The Life and Work of Garcilaso de la Vega

1. Introduction

Garcilaso de la Vega was a Spanish poet of the Renaissance who is widely considered to be one of the most important authors of sonnets in the Spanish language. He is often referred to as “the first modern European poet” due to his innovative use of metre and his focus on vernacular languages, as opposed to Latin. Garcilaso’s work is heavily influenced by the Italian poet Petrarch, whom he met while living in Naples, and he is seen as one of the key figures in the development of the Petrarchan sonnet form. In addition to his sonnets, Garcilaso also wrote numerous canciones (songs) and eclogues (poems written in pastoral style).

2. Who was Garcilaso?

Garcilaso de la Vega was born in Valencia, Spain in 1501. His father, García López de Padilla, was a captain in the Spanish military, while his mother, Isabel de Zayas y Sotomayor, came from a noble family. Garcilaso’s parents died when he was just a child and he was raised by his maternal grandparents. He received an excellent humanist education and was proficient in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. In 1526, he enlisted in the Spanish army and fought against the French in Italy. It was during this time that he met Petrarch and became interested in vernacular poetry. After being injured in battle, Garcilaso returned to Spain and retired from military life. He married Isabel Freire de Figueroa in 1529 and had two children with her: Rodrigo (who died young) and Isabel. In 1533, he travelled to Naples at the invitation of Vittoria Colonna, one of Petrarch’s closest friends. It was there that he met another famous Italian poet, Giovanni Pontano, with whom he would later collaborate on an edition of Pontano’s collected works. Garcilaso spent the remainder of his life in Naples; he died of an illness in 1536 at the age of 35.

3. What legacy did Garcilaso leave behind in his sonnets?

Garcilaso’s sonnets are characterized by their realist style and sincere emotionality. This is in contrast to the idealized love poems of Petrarch, which were more focused on an idealized concept of love than on actual human emotions. Garcilaso’s poems are also notable for their images; rather than simply describing his emotions abstractly, he paints vivid pictures that help readers to understand exactly what he is feeling. For example, in Sonnet XXXI from Eclogue I, he compares his love for his mistress to a ship caught in a storm:

“My lady loves me as I love her; / She does not love me more or less; / My feelings ebb and flow towards her / As tides obey the moon’s increase.”

This focus on concrete images makes Garcilaso’s sonnets some of the most accessible and relatable works of poetry from the Renaissance period.

4. How does Garcilaso’s work reflect the zeitgeist of the 14th century?

Garcilaso’s work reflects many of the major trends of the 14th century Renaissance. As mentioned above, his focus on vernacular languages was a departure from the traditional focus on Latin (which was seen as the language of scholars and educated elites). This shift reflected the growing importance of the middle class in Renaissance society. Garcilaso’s sonnets also reflect the humanist focus on individualism and personal expression. This is most evident in his use of first-person pronouns; unlike Petrarch, who often wrote in the third person about his love for an unattainable woman, Garcilaso frequently uses “I” and “me” to refer to himself and his feelings. This gives his sonnets a much more intimate and personal feel than those of his predecessor.

5. Conclusion

Garcilaso de la Vega was a Spanish poet of the Renaissance who left a lasting legacy in his sonnets. His work reflects the major trends of the 14th century, including the shift from Latin to vernacular languages and the humanist focus on individual expression. His poems are characterized by their realist style and sincerity, which sets them apart from the idealized love poems of Petrarch. In addition, Garcilaso’s use of concrete images is one of the most distinctive features of his poetry.


Garcilaso's 14th century legacy influenced his sonnets by making them more accessible to a wider audience.

The specific elements of the 14th century that are reflected in Garcilaso's sonnets include the increased use of vernacular language and the focus on personal expression.

In what ways do Garcilaso's sonnets reflect a departure from traditional 14th century poetry?Garcilaso's sonnets depart from traditional 14th century poetry in their form, content, and style.