels with knights that he meets by chance on the road. The knight is also an outdoorsman. He is not upset by the discomforts of travel in those primitive times, and frankly enjoys the nature by which he is usually surrounded. He goes through beautiful forests, climbs gentle hills, comes across fresh, clear rivers , is woken in the morning by the singing of the birds, and makes his meals when necessary from what nature provides.
His main diversion, aside from tournaments or an occasional sarao with the ladies, is caza de monte. Correspondingly, the knight does not like urban life. Cities, as well as creature comforts, make him uneasy and restless. To visit a castle, palace, or court the latter usually set in a city may be attractive for a time, but once the tournament is over or his business concluded, the knight feels he must be on the road again, an attitude clearly reflected by Don Quijote in II, 57 and 58 of the Quijote.
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