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In the Middle Ages, the role of theater was of eminent
importance in the cultural and literary life in Spain. One of the first
and more important theatrical piece is the anonymous work called Auto de
los Reyes Magos (Play of the Three Wise Kings). Only a fragment of the
play has survived and this fragment is normally cited in most of the books
about the history of Spanish literature.
It is well known, but not very well explained, that in its beginnings theater belonged to what we call `oral literature,' and without any doubt it was what now is considered `popular literature' in contrast to `cultivated literature.'
In this article I try to examine the roots of this primitive theater. To do this we must go back to the minstrels and the texts they used because, as we have said, all theater started as a popular oral activity. The problem is that we do not have access to these oral and popular texts. But there is a way to reach these texts indirectly. In Spain some church people started to collect these texts of the so-called "mester de juglaría?" (popular minstrel verse) and put them in written texts which are called "mester de clerec?" (learned poetry). Two of these texts Libro del Buen Amor (The Book of Good Love) written by Arcipreste de Hita, and the anonymous Poema de Fernàn Gonzáes (Fernán Gonzáes Poem) will be used in this article to look forsome original and primitive manifestations of theater.