Spanish Baroque Literature

go to top

Spanish Baroque Literature

Spanish Literature

Hannah Myers

As the Baroque movement spread through Spain, the country was in the process of dealing with severe economic, social and political troubles. During the period, the Spanish language developed and evolved substantially, with poetry quickly becoming one of the most highly regarded forms of art. While the Renaissance had introduced innovations in the art world, these became more elaborate during the Baroque movement.

  • The economic decline in the latter 16th and 17th Century provoked a general feeling of unrest and much instability across Spain; art became more complicated and elaborate.
  • The Baroque period was an important period in Spanish literature, particularly with poetry, but also with the birth of the contemporary novel, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, and the idea of the picaresque novel.

Many stories in this era focused on the individual, and literature became more accessible; Baroque literature was often published in a plethora of languages besides Latin, there was a focus on the importance of cultural identity, and literacy rates increased even amongst those not part of high economic and social classes. Characteristics marking Baroque literature in Spain included disappointment, pessimism, time and life’s brevity; these ideas were generated as a result of a loss of trust and a sense of disillusionment after the Renaissance had not fulfilled its promise of the restoration of harmony and perfection across the world. Within poetry specifically, satire and mythology were common themes; satire served the purpose of underlining the flaws of the citizens of Baroque society, and representing important people in the courts in a comical way was a common aspect of the period. Although the previous century had seen successes both in trade and colonization, the beginning of the Baroque period saw a range of Spanish writers subliminally express their disappointment with the Renaissance ideals.

The philosophical concept of ‘Neostoicism’ was also prevalent, which involved writers reverting to medieval ideologies, and perceived and presented the world as a place for suffering, which led to spiritual and existential crises. Poetry concerned with religion and love was also very common, exploring pastoral imagery and mirroring the songbooks during the Renaissance. The picaresque novel was also born in this period, when in 1604, Francisco de Quevedo wrote The Life Story of the Sharper called Don Pablos, the picaresque novel was particularly relevant in the Baroque period as it epitomized the notion of the ‘baroque hero’, for  whom it was necessary to navigate and survive in a world of deception and change. Picaros are naturally intelligent, cunning and competent in the face of adversity, and these literary figures contrast with the rigid stoical strength characteristic of the knights in literature of the Middle Ages.

  • Back

Latest Student Articles