SPAN 300: Cervantes' Don Quixote

Lecture 5

 - Don Quixote, Part I: Chapters XI-XX (cont.)


After pointing out the prosaic world depicted in the Quixote with subtle but sharp irony, González Echevarría analyzes the episode at Juan Palomeque’s inn, which may well be seen as a representation of the whole first part of the novel. The episodes at the inn are an instance of the social being subverted by erotic desire and they show the subconscious of literature. Then follows a commentary on the characters that appear in the episode, all drawn from the picaresque and the juridical documents of the period, and many of whom are marked by a physical defect that makes them unique and yet attractive, even if ugly. Don Quixote’s and Sancho’s bodily evacuations dramatize the violent forces behind their basic drives to live; the ramshackle improvised architecture of the inn symbolizes the apparently improvised design of the novel, yet, like the inn, it has cosmic connections.

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Cervantes' Don Quixote

SPAN 300 - Lecture 5 - Don Quixote, Part I: Chapters XI-XX (cont.)

Chapter 1. Prose, Heroism and Irony [00:00:00]

Professor Roberto González Echevarría: Now, let us begin today with just some general issues that I think are very pertinent to the reading of the Quixote. How significant is it that the Quixote is written in prose, not in verse? The prose, it is because it is the prose of the world, of everyday life. Every day life is prosaic, and this is the life that is being depicted in the Quixote. It is devoid of the order and the rhythm of poetry. Hence the novel, from now on, will be written in prose, with exceptions. Remember my allusion in the last lecture to the Divine Comedy and the order of the Divine Comedy, and that central line in the very middle of the whole comedy alluding to Dante and the highly structured nature of that poem down to the tercets and to every line, with its rhyme, with its meter. The same, of course, is true of the Aeneid, with its exquisite form and shape. In the Quixote what is represented is, I repeat, the prosaic. The prosaic is that which is common and ordinary and not apt to be expressed in verse, although there are, as you have seen, in some episodes, bits of verse. Now, another general issue after the Marcela episode — remember, when Don Quixote interferes and doesn’t allow anyone to chase her into the woods — we have to ponder if Don Quixote is a hero. If he is, how does he differ from Ulysses, from Aeneis, from the Cid, from Roland and other heroes of the preceding western literary tradition? Is he mostly a moral hero? This is something that we should ponder as we continue to read the novel.

And the last general issue that I’d like to bring up is, again, the issue of irony. José Ortega y Gasset, who was a very important Spanish philosopher of the twentieth century, the most important Spanish philosopher of the twentieth century — He’s known in the English speaking world mostly for a book called The Rebellion of the Masses, and also for… he has a very important book on the Quixote, Meditations on the Quixote, and yet another that is even better, known than that called The Dehumanization of Art, which is about the avant-garde, the art of the avant-garde — He said:

“Irony is instead of saying what we think, we feign to think what we say. Irony constitutes an unfolding splitting up into two such as in the prologue of the Quixote, when the narrator splits into two by creating the friend who comes to advise him. In irony there is this splitting because there is a need of another who knows and who understands the double entendre.”

Irony can become sarcastic but not in Cervantes. Cervantes’s irony, as you have already noticed, I’m sure, is mild and humorous rather than cutting or sarcastic. The dialogue on which the book depends so much is essentially ironic, because we can see the errors of both protagonists as they speak with each other, errors that they point out to each other. In the case of Don Quixote, as you will notice, once and again he points out the errors that Sancho makes in speaking, but Sancho will also catch Don Quixote in a few mistakes himself.

Chapter 2. Juan Palomeque’s Inn and Its Characters [00:05:26]

Now, we move to one of my favorite parts in the book which are the scenes in Juan Palomeque’s inn. You have to remember the names of these characters. His name is Juan Palomeque. I’m sure you did not quite retain this name. He is the innkeeper, the most important innkeeper in the first part of the Quixote. Among the most famous and important episodes in Don Quixote are those at his inn. I have already spoken about the importance of inns in the plot of the Quixote when commenting upon the first inn, in which Don Quixote was knighted, if you remember. Karl Ludvig Seilig, retired now, Professor at Columbia University, wrote, “Formally, structurally, thematically the inn is an important focal point, a place of configurations and conflations.”

Inns in the Quixote or in Cervantes are derived from the picaresque tradition where they figure very prominently, in books like Lazarillo de Tormes and Guzmán de Alfarache, that I have mentioned here several times. In those books, the inns play a similar role. In fact, as we remarked, the first innkeeper was a retired pícaro and he tells with relish his life of picaresque adventures, where he visited or stayed at the most notorious picaresque emporia throughout Spain. I also spoke of how inns provide a kind of archaeology of society, using that metaphor, because characters from different social classes and professions meet in them. The one run by Juan Palomeque is, by far, the most important building in Part I of the Quixote, even more important than Don Quixote’s house. In part two, there will be other buildings, as you will discover. I, again, emphasize that it’s good to remember the names of these secondary characters, like Juan Palomeque, who play significant roles in the novel. They sometimes, as I have all ready mentioned, have interesting names, in some cases the names are interesting because they’re so common, as Pedro Alonso — remember? — the neighbor who picks him up, or Pero Pérez, the priest, and so forth. In the case of Juan Palomeque, his last name has something to do with pigeons; ‘paloma’ is a pigeon in Spanish. The ‘-eque’ ending doesn’t sound very good, like ‘-ote’ in Quixote, Palomeque, so it’s a last name that is mostly funny.

Now, if the road — as we have come here, as we have arrived at the inn coming on the road — was for the most part a sunny, bright, realm, and this will change in the episodes after the inn. The inn is in a kind of a chiaroscuro — I’m sure you’ve heard this word, but I guess I’m determined to teach a lot of very pedantic words that you can use in further life, even if you become a lawyer or something, ‘chiaroscuro’ in Italian means ‘bright dark’; it’s a combination of darkness and brightness, and it’s normally associated with Baroque art. And I will be speaking about the Baroque in later lectures because the cliché is that the first part of the Quixote is mostly Renaissance, and the second part is Baroque. This is one of those clichés, so I’ll be talking about the Baroque. But, so it is a dark place. In Juan Palomeque’s inn, people eat, fight, have erotic encounters, and live in very close proximity, very close proximity, as you have noticed, making for a great deal of friction, real and metaphoric, in this case, as the characters rub against each other in the very confined quarters of this inn.

Now, at the inns the humor is very theatrical, they are like a stage — and, in fact, in later episodes the inn will become really a stage with characters coming in and out, like actors on a stage — Theatrical in the sense of slapstick comedy; slapstick comedy, because it’s a comedy in which characters hit each other with that stick that has a slap and makes it sound like it’s a very hard blow, you hit somebody — pow! — and it sounds. It comes from the commedia dell’ arte. Commedia dell’arte was a kind of Italian theater of the fifteenth century in which there was no dialogue; the characters just slapped each other, and kicked each other, and so forth, and went around. The word in Spanish for slapstick is very funny; it’s called matapecados — I bet even the native speakers didn’t know that word — Matapecados, sin killer. It’s a stick with which you hit somebody else and — So, it’s a slapstick kind of comedy.

This comedy involves physical violence, mistaken identities and rowdy behavior. In episodes such as these, Cervantes displays his talent for comedy, which he put to good use writing his very successful entremeses or interludes — Remember, the entremés is the one-act funny play that is usually staged between acts of a larger play — Humor culminates in these episodes, when Don Quixote’s imaginings suddenly appear to mesh with what is happening in the tawdry world in which he finds himself. He takes the innkeeper for a nobleman in his castle, as he did with the first inn, and Maritornes as a damsel in love with him, when she is really an ugly prostitute on her way to meet the carrier, who happens to be lodging there, too. The point seems to be that even the rather concrete reality, tangible reality of the inn can be transformed by the characters needs, desires, and imaginings, because this inn is as far as possible from a castle and the characters as far as possible from those in the romances of chivalry.

Don Quixote’s erotic desires have been aroused by the innkeeper’s daughter. Remember, the innkeeper has a young daughter whom we imagine as a mere teenager and is described in the text as, quote: “a very comely young maiden.”

This episode is the most explicit erotic display by Don Quixote in the entire book, erotic in a sense of explicit sexuality, is the most explicit in the whole book. But more than anything the episodes at the inn are an instance of the social, being subverted by erotic desire, that of the carrier and Maritornes, as well as Don Quixote’s. The ensuing violence involves even the law, as the representative of the Holy Brotherhood intervenes, and remember, brings Don Quixote with a candleholder in the darkness of the inn.

What does this show? Well, that the sublimated eros of literary tradition has its counterpart, perhaps it’s real driving force on these unleashed erotic forces that propel the characters to violence. Cervantes is not moralizing here, and he hardly ever does. All he seems to be doing is showing the real, as it were, subconscious of literature, the counterpart, let’s say, of the romances of chivalry and the pastoral, what lurks underneath the romances of chivalry and the pastoral. This is the reason for the darkness, it represents all of these forces as opposed to the pastoral. Pastoral literature always occurs in daylight, and the eclogues — eclogues are long poems on a pastoral theme, the most famous were by Virgil — The time of an eclogue is the time span of a day, so here it is the complete opposite; the darkness revealing the real forces underneath those pastoral poems, and so forth, and the romances of chivalry.

Now, let me go over the cast of characters in Juan Palomeque’s inn. As you, I’m sure, have noticed already, Cervantes relishes in the presentation of characters drawn from the lower strata of society and tries to give a rounded view of them, meaning that, along with their coarseness, they often display kindness and human understanding. These characters, again, are drawn from the picaresque, but also drawn from the extensive juridical or judicial documents of the period. Spain generated a very extensive judicial system in the sixteenth century with hundreds and thousands of documents stored in archives about the comings and goings of characters, such as the ones we see here. But Cervantes, as I always emphasize, tries to give a rounded view of these characters drawn from the lowest classes and also from the criminal classes, rounded view showing that they can be kind, also. And they are not stereotypes, they are individuated or individualized by their moral and their physical features. The best case is Maritornes — Maritornes, the character about who I am going to speak now, whom I hope whose name I hope you will retain. I have mentioned her a couple of times, and I want you to remember her name from now on — They all have individual features, physical as well as moral.

The first character is the innkeeper Juan Palomeque, el Zurdo, the left-handed, lefty — I’ll speak about that in a minute. Remember, I told you to look for details. This is a significant detail, as you will see a little later. Look for details — his wife and the daughter, that’s the family running the inn. Number two, Maritornes. She is an Asturian wench, meaning, who in spite of her profession is kind towards Don Quixote and Sancho — Remember, that she gives him a drink at the end when he’s leaving and so forth. He’s very kind of her — Notice that she is from Asturias.

There are maps of Spain on the website and I have been urging you to use them so that you can situate yourself. We have now met the Basque or Biscainer, as Jarvis calls him, who’s from the Basque countries, remember? I spoke about the Basques; we met the Yanguesans, who were really from Galicia, northwestern Spain, and here we have someone from Asturias. The Galicians are of Celtic origin, they’re something like the Irish. They play bagpipes like the Irish [I hate bagpipes] but the Galicians are known for their bagpipes. I will speak more about the Galicians as we go on — But Maritornes is from Asturias, a northern province, a region of Spain. They are very proud, the Asturians, because the Reconquest, the war against the Moors, began in Asturias, so they take great pride in that, that it began right away, after the Moors occupied Spain. So the fact that she’s Asturian might be a joke on the part of Cervantes, they are very proud, and here we have an Asturian prostitute.

And Cervantes was obviously a proud Castilian, and he has enough Castilians who are not exactly beings, being one to be proud of, but he has a view, a particular view, of the people from various regions of Spain. So Maritornes is a wench from Asturias. She takes pride in being reliable in her professional dealings as a whore. She keeps her dates, in this case, with catastrophic results. Though Maritornes is no princess as Don Quixote imagines, she is responsible within her profession and generous. Cervantes is not a moral relativist, but he has an understanding of human frailty and the tumbles of individual fate — If you read with care, you will have learned that Maritornes is a prostitute because of a series of misfortunes have brought her down, not because she’s inherently inclined to sin — and as I have said, and I emphasized she is ethical within the expectations of her trade she delivers.

Cervantes also liked to show how morality can be a code coherent within a given context — You will see this better in Part II, when there is a gang of outlaws, and within that gang, within its rules there are sets of ethical behavior — In his own case, as you have read the essay by Durán in the Casebook, which you should have by now, you will know that the women in Cervantes’s family because of financial pressures were involved in questionable activities at certain points — and I do hope that you read that very fine and succinct essay by Durán from which I quoted a little bit in the last class emphasizing the fact that Cervantes was an insider and outsider at the same time in Spain.

Now, I’m going down the list of characters at the inn: the carrier, a muleteer, who happens to be an acquaintance, or even a relative, of Cide Hamete Benengeli, the alleged author of this story. It’s another instance of Cervantes’s self reflexivity. Here we have a character who is related to the real author. Now, it is true that Moriscos — fellows of Moorish origins — tended to be carriers like this, but Cervantes is making, again, another hilarious connection between the fictional and the real worlds of his novel. Now, going down the list of these characters — and I’m doing this as this had been a play, because, as I said, the inn is very much like a stage — there is an officer from the ancient Holy Brotherhood of Toledo, who represents the law, and he’s the one who hits Don Quixote on the head with a candleholder, and I explained in the last class what the Holy Brotherhood is, or was at the time, and it plays an important role, because it is the police force that is pursuing Don Quixote and Sancho.

Now, finally, there are Pedro Martínez and Tenorio Hernández, who are among the rowdies who participate in Sancho’s blanket tossing at the end of this episode. You remember when they go out and toss Sancho on a blanket, a practice that was mostly reserved for animals during carnival time. They would do it to poor dogs, to blanket toss them like that. A point to consider is that these are rowdies, but not inherently evil characters — again, in spite of their social station. Notice, again, the very common name Pedro Martínez, who happens not to be the current pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, formerly with the Boston Red Socks and the New York Mets, he is the Dominican pitcher who’s now making a comeback with the Philadelphia Phillies and who happened to be named Pedro Martínez. Being named Pedro Martínez is like being called Peter Smith in English, so it’s not unlikely that this coincidence would happen, but whenever I get to this episode I mention this and wonder how many baseball fans there are in the crowd, because I am, as you probably know, a baseball fan and also a writer, I write on baseball, and so forth. In any case, this Pedro Martínez is the not the pitcher for the Phillies. He is a rowdy who participates in this blanket tossing of poor Sancho.

Chapter 3. The Phenomenology of Ugliness; The Staging of Basic Drives [00:26:23]

Now, these characters, like Don Quixote himself, tend to have physical defects or scars. The source here, if there has to be a specific source is La Celestina — Remember, the work that I have mentioned several times, in which the protagonist is an old whore and go–between, who has an ugly scar on her face. The faces of these characters are scarred by time, by temperament, by profession, by crimes, by illness, by class. In this, Cervantes is also very much like Velázquez; he finds beauty in the ugly, and this is very much a part of the modernity of Cervantes and Velázquez. He finds beauty in the ugly, the deformed, even the monstrous; and some of Velázquez’s characters and Cervantes’s characters are monsters. These characters have features that make them apt to be displayed, to be seen, to be admired, like Velázquez’s midgets. And so, I have asked Elena to provide us with some examples of Velázquez’s midgets. I am not going to remember their names. Is that clear enough, or should I lower the curtains?

As you can see, Velázquez has painted this midget with a book, so that you can see the relative size, as I mentioned in the last class. He’s very tiny, indeed, and that physical feature is that which makes him a specific individual, and it is that deformity that makes him interesting, esthetically interesting. These are others. Some of them have, as the one in Las Meninas, and will it see in a minute, a kind of an air of idiocy on their faces as if they were also retarded. Next. This one, I think, is the most famous one and do you remember the name of this one? I had the name. Yes, I think this one is El Niño de Vallecas or Sebastián de Morra.

Student: Morra. El de Vallecas viene despues.

Professor Roberto González Echevarría: Yes, these are characters in the court. They were used for entertainment and for amusement. Next. Yes, this one has, you can see, an air of idiocy in his face. Next. All right, and then we get to Las Meninas, back to Las Meninas, with that flat round face, and that gesture, and that face of sort of idiocy, I wonder if even Down’s Syndrome or something like that. Such characters can and were turned into spectacles for amusement as is done, by the way, with Don Quixote in several episodes because of their peculiar features. It is their defects that make them esthetically valuable and different, but Velázquez was a master at showing individuals features and suggesting a relationship between these and the personality of his subjects. He did this even in the portraits of kings — I think I mentioned in the last class, some of these Hapsburgs had a large jaw; because of inbreeding in these lines such features were emphasized genetically, and so he did not stop at… and he would paint the kings like that. It is the same as Cervantes’s penchant to characterize based on peculiarities of body and mind.

Don Quixote is thin and cerebral, Sancho is fat and physical. Each, however, is mental or cerebral or physical, in a particular way. But while focusing on these ugly characters, let us not forget Marcela’s perfect beauty and that of other young women and men about to appear in the novel. These follows models of beauty derived from Renaissance art, which in turn derived from classical models. Think of Botticelli’s Venus, and The Primavera, variety is the norm in the Quixote with frequent contrast between extreme ugliness and stunning beauty. You will find this in characters such as Dorotea, that are about to appear in this central part of the novel.

At the inn, the first character with a physical defect is Juan Palomeque himself, who is left-handed. Until very recently, left-handedness was considered a defect, and in school children were forced to use their right hands. My Basque maternal grandfather was left-handed, and he was forced, physically forced, to use his right hand in school; otherwise he would be beaten. And when he went home to do his homework he would do it left-handed, which is more comfortable, and as a result, he could write with both hands. But I’m trying to emphasize that because now, of course, we are very far from thinking that left-handedness is a physical defect — How many left-handers here? You are a real minority. It’s okay — But, of course, now it’s common. I have relatives who are left-handed and so forth, but the most remarkable character in terms of physical traits is Maritornes. Her name, by the way, could suggest an inversion of virginity, or the opposite of virginity, Mari, Maria, Virgin Mary, -tornes, turns around. Maritornes would be the reverse of a virgin. She’s, in fact, a whore. Let me read the descriptions of Maritornes. First, on page one-eleven of your book:

“There was also a servant in the inn, an Asturian wench, broad-faced, flat-headed, and saddle-nosed, with one eye squinting, and the other not much better. It is true, the gracefulness of her body [I changed that word from the translation] made amends for her other defects. She was not seven hands high from her feet to her head; and her shoulders, which burdened her a little too much, made her look down to the ground more than she cared to.”

Remember, again, the midget in Las Meninas, that we just saw; the face is broad, flat, the nose deformed, her being stooped or hunchbacked suggests her being inclined, literally, to the ground, to the base, to that which is low, not to the heights. Her defective eyes had a touch of grotesqueness, but also signals limitations in perception that are at the core of what happens at the inn in the dark, when they can’t see each other very well. These are only her physical attributes. Later, when Don Quixote seizes Maritornes we get the rest of the picture on pages 114-115:

“Thus she encountered Don Quixote’s arms, [she being Maritornes], who caught fast hold of her by the wrist, and pulling her towards him, she not daring to speak a word, made her sit down on the bed by him. Presently he felt to feeling her smock, which, though it was of canvas, seemed to him to be of the finest and softest lawn. She had on her wrist a string of glass beads; but to his fancy they were precious oriental pearls. Her hairs, not unlike those of a horse’s mane, he took for threads of the brightest gold of Arabia, whose splendour obscures that of the sun itself. And though her breath, doubtless, smelled of last night’s salt fish, he fancied himself sucking from her lips a delicious and aromatic odor. In short, he painted her in his imagination in the very form and manner he had read described in his books, of some princes, who comes, adorned in the manner here mentioned, to visit the dangerously-wounded knight with whom she is in love. And so great was the poor gentleman’s infatuation, that neither the touch, nor the breath, nor other things the good wench had about her, could undeceive him, though enough to make anyone but a carrier vomit.”

Now, we move here to a kind of phenomenology of ugliness, how does it feel, how does one perceive ugliness, of the repulsive, as Maritornes more contingent and secondary characteristics are itemized. The reader is given this chance features depending on what she wore and how she smelled on that particular night, and what her breath was like, owing to her last meal. The phrase: “the other things good wench had about her” is a polite circumlocution a periphrastic way of sparing the reader of further probably more revolting traits. That’s what that phrase stands for there.

The aesthetics of the ugly and repulsive is very much contingent on temporality, on the passing time that wears down bodies and endows them with undesirable though temporary qualities. Deformities are contingent individuating, particularizing, in contrast to perfect models that are timeless — Contingency, by the way, since I’m using the word a lot: that may or may not happen, possible, happening by chance, accidental, fortuitous, conditional, these are definitions of contingency — This is the aesthetic counterpart of the statement by Don Quixote, when he’s mauled by the windmills that he took for giants. Everything is subject to change. It is the realm mischievous enchanters that alter things, like walling up his library and turning this damsel, this beautiful princess that he thinks he’s holding, into this repulsive whore.

Don Quixote mistakes to apply the model of beauty, the Renaissance blonde model of beauty, which is blonde and beautiful young woman, to the grotesque Maritornes. His mistake reveals, however, that what he passes off as sublime love is really lust. The episode lays bare appropriately in the middle of the night, and in total darkness Don Quixote’s subconscious. We should not miss the point that as a prostitute, an embodiment of lust, Maritornes is the opposite of what one would normally consider sexually desirable. We are here at the lowest point of love, at its basest.

So the episodes at Juan Palomeque’s inn, fraught with erotic violence and culminating with Don Quixote and Sancho’s violent bowel movements and vomiting, are like a phantasmagoria in which the basic, the most basic drives behind the protagonists’ actions are staged as it were. They are reduced to their oral — these characters, these protagonists — are reduced to their oral, anal and even genital stages, if we’re going to use Freudian terminology; they are reduced to that basic level.

Don Quixote’s desire for the innkeeper’s daughter shows his physical desires, which are surely behind his transforming Aldonza Lorenzo. Aldonza Lorenzo, remember, is the young woman near Don Quixote’s village that he turns into Dulcinea, so we see what is behind that turning Aldonza into the sublime Dulcinea. Aldonza is not ugly, as we will see. She is a brawny, but attractive. Don Quixote’s lust for her is typical of an upper class older gentleman for a lower class woman, whom he considers sexier and more sexual than women of his social class. Spanish literature is full of situations in which a lustful aristocrat tries to ravage a peasant woman; all of European literature is full of this. Don Juan, of the famous Don Juan tradition is such a case, but there are others that I will mention during the course of the semester.

Don Quixote’s and Sancho’s bodily evacuations provoked by Fierabras’s balsam dramatized the violent forces behind their basic drives to live. Remember that Don Quixote claims to have the recipe or the prescription for this balsam, that he learned in the romances of chivalry that if you drink it will make you whole again, even if you have been sliced or cut in two. You drink the balsam and, boom!, you’re made whole again, you’re cured. And he asks for the ingredients, and he makes it, and they drink it and, of course, the results are horrendous, because both Don Quixote and Sancho have violent bowel movements and vomiting, and all of that.

This is particularly so with Sancho, who, by the way, will defecate again soon out of fear — if you have gotten to that nice episode with the fulling-hammer. But note that the balsam is supposed to restore their bodies to make their physiques whole again, erasing the ravages of violence and, more broadly, of time. The balsam would erase those ugly physical features or scars that identified them. Here, the balsam stands for something that would erase those marks on their bodies, the marks that I have been speaking about. Excreting is a mock form of purification, a rejection of the material world that they have ingested. Ironically, Don Quixote does get better; perhaps, medically speaking, he needed to be cleansed out, and so taking this which turns out to be a violent laxative makes him feel better, but Sancho almost dies, because he vomits and has diarrhea, and everything that you saw there. I will return to this unsavory topic soon.

Chapter 4. Juan Palomeque’s Inn as an Internal Emblem for the Novel [00:42:46]

Now, the flimsy construction of Juan Palomeque’s inn leads us to a topic that I have mentioned several times before: improvisation, evident in Velázquez’s gesture — He’s improvising, he’s going to paint — and discussed at length in the prologue to Don Quixote. Juan Palomeque’s inn is the most important building in Part I and is an internal emblem, I think, of the book’s careless genesis and structure, or its deliberately careless genesis and structure. I’m equating here the inn and its construction with the composition of the book Don Quixote. The inn is the one shelter the protagonists do find repeatedly in Part I, but they enjoy no protection or peace within its walls, because it is so dilapidated that it barely keeps them out of the elements. It is not a meaningful and fulfilling end to the road, but a way station. That is, is not a home to return to, and it’s meaningful, and it shelters them, and gives them solace, and so forth. It is just a way station, its parts are in a sorry state of disrepair and do not match harmoniously with each other. The camaranchón is the word in the Spanish in the original. It’s camaranchón, in the original, or attic, where Don Quixote’s bed is set up: “gave evident tokens of having formerly served many years as a hayloft.”

Sebastián de Covarrubias, whom you must remember from my earlier lectures — remember the lexicographer who wrote the first dictionary of the Spanish language and published it in 1610 — says that ‘camaranchón’ is derived, obviously from the Latin ‘camera,’ chamber, and it’s a disparaging term for the highest spot in a house, an attic or loft, where old junk heterogeneous by its very nature is stored. This the reason the stars can be seen through the gaps on his flimsy roof, which is why it is called in the Spanish an “estrellado establo” or starlit loft, that is, if you think of the inn like this, the camaranchón would be here.

So, from the inside, you could see the roof, which has holes, and it’s starry because you can see through the roof, the holes in the roof, you can see it’s a very primitive drawing, but you can see through its roof, you can see the stars. This suggests that the inn was originally a small house to which additions were made haphazardly, incorporating the stable and it’s hayloft to its living quarters to accommodate more paying guests.

Also, a roof so full of holes that the stars are visible from within comically suggests that the inn has cosmic connections, as did Greek, Roman and Aztec temples, as well as the Renaissance counterparts by the alignment to celestial bodies. In other words, in Classical architecture, in Aztec architecture, the temples were aligned to the stars, to the constellations, so that the building would be part of this cosmic world. Do you understand what I’m trying to say? The buildings were aligned in such a way. Also, such a star spangled ceiling would be nature’s counterpart to the elaborate ones of certain palaces, in which zodiac signs were often depicted in the roof. Which is the closest example we have to that today, those of us who live in the northeast, that we see it all of the time?

Student: Grand Central.

Professor Roberto González Echevarría: Grand Central Station! The next time you go to Grand Central Station, look up — not too long, or they might take your wallet — but look up, and you will see that the roof has drawn on it all of the constellations. It is as if there were no roof, as if you could see actually the stars, and that is a device used in Renaissance palaces. And so, it is an ironic allusion to it, that the roof of this very humble building is starlit.

Against the background of the inns ramshackle improvised architecture, such illusions are hilarious, and highlight that it is no architectural jewel built following a careful plan and classical models. It would seem as if during its construction, which was gradual and ruled by chance, everything in it has been transformed by contingency — there is contingency again — and the passage of time. “Many years” it says in the quote that I read you. The provisional nature of its furnishings is evident in Don Quixote’s bed, which [quote]: “consisted of four not very smooth boards upon two not very equal trestles”. [Unquote]. Predictably, during the free for all provoked by Maritornes nocturnal appointment, the mule driver climbs on it and makes it collapse, quote: “the bed which was a little feeble and its foundations not of the strongest being unable to bear the additional weight of the carrier came down with them to the ground.”

You remember that scene, I’m sure. The improvised patchwork architecture of Palomeque’s inn reflects that of the structure of the Quixote Part I, with its interpolated stories of which you’re going to read some very soon. And also Cervantes’s notorious errors, and even Don Quixote’s practice of letting Rocinante’s whim dictate the direction of his journey.

Chapter 5. Cervantes’s Notorious Errors [00:49:09]

Now, the Quixote is the only classic that about which there is a whole bibliography about its errors. All classics have — you know, they say that Homer fell asleep here, and something happened, and the Odyssey is not perfect, and this and that, but the errors in the 1605 Quixote are a notorious part of it, and a lot has been written about them, because improvisation can lead to errors, and there are quite a few in Part I. Let me list some of them. There are errors that the characters make that cannot be attributed to Cervantes but to their haste, that is, the haste of the characters, their carelessness, but all of that is within the fiction. These are the errors that later on you will find, Dorotea makes them while playing Princess Micomicona, Don Quixote makes a few; in chapter IV he says that seven times nine is seventy-three — this could be a typo. Later he says that the biblical Samson removed the doors of the temple, when it was the gates of the city of Gaza that Samson ripped off. And there are other kinds of errors that can be blamed on Cervantes and his editors. For instance, the mistaken chapter titles and numbers. The title of chapter X reads — not in your translation, where it was fixed, but in the original it reads, “Concerning what further befell Don Quixote with the gallant Basque and the danger in which he found himself with a band of Galicians from Yanguas.”

But the episode with the Basque is over, and the fracas with the Yanguesans doesn’t come until five chapters later, after the Grisóstomo and Marcela interlude. Chapter XLIV appears in roman numerals as chapter XXXV, and so on. But the grandest mistake was the theft of Sancho’s donkey, which you have not reached yet; but in chapter XXV the reader finds out that Sancho’s donkey is not just missing, but that it was stolen! After twelve chapters, we started worrying about the lost of recovered donkey, here reappears gradually. His trappings are mentioned, until in chapter XLVI he is there, again, miraculously in the inn’s stable! This is all in the first Juan de la Cuesta 1605 edition — Juan de la Cuesta was the publisher of the 1605 edition.

Actually, the very first printing was late 1604, but it was given the 1605, if you want to be really pedantic. But it’s the 1605 date that is given — This is all in the first Juan de la Cuesta edition, the princeps edition. But in the second 1605 printing, it’s also well — a new printing had to be made — also by Juan de la Cuesta, the theft of the donkey appears in chapter XXIII and it’s recovered in chapter XXX, and Cervantes has added a series of paragraphs to justify all of this — these are hilarious paragraphs. The writing in these added passages reads very much like Cervantes’s prose to me, though not to other scholars, who think that this is somebody else writing, so editors have incorporated them into the final version of the model.

A critic, named Lathrop, thinks that the additions were by the editor, and believes that all of these mistakes were put it the Quixote on purpose by Cervantes. Once you have something like this, there are critics who can claim anything, that it was not a case of careless improvisation but a plan to simulate it. The issue is mute for me. In either case, willed or not, the mistakes reveal a hasty, shoddy composition, and imperfection and lack of finish, as it were, and fits with the topic of improvisation introduced in the prologue, when the narrator, or Cervantes, claims that he doesn’t know how to write the prologue and presents himself as someone who is not in total control of his creation.

Chapter 6. The Deepening Relationship between Don Quixote and Sancho [00:53:42]

Now, back to Juan Palomeque’s inn. I hope you have understood my equating the improvisation and the ramshackle character of the inn, and that of the 1605 Quixote. Now, Sancho’s blanket tossing — I must mention the last event at the inn, because Sancho never forgives Don Quixote for not defending him, and the failure of his master to act is something that casts doubts in his mind about Don Quixote’s courage. Don Quixote justifies it because he claims that he’s not supposed to enter into battle against commoners, and that Rocinante froze. The importance of this episode is that Cervantes is building up the relationship between his two protagonists, which will deepen in the next episodes, first when Sancho helps to cure Don Quixote when he’s wounded by the shepherds defending their sheep, and later when Don Quixote, angry at Sancho for laughing at him, strikes his squire — You remember when Don Quixote hits him over the head — This deepening relationship is one of the great virtues of the novel. Cervantes displays a profound and caring knowledge of human nature and of the transformations of human relationships; it’s something to learn from the book. This is new for a fiction, that their relationship transcends the social differences between them and becomes profound and complicated because of these spats that they occasionally have.

The following episodes follow the same pattern. Don Quixote and Sancho mistake what they see with catastrophic consequences. It’s the same pattern established in the episode of the windmills. The first is the battle with the herds of sheep — that I hope you found as hilarious as I always do when I reread it. Don Quixote is, again, fooled by a real world that seems to conspire to look like what he has in his head. In this case, the sheep reflect what you must have read in Elliott about the importance of sheep farming, and of the wool industry in Castile — It’s still very important, and I have been suddenly in a Castilian town and a whole sea of sheep come by, they are being herded to the north or to the south, as the case may be. Wool was a very important product of Castile, as you have read in the Elliott, and, of course, this sheep at the distance could look like an army. So Cervantes is reflecting here not only the reality of everyday life, but also the broader, socioeconomic realities of Spain of the period.

Don Quixote translates everything that reminds him of the world or romances of chivalry into their language. His arguments with Sancho and others about the nature of the real are one of the sources of humor in the novel, of course. Here, Cervantes displays his own gift for linguistic invention and parody. The names of the knights involved are hilarious, as is his description of the imaginary battle, has a mock epic quality. Don Quixote, hurt by stones whose names, almonds, they’re called at one point, understate their ability to hurt, lose its teeth, as he had before lost part of an ear. These are the scars of time on his body that I have mentioned before. His body has diminished as the work progresses, contributing to his sorry appearance and leading to the name that Sancho gives him in the next episode. Notice that Don Quixote kills several sheep and that he has, again, been involved in a fight. Hence, he has committed crimes that come under the jurisdiction of the Holy Brotherhood, so besides the disputes about the real and the parody of the romances of chivalry it must be noted that Don Quixote and Sancho are criminals who are fugitives from justice.

Now, I want you to — I’m sure you did — that Don Quixote and Sancho vomit on each other, here. And I want to ponder about this little episode. We already saw the purging involved in the character’s evacuations, but here, I believe, that there is another suggestion. I was going to read you that passage, but the time is short, but I’m sure you remember it. Vomiting here and in the inn suggest the existence of a concretely repulsive language of pure meanings. The mouth, amidst concrete, it’s a language whose effect is repulsion, mutual repulsion, but that is never a form of communication. One vomit elicits — that it is nevertheless, a form of communication — one vomit elicits the other. It is in this sense a pure language, an ironic fusion of words and things.

If you think that words merely reflect reality, vomit is reality itself expressed as words, this is what I’m trying to say. Vomit contains objects, not signs, and produces bodily effects as when, in the case in the next episode, when Don Quixote smells Sancho’s feces, another expression on the part of Sancho, and he asks him to move away. This consideration of language dovetails with all of the meditations about language and literature that are in the book, and it is very appropriate. I think that it should occur in an episode, where there is such a marvelous display of literary language in the description of these battles and all of these knights. So we have that literary language, and then, this concrete language of vomit, when they express each other in such a way.

I think that I’m going to leave the next two episodes for the next class, the one about the dead body, because there is very significant moment there when Sancho names Don Quixote “The Knight of the Sorrowful Figure,” and also the one of the fulling-hammers, to which I have just alluded because of this hilarious moment when Sancho defecates out of fear, and so we shall move on with next series of episodes, too, which take us to the core of Part I. The core of Part I, which are the episodes that take places in the Sierra Morena.

[end of transcript]

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