Gómez Manrique Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

During his lifetime, Gómez Manrique was known simply as a poet, the word “dramatist” having little or no relevance in fifteenth century Spain. His cancionero consists of 108 compositions conserved in manuscript form through the efforts of his good friend, Don Rodrigo Pimental, the count of Benavente. In addition to the courtly love poetry typical of his generation, his most famous works are moral treatises and elegies clearly within the tradition of Juan de Mena and Iñigo Lopez de Mendoza, marqués de Santillana. In fact, the great Spanish critic Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo was of the opinion that Manrique was the third best poet of his time after Santillana and Mena.

His best work is undoubtedly Coplas para el Señor Diego Arias de Ávila. Dedicated to one of the favorites of Henry IV of Spain, it is both an elegy and an impassioned plea for the judicious and moderate use of power by one who had been injured by its abuse. In its lyricism and careful elaboration of the Ubi Sunt theme, it is clear that it served as a model for its more famous counterpart, Las coplas que fizo para la muerte de su padre, written by his nephew and admirer, Jorge Manrique.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

To Gómez Manrique belongs the honor of being the first known dramatist in the Spanish language. There has been much speculation about the origins of the Spanish theater, but aside from a few Latin religious plays and a fragment of the Auto de los reyes magos of the twelfth century, little or nothing is known about the early Spanish theater until Manrique’s Representación del nacimiento de Nuestro Señor. Much has been surmised, however, from the scanty evidence, and Representación del nacimiento de Nuestro Señor has become one of the focal points in a growing controversy. Many critics have pointed to it as evidence for the existence of at least a flourishing religious medieval theater. In this theory, Manrique’s work is only the last link in a chain, most of whose other links have unfortunately been lost. Others such as A. D. Deyermond deny such a relationship and insist that Representación del nacimiento de Nuestro Señor must stand alone and cannot be attached so arbitrarily to any dramatic tradition. Nevertheless, one fact remains unchallenged. Representación del nacimiento de Nuestro Señor is a real play and was designed for a real audience and was almost certainly performed.

As more facts concerning the daily life of early Renaissance Spain have come to light, attention has shifted to Manrique’s other religious work, Lamentaciones hechas para la Semana Santa. Given the static nature of Lamentaciones hechas para la Semana Santa, scholars always had assumed that it was never intended for performance, but now some evidence seems to indicate that brief religious dramatic works were performed as part of the ceremonial processions of Holy Week, much like the much more elaborate autos sacramentales of the following decades. Manrique, corregidor of Toledo and in charge of all civic demonstrations in a city famous for its religious spectacles, could have written Lamentaciones hechas para la Semana Santa essentially for its performance through the streets and plazas of Toledo on Good Friday.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Deyermond, A. D. The Middle Ages. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1971. A study of the literary history of Spain during the period in which Manrique wrote.

Scholberg, Kenneth R. Introducción a la poesía de Gómez Manrique. Madison, Spain: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, 1984. This Spanish-language volume on Manrique’s poetry sheds light on his dramatic works.