Garcilaso de la Vega revolutionized Castilian poetry, playing a unique role in Spanish literature and achieving a notable place in European literature as well. In accomplishing this poetic revolution, Garcilaso may rightly be called the first modern Spanish poet. Although the fifteenth century in Spain had seen efforts to introduce into Castilian poetry the Italian hendecasyllable, attempts such as those of the Marquis of Santillana, who composed a collection of “Sonetos fechos al itálico modo” (sonnets made in the Italian way), had not been successful. Equally unsuccessful had been the use of a non-Italianate hendecasyllabic line by the fifteenth century poets Juan de Mena and Francisco Imperial.
Garcilaso’s perfection of the Castilian hendecasyllable, successful cultivation of both Italianate verse forms and metrical innovations, and his use of classical models, all contributed to a poetry of intimate sentiment, delicate metaphor, conceptual content, and musicality. Religious themes, so important in the poetry of even the late Middle Ages in Spain, are completely absent in his verse, which crystallized the introduction into Spain of the essentially secular values of the Renaissance. From fifteenth century Spanish poetry, Garcilaso retained a certain predilection for wordplay, along with the favorable influence of the Catalan poet Ausias March. While at times expressively manipulating syntax, Garcilaso created a poetic diction soon regarded as a model of lucid simplicity for the Spanish language.
In international terms, Garcilaso is also notable for having preceded by many years the introduction of Italianate forms and sentiment into both English and French poetry. His use of pastoral poetry to express interiorized sentiments, of interest to the student of comparative literature, also represents a notable contribution to the development of this international literary mode.
Garcilaso’s poetry, all of which was published posthumously, was...
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Cammarata, Joan. Mythological Themes in the Works of Garcilaso de la Vega. Potomac, Md.: Studia Humanitatis, 1983. A critical analysis of Garcilaso’s use of folklore and mythology. Includes bibliographical references and index.
Fernández-Morera, Dario. The Lyre and the Oaten Flute: Garcilaso and the Pastoral. London: Tamesis, 1982. A critical study of selected works by Garcilaso. Includes bibliographical references and index.
Ghertman, Sharon. Petrarch and Garcilaso. London: Tamesis, 1975. Ghertman analyzes and compares the linguistic styles of Francesco Petrarca and Garcilaso.
Heiple, Daniel L. Garcilaso de la Vega and the Italian Renaissance. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994. Heiple analyzes Garcilaso’s work and its place in the history of Italian renaissance literature. Includes bibliographical references and index.
Keniston, Hayward, ed. Garcilaso de la Vega. New York: Kraus Reprint, 1967. A critical study of Garcilaso’s life and works. Includes bibliographical references and index.