CULTURE: LITERATURE. THE TRANSITION FROM THE RENAISSANCE TO THE BAROQUE
Isolated on the watershed between the bright Renaissance noon and the sad Mannerist and Baroque twilight stands the greatest of the Spaniards: Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), who, to “give comfort to the melancholy and humiliated heart” of a former hero of Lepanto and from Algiers reduced to a tax collector, he wrote the first novel of the modern era, Don Quixote, splendid short stories (Novelas ejemplares, Novelle exemplari) and interludes, many theatrical works (including El cerco de Numancia, The siege of Numantia) and two other novels: La Galatea and Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda (The travails of Persile and Sigismonda). Almost at the same time, another and very different genius, Lope de Vega (1562-1635), gave the theater thousands of comedies, unleashing an incredible popular “cheering”, and also found a way to write, among the non-exemplary adventures of a reckless life, various lyrical songbooks, long poems, novels, short stories, as well as a new and baroque Celestina entitled La Dorotea. From him began an entire century of Spanish theatrical civilization, which was to end with the death of Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681), after having produced many authors – several prominent such as Tirso de Molina (ca. 1584-1648)), Juan Ruiz de Alarcón (ca. 1581-1639), Francisco de Rojas Zorrilla (1607-1648), the native Italian Agustín Moreto (1618-1669), Luis Quiñones de Benavente (ca. 1589-1651) and various minors including A. Cubillo de Aragón (ca. 1596-1661), Juan Bautista Diamante (1625-1687), Bances Candamo (1662-1704), Guillén de Castro y Bellvis (1569-1631), author of the Mocedades del Cid (The youthful deeds of the Cid), J. Pérez de Montalbán (1602-1638), author by Los amantes de Teruel (The lovers of Teruel), L. Vélez de Guevara (1579-1644), A. Mira de Amescua (1574 / 77-1644), author of the Esclavo del demonio (The slave of the devil), Antonio de Solís y Rivadeneira(1610-1686), Antonio Coello y Ochoa (1611-1682) – and countless works of all kinds: dramas, hagiographic, fantastic, “swashbuckling”, satirical comedies, interludes with or without music, up to the autos sacramentales Eucharistic and symbolic, which represent the apex of the immense Spanish Baroque theatrical “machine”. In it they had to find – and it is well understood – a real mine of themes, situations and characters, most of the European theaters, and in particular the French classical theater (from P. Corneille to Molière), the Elizabethan and the Italian up to the eighteenth-century opera librettos and Carlo Gozzi. Nor was the other genre typical of Baroque Spain, even on a European level, less important: picaresquefiction. Resumed, after the distant prototype of the Lazarillo, by Mateo Alemán (1547-ca.1614), with the Guzmán de Alfarache, the picaresque was subsequently continued by others, including the great Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas (1580-1645) with the Vida del buscón llamado don Pablos (History of the life of the paltoniere called Don Paolo), Vicente Espinel (1550-1624), A. del Castillo Solórzano (1584-1648), F. López de Úbeba, Jerónimo de Alcalá (1563-1632), A. de Salas Barbadillo (1581-1635), Carlos García, A. Enríquez Gómez (1600-1663), Maria de Zayas y Sotomayor (1590-ca. 1661) etc., always on the realistic line (biography of an outcast of society, “servant of many masters”, determined to “live” by any means and in spite of everything and everyone), but with tonal variations ranging from the grotesque and hyper-realistic caricature to the clear intention of protest and social protest, up to a totally pessimistic and nihilistic worldview. The Spanish Baroque also counts many poets, but only one can and must be said to be great and new: Francisco de Quevedo. Powerful prosecutor in the aforementioned Buscón, as in other satirical texts (Sueños, Sogni; La hora de todos), philosophical-moral (La cuna y la sepultura) and even ascetics and devotees (lives of St. Paul and Brutus, Providencia de Dios etc.), Quevedo expresses in his lyrics, with a dense and intense language, superbly modulated, a coherent and disconsolate conception of life and history, often indulging in a black and ruthless humor, but also capable of admirable sentimental effusions.
Next to him, his enemy Luis de Góngora (1561-1627), famous author of the poems Soledades (The solitudes) and Polyphemus and of a controversial lyric songbook, according to Inside Watch, he certainly appears to be very skilled in the use of a refined manneristic language and in the expression of a precious and fabulous world, full of incomprehensible cultural allusions to the despised “ignorant vulgar”; but also of a less rich and less substantial humanity. Perhaps this is why Góngora had numerous imitators (of an increasingly rhetorical Baroqueism), while Quevedo had none, and better resists, on the other hand, the time. The Hispanic seventeenth century ends with a series of moral and religious prose writers, among which the indocile Jesuit Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658), master of the agudeza (paradoxical maxim, pregnant sentence), and the quietist mystic Miguel Molinos emerge.(1628-1696), who died in Rome in the prisons of the Inquisition. In the works of the first (El héroe, El discreto – “monographic” collections by agudezas –, and the allegorical novel El criticón, Il criticone), as, in a different way, in the Guía espiritual of the second, the pessimism of baroque Spain culminates, tired of itself and of the hostile world. The proposed remedies are an aristocratic, intelligent and bitter stoicism (Gracián), or a negative, incomprehensible God, very similar to the abyss of Nothingness, in which the soul is exhorted to immerse itself (Molinos). Two dead-end alleys.