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Don Juan Manuel

Don Juan Manuel Don Juan Manuel[2†]

Don Juan Manuel (5 May 1282 – 13 June 1348) was a Spanish medieval writer, nobleman, and man of letters who has been called the most important prose writer of 14th-century Spain[1†][2†]. He was born in Escalona, New Castile[1†] and died in Córdoba[1†]. The infante Don Juan Manuel was the grandson of Ferdinand III and the nephew of Alfonso X[1†]. He fought against the Moors when only 12 years old[1†], and the rest of his life was deeply involved in the political intrigues of his time[1†].

Don Juan Manuel is best known for his “Libro de los enxiemplos del conde Lucanor et de Patronio” (1328–35), also known as "Count Lucanor: or, The Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio"[1†], a treatise on morals in the form of 50 short tales, in which Count Lucanor asks questions of his counsellor[1†]. The work was written in a lucid and straightforward manner, with an informal and personal prose style, almost completely free of the usual ornate language of the day[1†]. It greatly influenced the development of Spanish prose, setting a standard for writers who followed[1†].

Outstanding among his extant works are “Libro de los estados” (“The Book of States”), a treatise on politics, and “Libro del caballero y del escudero” (“The Book of the Knight and the Squire”), a treatise on society[1†].

Early Years and Education

Don Juan Manuel was born on May 5, 1282, in the Castle of Escalona, in what is now the province of Toledo[2†]. He was the son of Manuel of Castile and his second wife Beatrice of Savoy[2†]. The infante Don Juan Manuel was the grandson of Ferdinand III and the nephew of Alfonso X[2†][1†][2†].

From a young age, Don Juan Manuel was exposed to the political and military affairs of his time. He fought against the Moors when he was only 12 years old[2†][1†][2†]. His life was deeply involved in the political intrigues of his time[2†][1†][2†].

Juan Manuel was educated at the court of his cousin, Sancho IV, where his abilities made him a favorite[2†]. With the death of his mother in 1292, Juan Manuel became the Duke of Peñafiel[2†]. He was trained in arts such as equestrianism, hunting, and fencing, and in addition learned Latin, history, law, and theology[2†].

In 1304, at the age of 22, he was entrusted by the queen mother, Doña María de Molina, to conduct political negotiations with James II of Aragon on behalf of her son, Ferdinand IV, then under age[2†]. The diplomacy was successful, and Ferdinand’s marriage to James II’s daughter, Constantina, added to Juan Manuel’s prestige[2†].

Career Development and Achievements

Don Juan Manuel inherited from his father the great Lordship of Villena, receiving the titles of Lord, Duke and lastly Prince of Villena[2†][3†]. He became one of the richest and most powerful men of his time, coining his own currency as the kings did[2†]. During his life, he was criticised for choosing literature as his vocation, an activity thought inferior for a nobleman of such prestige[2†].

At the age of twelve, he fought to repel the attack of the Moors from Granada to Murcia[2†]. In 1304, he was entrusted by the queen mother, Doña María de Molina, to conduct political negotiations with James II of Aragon on behalf of her son, Ferdinand IV, then under age[2†]. The diplomacy was successful and Ferdinand’s marriage to James II’s daughter, Constantina, added to Juan Manuel’s prestige[2†].

Juan Manuel had constant confrontations with his king. At the time, the throne of Castile was occupied by two monarchs, Ferdinand IV and Alfonso XI[2†].

Don Juan Manuel is best known for his “Libro de los enxiemplos del conde Lucanor et de Patronio” (1328–35), also known as "Count Lucanor: or, The Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio"[2†][1†], a treatise on morals in the form of 50 short tales, in which Count Lucanor asks questions of his counsellor[2†][1†]. The work was written in a lucid and straightforward manner, with an informal and personal prose style, almost completely free of the usual ornate language of the day[2†][1†]. It greatly influenced the development of Spanish prose, setting a standard for writers who followed[2†][1†].

Outstanding among his extant works are “Libro de los estados” (“The Book of States”), a treatise on politics, and “Libro del caballero y del escudero” (“The Book of the Knight and the Squire”), a treatise on society[2†][1†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Don Juan Manuel is best known for his work “Libro de los enxiemplos del conde Lucanor et de Patronio” (1328–35), also known as "Count Lucanor: or, The Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio"[1†][4†]. This work is a treatise on morals in the form of 50 short tales, where Count Lucanor asks questions of his counsellor[1†]. The work was written in a lucid and straightforward manner, with an informal and personal prose style, almost completely free of the usual ornate language of the day[1†]. It greatly influenced the development of Spanish prose, setting a standard for writers who followed[1†].

Here are some of his main works:

Each of these works represents a significant contribution to Spanish literature and provides insight into the societal and political context of the time[1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Don Juan Manuel’s work is marked by a great preoccupation with both the practical and spiritual life[2†]. His writings are directed not only to the nobility, but also to lower estates, as much of his work speaks not only of the duties of lords, but of their vassals as well[2†]. This reflects his deep concern about protecting and enhancing his own power[2†][5†]. In his writings, he emphasizes his own status as a powerful noble and carefully separates himself and his aristocratic class from the rest of society[2†][5†].

His most famous work, “Libro de los enxiemplos del conde Lucanor et de Patronio”, is written in a lucid and straightforward manner, with an informal and personal prose style, almost completely free of the usual ornate language of the day[2†][1†]. This greatly influenced the development of Spanish prose, setting a standard for writers who followed[2†][1†].

Don Juan Manuel has been called the most important prose writer of 14th-century Spain[2†][1†]. His works, particularly “Libro de los enxiemplos del conde Lucanor et de Patronio”, represent a significant contribution to Spanish literature and provide insight into the societal and political context of the time[2†][1†].

Personal Life

Don Juan Manuel was born on May 5, 1282, in the Castle of Escalona, in what is now the province of Toledo[2†]. He was a son of Manuel of Castile and his second wife Beatrice of Savoy[2†]. He was the grandson of Ferdinand III and the nephew of Alfonso X[2†][1†][2†].

He married three times, choosing his wives for political and economic convenience[2†][6†][3†][7†]. He worked to match his children with partners associated with royalty[2†][6†][3†][7†]. His marriages and alliances helped him become one of the richest and most powerful men of his time, coining his own currency as the kings did[2†].

Despite his noble status and wealth, Don Juan Manuel was criticized for choosing literature as his vocation, an activity thought inferior for a nobleman of such prestige[2†]. However, his capacity for letters made him a reference figure[2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Don Juan Manuel, born on May 5, 1282, in Escalona, New Castile, and died in 1348 in Córdoba, has been called the most important prose writer of 14th-century Spain[1†][2†]. He was a nobleman and man of letters, the grandson of Ferdinand III, and the nephew of Alfonso X[1†][2†]. His life was deeply involved in the political intrigues of his time[1†][2†].

Don Juan Manuel is best known for his work “Libro de los enxiemplos del conde Lucanor et de Patronio” (1328–35), also known as “Count Lucanor: or, The Fifty Pleasant Stories of Patronio”, a treatise on morals in the form of 50 short tales[1†]. This work was written in a lucid and straightforward manner, with an informal and personal prose style, almost completely free of the usual ornate language of the day[1†]. It greatly influenced the development of Spanish prose, setting a standard for writers who followed[1†].

Despite his noble status and wealth, Don Juan Manuel was criticized for choosing literature as his vocation, an activity thought inferior for a nobleman of such prestige[1†][2†]. However, his capacity for letters made him a reference figure[1†][2†].

His legacy continues to influence Spanish literature and his works are studied for their unique style and historical significance[1†][2†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Don Juan Manuel: Spanish author [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Juan Manuel [website] - link
  3. Pantheon - Don Juan Manuel Biography - Duke of Peñafiel & Spanish writer [website] - link
  4. Simple Wikipedia (English) - Don Juan Manuel [website] - link
  5. Encyclopedia.com - The Book of Count Lucanor and Patronio [website] - link
  6. Wikiwand - Juan Manuel - Wikiwand [website] - link
  7. Geneastar - Family tree of Don Juan Manuel [website] - link
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