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Biography of

Juan del Encina

12 jul 1468 (Salamanca) - 1530 (Leon)
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Juan del Encina (born July 12, 1468 – died late 1529 or early 1530)[1]. His actual name was Juan de Fermoselle[2], and was one of at least 7 known children[3]. Fermoselle was a composer, poet and playwright,[4] often called the founder of Spanish drama.[5]



He was born in 1468 near Salamanca,[6] probably at Encina de San Silvestre. He was of Jewish converso descent.[7][8] After leaving Salamanca University[9] sometime in 1492[10] he became a member of the household of Don Fadrique de Toledo, the second Duke of Alba, although some sources believe that he did not work for the Duke of Alba until 1495[11]. A plausible argument is that his first post was as a Corregidor in northern Spain[12].

Fermoselle was a Chaplain at the Salamanca Cathedral in the early 1490s[13]. It was here that he adopted the name Enzina, or Encina during his stay as Chaplain[14]. He was later forced to resign as Chaplain because he was not ordained[15].


In 1492 the poet entertained his patron with a dramatic piece, the Triunfo de la fama, written to commemorate the fall of Granada.[16] In 1496 he published his Cancionero,[17] a collection of dramatic and lyrical poems. He then applied for the canto post at Salamanca Cathedral, but the part was divided among three singers, including his rival Lucas Fernandez[18].

While working for the Duke of Alba, Encina was the program director, of which Lucas Fernandez was a part of[19]. Here Encina wrote pastoral eclogues, the foundation of Spanish secular drama[20]. Encina's plays are predominantly based on shepherds and unrequited love[21].

Encina was ambitious, looking to be promoted based on preferment,[22] so around 1500 he relocated to Rome, where he apparently served in the musical establishments of several cardinals or noblemen.[23] Encina was appointed Archdiaconate of Malaga Cathedral by Julius II in 1508[24].

In 1518 he resigned from position at Malaga for a simple benefice at Moron, and the following year he went to Jerusalem,[25] where he sung his first mass.[26] He also wrote about the events during his pilgrimage to Jerusalem in Tribagia o Via Sacra de Hierusalem[27]. In 1509 he had held a lay canonry at Málaga;[28] in 1519 he was appointed by Leon for the priorship of Leon Cathedral.[29] His last job was recorded as being in Leon, where he is thought to have died towards the end of 1529.[30]

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.[31] The Aucto del Repelón and the Égloga de Fileno dramatize the adventures of shepherds;[32] the latter, like Pládcida y Vitoriano, is strongly influenced by the Celestina. The intrinsic interest of Encina's plays is slight, but they are important from the historical point of view, for the lay pieces form a new departure, and the devout eclogues prepare the way for the autos of the 17th century. Moreover, Encina's lyrical poems are remarkable for their intense sincerity and devout grace.

Even though his works were dedicated to royal families, he never served as a member of a royal chapel[33]. And even though Encina worked in many Cathedrals and was ordained as a priest, no religious musical works are known to still exist[34]. Most of his works were done by his mid-30's[35], some 60 or more songs attributed to Encina, and another 9 settings of texts on top of that, to which the music could also be added, but not for certain[36]. Many of the surviving pieces are villancicos, which he was a leading composer in[37]. The Spanish villancico is the equivalent of the Italian Frottola[38]. There are three and four voice settings that offer a variety of styles depending on the kind of text, with very limited movements in the voices in preparation for the cadence points[39].To make the text heard clearly, Encina used varied and flexible rhythms that are patterned on the accents of the verse, and used simple yet strong harmonic progressions[40].

Leonese times

Encina held the priorship of Leon Cathedral from November 1523 until his final illness in December 1529[41]. Juan del Encina's will was presented on January 14, 1530, so the exact date of his death is not known, but it is thought to be in late 1529 or early 1530[42]. In his will he noted that he wanted to be buried beneath the choir of Salamanca Cathedral[43], and in 1534 his remains were taken to the Cathedral[44].

Leones Language Influence

Juan del Enzina wrote in Castillian with Leonese language influences or in Leonese[45] for his language for his pastoral clogues. He was from Salamanca, a Leonese speaking region and eventually arrived at the capital of the Kingdom of León, where he would eventually die.

Selected works

  • Triunfo de la fama (1492)
  • Cancionero (1496)
  • Tan buen ganadico (1496)
  • Más vale trocar (1496)
  • Triste España sin ventura (1504)
  • Plácida y Victoriano (1513)
  • Églogas
  • Oy comamos y bebamos (late 15th century)
  • Tribagia o Via Sacra de Hierusalem (1521)


  1. ^ Slonimsky, Nicolas, ed. Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians seventh edition. London, England: Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1984: 662
  2. ^ ibid, 662
  3. ^ Pope
  4. ^ Magill, Frank N., ed. Critical Survey of Drama: Foreign Language Series v2. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Salem Press, 1986: 535
  5. ^ Slonimsky, 662
  6. ^ Slonimsky
  7. ^ ibid
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Slonimsky
  10. ^ ibid
  11. ^ Pope, Isabel; Tess Knighton. Encina, Juan del. Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 2nd edition. V8. New York, New York: Grove’s Dictionaries Inc., 2001: 194
  12. ^ Pope, 194
  13. ^ Pope, 194
  14. ^ ibid, 194
  15. ^ ibid
  16. ^ ibid, 194
  17. ^ ibid, 194
  18. ^ ibid, 194
  19. ^ Magill, Frank N, ed. "Critical Survey of Drama: Foreign Language Series" v2. Salem Press, 1986: 537
  20. ^ Slonimsky, 662
  21. ^ Magill, 540
  22. ^ Pope, 194
  23. ^ Slonimsky, 662
  24. ^ Pope, 194
  25. ^ ibid, 194
  26. ^ ibid, 194
  27. ^ Slonimsky, 662
  28. ^ Pope, 194
  29. ^ Slonimsky, 662
  30. ^ Magill, 438
  31. ^ ibid, 539
  32. ^ ibid, 540
  33. ^ Pope, 194
  34. ^ Slonimsky, 662
  35. ^ Pope, 194
  36. ^ ibid, 194
  37. ^ ibid, 194
  38. ^ ibid, 194
  39. ^ ibid 194
  40. ^ ibid, 194
  41. ^ Slonimsky, 662
  42. ^ Pope, 194
  43. ^ ibid, 194
  44. ^ Magill, 538
  45. ^ López Morales, "Elementos leoneses en la lengua del teatro pastoril de los siglos XV y XVI". 1967


  • Teatro completo de Juan del Encina (Madrid, 1893), edited by F. Asenjo Barbieri
  • Cancionero musical de los siglos XV y XVI (Madrid, 1894), edited by F. Asenjo Barbieri
  • R. Mitjana, Sobre Juan del Encina, musico y poeta (Mlaga, 1895)
  • M. Menendez y Pelayo, Antologia de poetas liricos castellanos (Madrid, 1890–1903), Vol. VII
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Anselm, Dom, ed. "The New Oxford History of Music: Ars Nova and the Renaissance 1300-1540" Oxford University Press, 1960: 378
  • Magill, Frank N, ed. "Critical Survey of Drama: Foreign Language Series" v2. Salem Press, 1986: 535-545
  • Pope, Isabel; Tess Knighton Encina, Juan del. Sadie, Stanley, ed. "The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 2nd edition" V8.Grove's Dictionaries Inc., 2001: 193-196
  • Slonimsky, Nicolas, ed. "Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians" seventh edition. Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1984: 662
  • Buekholder, J. Peter, Claude V Palisca. "Norton Anthology of Western Music: volume 1" fifth edition. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2006

External links

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Juan del Encina. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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