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Juan del Encina

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Juan de la Encina (1469-ca. 1533), a composer, poet and playwriter, often called the founder of Spanish drama, was born in 1469 near Salamanca, probably at Encina de San Silvestre. He was of Jewish converso descent. See, Norman Roth, “Conversos, Inquisition, and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain”, Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1995, pp. 157, 176-178. After leaving the University of Salamanca sometime in the early 1490s he became a member of the household of Don Fadrique de Toledo, the second Duke of Alba.

In 1492 the poet entertained his patron with a dramatic piece, the Triunfo de la fama, written to commemorate the fall of Granada. In 1496 he published his Cancionero, a collection of dramatic and lyrical poems. Around 1500 he relocated to Rome, where he apparently served in the musical establishments of several cardinals or noblemen.

About 1518 Encina took holy orders, and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he said his first mass. Since 1509 he had held a lay canonry at Málaga; in 1519 he was appointed prior of León and is said to have died at Salamanca about 1533.

His Cancionero is preceded by a prose treatise (Arte de trobar) on the condition of the poetic art in Spain. His fourteen dramatic pieces mark the transition from the purely ecclesiastical to the secular stage. The Aucto del Repelón and the Égloga de Fileno dramatize the adventures of shepherds; the latter, like Pládcida y Vitoriano, is strongly influenced by the Celestina.

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