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Amadis de Gaula, Page Two

Article from the 1911 Encyclopedia


A stronger argument in favour of the Portuguese case is drawn from the existing Spanish text. In book I, chapters 40 and 42, it is recorded that the Infante Alphonso of Portugal suggested a radical change in the narrative of Briolanja's relations with Amadis. This prince has been identified as the Infante Alphonso who died in 1312, or as Alphonso IV. who ascended the Portuguese throne in 1325. Were either of these identifications established, the date of composition might be referred with certainty to the beginning of the 14th century or the end of the 13th. But both identifications are conjectural. Nevertheless the passage in the Spanish text undeniably lends some support to the Portuguese claim, and recent critics have inclined to the belief that Amadis de Gaula was written by Joao de Lobeira, a Galician knight who frequented the Portuguese court between 1258 and 1285, and to whom are ascribed two fragments of a poem in the Colocci-Brancuti Canzoniere (Nos. 240 and 240b) which reappears with some unimportant variants in Amadis de Gaula (book II, chapter 11). The coincidence may be held to account in some measure for the traditional association of a Lobeira with the authorship of Amadis de Gaula; but, though curious, it warrants no definite conclusion being drawn from it. Against the Portuguese claim it is argued that the Villancico corresponding to Joao de Lobeiro's poem is an interpolation in the Spanish text, that Portuguese prose was in a rudimentary stage of development at the period when -- ex hypothesi -- the romance was composed, and that the book was very popular in Spain almost a century before it is even mentioned in Portugal. Lastly, there is the incontrovertible fact that Amadis de Gaula exists in Castilian, while it remains to be proved that it ever existed in Portuguese. As to its substance, it is beyond dispute that much of the text derives from the French romances of the Round Table; but the evidence does not enable us to say (1) whether it was pieced together from various French romances; (2) whether it was more or less literally translated from a lost French original; or (3) whether the first Peninsular adapter or translator was a Castilian or a Portuguese. On these points judgment must be suspended. There can, however, be no hesitation in accepting Cervantes' verdict on Amadis de Gaula as the "best of all the books of this kind that have ever been written." It is the prose epic of feudalism, and its romantic spirit, its high ideals, its fantastic gallantry, its ingenious adventures, its mechanism of symbolic wonders, and its flowing style have entranced readers of such various types as Francis I. and Charles V., Ariosto and Montaigne.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. -- Carolina Michaelis de Vasconcellos and Gottfried Baist in the Grundriss der romanischen Philologie (Strassburg, 1897 ), ii. Band, 2. Abteiluna, pp. 216-226 and 440-442: Ludwig Braunfels, Kritischer Versuch uber den Roman Annadie von Glallien (Leipzig, 1876); Theophilo Braga, Historia das novelas portuguezas de cavalleria (Porto, 1873), Curso de litteratura e arte portugueza (Lisboa, 1881), and Questoes de litteratura e arte portugueza (Lisboa, 1885); Marcelino Menendez y Pelayo, Origenes de la novela (Madrid, 1905); Eugene Baret, De l'Amadis de Glaule et de son influence sur les moeurs et la litterature au XVIe et au XVIIe siecle (Paris, 1873). (J. F. K.)

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