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The Book of Good Love

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Title: The Book of Good Love  
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Subject: Medieval literature, History of the classical guitar, Spanish literature, 14th century in literature, Spain
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The Book of Good Love

The Book of Good Love
Author Juan Ruiz, Arcipreste de Hita
Original title El Libro del Buen Amor
Country Spain
Language Spanish
Genre Ministry of Clergy
Publisher None
1330; expansion completed 1343
Media type Manuscript

The Book of Good Love (El Libro de Buen Amor), considered to be one of the masterpieces of Spanish poetry, is a semi-biographical account of romantic adventures by Juan Ruiz, the Archpriest of Hita, dating initially 1330 which he completed with revisions and expansions in 1343.

The work is considered as the best piece in the medieval genre known as Mester de Clerecía.

The Book begins with prayers and a guide as to how to read the work, followed by stories each containing a moral and often comical tale.

Theme and Structure

The Book of Good Love is a varied and extensive composition of 1728 stanzas, centering on the fictitious autobiography of Juan Ruiz, Archpriest of Hita. Today three manuscripts of the work survive: the Toledo (T) and Gayoso (G) manuscripts originating from the fourteenth century, and the Salamanca (S) manuscript copied at the start of the fifteenth century by Alonso de Paradinas. All three manuscripts have various pages missing, which prevents a complete reading of the book, and each manuscript varies extensively from each other due to the diversions of the authors. The work most commonly read today was suggested by Menéndez Pidal in 1898, based on sections from all three manuscripts.

The book is famous for its variety of:

  1. Content (examples, love stories, traditional bucolic poems, fables, lyrical compositions, etc.)
  2. Meter (the cuaderna vía, sixteen syillabic verses, zéjel stanzas, etc.)
  3. Tone (serious, festive, religious, profane, etc.)

The work is composed of the following:

  • The introduction, where the author explains how the book should be interpreted.
  • A fictitious autobiography of the author in which he tells us of his relationships with women of different origin and social status: a nun, a Moor, a housewife he spied praying, a baker, a noble woman and several mountain women (serranas), often helped by another woman named Urraca, better known as Trotaconventos (Trots-between-monasteries)
  • Several examples (parables, fables and tales) which serve as moral education at the end of each episode.
  • The dispute between the author and Love (Don Amor), in which he accuses Love of being the cause of the seven mortal sins
  • The tale of the love of Mr. Melon (don Melón) and Mrs. Endrina, an adaptation of the medieval elegiac comedy "Pamphilus".
  • The tale of a battle between Carnival ("Don Carnal") and Lent ("Doña Cuaresma")
  • A commentary of "Ars Amandi" (Art of Love) by Ovid
  • A number of songs dedicated to Mary (mother of Jesus)
  • A number of profane songs, such as upon the death of "Trotaconventos"


The title The Book of Good Love is inferred from the text, and who or what Good Love may be is not revealed by the author.

The book of Good Love explains how men must be careful about Love that can be Good (el buen amor) or Fool (el loco amor). The Good Love is God's one and is preferred to the Fool's love which only gives men sins. Juan Ruiz gives the reader a lot of examples to explain his theory and avoid Fool love in name of Good one.

External links

  • Libro de buen amor, original text in Spanish
  • Juan Ruiz, Arcipreste de Hita, y el libro del buen amor, comprehensive readers research and critic at Centro Virtual Cervantes
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