Englishing A Spanish Romance

Translating Spanish Rivalry into English Patriotism in Margaret Tyler’s Mirror of Princely Deeds and Knighthood

By Rachel Roberts (North Greenville University, USA)


Margaret Tyler’s Mirror of Princely Deeds and Knighthood (1578) translates Book One of Espejo de Príncipes y Cavalleros by Diego Ortúñez de Calahorra (1555). The Mirror went through three English editions by 1599, creating an English appetite for the Continental romance. This essay argues that Tyler’s success is no accident but, instead, is a tribute to her choice of subject and skill in translation. Throughout her generally accurate translation, Tyler alters, clarifies, and intensifies Ortúñez’s language in order to produce a more orderly—and more English—tale. Thus, Tyler participates in the medieval and Renaissance ideal of translatio (translatio studii, translatio imperii), the transfer of cultural knowledge through linguistic translation. This essay examines how Tyler frames both the Mirror’s Spanish origins and its new English identity under her care. Throughout close readings of Tyler’s preface and text, this essay demonstrates that Tyler deliberately evokes both foreign and national identities in order to appeal to readers as well as to demonstrate her own skill as a translator.

Keywords: literary translation, history of translation, translation and gender, early modern literature, Margaret Tyler

©inTRAlinea & Rachel Roberts (2017).
"Englishing A Spanish Romance Translating Spanish Rivalry into English Patriotism in Margaret Tyler’s Mirror of Princely Deeds and Knighthood", inTRAlinea Vol. 19.

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Margaret Tyler’s Mirror of Princely Deeds and Knighthood (1578) translates Book One of Espejo de Príncipes y Cavalleros by Diego Ortúñez de Calahorra (1555).[1] This chivalric romance follows the exploits of the Greek Emperor Trebatio and his sons, The Knight of the Sun and Rosicleer. Tyler’s translation proved successful both in its own right and in its influence upon other translators of romance. The Mirror went through three editions by 1599; contemporary references to the Mirror in the works of John Lyly and Ben Jonson suggest widespread familiarity with Tyler’s text (Boro 2014: 4).[2] In a decade when Anglo-Spanish tensions ran high, Tyler’s work catapulted the Spanish romance to dazzling literary success.

The success of Tyler’s Mirror in England is no accident but, instead, results directly from Tyler’s choice of genre, choice of subject, and approach to translation.  The romance was, as Helen Cooper demonstrates, “the major genre of secular fiction” in England during the medieval and early modern periods (2004: 2); Tyler’s translation of the Mirror was the first in a wave of Iberian romances to sweep across England, including the popular Amadís de Gaula (Boro 2014: 4). Tyler’s prefatory epistle “To the Reader” emphasizes that her Mirror fulfills the twin demands for “profit and delight,” demonstrating that she is aware of larger conversations about literature as well as romance (1578/2014: 49.4). Tyler’s preface and her dedicatory letter to Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk (1561-1626) further demonstrate her awareness of print culture and her own culturally fraught position as a woman writer. Despite evidence to the contrary, the Mirror proves ripe for English interest, containing English characters and settings that figure prominently in Tyler’s translation. In fact, Tyler alters, clarifies, and intensifies Ortúñez’s text in order to produce a more English tale, adding both vocabulary and cultural references that would be familiar and appealing to English readers (see Boro 2014: 3). Tyler thus participates in the medieval and Renaissance ideal of translatio, the transfer of cultural knowledge through linguistic translation.[3] In fact, in her preface “To the Reader,” Tyler describes her work as “Englishing this author” (1578/2014: 49), demonstrating that she is aware of the tensions inherent in her choice of a Spanish work while she creates a uniquely English experience for her readers.

In this essay, I examine how Tyler frames both the Mirror’s Spanish origins and its new English identity. Throughout my close readings of Tyler’s preface and text, I argue that Tyler deliberately evokes both foreign and national identities in order to appeal to readers, to demonstrate her skill as a translator, and to frame her own identity as a woman translator. In the first section of this essay, I examine Tyler’s preface, demonstrating how Tyler uses her paratextual material to negotiate the fraught relationship between Spain and England as well as to establish her own position as a woman in early modern print culture. Next, I explore Tyler’s textual adaptations: in the paper’s second section, I cover Tyler’s treatment of the characters Briana and Edward, while in the third section, I closely read scenes involving the character Olivia as well as an important tournament set in England. Tyler espouses translatio throughout the text, altering the Espejo’s vocabulary, tone, and characterization in service of her English readers. Tyler is particularly attentive to the concerns of female characters (and, perhaps, female readers by extension) as well as to English national pride—“Englishing,” as she calls it, the Mirror in order to comment upon these aspects of her own culture. By closely examining Tyler’s methods throughout the work, I posit that the Mirror’s success with English readers was a planned consequence of Tyler’s choice of subject as well as her Anglicized translation methods.

Although Tyler’s Mirror was designed to appeal to her sixteenth-century English audience, modern readers and scholars have ignored the work until recently. In fact, in the first modern edition of Tyler’s romance, Joyce Boro only lists seven works under “Further Reading” (2014: 37). This lack of attention is all the more surprising because of the Mirror’s place in literary history: Tyler is the only sixteenth-century Englishwoman to publish a romance, either an original or a translated one, making the Mirror an important point in the history of women’s writing in English (Coad 1996: ix). In addition, Tyler is the first author to translate a romance directly from Spanish, a decision that profoundly affected English romance (Boro 2014: 3, 6). Despite these accomplishments, scholars are often uncomfortable assigning a creative status to translators; even Uman and Bistué, who reframe translation as “collaborative authorship,” claim that “Tyler’s translation does not offer us a glimpse of the author’s imaginative flair or poetic skill” (2007: 298). Such marginalization of translation means that authors like Tyler, whose only extant work is a translation, are often ignored except in studies specifically focusing on translation or, for Tyler’s Mirror, in studies of the romance genre.[4] The few exceptions to this rule include works about Tyler’s preface, which is often studied or anthologized separately, and the groundbreaking work on Tyler by Tina Krontiris and Louise Schleiner.[5] Now that Boro’s edition makes Tyler’s Mirror more accessible, more readers and scholars should make this text an object of study, both for its contribution to literary history and—as in the present essay—for Tyler’s linguistic and artistic craft.

The Mirror as Spanish: Tyler’s Dedication and Preface

In sixteenth-century England, a Spanish work seems an unlikely choice for popular success. In 1578, the year of the Mirror’s publication, England and Spain were embroiled in political and religious conflict (building up to the infamous Spanish Armada of 1588).[6] Rather than shy away from the Mirror’s dangerous origins, Tyler deliberately acknowledges the Mirror’s Spanish origins throughout her prefatory material. In her address “To the Reader,” she writes, “The first tongue wherein it was penned was the Spanish, in which nation, by common report, the inheritance of all warlike commendation hath to this day rested” (Tyler 1578/2014: 49). This reference to the “warlike” nature of Spain could be either compliment or criticism—suggesting that Spain is superior to England in military might or (through the use of “to this day”) offering hope that England will now be ascendant. Tyler’s initial reference to the Mirror’s Spanish origins thus suggests a context of political and military rivalry that seems unsuited for literary enjoyment.

Inasmuch as a Spanish romance is an odd choice for sixteenth-century England, Tyler herself is an unlikely figure for success, given the fraught cultural conversations around women as writers and readers of romance. The romance was seen as particularly “problematic” for women, since its focus on love and war was deemed inappropriate (Arcara 2014; see also Krontiris 1988: 23-24). Despite such theoretical problems with romance, such works were frequently circulated, printed, and read in early modern culture, by men as well as women (see Hackett 2000: 5-9, 70-75).[7] Tyler touches on the fraught romance genre in her preface “To the Reader,” emphasizing the Mirror’s moral uprightness and suggesting that the work “may bring thee [readers] to a liking of the virtues here commended” (1578/2014: 49).[8] Tyler’s later mention of the “delights” and “profitable reading” (1578/2014: 51) available through the Mirror also evokes, as Arcara (2014) notes, the Horatian and Aristotelian traditions later endorsed in Sir Philip Sidney’s “Defence of Poesy.” Tyler’s epistle “To the Reader,” then, emphasizes the positive, exemplary values of the romance to convince her readers that, despite the work’s genre, it is worth reading.

While Tyler might be suspect as a woman writing romance, she is perhaps less controversial as a translator. Translation itself was not problematic for women writers, and translations were often dedicated to women; in fact, the Renaissance translator John Florio famously remarked that “all translations are reputed femalls.” As Arcara (2014) describes, liberal humanists such as Juan Luis Vives viewed translation of properly moral works as an appropriate intellectual exercise for educated women (see also Agorni 1998: 181). Many early modern women, including such well-known figures as Queen Elizabeth I, Mary Sidney Herbert, Anne Vaughan Locke, and Margaret More Roper, translated a variety of works.[9] The propriety of translation did not, however, extend to publication; Krontiris notes that “to publish meant to engage in public self-display” (1988: 21). Uman and Bistué further note that publication brings the woman writer into “the public sphere of literature” where her “chastity is rendered suspect” because her work is promiscuously available to all readers (2007: 302). Of course, such suspicion did not prevent women translators from publishing their work (see Clarke 2001: 3). Tyler boldly publishes her Mirror, but her lively defense in “To the Reader” demonstrates her awareness that readers will not only find the work’s foreign origins suspect—they may be wary of romance in general and a romance published by a woman in particular.[10]

In other words, in order for Tyler’s Mirror to achieve success with its English audience, Tyler must carefully contextualize its foreign origins, her own role as translator, and her audience’s gendered and political expectations. She does so through a variety of methods in her two prefatory pieces, the dedication to Thomas Howard and the epistle “To the Reader.” One primary way in which she balances these issues is through the use of the modesty topos, deliberately downplaying her own agency (see Boro 2014: 27). Her choice of Thomas Howard as a dedicatee, for instance, allows her to frame modesty in gendered terms. Rather than dedicating her work to a woman—a practice she discusses in “To the Reader”—Tyler chooses a respectable male figure. Tyler emphasizes her deep devotion and faithful service to Howard’s family before directly stating her need for Howard’s help: “Under your honour’s protection I shall less fear the assault of the envious” (48.28-29). Uman and Bistué refer to this rhetorical strategy as “don[ning] the gown of the lady in distress” (2007: 304); Tyler’s acknowledgement that she needs “protection” from “the envious” both humbles herself and exalts Howard. In addition, Tyler frames her work as an “exercise of translation” (1578/2014: 48.3), shifting any blame for questionable content to Ortúñez, the author, rather than Tyler, the translator. As Arcara (2014) argues, Tyler “devalue[s] the activity of translation” to defend “her gendered position as a translator of a secular text.”[11] Tyler thus employs the modesty topos in order to frame audience responses to her patron, her choice of subject, and her choice of translation rather than anything more controversial.

In addition to using the modesty topos to keep the work’s questionable origins from overwhelming her readers, Tyler maintains a deliberate neutrality on the fraught question of religion, which in sixteenth-century England was closely linked to questions of foreign powers—and to specific women. For Tyler’s first readers, Spain was the country of origin for Catherine of Aragon (d. 1536) and, through her daughter Mary (d. 1558), an entry point for Catholicism into the English monarchy.[12] In The Spanish Armada, Robert Hutchinson (2013: xii) presents the military actions of the Armada as “the climax to a war of religion, the Catholic Church versus the fledgling Protestant state of England.” Protestant-Catholic tensions were at the heart of the problems between these two countries, so Tyler’s religious allusions within an “Englished” Spanish text could be sites of great import (see McDermott 2005: 92). In her preface, Tyler deliberately sidesteps the question of religion; she explains that she chooses not to “write of divinity,” since she has never found “any book in the tongue which would not breed offence to some” (1578/2014: 50). This claim is an important part of Tyler’s self-reference as a woman writer, since writing on religious matters was usually less objectionable for women than writing on secular topics (Beilin 1997: xx). However, Tyler’s refusal to take sides on questions of “divinity” reveals her awareness of the problematic nature of her Spanish text for an English (Protestant) audience.[13]

Tyler’s chosen text thus carries many inherent difficulties for an English audience, from national rivalry to genre to gender to religion. Despite these difficulties, the Espejo is in fact an astute choice for an English adaptation. I posit, in fact, that Tyler chose the Espejo deliberately for its ease of adaptation to English cultural and literary sensibilities. The Espejo is much more Continental than it is Spanish as far as its characters and setting are concerned. The main character, Trebatio, is a Greek knight who secretly marries a Hungarian princess, Briana. Their bi-national twin sons, Rosicleer and the Knight of the Sun, travel in the prescribed romance manner to enchanted islands inhabited by giants. In addition to these varied nationalities, Espejo also features English characters: Briana is originally betrothed to an English prince, Edward, while the English king, Oliverio, along with his daughter, Olivia, feature in an episode where Rosicleer competes in an English tournament. Dangerously Spanish or not, the Espejo lends itself well to Tyler’s cultural adaptation.

Having chosen a tale that is ripe for English adaptation, Tyler also emphasizes positive aspects of the Mirror’s foreignness in her preface “To the Reader.” Tyler (1578/2014: 40) describes “that delight which myself findeth in reading the Spanish” among her reasons for translating the tale. Tyler’s own delight in reading the tale suggests an immediacy of experience that her translation replicates. In addition, as both Coad (1996: 8) and Krontiris (1988: 19) note, Spanish was not part of the typical English education; most writers who translated Spanish texts did so through an intermediary language such as French. By working directly from the Spanish, Tyler creates a more direct connection between her English reader and the “Spanish delight” awaiting them within the Mirror (1578/2014: 50). With these claims of delight and emphasis on her translation, however, Tyler also assigns herself an important place within the reader’s experience of the Mirror, for it is through Tyler’s mediation that this pleasure becomes available to English readers.

Tyler also emphasizes her important role in shaping readers’ experience through the references within her preface to the Espejo’s author, Diego Ortúñez. She refers to him several times, calling him “a stranger” (Tyler 1578/2014: 49) and “this Spaniard” (Tyler 1578/2014: 51). More specifically, Tyler frames her relationship to Ortúñez in terms of hospitality. She calls her translation “giving entertainment to a stranger, before this time unacquainted with our country guise” (Tyler 1578/2014: 49).[14] The virtue of hospitality has gendered implications that reflect on Tyler as a woman translating a male author; Schleiner (1994: 253n21) notes that hospitality was a “proper female image” and thus one of Tyler’s methods for feminizing her writing.[15] However, this framing of translation as hospitality is also vital to Tyler’s treatment of the Mirror as a Spanish work. Rather than pursuing conflict with a foreigner, Tyler hosts and welcomes this stranger. By referring to “our country guise,” however, Tyler also reminds her readers that she has dressed up her guest, so to speak, in English garments suitable for her readers to encounter and understand. Tyler is essentially a master of ceremonies, introducing her readers to a new and important acquaintance. This metaphor of hospitably welcoming the Espejo into English, decking it out to become the Mirror, thus brings together all of Tyler’s claims in the prefatory material. This metaphor at once emphasizes the text’s foreignness, places Tyler herself in a properly feminine position, and emphasizes her vital role as a translator who brings this pleasurable piece of literature to English readers for their “profit and delight” (1578/2014: 49).

The Mirror As English: Language and Characters

Having selected the Espejo with care for its resonance with English audiences, and having explored the text’s potential points of controversy, Tyler adapts the Espejo in order to advance her gendered and nationalistic purposes. First, Tyler draws readers’ attention to the concerns of female characters, represented by Princess Briana. Tyler thus suggests the importance of female characters with rich inner lives, a move which may be calculated to appeal to romance’s women readers.[16] Second, Tyler effects what Boro (2014: 1) calls a “national transposition” by using distinctively English vocabulary and by adding complimentary language to the Mirror’s portrait of the English Prince Edward. In doing so, she participates in the sixteenth-century surge in British nationalism most familiar from writers such as John Foxe, William Shakespeare, and Edmund Spenser (Maly 2003; Escobedo 2004). Through her use of literary techniques, vocabulary, and characterization, Tyler “Englishes” the Mirror for her readers—both men and women.

Tyler’s focus on Briana, one of the Mirror’s most prominent female characters, becomes obvious from her title itself. Tyler’s full title is The Mirror of Princely Deeds and Knighthood, Wherein is showed the worthiness of the Knight of the Sun and his brother, Rosicleer, sons to the great Emperor Trebatio, with the strange love of the beautiful and excellent Princess Briana, and the valiant acts of other noble princes and knights. Ortúñez’s Espejo, on the other hand, proclaims instead “the great chivalric deeds and very strange loves of the beautiful and excellent princess Claradiana” (Ortúñez title page; see also Boro 28).  Claradiana is an Amazonian princess who hunts and later fights with male knights; Tyler emphasizes instead the Hungarian princess, Briana. Both Briana and Claradiana appear in Tyler’s Mirror, but the substitution Briana in the title signifies Tyler’s greater concern for the princess. At first glance, this emphasis indicates a shift from a more radical woman (Claradiana) to a more traditional one. Briana is an obedient daughter (1578/2014: 62) and, later, a patient Penelope waiting for her missing husband’s return (226).[17] These are roles and attitudes that even the stodgiest sixteenth-century reader would think appropriate for a (real or fictional) woman.

However, Tyler’s emphasis on Briana’s complex inner life moves this initially stereotypical character into greater complexity. The conventional Briana is, as Krontiris demonstrates, portrayed in a way that is “sympathetic” and makes readers “aware of oppression” (1988: 67).  For instance, Tyler records Briana’s “fear” when Trebatio presses her to consummate their marriage (1578/2014: 64). Tyler also emphasizes the complex emotions Briana experiences at the birth of her sons: “The mother, full of pain with the travail which she had sustained as well as she could, laying them to her breasts, kissed and embraced them with such love and pity that the tears trickled down from her fair eyes” (1578/2014: 75). In such instances as these, Briana’s actions may be conventional for a romance heroine, but her emotionally complex portrayal is less so. Tyler’s substitution of Briana for Claradiana in the title, although it aligns with Briana’s traditional role in the text, also makes room for a less traditional, more complex portrait of Briana’s inner life. These adjustments to Briana’s character align with Tyler’s defense of herself as a woman reader and translator in her preface, and perhaps also appeal to the female readership of romance in general.

In addition to gendered changes, Tyler adapts the Mirror’s language to make the tale more English, appealing to patriotic readers. The most obvious way Tyler “Englishes” the text is through English literary techniques. For example, she employs alliteration that does not appear in the Spanish text, such as when she foreshadows Prince Edward’s defeat by noting that he is “ignorant of the sour sauce and woeful wedding which was in providing” (Tyler 1578/2014: 58). Tyler also includes metaphors and imagery that suggest English culture. For example, she adds theatrical imagery to the description of one of the Mirror’s many giants, calling him “rather…a tyrant in a tragedy than a jester in a comedy” (Tyler: 1578/2014: 150-151). Likewise, Tyler regularly uses the language of “humours” (1578/2014: 161), which Ortúñez does not employ. For instance, Tyler adds a reference to “melancholy” in describing the lovesick Trebatio (1578/2014: 63).[18] This language reflects the early modern (English) understanding of bodily humors and their role in emotions. All of these techniques and metaphors make the experience of reading Tyler’s Mirror—especially reading it aloud, as was common—particularly English.

In addition to these incorporations of imagery, Tyler (1578/2014) uses English vocabulary. Colloquial phrases such as “how now” (157), “hurly-burly” (167), and “God save you” (227) give the Mirror a particularly English cadence.[19] Tyler (1578/2014) also substitutes English measurements like the “bowshot” (66), “yard” (80), and “finger” (93) for Spanish ones. Boro (2014: 66n65) notes, for example, that where Tyler uses “bowshot,” the Espejo uses “trecho” (‘stretch’). Such vocabulary, spread throughout the Mirror, is not overwhelming. However, Tyler’s consistent addition of English vocabulary and imagery throughout the Mirror demonstrates her commitment to “Englishing” this work.

One specific use of English vocabulary has historical resonance. Tyler deliberately chooses the word “rover” to describe Mambriniano, a sea-faring villain. The term “rover” had many negative associations for the English reader in the 1570s—resulting from England’s sea battles with Spain. By choosing the term “rover” to describe Mambriniano (Tyler 1578/2014: 86, 87, 88), Tyler evokes the national tensions inherent in debates about pirates and privateers (see Boro 2014: 86n165). These tensions grew steadily throughout the sixteenth century as English privateers turned from French to Spanish vessels in their pursuit of wealth (McDermott 2005: 20-21, 29). In 1577, the year before Tyler’s Mirror was published, Elizabeth I made significant changes to the judicial system in order to prosecute pirates more effectively (McDermott 2005: 124). With such a campaign against piracy in England, it is not surprising that the “rover” Mambriniano is a sinister figure in Tyler’s Mirror. By picturing Mambriniano’s grim death at Florion’s hands, however, Tyler also suggests that pirates can be defeated (1578/2014: 87). Evoking, through the term “rover,” the current English piracy crisis, including the trouble these pirates caused in Anglo-Spanish relations, Tyler situates her translation within her historical moment; she also evokes the political tensions between England and Spain—potentially problematic ground for her English readers.

At times, Tyler’s use of English vocabulary emphasizes her own role in “Englishing” the work. For instance, in chapter 52, as Florinaldes is borne off the field after a defeat by the Knight of the Sun, the narrator admits, “it is uncertain whether [Florinaldes was] more grieved with the sore of his bruise than with the shame of his fall, so to be foiled before his mistress. But if I may meddle in school points, I think he had rather burst an arm than so to have cracked his credit with both lady and friends” (Tyler 1578/2014: 229). In this second sentence, which Tyler adds to the Spanish text, she makes her commentary particularly English by using the term “school points” (1578/2014: 229).[20] The Oxford English Dictionary (2015) records it as a single word, “schoolpoints,” referring to “a matter taught or debated in the schools.”[21] By naming this event a “school point,” Tyler suggests that Florinaldes’s emotions are open to debate—but Tyler also takes an interpretive side, reminding readers of her important mediatory role as translator.[22] Tyler’s addition of a distinctly English phrase to this commentary reinforces her role as translator while adding English phrasing to her text.

In addition to her particularly English vocabulary, Tyler also adjusts the Mirror’s attitude toward the English Prince Edward. While mentions of Briana reveal Tyler’s concern with women’s perspectives, Edward’s literary rehabilitation is clearly motivated by nationalism. In the Spanish text, Edward is an unattractive character whose role is to be literally replaced by Trebatio (who kills the English prince in order to wed Edward’s betrothed, Briana). Although Tyler does not change this sequence of events, she alters Edward’s characterization in positive ways. For example, Tyler (1578/2014) describes Edward as “strong, and valiant” (54) when Ortúñez merely calls him proud (Boro 2014: 54n33). Similarly, she translates the Spanish “sobervio” (‘haughty’) as “stout,” which has more positive connotations (Tyler 1578/2014: 59, Boro 2014: 59n46, Ortúñez 1555/1617: 7). Although Edward is ultimately defeated by Trebatio, Tyler stresses the English prince’s valor throughout their battle.[23] For instance, Trebatio is “so great and so big made that he seemed to be a giant” (Tyler 1578/2014: 59). Boro (2014: 11) notes that Tyler often “omits…references to the heroes’ size” so as not to conflate them with the evil giants more common in romance. In this scene, however, Trebatio appears to be a giant whom Edward tries to defeat, as any romance hero would. Edward is thus a valiant figure even though he dies at Trebatio’s hand. Furthermore, Trebatio is “disquieted” by Edward’s death and weeps over “the loss of so great a prince slain out of his own country in the beauty of his age” (Tyler 1578/2014: 60). Trebatio’s sorrow makes the Emperor more sympathetic, but it also acknowledges Edward’s greatness within this tale. Tyler’s rehabilitation of Edward, like her English vocabulary and her treatment of Briana, demonstrates Tyler’s commitment to translatio—to making the Mirror her (and England’s) own.

English Tournaments and Royalty: Princesses and National Pride

As the text progresses, Tyler moves from more subtle uses of translatio (vocabulary, character descriptions) to more overt statements of support for England. Such statements appear most fully in Tyler’s treatment of the English princess Olivia as well as in the depiction of a great tournament held in England.

Olivia, Edward’s sister, is the second major English character in the Mirror; Tyler consistently emphasizes Olivia’s role as the female heir to the British throne. Focusing on heirs and succession was difficult for the Elizabethan writer, although such topics lay within the purview of the romance (as in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale). Plots revolving around succession grew increasingly tense as Elizabeth’s reign progressed and it became apparent that, in Cooper’s (2004: 353) words, “The heir to Elizabeth is not lost and awaiting recovery, but not there at all.” Succession was therefore a fraught subject even in fiction. Tyler’s treatment of Olivia, however, pays homage to England’s reigning queen by strengthening Olivia’s position as a future English monarch.

Earlier in the text, Tyler references English succession to emphasize the difference between English and Continental views on royal inheritance. As Briana and Clandestria discuss her new pregnancy (believing the baby’s missing father to be Prince Edward of England), Clandestria advises Briana, “if God give you a man-child…this your child is lawful inheritor of Great Britain in the right of his father, the king now living having no issue male” (Tyler 1578/2014: 73). Boro notes that Tyler adds the phrase “in the right of his father” in order to clarify the progression of inheritance, since on the Continent (Clandestria and Briana’s Hungary, Ortúñez’s Spain, or both), a male heir would be the only possible choice (2014: 73n104). However, Clandestria, a Continental interpreter, is wrong: England already has an heir in the person of Edward’s sister, Olivia. Tyler’s language with respect to Olivia reflects the British princess’s secure position as heir to the throne. Specifically, Tyler chooses the term “inheritrix” to describe Olivia’s position; for example, “She was brought up as being inheretrix to the state with great care by the king her father” (Tyler 1578/2014: 77; see also 139). Ortúñez’s term is “heredera,” literally “heiress” (1555/1617: 87). However, the Oxford English Dictionary (2015) records “inheritrix” as the most “technical” and formal of the related English terms inheritrix, inheritrice, and inheritress.  By choosing the legal term, Tyler emphasizes the legitimacy of Olivia’s succession.

In addition to this formal language, Tyler alters a conversation between Olivia and her father, decreasing the power assigned to Olivia’s future husband. Oliverio advises his daughter to accept her suitor, Don Silverio, “both for mine own liking and the common profit of my subjects” (Tyler 1578/2014: 235). In the Espejo, the text then explains that Olivia’s husband will “inherit and defend the kingdom” (“y que pueda defender este reyno y estado,” Boro 2014: 235n679, Ortúñez 1555/1617: 207). Tyler omits this emphasis upon the need for a king to defend England, avoiding the implication that Olivia’s husband would rule. Tyler is not so careful with all female heirs; in an earlier episode, Rosicleer declares a woman, Liverba, “mistress” of the Valley of the Mountains (Tyler 1578/2014: 141). He immediately declares it necessary “to match her with the chiefest inheritor of land and sea amongst them” (Tyler 1578/2014: 131). However, when the inheritance in question is the English throne—in Tyler’s day firmly occupied by Queen Elizabeth—Tyler avoids this preference for male rule. Oliverio may indicate a preference for his daughter to marry, but he does not suggest that the kingdom is jeopardized by her single status. By omission rather than addition, Tyler makes room for a royal female heir, reflecting England’s current reality.

Tyler’s translation choices with regard to Olivia include both gendered and political concerns, reflecting early modern England’s reality with a reigning queen as the head of state. Elsewhere, however, Tyler’s positive language regarding England is purely nationalistic in character. The most obvious use of such language is in chapter 32, which depicts a tournament held by King Oliverio of England. At this tournament, Rosicleer, one of the Mirror’s heroes, defeats his first giant and falls in love with Olivia. This scene is undoubtedly central to the Mirror’s plot; however, on its own, Rosicleer’s adventures at the tournament do not seem significant enough to justify Tyler’s painstaking alterations to nearly every sentence—by far the most concentrated revisions of the Spanish text in the whole Mirror. I argue that Tyler’s changes are so intense because this scene reflects Tyler’s overall hospitable and nationalistic purpose in its depiction of foreigners finding welcome in a triumphant England.

At one point, Tyler describes those present at the tournament as “both strangers and Englishmen” (1578/2014: 142). “Stranger” is the same term she used for the Espejo’s author in her preface “To the Reader,” where Tyler figures the Mirror as an act of hospitality (1578/2014: 49). In this scene, many foreign knights, many “strangers,” are welcomed to England. The tournament scene’s construction thus echoes the Mirror’s position as a foreign text brought into England; the scene’s language is also the fullest embodiment of Tyler’s translatio as she alters many phrases to provide more accurate descriptions of English culture as well as higher praise for her native land. Thus, Tyler’s cultural translation is at its height in the tournament scene, which provides a microcosm of Tyler’s project and must remain at the center of any discussion of “Englishing.”

The Mirror’s first portrait of England, in chapter 30, demonstrates the country’s need for chivalric rehabilitation. After years of searching for the “missing” Prince Edward, England is “very naked of able knights to defend it, whereas before it was best known in all the world for knighthood and chivalry” (Tyler 1578/2014: 133). As the king recalls his knights from foreign lands, Tyler adds to the Spanish text a description Oliverio’s “solemn triumphs” at finding his country once again “sufficiently furnished” of knights (1578/2014: 133, Boro 2014: 133n351). With the return of his English knights, Oliverio’s kingdom is once again restored to dignity. Although this passage ends by describing the grand tournament, Tyler’s text emphasizes that England is “sufficiently” (1578/2014: 133) restored with only its native knights. No foreign warriors are required. Tyler thus emphasizes England’s strength and sufficiency with her additions to the Spanish text.

Tyler continues this positive portrayal of England when she expands definitions of England’s wealth. First, Tyler (1578/2014) increases the value of the tournament prize: “a massy crown of gold, all set with pearls and precious stones, valued by all men’s deeming at the price of a great city” (133). Such a valuable prize enhances England’s reputation (Boro 2014: 133n352). Similarly, King Oliverio is willing to pay “more than London is worth” (Tyler 1578/2014: 142) to rid himself of an interfering giant. Tyler adds the reference to London and its “great worth” (Boro 2014: 142n381), emphasizing England’s positive qualities even at moments when the country is in trouble. In both of these passages, Tyler’s references to England’s wealth suggest that her readers should be proud to belong to such a country.

Tyler most obviously demonstrates her national pride with this declaration: “never England more flourished of knights, nor never nation was like to England” (1578/2014: 140). Boro notes the added “sense of patriotism” that Tyler brings to this moment with an emphasis on her country’s supremacy (Boro 2014: 140n372). Far from the country stripped of its knights by its prince’s disappearance, England has become a hub for great knights and knightly deeds. In fact, it surpasses all other nations, none of which can compare to it.

In addition to these compliments, Tyler refers to a specific figure representing England’s great tradition of knighthood: Sir Gawain. Tyler (1578/2014) describes one of the English knights, Brandidarte, as “a brave knight and as bold as Gawain” (141). Ortúñez’s text describes Brandidarte only as “one of the best knights…in Great Britain” (“vno de los mejores caualleros…en la gran Bretaña,” 1555/1617: 90). Tyler adds the specific reference to Gawain. This knight’s fame is established in medieval romances such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, where Gawain is “Of all knights on earth most honored” (line 914). Unfortunately, as with the case of Prince Edward and Trebatio, Tyler’s true hero is the Greek-Hungarian Rosicleer. Poor brave British Brandidarte is easily overthrown by the current giant. In a way, this defeat makes the reference to Gawain even more fitting, since in the later tales of Arthur’s court (such as those of Sir Thomas Malory), Gawain, formerly the greatest of the English knights, is less competent than the new-model French knight, Lancelot. Nonetheless, by comparing an English knight to the famous Sir Gawain, Tyler evokes a long tradition of excellent English knighthood, not to mention the great English romances that praise such knights. Tyler thus fully “Englishes” this scene by enhancing England’s prestige, drawing upon English literary and chivalric history, and evoking a strong sense of national pride.


In conclusion, the Mirror’s position as a harbinger of English interest in continental romance is no accident. By choosing a work with English characters and settings, and by applying the framework of translatio in such a way as to appeal to English readers’ cultural suppositions as well as their national pride, Margaret Tyler shapes the Spanish Espejo into a tale that captured the attention of English audiences. In addition, through her prefatory material, Tyler evokes cultural debates about women’s roles in writing and politics; her treatment of characters such as Briana and Olivia suggests Tyler’s willingness to re-evaluate the Espejo’s position on women in an English literary context. As critics grant more attention to translation as a creative practice (perhaps especially for women writers), Tyler’s skill in choosing the Espejo as well as “Englishing” it into the Mirror should be acknowledged as a particularly significant example of both literary and cultural translation.


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[1] On the “mirror” genre, see Winston (2004), Lucas (2003), Budra (1992), and Uman and Bistué (2007: 315, 318).

[2] East, Tyler’s publisher, printed second and third editions of the Mirror as well as five of the nine volumes of Ortúñez’s Espejo (Boro 2014:4). None of these other translations were by Tyler.

[3] See Nederman (2009) and Carron (1988).

[4] On translation: Bistué (2011), Uman (2012), Uman and Bistué (2007), Agorni (1998), Arcara (2014). On romance: Carrell (1994), Hackett (2000: 159-93), Lee (2014: 287-311), Magaw (1973).

[5] For the preface, see Agorni (1998: 182-83); Arcara, (2014); Martin, Women Writers in Renaissance England, 18-24. Mentz (2006: 125) mentions Tyler’s preface as evidence that “there were some women who read fiction,” which, though true, seems too simple for this complex rhetorical piece. See also Krontiris (1988), Schleiner (1992) and (1994).

[6] See Hutchinson (2013) and McDermott (2005).

[7] See also Schleiner (1994: 18-23), Ferguson (1988: 95-116), Lucus (1989), and Snook (2005).

[8] See Cooper (2004: 6) on the “educational” aspect of romance.

[9] This list is drawn from Arcara (2014). 

[10] Tyler’s most famous declaration in her defense is the following: “whatsoever the truth is—whether that women may not at all discourse in learning for men lay in their claim to be sole possessioners of knowledge, or whether they may in some manner that is by limitation or appointment in some kind of learning—my persuasion hath been thus: that it is all one for a woman to pen a story as for a man to address his story to a woman” (1578/2014: 50).

[11] Schleiner (1994) notes this tendency in Tyler’s preface: “She has not after all gone so far as to write an original piece” (253n21). Krontiris (1997: 48) also mentions “the difficulty in speaking out openly;” in particular, Tyler “does not specify the aspects that make it [the Mirror] controversial.” Krontiris further describes Tyler’s refusal to “expurgate” her text, particularly with regards to women’s sexuality, as one such controversial aspect (1997: 62).

[12] Hutchinson (2013: xii) presents the Spanish Armada as “the climax to a war of religion, the Catholic Church versus the fledgling Protestant state of England.” Catherine of Aragon herself was a figure of much consideration in the sixteenth century; on the opposing side to those who saw Catherine as a threatening Catholic figure, William Forrest’s 1558 poem The History of Grisild the Second compares Catherine to the proverbially patient Griselde.

[13] Although Tyler’s first audience was mostly Protestant, scholars are still plagued by the question of whether Tyler’s Mirror itself reveals Protestant or Catholic sympathies. Tyler’s association with the Howard family as well as her knowledge of Spanish are often taken as signs of Catholicism (Boro 2014:6, Martin 1997: 16). Boro (2014: 9) further argues that the Mirror’s publisher, Thomas East, had “personal and professional connections within the Catholic community” that may have led him to print the Mirror. One of Tyler’s later positions, however, was in the household of Nathaniel Bacon, a Protestant (see Schleiner 1992: 3-4). Religious references in the Mirror itself are similarly inconclusive. For instance, Tyler omits a character’s habit of hearing daily mass, but she adds a description of Briana living like an “anchoress” and includes fasting in Briana’s rituals (Boro 2014: 231n664, 72n100, 73n106). The omissions may reflect Tyler’s desire to avoid antagonizing a primarily Protestant audience, but her references to anchoresses and to fasting may have the opposite effect.  Certainly, in comparison to another sixteenth-century romance, Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Tyler’s Mirror is positively kind to Catholic characters. Tyler thus remains relatively neutral on questions of religion even as she makes no secret of the Mirror’s Spanish origins, with all the political implications inherent in her choice of work.

[14] Despite this reference to hospitable translation, however, although Tyler frequently references the Mirror’s foreign origins, not once does she mention Ortúñez’s name. Tyler’s own name is prominent in her paratext; her dedication is signed “Margaret Tyler,” while both the title page and the epistle “To the Reader” indicate Tyler’s authorship with the initials “M.T.” By including these markers of her identity, Tyler erases the other name in the equation: that of Diego Ortúñez de Calahorra, author of the Espejo. Tyler reduces the Spanish author to a shadowy background figure, a nameless “stranger” whose work Tyler both mediates and authorizes by presenting it to an English readership. When gender enters the equation, this language of appropriation becomes more fraught—particularly when the writer is a woman and the translator a man, as is the case with Christine de Pizan, whose Boke of the Cyte of Ladyes was translated into English by Brian Anslay in 1521. In situations like these, scholars, most notably Jennifer Summit (2001: 61-71), see an appropriation of power whereby a man co-opts a woman’s words and in some sense her identity. Others, such as Swift (2008: 184) and Johnston (2014: xliv-li) argue that automatically reading translation as appropriation simplifies what are in fact a wide range of individual and cultural factors.

[15] Although see Florio’s preface to Montaigne’s Essays, which describes in similar terms how he “transported it from France to England; put it in English clothes; taught it to talke our tongue.”

[16] In some ways, Tyler’s adaptations of female characters create a challenge to other writers, one accepted most famously by Mary Wroth in her rich Urania (1621).

[17] Other female characters have similarly conventional roles; Krontiris (1988) notes that women are most likely to be the victims in need of rescue by knights, from Calinda, whom Rosicleer saves from a giant (136), to the Duchess Elisandra, whom the Knight of the Sun rescues from false charges of adultery (230).  Tyler’s substitution of Briana for Claradiana in her title, then, fits with this trend of conventional female characters.

[18] Boro (2014: 18-25); Uman and Bistué (2007: 300) particularly note Tyler’s “colloquialisms” and “alliteration.”

[19] Tyler (1578/2014) does not, however, change every piece of Spanish vocabulary or cadence. For instance, she usually refers to Britain as “the Great Britain” (see 142 for an example), which seems to be a holdover from the Spanish “la gran Bretana” rather than common English usage (see Ortúñez 1555/1975: 33). Similarly, she retains the Spanish “Oliverio” as the King of England’s name instead of the more English “Oliver.”

[20] Boro (2014: 23) confirms that this phrase is Tyler’s addition.

[21] The OED uses sample quotations from Roger Ascham (1568) and Sir Philip Sidney (1587), demonstrating that this usage was current in Tyler’s day.

[22] Tyler also uses the phrase “school points” when she describes Rosicleer as an anxious scholar composing his letter to Olivia: “For the better understanding whereof, you must imagine a young scholar but lately entered into school points overseeing of his theme before he bring it to the review of his schoolmaster. And believe me, in far greater doubt hung Rosicleer of his lady’s liking than the boy doth of his master’s” (Tyler 1578/2014: 161).

[23] Boro (2014: 22, 23) ultimately portrays this scene as a failed attempt by Tyler to anglicize the text, since “Trebatio’s gruesome actions” in the “shocking scene” of Edward’s defeat produce conflicting emotions without a moral center.

About the author(s)

Rachel M. De Smith Roberts is Assistant Professor of English at North Greenville University, where she teaches writing and literature. She holds a B.A. in English from Dordt College, an M.A. in English from Creighton University, and a PhD in English from Baylor University. From 2011 to 2014, she was a member of the Lilly Graduate Fellows Program (Fourth Cohort). Her scholarship focuses on early modern women writers, particularly four women who wrote in male-dominated genres: Margaret Tyler, Anne Dowriche, Mary Wroth, and Elizabeth Cary.

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©inTRAlinea & Rachel Roberts (2017).
"Englishing A Spanish Romance Translating Spanish Rivalry into English Patriotism in Margaret Tyler’s Mirror of Princely Deeds and Knighthood", inTRAlinea Vol. 19.

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