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Spanish Literature

Early Non-religious Extant Drama

Karoline Manny

Secular drama had an even lower survival rate than religious drama in Medieval Spain. The first extant, non-religious play in Spain is the sketch Los Momos de doña Isabela, by Gómez Manrique, which dates to the mid-fifteenth century. Momo, from the Latin--momus--originally referred to a gesture, grimace, or jeer made in plays, dances, or masquerades. By the first half of the 15th century the word momo is used in Spain to describe palace entertainment. Gómez Manrique wrote the momos as a spectacle for the birthday of Alfonso. In it the muses fly to Alfonso, recite poems about the virtues of justice, faith, gentleness, and conquest, and exalt Alfonso as an ideal prince. They employ dancing and singing.

The majority of non-religious extant drama comes from familiar sources: Encina's eclogues and Lucas Fernández's farsas from the late 15th century. Less well known are Francisco de Madrid's eclogue (1495), Diego Guillén de Ávila's Égloga interlocutor (1502), and Fernando del Prado's Égloga real (1517). These works' portrayal of love show clear influence of the early Renaissance and are most properly classified with this period.

Thus, we are left with ten tropes in Latin dating between the 12th century and the 15th; one 12th century religious play in the vernacular; around 15 examples of mid to late 15th century religious dramas; and one secular 15th century drama. Scholars note many reasons for the relatively low number of extant dramas. In the case of religious drama, they cite: fires in the cathedrals of Astorga and Zamora; Napoleonic looting in the cathedral in León; destruction due to the demortizacion; problems caused by the fact that words and stage directions were written in separate books; and problems caused by the fact that different actors' parts were usually written on separate pages to be handed out to the individual actors. Non-religious drama naturally stood very little chance of surviving before the arrival of the printing press in Spain, since the church had a virtual monopoly on scribing. Any work that was not religious had no value to the church and thus would neither have been scribed nor stored in church libraries.



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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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