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Spanish Literature

Classical Drama and Drama during the Fall of the Roman Empire

Karoline Manny

One item on which modern critics agree is that classical drama from Greece was unknown during the Middle Ages in Spain. Latin theater, on the other hand, faired better. The most important Roman dramatists known in the Iberian peninsula were Titus Maccius Plautus (c. 250-184 BC), Publius Terentius Terencio (194-159BC), and Lucio Anneo Séneca (4 BC-65AD). Critics are certain medieval Spanish writers were familiar with these dramatists because many medieval authors and chroniclers refer to them. For example, San Jerónimo (342-420) used the plays of Terencio to teach Latin to his students. Centuries later, the nun Hrotsvita de Gandersheim (b. 935) wrote plays in direct imitation of Terencio. Juan I translated Sénaca's Hercules and Medea near the end of the 14th century. Finally, Enrique de Villena cites Terencio in his Consolatoria in 1423. Latin drama of the 11-14th centuries undeniably influenced literature in the peninsula. The Comedias Elegíacas, from the 11-12th centuries were a form of literature that oscillated between narration and dialogue. An example of this type of literature is Pamphilus, which had a great influence on, among other works, Libro de Buen Amor. The Comedias Humanísticas of the 14th century in Italy are another important influence in peninsular literature, albeit late for the purposes of Medieval drama. Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) is the most important writer of this genre. The influence of the Comedias Humanísticas on such works as the Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea is well established.


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Copyright (C) 1998, Karoline Manny. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents,including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

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