Novel Pastoril: Definition, Evolution and Characteristics

The Pastoral novel , In the universal literature, is that literary genre of prose that is characterized by its idealization of the pastoral life and the peasant in general.

It also has incursions into sentimental episodes that express the Renaissance spirit (hence, this is an Italian genre).

Pastoral novel

The initiator of this type of novel was Theocritus in Century III a. C. although it was not until the sixteenth century when this narrative form reached its maximum splendor with authors as Jorge de Montemayor .

As for the context, the pastoral novel is a Renaissance genre that is located in the Spanish Golden Age and had its direct origins in Italy and later in Portugal.

Shortly thereafter it developed in the Spanish language and from there, after its increasing popularity, it passed to the rest of Europe, with more emphasis in France, Germany and England.

The influence on certain writers was such that many used it to go one step further in the letters and to create new literary forms.

Evolution of the pastoral novel

The development of the pastoral novel is situated under two fundamental frameworks. The first of them refers to the passage of this genre in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with its entry into the Renaissance. And the second, entails the groups of texts that were composed during the Spanish Golden Age, stage of Prominent featured writers .

As mentioned, the pastoral novel is a genre characterized by the dialogue of the shepherds about the love that comes from Italy. This is because its initiator was the Italian writer Jacopo Sannazaro (1458-1530) with his Arcadia , Published in 1504.

At the same time, contemporaries to Sannazaro like the Portuguese Bernardim Ribeiro (1482-1552) published works of the same style like Girl and girl ( Girl and wench , In Spanish), after his death.

In this sense, Ribeiro's novel was not declared entirely pastoral although it was the first novel of its kind in the Iberian Peninsula, while Sannazaro was the pioneer in being written in a Romance language.

Soon after, Jorge de Montemayor (1520-1561) published Diana's seven books (1558), Portuguese who wrote the first novel of shepherds in Castilian language.

As a result, Jorge de Montemayor wrote his Diana Based on an accomplished translation of the Dialogues of love (Published in 1535) and whose author was Leon Hebreo, a Portuguese Jewish doctor who was expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492.

Therefore, Montemayor did more than put one of the foundational stones of the pastoral novel, that is, he was in charge of giving continuity to a literary tradition dating back much earlier.

Thus, the pastoral novel, which at first was cultivated in Romance languages ​​(it was also written in French), soon spread to the Germanic languages, so they were read in England and Germany.

In fact, it is known that Shakespeare should have known of some copies of these stories that were translated into English through the Hispanist Bartholomew Young, who knew well the work of Montemayor.

Later, the pastoral novel exerted its influence in authors like Miguel de Cervantes and its Galatea , Published in 1585, in addition to the respective parody done by the same writer in his Quixote .

In this classic of Hispanic narrative and universal literature, Cervantes tells how a priest saved the Diana Of Montemayor, to which he wanted to be made a minor edition in which censorship was made of a scene that did not seem pleasant.

Characteristics of the pastoral novel

Although the novel pastoral had no more success than the novel of chivalry, if it is true that introduced a number of novel aspects.

In this sense, this genre introduced different themes in the same story. So the reader could find that in the same book there were arguments ranging from the pastoral to the chivalric and from the Moorish to the border. In this way, this genre was representing a new generation of creative Spaniards.

In relation to the above, the pastoral novel influenced the creation of the modern novel with Cervantes gifts. At the same time, the pastoral novel drinks from the eclogue where the pastors are in a pleasant place that does not need a specific place to count the love acts of those who deal without the alteration of the core of the narrative.

In short, the pastoral novel has a Virgilian essence, with a tradition that recalls its Bucolic By Virgilio And which are versioned in Sannazaro. (The authors of the Golden Age were fervent admirers of the Latin classic poet).

Of course, the novel of pastors has a lyric that refers to the Castilian traditions and drama of the élogues that were already exposed at the end of the fifteenth century but mature in the sixteenth century, ie, when the genre reaches its zenith.

The essence of the pastoral novel, in this way, has swings ranging from comedy to tragedy, with a vast literary variety that is observed in their linguistic records and also in the complexity of their feelings. On the other hand, the eclogue takes advantage of its way of establishing a connection between the plane in which the facts are described and the reality that is outside the text, which is nothing but the vicissitudes that exist in love.

In addition, the pastoral novel does not complicate the literary universe, but rather simplifies it and makes it focus on the feelings that are lived, or more specifically, on the feelings of their characters, which take some licenses in relation to Its link with society.

Thus, the pastoral narrative is experimental, since the author tests the relations of affection together with the rhetoric with which it is written and described. In other words, the pastoral novel is experimental because it is written by trial and error, that is, the author of this genre tests different options, shuffles them and writes them.

However, the result is far from being mediocre and condemned to oblivion since the pastoral novel is achieved, as mentioned, to engage in the posthumous literary tradition.

In this way, rebirth is key in the creation of this genre since it revitalizes ideas that were believed to be missing or forgotten, including the ideas of the Greco-Roman classics.

In summary, and starting from the previous descriptions, the characteristics of the pastoral novel are the following:

  • Multitude of arguments and plots in the same story.
  • The place of the narration is not precise.
  • The theme of the novel is love.
  • The pastoral structure has reminiscences to the Greco-Roman classics.
  • Events vary between tragedy and comedy.
  • His literary universe is as simple as his characters.
  • The characters do not always conform to the norms of society.
  • The rhetoric and language of the novel are experimental.
  • There is an eagerness to explore ways of surpassing the novels of cavalry.
  • The main literary source is the Italian Renaissance.

Languages ​​of the pastoral novel

The pastoral novel was written in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, although there are also written in French, English and German, although to a lesser extent.

The pre-eminence of this literary genre, however, encompassed Castilian literature, in which, given its popularity, it was translated into other languages ​​which were the vehicle for the most celebrated authors of that time, such as William Shakespeare, to base portions of some His most outstanding works.

Some famous authors

  • Jacopo Sannazaro (1458-1530).
  • Bernardim Ribeiro (1482-1552).
  • Jorge de Montemayor (1520-1561).
  • Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616).

Featured Novels

  • The Diana (1558), by Jorge de Montemayor.
  • The Diana in love (1564), by Gaspar Gil Polo.
  • La Galatea (1585), of Don Miguel de Cervantes.
  • Arcadia (1598), by the famous Lope de Vega.


  1. Alatorre, Antonio (1998). "The text of the Diana of Montemayor". New Journal of Hispanic Philology , 46 (2), pp. 407-18.
  2. Alvar, Carlos; Mainer, José Carlos and Navarro Durán, Rosa (2014). Brief history of Spanish literature, 2nd edition. Madrid: Alianza Editorial.
  3. Cristina Castillo Martínez (2005). Anthology of books of shepherds. Alcalá de Henares: Cervantine Studies Center.
  4. Gies, David T. (2008). The Cambridge History of Spanish Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  5. Guardiola, María Luisa (2001). Introduction to Spanish literature; Glossary of useful terms. Pennsylvania, United States: Swarthmore College. Retrieved from
  6. Lauer, A. Robert (2006). The Pastoril Novel. Oklahoma, United States: University of Oklahoma. Retrieved from
  7. Montero, Juan (No year). Pastoral novel; Presentation. Madrid, Spain: Miguel de Cervantes Virtual Library. Recovered from
  8. Trazegnies Granda, Leopoldo de (2007). Literary Dictionary. Seville, Spain: Virtual Library of Literature. Retrieved from

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