The Poems in Diego de San Pedro's Arnalte y Lucenda

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Vivanco, Laura, 2008. 'The Poems in Diego de San Pedro's Arnalte y Lucenda and Arnalte's Imitatio Mariae', The Spain of the Catholic Monarchs: Papers from the Quincentenary Conference (Bristol, 2004), ed. David Hook, University of Bristol Hispanic, Portuguese, and Latin American Monographs (Bristol: Department of Hispanic, Portuguese, & Latin American Studies, School of Modern Languages, University of Bristol), pp. 131-153.

A pdf version can be downloaded from this website but as it is image-only and therefore not searchable, I have also made a text version available below. I have tried to keep the layout and formatting of the latter as close as possible to that of the original; although I spotted some minor spelling mistakes and omissions in the original I have not corrected them.

The Poems in Diego de San Pedro’s Arnalte y Lucenda and Arnalte’s Imitatio Mariae

Laura Vivanco

Critics have often found Arnalte y Lucenda a less satisfying work than Cárcel de amor and this has been due, at least in part, to the presence in Arnalte of two long poems, one in praise of Queen Isabel, the other the Siete angustias de Nuestra Señora. According to Keith Whinnom:

conviene poner de relieve la gran superioridad de la Cárcel de Amor. Al comparar las dos obras vemos que el autor ha sabido mejorar su técnica narrativa: en la Cárcel ya no hay digresiones totalmente inconexas tales como el panegírico sobre la reina Isabel o los versos sobre las Siete Angustias de la Virgen.1

Alan Deyermond concurs: ‘Cárcel shows greater structural mastery and a concentration on essentials. Arnalte is a first attempt which was superseded, not only in merit but in public esteem’.2 One of the differences which he believes gives Cárcel its superiority is that in this work San Pedro ‘eliminates the verse sections which were a virtual irrelevance in Arnalte e Lucenda’.3 With regard to the Siete angustias Whinnom was of the opinion that ‘this pious digression does not really seem appropriate in the tale of the love of Arnalte for Lucenda, and it was excised from the edition of 1522’, whose publisher perhaps shared Whinnom’s doubts about its suitability for inclusion in Arnalte.4 San Pedro himself, however, may have anticipated such criticisms since he stated that

las cosas en todo y todo buenas, por mucho que con gentil estilo y discreta orden ordenadas sean, no pueden a todos contentar, antes de muchos son por no tales juzgadas: de unos porque no las alcançan, de otros porque en


1 Keith Whinnom, ed., Diego de San Pedro, Obras completas, I: Tractado de amores de Arnalte y Lucenda; Sermón, Clásicos Castalia, 54 (Madrid: Castalia, 1973), p. 63. (Hereafter, OC.)

2 A. D. Deyermond, A Literary History of Spain: The Middle Ages (London: Ernest Benn, 1971), p. 165.

3 Deyermond, The Middle Ages, p. 165.

4 Keith Whinnom, Diego de San Pedro, TWAS, 310 (New York: Twayne, 1974), p. 59.


ellas no están atentos, de otros no por las faltas que hallan, mas porque sepan que saben.5

I believe that if we are ‘atentos’ and read Arnalte and its inset poems carefully, the verse and prose can be seen as an integrated whole.

Criticism of the verse elements in Arnalte y Lucenda has been focussed on the two lengthy poems (the panegyric in praise of Isabel and the Siete angustias), not the other verse elements (Arnalte’s canción and the letras e invençiones).6 This and the fact that verse elements are a feature common to many sentimental romances suggests that critics have identified particular difficulties with these two poems, not with all verse insertions.7 Both the panegyric to Isabel and the Siete angustias are long poems, but as Louise M Haywood has observed, ‘it is erroneous to apply the modern pejorative value of digressio to medieval narrative’ and it would be anachronistic to criticise the inclusion of these poems on the basis of their length alone.8 Nor should the inclusion in Arnalte of a poem of such a serious, religious nature as the Siete angustias automatically be considered problematic. Although Keith Whinnom stated that ‘The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady does not show to best advantage in the context in which it is habitually read, that is, in the story of Arnalte and Lucenda. There it smacks of blasphemy’, it is not unusual to find the religious and the amorous juxtaposed in San Pedro’s writing.9 His devout La Pasión trobada begins with some verses directed at the nun whom, we are told, San Pedro loved and at whose request he wrote the poem: ‘Una devota monja rogó a Diego de Sant Pedro que trobasse la Passión de Nuestro Redentor, a la cual él quería tanto que todo su pensamiento era en qué y


5 Diego de San Pedro, OC, I: Tractado de amores de Arnalte y Lucenda; Sermón, edited by Keith Whinnom, Clásicos Castalia, 54 (Madrid: Castalia, 1973), p. 88.

6 As Louise M. Haywood has noted, there are eight verse insertions in Arnalte, ‘two are extended poems [...] and five are letras e invençiones (courtly mottoes, devices, or cognizances); only one, “Si mi mal no ha de morir,” can be called a lyric’ ( ‘Lyric and Other Verse Insertions in Sentimental Romances’, in Studies on the Spanish Sentimental Romance [1440-1550]: Redefining a Genre, edited by Joseph J. Gwara and E. Michael Gerli, Colección Támesis, A168 [London: Tamesis, 1997], pp. 191-206, at p. 195).

7 Louise M. Haywood lists six pre-1499 sentimental romances containing such elements ( ‘Romance and Sentimental Romance as cancionero’ in ‘Cancionero’ Studies in Honour of Ian Macpherson, edited by Alan Deyermond, PMHRS, 11 [London: Department of Hispanic Studies, Queen Mary and Westfield College, 1998], pp. 175–193, at pp. 177-78). There is considerable variation in the quantity and types of verse used in each sentimental romance.

8 Haywood, ‘Lyric and Other Verse Insertions’, p. 197.

9 Whinnom, Diego de San Pedro, p. 60.


cómo la havía de servir’.10 It may be wise to guard against anachronism: it is likely that what to Whinnom ‘smacks of blasphemy’ received a very different reception in Isabeline Castile. Isabel’s court was one where ‘la parodia e hipérbole sagradas siguieron floreciendo en los escritos de sus cortesanos hasta la muerte misma de la reina’.11 As Jane Yvonne Tillier has noted with regard to cancionero collections, sacred and profane texts are often to be found in close proximity:

Censorship does not appear to have been contemporary with the compilation of the cancioneros, but rather to have been the product of a later sensibility. In support of this observation one often finds devout and secular adaptations of Christian texts occurring in the same collection, and there is no indication through special positioning or comments in rubrics that the compiler thought one a more worthy composition than the other.12

While some have criticised the inclusion in Arnalte of both the panegyric in praise of Queen Isabel and the Siete angustias, a number of internal and external factors may explain their presence. Whinnom has suggested an extra-textual, political function for the panegyric, namely ‘to indicate to Isabel that she could in future count on the loyalty of the erstwhile rebel’, San Pedro’s patron, the Conde de Urueña.13 There may also be an extra-textual literary function to the inclusion of such elements in the work. It has been stated that one finds in the sentimental romances an ‘emphasis [...] on the act of literary creation both on the part of the author as narrator and character, and of the characters as orators, poets, and authors’.14 Marina Scordilis Brownlee observed that the Siete angustias ‘illustrate [...] San Pedro’s accomplishments as a poet [...and] each of these three intercalated compositions [the panegyric, Arnalte’s canción and the Siete angustias] constitutes an exemplary sample of its genre.15 If one


10 Diego de San Pedro, La Pasión trobada in OC, III: Poesías, edited by Dorothy S. Severin and Keith Whinnom, Clásicos Castalia, 98 (Madrid: Castalia, 1979), pp. 101-238, at p. 101.

11 R.O. Jones, ‘Isabel la Católica y el amor cortés’, RL, XXI (1962), 55-64, at p. 56.

12 Jane Yvonne Tillier, ‘Religious Elements in Fifteenth-Century Spanish Cancioneros’, Ph.D. thesis, New Hall, University of Cambridge, 1985, pp. 19-20.

13 Whinnom, Diego de San Pedro, p. 119.

14 Louise M. Haywood, ‘Lyric in Medieval Secular Narrative’, in Proceedings of the Eighth Colloquium, edited by Andrew M. Beresford and Alan Deyermond, PMHRS, 5 (London: Department of Hispanic Studies, Queen Mary & Westfield College, 1997), pp. 61-73, at p. 67.

15 Marina Scordilis Brownlee, The Severed Word: Ovid’s ‘Heroides’ and the ‘Novela sentimental’ (Princeton: University Press, 1990), p. 159.


accepts that the sentimental romance as a genre is overtly literary in nature, it may be that each sentimental romance can be considered the literary equivalent of an embroidered sampler, to be viewed both as a whole and as a genre in which, within the prose setting, the author can display his talent and versatility in a number of other literary forms, such as letters and a variety of types of verse.

Internal factors may also have led San Pedro to place the panegyric and the Siete angustias where he did within Arnalte y Lucenda. The longer pieces of verse give structure to the work and provide insight into the characters of those to whom they are directed, about whom they are written, and of those who utter them. As I hope to demonstrate, these verse compositions function on a number of levels, not all of which are those intended by the character who speaks them. If, as Brownlee argues, it is true with regards to the intended audiences within the text that ‘it is not the illocutionary act of the sender/text, but the nature and degree of receptivity in the receiver/context that determines both the extent of its persuasiveness and its potential for polysemy’, then it perhaps behoves the non-fictional readers to be ‘atentos’, unlike the careless readers described by San Pedro in his introduction to the work, and approach the text cautiously, probing for multiple layers of meaning.16

As Dorothy Severin has observed, the poems concerning or directed to Queen Isabel, Lucenda and the Virgin are balanced, with the two long poems occurring at points in the text which are almost the mirror image of each other: ‘the initial […] framing structure (Diego de San Pedro to the ladies, Arnalte’s situation, poem to Isabel) is repeated in reverse at the end (poem of the Siete Angustias, Arnalte concludes, Diego de San Pedro to the ladies)’.17 Both poems occur on the cusp of a change in the geography of the narration, one leading away from the readers’ reality in Castile towards the fictional Thebes, the other heralding the fact that the same journey will now be undertaken in reverse:


16 Brownlee, The Severed Word, p. 158. San Pedro, OC, I, p. 88.

17 Dorothy Sherman Severin, ‘Structure and Thematic Repetitions in Diego de San Pedro’s Cárcel de Amor and Arnalte y Lucenda’, HR, XLV (1977), 165-69, at p. 168.




Diego de San Pedro addresses ‘las damas de la Reina’18






Journeys across desert and sees Arnalte’s house
Hears the nocturnal procession



Poem in praise of Queen Isabel
Is told to tell Arnalte’s story to ‘mugeres no menos sentidas que discretas’19




Thebes (and vicinity)


The main body of the narrative concerning Arnalte’s pursuit of Lucenda and containing his canción to her, ‘Si mi mal no ha de morir’20



Siete angustias
Preparations for departure






Arnalte plans and executes his journey across desert and builds his house
Institutes the nightly ‘exercicios’21
Instructs the autor to ‘recontar mis plagas a mugeres sentidas’22



‘Bueleve el autor la habla a las damas’23

The poem about Isabel provides a link between Arnalte’s story and the ladies to whom the tractado is addressed. In his introduction, San Pedro addressed himself to ‘las damas de la Reina’ and the poem is in praise of their mistress.24 By introducing a text so strongly redolent of Castilian courtly life into a description of the autor’s travels which have hitherto been through a strange and exotic landscape, the poem narrows the cultural distance between the court of Castile, where the damas live, and the distant country Arnalte inhabits. Just as the autor was able to reach Arnalte’s house, so has Isabel’s reputation:

has de saber que no desde agora a la Reina de Castilla yo conoscía; ni creas que nuevo de sus nuevas tú me hazes, porque la estendida fama suya la bondad por diversas partes tiene estoriada.25


18 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 87.

19 San Pedro,  OC, I, p. 100.

20 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 109.

21 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 169.

22 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 170.

23 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 170.

24San Pedro, OC, I, p. 87.

25 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 101.


The Siete angustias, at the opposite end of the work, provides a link back to the Castilian cultural milieu (both the Theban Arnalte and the Castilian readers venerate the Virgin Mary) and also prompt a physical journey since Arnalte considers them his last hope and addresses them to the Virgin ‘porque por las suyas [i.e. her angustias] de las mías me liberase’.26 It is their perceived ineffectiveness which causes him to travel towards the location where he will meet the autor:

Pues como las angustias así acabase, por el desmerescer mío no merescí de Nuestra Señora ser oído; y como viese que en Dios ni en ella ni en las gentes remedio no fallava, de verme donde gentes ver no pudiesen determiné.27

A third piece of poetry, the canción which Arnalte sings, or has sung outside Lucenda’s bedroom window and which, according to Severin’s scheme is a ‘slightly discordant element’ is no longer so if the poems are understood to function as markers of geographical location.28 Whereas the other two pieces are uttered at points of transition and concern individuals whose reputation is widely known (both Isabel and the Virgin are known in Castile and Thebes), the canción is sung when the location (Thebes) is well established. Arnalte has already sent his page to infiltrate Lucenda’s house and give her a letter, and the lyric narrows the focus even further since it is directed at her personal chambers, ‘donde desde su cama oírla pudiese’, to which Arnalte subsequently follows her after the festivities at court, ‘y no solamente fasta su posada la acompañé, mas fasta su cámara la seguí’, and on which he subsequently carries out a surveillance operation from Elierso’s lodgings.29 Belisa’s first reported conversation with Lucenda seems to take place in Lucenda’s bedroom during ‘una siesta que a dormir se retruxieron’.30 The restricted area (Lucenda’s cámara) to which the canción is directed reflects the lover’s obsessiveness and contrasts with the movement preceding or following the two longer poems. This difference between the restricted, static geographical location of the poem to Lucenda and the liminal, dynamic positioning of the poems to Queen Isabel and the Virgin may indicate differences in the importance and spheres of influence of the three women.


26 San Pedro,  OC, I, p. 149.

27 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 166.

28 Severin, ‘Structure and Thematic Repetitions’, p. 169.

29 San Pedro, OC, I, pp. 109 and 116.

30 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 125.


Whinnom compared Isabel and Lucenda and concluded that ‘It was certainly a mistake to insert the poem about Isabella, for the object of Arnalte’s hyperbolically expressed passion is rather conspicuously not remotely in the same class’.31 If instead of considering this the result of a ‘mistake’ in San Pedro’s literary judgement we assume that the poems were placed in the work deliberately and for very good reason, we may come to accept the possibility that the supposed discrepancy is there precisely because this is a point San Pedro wished to make. The poems, which appear to demonstrate that Lucenda is ‘not remotely in the same class’ as Queen Isabel, also set up a comparison between Isabel and the Virgin. Whinnom himself noted that Regula Langbehn-Rohland, in a book published in 1970, ‘percibe cierta conexión en el hecho de que Isabel y la Santísima Virgen representan ambas, desde distintos puntos de vista, tipos de la mujer perfecta’.32 Patricia E. Grieve has also commented on this aspect of the poems:

Woman represents both light and dark, which was Christianized as the Eve-Mary antithesis. San Pedro does not neglect this idea, although his suggestion of it is subtle. He has been criticized for what looks like a clumsy addition of the poetic sorrows of Our Lady to a prose narrative. The criticism of style may be valid, but at least we can detect a reason for its inclusion: it recalls that there is one other woman, in addition to Isabel la Católica – named in the earlier poem of the work – who is worthy of praise and devotion – Mary. In fact Eve is briefly mentioned in the poem.33

If, as Grieve says, both Isabel and the Virgin are ‘worthy of praise and devotion’, and if the amount of poetry written in praise of a lady is an indicator of her worth, which is of course debatable, we may conclude that the Virgin, whose poem is over double the length of Isabel’s, is of much greater importance than the latter and that she, in turn, is far above Lucenda, to whom a few short letras, invençiones and a canción are directed.34


31 Whinnom, Diego de San Pedro, p. 83.

32 Whinnom, OC, I, p. 63.

33 Patricia E. Grieve, Desire and Death in the Spanish Sentimental Romance (1440–1550) (Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta, 1987), p. 41.

34 Excluding rubrics, the Siete angustias (OC, I, pp. 150-165) is made up of 47 stanzas of 10 lines each, making a total of 470 lines of verse (there are two extra verses in the Cancionero de Hurus, which if included would bring the total up to 49 verses or 490 lines), the panegyric (OC, I, pp. 93-100) is made up of 21 stanzas of 10 lines each, making a total of 210 lines, and the canción (OC, I, p. 109) is made up of 2 stanzas, the first of 4 lines, the second of 8, making 12 lines in total.


Viewing the lengths of the poems as a comment on the relative worth of the Virgin, Isabel and Lucenda may ease the ‘discomfiture felt when reading the Angustias’ caused by ‘the extreme length of the piece in comparison with the panegyric of Queen Isabella’.35 Haywood’s discomfort perhaps stems from an understanding of the Queen and the Virgin as a pair of ‘perfect ladies’ rather than as examples of earthly and heavenly perfection respectively, in which the former must inevitably give precedence to the latter.36 As Tillier explains, it was

usually considered sufficient hyperbole to praise a lady by ranking her as second only to the Virgin Mary. One cancionero poet, Antón de Montoro, el Ropero de Córdoba, goes further than this and implies that the woman he is praising is on a par with the Blessed Virgin, or possibly superior to her. The woman in question is Queen Isabel.37

Montoro was strongly criticised by other poets for making such a heretical suggestion.38 San Pedro’s comparison between the Queen and the Blessed Virgin is, however, ‘discreet enough not to be offensive’.39 In the panegyric to Isabel contained in Arnalte y Lucenda San Pedro remains orthodox in his praise:

La más alta maravilla
de cuantas pensar podáis,
después de la sin manzilla,
es la Reina de Castilla.40

Just before the poet ‘Acaba y da fin’ he again mentions Mary and Isabel and the joy the former will feel when the latter dies and arrives in heaven:

pienso con alma elevada
en el gozo sin letijo
que habrán la Madre y el Fijo
con la huéspeda llegada.41


The letras and invençiones (San Pedro, OC, I, pp. 91, 92, 113, 114 and 143) are 3, 3, 3, 4 and 3 lines each. With the canción they make a total of 28 lines.

35 Haywood, ‘Lyric and Other Verse Insertions’, pp. 197-98.

36 Haywood, ‘Lyric and Other Verse Insertions’, p. 197.

37 Tillier, ‘Religious Elements’, p. 107.

38 Jones, ‘Isabel la Católica’, p. 56; Tillier, ‘Religious Elements’, pp. 107-12.

39 Dorothy Sherman Severin, ‘Diego de San Pedro From Manuscript to Print: The Curious Case of “La Pasión trobada”, “Las siete angustias”, and Arnalte y Lucenda’, La Corónica, XXIX.1 (2000), 187-91, at p. 188.

40 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 92. The person referred to as ‘la sin manzilla’ is of course the sinless Blessed Virgin Mary.


Lucenda, to whom Arnalte fruitlessly dedicates so much time and effort, is thus contrasted with these distinguished female figures whom San Pedro implies are much more worthy of veneration (in the case of the Virgin) and praise (in the case of the Queen).42

The relative locations of the object of the praise and the speaker are also indicative of differences between the ladies. The Virgin, being in Heaven, has access to knowledge in a way which is not possible for any person living on earth. She can hear all prayers directed to her, regardless of the location of the petitioner and thus Arnalte can speak to her directly. Isabel, though she has a reputation which is widely diffused and though she is praised at length, cannot hear the panegyric, since it is spoken to Arnalte outwith her presence. Lucenda, like the Queen, can only hear what is said or sung in her vicinity, and the canción is therefore sung at considerable volume outside her window: ‘las bozes della su dormir de Lucenda recordar pudieron’.43 Unlike the panegyric to Isabel, however, the song says little about the woman to whom it refers. She is not praised or described and is only referred to indirectly in the words ‘vuestro olvido’.44 The letras and invençiones are similarly uninformative since they focus on Arnalte’s suffering and say little or nothing about his lady.45 This cannot be ascribed to a reticent concern on the part of the lover for his beloved’s reputation since much cancionero love-poetry includes hyperbolic praise of the beloved’s beauty and indeed, the way in which the song is disseminated, ‘calls the reader to question Arnalte’s professed courtly values by exposing his lack of consideration for Lucenda’s reputation’.46


41 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 99.

42 The comparisons between Isabel and the Virgin continued to made even after the former’s death. In Andrés Bernáldez’s chronicle of her reign no explicit reference is made to the Virgin but the Queen is described as having ‘cuchillos’ of pain similar to those suffered by the Virgin, one of whose angustias, ‘traspasó tu coraçón / con cuchillo de la muerte’ (San Pedro, OC, I, p. 154). In both cases the pains are a result of the death of the sufferer’s offspring. In the case of the Queen: ‘Murió la reina doña Isabel, de gloriosa memoria, en el mes de novienbre año de MDIV años, en Medina del Canpo, de dolençia e muerte natural, que se creyó recresçérsele de los enojos e cuchillos de dolor de las muertes del prínçipe don Juan e de la reina de Portugal, prinçesa de Castilla, sus fijos, que traspasaron su ánima e su coraçón’ (Andrés Bernáldez, Memorias del reinado de los Reyes Católicos, edited by Manuel Gómez-Moreno and Juan de M. Carriazo [Madrid: Real Academia de la Historia, 1962], pp. 484-85, my emphasis).

43 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 109.

44 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 109.

45 San Pedro, OC, I, pp. 91, 92, 113, 114 and 143.

46 Haywood, ‘Lyric and Other Verse Insertions’, p. 195.


Not only do the long poems tell us much about those they describe, they also reveal much about the personalities of the characters who utter them. The autor’s praise of Queen Isabel, which he addresses to Arnalte, demonstrates that he is a loyal Isabeline courtier. Furthermore, the poem proves to Arnalte that the autor must often be at court, and will thus be able to transmit his story to the court ladies:

lo que dixe miró; e como tan curial fuese la cuenta que le di, mis faltas disimulando, mucho me agradesció; e porque la causa de su demanda supiese, me dixo que muy a la larga conmigo hablar quería, y antes que su fabla començase, haziéndome premias con mi fee, me dixo que todo lo que conmigo fablase, en poder de mugeres no menos sentidas que discretas lo pusiese, porque mugeres supiesen lo que muger le hizo; e porque su condición más que la de los hombres piadosa sea, culpando a ella, dél se doliesen.47

In addition, the poem plays an important part in Arnalte’s decision to make the autor the recipient of his story. We are told that Arnalte set the autor a test, which he has passed by uttering the poem concerning Isabel:

quise por saber lo que sabes oírte, y porque en ella te señalases, en plática tan fuerte quise ponerte; y esto porque de mis pasiones quiero notorio hazerte; y quise primero saber lo que sabes y si el recevimiento que merescen les harías; y hallo que es bien hazerlo por el testimonio que dan tus palabras de ti, creyendo, segund lo que sentí que sientes, que mi dezir y tu escuchar aposentarán en tu memoria mi mal.48

The autor has, in speaking the poem, demonstrated something about his own character and proved himself worthy to hear Arnalte’s woes: ‘el recevimiento que merescen les harías’.49 Arnalte could, of course, have poured out his story to any stranger, but it seems more plausible that he should wish to ensure that his guest is one well-versed enough in the ways of courts to comprehend his tale. It should be remembered, as Wack notes, that not everyone was thought capable of experiencing or understanding courtly love; ‘according to medieval physicians […] lovesickness did not afflict everyone alike: the sufferer was typically thought to be a noble


47 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 100, my emphasis. Whinnom here defines ‘curial’ as ‘propio de una curia o corte de un príncipe, cortesano’.

48 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 101, my emphasis.

49 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 101.


man’.50 In Cárcel de Amor Deseo states that: ‘sienpre me crié entre honbres de buena criança’ and Whinnom, in his edition of Cárcel, footnotes this statement, explaining that it makes ‘alusión a la idea muy difundida, a la cual volverá la madre de Leriano, y aceptada hasta en los tratados de los médicos, de que el noble es más sensible a la enfermedad del amor’.51

Given that the poem in praise of Isabel proves that the autor is knowledgeable about the court and is therefore likely to understand matters relating to courtly love, it may be that the Siete angustias also contains an indirect comment on courtly love. Whinnom considered the inclusion of the Siete angustias problematic, since ‘it demands a radical switch of perspective from the reader [and] it has the effect of making Arnalte’s misfortunes look trivial’.52 Yet perhaps this was precisely the effect San Pedro wished to create. This is the opinion of Regula Rohland de Langbehn, who believes that the Siete angustias undermines the ethos of courtly love by reminding the reader of the love of God: by including it ‘el autor traza una línea divisoria entre la religión y el amor, consciente de los valores auténticos igual que Juan Rodríguez del Padrón’.53 Grieve also concludes that the Siete angustias provides an indirect critique of the type of love felt by Arnalte, since it demonstrates the ‘connection of love and death. This illustration of love and death, unlike Arnalte proper, shows a positive aspect of the death which comes from love’.54

The Siete angustias may also reveal further clues about Arnalte’s personality. As Whinnom observed:

the lovelorn and rejected Arnalte, toward the end of the novel, composes and recites The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady to try to forget his own sorrows—much as Diego de San Pedro himself claimed to have composed The Passion in order to assuage his own passion for the nun.55


50 Mary Frances Wack, Lovesickness in the Middle Ages: The ‘Viaticum’ and its Commentaries, Middle Ages Series (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990), p. xi.

51 Diego de San Pedro,  OC, II: Cárcel de amor, edited by Keith Whinnom, Clásicos Castalia, 39 (Madrid: Castalia, 1985), p. 82 and pp. 82-84.

52 Whinnom, Diego de San Pedro, p. 60.

53 Regula Rohland de Langbehn, ‘Argumentación y poesía: función de las partes integradas en el relato de la novela sentimental española de los siglos XV y XVI’, in Actas del IX Congreso de la Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas, 18-23 agosto 1986, Berlín, edited by Sebastian Neumeister, 2 vols, Editionen des Iberoamericana, 3, Monographien und Aufsätze, 28 (Frankfurt: Vervuert for AIH, 1989), I, pp. 575-82, at p. 578.

54 Grieve, Desire and Death, p. 115.

55 Whinnom, Diego de San Pedro, p. 59.


While San Pedro claims he wrote about Christ’s Passion as a result of his love, and Leriano in San Pedro’s Cárcel de Amor expires in a scene reminiscent of the Passion, it may be that Arnalte, as a result of his Marian devotion, has taken her and not her son as his model, performing not an imitatio Christi, but an imitatio Mariae.56 Arnalte quite explicitly makes a comparison between his pains and those of the Virgin since he wishes to ‘olvidar tristezas mías / y acordarme de las tuyas’.57 He also explains that he is ‘a Nuestra Señora muy devoto’.58 A careful reading raises the possibility that Arnalte is not just appealing to the Virgin, but that his devotion to her may have led him to base many of his emotional reactions on hers.

Arnalte’s use of the word angustia throughout the text suggests that his perception that there is some correlation between his sufferings and those of the Virgin is a sustained one, and it also provides a thematic link between the Siete angustias and Arnalte’s story, providing yet another clue that the poem is not a digresión totalmente inconexa. The word ‘angustia’ appears in the tractado a number of times before the Siete angustias. Arnalte describes the canción sung outside Lucenda’s bedroom as ‘los gritos de mis angustias.59 He exclaims ‘¡Cuántas angustias, cuántas ansias, cuántas congoxas en mí sus fuerças mostraban!’ and the word is also used in connection with Belisa when she shares her brother’s suffering.60 Clearly, these references on their own would be insufficient to prove that Arnalte models himself on the Virgin. Not all the religious language used by Arnalte to describe himself and his experiences points unambiguously to an identification with Mary. Given that medieval ‘theologians could devote endless treatises to discussions of Mary’s likeness to Christ’ there are a number of words which could be associated with either the Virgin or her Son.61 For example, Arnalte refers to ‘la pasión’ which he suffers and tells Lucenda that in his letter she could have read of ‘cuántas pasiones después que te vi he visto’, while in the Siete angustias the Virgin is informed by Simeon that her Son’s ‘injurias


56 Keith Whinnom, ‘Cardona, the Crucifixion, and Leriano’s Last Drink’, edited by Alan Deyermond, in Studies on the Spanish Sentimental Romance, ed. Gwara and Gerli, pp. 207-15.

57 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 150.

58 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 149.

59 San Pedro, OC, I, pp. 109-10.

60 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 120 and p. 117.

61 Catherine M. Mooney, ‘Imitatio Christi or Imitatio Mariae? Clare of Assisi and her Interpreters’, in Gendered Voices: Medieval saints and their interpreters, edited by Catherine M. Mooney (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), pp. 52-77, at p. 68.


tamañas / te darán mortal pasión’ and the pain of the third angustia was such that ‘la grave pasión / traspasó tu coraçón’.62 As Jane Tillier has observed, however, ‘one would obviously be unwise to attempt to find a religious echo, a reference to Christ’s suffering, in every secular use of pasión’.63 The use of the word ‘angustia’ in the context of suffering as a result of courtly love is not particularly unusual, and in San Pedro’s Sermón ‘passión’ and ‘angustia’ are used as synonyms, ‘porque suelen recrescerse a los penados acaescimientos de tanta angustia que dessean hablarla, porque la passión comunicada duele menos’ and later in the same work he uses the plurals, ‘passiones’ and ‘angustias’.64

Another verbal parallel between the experiences of Arnalte and the Virgin is perhaps made by San Pedro’s use of the estribillo ‘que muero porque no muero’ which, for Gili Gaya, is

un verdadero leit-motiv de Arnalte y Lucenda, y lo repite con variaciones, en prosa y en verso, a lo largo de esta novela: que muere porque no muere; porque non muere non vive; en la muerte está la vida.65

Versions of this motif are used in connection with both Arnalte and the Virgin. She contrasts her life with her son’s death, ‘si dexaras que pudiera / darle mi muerte la vida’ and ‘la pasión de su muerte / me dará infinitas muertes’.66 Another variation on the same theme appears during the description of the fourth angustia when the Virgin says ‘Vida muerta viviré’ and during the sixth angustia she exclaims ‘mi vivir será morir’.67 This paradox of a life which is death or a death which would bring life is also present in Arnalte’s canción:

Si mi mal no ha de morir
y mi daño ha de crecer,
no sé qué pueda perder
que pierda más que en vivir68


62 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 105, p. 152 and p. 154.

63 Jane Yvonne Tillier, ‘Passion Poetry in the Cancioneros’, BHS, LXII (1985), 65-78, at p. 66.

64 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 176 and p. 177.

65 Samuel Gili Gaya, ed., Diego de San Pedro: Obras, Clásicos Castellanos, 133 (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1950), pp. vii-xxxvii at pp. xiii-xiv.

66 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 153.

67 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 158 and p. 162.

68 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 109.


and ‘¿para qué es temer la muerte / pues que en ella está la vida?’.69 As with the use of the word ‘pasión’, however, this theme is also one which may recall Christ’s death which brings eternal life: ‘Christ [...] suffers a death and yet continues to live. This echo adds force to the standard theme of death in life’.70 The use of words such as pasión, angustia and the death in life topos in the context of the sufferings of both Arnalte and the Virgin cannot be taken as proof that San Pedro intended his readers to do anything more than draw the broadest of comparisons between the depth of Arnalte’s suffering and that of the Virgin, a comparison of the sort encouraged by the oración with which the Siete angustias concludes:

[...] Virgen, por estas muertes
y tristes angustias tuyas,
te pido con fuerças fuertes
que mis males desconciertes
y mis dolores destruyas.
Fazme tu pena sentir,
fazme la mía olvidar.71

To find evidence that Arnalte may be performing an imitatio Mariae we must look closely at the physical locations in which each angustia takes place and at the reactions of the Virgin and her companions. The Virgin’s first angustia takes place ‘cuando el Niño ofreciste / al viejo honrado en el templo’.72 The Christ-child is described by the Virgin as ‘cuerpo lleno de luz’.73 Lucenda is to some extent associated with the Christ: her name suggests that she is a being of light and Arnalte recalls ‘la luz del rostro de Lucenda’.74 Lucenda too is associated with an old man, but in her case it is her dead father, an ‘hombre de mucha autoridad y honra’.75 Arnalte’s first pangs of love occur in a church, where the body of Lucenda’s father is placed ‘en medio del templo’.76 There are thus a number of parallels between the first ‘angustia’ of the Virgin, which takes


69 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 109.

70 Tillier, ‘Passion Poetry’, p. 66.

71 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 164.

72 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 150.

73 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 152.

74 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 112. Lucenda’s name may also recall a name with rather negative connotations, that of Lucifer, as Satan was known prior to his rebellion and fall.

75 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 101.

76 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 101. As Tillier has observed, ‘The sighting of the lady in Church is of course a standard topic’ of courtly love (‘Passion Poetry’ p. 67; see also ‘Religious Elements’, pp. 14-15).


place in a temple where her child of light meets an old man and Arnalte’s first agony of love which occurs in a building referred to as a temple and where Lucenda is mourning her father. Furthermore, in both cases the person who experiences the ‘angustia’ is warned of future sufferings. In the case of the Virgin, Simeon warns her of the ‘mortal pasión’ that awaits her.77 As noted above, this is a word which is also used to describe Arnalte’s pain. Having seen Lucenda for the first time, Arnalte is left feeling ‘triste, espantado y temeroso’, fearful of the ‘daño de su causa’.78

The Virgin’s second angustia once more takes place in a temple, ‘después de tres días / lo fallaste ya en el templo’, as does Arnalte’s second sighting of Lucenda, which takes place when he decides ‘de ir al templo’.79 The parallels between the Virgin and Arnalte are further heightened by the fact that Arnalte chooses to dress as a woman, ‘ropas de muger de vestirme ensayé’.80 The meeting takes place at a time which brings to mind the Virgin, since it is the ‘noche de Navidad’.81

The Virgin’s responses to the third angustia, that of hearing that her son is about to die, are paralleled by Arnalte’s reactions to hearing of Lucenda’s forthcoming marriage. The Virgin is met by Saint John and Mary Magdalene who are crying, ‘vinieron a ti llorando’, and pulling out their hair, ‘Sacando con rabia esquiba sus cabellos a manojos’.82 Arnalte is greeted by Belisa, who is as tearful as the Saints, ‘su cara llorosa vi’, though she takes longer to impart her news and leaves her hair untouched.83 Whinnom noted that in the Siete angustias ‘the news of the Crucifixion constitutes only one Sorrow, and the poet telescopes the scene by having St. John and Mary Magdalen come in together and begin to relate, in chorus, the account which in The Passion [San Pedro’s La Pasión trobada] is given to Mary Magdalen alone’.84 While this ‘telescoping’ may be due to a wish to make the Sorrow in the Siete angustias simpler than the longer scene in La Pasión, if the Siete angustias was written in conjunction with Arnalte, with the intention of creating parallels between the sorrows of the Virgin and Arnalte’s suffering, the ‘telescoping’ could be due to a


77 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 152.

78 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 102.

79 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 154 and p. 106.

80 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 106. Whinnom relates that Regula Langbehn-Rohland found Arnalte’s decision to wear woman’s clothes a ‘rather disturbing comic element’, while Schevill found a precedent for it in the story of Achilles and Deidamia (Diego de San Pedro, p. 72 and p. 73).

81 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 106.

82 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 154.

83 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 141.

84 Whinnom, Diego de San Pedro, p. 57.


desire to make the parallels closer between this scene in the Siete angustias and the scene in which Belisa informs Arnalte of Lucenda’s marriage. This might also help to explain the ‘anomaly’ spotted by Whinnom:

San Pedro has turned Mary Magdalen’s narrative lament into a duet, recited by her and St. John, and he therefore makes the appropriate changes in the number of the verb in the first quintilla [...]. But in the next quintilla, in which the account is continued, the words are identical with those used in The Passion, and the first-person verbs are in the singular. In other words, the author has reverted to his conception of the speech as a monologue by Mary Magdalen, and has simply copied the verses from The Passion, either forgetting that both St. John and Mary Magdalen are speaking, or simply finding it too difficult to accommodate, without extensive rewriting, the extra syllables necessary to pluralize the verbs.85

Perhaps, if the Siete angustias was originally written for inclusion in Arnalte y Lucenda, San Pedro’s slips into the singular were due in part to thinking about Belisa, a lone messenger, while writing of the news being brought to the Virgin by a pair of messengers.86

The Virgin’s reaction to hearing the news is dramatic:

Como tú tal cosa oíste,
Virgen sagrada, preciosa,
fuera de seso saliste,
y contigo en tierra diste
con ansia cruel rabiosa;
y después que ya bolviste,
Señora, de amortecida,
y después que ya supiste
como heras la más triste
que en el mundo fue nascida,


85 Whinnom, Diego de San Pedro, p. 58.

86 According to Severin, ‘the jury is still out’ on whether La Pasión trobada was ‘cannibalised by the author and a “Siete Angustias de Nuestra Señora” poem was separately written (and possibly circulated in manuscript), to be printed both within the text of the Tratado de amores de Arnalte y Lucenda [...] and as a separate poem [...]. Of course, the process just might have been the other way around; the “Angustias” having proved popular in court, Diego de San Pedro might have decided to expand to a full Passion poem’ (‘Diego de San Pedro From Manuscript to Print’, p. 188 and p. 187). Either possibility is compatible with my suggestion that thoughts of Belisa (a single messenger) may have lead to the ‘telescoping’ of verbs in the scene in the Siete angustias where there are two messengers, but of course it would only be a possibility if the Siete angustias was written for inclusion in Arnalte.


Fuiste con dolor cubierta
por el rastro que fallavas;
fuiste viva casi muerta,
de frío sudor cubierta
del cansancio que llebabas;
y con ansias que pasabas
de tus cabellos asías,
y a menudo desmayabas.87

Arnalte too falls senseless and speechless to the floor, ‘allí, sin palabra le responder, fallescida la fuerça e crecido el dolor, comigo en el suelo di’.88 He does this in a less graceful fashion than does the Virgin, landing with a loud bump, ‘fue el golpe tan grande’.89 Like the Virgin, who is described as ‘amortecida’, he appears to have received a deathly blow, ‘por muerto me juzgavan’.90 Where she proceeds ‘con dolor cubierta’, Arnalte makes the signs of his grief more concrete, dressing in ‘una capa […] de la lutosa librea que el coraçón y la persona cubría’.91 Arnalte also exaggerates and distorts the Virgin’s other signs of grief. Whereas she pulls out her hair, he attacks his flesh too, ‘las carnes de Arnalte feridas a fazer con mis manos comencé; y de mis muchos cabellos el suelo henchí’.92 Collapse, the tearing of hair and the assumption of mourning garb are traditional elements in mourning ritual and given that Arnalte uses them when no death is imminent, it may be that he does so in imitation of the Virgin’s response.93 Furthermore, Arnalte’s extreme display of grief more closely


87 San Pedro, OC, I, pp. 155-56.

88 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 142.

89 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 142.

90 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 142.

91 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 142-43.

92 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 142.

93 The ‘violent tearing of the hair, face and clothes were [...] part of the ritual indispensable to lamentation throughout antiquity’ (Margaret Alexiou, The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974], p. 6). While certain of the actions associated with mourning could be used on other occasions, such as in cases of rape, when, ‘Clawing her cheeks, a [medieval Castilian] rape victim made the customary sign of a woman in mourning, but now she grieved for the loss of her chastity and her honour’, it is unusual for so many of these actions (collapse, wearing of mourning clothes, tearing of hair and flesh) to occur together outside the context of a bereavement (Heath Dillard, Daughters of the Reconquest: Women in Castilian Town Society, 1100-1300, Cambridge Iberian and Latin American Studies [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984], p. 184). It might be argued that to a courtly lover his beloved’s marriage would be as traumatic as her death. However ‘“Amour courtois” was an


parallels that expected of women than of men and he himself explains that ‘aunque los semejantes abtos mugeriles sean’, his love made him act in this way, ‘las ordenanças de la pena de amor los hombres a ellos sometidos tienen’.94 His womanly behaviour, like his choice of clothing on Christmas Eve, may be due to his imitation of a female role model.

The fourth and fifth angustias concern the Virgin’s pain on seeing her son crucified and on witnessing his descent from the cross. There are fewer parallels here between the Virgin and Arnalte, since although there is a death, and Elierso could, by virtue of his marriage be considered to be of one flesh with Lucenda (who may be identified with Christ), it is Arnalte who causes Elierso’s death and it is not a source of sorrow to him. Nonetheless, the references to Arnalte’s passión, discussed above, may recall the sufferings of the Virgin, who participates in her son’s agonies. In the first angustia Simeon warned her that she would be tortured by the same tortures inflicted on her son:

[…] sus llagas tan estrañas
traspasarán tus entrañas
y abrirán tu coraçón.95


attachment by the poet, generally to a lady of the upper classes who was married’ (A.A. Parker, The Philosophy of Love in Spanish Literature 1480–1680 [Edinburgh: University Press, 1985], p. 15). In Andreas Capellanus’ De amore, it is stated that love cannot exist within marriage, but that a married woman could have a lover, ‘the precept of love [...] declares that no married woman will qualify to be crowned with the reward of the king of love unless she is seen to be joined to Love’s army outside the pact of marriage’ (P.G. Walsh, Andreas Capellanus on Love [London: Duckworth, 1982], p. 157). In itself, therefore, a change in Lucenda’s marital status would not have constituted an impediment to the pursuit of a courtly love affair, though Elierso’s statement that ‘de hazer lo que fize pensé, porque la desesperança tu salud restituirte pudiese’ suggests that he did not propose to facilitate such a relationship (San Pedro, OC, I, p. 145).

94 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 142. From antiquity, a distinction was made between the expected responses to bereavement of men and women. On ‘Attic and Athenian funerary plaques and vases [...] the kinswomen stand round the bier, the chief mourner, either mother or wife, at the head, and the others behind. [...] The ritual formality of the men, who enter in procession [...] contrasts sharply with the wild ecstasy of the women’ (Alexiou, The Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition, p. 6). On the expectation in medieval Castile that grief would be demonstrated in a more extreme manner by women than by men, see Laura Vivanco, Death in Fifteenth-Century Castile: Ideologies of the Elites, Colección Tamesis, A 205 (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2004), pp. 165-166 and p. 174.

95 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 152.


In Arnalte’s case, Belisa begs Lucenda to have compassion on him since ‘no tan lebes clavos tu fermosura en su coraçón puso, que sola muerte tal poder tener puede’ (my emphasis).96 The Virgin’s heart is pierced by her son’s wounds (some of them caused by the nails which hold him to the cross) while Arnalte’s heart is pierced by nails placed there by Lucenda’s beauty.

In the sixth angustia the Virgin buries her son, an act which finds echoes in Lucenda’s entry into a nunnery. Although it is not Arnalte who places Lucenda in the nunnery, it is certain that had he not killed her husband she and her family would not have decided this was the best option for her. Where the Virgin ‘posiste en la sepultura / a tu fijo glorïoso’, Lucenda’s family ‘a ponerla en una casa de religión muy estrecha que ella havía escogido se van’.97 It is perhaps relevant that in the descriptions of Christ’s burial and Lucenda’s entry into a nunnery both Christ and Lucenda are described as passive subjects being placed in a final location. Furthermore, the differences between the dwelling-places of the dead and the living are erased through the use of language. At the burials of both Lucenda’s father and her husband, the tomb is described as a lodging-place, similar to that inhabited by living people: ‘como ya en el final aposentamiento su padre fuese puesto, e ella, dexándolo en él, al suyo se fuese’, and in relation to Elierso, ‘llebado él a la final casa de la tierra y puesto yo en mi posada’.98 Similar language is used to describe the Virgin as she leaves her son’s tomb: ‘tornaste /a tu casa, y lo dexaste /al hijo tuyo en la suya’.99 It does not seem so far-fetched, therefore, to suggest that in the case of Lucenda, the equivalent to a burial has taken place. She is physically alive but the placing of her in the nunnery has made her dead to the world.100 The Virgin expresses her desire to join her Son in His tomb, saying ‘Dexadme con vos entrar, / porque estén en un lugar / el fijo y la madre triste’ and this wish to be interred alongside the beloved is exhibited


96 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 129.

97 San Pedro, OC, I, pp. 160 and 149.

98 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 102 and pp. 146-147.

99 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 163.

100 The phrase ‘dead to the world’ is frequently used to describe those who took religious vows, as in the Summa theologica, ‘He that has already made his profession in religion is deemed to be already dead to the world’ (St Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, 2nd and revised edition [London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1920], 31 May 2005 <>, IIaIIae, 101.4). It is quite likely that Lucenda has taken vows of some sort, since her arrival in the convent is followed by ‘las cerimonias acostumbradas’ (San Pedro, OC, I, p. 149).


by Arnalte also.101 Almost from the beginning of the tractado we have been aware that his sorrow is in part due to the fact that he cannot be buried with his beloved. On his tomb are inscribed the words:

Vedes aquí la memoria
del triste que se querella
porque no están él y ella.102

The Virgin’s seventh and final angustia is her journey away from the tomb:

Pensemos qué sentirías
cuando de allí te partieses;
pensemos qué tal irías
cuando, Reina, no tenías
casa cierta donde fueses.103

Arnalte too travels away from the scene of his pains and the words ‘no tenías / casa cierta donde fueses’ could equally well be applied to Arnalte as he sets off on his journey into the wilderness. Like her, he has companions: while she had ‘toda la gente honrada / que contigo quiso ir’, he recalls that ‘los míos y yo nuestro desconsolado camino seguimos’.104 Her final destination is referred to as ‘la casa de amor’, a description which would also suit Arnalte’s new home, since in that ‘casa entristecida [...] los exercicios e edeficios [...] e el matiz della de las obras de Lucenda se sacaron’.105

There are thus parallels between events in Arnalte’s story and five of the Virgin’s angustias. There are no equivalents for the Virgin’s fourth and fifth angustias, those caused by witnessing her son’s crucifixion and descent from the cross. When San Pedro wrote the Siete angustias

there was still no general agreement about precisely which of the many moments of anguish in the life of the Virgin were to be recognized as the consecrated Seven, and while poets continued to compose verses on one or other of the individual Sorrows, the first poet in Spanish to treat of all seven was either Diego de San Pedro or Gómez Manrique. Neither of the


101 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 161.

102 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 92.

103 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 163.

104 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 164 and p. 169.

105 San Pedro, OC, I, p. 164 and p. 169.


pieces composed by these two poets can be dated with sufficient accuracy to determine which came first.106

Given that the poets were able to choose which Sorrows to include, it is interesting to compare the Sorrows included in the two poems. It is clear that the Sorrows in San Pedro’s poem parallel Arnalte’s sufferings much more closely than do the Sorrows in Manrique’s poem (see Table 1, p. 153). There are only three Sorrows in Manrique’s poem which would find parallels in Arnalte’s story, compared to the Siete angustias’ five. The remaining two Sorrows are the key episodes of the crucifixion and the descent from the cross, which San Pedro could not justifiably have omitted. That his selection of angustias so closely matches episodes in Arnalte’s story makes it seem likely that he wrote the Siete angustias for inclusion in the tractado. Perhaps San Pedro’s decision to omit the Flight into Egypt was because it would not have had a parallel in Arnalte’s story, and he instead chose a later example of the Virgin travelling, namely her departure from the tomb and her journey to her house. The episode in which the news of her son’s arrest is brought to her was perhaps preferred to a scene directly about the arrest and trial, as in Manrique’s poem, because it focusses on the Virgin’s reaction to sorrowful news and is thus more open to imitation.

Clearly Arnalte’s behaviour and life do not copy the Virgin’s exactly and I have been able to find parallels in only five out of the seven angustias.107 This, however, is more than sufficient to suggest that Arnalte’s aim is to perform an imitatio Mariae, since it is clear that many of the situations in which he finds himself, his emotional responses to them, and the language he uses to describe his sufferings, recall hers. The Siete Angustias, then, functions a source of Marian imagery, words and actions which are echoed in Arnalte’s responses to his angustias of love. As noted above, the Virgin was so closely associated with her son that perhaps San Pedro felt it was necessary to refer very overtly to the Virgin in his text, lest the language otherwise be thought to create parallels between Arnalte and Christ, or else be assumed to be the common religious hyperbole used by lovers.108 Thus the Siete angustias, far from


106 Whinnom, Diego de San Pedro, p. 56.

107 Since I am not suggesting that San Pedro was attempting to write Arnalte’s story as a parodic version of the Siete angustias, the lack of parallels between the angustias concerning the crucifixion and Arnalte’s sufferings need not concern us.

108 Perhaps San Pedro was referring to this overt way of making the comparisons between Arnalte and the Virgin when he reveals that ‘Bien pensé por otro estilo mis razones seguir, pero aunque fuera más sotil fuera menos agradable, y desta causa la obra del pensamiento dexé’ ( OC, I, p. 88).


being an irrelevance, reveals much about Arnalte, while the panegyric to Queen Isabel demonstrates that the auctor is a courtier. Together the Siete angustias and the panegyric provide a framework for the tractado, and along with the canción give us a deeper understanding of the relative merits of the Virgin Mary, Queen Isabel and Lucenda.


Sorrow No.:

Gomez Manrique’s Los cuchillos del dolor de Nuestra Señora1

Diego de San Pedro’s Las siete angustias de Nuestra Señora

Arnalte’s imitatio Mariae


the prophecy of Simeon

the prophecy of Simeon

Arnalte’s first sighting of Lucenda at her father’s funeral


the flight into Egypt

the Child lost in the Temple

Arnalte dresses as a woman to surprise Lucenda in the temple


the Child lost in the Temple

the news of the Crucifixion brought by St. John and Mary Magdalen

News of Lucenda’s forthcoming marriage is brought to Arnalte by Belisa


the arrest and trial of Christ

the sight of Christ on the Cross



the Crucifixion

the Descent from the Cross



the Descent from the Cross

the Burial

Lucenda enters a nunnery


the Burial

Mary’s parting from the corpse and tomb of her son, and returning to her house

Arnalte departs and builds his house

1 The descriptions of the Sorrows chosen by Manrique and San Pedro are as given by Whinnom, Diego de San Pedro, p. 56. The Sorrows were later ‘officially fixed at seven: the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of Jesus in the temple, the meeting with Jesus on the road to Calvary, the Crucifixion, the Deposition, and the Entombment’ (Marina Warner, Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and Cult of the Virgin Mary [London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1976; rpt. London: Quartet, 1978], p. 218).