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For the Peruvian writer, Garcilaso de la Vega, see Inca Garcilaso de la Vega

Garcilaso de la Vega (Toledomarker, c. 1501– Le Muymarker, Nicemarker, Francemarker, October 14, 1536), was a Spanishmarker soldier and poet. The prototypical "Renaissance man," he was the most influential (though not the first or the only) poet to introduce Italian Renaissance verse forms, poetic techniques and themes to Spain. His exact birth date is unknown, but estimations by scholars put his year of birth between 1498 and 1503.

[[Image:Garcilaso.jpg|frame|right|Diáfano y querencioso caballero,

me siento atravesado del cuchillo

de tu dolor, y si lo considero

fue tu dolor tan grande y tan sencillo.

Antes de que la voz se me concluya,

pido a mi lengua el alma de la tuya

para descarriar entre las hojas

este dolor de recomida grama

que llevo, estas congojas

de puñal a mi silla y a mi cama.

Égloga, Miguel Hernández]]

Garcilaso was born in the Spanish city of Toledomarker. His father, Pedro Suárez de Figueroa, was a noble in the royal court of the Catholic Kings. His mother's name was Sancha de Guzmán. He had six brothers and sisters: Leanor, Pedro, Fernando, Francisco, Gonzalo, and Juana. Garcilaso was the second-oldest son which meant he did not receive the mayorazgo (entitlement) to his father's estate. However, he spent his younger years receiving an extensive education, mastered five languages (Spanish, Greek, Latin, Italian and French), and learned how to play the zither, lute and the harp. After his schooling, he joined the military in hopes of joining the royal guard. He was named "contino" (imperial guard) of King Carlos I (also Carlos V of the Holy Roman Empire) in 1520, and he was made a member of the Order of Santiago in 1523.

There were a few women in the life of this poet. His first lover was Guiomar Carrillo with whom he had an illegitimate child. He had another suspected lover named Isabel Freire, who was a lady-in-waiting of Isabel of Portugal. In 1525, Garcilaso married Elena de Zúñiga who served as a lady-in-waiting for the King's favorite sister, Leonor. Their marriage took place in Garcilaso's hometown of Toledo in one of the family's estates. He had six children: Lorenzo, an illegitimate child with Guiomar Carrillo, Garcilaso, Íñigo de Zúñiga, Pedro de Guzmán, Sancha, and Francisco.

Garcilaso's military career meant that he took part in the numerous battles and campaigns conducted by Carlos V across Europe. His duties took him to Italymarker, Germanymarker, Tunisiamarker and Francemarker. In 1532 for a short period he was exiled to a Danube island where he was the guest of the Baron György Cseszneky, royal court judge of Győrmarker. Later in France, he would fight his last battle. The King desired to take control of Marseillemarker and eventually control of the Mediterranean Seamarker, but this goal was never realized. Garcilaso de la Vega died on October 14, 1536 in Nice, Francemarker after suffering 25 days from an injury sustained in a battle at Le Muymarker. His body was first buried in the Church of Santo Domingo in Nice, but two years later his wife had his body moved to the Church of San Pedro Martir in Toledo.

The Renaissance

When the Renaissance began in Spain at the end of the 15th century, the country was at the point of "unification." The conquest of Granada, the expulsion of the Jews, and the publication of the first grammar of the Castilian language all occurred in 1492, and are often taken together as being symbolic of that unification. But underneath this superficial unity, there were social pressures and conflicts of unimaginable proportions. The Spanish Golden Age (16th and 17th centuries), called by Américo Castro the Conflictive Age, was a time in which individuals became obsessed with a notion of honor that was based on the opinion of others and on one's status as Old Christian or New Christian. Administrative posts formerly occupied by Jews were occupied by many New Christians after the Expulsion.

The Holy Office (or Spanish Inquisition), established in 1478 to ensure that New Christians remained true to orthodox beliefs and practices, was often used as an instrument to pursue petty squabbles between individuals and to deprive rivals or personal enemies of their social standing identity as it extended its reach to Christians whose ancestors, at any time in the past, had not been born into the faith. A truly bizarre result of this last distinction could be seen in the 16th and 17th centuries, when peasants occasionally used their illiteracy as proof of their purity of blood.

The "revival" or "re-birth" known as the Renaissance was based upon interpretations of Roman and Greek texts whose emphasis upon art and the senses marked a great change from the God- and Bible-centered contemplation of the values of humility, introspection and meekness. Beauty came to represent a deep inner virtue and value, and was considered "an essential element in the path towards God." As city dwelling became more common during the Renaissance, a type of poetry called pastoral became popular. Pastoral poetry really depicted ladies and gentlemen who sought the simple life in the guise of shepherds, without the complications of newly developing urban existence. The forms and themes of pastoral poetry were not entirely new. Spanish pastoral poets, such as Juan Boscán Almogáver and Garcilaso de la Vega, imitated the sonnet, tercet and other verse forms often used in Italian pastoral works. Garcilaso also drew on ancient Roman writers Virgil, Horace and Ovid as inspiration for his lyric poems. These poems contained sentimental discussions of rural love and the beauty of the Spanish landscape. He also captured the Spanish spirit through descriptions of his experiences as courtier, soldier, artist, and musician, but it was his literary skill that influenced Spanish poets in later centuries.


Garcilaso de la Vega is best known for his tragic love poetry that contrasts the playful poetry of his predecessors. He seemed to progress through three distinct episodes of his life which are reflected in his works. During his Spanish period, he wrote the majority of his eight-syllable poems; during his Italian or Petrarchan period, he wrote mostly sonnets and songs; and during his Neapolitan or classicist period, he wrote his other more classical poems, including his elegies, letters, eclogues and odes. Influenced by many Italian Renaissance poets, Garcilaso adapted the eleven-syllable line to the Spanish language in his "sonetos," which were mostly written in the 1520s, during his Petrarchan period. Increasing the number of syllables in the verse from eight to eleven allowed for greater flexibility. In addition to the "soneto," Garcilaso helped to introduce several other types of stanzas to the Spanish language. These include the "estancia," formed by eleven- and seven-syllable lines; the "lira," formed by three seven-syllable and two eleven-syllable lines; and "endecasílabos sueltos," formed by unrhymed eleven-syllable lines.

Throughout his life, Garcilaso de la Vega wrote various poems in each of these types. His works include: forty Sonetos (Sonnets), 22 Canciones (Songs), eight Coplas (Couplets), three Églogas (Eclogues), two Elegías (Elegies), and the Epístola a Bóscan (Letter to Bóscan). Allusions to classical myths and Greco-Latin figures, great musicality, alliteration, rhythm and an absence of religion characterize his poetry. It can be said that Spanish poetry was never the same after Garcilaso de la Vega. His works have influenced the majority of subsequent Spanish poets, including other major authors of the period like Jorge de Montemayor, Fray Luis de León, San Juan de la Cruz, Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Luis de Góngora and Francisco Quevedo. He has also had a revival influence among 21st century pastoral poets such as Seamus Heaney, Dennis Nurkse, and Giannina Braschi.

For example: (égloga Tercera):

:::Más a las veces son mejor oídos
:::el puro ingenio y lengua casi muda,
:::testigos limpios de ánimo inocente,
:::que la curiosidad del elocuente.

He was very good at transmitting the sense of life into writing, in many poems including his «dolorido sentir»:

:::No me podrán quitar el dolorido
:::sentir, si ya del todo
:::primero no me quitan el sentido.

It believes in a world that is not the Christian world, is the pagan one (Égloga primera):

:::Contigo mano a mano
:::busquemos otros prados y otros ríos,
:::otros valles floridos y sombríos,
:::donde descanse, y siempre pueda verte
:::ante los ojos míos,
:::sin miedo y sobresalto de perderte. (Égloga primera)

Literary references

In the novel Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez one of the main characters, Father Cayetano Delaura, is an admirer of Garcilaso de la Vega. In this novel which takes place in 18th century colonial Colombia, Delaura is forced to give up being a priest because of his tragic love affair.

Spanish language poet Giannina Braschi wrote both a poetic treatise on Garcilaso de la Vega's Eclogues, as well as a book of poems in homage to the Spanish master, entitled "Empire of Dreams".


  • Creel, Bryant. "Garcilaso de la Vega." Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 318: Sixteenth-Century Spanish Writers. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by Gregory B. Kaplan, University of Tennessee. Gale, 2005. pp. 62-82.

External links

  • Page about Garcilaso de la Vega "La Página de Garcilaso en Internet." 2006. La Asociación de Amigos de Garcilaso de la Vega (Toledo, España). />.
  • "Mullticulturalism Gone Wrong: Spain in the Renaissance," Alix Ingber, Professor of Spanish. (adapted from a lecture). />. [Last updated: January 19, 1998].
  • " Spanish Literature ( Archived 2009-11-01)," Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2006.

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