Amadis de Gaula (original Castilian Spanish version) (English: Amadis of Gaul, Spanish: Amadís de Gaula) is a landmark work among the knight-errantry tales which were in vogue in 16th century Iberian Peninsula, and formed the earliest reading of many Renaissance and Baroque writers.
The first known printed edition was published in Zaragoza in 1508, by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo (or Garci Ordóñez de Montalvo). It was published in four books in Castilian, but its origins are unclear: The narrative comes from Portugal, originates in the late post-Arthurian genre and had certainly been read as early as the 14th century by the chancellor Pero López de Ayala as well as his contemporary Pero Ferrús.
Montalvo himself confesses to have amended the first three volumes, and to be the author of the fourth. Additionally, in the Portuguese Chronicle of Gomes Eannes de Azurara (1454), the writing of Amadis is attributed to Vasco de Lobeira, who was dubbed knight after the battle of Aljubarrota (1385). However, it seems that in fact the work was a product of João de Lobeira, not the troubadour Vasco de Lobeira, and that rather than originating with him it was the revision of an earlier work from the beginning of the 14th century.
In his introduction to the text, Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo explains that he has edited the first three books of a text in circulation since the fourteenth century. Montalvo also admits to adding a fourth as yet unpublished book as well as adding a continuation (Las sergas de Esplandián), which he claims was found in a buried chest in Constantinople and transported to Spain by a Hungarian merchant (the famous motif of the found manuscript).
He is persecuted by the wizard Arcalaús, but protected by Urganda la Desconocida (Urganda the Unknown or Unrecognized), an ambiguous priestess with magical powers and a talent for prophecy. Knighted by his father King Perión, Amadís overcomes the challenges of the enchanted Insola Firme (a sort of peninsula), including passing through the Arch of Faithful Lovers.
Despite Amadis' celebrated fidelity, his childhood sweetheart, Oriana, heiress to the throne of Great Britain, becomes jealous of a rival princess and sends a letter to chastize Amadís. The knight (later famously parodied in Don Quixote), changes his name to Beltenebros and indulges in a long period of madness on the isolated Peña Pobre.
He recovers his senses only when Oriana sends her maid to retrieve him. He then helps Oriana's father, Lisuarte, repel invaders. A short time later he and Oriana scandalously consummate their love. Their son Esplandián is the result of this one illicit meeting.
Rodríguez de Montalvo asserts that in the "original" Amadís, Esplandián eventually kills his father for this offense against his mother's honor; however, Montalvo amends this defect and resolves their conflict peaceably.
Oriana and Amadís defer their marriage for many years due to enmity between Amadís and Oriana's father Lisuarte. Amadís absents himself from Britain for at least ten years, masquerading as "The Knight of the Green Sword". He travels as far as Constantinople and secures the favor of the child-princess Leonorina, who will become Esplandián's wife. His most famous adventure during this time of exile is the battle with the giant Endriago, a monster born of incest who exhales a poisonous reek and whose body is covered in scales.
As a knight, Amadís is courteous, gentle, sensitive and a devout Christian. Unlike most literary heroes of his time (French and German, for example) Amadís is a handsome man who would cry if refused by his lady, but is invincible in battle and usually emerges drenched in his own and his opponent's blood.
The book's style was praised by the usually demanding Juan de Valdés, although he considered that from time to time it was too low or too high a style. The language is characterized by a certain "Latinizing" influence in its syntax, especially the tendency to place the verb at the end of the sentence; as well as other such details, such as the use of the present participle, which bring Amadís into line with the allegorical style of the 15th century.
Nevertheless, there is a breach of style when Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo presents the fourth book. It becomes dull and solemn reflecting the nature of the intruding writer. The first three books are inspired in deeds and feats by knights errant, dating back to the XIII century, while the fourth book emerges as a less brilliant attachment of the XVI century. The very pristine style of the "Amadis" can be perceived in the few original famous pages analyzed by Antonio Rodriguez Moñino: It is lively and straight to the facts of war and love, with brief dialogs, all quite elegant and amusing. Amadís of Gaul is frequently referenced in the satirical classic Don Quixote, written by Miguel de Cervantes in the early 17th century. The character Don Quixote idolizes Amadís, and often compares his hero's adventures to his own.
Historically, Amadís was very influential amongst the Spanish conquistadores. Bernal Diaz del Castillo mentioned the wonders of Amadís upon witnessing the wonders of the New World - and such place names as California come directly from the work.
A Portuguese origin is most widely accepted but Amadís has also been claimed by the Spanish, French and Italians. Also, the action seems, from the names of characters and places, to be supposed to be set primarily in England, and it is usually accepted that the name "Gaula" is related to "Wales". The plot ranges across the continent to Romania and Constantinople, and in the continuations as far as the Holy Land and the Cyclades. However, the romance's geography cannot be mapped onto the "real" Europe: it contains just as many fantastic places as real ones.
Recently, a new theory of the work's authorship has been proposed by Santiago Sevilla (see talk page), claiming that the Infante Enrique of Castile was the original writer of the epic. Enrique of Castille lived for four years at the court of Edward I of England, who was married to his sister, queen Eleanor of Castile. According to this theory, the character Lisuarte is Edward, Oriana is Eleanor of England, the maid of Denmark is in fact the Maid of Norway, and Amadis is modelled after Simon de Montfort, the heroic French earl of Leicester. Furthermore, Esplandian could be his infamous warrior son, Guy de Montfort, count of Mola, Brian de Monjaste is in fact Enrique of Castile himself, and the battle against the Arabic king is the Battle of Benevento against King Manfred of Sicily, who had a host of Arabian light cavalry and Arab archers. The historical Enrique of Castile wandered, as knight errant and poet, to wage wars in Tunis, Naples and Sicily where he fought in those Battles of Benevento and Tagliacozzo, and became a prisoner of the Pope and Charles d'Anjou in Canosa di Puglia, and Castel del Monte, from 1268 to 1291, where he would have reputedly written a good part of Amadis, before returning to Spain to become Regent of Castile, before his death in 1304. According to the author of this theory, it would have been inconvenient for Enrique of Castille, due to his high office, to declare his authorship, but the work bears his marks as a poet and troubadour.
Despite the various theories of the work's origins, Rodríguez de Montalvo's Spanish version, as the only complete edition known, is considered definitive, and it was the one who made the character widely known on a European scale.
Amadís of Gaul's popularity was such that in the decades following its publication, dozens of sequels of sometimes minor quality were published in Spanish, Italian and German, together with a number of other imitative works. Montalvo himself cashed in with the continuation Las sergas de Esplandián (Book V), and the sequel-specialist Feliciano de Silva (also the author of Second Celestina) added four more books including Amadis of Greece (Book IX). Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote as a parody of the resulting genre. Cervantes and his protagonist Quixote, however, hold the original Amadís in very high esteem.
The later books increasingly use techniques and incidents borrowed from the ancient Greek novel (Heliodorus, Longus and Achilles Tatius) and the pastoral novel from Italy and Spain (Jacopo Sannazaro and Jorge de Montemayor).
The Spanish volumes, with their authors and the names of their main characters:
The Italian Continuation:
The German Continuation:
In Germany and England, Amadís was known chiefly through its French translations, and in England the cycle was generally referred to by its French title Amadis de Gaule. The French translations did not follow the Spanish book divisions exactly, and the entire cycle in the French version extends to 24 volumes.
French translations, with their translators:
In Portugal, and other parts of Iberia, the Amadis cycle also launched other adventure series, such as:
Subject of the last opera by Johann Christian Bach.