SPAN 300: Cervantes' Don Quixote
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Cervantes' Don Quixote
SPAN 300 - Lecture 4 - Don Quixote, Part I: Chapters XI-XX
Chapter 1. Exaggerated Mimicry, Virtual Texts and Ironic Distancing [00:00:00]
Professor Roberto González Echevarría: As I said in my last lecture, and as you have already — I’m sure — seen, the Quixote has two overarching plots. One is the story of the mad hidalgo and his squire, and the story about the writing of the novel.
The one about the insane Don Quixote will acquire coherence after the fight with the Biscainer, as Jarvis calls it in your translation, because he and his squire will now be pursued by the Holy Brotherhood — I’ll explain what the Holy Brotherhood is — and by the priest and the barber. His neighbors, the priest and the barber, want to return Alonso Quijano to his home in that unnamed village in La Mancha.
The episode about the lost manuscript and the search for the balance of the story, the manuscript found and its translation, follow themes mentioned in the prologue about the book’s authorship. You will also have noticed how Cervantes plays with the divisions of the chapters; they seem to be arbitrary, they seem to be very whimsical. These are all winks at the reader, telling him that this is a very artful, artificial and fictional work. Obviously, also many of these divisions were made after the manuscript was finished; scholars have worked on this and come to that conclusion.
In the context of the business of finding the manuscript, and the balance of the story and all of that, one could ask, who is the second most important character in the Quixote? Is it Sancho? I think that it is the narrator, the narrator and his various agents who appear throughout the novel. That would be, to my mind, the second most important character in the Quixote.
Now, in this playing with the manuscript, and the lost manuscript, and all of that, Cervantes is parodying the romances of chivalry, where such devices appear: Oh! This manuscript of this novel was found in a vault somewhere, it was written by some sage, and so forth, and Cervantes is parodying that. Remember, a parody is a mocking imitation of the style of a literary work or works ridiculing stylistic practices by exaggerated mimicry. In that sense, a parody is both a criticism and an homage because it is a copy of something; it is a distorted copy, but it is still a copy.
So the business of the unfinished manuscript and its translation rekindles questions and issues that the narrator opened in the prologue, that prologue that we discussed a number of classes ago. I will talk a little bit today about why all of these games of authorship. But let us sort of recapitulate how many texts or virtual texts we have so far.
We have the original text that was supposedly written in Arabic by a lying Moorish historian called Cide Hamete Benengeli. The second is the text of the translation that the narrator pays for. Then, a further text is the one that this narrator presumably corrects and copies and rewrites and comments upon in the margins, as you will see in several episodes in the future. But what about the manuscript up to chapter VIII and that narrator? We have no idea how the narrator came about that manuscript, so the text of those first eight chapters it is not explained where it came from. Now, this whole collection of manuscripts do not make a coherent system; you can’t reduce it to a coherent system. Yes, we have the first one, the second one, the third one; it all remains vague and a mystery, and besides, we know that the whole thing is a joke beginning with the name Cide Hamete Benengeli or berenjena. What’s a berenjena?
Professor Roberto González Echevarría: Eggplant. That is to say, his last name could be ‘eggplant.’ So it is a joke.
Now, why are Cervantes and his narrator establishing this distance from their own text? How does this distancing mesh with the authorial willfulness we found in that first sentence, where the narrator says “de cuyo nombre quiero acordarme,” the name of which I purposefully omit, referring to the village in La Mancha, where Don Quixote or Alonso Quijano lives. It is as if this modern author, Cervantes, could not posit his own existence without radical reservations, self doubts, self doubts about himself as creator. I have emphasized that this kind of ironic distancing has echoes of Montaigne’s self deprecatory irony, also echoes of Erasmus’s irony — I have only mentioned Erasmus in passing, the great humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam, who had many followers in Spain and who wrote a book that may be one of the sources of the Quixote, called In Praise of Folly. It’s a very, very ironic book, it’s not praising folly, it is doing so in a mocking way, but it is that sort of mocking way that you find in Cervantes.
Now, it is as if Cervantes were removing the origin of the text, were leaving it in a sort of cloud of mystery, and that this is part both of the irony and of the joke. Remember the quote from Lukács that I read in the first lecture about this first modern novel emerging at a time when the Christian God has abandoned the world. You do not have the centeredness that you had in the Divine Comedy, if you have read Dante. In the Divine Comedy everything coheres because there is a cosmological system and with the attendant symbolism provided by the Catholic Church, by Catholic doctrine, and so the self of Dante, the pilgrim is very much — even though he’s also like Don Quixote — travelling within a coherent universe, and, in fact, in the very middle of the Divine Comedy the central verse of the Divine Comedy alludes to Dante. So Dante is at the center of this coherent universe.
This is not the case in the Quixote, and these authorial games underscore that. This is no longer the case. Remember that this is, as I’ve been saying, a post-Copernican world, a world in which the earth is no longer at the center, therefore, “man,” “mankind” is no longer at the center. So this is what is at stake, as it were, in all of these games. Again, these are very serious issues, but Cervantes always presents them in a light humorous tone, which is part of the irony itself, the humor, the laughing at one self and the laughing at others.
Chapter 2. Cervantes and Velázquez: Self-Reflection and the Limits of Knowledge [00:09:41]
So this is a very important element of the Quixote, and one that it has in common with a very famous painting by Diego Velázquez. Diego Velázquez, the great Velázquez about whom most of you must have heard. And that painting — oh, oh, it’s not very well represented; it’s kind of blurry — is Las Meninas, The Maids of Honor. Can we improve a little bit on the quality of that? Maybe if we turn off the lights? Well, that will help, too. It’s out of focus? Is it better now? It’s better, but it’s out of focus. Can it be improved at all?
Student: I can see it clearly here, so I don’t know what to say…
Student: The lens of the projector might be out of focus.
Professor Roberto González Echevarría: Oh, but it is way up there, so we can’t do anything with it, can we? So I have brought both my pointer and, if you will excuse me, this little flashlight so I can look at my notes. I hope it’s not distracting to you. As I have perhaps mentioned before, I am a pilot, and this is my pilot’s flashlight. You use it in the cockpit at night to look at charts and stuff like that, and I thought that I could improvise and use it for this.
Now, as you look at the painting — and I apologize for the poor technology and I promise we will bring a better one the next time or maybe I’ll make a copy that I can distribute.
First of all, as you look at it, think of what I mentioned before about Alberti’s De Pictura, the treatise on perspective. Remember that I talked about Leon Alberti, Leon Battista Alberti, 1404-1472, an Italian who wrote this treatise on perspective. He was an architect and wrote on architecture, and I really encourage you to read this little treaty, it’s very brief, but it’s very influential because he laid down the basis for perspective in painting. As you can see, we do have perspective here because of the relative size of the figures as they move away from the front. So I just want you to take that into account.
Now, the relevance of Las Meninas to the Quixote is essentially because of this issue of self reflexivity. In both works, the creator has been given a prominent place within the work and in both they appear in their function as creators of the very work in question. That is Velázquez. And he is, obviously, in the act of painting, as Cervantes appears within the Quixote in the act of writing the novel. Now, we look at Velázquez who looks a little quizzical — We will speak a little bit more about his figure–and you can recall the words of Cervantes in the prologue, when he wrote:
And you can think of Velázquez poised in a similar way, as if thinking of what to paint next, and also actually comparing his models — I’ll speak about who the models are — to what he’s painting, but it’s the same moment of doubt that we have in Cervantes. It is kind of a visual aporia — Aporia is a rhetorical figure to express doubt. A-P-O-R-I-A — and a visual aporia in that Velázquez seems to be hesitating what the next brush stroke will be.
Now, Las Meninas seems to capture a moment, and not a very significant moment, and that is significant in itself. How do we know that it’s not a very significant moment? Well, there are certain gestures, like this little girl that just put a foot on the dog; these figures back here, if we could see them more clearly you could see they’re engaged in a trivial conversation. The princess is being offered, I think, a glass of water of something by this maid, and this man in the back is about to leave the room, so it’s an insignificant moment, it’s a moment like those in the Quixote, those many moments that are contingent, serendipitous, things just happened, not in a sequence, but just caught, like a snapshot, and that is what is important about this moment in which Velázquez and all of these other people in the painting are caught up.
Now, of the painting, we see only the back of the painting, and we see the easel, the paints, the brush. That is, we see the instruments to create the painting, and, in fact, we are in Velázquez’s studio, his workshop, so Velázquez is painting the inside of the workshop within which the work of art is being created, as we read about the manuscript being copied, translated, and so forth, given the details about the composition and the creation of the novel that we are reading. This studio of Velázquez would be akin to Don Quixote’s library where he keeps the books that have turned him mad.
Now, the other important element, and perhaps the most, is that the line between reality and fiction, between life and art, has been abolished. How so? Well, who is the model of the painting? Well, presumably the king and queen, who are reflected on the back on that mirror, but the models are truly ourselves as we position ourselves in front of the painting. In fact, the first time I saw this painting many years ago in 1969 to be exact — now it’s in a large room and you can barely get to see the painting there are so many tourists looking at it and guides talking about it and so forth — but when I saw it in 1969 at El Prado Museum it was in a room — the painting is much larger than what you see here — it was in a room for itself, and the dimensions of the room and the way that the painting was positioned the moment you walked in, you walked into the painting, you became the model. It was really uncanny the sensation that you had, you really had the sense that you had walked into the painting and you had become the painter’s model, you had become that which he was in the process of painting. So here we are, becoming the model and there is Velázquez within his own painting. He was a genius, vain, a little lazy, boastful. He’s wearing the cross — I think it’s of Calatrava — one of the military orders. You didn’t become a member of the Calatrava just like that, so he’s a bit boastful, and there he is.
Now, all of the self-reflexive moves that we’ve seen in the Quixote are the same here. We see the painting as it were from behind, we see the preparation of the painting but not the painting itself. My late friend Severo Sarduy said that Las Meninas was within Las Meninas but backwards, the same way that in the Arabic manuscript of the Quixote, presumably the Quixote is backwards, because of course you write Arabic the other way — It’s a little bit too clever, perhaps, but you get the idea that the painting is within the painting, but you’re not seeing the painting but how the painting comes about.
We also have the issue of the multiple perspectives, none of them complete. That is, Velázquez can see us, can see the model, he can see the rest of his studio. The man in the back is the one with the most complete view, because he can see the painting and he can see the model, if indeed the models are the king and queen. So, ironically, it is that man who is at that point who has the most complete view. I say ironically because I detect a pun on Velázquez’s part in that figure because that, in terms of perspective, is more or less about the point de fuite, in French, the vanishing point, the punto de fuga in Spanish, that is, point at the center and the depth of the perspective, that is, the vanishing point, and, ironically, in that punto de fuga is a man about to leave, there is, I think, a pun involved there — or perhaps I am being just too clever like my friend Sarduy.
But the idea is that no one has a complete perspective; everything, everybody has a partial, incomplete perspective, including the artist. And this is fundamental because it makes for this ironic incomplete view. Remember, the greatest part of the irony in Cervantes is that we only have a partial view of this infinite world, this post-Copernican, now Galileo world — Galileo who wrote around the same time, and Galileo discovered the use of the telescope, he discovered the infinite spaces — So our perspective is always limited. So in The Meninas the perspectives are all limited, partial, and in that, too, the painting and the novel are alike. Now, Galileo — I think, I quoted him in an earlier lecture, if not I’ll quote him again. He said: “The more we know, the less we know,” because he was discovering more stars, more space, and he knew then that it would be impossible to get to know all of space. We’re still in that situation although we have improved our capacity.
So what is the significance of all of this? What I have just said, I mean the limits of human knowledge, the limits of self knowledge, and what else? We are the models, we are the models of the painting, and Velázquez has given himself a prominent position in a painting that should be a painting of the king and queen, so he has usurped the place of the king and queen. He has given himself a more prominent position. He has, as it were, erased them to put himself. This is this ambivalent position of the modern writer, or author, or painter, or artist, about his own creative powers. But he has put himself in the painting instead of those who should be the models, the king and queen.
Furthermore, he has opened the space of the model so that we, as we see the painting, actually occupy the position of the king and queen. This has all kinds of political implications, you see, the king and queen have been removed, and we, who are commoners, can occupy instead that position, so in that sense this is a very revolutionary painting. This painting is saying: anybody can be king and queen; by just stepping in front of my painting and becoming my model, you become king and queen for that moment — Remember, there was a show called ‘Queen for a Day,’ you become queen for a day or king for a day, you understand — So there has been a displacement of power here, in Velázquez’s painting, by omitting the king and queen or by relegating them to the back, to a reflection, a very kind of blurry reflection made more blurry by our poor copy here, of the king and queen.
So now, historically, if you will read your Elliott, you will see that this reflects a real political situation in Spain, meaning that, in fact, the power of the monarchy has been diminished. This painting is from 1656. Remember, it’s later than the Quixote, but history didn’t move that fast in the period, so 1605 first Quixote, 1656, fifty years give or take, but by the seventeenth century the Spanish monarchy has been weakened. It is in the hands of validos, noblemen who occupied positions of power, and the Hapsburgs were very disinterested in governance and more in luxury, and all of that. Velázquez painted the Hapsburgs in some of those activities, hunting, and stuff like that, but here, in this painting he has eliminated them from the position of power, he has placed himself at the center, and he has allowed us commoners to occupy that position. So this is the significance. Now, the most important parallel to this will come in Part II of the Quixote, but I will anticipate it here, when Sancho Panza is made governor of a mock island, and Sancho, by the way, performs well as a ruler. So he, the commoner, has come to occupy the position of ruler, and this is something similar to what is happening here in Las Meninas. So this is why this painting is so important in relation to the Quixote.
But I also want you to, in anticipation, look at this figure, here. The kings of Spain, like many others, including Aztec emperors, kept freaks in their court for entertainment and for amusement midgets, people deformed, and all of that. Of course, this is, from our perspective, horrendous, but it was practiced all over, and Velázquez was fascinated by people who had peculiar features, irregular features. He painted midgets and so forth, and this is obviously a deformed woman. I think that she is important because Cervantes too was very much interested in depicting strange individuals, individuals who are not beautiful, but who have been scarred by time and by life, and by bad luck, and so forth.
So when you get to the chapter in the inn, and you read the descriptions of Maritornes, the wenchy prostitute who creates that whole fracas at night in the inn think of the face of this figure here flat faced, deformed, and so forth, because it’s another correspondence, a very important correspondence, between Velázquez’s aesthetics and Cervantes’s aesthetics. So much for now for Las Meninas. We will go back to Velázquez later, quite soon, as a matter of fact, to look at another one of his masterpieces, but for now, so much for Las Meninas, so we will go back to having light, both artificial and a little bit of natural light.
The one thing that I failed to mention is that, as you notice, in looking at the painting, Velázquez has given himself an important position within the painting, but it’s not a central position, he is in an oblique position, as it were, a lateral position. This emphasizes his ambiguity of the power of creation of the modern author and at the same time the self doubt, the self doubt that the self reflexivity expresses. So it is, I think, noteworthy that he is on the side as it were, and the creator is looking obliquely at the model, in the same way that Cervantes says that he is father or stepfather of his work. Remember, what he said in the 1605 prologue that we talked about in one of the first classes, the obliqueness of Velázquez’s position within the painting is similar to that obliqueness of whether he’s father or stepfather, and so forth.
Chapter 3. Introduction to The Holy Brotherhood; The Goatherds and Human Kindness [00:31:19]
So we go back now to the Quixote. Now, after the episode with the Biscainer, the Basque, when Don Quixote injures this man in this fight, Sancho is very apprehensive. He is sure that they’re now going to be pursued by the Holy Brotherhood. They, Don Quixote and Sancho, move in a world of alienation, of madness, of unsociability and how can society deal with Don Quixote’s madness, real society. Now, this issue is highlighted by the presence of civil law in the book. Sancho knows that they’re being pursued by the Santa Hermandad, and who was the Santa Hermandad or Holy Brotherhood? This was a vigilante police force that the Catholic kings had created, Ferdinand and Isabella, if you remember your Elliott. Why? Remember they invested a lot of effort in trying to unify the Spanish peninsula, but, as I’ve mentioned, Spain is divided in several regions with different cultures and languages and exemptions from the law, where royal authority, just like the federal law in this country, could not reach because of those exemptions that these regions had. Therefore, the Catholic kings created a police that could go through those regional boundaries and apprehend fugitives.
The Holy Brotherhood was in charge of the roads because the roads were under the purview of the crown, and they were parallel to another institution that the Catholic kings created, that also could police all of the peninsula; the Holy Inquisition. The Inquisition could police regions other than Castile; that is Galicia, the Basque countries, and so forth, and so could the Holy Brotherhood. The Holy Brotherhood were feared because they could not only apprehend you, but try you and execute you on the spot, and Sancho says that he all ready hears their arrows buzzing in his ears. Why? Because Sancho is vulnerable to the Holy Brotherhood, whereas Don Quixote, as an hidalgo, feels that he’s protected from the law. So Sancho is the one, if you will notice, who insists that they are being pursued by the Holy Brotherhood, and that they have to hide in the hills, and so forth. The Holy Brotherhood — sorry to give away the plot — will eventually apprehend them but let them go at the end of Part I. Now, the members of the Holy Brotherhood were just ordinary people who were engaged in this police force.
So we move now to the adventure with the goat herds and the speech on the golden age, that is one of the more famous episodes of Part I. Now, this is an episode like others, in which a contrast is established between what Don Quixote has in his head from having read so many books and the real world around him. He thinks that these goatherds are like shepherds of the classical tradition, and this is what makes him think of the golden age when there is now mine or thou, there is no private property, there is only goodness, and man lives at one with nature, and he delivers this beautiful speech which is filled with all kinds of clichés from the classical tradition to these goatherds, who don’t understand what he is talking about at all.
What is the connecting thread between that idealized reality, that idealized world in Don Quixote’s head, and the reality of these goatherds who are listening to the speech and not understanding a thing that Don Quixote is saying? The one thing that connects the two — and it goes back to one of the points that I’ve made before — is the goatherds’ kindness. They are kind. That is, that which has not changed from those classical idealized times and the present, is the kindness of people. And remember that I said that Cervantes likes to depict people from the lowest classes being kind to each other and to Don Quixote. They have not reacted to Don Quixote’s appearance, which is striking, to say the least, for this man to suddenly show up dressed in armor and speaking this way, and they have allowed him to sit with them, to share their food and their drink, and to be involved in their life; so there is a sharp contrast, but also a commonality here, the people, the goatherds are kind to Don Quixote and allow him to be what he wants, even if they did not understand what it is that he is talking about.
Now, this is the first of several post-prandial speeches in the Quixote. This is another one of these words that I’m going to teach you in this class so that you can be very pedantic Yalies in the present and in the future, post-prandial simply means an after dinner speech. So, what is the significance of these post-prandial speeches and what do they have to do with the theme of Don Quixote’s speech? Well, after dinner speeches celebrate the defeat of the world, that is, of animals and plants, and end of work, and there having been turned, plants and animals, into food. Here they’re eating some meet, they’re drinking some wine, which is like the blood of the earth, they’re passing the wine around, and they are enjoying the fruits of their labor at the end of the day, they’re celebrating the end of work and rest. And there is a connection, of course, between the eating, and the talking, and the speech, oral activities, both pleasurable activities, so this is the connection between these post-prandial speeches, between the food and the speaking, in others there will be much more merriment and so forth, but this is a reoccurring theme in the Quixote.
There is a great deal about food in Don Quixote, and in some cases food and language actually coalesce, most memorably when Don Quixote and Sancho vomit on each other after the episode of the sheep, when they vomit on each other, and it is as if food and language have come one and they have a dialogue between them: I vomit on you, and you vomit on me, and that is a form of dialogue — I know it’s not very palatable to think about that, especially if you just had lunch — but this is the significance here of speech and food. But the most significant part, of course, is the contrast between Don Quixote’s ideas and clichés drawn from the classical tradition and the real every day life of these goatherds, who also serve as a transition towards the Marcela and Grisóstomo episode, in which the whole theme of the pastoral will be taken up at, you could say, a higher literary level.
The stakes are much higher in the Grisóstomo and Marcela episode because, of course, the death has occurred and there is a real conflict. So I think that the transition here is smooth. The transition is made smoother by the figure of Vivaldo, who — I’m sure you remember — who’s the man with whom Don Quixote engages in conversation about the nature of knighthood, and so forth, and they all anticipate, because they have been told by the goatherds, and so forth, about this conflict involving the death of Grisóstomo.
Chapter 4. Marcela and Grisóstomo, Social Position and Free Will [00:41:34]
So we move to that episode in which the main theme appears to be that of free will. The theme of free will is the main theme, but unattendant, a very important theme is also that, again, of literature, literature and its effects, because Marcela and Grisóstomo are figures that are counterparts to Don Quixote in their relationship to literature, because both Marcela and Grisóstomo — but mostly Marcela — want to play act a literary role. She wants to be a shepherdess and take to the hills, and of course, Grisóstomo does the same to pursue her, but also Grisóstomo, and in this he is also like Don Quixote, is a reader; not only a reader, he’s a student from the University of Salamanca, a former student, a graduate, and a poet. So the stakes here, as I say, I repeat are much higher, and it is almost as if literature were on trial. We can remember what the scene is.
Grisóstomo has committed suicide. It is not said straightforwardly because suicide is a mortal sin, and Cervantes is writing within the context of very Catholic Spain and he can’t just write it directly that Grisóstomo committed suicide, but the words used in the text, ‘desesperado,’ he became desperate, he was desperate, all point out to the fact that he committed suicide, he committed suicide because Marcela spurned him.
But what is amazing here is the very detailed socioeconomic context of the episode. In this sense, Cervantes is anticipating Balzac, the great nineteenth century French novelist who gave very, very specific details about the economic situation of his characters. And here we have that, because we learn that Marcela is very rich; she’s the daughter of William the Rich, her mother died giving birth to her, and then William the Rich died and left Marcela entrusted to an uncle — to a brother, I guess, of his — who’s a priest, and who will administer her estate until she gets married. Women could not hold property out right, and the moment that she married the estate would pass over to her husband.
In the case of Grisóstomo, who is no longer a youth, as we will meet later in the book; he’s all ready thirty years old when he dies because, when Don Quixote leans over to look at the cadaver he says, “I saw a man of about thirty.” Grisóstomo is also rich. He has inherited a great deal of property and lands and animals and so forth, and so it seems as if this were a perfect match. He is of noble lineage. She’s not, but this would not be an impediment and it would not bring down the line as it were because nobility was passed on in Castilian laws through the male. So Cervantes has created a situation here for a perfect marriage in a small village, these two rich young people would marry and create a larger even estate. It could become a mayorazgo — a word that you will learn about a little more later — an entailed state.
Now, what intervenes? What intervenes is Marcela’s desire to become a shepherd, to spurn all of her many suitors, and Grisóstomo’s mad pursuit of her. Grisóstomo is a poet. We learn that because his poem is read at the funeral, a typical Petrarchan canzone. He is also the one who writes the autos sacramentales, the allegorical plays on Corpus Christi day, so he did a religious play that relates about the Eucharist. He’s a cosmographer, he can tell what the weather is going to be or the future and all of that. He’s a kind of a budding Faust — Goethe Faust, in the nineteenth century — in that he wants to foretell the future.
He’s madly in love, he’s a poet, he has all of these qualities, all of these sort-of-demonic qualities that lead him to desperation and to suicide. In fact, he wants to be so much in control that he has prepared his burial in such a way that it is almost like a play. He wants to be buried where he met Marcela, not in consecrated ground, all of this raises the eyebrows of the church in the town, the narrator says. His whole burial and funeral is going to be like an auto sacramental, like one of these plays that he wrote, and his body would be the main prop and the protagonist. So we see other characteristics of these characters. Meanwhile, Marcela appears at the funeral and delivers a very spirited defense of herself, using very precise forensic rhetoric, that is legal rhetoric and legal terms to defend herself, and the issue becomes who is right at the end.
The women characters in Cervantes are very active and want to take their own destiny in their own hands, and Marcela is an example. So one could say Marcela is right, and this is what Don Quixote determines, Don Quixote acts as a judge and he says: Wait, because when she leaves and runs into the hills people want to pursue her, he says, no, no, no, no; he says: I will defend her right to be free., she has proven beyond any doubt that she had no culpability whatsoever in the fate of Grisóstomo, and so she should be free. So, is she right? Is she right, or has Marcela also acted with a somewhat selfishness by wanting to become a literary shepherdess? To go around in the woods and playing at being a shepherdess, not marrying, these two have squandered — their estates — have squandered this possibility. Well, it is not as clear as it would seem.
The question, I think, remains open. Grisóstomo has died, he has killed himself. Marcela has sort of suffered a civil death, a civil death in the sense that she has run into the woods, into the hills, into the thickest parts of the hills, the text says, and we don’t know what’s going to become of her there separated from society, playing this literary role. And so, I think, the end of the episode leaves us with a sense of ambiguity, we have to decide, as we did in the Andres episode, before but it’s not clear as it seems.
It also seems that the episode is inviting us to consider the effects of literature. That is, literature has given Marcela, and also in a sense Grisóstomo, the idea that absolute freedom is possible, that you can live your dreams, that you can live out your desires, and obviously this is a dangerous proposition which can lead to the kind of conflict that we have here. Remember, the one passing judgment at the end is a madman. Don Quixote has passed judgment because, in a way, he is like Marcela and he defends Marcela’s right to be insane like him and to act out.
Now, this whole episode, in a way, concludes on a very hilarious note which is the next episode, the next episode in which they’re going to the woods, where Marcela has escaped, and they find a locus amoenus, which is a common place in literary art and literature, a very pleasant place that is with grass, with shade, with water, a running brook making a pleasant sound, and so forth. And what do we have, what happens here? We have here the translation sort of this amorous episode into animal love, when poor Rocinante, who doesn’t seem to be strong enough to harbor such desires, meets some mares that are being also put there to graze, and have water by some men from Yanguas — these are Galicians. We’ve met now people from various regions in Spain — and what happens?
When poor Rocinante approaches the mares, as the text says, to communicate his desires to them, they meet him with hoofs, they kick him, and then their keepers come and beat the daylights out of poor Rocinante, and Don Quixote and Sancho try to intervene, and they are also beaten up by these people. This is the conclusion in a way of the Grisóstomo and Marcela episode, but in a humorous key. Cervantes likes to work with this contrast and with this transposition of something that was very serious and even somber in the Grisóstomo and Marcela episode into this slapstick comedy episode of poor Rocinante trying to seduce the mares and being kicked viciously. So I think that this is the end of the Marcela and Grisóstomo episode. The last comment on it as it were.
Now, the knight and his squire themselves are about to enter into the thick of the novel, which will be a counterpoint between the Sierra Morena — that is, these hills into which they go — fleeing from the Holy Brotherhood, and also because Don Quixote wants to do penance for Dulcinea, a wilderness like the one in which Marcela was lost, a counterpoint between that and Juan Palomeque’s inn, the inn where the fracas happened before with Maritornes, and so forth, which will become a temple, a courthouse, and where the complicated love stories in Part I, and you will see how many complicated love stories ensue will be resolved in that inn, and so that is what we are going to move into in the next classes.
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