Baroque period in Spain/characteristics/genre/main writers

Literary Baroque in Spain

The seventeenth century and the rise of Baroque premises in Spain coincided with a brilliant and fruitful literary period that came to be called the Golden Age. Aesthetically, the baroque was characterized, in general lines, by the complication of forms and the predominance of ingenuity. and art on the harmony of nature, which was the Renaissance ideal. Baroque period in Spain

Characteristics of the Spanish Baroque

When we use the term “Baroque”, we refer to a period of Spanish literature corresponding to the seventeenth century, part of the Golden Age , as well as the Renaissance, with which it maintains many differences.

The Golden Age is the most fertile and glorious period in Spanish literature, beginning in the early seventeenth century (and even at the end of the sixteenth century) and spanning the entire seventeenth century.

During the Spanish Baroque, different kings reigned in Spain: Felipe II, Felipe III, Felipe IV and Carlos II, whose reigns were characterized by constant political, economic and social decline : multiple wars, the economic crisis, the division between the new and the old Christians and the Inquisition , among other elements. It was a period of profound instability, crisis, restlessness and pessimism. Baroque period in Spain

Instead of continuing to cultivate the intellect, rational philosophy and scientific investigations, a return to theocentrism is experienced In addition, the Counter-Reformation stands out , by which the humanist vision of the Renaissance is abandoned and relief is sought in religion.

In literature, an excessive manifestation of artifice and adornment, instability, dissonance, contrasts (between the tragic and the comic, between the sacred and the profane, between the grotesque and the sublime …), excess, etc., is experienced, compared to the balance and harmony characteristic of Renaissance literature .

How can you see the reaction of the writers ?

  • They evade: exploits or glories of the past are narrated, or even an ideal world is presented.
  • Reality is satirized : mockery and picaresque novels emerge.
  • They complain about the transience of beauty and life and devalue the world.
  • They moralize.

As a summary, we leave you a table where the main characteristics of Baroque literature are summarized :

The baroque style seeks the expressiveness of the language, but depending on whether the form or the content is taken more care of , two different literary trends emerge , which can be complemented as they seek the original and complicated compared to the simplicity of the Renaissance:


Throughout the seventeenth century, the splendor of the Renaissance continues, although poets seek novelty and reflect in their works that pessimism and disappointment characteristic of the time.

The meter of baroque compositions is based on the use of Renaissance meter in combination with other stanzas typical of popular lyric. In addition, stanzas of cultured origin are used and a greater formal complexity is sought through the accumulation of elements and through ostentation. Baroque period in Spain

Among the authors that stand out within the lyric, we find Luis de Góngora, Lope de Vega and Quevedo .

Prose Baroque period in Spain

The baroque narrative is very varied although two subgenres stand out above all: the novel and doctrinal prose.

  • Novel:
    • Picaresque novel: it is the most representative genre of the baroque novel. It settles after the picaresque novel of the Renaissance, where the novel El Lazarillo de Tormes stood out  . Highlights include  El buscón  de Quevedo and  Guzmán de Alfarache by Mateo Alemán.
    • Courtesan novel: subgenre that deals with love stories in distinguished palaces and settings. The following stand out as an example:  Exemplary novels  by Cervantes.
  • Doctrinal prose . Its objective is none other than to teach and satirize through different topics. Within the doctrinal prose, Saavedra Fajardo, Gracián and Quevedo stand out.

However, as the most important work of the Baroque we have to highlight the work of  Don Quixote , a work in which the disappointment so characteristic of this stage is perfectly appreciated, the tragic is superimposed on the comedy and the characters are a mere reflection of the decline of the society of the century.


The theater was a genre that was hardly cultivated during the previous centuries, however, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it became particularly successful in some countries such as France or Spain. In fact, it is during the Baroque when it reaches its maximum splendor . Works such as  Fuentovejuna ,  Life is a dream  and  El Burlador de Sevilla stand out .

Lope de Vega creates the concept of the « new comedy » in his work  New Art of Making Comedies in This Time , where he proposes concepts and ideas that are far from the precepts of the Renaissance, but whose traces are followed by numerous playwrights.

Within these concepts and ideas of the new comedy, we find the combination of the tragic with the comic, the dynamism of the action, the variety of style and meter used in the works, the division of the works into three acts (opposite to the traditional five), etc. In turn, the themes vary, but without losing sight of the importance of honor. Baroque period in Spain

One of the most outstanding changes of the time was the representation in the corrals, that is, interior courtyards, squares and open places, so that everyone could see them, from the highest nobility to the people.

Main writers of the Spanish Baroque Baroque period in Spain

Among the writers that stand out from the Spanish Baroque we find:

  • Francisco Gómez de Quevedo Villegas y Santibáñez Cevallos (1580-1645): known above all for his poetic work, despite having also cultivated theater, narrative and humanistic, moral and political essays.
  • Luis de Góngora y Argote (1564-1627): poet and playwright, considered one of the greatest exponents of the current known as culteranismo (or gongorismo).
  • Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681): prominent Spanish writer for his theatrical work. He wrote a complex theater on abstract themes. His best-known works include  The Mayor of Zalamea and  The Great Theater of the World , along with  Life is a Dream .
  • Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616): Spanish novelist, playwright, poet and soldier, considered one of the representative figures of Spanish literature, universally known for having written  El ingenioso Hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha  (the most published and translated book history, which only the Bible surpassed).
  • Francisco de Rojas Zorrilla (1607-1648): Spanish playwright, disciple of the Calderón de la Barca school.
  • Tirso de Molina (1579-1648): playwright, poet and storyteller. He stood out for his comedy  El burlador de Sevilla.
  • Lope Félix de Vega Carpio (1562-1635): poet and playwright, one of the most prolific of all world literature. Some of his most important works were  Fuenteovejuna and  El perro del hortelano .

Most representative literary works of the Spanish Baroque

Next, we comment on some of the most characteristic features of three works belonging to different genres that stood out in their time and that are still read in schools and institutes, due to their great repercussion at the time and because they are masterpieces of literature baroque:

The Quijote

Don Quixote de la Mancha is a novel that Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra wrote. It consists of two parts. The first was published with the title of  The ingenious hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605) and the second,  Second part of the ingenious gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha (1615).

Although it is a chivalric novel, it dismantles the myths of the courteous tradition due to its parody nature in which humorous events abound without leaving behind the criticism of Spanish society of the time. This work makes us reflect on issues such as faith, justice, reality and love.

Broadly speaking, it tells the story of a knight from La Mancha who, after reading many books on chivalry, decides to embark on a series of adventures on the back of Rocinante, his horse. In his world, reality is distorted. The mills are giants to be beaten, the sales become castles, the commoners are princesses … However, and especially in the second part of the play, they are not always funny stories, since Don Quixote and Sancho become the target of mockery and deception.

Fable of Polyphemus and Galatea Baroque period in Spain

This epic poem by Luis de Góngora has a mythological content. It was published in 1612 and recreates the story of Polyphemus, Poseidon’s son, who appears in  The Metamorphoses (XIII). Baroque period in Spain

The life is dream

Calderón de la Barca’s most important play, premiered in 1635, whose central theme is none other than the freedom of the human being to be able to do whatever one wants, without having to be carried away by fate.

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