The Arthurian Legend in the Literatures of the Spanish Peninsula

By William J. Entwistle | Go to book overview

XIII
THE INFLUENCE OF CHIVALROUS LITERATURE IN THE SPANISH PENINSULA DURING THE MIDDLE AGES

Amadis and the novels of the matière de Bretagne form a corpus of chivalrous doctrine and example, intimately dovetailed, united in purpose, invention, expression and effect, equally popular and efficient in the Spain and Portugal of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and equally prompt in their appeal to the new public of the printing press. It is there that they separate. In their joint history as manuscripts the original Arthurian novels enjoyed the greater repute, viz., Tristan de Leonis, Merlin y Demanda, and Lanzarote de Lago. At that period they were the possessions of the upper ranks of society, who are always in some degree cosmopolites and who might feel pleasure in the consciousness of a foreign derivation; but Gutenberg's discovery brought literature to the middle classes, and the national appeal of the native romance, strongly reinforced by Montalvo's new prose, drew that novel ahead of its compeers. They are not the begetters of Spanish chivalry save through their creation of Amadis de Gaula; not the parents, they are the grandsires of Don Quixote. Chivalry is a doctrine of heroism and of society conventionalised in love. As sources for heroism the characters of this group were classed

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