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  • Secrets of Pinar's Game: Court Ladies and Courtly Verse in Fifteenth-Century Spain by Roger Boase
  • Frank A. Domínguez
Boase, Roger. Secrets of Pinar's Game: Court Ladies and Courtly Verse in Fifteenth-Century Spain. Brill, 2018. ISBN: 978-90-04-33836-4. 2 vols.

Medieval card games have drawn the attention of medievalists since the publication of Huizinga's Homo Ludens (1938 CE), and Spain is no exception. There are three important cancionero compositions that refer to them: El juego de naipes por coplas of Fernando de la Torre (ca. 1440-1445, MN54, ID 0594), the anonymous Juego alfabético of the Cancionero de Herberay des Essarts (ca. 1460, LB2, ID 2304), and the Juego trobado of Gerónimo Pinar, written ca. 1496 but first published in the Cancionero general (11CG-875, ID 6637). Interest in this last work has increased of late (Navarro Durán, Menéndez Collera, Sanz Hermida, Vega Vázquez, Rodado Ruiz, Escourido, and Perea Rodríguez). Secrets of Pinar's Game: Court Ladies and Courtly Verse in Fifteenth Century-Spain provides the latest and most thorough look at this enigmatic work.

Ana Menéndez Collera, one of the first scholars to comprehensively treat Juego trobado, summarized its stanzas without attempting to identify those portrayed in them, although she added that "suponemos que eran mujeres que vivían en el ambiente de la corte y que ellas no tendrían ningún problema en identificar los símbolos y reconocer la copla que les correspondía" (188). As chapter one of Secrets of Pinar's Game explains, this anonymity of the persons described in forty of the forty-six cards/stanzas of Juego trobado made the poem impervious to critical analysis, because the court ladies are not identified by name. Boase has undertaken the difficult task of unmasking the identities of these forty [End Page 160] ladies and, in the process, has revealed a wealth of information behind the poem's cultural context.

Juego trobado seems to have been composed for Queen Isabel of Castile, her ladies, and Prince Juan, while awaiting the embarkation of Archduchess Juana for Brussels for the final consummation of her marriage to Felipe of Burgundy. At Almazán or Laredo (where the fleet assembled and waited for propitious weather), the court spent its time at play, and one of its pastimes seems to have involved Pinar's card game. According to its rubric, Juego trobado can be played with dice or cards. Its objective seems to have been to draw and discard cards until a player obtained a desired combination, but we have no information other than what is written on the cards. Each of the forty-six cards contains a ten-verse stanza that alludes to one specific lady, a symbolic tree and bird, a line of verse—from a mote, invención, canción, or romance—and a proverb.

Chapter two, "Cards of the Players," identifies the forty-six players that participate. Fortunately, Juego trobado names the first six: Queen Isabel of Castile and her children (Prince Juan and Princess Isabel of Portugal), Archduchess Juana of Castile, Princess María of Portugal, and Princess Catalina of Aragón (see also Perea Rodríguez). The first card can serve to illustrate the procedure: Boase quotes and translates stanza 1 and follows it with a biography of the queen that explains the symbols used by the monarchs to illustrate their conjoint rule. Then he describes the reasons for Isabel's association with the palm tree (symbolic of chastity and victory in battle), with the phoenix (a bird that is also related to the palm tree), with the text "Reina de muy alta C" (which he finds is a calque of an epithet like "Reina del cielo / Ave, Regina Caelorum"), and, finally, with the proverb "Allá van leyes donde las mandan los reyes" (which expresses her absolute command). The remaining forty cards adhere to this structure, but with the name of the lady hidden by the rubric "otra dama" or "otra señora." We assume that, like the first six cards, the following forty are also in hierarchical order. Boase has identified these ladies by gathering together...


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