SPAN 300: Cervantes' Don Quixote
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Cervantes' Don Quixote
SPAN 300 - Lecture 19 - Don Quixote, Part II: Chapters XXXVI-LIII
Chapter 1. Homage to Claude Lévi-Strauss [00:00:00]
Professor Roberto González Echevarría: I learned over the weekend of the death of Claude Lévi-Strauss; I don’t know if you read it in the paper or if you know who Claude Lévi-Strauss was. Claude Lévi-Strauss, who was a hundred and one years old when he died, was a great French anthropologist, the founder of the School of Structuralism, though he would never admit to that, as truly remarkable intellectual figure of the twentieth century, who traveled through the jungles of Brazil and wrote a number of very important anthropological books, and one, a memoir, called Tristes Tropiques, fifty-four, fifty-five, which is truly a beautiful, beautiful book. And I was very moved reading the obituary in that he said, at one point, that he had learned to pursue the truth doggedly, and also had the idea of reviving something from the past, while reading Don Quixote as a child, in a children’s edition, obviously translated into French. So I thought that I would mention that beginning the class, and also as an homage to a really great figure of our day.
Chapter 2. Developments in Part II Measured against Part I [00:01:45]
I have been insisting in my last few lectures on how Cervantes rewrites episodes from Part I in Part II, and I want to begin today with some general statements of this theme and a few other general statements as we approach the end of the novel. First, I want to make clear that not all episodes in Part II are modeled after others in Part I. There is no antecedent, really, for the cave of Montesinos adventure, which is the highlight of Part II, and perhaps of the whole book; nor is there really an antecedent for the Clavileño flight, so there are a number of important episodes in Part II that are not modeled on episodes from Part I. You will get to see, as I announced, episodes in Part II that repeat or rewrite episodes within Part II itself, which is very interesting.
Second, I want to emphasize that the rewritings are expansions of those episodes in Part I; they are like blowups, one could say, of episodes in Part I; they tend to have more characters, and the actions are outrageous in comparison to their predecessors. For instance, there is something of the fight with the Basque in Don Quixote’s encounter with Sansón Carrasco disguised as the Knight of the Mirrors, but the second episode is richer. In the first, they are both mounted, armed, and Don Quixote wins. The same occurs in the second, but now his opponent is playing the role of a knight. His outfit reflects Don Quixote, literally and metaphorically, and the whole set up is carefully prepared to resemble a contest between two knights, though none of this is present in the earlier episode. This expansion or enlargement is consonant with the increasingly Baroque aesthetics of Part II, and each instance of a rewriting is like one more proof of it, one more proof of this Baroque aesthetics. Cervantes has not remained the same in the ten years that have elapsed between Parts I and II, and the old Cervantes is his own measure of development, as it were. I don’t know if I make myself clear; that is, the Cervantes of Part I is the measure for his new sense of development.
In the episodes that I will be discussing today and in subsequent lectures, this process of expansion is itself expanded, reaching the limits of representation, which is, again, also a characteristic of the Baroque. I also want to insist on something that I have only hinted at in previous lectures, and that you may have noticed on your own: the increasing presence of Virgil and his Aeneid as we move towards the end of the second part of the Quixote. I will be more specific about this when we get to meet Altisidora, whom you may have already met if you have read far enough into the book, who is a parody or model after Dido. But I just want to mention it, because the Virgilian background may suggest something important about how Cervantes conceived Don Quixote in his second part. Aeneas is known for his prudence, for his sense of duty from the very beginning, when he carries Anchises on his back as they leave a burning Troy, and when he repeatedly fends off temptations, Dido being the most memorable, so that he can fulfill his destiny, which will be nothing less than the founding of Rome.
Aeneas has the greatest excuse for leaving a woman in the whole of Western literature: I’ve got to go found Rome! Don Quixote cannot aspire to such a grand design, but Cervantes has given him a different, no less serious one, and one that is consonant with the age in which he lives, which is no longer the heroic age of Virgil’s characters, and that design is to conquer himself. This is going to be Don Quixote’s task. The evolution of the mad Don Quixote towards sanity and self knowledge is the modern equivalent of Aeneas’ prudence and task of founding the great city. This, it seems to me, is the overall suggestion in these repeated allusions direct and indirect to Virgil. Before, of course, I spoke of Homer, Ovid and Dante, and about how Cervantes’ field of allusions and sources had moved up from the romances of chivalry to the core of the western tradition, without abandoning, of course, the romances of chivalry. I also want to emphasize, and I’ve already mentioned it, that in these episodes that are rewritings and in these major episodes in Part II there is a strong presence of death, one way or another. Sometimes, as in the pageant in the forest, it is the very figure of death as an allegorical figure of death, that you, I’m sure, remember. This is very much, again, and I will be emphasizing it today in one of the episodes, very much a part of the Baroque.
Before I move on to some of the truly outrageous episodes that I want to discuss today, let me say something about Sancho’s letter to his wife and about the exchange of letters that takes place in this section of the novel. Cervantes, who anticipated so many things in the novel — I think I’ve mentioned before that García Márquez, the great Columbian writer said that everything that novelist could possibly want to do is already in Cervantes — but Cervantes in these exchanges of letters is anticipating epistolary fiction, the letters to Teresa, between Teresa and the countess and so forth, there are antecedents in Spanish for epistolary fiction, but here Cervantes, in a modern, already modern novel, is anticipating that kind of fiction.
The epistolary novel is one which the whole novel consists of an exchange of letters between the characters. As a genre, it became very popular in the eighteenth century, as I’m sure you know, in the works of authors such as Samuel Richardson, with his immensely successful novels Pamela, 1740, and Clarissa, 1749. In France there was the Lettres persanes by Montesquieu, followed by Julie ou la nouvelle Héloïse, by Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Laclos, a novel that I’m sure you have read, if not seen the movie, Le Liaisons Dangereuses. In Germany, Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Hölderlin’s Hyperion. So, I mean, what Cervantes is anticipating here was a very popular genre in the next century. This exchange of letters in the Quixote also reflects a society in which writing has become a crucial component of life, and communications — of life and communications, writing from printed documents rival oral exchanges.
If you have been reading your Elliott you will have learned that this is a society obsessed with documents, mostly legal documents, which is a class to which some of the letters belong. Letter writing is part of the generation of the production of legal documents, so this is a reflection of that, too. It is also, here in the novel, it is also writing within writing, and the epistles are documents not processed into the fiction, but presented raw, as it were, meaning, it doesn’t say Sancho wrote to Teresa saying this, and that, and the other; no, the document, presumably as was dictated by Sancho — of course, he doesn’t know how to write — appears in the novel. Modern fiction will expand on this device. I’m thinking here of Joyce, of Dos Passos, of Cortázar, and other writers, whose books contain documents, such as these letters, unabsorbed into the prose of the fiction.
Now, Sancho’s letter, if we want to also look for the antecedent in Part I, is an echo of the one Don Quixote wrote to Dulcinea and that Sancho, of course, forgot to take with him and then memorized, and we have all of those funny episodes in which he tries to retell it. As in the first instance; that is, as in that episode, or those episodes, the humorous — what is humorous here — is that both Sancho and his wife, presumably, are illiterate, so this is an exchange of letters between characters who don’t know how to read and write. The whole issue of the production of the letter and the duchess overseeing it and all of that is part of the humor here, as the production of the letter, for Dulcinea was also part of the humor in that episode.
Chapter 3. Outrageous Episodes: The Afflicted Matron, Countess Trifaldi [00:13:53]
So now, we do move to these outrageous episodes that I want to discuss today, and I’m sure when I mention what they are you will see why I use that adjective. The first is the episode involving the afflicted matron, known as Countess Trifaldi and Trifaldín of the White Beard, her squire. This is one of the wildest inventions of the duke’s steward, and one of the strangest in the whole Quixote with no possible antecedent in Part I. That steward is described as follows in page 705 of your translation, by Jarvis. It says, “The duke had a steward, of a very pleasant and facetious wit, who represented Merlin, and contrived the whole apparatus of the late adventure, composed the verses, and made the page act Dulcinea. And now, with the duke and duchess’s leave, he prepared another scene, one of the pleasantest and strangest contrivance imaginable.”
[Unquote]. The steward is another internal author, like Sansón Carrasco, and Master Peter. In fact, Sansón Carrasco is one who scripts adventures for Don Quixote, does something that Master Peter doesn’t do, but Master Peter is one of the authors within the Quixote. So the steward not only organizes the whole pageant, but also writes the verses as the quote says, and plays the role of Merlin, and then of Trifaldín. He is as versatile as Ginés de Pasamonte, and even more. He’s a poet. Now, internal authors, like him and Sansón Carrasco, in the second part get to put into action their creations, as I have mentioned before, and as you have seen, the results are not exactly what they planned, but they do get to put them into action. The staging of his arrival as Trifaldín is theatrical and Baroque in the extreme. Again, the intention is to astonish both with the elaborateness of the props, and with their fearful appearance and sounds or noises. So they astonish with the act of creation. I mean, the creator of these Baroque pranks is boasting of his own ability, and also astonish because of the very nature, size and noise. If we go to page 708, 709, I will read the arrival of this character:
Of course, notice the preponderance of black, and notice that, as in the pageant in the forest, there are many superlatives. Everything is the largest, the whitest, the most horrible, and the intention is to cause admiration and fear on the spectators. Sancho dives into the duchess’s skirts the moment he sees this apparition, as he does whenever he’s afraid, when he’s at the duke and duchess’s house, he fainted in her arms in the pageant in the forest. And notice also the figure of the monster; I have spoken about the figure of the monster before, which is not only made up of the most outrageous features, but of contrasting one, like the black dress and the white beard. The monster is a Baroque figure. It does not have to be ugly, just composed of clashing features. In Calderón de la Barca, the playwright that I have mentioned several times, there are beautiful monsters, namely beautiful women dressed as men.
So don’t confuse this figure of the monster with the romantic Frankenstein, who is ugly, repulsive and sort of a death warmed over type, but this is not the case with these Baroque monsters. The important thing in the monster is the clash of opposites; the clashes between the two genders, in the case of the calderonian figures; we saw that clash in the figure of the Dulcinea of the pageant in the forest. Such figures are the opposite of Renaissance harmony, but they are, however, announced in the figure of Dorotea, in Part I. And, as in the cave of Montesinos, and the pageant in the forest, we have a procession, a parade of freaks, and the sound of drums, which mark the pace of the whole ensemble. In these theatrical shows the characters don’t walk, they march. Remember, in the cave of Montesinos how all of these eerie kind of women are marching in a procession. And, of course, in the pageant in the forest we have a huge procession, parade, so there is no natural motion such as walking; it is marching to the beat of the drums and the sounds of the various instruments.
Now, the most remarkable thing here, of course, is the punishment, within all of this fiction, that the dueñas have suffered. The predicament of the dueñas is again a question of cross-dressing or of cross-gendering. Their mock affliction seems to be an excess of testosterone that provokes a wild growth of facial hair. Remember that they suddenly, within this fiction — boom! — have these beards. It is described in minute detail how the hairs are supposed to come out of the pores and… this is wild, Cervantes at his wildest. This is a hilarious condition, and part of the mockery of ladies-in-waiting of the whole episode. Sancho’s diatribe against them perhaps reflects an attitude of the times. Dueña Rodríguez, from whom we will hear more later, mounts a spirited defense. I’m using both “duenna” and “dueña,” the Spanish is… What is used in your translation is the English version “duenna.” Good old Sebastián de Covarrubias, remember him? The great lexicographer who published in 1611 the Tesoro de la lengua castellana and that I warned you I would mention several times during the semester says the following in my own translation defining the “dueña.” I’m going through all of this because I know that this is a very strange figure for someone in the twenty-first century. It says:
[Unquote]. Meanwhile, Webster defines lady-in-waiting as: “A lady of rank who is a member of the royal household and in attendance of a queen or princess.”
I suppose — this is me now — I suppose there is a sexual connotation to this category of women because they are unattached or presumably available, but not young, unmarried and virginal. Why so many widows? I mean, the death — people died at a younger age in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and since men normally live a shorter life than women, even today, there are bound to be a lot of widows around, and, what do you do with these widows? Where do they go in society? I guess some might go to the nunnery, “Go get thee to the nunnery,” remember Shakespeare, but others are there in the palaces; they are of rank. They are a bit like the segundones, the female counterpart of the segundones, but they cannot quite go out and start a career out at sea, or the church, so they are involved in providing or facilitating sexual encounters; they’re go-betweens, they tend to be go-betweens, as happens in the story concocted by the steward.
I think that this is the reason, this sexual sideline of these widows. There are all kinds of jokes about widows and sexuality, and all of that, and throughout all traditions, and this is why they are given in jest a strong masculine trait, a beard, the opposite of the role they’re supposed to play, which is very feminine, in a sexual way. So the last thing you would expect them to have is a beard. But also, you remember, from my explanation of Dulcinea’s hair that, you know, it meant also a certain kind of sexuality. So, hair, in the case of the enchanted Dulcinea, meant — remember the wench that had the mole on her face, with some hair, that Don Quixote said she must have another one on her thigh with hair, etcetera — it means sexual proclivity, being sexually hot. These women are to be seen as sexually active, but only in a sexual way. That is, they are not to be loved and idealized, they’re only to be seen as sexual, and this is why the joke of having them grow hair.
Now, the story about the Countess Trifaldi, whom we encountered — ;remember — in Spitzer’s article. Remember, the long discussion by Spitzer about the Tri-faldi, “tres faldas” and all of that, and how these names are made by Cervantes. The story about Countess Trifaldi is very much like that of Princess Micomicona in Part I, if you remember that — Dorotea — except that it is madly exaggerated. There is a fantastic geography, outrageously made up names; it is a meta-meta fiction, concocted by the characters of the main fiction, but here, in contrast to Part I, the process is much more premediated, complicated, and is played out as in a theater, not out on the road. If you remember, the priest and Dorotea make up the story of Micomicona on the go, and that’s why she makes mistakes.
Remember, the steward has taken his time to compose this one, it’s a whole story very well wrote, as it were. Maguncia and Archipiela are the deceased parents. Maguncia — they are funny names; I mean, the first is the German town of Mainz, which sounds very strange to the Spanish ear: Maguncia, Mainz, in Germany; and the second refers to “archipelago” a series of islands. These names are geographic in origin, because the story is something of a geographic fable. Candaya is another, like el reino Micomicón, is a made up kingdom. But, of all of these names, the funniest is “Antonomasia,” the young woman, because it is the name that takes the name of names. It’s a rhetorical figure, it names, Antonomasia, it is a rhetorical figure to name that which is the quintessence of something, the “Hercules,” for a strong man is an antonomasia, The “Hitler,” for an evil man, is an antonomasia:
[Unquote]. It is something like saying par excellence, the quintessence of something. So why is she called Antonomasia? She is given the name of a linguistic or rhetorical term because she is made up of words: she’s a fiction within the fiction made up by the steward, so she’s not to have the name of a real person, because she’s made up of words. This is what this name is underlining. Also, she’s so named because she and her story are quintessential, archetypal, common place. Joaquín Casalduero, whom I have mentioned before several times — Casalduero was a very prominent hispanist in the forties and the fifties; he was impressed with German criticism, so he named all of his books “Sentido y forma de,” ‘sense and meaning of,’ Don Quixote, Celestina, Novelas Ejemplares, Sinn und Form it’s derived from German criticism, but in spite of that, he was a very good critic. And I’m quoting from his book called Sentido y forma del Quixote, of course. And he says:
And this is the sense of her name, the prototypical one. But, also, since the issue here is, one more time, of marriage, unequal marriage, freedom, social status, I think Cervantes, with this name, is perhaps poking fun at himself, for repeating the same story under various guises throughout the Quixote. He’s saying, well, this one is Antonomasia, is the prototypical of all of the stories: Dorotea, Marcela, and so forth, that I have been telling and I’m telling again, so I’m making fun of myself by giving her this very, very funny name. He may also be casting a resigned and ironic glance at human nature for always repeating itself: young women will always be seduced by charming young men and trouble will ensue. This is what a name like Antonomasia suggests, too.
The rhetorical name also reveals that his proxy, his stand-in author, the steward, is a learned man. It is, as if we called, a literary character — I’ve been thinking of what other rhetorical name could we give a literary character, anaphora, for instance, anaphora is the figure of speech by which an orator repeats over and again something, as in the case of the assistant, of Master Peter’s assistant, when he says, “Look, look, look,” or when the preacher says, “Repent you sinners,” and says it over and over again; that is anaphora. I don’t know if you agree, you can come up perhaps with even a better one. Synesthesia, you could call a literary character. These are also very good names if you have a pet to name. If you have a parrot that repeats the same thing over and over, you could call her anaphora. In any case, just a thought. But it’s very funny to have a character called anaphora, is supposed to be very funny; it’s a sophisticated joke. I mean, not everybody knows what Antonomasia means, but it is supposed to be funny, and it is.
Now, if in Part I we learned to look for the story behind the story, in Part II we learned how a story is made, and the way that this steward appears, and the way that the story is told, and is presented, and represented, is a way of showing the inner workings of the story, so this is one way that we can also contrast between the two parts. In Part I, we’re looking for the story behind the story of what Cardenio said. Here, we are shown the stage props, the machinery, the stage machinery through which the story is being made. Part of it is the name of this character. Now, so to sum up the story made up by the steward, Maguncia and Archipiela are the parents of Princess Antonomasia, impregnated by Don Clavijo, a Don Juan type with the connivance of Dueña Trifaldi. Notice that Clavijo is a phallic name. A “clavija” is a peg, in a string instrument.
Now, they have a little mechanism with a screw type thing, but the old “clavijas,” the old pegs, were simply stuck in by pressure into the wood, and hence, the name Clavijo is a very phallic name; another joke on the part of Cervantes. Now, Dueña Trifaldi is a Celestina type. Remember? Celestina, the go-between, 1499, who arranges for their encounters, but she falls in love herself with a young man, which gives the story an original twist, a kind of sophisticated twist, this older woman has fallen in love with Clavijo, who is a very charming guy, who plays the guitar, and all of that. It is as if she vicariously had the affair with Clavijo through Antonomasia; so there is a clever sophistication involved in the story here. The steward is a very clever author.
Now, Don Clavijo does marry Antonomasia, as he had promised, but the queen dies of grief because of the disparity in social class between them. He is merely a knight; he has the “don” so he’s a knight, but she’s a princess, Antonomasia is the princess, so Malambruno, a giant and the queen’s first cousin, who is the Pandafilando of this story, Malambruno, turns them into the ornament atop a sarcophagus. Now, if Pandafilando — remember, was the pan-philanderer, the one who had many affairs with women, pan philanderer, Malambruno is a bad man: from “mal,” evil, or bad, and “hombre,” man, or “hombruno,” manly. He’s a bad man, Malambruno. It’s also a comical name. In any case, this is the gist of the story, page 719:
[Unquote]. Notice the Baroque suffusing of love with death. The lover’s likeness will lie upon the tomb of the dead mother, don’t overlook that. The steward author of the story is learned as well as clever, as we found in the pageant of the forest, with all of the Dante allusion, and in his name of Antonomasia. Here, he has contrived a truly Baroque image in the sarcophagus. I have given you a handout. On the one hand, I could not resist having a Doré drawing of the dueñas, as they are supposed to appear in this episode, but on the other I have a series of sarcophagi, because American tombs tend to be very simple. There is a headstone, and then the tomb is just the grass covering the body or the casket; there’s something very beautiful about it. Dust will become dust, and so forth, and so on, but in the European tradition, in the continental tradition, tombs tend to be much more elaborate, ornate and made of stone or hard surfaces. They are like little buildings; there is a whole architecture of tombs. So, what is a sarcophagus? Remember the etymology I gave you when discussing the cave of Montesinos episode, “sarcos” in Greek, “flesh,” and “phagein,” “to eat,” so the sarcophagus eats the flesh of the dead body.
Sarcophagi were common among the ancient Greeks and Romans, you have some here. It was a limestone coffin or tomb often inscribed and elaborately ornamented. The point of the sarcophagus in this story is the display and the ornamentation, which are the Baroque elements as in the figure of the monster. Remember that in Montesinos cave the ornament on Durandarte’s sarcophagus was his own cadaver. The statute is made of flesh; it was an inversion with nature playing the role of art. Here, we have a much more elaborate kind of ornamentation. How do we interpret the figures of the monkey and the crocodile here? There are monkeys in Cervantes, as we saw, with Micomicona, and also the monkey that Master Peter had with him. As I said when mentioning those episodes, they allude to mimesis, to representation, because they like to imitate humans. Here the ensemble could allude to lust, the croc eats the monkey, as it were, but both animals are, the monkey and the crocodile, are supposed to be demonic and symbols of dissimulation, of fakery. This is why they grace the tomb of these lovers.
Now, the story of Antonomasia and Don Clavijo is one of consummation and pregnancy. I think that the pregnancy is part of the Baroque grotesquerie of the episode, as is the interested intervention of the dueña. What I mean by that is that there is something grotesque about the go between, the older woman falling in love with the young man, and that the same kind of grotesqueness is involved in the pregnancy. These contrasts, you will find in the poetry, for instance, of Altisidora, when she appears and sings a song, there will be sublime lines followed by very vulgar ones. And this is, I think, the effect here of the pregnancy. Pregnancy would be unthinkable in the stories of Part I involving Dorotea, Marcela, Lucinda or Zoraida, although consummation did take place with Dorotea. But pregnancy literalizes lust, removing idealizations about love. It underscores loves functional biological drive to reproduction. Pregnancy is not very sublime. It’s not part of the courtly love tradition. It is unthinkable to imagine Beatrice, Dante’s beloved, pregnant, or any of these ladies. So there will be another pregnancy later, involving Dueña Rodriguez’s daughter, and we will discuss that episode. At this stage in the Quixote we are well beyond the idealized love of Grisóstomo and Marcela or of Don Quixote and Dulcinea. Dulcinea has been enchanted like a country wench.
Chapter 4. Outrageous Episodes: Clavileño [00:47:35]
So now we come to the end of this adventure, the end of this very well wrought story that the steward has composed, and whose inner workings we are observing as we read. We move now to the episode of Clavileño. Clavileño has become such an engrained name in the Spanish tradition that there was a very famous literary journal in the thirties in Spain called Clavileño. Now, this story brings to a close the story of the bearded dueñas and the disenchantment of Antonomasia and Clavijo. Now, first the chapter begins with a mock tirade of self praise on the part of Cervantes about his narrative techniques and characters, page 720, 721:
Now, this is very funny. Cervantes is praising himself, and he is praising himself by anatomizing, as it were, the props of his own fiction or his own — the make up of his own art. What Cervantes is doing is dismissing Aristotelian injunctions concerning the writing of history in this passage. According to the Philosopher, to use an antonomasia to refer to Aristotle, history should not concern itself with minutia, but only with that which is relevant to the grand narratives, which concern itself with major historical figures, not with characters of the ilk Cervantes is dealing with, nor should history dwell on their thoughts, except when expressed in highly rhetorical speeches that are presumed to express and display their personalities.
Now, this is so against our modern conceptions of history that — and Cervantes is already aware of it — because we do want details about characters, important and non-important characters in history, because we feel that in the details you may find the truth, not in this Renaissance conception of history. What I have just given you is the core of the Renaissance poetics of history, but in this mock history that Cervantes is writing it is precisely the particular details, as well as the thoughts and imaginings of the characters that are of interest. The remotest element of this Renaissance poetics of history is the question of the speeches, because, of course, there were no recording devices at the time, so when you hear a king deliver an oration it is all made up by the historian whose art involved the creation of such speeches on the part of these historical characters, that would reveal their personality. It was a way of delving into their psychology.
Now, I know this is completely against our notions of how to write history, but this is why Cervantes is underlining it here. He is interested in the details, and he is interested in the imaginings and the thoughts of characters who are not that important, but are the characters who will people the novel that he is creating. So, in other words, this tirade shows that Cervantes is increasingly aware that he’s creating a new kind of writing, which is derived from both history and genres, old and knew, such as the epic, the picaresque and the romances of chivalry. The tirade, by the way, are to be presumed to be uttered by the second author or translator, who frequently comments on Cide Hamete’s work, a historian — remember — who’s a Moor given to prevarications. So we have all of these folds and layers of irony still present. But this is important, because of what I said before, as stories in Part II displaying how they are made up.
So we move to Clavileño: first the name of the horse. It is derived from “clavo,” which means a “nail,” but there is also an echo of “clavija,” the word that I used before, that I mentioned before in reference to Don Clavijo, because the clavija itself is derived from clavo, meaning something that is stuck, and this alludes to the steering peg, or what is being a pilot would call the yoke, to steer this horse, and “leño,” which means wood, which is what the horse is made of, but “leño” or “leña” is a kind of wood used for firewood, for burning. The more noble wood used by carpenters to make furniture or cabinets is called “madera.” Of course, Cervantes — it’s too unwieldy a word, and also Cervantes is underlining that this wood of which Clavileño is made is not of the noblest wood.
There is something demeaning to “leño,” Clavileño used to name Clavileño. I kept thinking what would be a good translation into English or a rendering, I thought that the horse could be called Firewood, or he could be called — or I think that the best would be Woody. I think, if we were to really translate everything in the book, Clavileño would be called Woody, as in Woody Woodpecker. But Jarvis wisely sticks to Clavileño; he doesn’t translate that, but that’s what the sense of it is. Now, the adventure of Clavileño is derived from several similar ones in romances of chivalry, so the parody of romances of chivalry is carried out now not so much by Don Quixote and his actions, but by the duke’s servants, particularly the steward. He’s not only learned and clever, as I have been emphasizing, but he’s also a reader of romances of chivalry, and, of course, of the first of the Quixote as well. The motif of the flying horse has a long tradition, including Pegasus in Greek mythology, but the figure traveled long in time in space after the Indian and Persian versions, he appears in the Arabic story The Ebony Horse in The Thousand and One Nights. From there, it was disseminated to France and Spain. I won’t give you the names of the titles of some of these romances in which appears, but it is a figure that appears fairly frequently. So, obviously, this reveals the steward’s knowledge of these romances of chivalry.
Now, what is one of the interesting features of the flight is the all encompassing view from above that the characters have, presumably have, which is typical of the Baroque, the Baroque effort at all inclusiveness, which is now available with the knowledge that the earth is round and complete within itself. The episode has a great deal to do with contemporary discoveries about the infinite dimensions of the cosmos, about which I’ve spoken before, and the inability of Ptolemaic and Aristotelian cosmologist to represent such a cosmos. Don Quixote and Sancho believe to be going through the spheres, as described in the whole cosmology, and this, of course, they encourage this by having this fire next to their beards or their faces; so they figure they’re going through the sphere of fire, and Sancho claims that he took a stroll among the constellations as they’re described in this old cosmology. A corollary of the new discoveries is that the world is one and the same everywhere. Sancho had introduced the topic a few pages before, when, upon hearing the story of Antonomasia and Clavijo in Candaya, he says — page 718: “What! Are there court-alguazils, poets, and roundelays in Candaya too? if so, I swear I think the world is the same everywhere.”
Sancho thinks that the world is the same everywhere, and this I what the view from above suggests. Clavileño’s flight in the Quixote is the co-relative opposite, of course, of the cave of Montesinos descent down, up, no?. Appropriately giving his increasing importance, it is now Sancho who tells the story like the one Don Quixote told after emerging from the cave. He speaks of a celestial flight drawn from similar flights of the spirit that are available in Cicero, Somnium Scipionis, in Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, and even in Fray Luis de León’s Still Night, Noche Serena. Fray Luis de León is another great poet of the sixteenth century that is somewhere in the background here. As in other episodes, in this second part Don Quixote shows real courage before what appears to be actual danger, so does Sancho; but they have played, again, the role of objects of the other’s amusement. So the Clavileño episode is another prank, another “burla.” It’s a word that I keep using, “burla,” prank, at the expense of Don Quixote and Sancho conceived and executed by the duke’s minions, particularly, the steward.
All of these pranks are a critique of mimesis, in that they are literary or theatrical acts of representation which are presented as pitiable attempts, ultimately given up in favor of humor. These are attempts, literary representation of mimesis, and the wound up being funny. These, I think, encapsulate Cervantes’ own effort in the Quixote. They are dramatizations of his plight, an answer to the problem trying to represent reality, coming up with a funny version of it.
But there is something else, too; perhaps even more important in these pranks and in the Clavileño one, in particular. While it is true that Don Quixote and Sancho are made fun of and that they endure hardship and danger when the whole contraption blows up, it is they who show courage and determination, and it is they who do fly in their imaginations, while the pranksters remain earth bound, some, like the duke and duchess, astonished and even frightened by the machinery that they had constructed. I think this sums up, it seems to me, Cervantes’ attitude towards the protagonist. He may very well be ridiculous in his efforts, but his efforts have a certain nobleness that others lack. Just as he emerges unscathed from the explosion and fall, his dignity also remains untouched. In brief, Clavileño does afford Don Quixote a flight at once heroic and inspired. As in the episode of the lions, I repeat, he has demonstrated his courage, even if the context is not a heroic one.
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