In addition to his dramatic works, Juan del Encina wrote numerous learned poems, amatory lyrics, jocose-satiric verses, and villancicos (carols), all published in the different editions of his Cancionero. Arte de poesia castellana (1496; the art of Castilian poetry) is a treatise on the theory of poetry. Églogas de Virgilio (1496) is a paraphrase of the pastoral dialogues of Vergil’s Eclogues (43-37 b.c.e.; also known as Bucolics; English translation, 1575). Trivagia (1521; journey to Jerusalem), Encina’s last work, is an extensive poem offering an account of the journey to Jerusalem that Encina undertook in July, 1519, and from which he returned in 1521.
Juan del Encina has been called the patriarch, or father, of the Spanish theater. On the other hand, a number of literary historians have generally referred to Encina’s dramatic productions as los primeros balbuceos (the first babbles) of the Spanish theater. This somewhat irreverent qualification was doubtless inspired by the unfavorable comparison of Encina’s first dramatic essays with the perfection this new literary genre was later to reach in the Spanish comedia of the Golden Age.
In Spain there is no well-documented, gradual evolution from a medieval liturgical tradition to the formation of a secular drama, as has been the case in other Western European countries, such as France, England, and Germany. The only existing text of a vernacular drama is the Aucto de los Reyes Magos, dated around 1150. There is no textual support for the existence of a liturgical dramatic tradition in medieval Spain between 1150 and 1450. Encina established the drama as a literary genre in Spain and, indeed, fully deserves the distinction of being called the father of the Spanish theater.
Encina’s dramatic universe is made up of pastoral poetry, and the dramatis personae of both his religious and his secular plays are shepherds. The influence of Vergil’s Bucolics, which Encina translated and adapted, thus makes itself felt not only in the mere adoption of the term Égloga, which the Salamancan used for all his plays,...
Andrews, J. Richard. Juan del Encina: Prometheus in Search of Prestige. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959. A classic study of the works of Encina. Bibliography and index.
Hathaway, Robert L. Love in the Early Spanish Theatre. Madrid: Playor, 1975. A look at the topic of love in the first Spanish dramas, including those of Encina.
Kidd, Michael. “Myth, Desire, and the Play of Inversion: The Fourteenth Eclogue of Juan del Encina.” Hispanic Review 65, no. 2 (Spring, 1997): 217-236. Kidd looks at the Égloga de Plácida y Vitoriano, which he sees as a dramatization of sexual desire.
Sullivan, Henry W. Juan del Encina. Boston: Twayne, 1976. A basic biography of Encina that covers his life and works. Bibliography and index.