chapter  3
The Metamorphosis of Arcadia: Montemayor’s Diana (1559)
Pages 45

In 1554, Prince Philip of Spain, heir to the Habsburg Emperor Charles V and soon to become Philip II, set sail from the northern port of Coruña for England in a otilla of seventy large ships, accompanied by numerous lords and ladies of the Castilian court, along with four thousand soldiers and a rear escort of thirty armed vessels. This rather impressive display of royal grandeur and military might was not a dress rehearsal for the 1588 Spanish Armada, but rather a wedding party to accompany the young prince, to help celebrate his marriage to Queen Mary Tudor in Winchester Cathedral on the feast day of St. James, patron saint of Spain. As one might expect, the prince’s retinue featured a variety of powerful luminaries whose titled names still resonate among the historically aware even now, like the duke of Alba, count of Egmont, and the future prince of Eboli Ruy Gómez (Kamen 54-63). This glittering entourage likely also included Jorge de Montemayor (c. 1520-1561), at that point a somewhat obscure Portuguese poet and musician who spent much of his adult life at court, especially in service to queens and whose life remains shrouded in mystery and encompassed by conjecture, supposition, and some salient facts, thankfully pertaining largely to his literary production. Today, outside of the Spanish-and Portuguese-speaking world, he is primarily known as the author of The Seven Books of Diana (Los siete libros de la Diana), hereafter referred to as Diana, one of the principal models and sources of inspiration for Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia. This connection, though signicant, touches just the tip of the iceberg regarding the dramatic expansion and reimagining of Arcadia that occurred in sixteenth-century European romance, most of that change traceable in varying degrees to the ctional world of Diana. Montemayor likely composed this pastoral romance in the mid-1550s, with the rst extant, published edition dated 1559. By any measure, Diana met with spectacular success: more than twenty editions between 1559 and 1599, three continuations by other authors in Spain with widespread parody and imitation of aspects of the text in Spain and Portugal, and translations into French and English in the sixteenth century and into German in the seventeenth century. In Spain, only the iconic chivalric romance Amadis of Gaul (1508) and Fernando de Rojas’s tragicomedy La Celestina (1499)

rank ahead of Diana as the greatest ctional bestsellers to that date in the sixteenth century, with the artful anachronism of the former and the grim presence of death, fate, and fortune in the latter perhaps linking those works more closely to an earlier era than Montemayor’s narrative.1 Yet Diana’s subsequent fate resembles that of Sannazaro’s Arcadia, now often referred to in passing but less frequently read, with the difference that linguistically and imaginatively Montemayor’s pastoral world provides ready access to a wider audience while the hermetic, literary conglomeration Arcadia of the Neapolitan humanist still appeals to a smaller and more specialized audience. Diana’s relatively muted voice in world literature has unfortunately also obscured the pivotal role of Iberian letters in revolutionizing the imaginative reconguration of Arcadia.