Desire and Death in the Spanish Sentimental Romance (1440-1550)

By Patricia E. Grieve | Go to book overview

Digo muy más el omne que toda criatura:
todas a tiempo cierto se juntan, con natura;
el omne de mal seso, todo tiempo, sin mesura,
cada que puede quier' fazer esta locura
.

El fuego siempre quiere estar en la ceniza,
comoquier que más arde quanto más se atiza;
el omne quando peca bien vee que desliza,
más no se parte ende, ca natura lo enriza
.1


INTRODUCTION

JUAN RUIZ RECOUNTED MANY tales of seduction and attempted seduction in the fourteenth-century Libro de buen amor. Unfortunately for the world's lovers, one of the book's messages is startlingly clear: sexual desire, although a natural human instinct, is a form of madness. In spite of the repeated poetic testimony to love as an ennobling force, given by writers from Provençal troubadours to contemporary songwriters, voices of dissent have been heard throughout the centuries. Writers were not alone in their dissenting opinions: "There is an area of medieval culture in which philosophy, literature, and medicine are intimately intertwined. Official doctrine and science (specifically, medicine) agreed in condemning love as a sort of disease or madness."2

Nowhere is love's conflictive nature more evident than in fifteenth-century Spain. The courtly love tradition was revitalized in Spain, as Roger Boase shows us, as a response to changes occurring in

____________________
1
Juan Ruiz, Libro de buen amor, ed., and trans. by Raymond S. Willis (Princeton: University Press, 1972), stanzas 74-75, p. 31.
2
Aldo D. Scaglione, Nature and Love in the Late Middle Ages ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963), p. 60. For a discussion of love as an illness, see Keith Whinnom's introduction to San Pedro Obras completas, II: Cárcel de Amor, Clásicos Castalia, 39 ( Madrid: Castalia, 1971), pp. 13-15. For a study of the ancestry of the idea of love-as-illness, see John Livingston Lowes , "The Loveres' Maladye of Heroes," MP, 11 ( 1913-14), 491-546 and Bruno Nardi, "L'amore e i medici medievali" in Studi in onore Angelo Monteverdi (Modena: 1959), pp. 517-42.

-xiii-

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