8 julio, 2024

Pastoral novel: what it is, evolution, characteristics, representatives and works

What is the pastoral novel?

The pastoral novel It is a literary subgenre of the epic that is characterized by the idealization of pastoral and peasant life in general. In addition, it uses sentimental episodes that express the Renaissance spirit (hence why this is an Italianate genre).

The initiator of this type of novel was Theocritus, in the 3rd century BC, although it was not until the 16th century when this narrative form reached its maximum splendor, with authors such as Jorge de Montemayor, who although he was Portuguese, wrote in Spanish.

Regarding the context, the pastoral novel is a Renaissance genre that is located in the Spanish Golden Age and that had its direct origins in Italy and later in Portugal. Shortly after it was developed in the Spanish language and from there, after its growing popularity, it spread to the rest of Europe, with greater emphasis on France, Germany and England.

Evolution of the pastoral novel

The development of the pastoral novel is situated under two fundamental frameworks. The first refers to the passage of this genre through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with its entry into the Renaissance. And the second refers to the groups of texts that were composed during the Spanish Golden Age, the period of important writers.

The pastoral novel is a genre characterized by the dialogue between shepherds, telling their love affairs, lucky or unlucky. From the eclogue, a dialogue with a love theme set in the countryside (which is why it is pastoral), he moved on to more finished narrative techniques, and as its initiator was the Italian writer Jacopo Sannazaro (1458-1530) with his Arcadiapublished in 1504, agrees to consider this subgenre as coming from Italy.

In turn, contemporaries of Sannazaro, such as the Portuguese Bernardim Ribeiro (1482-1552) published works in the same style, such as girl and girl (girl and girlin Spanish), after his death.

In this sense, Ribeiro’s novel was not declared entirely pastoral, although it was the first novel of its kind in the Iberian Peninsula, while Sannazaro’s was the pioneer in being written in a Romance language.

Soon after, Jorge de Montemayor (1520-1561) published Diana’s seven books (1558), a Portuguese writer who wrote in Spanish, and for this reason this is considered the first pastoral novel in the Spanish language.

As data, Jorge de Montemayor wrote his Diana based on a translation made of the love dialogues (published in 1535) and whose author was León Hebreo, a Portuguese Jewish doctor expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492.

Consequently, Montemayor did more than lay one of the foundation stones of the pastoral novel, that is, he was in charge of giving continuity to a literary tradition that dated from much earlier.

In this way, the pastoral novel, which at first was cultivated in Romance languages ​​(it was also written in French), soon spread to the Germanic languages, which is why they were read in England and Germany.

In fact, it is known that Shakespeare must have known of some copies of these stories that were translated into English by the Hispanist Bartholomew Young, who knew Montemayor’s work well.

Later, the pastoral novel exerted its influence on authors such as Miguel de Cervantes and his Galateapublished in 1585, in addition to the respective parody made by the same writer in the Quixote.

precisely in the Quixote, Cervantes tells how a priest saved the house from the fire. Diana de Montemayor, to which he wanted a minor edition to be made in which a scene that did not seem pleasant to him was censored.

Characteristics of the pastoral novel

– Although the pastoral novel was not more successful than the chivalric novel, it is true that it introduced a series of novel aspects.

– Multitude of arguments and plots in the same story.

– The place of the narration is not precise.

– The theme of the novel is love.

– The pastoral structure is reminiscent of the Greco-Roman classics.

– The events vary between tragedy and comedy.

– His literary universe is as simple as his characters.

– The characters do not always abide by the norms of society.

– The rhetoric and language of the novel are experimental.

– There is an eagerness to explore ways to surpass chivalric novels.

– The main literary source is the Italian Renaissance.

Languages ​​of the pastoral novel

The pastoral novel was written in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, although there are also writings in French, English and German, although to a lesser extent.

The pre-eminence of this literary genre, however, included Spanish literature, in which, given its popularity, it came to be translated into other languages ​​that were a vehicle for the most famous authors of that time, such as William Shakespeare, to base fragments of some of his most outstanding works.

Main representatives of the pastoral novel

Jacopo Sannazaro (Italian, 1458-1530).
Bernardim Ribeiro (Portugal, 1482-1552).
Jorge de Montemayor (Portugal, 1520-1561).
Miguel de Cervantes (Spanish, 1547-1616).

Outstanding works of the pastoral novel

The Diana (1559), Jorge de Montemayor.
Diana in love (1564), Gaspar Gil Polo.
The galatea (1585), Miguel de Cervantes.
the arcadian (1504), Jacopo Sannazaro.


Alatorre, A. The text of Diana de Montemayor. New Magazine of Hispanic Philology.
Gies, D. The Cambridge History of Spanish Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Literary dictionary. Recovered from trazegnies.arrakis.es.

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