SPAN 300: Cervantes' Don Quixote
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Cervantes' Don Quixote
SPAN 300 - Lecture 16 - Don Quixote, Part II: Chapters XII-XXI (cont.)
Chapter 1. Major Themes in Camacho’s Wedding [00:00:00]
Professor Roberto González Echevarría: As we approach the episode of Camacho’s wedding it should be readily apparent that it was — the story was going to be a play. It has a beginning, a conflict or climax, and a resolution. Given that it has a happy ending its safe to assume that it was going to be a comedy. Actually, scholars have ferreted around and discovered evidence that, indeed, it was a play that Cervantes was planning to write. And Cervantes, it seems, found in the Quixote a book where he could sort of dump all of his work in progress, the stories, some of which wound up, of course, in the book Exemplary Stories, but some of the stories in the book, of course, were written independently and had actually circulated independently.
The novel, as it is being developed in the Quixote, will be an inclusive kind of literary work, with a lose format, not following the strict rules of literary forms, genres, derived from the classical tradition where these liberties were not available, but the Quixote does allow for this kind of incorporation of stories and of various texts. It is a feature that the novel will continue to have and that in the modern period, of course, will be exploited to the very limits. Let us also notice how this love story is neatly integrated into the plot of the novel, as opposed to the more tangential way in which such stories were inserted in Part II. Here, Don Quixote and Sancho are more or less involved in the developments, and certainly Don Quixote is involved in the outcome.
Of course, given that this was going to be a play, there is a great deal of theatricality in the whole episode, which includes theater within the theater as these celebrations for the wedding take place. Even nature has been artistically arranged, so much so, that the outdoors now has a roof. You may recall that, when they enter the meadow where the celebration of the wedding is going to take place, it is noted that the trees have been arranged in such a way as to provide a canopy that the sun can barely penetrate to reach the grass. That is, is nature turned into architecture, as it were. The play within the play is a way of underlining that everything is theatrical; that there is no real action that is not already theater. That is, life is already theater in Part II, and this is part of the theme of desengaño that I have been underlining for the past few lectures.
Let us also take notice of the abundance that prevails here and in the second part, in general, in contrast with Part I. Whereas, in Part I, the characters ate frugally, now Sancho has so much food before him that he scarcely knows what to do with it. Compare this with the very frugal meal that Don Quixote had at that very first inn, when he ate fish because it was Friday. Abundance, contrasted with the starkest want is typical of the aesthetics of the Baroque, this clash, and abundance ties in with the notion of sensuality, the sensuality of Cervantes’s art that Auerbach spoke about in the essay that you have all read, and that he says is the hallmark of Cervantes’ work. The sensual, the tangible, in all its abundance, turns into a simulacrum and reveals its opposite, which is quite literary death. This is the desengaño aspect. So we have Sancho’s speech about death being the devourer of all. As I said, the overarching plot and the plot within the work in these stories follows this pattern of engaño and desengaño.
Chapter 2. Pyramus and Thisbe; Art Corrects Nature [00:05:40]
Now, we may ask when we come to this episode, why are weddings so important in fiction, including film, of course, the theater too, but in film, there are many films that you, I’m sure, can remember, that center on a wedding. Weddings mark a moment of social union and renewal, both of society and of nature. They are a transition marked by feasting, particularly, by eating. In fiction, weddings tend to be conclusions: ‘they married and lived happily ever after,’ is a common and traditional ending to stories. In the wedding celebrations the world is consumed in a way that leads to the consummation of the marriage. The story — and we will see much more about this in a very short time — the story of Camacho’s wedding, like the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe on which it is based, is a conjunction of love and death of Eros and Thanatos, or love that struggles against death for continuity and renewal. There are intimations of the death scene, the culminating death scene, which is really not a death scene, but a contrived theatrical death scene, but there are intimations of that death scene in the calf that is impaled to be cooked that our protagonists find as they arrive at the wedding celebration. One could also see in that impaled calf a scapegoat, which is typical of feasts and of celebrations.
Now, Camacho is rich and powerful like Don Fernando in Part I. But Basilio’s abilities and skills prevail over social and economic forces. His industria, his abilities win the day, and there is much made of how many skills he has, he can play the guitar, he is an athlete, we later find out that he’s quite an actor, also. Now, the episode is a prose epithalamium, and I think better write this — a poem or song in praise of the bride or groom or both from the Greek “epi,” “at,” and “thalamium,” “nuptial chamber” — and a verse epithalamium is actually performed as part of the wedding celebration, if you remember, quite an elaborate one at that. This episode of a wedding with such celebrations is common in the literature of the period; the most prominent one is in the great poem by Luis de Góngora, whose name I may not have mentioned before, who is the great Baroque poet; it is from him that you get the word in English “gongoristic” as something very baroque and complicated, and he is famous for many poems, but the most famous one is called the Soledades, and in the Soledades there is quite an elaborate wedding ceremony that is described. It is like a spring ritual, a celebration of nature’s replenishment — remember that Part II, vaguely begins sort of in spring.
But in the whole episode one wonders, is nature corrected by art or does nature prevail? I think the answer is obvious that art prevails. That art corrects nature, and this is, again, one of the main themes in Part II of the Quixote. Don Quixote is on the side of Basilio, not of Camacho and in this the episode is very remindful of Marcela’s and Grisóstomo’s in Part I, when Don Quixote, again, is on the side of Marcela. Perhaps this episode is the kind of ending that the Marcela-Grisóstomo episode should have had in Part I, the reminiscences of that episode also in the attempted or faked suicide, in Part I Grisóstomo, as we saw, had actually committed suicide. Now, the story’s a version of the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe, which had been anticipated by Lorenzo de Miranda’s sonnet on the topic during the episode at Diego de Miranda’s house, his father’s house, the man in green, and it’s mentioned directly by one of the students on the road to the wedding. It is also acted out in the danza hablada, the spoken dance, the epithalamium, during the wedding festivities. So the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe hangs heavily over this episode. John Sinnegan writes [quote]:
Sinnegan adds, comparing this episode, which is the only one on love on the second part with the Cardenio tale of the first part, and he writes the following. This is rather a lengthy quote, but I think a useful quote from this John Sinnegan. It goes;
[Unquote]. He’s the author but he’s also the actor of this play that he has made up. But another way to look at the episode is to see it a modern version of the Pyramus and Thisbe myth which is clearly in the background and looming, as I’ve just said over the story. The Pyramus and Thisbe story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses highlights the pagan theme of suicide, which Cervantes, in his Catholic environment, uses for dramatic effect but ultimately avoids. Now, Ovid, we all know who he was, and I gave you some information in the sheet that I passed around with the copy of this episode in the Metamorphoses; he was a Roman poet of the last Augustan age, he’s known for his Ars Amatoria, which someone called “the most immoral work written by a man of genius,” it’s on love — don’t rush out now to get the book. But the Metamorphoses is his most important work, which is a long narrative poem, book, which recounts legends in which the miraculous transformations of matter occur. In fact, the poem begins: “My intention is to tell of bodies changed to different forms.”
And it begins with the change from chaos to cosmos, and goes on to the moment to Julius Caesar being transformed into a star. So the Middle Ages took the Metamorphoses to be kind of a pagan bible, like an old testament. If the Old Testament tells the story of the universe, so does the Metamorphoses using the classical myths. His influence in the Renaissance was tremendous, and even in the late Middle Ages. He was kind of the thesaurus of myths that artists, both painters, sculptures, and writers used very often. Now, in Spanish literature he was very influential as he was, of course, in English literature throughout the ages. He competes with Virgil in importance as a classical author to be followed.
Now, there are deeper more disturbing aspects in this story, in Camacho’s wedding linking deflowering, blood and the connection between life and death, into which I will go in some detail. Love appears as a mock death to promote life. Violence and love are complicit because violence is the subtext of love. The issue here is of classical mythologies, version of this, contrasted with Christian doctrine. The question for artists of the Renaissance, deeply interested in the classical world, but living in a Christian one, was what to do with the ancient gods.
The most common answer was allegory; the myths were seen as moral allegories, they told a moral tale. But in the case of the episode of Camacho’s wedding what Cervantes seems to be proposing is a modern reenactment of an ancient reoccurring dilemma concerning love and using for that the classical myth of Pyramus and Thisbe. Basilio’s arts are used here to steer the story away from its pagan ending, suicide, to a victory of love and Christian marriage — you have read the story in the handout that I gave you in the last class. The pagan ending is turned into theater, into representation, into art. Don Quixote has referred earlier to marriage as an irreparable accident, in something that sounds very funny to us today, he is just using scholastic terminology to refer to it, and always in the context of these debates about marriage that I will revisit today.
Basilio makes the accidental the result of choice, his choice. The point is that skill and wiliness lead to a virtuous result here. The whole of the second part of the Quixote is an apology for art, for the artificial, for the constructed, for the contrived, for art helping nature attend good ends, after going through the process of desengaño that I have been underlining in the past few classes. It is a way of turning deceit, which would normally lead to disillusionment, into a positive force that leads to a happy ending. As I said, Basilio’s skills prevail over the economic forces, the social and economic forces; his craftiness wins the day.
Chapter 3. Marriage as Transubstantiation; The Itinerary of Blood [00:21:08]
Now, what I claim is beneath all of that a kind of substory, a subtext. The story is a rewriting of the love stories of Part I that turn on unequal marriage and that involve the issue of secret marriages, which, as I said, were the hot topic of the day which was taken up by the Council of Trent. Having read Elliott you know now what the Council of Trent was. I spoke about these issues when speaking about the episode in which Dorotea allows herself to be deflowered by Don Fernando. The difference here is the lurking presence of classical myth, typical, more typical of the Baroque. In Part I the stories about all of these young people seem to be drawn from contemporary legal archives, contemporary stories about conflicts involving social issues, states and legacies. Here the source is much more imposing and ancient, the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe, but true to the political character of Part II there is, in addition, a protracted discussion of the issue of marriage by the characters.
The issue of marriage was a political issue, not just a religious issue; it’s impossible to separate the two. Other echoes of Part I are Basilio’s madness, when he hears of Quiteria’s impending marriage, which recalls both Grisóstomo and Cardenio when they go mad — in the case of Cardenio mostly, we don’t see Grisóstomo actually act that out — and, of course, the issue of suicide which evokes Grisóstomo. This is another case, I emphasize, of rewriting episodes from Part I, so the rewritings involve here both episodes in Part I and classical myth, which is being rewritten. But there is a deeper take on marriage at the level of material transformations.
The story of Camacho’s wedding is about the issue of marriage as a sacrament, a transformation of matter for transcendental purposes, that of creating a new human life and how it is institutionalized through civil and canon law, that is, by society and religion. The law is based on prohibition: ‘thou shall not,’ here, the ban instituted by Quiteria’s parents once she and Basilio have reached sexual maturity, which is quite evident, if you read the story their prohibition comes up when they have reached sexual maturity. She has begun to menstruate and he is now capable of impregnating her. Her parents are reluctant to have her reproduce with an impecunious Basilio who, for all of his skills, has no profitable ones. But that stands also as does simply the prohibition: ‘that shall not.’
As we saw when discussing the issue regarding Dorotea, clandestine marriages — which is lurking here in the background because we must assume that there had been one between Basilio and Quiteria, clandestine marriages could lead to polygamy. And I could say to any girl that I was involved with, yes, yes, I will marry you, and then if it took, as it were, you could be married to several such women. And also, how can a vow hastily made in the heat of passion yoke partners for life in what Don Quixote calls, again using scholastic terminology, “un accidente irreparable,” meaning something that cannot be taken back, in the Catholic Church you cannot take it back. That is, how can such — how can words uttered in these circumstances make a marriage? How can freewill be so easily surrendered? The Council of Trent proclaimed that the church abhorred clandestine marriages and ordered the clergy not to celebrate weddings without published bands and the presence of witnesses. This was incorporated by Philip the Second into Spanish statutory law in 1564 and remained as the foundation of marriage in Spain until the nineteenth century.
The conflict is dealt with very subtly in this story. Basilio is proficient in canon and civil law, and he puts it to good use in his trick to marry Quiteria. How does he do that? Well, he threatens to die without confession. I have to underline this because, even if you are a Catholic, this is very difficult to conceive from a modern perspective. So, you want to die without confession? So what? Go ahead, be my guest! But, by threatening to do that, he his accusing them of sending him irrevocably to hell, because suicide is a mortal sin, and if he dies without confession and commits suicide, he’s going to hell, no matter what. This is how he convinces everyone; he knows canon law and he knows civil law. So to die without confession if she will not give in would condemn him to eternal damnation. Quiteria and the others would have done more harm to this way than murdering him; murdering him would be nothing compared to eternal damnation. Then he has both Quiteria and himself utter the words about free consent that would legitimize the marriage before church and society. I’m sure you remember the episode in which he insists, and the proper words, the legal words are used, affirming consent. She confirms later her determination afterwards to dispel any doubt about her desires and make void any future claims to dissolve the marriage; that is, she confirms it afterwards, so it wasn’t just in the spare of the moment, she confirms that she wants to marry Basilio.
All of these are very carefully constructed episodes to show Basilio’s lawyerly skills. But, as I am suggesting, in this story Cervantes probes deeper into the issue of marriage, deeper than legal issues. He goes back to marriage as a kind of transubstantiation, a transcendental metamorphosis of matter, a transformation of matter. The blending of bloods, literally, that makes the union indivisible, presumably. In looking at the episode with this background in mind it appears that Cervantes is favoring the clandestine “I do” that Quiteria must have articulated, while at the same time having her and Basilio observe the rituals prescribed by the Council of Trent.
It seems to be a middle course: the sacramental nature of marriage lurks in the subtext of the story through the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe. It is a tragic story the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe in which a cruel fate befalls the young lovers because of a misinterpretation, although it could be read as an admonitory tale about the recklessness of youth. The myth goes back to the conjunction of love and death at the moment when love ripens and is about to become regenerative. Driven by desire, the young lovers are to meet at the tomb of Ninus, where they die, not killed by the lioness but by their own hands. The bloody veil can be seen as an image of the hymen, rent in the act of love, a bloody event, the renting of the hymen, that also recalls the onset of menstruation; that is, the beginning of the capacity for reproduction but also the recurrent death of a woman’s ovum. The red of the tree’s fruit is both a symbol of resurrection and of death, as it recalls menstruation in their reoccurring coloring. The myth reenacts a tragic human predicament symbolized by the spilling of blood at conception, birth and death, leaving open the possibility that the law, here the parent’s disapproval, can overcome or forestall the fatality of the situation. But the prohibition is also allied to death because it is instrumental in bringing about the tragic ending.
In Ovid, the conflict appears to resolve itself in beauty, the gorgeous red fruit of the tree. In Cervantes it goes further. By way of contrast and comparison we will later see how Velázquez deals with classical myth. In Cervantes the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe is given in chards, fragments, with a faint outline, like a distant memory. It looks forward towards Joyce, the Ulysses, where these fragments appear, more than backwards to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance where the myths were more coherent. I am inclined to believe, however, that Cervantes had Ovid’s text in front of him, or that he had a prodigious memory. For instance, when Basilio feigns being near death, his eyes are part of the act. If you remember: ‘his eyes already turn in his head.’ He’s playing that he’s about to die so he has his eyes turned into his head, which recalls the moment when Thisbe asks Pyramus to answer whereupon — I’m not going to read you the Latin because then I’m going to really sound like a priest saying mass — the translation: “He heard the name of Thisbe and he lifted his eyes with the weight of death heavy upon them, and saw her face and closed his eyes.” So the eyes, the element, this is one of the chards that I say remain of the myth.
My argument follows what I would like to call or what I like to call an “itinerary of blood.” From the pregnant calf on the spit that Sancho sees when they arrive at the wedding which foretells of the sacrificial victim, the groom, which he replaces. It also recalls the violence at weddings, Romeo and Juliet being the most famous example in western literature. The violence, the blood, announce gestation and the spilling of more blood as the new human being, the most elemental purpose of marriage is produced. The consumption of the animals, the wine and the bread have obvious Christian symbolism, too.
To consume and to consummate go together in a wedding celebration, as I said earlier. They consume the world around them including the earth through the wine. It is a form, again, of transubstantiation. Transubstantiation is the word for the Eucharist, when the body of Christ is transformed into bread and wine. That is of transforming one substance into another through actions that involve both pleasure and violence: hunting, butchering, squashing the grapes and, of course, sex. Basilio’s intervention postpones the blood Quiteria would have shed in Camacho’s bed substituting it for the fake blood that he has concealed. This blood stains his garment; the proxy blood suspends the real blood that would seal the marriage. But I contend that there is another hidden blood that forestalls the consummation of the intended marriage between Camacho and Quiteria. And you don’t have to follow me on this or be persuaded if you don’t want. To put it bluntly, I think that Quiteria is menstruating on her wedding day. In the Spanish original, it says: “Venía la hermosa Quiteria algo descolorida y debía ser de la mala noche que siempre pasan las novias en componerse para el día venidero de sus bodas.”
Jarvis: “The fair Quiteria looked a little pale occasioned perhaps by want of rest the preceding night which brides always employ in setting themselves off and dressing for their wedding day following.”
“Descolorida” in the Spanish does not just mean pale, a little pale, but to have lost one’s color, because of an illness, or a fright. And “componerse” means to dress up, of course, but also to recover from an illness. Why mention that she’s pale? I believe that the suggestion is that she’s menstruating. Menstruation is fraught with all kinds of prohibitions and lore in all cultures, in ours going back all the way to the Old Testament. Now, menstruation, in this case, would have been a providential blood that would have impeded the consummation of Camacho’s marriage postponing Quiteria’s hymeneal blood and preserving it for Basilio’s bed. Quiteria’s menstruation, her regla, which is another word of saying menstruation in Spanish, and it means, “rule,” simply “rule” would be a superior law inherent in the blood itself in determining the outcome of the conflict.
Marriage is seen as ordained by God part of a divine plan that supersedes custom or law and overrides considerations of unequal social status. The process of marriage is embedded in bloods itself, in the general transformation of matter according to divine grace. In the Bible, man and woman would become one flesh in marriage. In Ovid’s pagan version there is no salvation possible, the lover’s fusion is only achieved as ashes in a funerary urn or in the beauty of a mulberry tree in bloom. In Cervantes, a form of justice has been made, and that is every reason to believe that the commingling of bloods will lead to regeneration, to the birth of a new human being. This is a kind of conclusion that we did not find in Part I, where marriages are yet to occur, except in the tale about foolish curiosity where there is also a great deal of blood, if you remember.
I think that in a deep sense Cervantes is true to Ovid and to the spirit of Metamorphoses, “meta,” movement “morphoses” the change of form, but has given it a Christian twist and translated it into the present. In Cervantes, the myth is not retold with a didactic satirical or even aesthetic purpose. In fact, it is not so much retold, as recycled. It is not an Ovide Moralisé, which was — from 1340 — was a book in French by Pierre Bersuire, which influenced many writers, including Chaucer, and into which fifteen books or chapters of the Metamorphoses are turned into allegories, as I mentioned before, moral allegories. Here this is not what Cervantes does at all either on the level of marriage as a social institution and so forth, or that deeper level that I’m claiming is told in this substory or subtext that I called the itinerary of blood.
Chapter 4. Cervantes and Velázquez: Creation as a Layered Process [00:39:21]
Now in this use of myth Cervantes resembles Velázquez. So let us turn to Velázquez again, and now we have to douse the lights or put the curtains down, and Elena is going to be good enough to be showing us some paintings by Velázquez that I just want to discuss in this context. So if you wait a minute for the theatrical part of the presentation today to be prepared, as it were. All the way down, all the way down. Over there it cannot go all the way down… Okay, that’s good enough. And then we turn off the lights and I have to let my eyes adjust so that I can read my notes. Let’s go to Los borrachos. Ok. The Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, whom I have mentioned before, but I think that I want you to remember him as part of — can you see from this side? No. I mentioned him before; he’s the most important Spanish philosopher of the twentieth century, known in this country mostly for his book The Revolution of the Masses, but also — he also should be read for many books, but one is The Dehumanization of Art, which is about the avant-garde art. In any case, the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset claimed that what Velázquez meant by mixing classical gods with unsavory or ordinary characters from every day reality is that there are no gods and no transcendental meaning, if we take the gods to be the representation of the higher sense of things when seen in connection to each other. Velázquez, he says is, I quote now Ortega:
Jonathan Brown says — he’s one of the great experts on Velázquez; he wrote a book with Elliott on Spanish architecture, that attempts to interpret that painting [quote]: “as a parody of the Olympian gods or as a sermon on the evils of drink have failed, and instead Velázquez intended to represent Baccus as a giver of the gift of wine which freed man temporarily from the harsh unforgiving struggle of daily life. Deprived of the beneficent liquid, the beggar finds no respite from the hardships which in sober moments will be shared by all of the company.”
This marvelous painting hangs at the Prado Museum, and if you remember the words by Auerbach about the subtle plastic nature of Cervantes’ art, of his depiction of things and of sensuous, you can see that there is, besides the connection I’m trying to establish here, a kinship between Cervantes’ art and that of Velázquez, and you can imagine these characters as appearing in episodes of the Quixote, I’m sure. Look at the face of stupor on this drunk, he has sort of a grin of stupidity and drunkenness, and the others, you know?
The Spinners, Las hilanderas, was painted around 1657, it is thus a very late work, contemporaneous with Las Meninas, and nearly as complex and as ambitious. In it, Velázquez has combined two subjects, one from the classical mythology and the other from his own time. It is a commonplace work scene, as you can see. There are, in fact, two stories from classical mythology combined in the picture: the fable of Arachne and the story of Jupiter’s Rape of Europa. In the foreground we have the activities of tapestry manufacturing as was done in the factories under royal patronage in Madrid, and in the alcove, in the back, the classical tale of the weaver Arachne.
The scene takes place at Arachne’s shop, where, as a great artist, she’s visited by elegant ladies. The tapestry hanging on the back wall of the alcove, which is presumably Arachne’s work, is the key to the relationship between the two scenes. It is a woven copy of Tizian’s The Rape of Europa — Could you give me that painting? This is the actual painting by Tizian, The Rape of Europa which — back to the Hilanderas — which we find in the back, in that tapestry. The Rape of Europa is one of the most celebrated of Jupiter’s erotic adventures with mortal women; Arachne has challenged Minerva, patroness of weavers and goddess of wisdom to a weaving contest. It was called a draw, but because Arachne’s tapestry was judged to be the equal of Minerva’s, and further, because it depicted such a scandalous act by her father, the goddess punished Arachne by turning her into a spider. The story is also drawn from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book six. This is the reason Minerva is shown gesturing angrily. Jonathan Brown, again, believes that by [quote]:
While this is fine — that’s the end of the quote by Jonathan Brown — and at the time there was a raging dispute as to whether painters were artists or mere artisans; this may seem strange to us but there was. And, of course, Tizian had been a favorite painter of Charles the Fiftg, the previous century, and Philip the Second, so the painting is in homage to him, and there is no doubt that by inserting Tizian’s painting into his Velázquez is putting himself at the same level. But there is a lot more to it, it seems to me, as in Las Meninas there seems to be a revelation of the act of artistic creation, which in the painting has to do with Minerva and Arachne, but that taking the whole work into consideration has to do with Velázquez’s own creation. Creation appears as a layered process that involves the real — this is the real — either because art is a reflection of reality or because art illuminates reality, but also because reality unveils the artificiality of art.
In The Spinners we have paintings within paintings, and the presence in the foreground — and the present, this is the present in the foreground — appears as a repetition of the classical past. But it is a repetition that is also a comedown: can the present day spinners recall the myth of Arachne? It seems to me that what Velázquez is doing, as Ortega y Gasset suggested about the Bacanal this diminishing the gods, and also by showing Minerva’s studio within the weaving shop, he’s showing the inner recesses of representation: it’s backstage tricks, as it were, and as he showed in Las Meninas. The whole painting is a desengaño, is in other words is what I’m trying to say. What we take to be gods are like today’s spinners. The weaver’s shop is no different from Minerva’s studio in both the deception of art are created to deceive man. We see the contemporary weavers in relation to the classical fable, and we see at the center of Velázquez’s painting a quotation from a masterpiece. It is, again, an infinitely receding sequence, a play of mirrors within this workshop of representation that we are being given here, which is like giving us a workshop of engaño, therefore by giving us that workshop, it is a desengaño.
Now, the process is similar to what Cervantes does in Camacho’s wedding episode, and of the whole of the Quixote dealing with myth. The fable of Pyramus and Thisbe takes place in fabulous Babylon; Camacho’s wedding takes place in an insignificant village in Spain. What Basilio does is to use the artistry of the fable to deceive those in attendance, particularly Camacho and his friends, but also Don Quixote, Sancho and even the reader, who does not know what is happening until the moment that the trick is revealed to bring the story to a climax and eventual resolution. There is a mirroring of myth and present reality, and the elaboration of a deceit through artistry, acting, playing the role of the mythological Pyramus — Basilio playing that role, acting it out. It is both an engaño and a desengaño, making up the whole story.
The backstage of representation is displayed as in Las Meninas, and as we shall soon see in the episode involving Maese Pedro, Ginés de Pasamonte as puppeteer and most revealingly in the culminating episode in the whole of the Quixote, the one about Montesinos cave, in which we are given the whole underpinning of Don Quixote’s madness, his actual subconscious. Now, whereas in Part I Cervantes seems to be addressing the romances of chivalry and the picaresque as models and sources, in Part II he takes up the grand tradition of Homer, Ovid, Virgil and Dante, particularly in episodes such as the cave of Montesinos and the pageant in the forest that we will be seeing soon. This is very significant. It seems to me that he now knows that he is in their league and that he has created a literary character that will endure like theirs and like the characters in classical mythology.
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