Author: Joanot Martorell
Publish Date: 1490
Genre: Romance novel, historical fiction
Page Length: Approximately 600 pages
Tirant lo Blanc is a 15th-century Spanish novel written by Joanot Martorell. The novel follows the story of Tirant lo Blanc, a knight who goes on a series of adventures and battles to win the heart of a lady named Carmesina, who is the daughter of the emperor of Constantinople. The novel is considered one of the first modern novels, as it is written in a prose style and focuses on the development of its characters through dialogue and inner thoughts.
The novel is divided into five parts. The first part introduces the main character, Tirant lo Blanc, and his journey to Constantinople. Tirant lo Blanc meets Carmesina, and they fall in love. However, they cannot be together because Carmesina is betrothed to the son of the Byzantine emperor. Tirant lo Blanc takes on the duty of training the emperor's army, and he successfully fights off the invading Turks.
In the second part of the novel, Tirant lo Blanc becomes a prince of the Byzantine empire. He continues to fight battles and is ultimately successful in defeating the Turks. Tirant lo Blanc and Carmesina consummate their love, and they are married in secret. However, Tirant lo Blanc is forced to leave Constantinople due to political tensions, and he travels to Africa.
The third part of the novel focuses on Tirant lo Blanc's adventures in Africa. He falls in love with a black queen named Plazerdebida, and they have a torrid affair. Tirant lo Blanc helps Plazerdebida fight off her enemies and instills social justice within her kingdom.
In the fourth part of the novel, Tirant lo Blanc returns to Constantinople, where he is initially welcomed as a hero. However, he soon becomes embroiled in political intrigue and becomes the emperor's advisor. Tirant lo Blanc works to prevent the marriage of Carmesina to the emperor's son, who is cruel and has no respect for the people of the empire.
The final part of the novel focuses on the love between Tirant lo Blanc and Carmesina. They are finally able to be together, and they live a long and happy life together. However, the novel ends with Tirant lo Blanc's death, leaving Carmesina to mourn the loss of her beloved husband.
In addition to the main characters, Tirant lo Blanc is populated with a vast array of unforgettable characters, including knights, ladies-in-waiting, and courtiers. The novel explores themes of love, honor, war, and politics. The novel also shows how social conditions can impact one's life. Tirant lo Blanc, his beloved Carmesina, the black queen Plazerdebida, and the Byzantine Emperor all face challenges that are shaped by their social positions.
Throughout the novel, Martorell sets a high bar for romantic literature. The level of detail in Tirant lo Blanc positions the work as a bridge between medieval and modern prose narratives, providing a precursor to the "modern" novel. The book was highly influential in its time and has continued to resonate with readers, especially in Spain, where it is considered a classic of Spanish literature. The novel offers a glimpse into the life and times of knights and courtiers in the medieval period and still provides a window into European history and how people lived, loved, and fought more than five hundred years ago.