Spanish and Portuguese literature
Biblical and Hebraic Influences
One result of the Christian struggle against Muslim invaders of the Iberian peninsula from the eighth century onward was the blending of national and religious aspirations, which revealed itself in Spanish literature. Jews and Christians cooperated in translating the Bible into the vernacular, and the Old Testament version was taken direct from the Hebrew in renderings that antedate 1250. Thus, although Juan I of Aragon prohibited such activities in 1233, *Alfonso the Wise (Alfonso X of Castile, 1221–1284) enthusiastically encouraged the translation of the Bible into Spanish. Indeed, Alfonso himself, in his General e grande Estoria, linked the history of the world as known in his time with the Hebraic history of the Bible. In the 15th century further biblical projects were promoted by Jews or Conversos. The version by Moses *Arragel (1422) was followed by that published by Abraham *Usque, whose Ferrara Bible (1553) appeared in two slightly differing editions. Usque's Bible inspired Jewish translations into Judeo-Spanish or *Ladino, the dialect of Spanish which Jewish exiles took with them after the Expulsion of 1492. With the official Catholic ban on Spanish versions of the Bible a century later, these became a Jewish monopoly, and after 1600 Spain ceased to be a Bible-reading country until the Spanish hierarchy changed its policy at the end of the 18th century.
During the Renaissance, however, the Bible was a significant influence in Spanish and Portuguese literature, though more especially among writers of Jewish or *Marrano origin, whether in the Iberian peninsula or abroad. Luis de *León (1527–1591), a humanist scholar and poet whose New Christian descent was responsible for his spending five years in the cells of the Inquisition, is said to have translated the Song of Songs from the Hebrew, and biblical themes and metaphors greatly influenced his original verse. Much the same may be said of the mystical poets of the Spanish Renaissance, notably Saint John of the Cross (1542–1591). Biblical echoes can even be found in the works of a completely secular writer such as Garcilaso de la Vega (1503–1536). Diego Sánchez (c. 1530) composed a Farsa de Salomón and other plays on Abraham, Moses, and David; Micael de Carvajal (c. 1575) wrote a drama about Joseph; and the 96 biblical autos of the Madrid Codex (1550–75) include 26 on Old Testament subjects. Solomón *Usque (c. 1530–c. 1596), a professing Jew of Marrano origin, wrote a Spanish Purim play, Ester, first staged in the Venice ghetto in 1558.
Biblical drama and poetry really became prominent, however, from the 17th century. In Spain the prolific Tirso de Molina (Gabriel Téllez, c. 1584–1648) composed La mejor espigadera (1634), based on the story of Ruth; and La venganza de Tamar (1634), a drama about Absalom. The Old Testament played an even more important part in the writings of Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600–1681), who made use of the biblical themes of the Babylonian captivity (in La cena de Baltasar), the Ark of the Covenant, David, Solomon, and Job for his autos sacramentales (religious plays). The auto of Spain's Golden Age had been anticipated to a great extent by the religious plays and moralities of Gil Vicente (c. 1465–c. 1536), a Portuguese court dramatist, many of whose works were written in Spanish. Writers of Jewish origin inspired by the Bible include Felipe *Godínez (c. 1588–c. 1639), a Seville dramatist and preacher, who wrote plays about Isaac, David, Haman and Mordecai, Job, and Judith. Others who left the peninsula to take refuge abroad were Francisco (Joseph) de *Caceres, whose Los siete Días de la Semana (1612) was an adaptation of a Creation epic, La Semaine, by the French Protestant *Du Bartas; David *Abenatar Melo, a Marrano revert to Judaism, who published a Spanish verse rendering of the Psalms (1626); and Antonio Enríquez *Gómez, an immensely popular writer, whose works include the biblical epic, El Sansón Nazareno (1656) and La Torre de Babilonia (1647). Two Portuguese Marrano poets who found inspiration in the Bible were João (Mose) *Pinto Delgado (d. 1653), a leader of the Crypto-Jewish community in Rouen, who dedicated to Cardinal Richelieu his Poema de la Reyna Ester, Lamentaciones del Profeta Jeremías, and Historia de Rut (Rouen, 1687); and Miguel de *Silveyra, whose baroque masterpiece, El Macabeo (Naples, 1638), was written in Spanish. The early 18th-century author Isaac Cohen de *Lara wrote a graceful Comedia famosa de Amán y Mordochay (Amsterdam, 1699), based on the Book of Esther and the related midrashic traditions, and a ballad about Jacob which was printed in the same volume. The works of Abraham de *Bargas, a refugee Marrano author and physician, included ethical discourses on the Bible, Pensamientos sagrados y educaciones morales (Leghorn, 1749).
During the 18th and 19th centuries biblical and other Hebraic themes became less common in Spanish and Portuguese literature, perhaps as a result of political and social conservatism and the disappearance of the Jews. Even in the 20th century, interest in these subjects has been largely restricted. A remarkable exception was the eminent Spanish novelist and critic Rafael Cansinos-Assens (1883–1964) of Marrano descent. Reverting to Judaism, he studied Hebrew and wrote a series of works on Jewish themes. These include Psalmos. El candelabro de los siete brazos (1914), love poems in "biblical" style; Las bellezas del Talmud (1919), translated selections; Salomé en la literatura (1919); Cuentos judios (1922); Las luminarias de Hanukah; Un episodio de la historia de Israel en España (1924), a novel; and El amor en el Cantar de los Cantares (1930), with texts in Hebrew and Spanish.
The Image of the Jew in Spanish Literature
Jews have generally been portrayed in Spanish literature in an unfavorable guise. Their earliest appearance is in the epic Poems del Cid (or Cantar de Mío Cod (c. 1140)) in which two moneylenders, Raquel and Vidas, are cheated by El Cid, the national hero, giving him 600 marks on the security of a richly decorated chest filled with sand. The episode has been variously interpreted, but it must have appealed to the antisemitism of the audiences listening to a troubadour telling the story. In his Milagros de Nuestra Señora, the poet Gonzalo de Berceo (c. 1195–c. 1265) repeats several miracles involving Jews, tales which enjoyed a European vogue: the Jews who are converted are saved, the others are portrayed as diabolical figures deserving the punishments of Hell. The 13th-century Disputa entre un cristiano y un judío, typical of the disputation literature written by Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Spain, is remarkable only for its coarseness and for the Christian's prurient interest in the Jewish rite of circumcision. Perhaps the most favorable medieval Spanish treatment of the Jew is found in the works of the infante Don Juan Manuel (1282–1348). In his Libro de los castigos Juan Manuel wrote with great sympathy of his doctor, Don Salamón, and recommended him in glowing terms to his son. In the 14th century, the poet and historian Pedro Lopez de Ayala (1332–1407) castigated the powerful court Jews in his Rimado de Palacio, a work satirizing all the contemporary ills of the nation as he saw them, and not specifically antisemitic. In the same century, the archpriest of Hita (Juan Ruiz, c. 1283–c. 1350) composed songs for Moorish and Jewish dancing girls, as well as for Christians. The late 14th- or early 15th-century Danza de la muerte (Dance of Death) hispanicizes a widespread European type of satire in that it includes a Moorish alfaquí and a rabbi among those whom Death invites to dance, treating them no better and no worse than the other victims.
Conversos and Marranos
Not surprisingly, the literature of the 15th century, reflecting the mounting tensions and hatreds of the period, is full of antisemitic references. Both Jews and Conversos (especially the latter) are objects of scorn, and are depicted as cowardly, sly, and mercenary. Juan Alfonso de *Baena's Cancionero (1445), an anthology of the 14th- and 15th-century verse, contains several attacks on Jews and Conversos, as well as one or two contributions by Jews. The somewhat later Coplas del Provincial, a vicious libel on the highest nobility of the country, accuses the hidalgos mainly of sexual deviation and Judaizing. The Converso poet Rodrigo de *Cota de Maguaque (c. 1460), who alluded to Jewish customs of his time, was outspokenly hostile to both Jews and Marranos. For this he was vigorously attacked by another Converso poet, Antón de *Montoro, who also engaged in a poetic feud with a third New Christian writer, Juan (Poeta) de *Valladolid.
The post-expulsion literature of the 16th and, even more, of the 17th centuries – Spain's Golden Age of letters – had its share of anti-Jewish attacks and plays on words and concepts. Ecclesiastical censorship limited the range of satire, but the Conversos were one of the acceptable targets. To call a man a "Jew" was a serious insult, and even the slightest reflection on his *limpieza de sangre ("purity of blood") was considered grossly offensive. Satirical references were made to the supposed physical imperfections of the Jew, to his desire for social position, and to his beliefs and practices. Names suggestive of Jewish identity were ridiculed, and the allegation that a person had an aversion to pork was a stock-in-trade insult. Even the verb esperar (to wait) became a cliché, referring to the patience of the Jews awaiting the Messiah. The satirist Quevedo (Francisco Gómez de Quevedo y Villegas, 1580–1645) attacked his literary rival, Luis de Góngora (1561–1627), with allusions to his nose – it was commonly believed that the nose revealed a man's Jewish origin – and threatened to anoint his own poems with bacon so that Góngora would be deterred from stealing them. Quevedo's writings were probably the most insistently anti-Jewish of the period, except for specifically anti-Jewish literature, such as sermons at *autos-da-fé, which were printed and widely read. By contrast, the Navarrese physician and writer Juan *Huarte de San Juan displayed marked sympathy for the Jews in his Examen de ingenios para las ciencias (1575), where he even suggested that Jews were especially suited to the practice of medicine. The great novelist Miguel de *Cervantes Saavedra who (like Huarte de San Juan) has been claimed as a Marrano, occasionally indulged in anti-Jewish poems, but derided the doctrine of limpieza. Two of his plays barely disguise his admiration for the Jew's religious tenacity and national vitality.
Other writers who used conventional attacks and jokes at Jewish expense were Tirso de Molina, Lope de Vega, Alonso Castillo Solórzano (1854–c. 1648), and Calderón. A more vicious accusation (found in Tirso's La Prudencia en la mujer, 1634) was that Converso doctors murdered their Christian patients. Lope de Vega's play, El niño inocente de la Guardia (1617), repeated the charge that the Marranos committed ritual murder (see *Blood Libel). Such an accusation was rare after 1492, when New Christians often occupied positions of power and could be formidable enemies. The story of the *Jewess of Toledo, the mistress of Alfonso VIII, provided the theme for
Modern Spanish Writers
Jewish characters are relatively unimportant in modern Spanish literature. The 19th-century romantics, Bécquer, Larra, and Zorrilla, occasionally wrote of exotic Jewish types, but displayed little sympathy for them. Among novelists, Benito Perez Galdós (1843–1920) in Misericordia (1897) created the delightful character of Almudena, who is described as a Moor but whose patois is based on some linguistic elements of *Ladino speech. In Fortunata y Jacinta (1886–87) Galdós shows that in the late 19th century Marranos were still thought to dominate Madrid business circles. Pío Baroja y Nessi (1872–1956), who was opposed to almost everything, also displayed literary antisemitism. In the 20th century, Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (1867–1928), a revolutionary writer who claimed Jewish descent, dealt with the problem of Majorca's *Chuetas in his novel, Los Muertos mandan (1909; "The Dead Command," 1919). Another liberal writer, Salvador de Madariaga (1886–1978), recreated in his novel El corazón de piedra verde (1943; "The Heart of Jade," 1944) the violent and romantic world of the 16th-century half-Jewish conquistador Sebastiano Garcilaso (d. 1559), father of the Peruvian historian, Garcilaso de la Vega ("El Inca," c. 1540–1616). A monumental work is the three-volume Judíos en la España moderna y contemporánea (1962) of Julio Caro Baroja. Among works by R. Cansinos Asséns in the same field are España y los judios espanoles … (1917) and Los judíos en la literatura Española en Sefard; episodios y símbolos (1950).
The Image of the Jew in Portuguese Literature
In general, the attitude toward Jews in Portuguese literature parallels that of Spanish writers. Portuguese literature is of somewhat later origin than Castilian, and medieval references are rare. There are occasional anti-Jewish remarks in the Cantigas d'escarnho e maldizer (13th–14th century), and it is worth recording that Alfonso X of Castile wrote his Cantigas de Santa María in Galician, a dialect of Portuguese. Fifteen of the miracles described here deal with Jews, who are portrayed as child-murderers, cheats, and agents of the devil. The Cancioneiro Geral (1516) of García de Resende (1470–1536) contains many satirical references to Jews, and Anrique da Mota pokes fun at the misfortunes of a Jewish tailor in his Farsa do Alfaiate. Jewish characters appear in several works by the versatile dramatist Gil Vicente who wrote in both Portuguese and Spanish and who witnessed the expulsion and forced conversion of the Jews in Portugal. In his religious Autos de Moralidade das Barcas and the Diálogo sôbre a Ressurreiçào, he presented the stereotyped arguments about the Jews as deicides, identified with the devil, but elsewhere he portrayed Jews more realistically. In the farces Inês Pereira (1523) and Juiz da Beira (1525), Vicente's Jewish characters and customs are based on personal observation, and if there is in them an element of caricature, this is also true of his other characters. In the first part of the Auto da Lusitânia (1532) the main characters are a Jewish tailor, D. Juda, and his wife and daughter, who are treated with remarkable delicacy and respect. In other works Vicente discreetly protested against the forced conversion of Jews and brutal attacks on New Christians.
After the expulsion of 1497, Portuguese Conversos and their descendants were subjected to literary attacks. In his Apólogos Dialogaes (1721) Francisco Manuel de Melo (1608–1666) wrote satirically of the converts in business, as did Manoel Monteiro, in Academia nos montes (1642). During the 16th and 17th centuries there were also many anti-Jewish doctrinal works, some by baptized Jews such as João Baptista de Este, but these were not of a literary nature.
In the 19th century the theme of love between a Christian youth and a beautiful Jewess was used by the Visconde de Almeida Garrett (1799–1854) in his Romanceiro e Cancioneiro Geral (3 vols., 1843–51) and by the Brazilian romantic poet Antônio de Castro Alves (1847–71). The same theme is the basis of the much-recited romantic poem "A Judía" of Tomás Ribeiro (1831–1901). A defense of the Jews was put forward by Alexandre Herculano de Carvalho e Araújo (1810–1877) in his classical História da origem e estabelecimento da Inquisção em Portugal (3 vols., 1854–59). Other writers who championed the Jews were the novelists Camilo Castelo Branco (1825–1890), himself of Jewish descent, and José Maria de Eça de Queirós (1846–1900), who wrote a scathing denunciation of German antisemitism and Bismarck's anti-Jewish policy in the sixth of his Cartas de Inglaterra (1903) and gave a remarkably vivid picture of life in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus in his novel A Relíquia. The martyred 18th-century playwright Antônio José da *Silva, was the central character of several works, including Castelo Branco's novel, O Judeu (2 vols., 1866), and the romantic drama, Antônio José – o Poeta e a Inquisição, by the Brazilian Domingos José Gonçalves de Magalhães (1811–1882).
The Jewish Contribution to Spanish Literature
The contribution of the Sephardim to Spanish literature was from the 12th to the 17th centuries, but a distinction must be made between the literary role of professing Jews and that of Conversos or New Christians, who were merely of Jewish origin. Spanish literature's earliest monuments, whose importance was discovered only in the 20th century, are intimately related to the two Semitic peoples living in Andalusia. These are the jarchas – short poetic endings, in colloquial Arabic or Mozarabic transcribed into Arabic or Hebrew characters, to longer compositions in classical Arabic or Hebrew, known as muwashashat. Of the more than 50 jarchas that are known, at least 20 form the endings to Hebrew muwashshat. The earliest was part of a muwashshat ("girdle poem") written by Joseph the Scribe and dedicated to Ismail ibn Nagrela (i.e., *Samuel ha-Nagid)
TRANSLATORS AND POETS
The Jews of medieval Spain also distinguished themselves as translators, forming an important bridge between Oriental, scientific, and ethical knowledge and the nascent European culture (see *Translations). Possessing a knowledge of Arabic, Hebrew, and one or another of the Romance languages, they were invaluable collaborators. The task of imparting Arabic learning to the western world was not limited to any one center, but of them all the most important was Toledo. In the 12th century Archbishop Raimundo (d. 1152) gathered Jews, Christians, and Moors there to translate Arabic scientific and philosophical texts. The prologue to the Latin version of *Avicenna's De Anima tells how the work was done. Juan Hispano, a Converso, translated orally from Arabic into Romance, which Dominicus Gundisalvi in turn translated into Latin. The Latin was written down by a scribe. In the 13th century Toledo was again a center of cultural activity, but now works were translated from Arabic into Castilian, reflecting the wish of Alfonso X to make the spoken language of his country that of government and culture. Alfonso's Jewish translators were Isaac ibn Cid, Don Abraham, and R. Judah ben Moses ha-Kohen (Judah Mosca). Judah (Jafuda) *Bonsenyor of Barcelona (d. 1331) compiled for James II of Aragon a volume of maxims in Catalan, mainly derived from Arabic and Jewish sources, titled Libre de Paraules e dits de Savis e Filosofs (c. 1300). Another Jewish savant was Isaac al-Carsoni, whose Hebrew astronomical tables, compiled for Pedro IV (1336–1387), were later translated into Latin and Catalan.
An early and famous Jewish composer of Spanish verse was Shem Tov b. Isaac Ardutiel, known to Spaniards as *Santob de Carrión and Don Santo. His Proverbios morales, written probably between 1355 and 1360, are the first examples of aphoristic verse in Spanish. Moses de Zaragua *Acan (c. 1300) rivals Santob as a Jewish literary pioneer in Spain. His Catalan verse treatise on chess was translated into Spanish in 1350. Jews also contributed to medieval Spanish culture through the literatura aljamiada, the name given to works in Spanish written in Arabic or Hebrew characters. An example of the latter is to be found in one of the four manuscripts in the Cambridge University Library of Santob's Proverbios (ed. by Ig. Gonzalez Wubera, 1947). This also contains a poetic treatment of the biblical story of Joseph, called Coplas de Yoçef, which was influenced by *Josephus and the Midrash, and later became important in Ladino literature.
JEWISH AND CONVERSO WRITERS
The writers active in Spain from the 15th century onward were invariably Marranos or Conversos, rather than professing Jews. The massacres that began in 1391, mass conversions, and the expulsion of 1492 combined to bring to an end Spanish Jewry's Golden Age and the open practice of Judaism in Spain. There were, of course, Converso writers before 1492, such as the moralist *Petrus Alfonsi in the 12th century (Disciplina clericalis, 1120), or the Christian apologist Alfonso de Valladolid (*Abner of Burgos) in the 14th. But the 15th century saw a completely new internal situation in Spain: a whole class of "New Christians" came into being, and at the same time popular antisemitism made a sharp cleavage between peoples and religions that had previously at least coexisted. The intellectual élite was composed largely of Conversos, and many of the writers and humanists who set the tone of the century were New Christians. They also rose to fame in the Church and at court. Ferdinand and Isabella, who signed the decree of expulsion, were not averse to having their deeds recorded by Conversos. Diego de Valera (c. 1412–88), who wrote the Crónica de los Reyes Católicos, was the son of Alonso *Chirino (d. 1430?), the baptized physician of Juan II of Castile and author of some curious works on medicine. The official chronicler of the Catholic monarchs and secretary to the queen was Hernando del Pulgar (1436–1493), also thought to have been a Converso.
New Christians were among the poets active in the reign of Juan II (1458–79), and later in the century several writers of minor stature testified to the psychological state of the converts. As members of a minority group scorned and upbraided by the majority, they often took refuge in satire directed against each other – or even against themselves. In literary polemics of the era, the accusation of being a Marrano (Crypto-Jew) was frequently leveled, whether or not with justification. Among Spanish writers of real or imagined New Christian extraction were Juan *Ávarez Gato, Rodrigo de Cota de Maguaque, Juan (Poeta) de Valladolid, Juan de España, el Viejo, Juan de Mena (1411–1456), Antón de Montoro, and Alfonso de la *Torre. Beneath the badinage and cynical laughter, however, one feels the bitterness of the outcast. Two famous prose works written in the reign of Isabella of Castile were by New Christians: the Cárcel de Amor (1492) of Diego de San Pedro and La Celestina (1499), written either entirely or in large part by Fernando de *Rojas. Both works are the products of the sadness and suffering of the Conversos.
The Later Conversos
While New Christians undoubtedly played an important part in Spanish cultural life throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, it is not easy to determine their contribution with any precision, since they found it advisable to conceal their origin. As a result of the statutes on purity of blood (see limpieza de sangre), known Conversos found their opportunities for ecclesiastical, social, and political advancement severely limited, and even the most orthodox Catholics were affected. The grandfather of Spain's greatest saint and mystic, Santa Teresa of Avila, had been penanced by the Inquisition for Judaizing, and there is evidence that the father of the great 16th-century humanist, Juan Luis *Vives, was burned as a Judaizer, and that he himself attended a secret synagogue as a child.
Conversos also distinguished themselves as innovators in Spanish prose. The first pastoral novel written in Spanish was Diana (1559?) by Jorge de Montemayor (c. 1520–1561), a writer of Portuguese origin who was taunted with Jewish ancestry by one of his contemporaries. The picaresque novel, considered a peculiarly Spanish invention, owes much to Converso writers. The anonymous author of the first such work, La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes (1554), may have been a New Christian, as a brief passage at the beginning of the work is a veiled satire on racial prejudice. No picaresque novels appeared during the reign of Philip II (1556–98), but the year following his death saw the publication of the first part of Guzmán de Alfarache (1599) by Mateo *Alemán. Luis Vélez de Guevara (1579–1644) contributed to the genre with El diablo Cojuelo (1641), as did Antonio Enriquez Gómez (see above), with El siglo pitagórico y Vida de don Gregorio Guadaña (1644). No Converso appeared in the first rank of dramatists during Spain's Golden Age, but several had their works produced on the Madrid stage. Apart from Enríquez Gómez, they include the prolific Juan Pérez de Montalván (1602–1638), the son of a New Christian bookseller and publisher, who nevertheless was appointed a notary of the Holy Office and who became a friend and follower of Lope de Vega; and Felipe Godinez (see above). From the 18th century onward, there were undoubtedly many Spanish writers of Jewish descent, but by then the question had become less important. In the 19th century, José *Taronji y Cortés, a Spanish priest and Catalan poet of Marrano origin, testified to the prejudice besetting the Chuetas of Majorca. So far as Spanish literature is concerned, however, marranismo was unimportant after the 17th century.
In the Marrano diaspora, on the other hand, professing Jews – refugees or their descendants – made an important contribution to Spanish letters throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Refugees active in Amsterdam in the latter half of the 17th century were Joseph Semah (Ẓemaḥ) *Arias, a former Spanish army captain; Francisco (Joseph) de Caceres; two poetesses, Isabel (Rebecca) de *Correa and Isabel *Enríquez; Isaac *Gómez de Sossa, whose father had been physician to the infante Fernando of Spain; Isaac Cohen de Lara; and Nicolás (Daniel Judah) de *Oliver y Fullana, a former Spanish colonel. Miguel (Daniel Levi) de *Barrios was one of the most eminent of these exiles. His travels took him to the West Indies and to the Low Countries, where he led a double life as a Spanish army captain in Brussels and as a Jew in Amsterdam.
The Jewish Contribution to Portuguese Literature
In medieval Portugal there were Jewish, as well as Moorish, troubadours, one of whom was called "O Judeu de Elvas" (the Jew of Elvas). Most Portuguese writers of Jewish descent were Marranos, and many fled their native land in the 16th and 17th centuries. Samuel *Usque's Consolaçam ás Tribulaçoens de Israel, though published abroad (Ferrara, 1553), is considered a classic of Portuguese literature. The novelist and poet Bernardim *Ribeiro, known as the father of Portuguese bucolic literature (Hystoria de Menina y Moça, Ferrara, 1554), was probably a Marrano. Manoel *Fernandes Villereal was one of the many 17th-century Portuguese authors who wrote mainly in Spanish. Perhaps the most famous victim of the Portuguese Inquisition was Antônio José da Silva ("O Judeu," 1705–1739), who was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Da Silva was one of the few important Portuguese dramatists of the 18th century, and although his career was cut short at the age of 34, his works continued to be performed and published, albeit anonymously, long after his death. Although many Portuguese writers from the 19th century onward proudly claimed Jewish ancestry, specifically Jewish contributions to the literature of Portugal effectively came to an end by 1700.
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Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.