SPAN 300: Cervantes' Don Quixote
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Cervantes' Don Quixote
SPAN 300 - Lecture 8 - Don Quixote, Part I: Chapters XXVII-XXXV
Chapter 1. The Function of Memory in the Development of Characters [00:00:00]
Professor Roberto González Echevarría: We are coming to a part of the Quixote, the core of Part I, in which Cervantes makes a display of narrative mastery by combining the sequential structure of the chivalric romance, whose form he is parodying, with the multiple story design of collections of novelle, the long short story favored by Italians from Boccaccio to Bandello. How can these two genres be merged and mixed? Cervantes achieves it by taking his protagonist away from the center of the story while still engaging him in the unfolding and resolution of the intercalated tales involving Cardenio, Fernando, Dorotea and Luscinda. We will get to that, today and in the next class. But first, I want to begin by talking about the role that memory plays in narrative and the development of characters.
In the last class, we saw how interrupted stories being told by characters led to the revelation of other stories not being told or being told obliquely. In all of those cases, memory is the key element. Don Quixote makes up the generic chivalric novel, generic chivalric romance drawing from his recollections of the chivalric romances that he has read in the past. In the episodes in the Sierra Morena, there are three moments when memory plays a crucial role. The first is when Cardenio speaks about how painful the memory of his betrayal by Luscinda and Fernando is, and how he would like to evoke it, if only to make him have the strength of mind to commit suicide. He says on page 225: “O memory, thou mortal enemy of my repose! why dost thou represent to me now the incomparable beauty of that my adored enemy? Were it not better, cruel memory, to put me in my mind of, and represent to my imagination what she did then; that moved by so flagrant injury, I may strive since, I do not revenge it at least to put an end to my life?”
The agonizing recollection of those events, of the betrayal, constitutes the defining story of Cardenio and the source of his madness. It is not just what others did to him, but what he failed to do at the decisive moment, his cowardice, as he refers to it twice. He says that he was a coward, twice.
The second instance when memory plays a role is when Cardenio says that he vaguely remembers the fracas with Don Quixote when the knight interrupted his narrative, the episode is like a hole in his memory. This is an example of Cervantes psychological sophistication that Cardenio can only remember the fight with Don Quixote as if it had been a dream, but cannot recall what provoked it. And I quote from page 245 in your translation: “Cardenio hereupon remembered, as if it had been a dream, the quarrel he had with Don Quixote, which he related to the company, but could not recollect whence it arose.”
[Unquote]. Cardenio’s story has a gaping hole, a crack at the climax that is contained within another crack, Don Quixote’s interruption. It is like the scar left by a deep wound. This lapse is a clear symptom of trauma, we would say today. Cardenio’s story is full of holes, of gaps, and discontinuities.
The third instance when memory is highlighted is when Dorotea, as Princess Micomicona, forgets her name as she plays that role when telling the bogus story of her life, on page 255 — Let’s see if I can find it. She says… She is about to start her story and she says: “ ‘In the first place, you must know gentlemen that may name is…’ Here she stopped short, having forgot the name the priest had given her: but he presently helped her out, for he knew what she stopped at, and said: ‘It is no wonder, madam…’”
And so forth. As Dorotea says, she will make up the story basing it on her recollection of reading romances of chivalry. This, by the way, is an inconsistency either in Cervantes’s case or Dorotea’s own recollections, when she told her life, of how her life was, she said that one of her entertainments was reading mostly devout literature. She didn’t mention anything then about reading romances of chivalry, but she does now. So she will make up the story basing it on her recollection of reading romances of chivalry, but the name was not of her mention but the priest’s, so she quickly forgets it and has to be prompted. Since, as we commented, her story is a translation of her current predicament into the discourse of the romances, her forgetting her name is also indicative of her traumatized self. She has, after all, assumed other roles after she was abandoned by Don Fernando, which is the traumatic event in her life. Her sense of identity is frail and in the process of being remade.
Now, connected to all of this, and perhaps the overarching memory lapse of them all is the loss of Sancho’s ass or dapple, as the translation calls him — there’s no name, by the way, for the ass in the Spanish original, but I know that in this translation and the others they call him “dapple” because, I suppose, of his color — So remember that this theft of Sancho’s ass is left out of the first edition and Cervantes hastily restored it in the second printing, a few months later. Memory is not just a repository of recollections and stories from the past, it is that which structures the self in the present, and the archive whence narratives issue flawed and misshapen no longer a true reflection of what happened but revelatory of a truth about a character’s state as he or she talks now. So it is a truth about now, about the present that may be full of holes, of misrepresentations about the past. It is nevertheless the repository of stories about the past. So it is in that interplay between that flawed recollection and the present, that the stories are told — it’s what I’m driving at.
Chapter 2. The Network of Interrelated and Intertwined Stories [00:08:57]
The representation of all of this of this interplay of memory and narrative is the overall network of interrelated and intertwined stories that take place or are told in the Sierra Morena and resolved at Juan Palomeque’s inn, after Don Quixote’s battle of the wine skins, about which we will speak in the next class. Now, Cervantes was very much aware of the complexities of that construct, that network of stories. We read at the beginning of chapter XXVIII — and I have a handout for you to take home, which is the text that I’m going to read in Spanish, and on the back of it, various excellent translations of it that I have collected.
You can follow the Spanish on the Spanish side of the handout, and it says “No solo.” This is, we read at the beginning of chapter XXVIII after we have heard Cardenio’s tale in two installments. We have this remarkable self-referential mock admonition on the part of the narrator: “No sólo la dulzura de su [es decir, la de Don Quixote] verdadera historia, sino de los cuentos y episodios de ella, que en parte no son menos agradables y artificiosos y verdaderos que la misma historia, la cual prosiguiendo su rastrillado, torcido y aspado hilo, cuenta que así como el cura empezó a prevenirse.”
Now this is, I regret to say, Jarvis, the translation that we are using this year, pairs this down to [quote]: “Enjoy the sweets of his [Don Quixote’s true story] but also the stories and episodes of it which are in some sort no less pleasing artificial and true than the history itself, which resuming the broken thread of the narration relates that…”
You can see he’s pared it down. Tobias Smollett’s version with some emendations of my own — you’ll have it on the back, you’ll read under Smollett, which is the last one: “In this our age, in so much in need of enjoying agreeable entertainments, not only of his [Don Quixote’s] true and delightful adventures, but also of the intervening episodes, which are no less real, artful and delicious than the main story itself, the twisted reeled and rattled thread of which is continued thus, just as the curate was ready to offer some consolation to Cardenio…”
And so forth and so on. You can see how much Jarvis left out. I want to call attention not just to what the text says, but to the interruption itself, which is a speech act that performs the function of interrupting in this narrative. A speech act is an act that a speaker performs when making an utterance. Just as the priest is about to reply to Cardenio he is prevented in Smollett’s version, hindered in Jarvis’s version by Dorotea’s voice, which will provide part of the missing information in Cardenio’s account. There can be no comforting of Cardenio yet. Interruptions rarely promote comforting. The words Cervantes used to refer to the build up or spooling up of narrative trends, brings this out. They are drawn from spinning linen thread, “rastrillado, torcido y aspado” and are reasonably well translated by Smollett’s as “twisted, reeled and raveled,” but in the original they have, at least for me, perhaps because Spanish is my native language, a more violent or literal inflection. In other words, “twisted,” “reeled” and “raveled” are common English terms whose metaphoric origin has now faded. In Spanish, the words used by Cervantes applied allegorically to narrative are shockingly fresh and evoke more directly the physical actions they describe. ‘Rastrillar’ is to rake out the excess fibers from the thread; ‘torcer’ is to twist together many strands in order to make a string or thread, and ‘aspar’ is to twist two sticks to weave together, to weave strings together, as is done on a smaller scale with the needles in knitting, when you go like this with the two needles, so the two sticks are being aspando.
The cross marriages, Luscinda with Cardenio — although she had been married to Don Fernando, and Dorotea to Don Fernando — although she had been in Cardenio’s care, replicate the positioning and action of the two sticks used for aspar, if you understand what I mean. In short, the relation among the stories, including the main plot is predicated on blunt cuts and crisscrossing, not on smooth transitions. These are made possible by traumatic interruptions, which jostle the memory of the tellers and drive them to reveal other stories behind the one they tell, and also make them disclose their inner thoughts rounding out their characters. But, in addition, the whole network of stories, which is like a quilt — to continue this metaphor having to do with cloth — is itself a superb display of narrative skill and of variety, which is one of the aims of Renaissance art. But the question will always remain, in spite of what the narrator says, about the relationship of all of these stories to the main story of Don Quixote and Sancho. I’m sketching an answer here today, but I must inform you, and as you will learn in the prologue of Part II, Cervantes was criticized for including all of these stories, and in the sequel he was careful to integrate stories more seamlessly into the main narrative. He didn’t include a story like The Novel of the Curious Impertinent, about which we will be speaking in the next class, whose relationship to the main story is debatable or questionable, and we will talk about it in the next class.
Now, in the last class I focused — we will talk about it in the next class, did I say the last? In the next class. In the last class I focused on Don Fernando — remember when I talked about the mayorazgo and the segundón and that whole background. Let us concentrate today on Dorotea and Cardenio; Cardenio. Edward Dudley, who’s name I put there in case I don’t make it clear, writes in his superb essay “The Wild Man Goes Baroque,” he writes the following — I’m going to be glossing some quotes from Dudley’s essay: “This wild man is Cardenio, the soul brother of Don Quixote, and like him, a victim of madness. Their meeting in the Sierra Morena occurs in an atmosphere of unspoken attractions, and Don Quixote, already mad, is driven farther into the shadowed wilderness of his insanity. His subsequent imitation of Cardenio’s madness is the high point of his lunacy.”[Unquote.]
Dudley is referring to the episode that I quoted earlier about the meeting of Cardenio and Don Quixote, when the knight seems to remember having seen Cardenio earlier. Now, the difference between the two is that Cardenio is a poet, in the Petrarchan vain or Garcilaso vain, like Grisóstomo. So there are parallelisms with Don Quixote, but there are also differences. Dudley goes on to give a context to the figure of the wild man. He says: “The approach to a wild man hidden in a threatening wilderness is an archetypal pattern, familiar in world folklore and one utilized by artists again and again.” [Unquote.]
He even alludes to a modern work like Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which, as you know, is from 1900 the famous novel. So the story of finding a wild man in the wilderness is something that is a folkloric story. Dudley cites he-goats and wolves as akin to Cardenio in his moments of madness. I mean, these figures assume the role of he-goats and of wolves, two images that suggest respectively the problems of sex and violence that haunted the seventeenth century; I would say that haunted all centuries, but I mean, he knows, because he has studied stories in the seventeenth century. Dudley claims that [quote]: “Cardenio’s problem is that he cannot talk effectively, that he cannot communicate by means of the spoken word.” [Unquote.] And adds that: “clinically Cardenio’s conditioned has been diagnosed as a case of zoanthropy.”
Zoanthropy, animal-man, man becoming like an animal. As for the relationship between Don Fernando and Cardenio, Dudley sees a homosexual pattern. He suggests that the relationship between Cardenio and Fernando shows some mutual affection, that in a way anticipate the relationship between the two protagonists of The Novel of the Curious Impertinent that we will be discussing in the next class. That is, that the relationship between these two men is mediated by Luscinda, but that actually, it is a homosexual relationship between the two of them. More inline with what I have been saying about interruptions, Dudley says that in asking Cardenio to tell his story [quote]: “Don Quixote anticipates the twentieth century analyst who begins the cure by having the patient tell his story, and it is in the story that the cause of the madness is found, just as it is by means of Don Quixote’s intervention that the cure is initiated. But as he proceeds, it becomes apparent that the real reason is that he is autistic and wants, above all, not to be challenged in his dubious interpretation of the events.”
I will say that it’s not that he’s autistic but that he has been traumatized, and that trauma has caused something akin to autism, but it is not autism. And then he says that: “Dorotea plays an important role, because Dorotea appears before Cardenio and he admires her beauty, but does not lust after her, and that in that process Cardenio’s cure has begun.”
And this is a typically Renaissance idea of a cure provoked by the contemplation of beauty. This is the role that Dorotea plays in the cure of Cardenio. Cardenio’s character flaws and his intermittent bouts of madness are perhaps the reasons why Shakespeare found Cardenio compelling and wrote a play about him, a play that was lost, by the way. It is known that Shakespeare wrote a play based on Cardenio. Remember, the Quixote appeared in translation in 1611, so Shakespeare had time, and he did, to read Don Quixote, and to read the story, and to write a play based on this character. Unfortunately, it was lost, but one is left to wonder, what did Shakespeare find compelling in the character of Cardenio? I would say, of course, there is a Hamlet-like tendency to hesitation in Cardenio that Shakespeare may have found attractive. Of course — could you close that window so that we don’t hear the gentlemen outside laughing at each other’s jokes? You can also yell out and tell them to shut up, but… No. I think this is pretty good. So one interesting topic for a paper would be to speculate why Shakespeare wrote a play on Cardenio along the lines of what I have suggested, here but you can come up with your own ideas. And, in fact, a professor from Harvard, Stephen Greenblatt, I read in the paper, not long ago, actually, he being an expert on Shakespeare, wrote a play based on Cardenio. Literature professors are often tempted to cross the line and to write literature. The results are not always very felicitous. But I haven’t seen Greenblatt’s play, so I’m not judging it.
Chapter 3. Dorotea as the Object of Converging Gazes [00:23:58]
Now, Dorotea’s story. As we know and saw in the last class, Dorotea is seduced by Fernando, who instead marries Luscinda. Is there some kind of culpability in Dorotea? Did she not also consider at the crucial moment what a good match Fernando would be? Wasn’t she trapped by the fact that if she resisted, no one would believe that she had not allowed Fernando in her room? Like Cardenio, she hesitates at the moment of truth, but unlike Cardenio she makes a decision and takes action. Hers is not a submissive surrender. It is a calculated surrender. When Fernando disappears she goes in search of him, but then discovers that the marriage to Luscinda may not be final, and that she may have a chance to force him to make good on his promise. Remember that Fernando, she discovers, has been going hunting after he left her completely oblivious to her. Cardenio, on the other hand, is pusillanimous, cowardly, and Luscinda cannot bring herself to suicide at the crucial moment as she intended to do. Dorotea, on the other hand, is not passive. She invents herself like Don Quixote and like him raises herself in social class, ultimately because she does marry Don Fernando. We will soon see the role she plays in bringing a resolution to the conflicts and prepare the way for Don Quixote’s return to his village.
Now, Dorotea’s story is as compelling as Cardenio’s, but she is more composed and determined to obtain some sort of restitution. Her situation is complicated by the fact that her father is Don Fernando’s vassal, and she could hardly be the one to seek revenge or compensation according to custom. But by law, she had recourse to both, to revenge and compensation, but usually with the help of a man. Legislation in the wake of the Catholic kings program to reign in the aristocracy made it a crime for noblemen to take advantage of peasant women. Cardenio, being a man and an aristocrat, like Don Fernando and the Duke, offers to stand up for her, clearly because it is also in his interest. He makes the promise in strict accordance to law and custom. He says that he will challenge Fernando to a dual using the word “riepto,” which is an old Spanish word for “retar,” and which was part of Spanish legislation in the Middle Ages, but that had been banned by legislation in the sixteenth century. That is, by the sixteenth century noblemen were not allowed to duel with each other over an issue. But there was a lot of debate because, of course, the aristocracy wanted to retain that right, which went back to Visigothic times when noblemen took care of these issues by fighting each other. Now, that he’s reassured of Luscinda’s virginal condition — and this is crucial — and the questionable legality of her marriage to Don Fernando, Cardenio is encouraged to take action, and he invokes what he believes to be his right. Dorotea’s story is briefly interrupted by Cardenio, who cannot refrain from saying something when he hears about his own misfortunes from her point of view. This is the rest of his own story, which he himself did not know, and when he reveals to Dorotea his identity, parts of her story that she did not know fall into place.
The interruptions are like the scenes between the pieces of a large puzzle. For Cardenio, the crucial piece is the scene of the wedding of Luscinda and Don Fernando, which had appeared proleptically in the chivalric story that he blurted out, when Don Quixote interrupted him, the business about Queen Madasima and the surgeon having had an affair — remember that psychotic version that he had in his mind about the deflowering of Luscinda. But now, he and Dorotea begin to discern a potential happy ending to their misfortunes at the intersection of their stories, when they hear each other’s stories. The deleted motive, the gap in the story concerns the legality of Fernando’s and Luscinda’s marriage and her retaining her virginity. It is that chasm, fraught with violence and erased from Cardenio’s memory, that needs to be filled in the melodramatic and conclusive scene at Juan Palomeque’s inn. Cardenio expresses his desire for restitution using legal terms to describe the damage inflicted on him and Luscinda. On page 245, it says: “There is still room for us to hope that heaven will restore to each of us our own since it is not yet alienated, nor past recovery.” These are crucial words. The original reads: “Bien podemos esperar que el cielo nos restituya lo que es nuestro, pues está todavía en su ser y no se ha enajenado ni deshecho.”
The last part is a notarial formula used in contracts involving the assessment of properties and their resale value, when returned to the original owner. I think, too, that “todavía está en su ser” it remains whole in its integrity, is a euphemism to say that Luscinda is still a virgin, as does “deshecho,” undone. This invocation of heaven means that, once rescued from the wilderness, the law, both human and divine will again take effect and their story will have a happy ending, once they have left that wild place of the Sierra Morena, law will again take effect, human and divine law.
Now, Dorotea is ogled in one of the most explicitly and sophisticated erotic scenes in the Quixote that I hope you remember. Like Cardenio, Dorotea is first a voice, heard by the barber, the priest and Cardenio, who laments her fate. She is sound before she’s a visible body and she will become a very visible body indeed. Sancho, remember, has left to fetch Don Quixote and Cardenio, the priest and the barber, discover the beautiful Dorotea in a shady spot, washing her feet in a brook. She’s disguised as a farm hand, but soon, by spreading her gorgeous blonde hair, she reveals herself as a very beautiful young woman. Her beautiful, harmonious body is seen in stages by the men who spy on her without being seen — the pleasure of voyeurism, is not just seeing, but not being seen.
Dorotea is the object of converging gazes that possess her by parts; first, and insistently and fetishistically, her feet — You have all, I’m sure, even in your youthful age heard about foot fetishes. When I was a graduate student here at Yale, there was a foot kisser in the library, a guy who, if a woman was sitting at one of these desks that have a front like this, but nothing underneath, he would come up and take her shoe off, kiss her foot, and run away. And I don’t know if he was ever caught, but there was a warning about a foot kisser in Sterling Memorial Library. I tell you these stories so that you remember about Dorotea’s feet — Their desiring gazes cut the body in parts, a violent act of possession. Dorotea, who, as an ensemble embodies perfect beauty, is consumed by the men looking at her in pieces. She is a version of Diana in Greek mythology and of Susanna in the Book of Daniel, women who were observed naked by voyeuristic men.
In Roman mythology, Diana was the goddess of the hunt being associated with wild animals and woodland and also of the moon. Along her main attributes Diana was an emblem of chastity. Oak groves were especially sacred to her. If her figure in art appears accompanied by a deer — this is because Diana was the patroness of hunting — the deer may also offer a covert reference to the myth of Acteon. Acteon, who saw her bathing naked. Diana transformed Acteon into a stag, and set his own hunting dogs to tear him apart. Susanna or Shoshana, Lily, is one of the additions to the book of Daniel accepted by the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. As the story goes, a beautiful Hebrew wife is falsely accused by lecherous voyeurs. As she bathes in her garden, having sent her attendants away, two lusty elders secretly observe the lovely Susanna. When she makes her way back to her house, they accost her, threatening to claim that she was meeting a young man in the garden, unless she agrees to have sex with them. She refuses to be blackmailed, and is arrested and about to be put to death for promiscuity when a young man, named Daniel, interrupts the proceedings and he finally gets the two old men to contradict each other when he cross examines them, and they are executed, and so virtue triumphs. But the crucial image here is that of Susanna being observed, ogled by the two men, the two old men and of Acteon looking at Diana naked bathing.
So this is what is behind this beautiful scene that I point you to in page 231 of your translation. It is too long for me to read completely, but just remember that these are Cardenio, the priest and the barber; Sancho is not with them. The three men are looking at her and:
And then it goes on to describe how Dorotea washes her feet, how her hands are beautifully white, and her hair cascades down to the point that it makes Apollo envious, as I’m going to say in a minute. Eventually, they discover to her who they are, and a scene ensues. This is a scene that could be a Renaissance painting. And, in fact, Cervantes was well acquainted with Italian Renaissance painting, for as you know, having read in the Casebook, Cervantes spent a good deal of time in Italy. And Professor Frederick de Armas, at the University of Chicago, has written two books about the impression that Italian art made on Cervantes, and the imprint that these impressions left in this work, and this is obviously one of those.
Why is Dorotea a version of the classical and biblical myth? It is a Renaissance move, as it were, on the part of Cervantes. This background enhances the figure, it enhances the figure to have her be a version of a classical myth. It adds to her beauty, and to the prestige of the creation, and also it shows that art can make the present, or a present scene, be like a classical myth — This is crucial to understand why the scene is so much like those Renaissance paintings. Dorotea’s beauty shines through her course and cross gendering dress. In fact, it is enhanced by it, the contrast, the misled anticipation — you begin to see what you think is a male and suddenly, as the person disrobes, it begins to show female features, and the gradual revelation of body parts. These are all very erotic moves, gradual revelation of the body. Transvestitism is rampant in the Sierra Morena, as you may have noticed.
First, the priest dresses as a princess; then, the barber puts on the dress, when the priest becomes a little squeamish. Here, we have characters in drag, ogling characters in drag. The barber dressed as a woman looks upon the beautiful Dorotea who is dressed like a man. What does it all mean? It suggests that in the disordered world of the woods this sexuality is so primal that it antecedes gender distinctions. It is a form so generalized desire. Transvestitism thus is rampant in the Sierra Morena. When the priest addresses Dorotea, later, he simply tells her that she can claim to be whatever she wants to be man or woman, meaning that she can use feminine or masculine endings and pronouns, as Spanish allows for gender distinction in the speaker: “Dear Madam, or Dear Sir, or whatever you please to be.”
This is what the translation says. That is, the despoblado, this area in the wilderness is a place so far outside the law that genders have yet to be defined, and it is even pre-grammatical, in the sense that it’s before these endings can determine or express gender. This is suggested by the locus amoenus — remember I have discussed the locus amoenus or the pleasant place before, like the one we found when Rocinante was aroused by the mares after the Marcela and Grisóstomo episode. The locus amoenus, which is the perfect site for amorous exchange, enhances Dorotea’s appeal. There are light and shade patterns, there’s water that reflects and distorts. I’m quoting the translation: “It was a place through which there ran a little smooth stream cool and pleasantly shaded by some rocks and neighboring trees.”
The waters of the brooks full of reflections and refractions that repeat and distort her image increase her erotic appeal. First, her feet in the water look like pieces of glass, as transparent as the water itself. Later, her hands acquire the whiteness of snow. Her golden hair would provoke the envy of Apollo. These are symmetries and reflections concurrent with the larger ones concerning the various characters and plot strands. I’m trying to establish here a relationship between these locus amoenus and what takes place in it, and that overall pattern of these stories. All of these episodes are made of correlations between the plot, the characters, the settings and the scenes. Dorotea is a correlative opposite of Luscinda, who is aristocratic but has little money; Dorotea is rich, but not aristocratic. Dorotea is also Cardenio’s counterpart, lost as she is in the solitudes of the woods, fleeing disguised from her fate.
Symmetries and order contrast with the disorder caused by the “pestilencia amorosa”, the amorous pestilence that Don Quixote spoke about in the speech of the Golden Age. That imagined Golden Age and this locus amoenus are shown to be artifices that conceal desire in a semblance of order, but ultimately cannot contain it and violence ensues. So I want you to have clear in your mind what is at stake here in this locus amoenus and this violent, not overtly violent, but this violent possession of Dorotea by the gaze of these men, and the relationship that all of this has with the overall pattern of the stories that I am analyzing here. Dorotea hurts her feet when she tries to flee barefooted over the rocky ground. She is physically wounded, as she was when she lost her virginity to Fernando, and as she was almost wounded, again, when the servant tried to rape and she threw him over a cliff — we don’t know if he’s dead — and later, where her employer tried to seduce her. These are dangerous woods.
So the story of Cardenio, Luscinda, Fernando and Dorotea is told from at least two perspectives, both Cardenio’s and Dorotea’s. It is also told in various moments, and with the attendant interruptions that I have been mentioning. All is assembled under the umbrella of the main story to get Don Quixote out of the Sierra Morena and back home. The stories are all united by the theme of love, but considered at many different levels.
Chapter 4. The Kingdom of Representations and the Theatricality of Life [00:44:59]
Now, we move on to the hilarious invention of Princess Micomicona by the priest and this whole episode conceived to try to get Don Quixote back home, by inventing a fictional chivalric romance which will take him back to his village, because to reach the kingdom of Micomicón he will have to, according to the story they tell him, go by his village. So Dorotea’s story as Princess Micomicona is a translation of her real situation. Javier Herrero, I put his name there. He is a good friend of mine, with whom I agree and disagree always respectfully. He summarizes the situation thus:
That’s the synopsis that Javier gives us. There is substance to characters invented by characters; that is, Pandafilando de la Fosca Vista, and Princess Micomicona, and Tinacrio the Wise are all characters invented by the priest and performed by Dorotea! So these characters invented by characters acquire substance within the fiction; they are meta-fictional characters.
Now, Pandafilando’s name suggests lust. He is a pan-philanderer. What is a philanderer? Philanderer is a man who has many love affairs. So “pan,” generalized, “philanderer.” Actually, if you back to the Greek, it’s lover of man, but pan philanderer, he is a pan lover, a persistent, recidivist, insistent, prolific lover; this is Pandafilando, this imagined giant.
The name Micomicona is at first glance funny, it sounds funny. But it has several resonances. It has to do with monkeys. She is from Micomicón, the kingdom of monkeys. “Mono” is the most common word for “monkey” in Spanish, but “mico” means “monkey” in a more general way. What do monkeys do? Monkey see, monkey do. Monkeys imitate humans in a comical way, only form, not substance; they are like parodies of us. If you’ve been to the zoo and you stand in front of the monkey cage and you see that they seem to be making fun of us by imitating us. Indirectly and humorously, the issue of mimesis is brought up here by Cervantes. Mimesis was the Renaissance doctrine of imitation, the imitation of the classics; the imitation of the classic models to come closer to the imitation of reality. Mimesis has to do with representation. You can hear its etymological relatives: to mimic, to mime, and mimetic, and one can hear even a faint echo of mimesis in Micomicona.
But Micomicona, here, means that she is from the kingdom of monkeys, of a kingdom of representation, a kingdom of parodies. This is what this means. But Micomicona is here also Dulcinea’s rival, because Sancho wants very badly for his master to marry the princess so that he can get his kingdom. She is a copy of Dulcinea, or an echo of Dulcinea, remember that Dulcinea and Dorotea rhyme. Now, the Dulcinea who now appears is the one that Sancho makes up in his lie about his visit to her — Remember, the kind of brawny, smelly, Dulcinea who gives him a piece of cheese. He gets next to her and he says, she’s tall, and she smells, and Don Quixote says, how could she smell? You were probably smelling yourself, and Sancho said, yes, it could because I smell like that sometimes. It’s all very funny — But why is Sancho telling the lie? Because Sancho wants Don Quixote to marry the princess, so he’s trying to bring Dulcinea down, to make her look bad; but Don Quixote is not deterred, he says, no, no, no, you must have this wrong.
Now, so remember that Dorotea and Dulcinea rhyme, which underscores the relationship that they have at this very heady now meta-fictional level. See? This is a meta-fictional level what the characters are creating, what the priest is creating, what Dorotea is creating by representing by performing the story, and what Sancho is creating with his lie. Now, we know now what is behind the lie, Sancho’s lie. Remember, all of these stories always have something behind them, or are always telling another story. The story being told here is that Sancho wants Don Quixote to marry the Princess Micomicona, not to marry Dulcinea so he’s trying to make her look bad. There is another rhyming echo here that reveals to what extent the story that Dorotea is telling is a version of her own predicament: “Pandafilando, Fernando,” “Pandafilando, Fernando.” You see? There is a connection here, an oral connection between the two characters. So this character who is lustful, and that Herrero will claim later is an allegory of lust itself.
Now, at one point, nearly everybody here is in disguise. Some men have been in drag playing various roles, even Sancho is playing the role of the squire of a bogus knight-errant. The deep question about this episode with these meta-fictional levels is about the theatricality of life. This is where the Quixote leads us, again, to ask questions that are pertinent and relevant to our lives. Is living the playing of roles? Are we characters in somebody else’s fiction as these characters are here? And if so, for instance, are we bound by ethics if we are just mere characters in somebody’s fiction? There are stories within stories creating the infinitely receding sequence that I spoke about before. We can lose track of the real and of the self in such a construct, as I told you little boys used to do when they went to the barber shop and saw all of these repeated images of themselves — Who, where are you? Who are you? I have heard that under hypnosis we cannot be made to do anything that goes against our sense of values, against our morals.
However, in dreams we do transgress principles and engage in this wish fulfillment fantasies, in which we transgress principles. Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, published in 1900, suggests and has suggested for the twentieth century an analogue for literature and for these levels of fiction. Where does literature stand among all of these states of mind? In his own dream, Don Quixote will go on with his madness, he will continue to be mad in his dream. In the stories that they make up, however, Micomicona and Sancho do tell their deeper desires and apprehensions, a subconscious force is stronger than their will to lie. They want to lie and they and they tell the truth, indirectly. These are the issues that this complex of stories suggest. Now —
Chapter 5. The Importance of Subtext [00:54:57]
Let me talk, for comic relief, as we come to the end, and since we’re talking about values and principles, about an obscene passage in the Quixote. Herrero — Javier — claims that the “rabo,” the tail that the barber borrows for the innkeeper’s wife means her genitals, and that the obscene reference to it leads to an identification of Pandafilando with the phallus. Hence, Don Quixote cuts off a phallus, the symbol of lust. I think that it is mostly just a dirty joke on the part of Cervantes, who is having fun with a keen reader that he imagines could understand the obscenity behind this. The innkeeper’s wife says — and I’m going to read it first in Spanish:
Hmmmm… Herrero, writes — I think, over interpreting, my dear friend:
I can’t go there with Javier. I think that the joke is very clear; I don’t think it’s very obscure, it’s very clear, and it’s very funny. I don’t see how it can be extended to the giant, however, but one wonders why Cervantes included this obscene joke in the text? As I said, I think he’s just having fun with the reader who could pick it up.
Now, the stories, sub-stories and interruptions in relation to memory bring to mind — going back to the beginning of my lecture today — bring to mind the issue of Cervantes’s oversights, particularly the one about Sancho’s stolen donkey. What does it mean? Perhaps that creation is the flawed product of memory. One critic has suggested, as I believe I said before, that Cervantes included errors in the Quixote purposely. I doubt it, because he did try desperately to fix them within months. But the errors are consistent with certain characteristics of the Quixote, such as improvisation and the faulty or creative nature of memory. By making mistakes we create deviating from models. What I’m saying is that the mistakes of memory, as we’ve seen in the stories told by the characters, are creative.
What is the value of the sub-texts — if we could use that word — that we found beneath the stories being told, like the one about Dorotea’s predicament, and the one that Cardenio is a really telling? To learn that sometimes, perhaps all of the time, a story is the deflected version of another. So what? So the pleasure lies in the gradual discovery of the story within the story, as with the entire Quixote. All this has to do with the nature of narrative and with the nature of literature, a multilayered discourse whose gist is precisely its hidden meanings that surface in odd ways.
Why did Cervantes embed these stories about Cardenio, Luscinda, Dorotea and Don Fernando within the overall story of the Quixote? Did he think that they, or the main story, could not stand on their own? The stories are reflections of the main story as we have seen, both in their themes and by their inner structures, the characters create other characters, the stories are broken up and started again, many characters displayed some sort of madness, they are like mirror images of Don Quixote. Mostly, I believe, Cervantes was searching for a way to create a new genre, he did not know yet which, that would allow for this mixture, the sequential plot of the chivalric romance, the multistory kind of book produced by the Italians. A new genre that would also for this a mixture of main story and dependent or lateral stories, and he did create it, he created what came to be known as the novel by doing this. Now, beyond literature, the most significant idea behind this intermingling and the errors is to posit that memory is the self, that the self is memory with all of its flaws and its holes and its gaps. Remember that the novel, the Quixote, begins with a willful act of forgetting; that village in La Mancha, whose name the narrator does not want to remember.
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