Bartolomé de Torres Naharro was born in the second half of the fifteenth century; the precise date of his birth is unknown. On the evidence of certain references in the Comedia jacinta, scholars have assumed that Torres Naharro attended the University of Salamanca, either as a full-time student or as a servant to a wealthy boy, at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries.
In several of his poems, Juan del Encina indicates a friendly relationship with one Bartolo, a priest from Extremadura. He is no doubt referring to Bartolomé de Torres Naharro, whom he most assuredly first met in Salamanca at some point in the 1490’s in his capacity as a producer-director, with Torres Naharro a student-actor. Both playwrights undertook their real apprenticeship in humanistic studies at Rome during the period 1503-1512.
A mecca for the adventuresome, a haven for religious outcasts, a battleground for the Spanish soldier, and the center for Renaissance thought, Italy proved a powerful magnet for the young Torres Naharro. The route to Rome was, however, indirect; Torres Naharro could very possibly have entered the military in the service of the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, before arriving there. It has been suggested that military expeditions took him first to Andalusia, Valencia, and Catalonia. In his diverse travels in Spain and Italy, Torres Naharro likely acquired his knowledge of the Valencian dialect of Catalan, and of various dialects of Italian. These languages, in addition to classical and vulgar Latin, a smattering of Portuguese and French, and, naturally, Castilian, found their way into Comedia seraphina and The Buttery. Torres Naharro’s Italian experience began in 1503-1507. As a soldier, he may have served in squadrons in the employ of Cesare Borgia, at Faenza, Forli, and Rimini. In his play Comedia soldadesca, the playwright provides one with ample, firsthand information concerning many facets of Spanish military life in Italy.
A few years after arriving in Italy, Torres Naharro probably staged a wedding play, Comedia jacinta, as entertainment for the 1509 marriage ceremony of Fernando de Avalos and Vittoria Colonna, held on the Italian isle of Ischia. By 1510, Torres Naharro had firmly established residence in Rome and was producing and acting in his first full-length plays: Comedia seraphina and Comedia soldadesca. His first known performed play, however, is Diálogo del nascimiento (the Christmas dialogue), with its accompanying Addición del diálogo (addition to the dialogue), performed for a non-Roman theater audience at a Yuletide marriage festival.
By 1513, Gillet conjectures, Torres Naharro had secured a literary patron in the person of either Giulio de Medici or Giovanni de Medici, the latter of whom became Pope Leo X (1513-1523). To have secured such favors means that Torres Naharro must have already proven his ability as both poet and dramatist.
Torres Naharro’s performance places would have been palace meeting halls visited while accompanying his first protector throughout Italy. For many Renaissance playwrights, noble marriages and inaugural ceremonies for public officials provided occasions to display dramatic talents. In addition to...
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