Little is known of the life of Gómez Manrique; even the year of his birth is uncertain. His family was a prominent one: The Manriques were proud of the fact that they were men of both “armas y letras,” and the artistic endeavors of the Manrique family itself constitute a brief summary of the literary life of late medieval and early Renaissance Spain.
Manrique’s uncle and mentor Iñigo López de Mendoza, marqués de Santillana, following a family tradition, was famous for his serranillas as well as his didactic and allegorical decires. Always an innovator, he prematurely tried to introduce the Italian sonnet into Spain and can be considered the first Spanish literary critic. His Carta to Dom Pedro (1449) essentially deals with the nature of poetry but also gives a critical overview of European and Spanish poetry. His nephew Jorge Manrique, for whom Gómez himself served as teacher and role model, immortalized his father, Rodrigo Manrique, the maestre of Santiago, and himself in the aforementioned Las coplas que fizo para la muerte de su padre. Gómez Manrique, in addition to writing poetry and drama, was one of the foremost orators of his day, an art that he freely and openly used to further the political ends of his family. If in the twentieth century, the name Manrique calls to mind literary associations, in the fifteenth, it meant only one thing—power. The Manriques were the most powerful warlords of their time. With their participation, kings and queens were made and broken. In a distinct departure from the prevailing practice of the century, however, they were also known for their honor, and they were men of their word. Gómez himself was often called on to act as witness or arbitrator in important legal and political decisions.
Although much about the life of Gómez Manrique remains...
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