Multilingualism, Romance, and Language Pedagogy; or, Why Were So Many Sentimental Romances Printed as Polyglot Texts?

  • Joyce Boro
Part of the Early Modern Literature in History book series (EMLH)


In the sixteenth century, the Spanish sentimental romance conquered the European book market. As the romances were printed, translated, and adapted over and over again, their reading public stretched across the Iberian Peninsula and into France, Italy, the Low Countries, Poland, Germany, and England. The three greatest bestsellers were Diego de San Pedro’s Cárcel de amor (1492) and Arnalte y Lucenda (1491) and Juan de Flores’s Grisel y Mirabella (1495), with 72, 29, and 60 editions respectively.1 The popularity of these romances is not surprising: they narrate compelling stories in an eloquent style and engage with timely questions such as the politics of counsel, gender relations, and the tension between love and honour inherent in courtly love. What is less expected, however, is the physical format of many of these texts. A significant quantity are polyglot, parallel-text editions: 23 multilingual editions of Grisel y Mirabella were issued, including 15 Italian-French, 4 Spanish-French, and 4 Spanish-French-Italian-English (Figure 1); Cárcel de amor boasts 18 bilingual French-Spanish editions; and Arnalte y Lucenda was printed in 5 French-Italian and 3 English-Italian texts. In his study of early sixteenth-century Latin-English parallel-text editions, Daniel Wakelin observes that these bilingual volumes’ prefaces advertise their ability to provide both linguistic and moral instruction and that ‘most of the works printed in parallel texts offer moral philosophy […] or history […], which might be read as exemplary’.2


Sixteenth Century Language Pedagogy Moral Instruction Modern Language Language Manual 
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© Joyce Boro 2011

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  • Joyce Boro

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