ERCILLA Y ZÚNiGA, alonso de (1533-1594)

Alonso de Ercilla y Züniga, a Spanish soldier and poet, wrote the epic poem La Araucana, the first important literary work inspired by and written in the Americas. Born in Madrid of noble parentage (and possibly of converso origin), Ercilla first served as a page to Philip II.* He later enlisted in the army of Don García Hurtado de Mendoza, which was engaged in the conquest of Chile. Chile had proven itself the most difficult American province to conquer because of the unrelenting resistance of the Araucanian Indians. Ercilla traveled to America not to fight the Indians but to help squelch the rebellion of Francisco Hernandez. He fell gravely ill in 1560 but recovered and returned to Spain, where he married well and found great success and honor at court. Ercilla's most significant contribution to world culture lies in his writing of La Araucana, his only work except for four minor poems. Typical of the epics of the time, this poetic narration of the struggles between the Spanish conquerors and the Araucanian Indians was written in octavas reales. Critics laud the bril­liant description of the landscapes, battles, and chiefs. The poet glorifies the Araucanian chiefs Caupolican and Lautaro and emphasizes the moral purity of the natives. He fuses historical and personal elements within a complex ideo­logical context. He portrays not just the war between the Spanish and the Ar-aucanians but various internal struggles as well. For example, he accuses various conquerors (e.g., Pedro de Valdivia) of greed as an inappropriate motive for war while simultaneously exalting the nobility, honor, and bravery of the Chilean natives. He goes so far as to equate them with classical heroes such as Dido and Lucretia. By the same token, Ercilla presents the war against the Arauca-nians within a Spanish context as one of many national wars, likening it to the Battle of Lepanto and the war with Portugal. Themes of justice and patriotism abound, and the text gives a poetic voice to the empire. La Araucana appeared in three parts in 1569, 1578, and 1589. A complete version was published post­humously in 1597. Ercilla's text inspired numerous subsequent works.
Bibliography
R. Bauer, "Colonial Discourse and Early American Literary History: Ercilla, the Inca Garellaso, and Joel Barlow's Conception of a New World Epic," Early American Literature 30 (1995): 203-32.
Lydia Bernstein

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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  • Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga — (Madrid August 7, 1533 ndash; November 29, 1594 in Madrid), Spanish nobleman, soldier and poet. BiographyIn 1548 he was appointed page to the heir apparent, afterwards Philip II. In this capacity Ercilla (sometimes spelled Arcilla) visited Italy …   Wikipedia

  • Ercilla y Zúñiga —   [ɛr θiʎa i θuɲiɣa], Alonso de, spanischer Dichter, * Madrid 7. 8. 1533, ✝ ebenda 29. 11. 1594; war adliger Herkunft. Nach Reisen durch Italien, Deutschland und England im Gefolge des späteren Königs Philipp II. nahm er in Chile am Kampf gegen… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Alonso de Ercilla — y Zúñiga (1533 1594) Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga (* 7. August 1533 in Madrid; † 29. November 1594 ebenda) war ein spanischer Edelmann, Soldat und Schriftsteller und gehört zu den herausragenden Vertretern der spanischen Literatur des …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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