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THE CO-REDEMPTIVE ROLE OF MARY IN GONZALO DE BERCEO’S EL DUELO DE LA VIRGEN CONNIE L. SCARBOROUGH MUCH work has been done to debunk the perception of Gonzalo de Berceo as a “folksy” or rustic poet so admired by the Generation of 1890.1 James Marchand and Brian Dutton,2 among others, have shown Berceo to be a learned man whose sources were varied and rich. Marchand states that “Berceo… may seem at first glance to be a primitive, but there is a thread of learned theological symbolism throughout his work” (“Berceo the Learned…,” 293). And, in another article, this critic challenges us to take note of the intertextuality inherent in Berceo’s writings, i.e., “his use of learning and theological lore” (“Putting the Bite on Hell…,” 93) and reminds us that, for the Riojan poet, the path to salvation was more nuanced than heretofore recognized: “Like most people in the Middle Ages, Berceo believed in a scheme of salvation which was simple in its conception, but complicated in its working out…” (93). One of the complicated facets of Berceo’s view of salvation is found in his El duelo de la Virgen. In this treatise Berceo offers his particular take on the theme of the mater dolorosa and the role(s) of the Virgin in redemption. The origins of El duelo can be traced ultimately to the Byzantine poetry of the Lamenting Virgin which, in turn, owed its theme and structure to the classical threnody, or funeral song, of the lamenting 1 James Marchand gives a good summary of the critics who have contributed to the revised appraisal of Berceo in his article, “Berceo the Learned: The Ordo Prophetarum in the Loores de Nuestra Señora.” 2 In addition to the article by Marchand cited in note 1, see also Dutton, “The Source of Berceo’s Signos del Juicio Final,” and Marchand, “The Hymns of Gonzalo de Berceo and their Latin Sources.” 123 woman (Pelikan 128-29). In some texts, especially the Tractatus beati Bernhardi de planctu beate Marie virginis, attributed, as its title indicates , to Saint Bernard, the Virgin speaks about her suffering with Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. This version is very close to that of Berceo’s as is a provençal version published by Muschacke in 1890 but, in the latter, Mary speaks with Saint Augustine, rather than Saint Bernard, the saint who appears in the Spanish El duelo (Dutton 7).3 But even if Berceo’s work is derivative to some extent, it also contains some significant variations such as the extensive use of Saint Matthew’s gospel. Berceo in his other Marian treatises, Los Milagros de Nuestra Señora and the Loores de Nuestra Señora, also deals with Mary’s role in the scheme of redemption but in El duelo he comes the closest to assigning her a near-equal status with Her divine Son. For example, in Los Milagros , Berceo emphasizes Mary’s perpetual virginity: “virgin de verdat, / illesa, incorrupta en su entegredat” (565, vv. 20cd) [“she truly was a virgin , illesa, incorrupta in her integrity”) (15).4 He also gives a litany of epithets often applied to Mary: “estrella de los mares” (569, v. 32b) [“Star of the Seas”] (17); “tiemplo de Jesu Christo” (569, v. 33b) [“Temple of Jesus Christ”] (17); “de los cielos reina” (569, v. 33a) [“She is Queen of Heaven”] (17); “es nuestra talaya, nestra defensïón” (569, 37b) [“she is our watchtower, our defense”] (17), etc. Although lavish in his praise and admiration for the Virgin, in Los Milagros he falls short of equating Her part in salvation with that of Christ. Similary, in the Loores Berceo emphasizes Mary’s role as Mother of Christ, essential for salvation but not actually the redeemer, a role reserved for Jesus. The Loores is a lengthy exegesis on Old Testament prefigurations of Mary and a detailed recount of the life of Christ. In the latter section, Jesus takes center stage. In the final stanzas of the Loores, Berceo reiterates many qualities of the Virgin he also identified in Los Milagros. She is “estrella de la mar” (921, v. 197a) [“Star of the Sea”] (180); “por ond...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-7599
Print ISSN
0035-7995
Pages
pp. 123-132
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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