What is the Golden Age?
It is known as the Golden Age the period that begins approximately from the year 1492 and ends in 1659, known as such because it is considered a fundamental moment for the development and artistic flourishing, especially focused on the literary world with the emergence of important creations. It is suggested that these dates be taken as points of reference, without forgetting that it is not a framework of concrete dates.
Thus, the term was used to refer to this important moment in which the political strength of Spain, dominated by the spirit of the Counter-Reformation and the Holy Inquisition, in addition to other political, cultural and social situations, was decisive for its cultural development, where it received important international recognition.
Emergence of the Golden Age
Regarding the use of the term and its use for the first time, there are several positions. One of them is related to the fact that the term was used for the first time by Luis José Velasque, Marquis of Valdeflores, a scholar who used it during the 18th century in his text Origins of Castilian Poetry in 1754. Although the scholar initially referred to the sixteenth century, the denomination continued to be used to frame other moments, including the periods of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
However, others suggest that it was so named because of a poem called The Labors and the Days, written by the Greek author Hesiod. In the poem the author makes a comparison using “golden age” to refer to the flourishing of all the arts and also of knowledge, a fundamental moment for these areas.
Literary development during the Golden Age
The intense scientific, artistic and intellectual creation that took place at this time produced the origin of two fundamental periods in the development of two important aesthetic moments. These were the following:
The first period takes place during the 16th century, a time that coincides with the reign of the Catholic kings of Spain, Charles I and Philip II. This period is especially marked by an interpretation that is made to the influences of Italy during the Renaissance, which cast varied aesthetic forms and that later will give rise to syncretism with the Moors.
At this time some aesthetics were consolidated, such as the diffusion of humanistic knowledge that gave rise to the “anti-classical” tendencies that would be seen mainly in the theater. The vulgarization of literature also arose, a tendency that went against the classical, the appearance of the so-called “vulgar” themes with the introduction of characters such as villagers, shepherds, peasants, among others, and the use of common language in the works.
This second period takes place in the 17th century and coincides with the reign of the Catholic kings Philip III, Philip IV and Charles II. During this time the region experiences an important flourishing of two artistic fields in particular, on the one hand the plastic arts, and on the other hand, literature. The literature of this time will begin to start its way towards a style of its own in which it includes much more daring social themes with a variety of possible forms.
At this time, at the same time, in literature there is a great exaltation not only for the vulgar, as it was already being cultivated, but also for the noble and a search for recovery of past values such as those related to the religious world, for example. In this way, a language with a touch of formality will begin to be used to exalt the noble.
On the other hand, it is important to mention that another important aspect during this process in the literary field has to do with the tendency that begins to be strengthened by the vulgarization of humanistic knowledge, a situation that generates genres such as comedy and satire, which will be reflected in the picaresque novel and the polyphonic novel, introduced in the work Don Quixote by Cervantes.
Characteristics of the Golden Age
After this tour, let’s take a look at the most important characteristics of this period in which a great part of the most important works of Spain, Europe and, in general, of universal literature flourished:
One of the most important features of this important flowering of literary creation has to do with the themes included in the works. Thus, it is possible to distinguish themes that are constituted for the introduction of ideas, which highlight the implications of the transformation of time, the lack of value of the world, the brevity of life, the world as a space of pain and suffering, among others that will be key to the works and that will allow them to gain great recognition not only at this time, but in posterity.
Use of satire
This will be an important element that will appear in different formats of literary production. Thus, it will be possible to find satire in poetry, but also in other fields such as drama and in the narrative genre. In particular, a direct satire of classicism, one of the most important axes of the literary development of that time, is taken.
With the rootedness to the Catholic tradition, the religious content will be important in many of the works developed during the Golden Age in Spain. Thus, especially poets were interested in exploring the religious path and capturing it in their works.
Comedy in the plays
Comedy took mainly the theater. In fact, many experts agree that it is the theater and its genre, one of the most important fields of flourishing during this period. So much so, that during the Golden Age more than 400 plays were collected that were of great importance for the literary development, and whose names will be part of the list of authors of world literature.
Although during this period Spain became one of the regions that exported the most artistic productions, it is also true that the scholars who passed through the universities acquired existing knowledge, receiving a great influence from scholars of the Middle Ages, as well as from Hebrews and Arabs.
It is also important to note that during this time, literary exploration was a path that allowed many authors to reach new forms and creative processes. This is why genres such as the picaresque novel, the book of chivalry, the sonnet, conceptism as a movement, the school of culteranism, the Carpe diem topic that refers in Latin to “seize the day” and the Beatus ille topic, which focuses its attention on the beauty of the countryside.
Other important genres cultivated during this period are: narrative, poetry and drama. This was possible due to the discovery of the authors, but also to the influences of other nearby regions such as the Renaissance and the Baroque, which we have already discussed in depth in another section.
Among the main authors of this period, we can highlight Miguel de Cervantes with his works Don Quixote and Novelas ejemplares, also Luis de Góngora who excelled in drama and poetry, Santa Teresa de la Cruz important figure in poetry, San Juan de la Cruz, religious and poet, Francisco de Quevedo, author of poetry, drama and narrative, Pedro Calderón de la Barca noted for plays such as La vida es sueño and Tirso de Molina narrator, poet and playwright.
Other authors were: Luis de León, Luis de Granada, Baltasar Gracián, José de Cañizares, Antonio de Zamora, Garcilaso de la Vega, Juan Boscán, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, Baltasar de Castiglione, Cristóbal de Castillejo, Santa Teresa de Jesús, Luis de León, Alonso de Ercilla, Francisco de Aldana, Andrés Fernández de Andrada, Bartolomé brothers, Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola, Fernando de Herrera, Francisco de Medrano, Francisco de Rioja, Rodrigo Caro, Baltasar del Alcázar, Bernardo de Balbuena, Guillén de Castro, Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, Luis Vélez de Guevara, Antonio Mira de Amescua, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Antonio de Herrera, Tordesillas, Antonio de Solís, Diego de San Pedro, Estebanillo González, Gaspar Gil Polo, among others.
It is also possible to identify very important works of this time, such as: El lazarillo de Tormes, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, La Celestina, La cueva de Salamanca, La vida es sueño, El retablo de las maravillas, El cerco de Numancia, Pedro de Urdemalas, La Galatea, Novelas ejemplares, El burlador de Sevilla y convidado de piedra, La Isla de los Monopantos, El alguacil endemoniado, among others.
Thus we end one of the most important moments in the history of literature, a period in which emerge those that will be part of the most important compendium of works of universal literature and that will be a source of inspiration for authors and artists of posterity.