SPAN 300: Cervantes' Don Quixote
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Cervantes' Don Quixote
SPAN 300 - Lecture 18 - Don Quixote, Part II: Chapters XXII-XXXV (cont.)
Chapter 1. The Addition of Concrete Geography in Part II [00:00:00]
Professor Roberto González Echevarría: I said at the start of the last lecture that after the episodes that I will be discussing then, the cave of Montesinos and Master Peter’s puppet show, three significant new developments take place in the Quixote; I want to go over them again. The first is that Don Quixote will sometimes not be the center of the action, which will focus instead on Sancho. The second is that both protagonists become objects of amusement for aristocratic frivolous characters that have read Part I and want them to behave according to it. The third is that Don Quixote and Sancho will be surrounded by many more characters than before. The overarching theme of the novel continues to be desengaño and most of the episodes are staged by authors within the fiction, which is highly theatrical, and the backstage of the pranks, the stage machinery as it were, is revealed to the reader, either during their performance or right after.
The episode of the enchanted boat, of which I gave you an illustration of which appears in the handout that I gave you, was needed to get our protagonists across the Ebro river; and we’re going to show a map of Spain, although we have already shown you a map about where this appears. We have to get them across Ebro river — I forgot my pointer today — but you can see the Ebro right there. In Part I, the territory that Don Quixote and Sancho covered was not very specific in geographic terms. Seville is mentioned as the destination of the prostitutes at the first inn, and also it is mentioned as the destination of Andrés, when he reappears. The Sierra Morena is the setting for Don Quixote’s penance, and the place where Cardenio is hiding in shame and in madness. This relative vagueness is consistent with the narrator’s refusal to mention the village where Alonso Quijano lives, and to which Don Quixote returns.
Now, however, in Part II, geography becomes much more precise, starting with El Toboso, our protagonist’s first stop, which is a real village in Castile, and continuing with their original destination, Saragossa, where Don Quixote wants to participate in jousts celebrated on St. George’s Day — April twenty-third, and we talked about that in one of my earlier classes. A stream figures in the episode of the fulling hammers, but now Don Quixote and Sancho on their way to Saragossa have to get across the Ebro, one of the major rivers of Spain. We can see another image of — there you are — of the Ebro. I highlight this because, of course, Castile is not only landlocked, but there is very little water in Castile, and this is reflected in the novel where it only rains once in Part I, there is that stream where the fulling hammers appear, but on the whole there is very little water. I’m going to turn the lights back on.
So the second part adds geographic concreteness to its realistic portrayal of Spanish life. This is not new with Cervantes. This he derives from the picaresque. In Lazarillo de Tormes, Tormes is a river; it’s the river that goes through Salamanca, as a matter of fact. And in the Guzmán de Alfarache, the geography is quite precise, both in Spain and in Italy, where Guzmán travels also through Italy. So Cervantes has derived this concreteness from the picaresque, but the episode of the enchanted boat also serves to highlight — comically, of course — the difference between Don Quixote’s obsolete Ptolemaic notions of geography and the new Copernican conception of the universe, which is being expanded both as knowledge and as a field of knowledge as Cervantes writes. What I mean by that is the Copernican universe is infinite, the Ptolemaic universe is limited.
Now, this — Galileo was making important discoveries in favor of Copernicanism in the early decades of the seventeenth century — he was in Spain for a while — and developing instruments of observation, like the telescope. But Don Quixote still adheres to Ptolemaic ideas and calculations, as he demonstrates in his hilarious exchange with Sancho, when he asks his squire to check if he has any lice on his body, because it was common lore that upon crossing the equator all such vermin would perish, as if by magic. Sancho discovers that his flees or lice are still very much alive, and he underscores the plural when saying that he has a few. Like chivalry, Ptolemaic geography is a medieval retention struggling to survive in a world in which after the discovery and settlement of the New World it was wholly untenable, except to the likes of Don Quixote or to Sancho, who doesn’t care either way. It doesn’t make any difference to Sancho, of course.
The crossing of the river is significant also because our characters are moving beyond landlocked Castile, toward coastal regions of Spain that are in touch with other cultures and languages, and in this second part we will reach such areas Barcelona where Catalan is spoke. The episode is a rewriting, since we’re talking always about these episodes of Part II being rewritings of episodes of Part I, this episode to me is a rewriting of the windmills episode in Part I, because of the wheels in the river, with similar results, except that Don Quixote and Sancho have, again, to make restitutions for damages, and as all crossings, this crossings also a transition.
Now, I have given you a handout with the scene of Don Quixote’s exchange with Sancho on the issue of the distance they have traveled in — and as this exchange appears in various English translations, so that we can be amused by the efforts that the translators make to render it into English the puns that are involved, which are a little bit obscene in the Spanish, if you have your handout, if not, I have copies. Does anybody need one? After Sancho wonders how much they have traveled, he said:
I think I explained in the last class the ugly word in Spanish to say to urinate is “mear,” equivalent in English of “to piss,” and, of course, in the word, in Ptolemy, in Spanish, “Ptolomeo,” there seems to be included the first person singular of the indicative of the word “mear,” “yo meo,” this is what Sancho hears in Ptolomeo’s name; And “cómputo,” computation, of course, to him what he hears is “puto,” which is the masculine of “puta,” which is whore and it means homosexual. So what Don Quixote has told him lacks all authority; is what he’s saying when his authorities have to do with a person who is a homosexual and someone how pisses a lot, and this is what Sancho hears. The efforts by our translator, by Jarvis, is not very good: “ ‘By the lord,’ quoth Sancho, ‘your worship has brought a very pretty fellow, that same Tolmy [how d’you call him?] with his amputation to vouch the truth of what you say.’”
He’s trying to get “computation” and “amputation” to try to get the pun; it’s not very funny. It’s not very good. Smollett, in the same eighteenth century tries to get: “ ‘For God!’ cried Sancho, your worship has brought a set of rare witnesses to prove the truth of what you say. Copulation and Kiss-me-Gaffer, with the addition of Tool-i’-me, or some such name.’”
This is actually better, because it catches the spirit of the obscenity of what Sancho is saying. Our own Rutherford, from Oxford University: “ ‘Good God,’ said Sancho, ‘that’s a fine character you’ve dredged up as a witness, with his sexy butts and his tomfoolery, and what’s more a great pornographer, or whatever it was you said.’”
These are all efforts. The point is that, of course, Cervantes is making fun of the whole Ptolemaic system, which by this time is obsolete, but Don Quixote, of course, is invoking it, as his authority to tell where it is that they’re going as they ride on the boat. You can amuse yourselves in trying your hand at translating that pun, if you want.
Chapter 2. Protagonists as Objects of Amusement for Aristocratic Characters [00:12:53]
Now, when Don Quixote and Sancho arrive at the house of the duke and duchess they enter a realm of games and frivolity that they have not known before. These are irresponsible aristocrats that belong to the leisure class; in fact, the house in which the action takes place is not even their regular house, it is a summer home for recreation. Don Quixote first meets the Duchess, who his out falcon hunting, all decked out for the occasion and surrounded by an entourage. This business of hunting with falcons was very ceremonial, people just went out with servants, and so forth, and the falcons, the hawks, were trained to catch the prey, and so forth. There wasn’t much real exercise involved, I think, as the hawks did all of the work, but this is part of the recreation of these aristocrats. The duke and duchess are devoted to pleasure, one of which is obviously reading, for they know Part I of the Quixote quite well. They are idle readers, like the one Cervantes addressed at the beginning of Part I, and I underline “idle” in this description.
Don Quixote and Sancho are like toys to the duke and duchess, or better, they are like literary characters, which, in fact, that’s exactly what they are. Everything in their home — I mean, Don Quixote and Sancho have sort of fallen on the hands, of these people who are great readers of Part I, and, wow!, here we have the “real” [quote, unquote], Don Quixote and Sancho at our own home, and so they try to make the best of it. Everything in the duke and duchess’s home is like fiction, except that fiction can be harsh and cruel. What their fiction proves, the truth of their fiction is that reality, too, is like fiction, and that both reality and fiction can hurt. Actually, what appears here is that reality is always reality plus the props to create the fiction; it’s not reality by itself, but reality improved by or changed by the props. This is the harshness of desengaño. Not only that being deluded can be hurtful, and to be un-deluded also can be hurtful, but that the physical process may indeed involve injury. Peter E. Russell, a distinguished British hispanist says [quote]: “The duke and duchess are remarkably unfeeling aristocratic pranksters. Some of their jokes involve causing physical harm to their two guests.”
You will see that Don Quixote is scratched by cats, that the fall from Clavileño, the horse, is very dangerous, and so forth. He adds, Russell: “Social satire directed at various levels of society is more prominent in these chapters than anywhere else in the book.” Now, this is true: social satire is very, very important in these chapters of the book.
In addition, and this is a detail that I hope you pick up when you get to this part, if you haven’t gotten there yet, the duke and duchess’s expensive pleasures are underwritten by the peasant whose son does not want to marry Dueña Rodriguez’s daughter, which is the reason why no pressure is put on him by his master. Remember, there is this conflict, another one of these conflicts on young people, this young man has promised to marry Dueña Rodriguez’s daughter, because he has impregnated her, and so forth, and she complains that no pressure is brought upon this young man because his father, who is a poor peasant within the realm controlled by the duke and duchess, lends them money, lends them money at very opportune moments; that is, when the duke and duchess are in dire economic straits.
This is a very significant detail. These are not only idle upper classes, but upper classes in hock, that finance their high living with loans. Since you are readers of Elliott’s Imperial Spain, you will no doubt see that it is easy to draw an analogy between the behavior of these aristocrats and the policies of the Spanish crown, which lives off the shipments of precious metals from the New World and loans from the Fugger’s, the German bankers who finance the expensive pleasures of the Hapsburgs at their court: the building of the palace, or the Retiro that you may still see in Madrid. Velázquez paints these Hapsburgs hunting and engaging in these kinds of pleasures, too. All of that, or most of that, was underwritten by loans from German bankers, so this is all part of the political site of the 1615 Quixote, which I mentioned before, is the first political novel, it’s a social satire which may involve a political dimension. In this context, Sancho’s social aspirations do not appear that outlandish, in the sense that Cervantes is showing that the social order and its hierarchies is crumbling when the upper classes are so corrupt, and as is evident in that a peasant, a mere peasant is supporting these aristocrats in their activities.
So this is kind of a topsy-turvy world, the social world which bespeaks of erosion and of crumbling of this social order, and what Cervantes is dramatizing here is that a new order is in the making, in which class mobility may very well be possible, class mobility up or down. We see characters, like the steward, in this household of the duke and duchess, who has enormous power over his masters, and we see Sancho, of course, elevated, even if it is fictional, to governor of this island, finally. So the second part of the Quixote reveals, as I say, a social order that is not as stable as it used to be, that is sort of shaking, and he is giving us very precise — Cervantes is giving us — very precise financial details about this, through this satire. The kind of financial detail that you expect to find only in nineteenth century novels, such as Balzac’s novel, in which, of course, the financial dealings of the characters play a very important role. But here, already, in Cervantes, we have these details such as the fact that the duke gets loans from this peasant.
Fiction, as performed at the duke’s house, is mirthful and playful, but also cruel and uncaring, as I said. Fiction is also ephemeral and substantial, like the props that hold it up. With the duke and duchess, Don Quixote and Sancho temporarily realize their dreams: Don Quixote is treated like a great knight, and Sancho is finally made governor of an island, when Don Quixote enters into the duke’s palatial summer home they have prompted already their help so that they treat Don Quixote as a great personage and have all kinds of things ready for his comfort. But these fabrications quickly disappear. It is, again, desengaño: the truth of fiction is that it illuminates the fictional quality of real life, or the ephemeral quality of real life if you want. An American hispanist, Ruth El-Saffar — let me put her name. It’s part of the name, she was married to someone of Arabic origin. She died very young, tragically; she was a Cervantes scholar. She writes [quote]:
[Unquote]. As we have seen already in the case of Sansón Carrasco, this controlling author, that he falls into his own trap. He loses to Don Quixote in this encounter that they have, and we will see, once and again, that the steward, who is a very clever fellow and creates all of these elaborate pranks does not succeed with him, okay? Eventually they come tumbling down. So Sansón Carrasco is the principle internal author, as I said, and as we’ve seen from the very beginning, bent on recreating the fiction of Part I, but now the duke’s house, the duke’s steward, will compete with Sansón quite favorably. He is the creator of elaborate pranks, like the island where Sancho will be governor, like the pageant in the forest, about which I will speak very soon, none of which turn out quite as he planned them, and within which he gets caught.
This steward, by the way, if you think about the pageant in the forest, was not only a clever in creating these pranks, but he was also a poet, he must have written the lines that Merlin delivers in this pageant. The significance of all of this, apart from its baroque character, is that Cervantes is speculating, as usual, about his own position vis-à-vis his own fiction, this fiction that seems to be always getting away from him, and this is what the presence of these internal authors, who are beset by these problems of distance and control, reveals, which is the same kind of situation in which Master Peter finds himself with his puppet theater with catastrophic results.
Chapter 3. Don Quixote’s Debate with the Ecclesiastic [00:25:53]
So, then, one of the early events that occur at the duke and duchess’s house is, I’m sure you noticed, is the debate Don Quixote has with the ecclesiastic. This is a criticism of the church, not of religion, and may also be a commentary on Spanish politics and the role that the clergy is allowed to play in them. So we have, again, another instance here of this social and political criticism that appears in the novel. Don Quixote intimates that the ecclesiastic is a leech living at the expense of the duke and duchess, who in turn live off of the rich peasant who gives them loans. Don Quixote also tells him that he speaks without authority because he lacks experience, and accuses him of acting aggressively because he is protected by his investiture, meaning that Don Quixote cannot challenge him to a fight because he is an ecclesiastic, and therefore he takes advantage of that protection to be able to act with this haughtiness.
But notice that there is some truth to what the ecclesiastic says to the duke and duchess about how they’re dealing with Don Quixote, encouraging him to go on with his insanity about being a knight-errant. There are no uniformly negative characters in Cervantes, even this very unpleasant priest is right in some of the things that he says. He ruins the whole dinner, he’s very unpleasant but he has — some of the things he says — are quite true. Perspectivism, as we have been seeing throughout the semester, means that no one is in possession of the entire truth, that is, the truth made up of the various points of view of the characters, and that they truth may be spoken by the most unlikely people, even people who are not very pleasant. This is a constant in Cervantes. Notice that the debate with the ecclesiastic is, in this case, we could call it a pre-prandial speech; it’s a speech before dinner, which is ruined, anyway, by this. And that it is, again, another rewriting of the arms and letters speech, because Don Quixote always seems to be able to get to that topic, as he did at the house of Diego de Miranda when he debated about the virtues of poetry and of the military.
Now, we move on now to episodes that are quite independent, and that seem to build not on Part I but on previous episodes of Part II. It’s this fiction issuing from fiction, it’s like a telescope that you’re pulling out from within itself what is happening in these episodes that follow now. Think of it as that, a telescope, and as you pull it out you are pulling things from within it, and that is the way that these episodes that I’m going to discuss now appear in Part II. These are very important episodes, not quite on the level of the cave of Montesinos, but very important and very memorable episodes, and that sort of make a coherent unit, although there will be a return to the duke and duchess’s house when Don Quixote is on his way back home.
Chapter 4. The Episode of the Hunt [00:30:10]
So we begin by the episode of the hunt, and we have here, again, this effect of the receding sequences. The episode of the hunt and the elaborate pageant in the forest are games within games, plays within plays. What is the hunt? The hunt is a mock war. Aristocrats no longer participate in wars, as we have been seeing all along, so they now engage in mock wars, specifically in hunting. We saw that both Don Quixote and Don Diego de Miranda are hunters. The hunting of the boar involves strategies that are akin to those of a battle, demanding horsemanship as well as a playing of drums and various horns and trumpets; much of the ceremonial aspects of war are reproduced in hunting. War has become a sport, and sports, modern sports, too, are mock wars. Think for a moment of American football, which is — the metaphor of war, is very crass in American football: I invade your territory whereas the other team defends his territory, and so there is a dividing line, which is like the frontier between these two countries at war, and all of the terminology is derived from the military.
All of this what I call back and forth sports, hockey, soccer, football, lacrosse, are back and forth, because you stand there and they go back and forth, back and forth, are a crass metaphor for war. If a Martian got off his spaceship and you took him to a football game, the Martian would be able to understand very soon what is going on, not so with baseball, by the way, but in baseball the war metaphor is very elaborate: you run around the bases in a circle to come back home, like Ulysses, and all of that. Yes, yes, this is not just a defense of baseball, because as you know I’ve written quite a bit on baseball and played the game a lot, but it is simply the truth.
These other sports that I’ve mentioned and hunting, of course, are crass metaphors for war. In baseball, the metaphor is more — it’s baroque, actually, it’s that convoluted and distant. But the outcome, of course, of sports contests are like wars, I think it’s tomorrow, the New York Yankees, who have just won the World Series, last night, are going to be paraded down the streets of New York, with ticker tapes, as if they had been returning heroes like those in Rome who came back and built arches and so forth. So much for sports, but I want to underline the fact that hunting has become a sport, and this is what these aristocrats are engaged in. Sancho, of course, runs up the tree scared by this boar which — these are dangerous animals with the long tusks like this, and all of that.
Now, as in Camacho’s wedding, notice the transition, the episode of the whole pageant in the forest, begins with a killed animal, as if a scapegoat were needed to start the action, and also a scapegoat were needed for the feast. Feast ceremonies and parties seem to demand a scapegoat of some sort. It doesn’t have to be a goat, of course, it can be a turkey, at Thanksgiving, and so forth, or it could be a pig in many celebrations, but it seems to be an atavistic need of the human race to have these scapegoats. There have been recent instances in Spain, I have seen it discussed in the newspapers, where new traditions of this kind have emerged, and the towns have the practice that when they have their big feast they take a goat up on the church steeple and throw him off and kill him that way. Gross. But what I’m underlining is at the beginning, the killing of this boar here has sort of an atavistic ritualistic air to it. Now, this pageant in the forest is one of the most baroque episodes in the whole of the Quixote.
The episode gathers elements of the cave of Montesinos and the wagon of the parliament of death; it is a kind of synthesis of both. This is what I meant by episodes that are derived from episodes like a telescope that you open like that, but it also a version, or more accurately, a perversion of a certain moment in Dante’s Purgatorio, and I gave you a handout in the previous class with a fragment of Purgatorio XXIX, because these episodes here, as I will describe in some detail, are a take of, a parody, of these episodes in the Divine Comedy, no less. I told you that, now, Cervantes’ sources are not just the romances of chivalry but Ovid, Virgil, Homer and Dante.
Now, in Dante’s Commedia this is a moment of anagnorisis, of discovery, of self discovery for the pilgrim. The pilgrim poet is left by Virgil who has guided him up to this point, and who will not be able to enter paradise because he is a pagan, so he is left — the pilgrim is left — on his own to meet Beatrice. Virgil dwells in limbo at the entrance of Inferno, where he is lodged with other worthies of the pagan world, neither punished nor rewarded. This is a marvelous invention of Dante’s limbo, where he puts all of these great figures of antiquity who could not — since they came before Christ, could not have been Christian, therefore, they cannot enter paradise, and they’re put here in limbo where they are together in this palace, neither too happy nor sad, with a kind of a smile, a mysterious smile on their face discussing their works with each other. It’s a kind of a perpetual seminar… Not bad.
That’s where Virgil dwells, and he left to accompany the pilgrim all the way up, but not quite into paradise. Of course, the whole object of the journey was to find Beatrice. The pilgrim moves on to the end of Purgatorio to be met by Beatrice. I will get to the solemn procession that meets him, and on which the one in Cervantes is based, but first let me tell you that the meeting with Beatrice is, to me, one of the funniest moments in the whole of the western literary tradition. After the pilgrim poet has gone through all of hell and most of purgatory in order to meet her, the first thing that Beatrice does when they do meet is to reproach him for having been with other women after his [correction: her] death. I find this delicious and very, very funny and a great lesson: no good deed shall go unpunished.
But what ensues in Dante is an elaborate procession as Beatrice appeared: at its front there march seven luminaries, the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, followed by the twenty elders of the Apocalypse, canticles announce the impending arrival of Beatrice, four mystic animals appear, the four gospels, and a cart pulled by a griffin; the four cardinal virtues follow and then the three theological virtues with Saint Peter and Saint Paul, four doctors of the Church, and St. John. The procession stops before the pilgrim poet; the triumphant Beatrice, symbol of theology, makes her appearance. This is the background of the pageant that the steward has organized with the help of other servants of the duke and duchess, including the beautiful page playing the role of Dulcinea.
Chapter 5. Don Quixote’s Repressed Inner Desire and the Pageant in the Forest [00:40:15]
One must pause to ponder, at least I pause to ponder, the distance between the universe created by Dante in the Divine Comedy and that created by Cervantes in the Quixote. The pageant in the forest is quite a bold parody, verging on the irreverent, on the part of Cervantes. What makes the difference between Dante’s and Cervantes’ world? This is what we must ask ourselves at this point. In my view, is the progressive crumbling of the certainties of the medieval world, the cosmology grounded on the Ptolemaic system that has been shattered by the discovery of the New World and the Copernican revolution, the Protestant Reformation and the schism in the Christian Church. The minutely ordered symbolic universe of Christian doctrine apparent in medieval cathedrals and in the Divine Comedy is no longer available. The fusion of Neo-Platonic love and its courtly derivatives, which could coalesce in the figure of Beatrice uniting worldly love with divine love and faith, has been torn asunder, so that, what Don Quixote finds in this brilliant scene is not a Beatrice, but is a transvestite Dulcinea, a transvestite Dulcinea, no less, who reveals to him perhaps the depths of his madness and the true nature of his desire. Javier Herrero, whom I have quoted many times in the course of the semester, says the following:
[Unquote]. Think about this, think about the difference between Beatrice and this Dulcinea. I mean, it’s a huge difference, I mean, between the sublime image of Beatrice who incarnates theology in the Divine Comedy and this hilarious figure of the duke’s page, who is very beautiful, playing the role of Dulcinea. This is the evolution of the ideal woman from Dante to Cervantes, which goes through Laura in Petrarch, Isabel Freyre in Garcilaso, and all of these winds up in this brilliant figure of the transvestite Dulcinea that we have here, in this pageant in the forest. I mean, this is where Cervantes reaches levels of penetration into the evolution of the western mind that are really uncanny, and where we have not really gone much beyond.
Now, the pageant in the forest is bristling with Baroque elements; it is the most Baroque scene in the entire novel. First, it takes place in a chiaroscuro atmosphere, and I’ve explained what chiaroscuro is, as we shall see, a darkness that is half illuminated by torches. It is a fabrication, a construction, an assemblage of disparate elements: theatrical, self conscious, humorous. It is play and it is a play; the carts that appear carrying the costumed players are like those used to represent autos sacramentales — remember those allegorical autos that I have mentioned several times, like the one in the wagon of the parliament of death episode. As in much of the second part, these are complicated “burlas,” pranks, based on literary allusions, like the cave of Montesinos episode, which drew from the classical tradition and the romances of chivalry — remember the descent to Hades in Homer and Virgil and one in the romances of chivalry.
Here, in this pageant in the forest we have, as in the cave, literary figures, like Merlin and the Devil, representing themselves. That is, you think that a literary figure represents presumably a real person, but here these are literary figures who are representing literary figures; these are several layers of fictionality here. It is literally a dantesque world with clear allusions, as I’ve mentioned, to Purgatorio XXVIII-XXX; XXVIII, XXIX, XXX. Baroque art is, we call it in Spanish, “efectista”; it aims at generating reactions on the audience of — because of its outrageous dimensions or its exaggerated qualities: that’s the essence of the Baroque. The reader is treated to the effects of this art and shown its effects on the spectators and participants, like Sancho, who faints, and also, its effect even on those who are responsible for the whole charade; they are caught within their own fiction, the duke and duchess, and are scared. The most jarring effect in this episode is caused by sound and if we turn to pages 695, 696, I’m going to read a passage that begins in the last paragraph:
[Unquote]. The “son confuso,” confused sound, causes “pasmo,” that is, astonishment, “suspenso,” suspense, “admiración,” admiration and “espanto,” fright. I’m quoting words from the original. The key here is the shrill, disharmony; the sounds are: “ronco,” hoarse, and “espantoso,” frightening. The voices, “horrísona” horrible; the devil is sounding a “desaforado cuerno,” an outrageous horn. They are visual effects, too. The devils are ugly: those “feos demonios,” and Merlin, as the figure of death, is terrifying. This whole scene is cast in this clash of sounds and sights artificially created for effect. Even in the translation that I have just read, you can hear that Cervantes has created this effect also stylistically, with harsh sounding words and onomatopoeias; that is, is words that sound like what they represent.
Now, in addition to all of this Baroque atmosphere, Dulcinea is a transvestite, I get back to that. Dulcinea is a man disguised as a beautiful woman, more precisely, a beautiful young man disguised as a beautiful young woman; it is underlined that the page is beautiful. This is the most outrageous of the transformations that Dulcinea undergoes, even worse than her appearing as a peasant wench smelling of garlic: it makes her femininity something artificial, that can be forged with the proper disguise. The transvestite is a common Baroque figure in Spanish literature, because in the Baroque even gender can be constructed, fabricated. From the ideal beauty drawn from the Neo-Platonic and the courtly love tradition from which Don Quixote invents Dulcinea to the grotesque peasant of Sancho’s lie to this Baroque construction there is an increase in the level of fabrication, of artificiality.
I guess we do invent the objects of our desires; this is what the novel keeps telling us. You’ve got to be careful, you don’t invent the object of your desire, and it turns out to be a transvestite. I have seen some that can really fool anybody. I wrote a book on a Cuban writer called Severo Sarduy, whose chief figure is a transvestite; he lived in Paris and I visited with him a few places that are not in the tour’s guides and where you would find transvestites that could really fool anybody. The grotesqueness is augmented here and made even funnier by the feature that exposes Dulcinea’s true gender, which is… her voice! Jarvis flubs the translation, our Jarvis. In the original it says that Dulcinea’s voice was not very “adamada,” from “dama,” lady, “adamada.” The voice was not very lady-like. Jarvis renders it as “amiable,” oh, he ruins the whole effect. No! Dulcinea’s voice is masculine. She has a voice, and when she delivers the speech the contrast is that she’s beautiful, because the page is beautiful and dressed like a beautiful woman, but suddenly, what emerges from her is a hoarse voice of a male. She has too much testosterone and this contrast, this clash is what is important here, and lamentably Jarvis flubbed it.
This whole episode makes me think of a movie that is perhaps too old for you to have seen it but it’s such a classic that you may have seen it, Some Like It Hot, with Marilyn Monroe. It’s just a wonderful movie, and the very last line is a classic, because, when the old man is — just continues to insist that he, Lemon — is the — is Lemon the guy..? — who is playing the transvestite finally his defense is, “But I’m not even a woman!,” and then, of course, “Nobody’s perfect,” answers her eager lover, and, I guess, this Dulcinea is not perfect; I mean, first of all, she’s a man. She may be beautiful, and in addition to that, she has a voice that is just not very feminine. This whole elaborate prank is concocted to disenchant Dulcinea. To bring her out of the state in which Sancho’s lie put her, hence the need, within this grotesque fiction, for Sancho to punish himself, by giving himself three thousand lashes on his buttocks.
The prank has a logic of its own which operates at the level of the lies, which are fictions in their own right. At that level Sancho is the culprit, so he must pay the price. Now, but why lashes on his butt and not his back? Which is, traditionally, prisoners are punished by having a number of lashes administered to their bare backs, but here it’s to his bare bottom. This, of course, adds to the humor of the whole charade, because Sancho, of course, wants to protect his butt. Literally, he’s not going to have any such thing happen to him. But, of course, it is an allusion to Sancho’s being so dependent on his digestive system, as it were. He has already defecated twice in the novel — remember, in Part I, in the fulling hammers, and then when he takes that concoction that Don Quixote gives him and he has a terrible bout of diarrhea; so defecation and the year end are very much a part of Sancho. His rear, Sancho’s rear represents his fleshy character, it is his signature as much as his belly is in the last name Panza.
Chapter 6. A Finale on the Duke and Duchess; The Pretended Aunt [00:54:54]
A finale on the duke and duchess: Joaquín Casalduero, a Spanish hispanist from the forties, says at the duke’s house, Don Quixote feels for the first time like a real knight-errant, but that this is not enough. And this is the quote from Casalduero, translated by me:
[Unquote]. Casalduero posits that any manifestation of one’s inner life in the world outside has necessarily to be burlesque, that it cannot match its essence in the purity of thought and desire. Perhaps Don Quixote is making this discovery, as he is subject to pranks, like those he suffers at the hands of the duke and the duchess and their minions.
Now, I want to end with a few words about The Pretended Aunt, because you have written a paper to be turned in today, in which following Auerbach and Spitzer on the notion of the Cervantean, using that knowledge you apply it to your reading of The Pretended Aunt and try to decide if it was written or not by Cervantes. This is a story that appeared in a bundle of manuscripts that included some of Cervantes’ stories like Rinconete and Cortadillo, but it was not signed. And, of course, the debate has raged over the centuries as to whether it was written by Cervantes or not. In favor of considering the story to be Cervantes I would say that Esperanza is an independent young woman who shapes her future by dint of her will and courage; she rebels and winds up married to a well-to-do young man; she erases her past as a whore and becomes respectable and married. In this, she is like other Cervantes characters, like Marcela, Dorotea and Zoraida, and also in favor of — the story ends with an unequal marriage similar to those in the, a successful one at that.
Against it being by Cervantes, is the strong, too strong influence of Celestina, above all in the salacious episodes and details about repairing virgins. There is nothing quite as dirty in any text by Cervantes, including The Deceitful Marriage and The Dogs Colloquy, stories that you will be reading towards the end of the semester. It could be — a way out could be — is that, it could be by an early Cervantes story before he was Cervantes; it could be a Cervantes imitator who wrote it and so forth, but how many of you here thought that it was written by Cervantes, raise your hands? One, two, three, four. How many thought not? How many didn’t take a side? You didn’t take any sides?
Professor Roberto González Echevarría: Not fair. Okay.
[end of transcript]Back to Top
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