SPAN 300: Cervantes' Don Quixote
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Cervantes' Don Quixote
SPAN 300 - Lecture 14 - Don Quixote, Part II: Front Matter and Chapters I-XI (cont.)
Chapter 1. Episodes in Part II Reminiscent of Others in Part I [00:00:00]
Professor Roberto González Echevarría: Something that I will be charting as we move through the episodes that make up Part II is how they are reminiscent of others in Part I; how, in many cases, these episodes in Part II are rewritings of episodes in Part I. This is an issue that doesn’t have to be just stated, but also pondered. I mean, what does that mean? Does it make a statement about there not being a possibility of something new and original, of memory impinging on the present so strongly that you cannot really move away from it, and so forth? So when I discuss these episodes I will try to link them to episodes in Part I, and I hope that you do the same as you read, because the book invites you to do so from the very beginning, when Sansón Carrasco sort of takes over as the internal author of Part II, and you realize that what Sansón Carrasco wants Don Quixote to do is to reenact Part I, to be like he was in Part I and to do the things that he did in Part I. And, in fact, many of the characters in Part II that Don Quixote and Sancho meet want them to act like as they did in Part I. So this is something that can be seen as sort of an overarching topic about in my discussions of Part II, and that I hope that you will also do as you read and think about Part II.
Chapter 2. The Baroque Concept of Desengaño [00:02:10]
We are going to begin today where we left off in the last class, talking about that all-important term that I was discussing, called desengaño. Desengaño is perhaps the most important concept of the Spanish Baroque. Remember, Baroque is essentially seventeenth century spilling over into the eighteenth century where it becomes Rococo, if you want to be more precise. So desengaño is perhaps the most important concept of the Spanish Baroque; it means undeceiving, opening ones eyes to reality, awakening to the truth; these are all valid translations of the term. Engaño, in Spanish, means ‘deceit,’ to be fooled; ‘te engaño’ means ‘I fool you’; ‘engañarse’ is ‘to fool one self.’
This concept is fundamental to Part II because the whole plot of the novel seems to be moving towards disillusionment. So let me give you some definitions of desengaño and comment on them so that we can have as clear a concept, as clear an idea of this concept as possible. The first is from Otis Green and his book Spain and the Western Tradition. Otis Green was a great Hispanist at the University of Pennsylvania for many years, through the ’40s, ’50s, and even ’60s, and his book is a treasure of information about Spanish literature and culture of the Golden Age. He writes: “This desengaño is related to the sort of awakening to the nature of reality that the prodigal son must have experienced, ‘I will arise and go to my father,’ says the prodigal son. This waking to true awareness is called ‘caer en la cuenta’ [in Spanish; it’s another way…] ‘caer en la cuenta’ to have the scales fall from one’s eyes, to see things as they are. Such a state of mind is desirable.”
I continue with Green: “Disillusionment comes to be viewed even to be venerated as a sort of wisdom, the wisdom of the stoic sapiens or wise man of antiquity who was fully aware of what constituted the summum bonum, the supreme good, and was utterly un-enticed by everything else.”
[Unquote]. You know who were the stoics were, so this wise stoic man knew what the real good was and what was not valuable: “Caer en la cuenta [I go on with another quote from Green], to come to one’s self was the phrase most used in connection with the type of desengaño we are considering here. It signified a passing from ignorance to knowledge, and awakening from the falsity of one’s dream.”
[Unquote]. So you can see now this dialectic, as it were, between engaño and desengaño, deceit and un-deceit, deceit and disillusionment, and coming to realize what is the truth. The following is the quote that I gave you at the end of the last class. It was on the back of that map with the Don Quixote’s route on the way to Saragossa, and then the swerve to Barcelona, and it’s the following, and it is from Baltasar Gracián. Baltasar Gracián was a Jesuit who wrote about politics, wit and rhetoric. He lived between 1601 and 1658 and he wrote a very famous allegorical novel. An allegorical novel is a novel in which the characters represent abstractions: reason, truth, and so forth, and the novel is called El Criticón, The Big Critic. Here is a quote from that book, it’s the quote that you have, it’s a quote about desengaño:
As you can see, this is very allegorical the left hand road; the left is always the bad, sinister. ‘Sinistra’ it means left, this is why it has that connotation. The left road is the bad road, and so you have deceit and disillusionment, and he says, is placing deceit — if this is the door to life, deceit is here, and then the end of life is the other D, Disillusionment; this is what he saying. Gracián was allegorical in his mode of thinking. Deceits are all of Don Quixote’s illusions, and those of the other characters in the novel. While desengaño is what they wind up or what they reach, disillusionment, realizing that it is all vanity of vanities. This is the reason why so much of what happens in Part II is staged. Deceit is the theatricality of so many events which are made up, constructed; deceit is the dream of books that Don Quixote dreams, it is the unbroken chain of texts masked in reality, and even of language also masking reality.
So Don Quixote’s dream of books, these illusions about the romances of chivalry and the knights of old is a deceit, and disillusionment, is coming to realize that it is that, that it is nothing but a deceit, and the unbroken chain of texts is because in Don Quixote’s mind one text leads to another, leads to another, leads to another. It’s a humanist dream, the humanists, who were philologists, lovers of language, students of the classics, thought in terms of texts leading to texts, leading to texts, without ever getting to reality, and of language of something that has its own reality, and what the baroque does is undermine all of that and show that it is all a dream.
The best example of these patterns of deceit and disillusionment, or of going from deceit to disillusionment is the play by Calderón de la Barca, Life is a Dream. I have put his name before on the board, but I will do it again so that you remember him, he’s one of the classics of Spanish literature — You can’t see from there? Pedro Calderón de la Barca. I am very fond of Pedro Calderón de la Barca and of his play, Life is a Dream, because I wrote my entire doctoral dissertation about that play, and it is one of the classics of Spanish literature. In that play, Life is a Dream, in English, prince Segismundo has been kept in a tower since birth because an omen told his father, king Basilio, that Segismundo would be a ruthless tyrant if he ever became king, so he has him grow up, since he’s a baby, in a tower, cared for by Clotaldo and so forth.
To put him to a test, Basilio has Segismundo drugged and brought to the palace, where, when he awakens, he is treated like a king. Confused, Segismundo acts violently, he tries to rape a woman, throws a soldier off a balcony, and so forth, confirming the omen, in a way, so he is drugged and brought back to the tower where, upon awakening, he does not know if what happened in the palace was true or just a dream. Meanwhile, the people who have found out about Segismundo’s existence, the people in the kingdom, revolt and come to get him to fight against his father. Segismundo hesitates because he does not know if this is another dream, but decides to go with them and act prudently and justly, this time, because he realizes that even in dreams it is best to do the good, because if life is like a dream, the only true life is the life after death. He dethrones his father, but does not kill him; and marries the woman he should marry, not the one he had lusted after during his first day in the palace — he controls his desires.
The message is that life may very well be like a dream in a platonic sense, but even so one must behave morally. As you can see, the plot of the play, which I have simplified, goes from deceit, the first visit to the palace, to disillusionment, when Segismundo awakens back in the tower, and wisdom, when he comes to know that life is like a dream, as are political power, the trappings of government, and everything else. The only thing that, by the way, that he knows was true when he awakens in the tower is his love for this woman, the only continuity is the emotion of love, and that is a neo-platonic element in the play. It’s a more complicated play than I have just made it seem here. We will have occasion — we will see a very similar story when Sancho becomes a ruler later in the Quixote.
My suggestion here is that the plot of the Quixote as a whole follows a similar outline from deceit to disillusionment, from engaño to desengaño. We will have, of course, occasion to revisit this when we come to the end of the novel, but keep it in mind also, keep all of this in mind, also, when you read for next week the wonderful story, The Glass Graduate, El licenciado vidriera, which you are to read for next week — next week we have a big week, we have The Glass Graduate, and also we are going to be doing two of the main essays in the Casebook, the ones by Spitzer and by Auerbach, about whom I spoke in the last class already, so you should be prepared to read that essay of “The Enchanted Dulcinea,” an episode that we are going to be discussing here today. This is so we can keep our course not going from deceit to disillusionment, but to be wide-eyed about everything from the very beginning.
Chapter 3. The Discussion about Knight-Errands and Saints [00:17:35]
So let us begin today as we move to the episodes in the Quixote about the discussion of Don Quixote and Sancho about knight-errants and saints that I’m sure you remember. First, there is the exordium by Cide Hamete Benengeli and comments by the narrator about what the translator said, or what the narrator said about Cide Hamete Benengeli, but the reader does not know where these comments appeared — and we talked about that in the last class. They are not in the text, as it were, but in a sort of meta-text or virtual text that is like a running commentary about the composition of the novel, and this is one new feature in Part II that I mentioned before.
Now, Sancho subjects Don Quixote to a rigorous cross examination and gets him to say that saints are better than knights — I’m sure you remember that. Sancho has rhetorical skills, as does Sansón, who earlier had used forensic rhetoric to ease Don Quixote’s sally. Sansón may have acquired those skills in Salamanca, but where did Sancho learn them or anything else, where did Sancho learn rhetoric or all of this culture that he has in his mind? I think that the intimation is that Sancho has learned a great deal not just from Don Quixote, which he does, and we have seen, but also from hearing sermons at church, which he mentions in his discussion with his wife.
The church is on this level part of popular culture, or better, a vehicle for the popularization of culture. Sancho may not know how to read, but he has a culture in his head that he has absorbed from the preachers. This is one way to explain the evolution of Sancho and his increased intellectual and rhetorical powers, although, of course, his relationship with Don Quixote, as I will mention in a couple of minutes, is obviously the most important. The discussion per se, the theme, the topic of the discussion is very serious here, too, because it plays into religious debates of the time in Spain, whose background is the Reformation. The debates have to do with good works and with predestination and free will, Protestantism sided with predestination, Catholicism, or at least one element within Catholicism, the most important one, for free will. So therefore, if you had free will, you could, through good actions, gain access to heaven.
Now, these are debates that to us, in this our secular age seem vacuous, but they were not in the sixteenth century at all, they were of the utmost important. So here, in this discussion, it is not just a question of arms versus letters, which is a set discussion piece, although there is a reminiscence of that here, but of good actions for their own sake, and good actions for the sake of glory. Sancho shows that the knight’s actions seem to be of this second kind, actions to gain glory, and this feeds into the topic of desengaño and engaño. So to perform actions for the sake of glory is to perform actions for the sake of deceit, of engaño.
Don Quixote counters by saying that there were knights who were saints. I suppose that he refers to Saint George particularly, and adds that not everyone can be a monk, he says. Cervantes is, I think, pitting his relativistic and liberal take on life, which is not antireligious, against the religious zealots of the time, I think, through this discussion of his characters. So the discussion has a contemporary relevancy that is political as well as religious, and this is connected to what I said in one of my earlier lectures about the fact that Part II is the first political novel, because religion and politics were intertwined in the Spain of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, with all of the caveats that we have learned by reading Elliott. So this discussion of the two characters about this issue is consonant with the political side of Part II. I want to underline that, so that you have that clear in your mind.
Now, Sancho also demonstrates, as he has before, and as he will increasingly, that he is endowed with natural reason, which can lead him to understand sufficiently the most difficult questions. Natural reason is a medieval concept that survives through the Renaissance and reaches the Enlightenment, which underscores God’s gift of sufficient reason to every individual no matter what his station in life to understand the fundamental questions, issues of life. This will become an important topic in Part II; natural reason, and Sancho will be the exemplar of this. It is a theological concept.
Now, one can see, of course, that because Sancho has been influenced by Don Quixote, their arguments are like discussions the knight could be having within himself, or with himself. What is the significance of their mutual influence? I think that to propose a concept of the self as relational, not as individual or isolated. Not “I think, therefore I am” — I’m quoting Descartes, of course, which comes a little later — not so much “I think, therefore I am”; as “I relate to others and myself emerges from that commerce or dialogue with others.” This is what the Quixote through this relationship between these two characters seems to be suggesting. Now, of course, this is a very profound philosophical statement, a suggestion, but it also crucial in the development of modern fiction.
Think of Huck and Jim, in Huckleberry Finn of their dialogues and of their influence on each other, think of Holmes and Dr. Watson, to give you an example from popular culture, and even of those Faulknerian characters that seem to overlap and blended to each other, to the point that you sometimes don’t know who’s really speaking in one of these Faulkner novels, you don’t because his characters consciousness are sort of blended, and their individuality has been eroded. This is what I’m suggesting is happening here in Don Quixote and Sancho, and why this argument is one that Don Quixote could have had within himself.
Now, this discussion also brings up Don Quixote’s knowledge of classical Rome and its architecture. Rome is the city par excellence in the Renaissance, and its architecture was the model for Renaissance architects. This shows — remember that Cervantes spent quite a bit of time in Italy, so when he speaks of Rome, he’s speaking not only of things he has read about in books, but also things that he has seen. Now, this shows that Don Quixote is a humanist, that he has read beyond the romances of chivalry.
In Part II, we are beginning to enlarge Don Quixote’s library, we cannot reduce it to the romances of chivalry that we found with the barber and priest in the scrutiny of the books, but he had read other things. It also anticipates Part II’s projection beyond Spain. I say beyond Spain because as Don Quixote and Sancho go to Barcelona they are moving to a part of Spain that is almost not Spain. Cataluña, being, even today, a part of Spain that is very independent in its culture and has, in fact, tried to become independent several times, and also, of course, the battles that you will see at the end of the book beyond the shores of Barcelona, move beyond the borders of Spain, so this projection towards Italy is important in that respect. But also this discussion points out that architecture is an important issue in Part II.
It’s an important issue because, as I have mentioned before, a great deal of Part II takes place indoors; in houses, in mansions and so forth. In Part II, we have less, although there are some, of those two places that I mentioned in Part I: the despoblado, the unpopulated — Remember that that is even a legal concept, that area where the law does not reach — and the other one that I didn’t put on the board, but you must have seen the word many times, these are the soledades. Soledades are when you are out in the wild. There’s less of this in Part II and more of shelter, more of architecture, and this is why the discussion on roman architecture is important, above all, in the context of humanism, and the Renaissance, and the copying of Rome’s architecture and the, of course, the development of what will become Baroque architecture, and that scheme that I gave you about Beinecke Plaza, Sterling Memorial; you blend them, force them together and you get the Baroque.
Chapter 4. Darkness and Urbanism in El Toboso [00:30:04]
Now, this emphasis on cities brings us to the entry into El Toboso. The third sally takes place at night, and a day goes by, and then, at night they enter the town, the village of El Toboso, and being at night, this anticipates much of the mood of Part II. Remember, Part I began at dawn. Don Quixote and Sancho want to arrive in the town at night so as not to be noticed, and that night is called in the Spanish una noche entreclara, “a night that was not quite a dark one” says Jarvis, and this, I underlined because of the concept of chiaroscuro that I mentioned before, the concept of chiaroscuro as something proper to the Baroque. “Una noche entreclara.” There is darkness, sounds, dogs barking, donkeys braying, swine grunting, cats meowing, a plough being dragged, there is an eeriness to this town augmented by these sounds. The farmhand they meet is singing a song about a great defeat which adds to the omens, the bad omens. Sounds, as opposed to visual signs, appear before them. In Part I we had the fulling hammers, but in Part II there will be many more sounds, as you will see. These sounds here are scary by virtue of the fact that you cannot see their source, you can only hear.
Seeing is going to be a different problem in Part II because of the increasing darkness. This is the first time that Don Quixote and Sancho come into a town and it anticipates the entry into Barcelona, a city, a great city, towards the end of the novel. What is the significance of this? I have mentioned this, the novel, which develops from the Quixote, will be for the most part an urban genre, a genre often about cities, modern cities, and Don Quixote’s influence on the history of the novel includes this urban part of the Quixote, particularly as you will see when you get to the Barcelona chapters. Here, El Toboso appears as a haunted city with blind allies and peopled by strangers, the farmhand, who do not know anything about it. The farmhand is an outsider who cannot give them directions.
I have always been puzzled and sort of even scared by this farmhand in the middle of night who doesn’t even know where he is, and I think I know why, and if you will allow me a little anecdote: I was lost in the Pennsylvania turnpike at night once, trying to find a town improbably called Indiana, Pennsylvania, where I was giving a lecture. I got off the turnpike and I was lost, in little towns, in Pennsylvania, they were dark with little lights. I drove my rented car towards the sidewalk, because I saw a man coming, I lowered the window and I said, “Could you tell me how to get to the turnpike,” and he went, “I’m deaf. I’m deaf.” I said, “Oh God, he’s deaf, he can’t help me,” I raised the window, and I followed, and I found a little gas station with one little light bulb, and I got out of the car, and this guy came out with only one eye, he had a hole on the other side; I said, this guy can’t help me, and so I was lost for hours, they were about to send for the National Guard, I finally found Indiana of Pennsylvania, where I was lodged in a Holiday Inn with a Mexican motif, and I was given the Taco Room. So this is my anecdote, and this is what brings to mind this farmhand who appears in the middle of the night and can’t be of any help because he doesn’t know anything; he’s not from there.
So there are deep resonances, to me, of Spanish mysticism in this dark, night of the soul to echo Saint John of the Cross, the great Spanish mystic poet; it’s the name of one of his great poems, “Noche oscura del alma.” It recalls seeing the depths of the soul in the darkness of night. Sancho is actually looking for a memory that is a lie, the story he made up about going to El Toboso remembering something that he knows does not exist, he’s trying to remember something that he knows does not exist, it’s a made up memory, and Don Quixote is looking for a non-existent lady who is the object of his devotion: both protagonists are searching for intangibles in the dark of night, as if it were, within their troubled spirits, and this is the, I think, the impression, that this El Toboso at night conveys. Right away we come upon a line that has inspired much useless commentary; when looking for Dulcinea they run into the church. The line in Spanish reads: “Con la iglesia hemos dado, Sancho,” Jarvis translates: “We are come to the church, Sancho.”
Modern readers have seen in that sentence a hidden meaning, that is, that Cervantes is decrying the interference of the church in all affairs, and the line has even become a standard phrase in Spanish to say that you have come against some obstacle: “con la iglesia hemos dado, Sancho,” when you come against some obstacle, particularly when you are denied something or other. I think that is only because of the rhythm of the way the sentence is written, not “hemos dado con la iglesia, Sancho” but “con la iglesia hemos dado, Sancho,” but it doesn’t have anything to do with that, this is why I mean that it is useless, but it has remained in the Spanish language as a ready made phrase. I think that what is significant here is that Dulcinea’s castle has morphed into the church, that in looking in the dark for Dulcinea’s castle they have found a church, or the church, in the gloom, where things are difficult to identify, Sancho is scared because he knows that the cemeteries are around churches, and he doesn’t want to be in a cemetery at night. This could be a telling transformation, perhaps an indication that Don Quixote’s love is a kind of religion, or more likely, given what will happen over and again in Part II is an intimation of death of which there are many in this eerie chapter. This ghostly night in El Toboso, the first adventure in Part II, sets the tone for the rest of the novel.
Chapter 5. The Enchanted Dulcinea [00:37:57]
So now we move to the chapter, we’re not going to go through every single chapter, as I’ve mentioned before, but here we move to a very important chapter, the one on the enchanted Dulcinea. It’s important not only because it inspired Auerbach’s famous essay of “The Enchanted Dulcinea” that you will be reading, but also it is a chapter that will play an important role later, in one of the most important episodes of Part II, one of the whole Quixote, the episode of the cave of Montesinos, where this enchanted Dulcinea will come back.
So, first of all, it is one episode in which we notice, once again, but very dramatically, an exchange of roles between Don Quixote and Sancho. The first time was when Sancho played the role of Don Quixote to his wife, who was playing his own role in that hilarious dialogue that they had, but here the exchange of roles is much more dramatic. The first thing to notice is Sancho’s Shakespearean monologue that dramatizes his inner conflicts and reveals his apprehensions about Don Quixote. He doesn’t know quite what to do; Sancho is here like a rustic Hamlet: “to be or not to be.” He weighs the various options that he has, and he opts for trying to fool Don Quixote with the trick of turning this peasant woman into Dulcinea. Sancho is becoming a fuller character and increasingly important to the novel. He is one of the pranksters who fool Don Quixote. He will be, in this sense, like Sansón Carrasco and like the Duke’s steward who will appear later. Also, Sancho is separated from his master here as when he went to deliver the letter in Part I, but this prefigures several important episodes in Part II in which they are separated, and Sancho plays the role of the protagonist of his own part. But the most important thing about this Shakespearean monologue, as I call it, is that we are exposed here to Sancho’s inner world, his world of doubts.
Then, of course, there is inversion of roles: Sancho is the one trying to convince his master that what they see is not really a reality, but something drawn from the chivalric romances, and he does a pretty good imitation of Don Quixote’s own rhetoric in trying to convince him that this wench is Dulcinea. So reality, which Don Quixote perceives as it is, conspires spontaneously or arranged by someone to appear as unreal, literary, artificial. Hence, the episode depends on the memory of Part I and of similar episodes. Here, I think, that the episode in the background is that of the windmills; it’s that inversion. It is here Don Quixote who says: what giants? Where is Dulcinea? What do you mean, Dulcinea? That is the episode in the background here.
Now, the peasant lass reacts to Sancho’s rhetoric a little bit like the prostitutes in the first inn when they react to Don Quixote, though the prostitutes in the first inn were kinder to Don Quixote than these peasant women here, who are very upset because they think that upper class young man or men are making fun of them. This is really a truly hilarious episode, one that makes me laugh, as I said the last time, every time I reread it, particularly the part about Dulcinea smelling of garlic, which I will mention again. But there is also the issue of Dulcinea’s bodily hair, specifically in Don Quixote’s interpretation Dulcinea’s pubic hair. If we go to page 530, 531, Sancho is talking and he says:
The description is remindful, of course, of Maritornes, but there is something specific about a hairy Dulcinea. Bodily hair, a lot of hair, was taken then as an indication of a heightened sexuality, of a strong sexual drive. This and other hints, there will be other hints, and there have been others — you can look them up in my book, Love and the Law in Cervantes — of bodily hair on Dulcinea and other women, moustaches and so forth. Look for them now, as you read the book and believe me, they are there, I haven’t invented them. These and other hints reveal a story behind the story here that I have hinted at before.
What lurks beneath Don Quixote’s courtly love style for Dulcinea is the sexual desire of an aristocrat for a peasant lass presumed to be of ardent sexuality, who promises to provide more pleasure than the women of his class. There is a literary tradition behind this that reaches back to the Spanish ballads, but that is also quite alive in Cervantes’ time. At least two of Don Juan’s conquests — you know who Don Juan is the figure of Don Juan, the womanizer and so forth, who first appeared in Tirso de Molina’s play. I have mentioned the fact that the Don Juan figure is one of the figures created in the Spanish Golden age by Tirso de Molina, I better put his name on, too. He is the inventor of the Don Juan figure, a great legacy then, in literature and music and so forth — At least two of Don Juan’s conquests in Tirso de Molina’s play, The Trickster of Seville are from the lower classes, one a peasant and the other a fisher woman.
The Dulcinea in this scene also underscores her physical prowess by the way she mounts her donkey, by taking a little run back to get some momentum, and leaping on it from behind and riding it astride, like a man. It’s a very sexual and vulgar gesture that she makes that I find absolutely hilarious, and then when Sancho says, “my God, she’s quite a horseman, she could teach a Cordovan or a Mexican to ride a horse, the way she leaps on it,” and she just goes on. Also by her smell of raw garlic, which Jarvis translates as ‘undigested garlic,’ which reveals her coarseness, and also her proximity to food: food and sex go together. Now, I know, that, of course, garlic doesn’t sound very sexy to anybody anymore or ever perhaps, but this is the intimation. The whole transformation of Dulcinea will leave a deep imprint in the knight’s subconscious, as we shall see in the episode of Montesinos’ cave.
Chapter 6. Theater on the Road and Its Baroque Characteristics [00:47:29]
But now Don Quixote and Sancho are about to meet theater on the road, this road that in Part II appears to be full, not of real characters, as of characters and objects playing roles or disguised as something else other than what they are. So they meet now, the cart of the parliament of death, which is a cart carrying actors who have finished putting on a play in one town and go to another nearby to repeat the performance, hence, they have not changed out of their costumes. The play that they stage is a kind that you have already met before, though very briefly, in the Grisóstomo and Marcela episode. If you remember that episode, Grisóstomo was said to write the autos sacramentales. These are the religious plays performed on the day of Corpus Christi, the feast in honor of the Eucharist or communion celebrated on a Thursday on the sixtieth day after Easter.
Therefore, it’s coherent with the chronology of the novel, it’s taking place in summer so Corpus Christi, communion, the Eucharist, is celebrated in this feast every year, and part of the feast was the performance of this place, which always deal with the topic of the Eucharist, the mystery of the Eucharist, the transformation of Christ’s body into blood, and into wine and bread. They usually have plots drawn from scripture, but also plots drawn from classical mythology. These autos were a medieval retention in every sense, and now think about what I said about the Baroque going back to the Middle Ages, jumping over, back over the Renaissance, this is a medieval retention, the auto sacramental. They were one-act plays performed on carts, precisely.
They are carrying themselves on the cart and they are also carrying, with the cart, the stage, because the way that these autos were performed were, if you have a town square, let’s say the church is here, the other buildings and so forth, the carts were put, one — if there were two or three — one for each scene, and then the people would be here, and the performance took place on the carts, and elaborate props and scenery were created on the carts, because these plays represented cosmic events of the world, I mean the universe, the stars, and so forth, would appear, and then when the play was finished — this was a very modest play with only one cart — the cart would move on to the next town. So they were carrying with them their stage, not only themselves, but also their stage.
They were simple enough so that all of the people could understand them, but sophisticated in versification, imagery and theological content. Calderón de la Barca was the most famous author of autos sacramentales, but many other poets and playwrights wrote them, including Lope de Vega, who was the author of the one mentioned in this episode, Las cortes de la Muerte, which is a real one-act play by Lope de Vega translated here as The Courts or Parliament of Death. In the play, Man, with a capital M — remember it is an allegorical play — is subjected to a trial after having been tempted by the devil — this is where the devil appears here. Another figure is that of Madness, represented by the actor who spooks Rocinante with his bells and bladders.
Remember, this one who comes after they have had their dialogue, and he has a stick with — they didn’t have balloons because, of course, there was no plastic to make them, so they made these balloons out of the bladders of slain animals, so bladders and bells, and he plays Madness. The most famous of these autos was one by Calderón called The Great Theater of the World, whose theme was that of the world as a stage where man performs life, as if it were a play, before going on to the real life after death at the end of the play. The one performed by these players in this episode of the Quixote, who, by the way, were a real company of actors of the time, is very much along the lines of The Great Theater of the World, but the conceit here is that of a trial for man. So this is what it is in the background of this scene. So theatricality is an important element in Part II because of what I mentioned, theatricality is part of the deceit that would lead to desengaño, but it’s also — you will also find it at the inn, where Ginés de Pasamonte appears as a puppet master.
Death, who appears here as part of the ensemble of actors — because Death was an allegorical figure that appeared in this — is also important in Part II, and it is a medieval retention, so is the devil. Everyone here is in costume, including, of course, Don Quixote. Reality is all ready play, illusion; there is no need for Don Quixote to misinterpret it. But notice the subtlety that the plays then assume their roles in reality. The Madness begins to play Madness in the reality of Don Quixote. The devil plays a trick on Sancho, and the presence of death, even in allegorical dress is frightening, and reality is buried beneath a layer of various forms of representation. A man dressed as a literary character meets men and women dressed as literary characters. The devil who steals Sancho’s donkey parodies Don Quixote and his fall from Rocinante. Here is a madman facing an actor playing the role of madness, as if reality were offering Don Quixote a mirror of his own deranged self. This is something that will happen over and again in Part II, and we will find another example very soon, when Don Quixote meets the Knight of the Mirrors. Life is play acting, as Don Quixote says, using a word that you are now familiar with. He says: “Y ahora digo que es menester tocar las apariencias con la mano para dar lugar al desengaño.”
That’s what is says in the original. And Jarvis does reasonably well. He says: “And I say now that it is absolutely necessary [says Don Quixote] if one would be undeceived [desengaño] to lay one hands upon appearances [to see that they are appearances].”
Cervantes, by the way, is punning here, because in the Spanish of the seventeenth century ‘apariencias’ also meant ‘stage props.’ When Calderón wrote the instructions for the carpenters to make the stage he called those “Memoria de apariencias,” apariencias were stage props. So by this pun Cervantes is underlining the theatrical quality of this episode and of the quote unquote “reality.” Two things important to remark and remember for this scene is that Don Quixote meets an image of his madness, something that will happen throughout Part II, and it is kind of a point of madness, where madness reflects madness, nadness for us, as readers, too. And also, we must remember the presence of death, which is a warning against the deceits offered by life. Death devalues all of the allures of life with its presence, and we have met it before in El Toboso when they bump against the church. Finally, the loop of the story here, of this little story, of this episode goes from deceit to disillusionment, from engaño to desengaño. If Micomicona and the process by which her story was concocted was like a representation of representation, the episode of the cart of the parliament of death is representation in motion, or actually representation even on wheels, one could say.
I want to close by reading you a little vignette that I wrote, as an epilogue to this episode. I’ve told you that professors and critics can hardly resist the temptation of crossing the line and becoming writers, and this is my very modest falling into that trap. It goes like this, it’s very brief and very silly now as I reread it, but I think that it will give you a laugh:
Well, I have here a few notes from your exams, of things that I found very interesting. It’s not everyone, so don’t be jealous if you’re not mentioned, you’ll be mentioned in the next one. But Tony wrote about the lack of introspection in the Quixote, and that is true, but this will change in Part II, and he also said that “those who like the romances of chivalry are also like Don Quixote, and in a way, that is extends to us.” That was very good. Kelsey, “being an author and the danger of insanity” she writes, which is true: being an author, as you can see with my little attempt here, carries the danger of insanity. And Sancho, she says “is fat and short and therefore closer to the ground,” I found that to be very interesting. Tara, “Don Quixote doubles Cervantes, both are readers and authors of chivalric romances,” it is true, so I found that to be… Jasmmyn, this is in Spanish, “doubles who are interlaced to complete, as it were, the character of Don Quixote.” That was very good, I thought. Ariel found various frames in Las Meninas, it’s true, the frame of the picture, the frame in the picture, the frame of the door, there is repetition of frames. I found that to be a very, very interesting insight. Elizabeth, “Cardenio makes Don Quixote more believable as a character since someone else exists who is like him.” Toby, “in turning Don Quixote’s world into a world of dialogue he and Sancho both changes it and preserves.” So this is your own feedback that I found very interesting. So I’ll see you in the next class or this Friday, I will be there, should you want to come see me. A few of you have already come and we have had very pleasant conversations, and I am eager to receive you.
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