Biography of Jorge de Montemayor (1520-1561)

Portuguese writer, born in Monteñor-o-Velho (near the large Portuguese city of Coimbra) in 1520 and died in the region of Piedmont in 1561, who, like so many other compatriots his 16th century, wrote in Spanish. It's been to the history of Spanish literature for being the first who cultivated a narrative genre that had a huge success in his time: the pastoral novel (also called bucolic).

The work of Montemayor reflects, both in verse and in prose, the total implementation of the Italian literature in 16th-century Spain. His prose is elegant and careful, but always sweet and entertaining for the reader. He/She influenced almost all the narrators of the second half of that century.


Since childhood gave samples of great artistic sensitivity, and is devoted to the music and poetry.

Already in his youth, he/she was hired as a professional singer in the chapel of the Queen María de Portugal. In his retinue happened to Castile when this married the son of Carlos V, the Prince Felipe (future King Felipe II).

In the mid-16th century, Montemayor (that he/she spoke and wrote English perfectly) returned to Portugal to exercise a new charge in the Court (aposentador or Doña Juana, mother of King don Sebastián valet). But he/she soon missed the importance of the Court and the Spanish culture, and returned to the Entourage of Felipe II, he/she accompanied on his travels in Europe (England and Netherlands). He/She then had occasion to show its value as a soldier, because he/she fought in the war of Flanders against France.

It was, by then, a well-known poet as writer. But, on his return to Spain after these trips through Europe, he/she began to cultivate the prose of fiction. Influenced by his good knowledge of European literature, published in 1559 the seven books of the Diana, which would become one of the most famous writers of the Spanish Renaissance.

Soon after, he/she went back to Italy and died in the region of Piedmont in 1561, victim of a miserable adventure loving (apparently, was stabbed by a rival who was jealous because the lady who both courting was more case to the Portuguese writer).


Jorge de Montemayor has become the history of Spanish letters by his famous pastoral novel, which was the first of this genre written in Spanish. But the writer of Portuguese origin was the author of other works in verse and prose.

The own Montemayor collected his poems in a volume compilation which gave the title of Songbook (1554), following this example marked by Petrarca (which, in the 14th century, thus titled the volume where he/she picked up his love poetry).

It was thus, voluntarily, Jorge de Montemayor in the petrarquista line. This poetic stream (also known as Italianate, by being based on Italian models) was introduced in Spanish poetry, in the first half of the 16th century, Boscan and Garcilaso.

As well as these poets, Portuguese writer cultivated verses and stanzas that most liked the Italians; but he/she also wrote poems following the models of Spanish poetry of the 15th century, in which there was yet present the influence of Italy.

The Cancionero de Montemayor contains loving and religious verses. Which were topics of religion didn't like the Church, so they were banned. But the loving were very read and celebrated.

Seven Diana books tell the story of shepherds (Diana, Sireno and Sylvano) who suffer pains of love. But the bucolic shepherds (i.e. those of pastoral literature, either in verse or prose) are not like the reality. It's idealized characters, i.e. presented in its most positive aspects. They are cultured, they know to read and write poems, they play musical instruments, sometimes speak as authentic philosophers...: i.e., do not resemble anything real shepherds of the 16th century, who were mostly illiterate and rude.

Jorge de Montemayor, the seven books of the Diana.

As he/she tells the story in prose, Montemayor introduces a series of poems dealing with the same topics as loving. This mimics growers of the novel pastoral in Italy, and above all the highest representative of them: Sannazaro, author of the Arcadia.

They reproached him the introduction into La Diana of some fantastic elements that make the history bit far-fetched (as the intervention of the maga Felicia); but it also had big hits which were then imitated for many years by numerous writers (such as resorting to the deception of a woman who, disguised, pretends to be male).

In an edition of La Diana appeared in Valladolid about two years after the first version, readers found a pleasant surprise: the addition of the Moorish novel (or starring Muslims also idealized) the padamsee and the beautiful Jarifa. But this novel was not written by Montemayor.

Montemayor also wrote an epistolary work entitled the works of the Kings (1558) and translated into Castilian songs of love, the poet in the Catalan language Ausiàs March.