SPAN 300: Cervantes' Don Quixote
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Cervantes' Don Quixote
SPAN 300 - Lecture 7 - Don Quixote, Part I: Chapters XXI-XXVI (cont.)
Chapter 1. Ginés’s Double Vision as a Metaphor for Internal Perspective [00:00:00]
Professor Roberto González Echevarría: We’re going to begin today by going to the end of my previous lecture and taking up, again, the topic of Ginés being cross-eyed, to give you my final thoughts on that. Then we’re going to, as promised, move to the character among the galley slaves that I call ‘the prisoner of sex’, and finally, move on to the Sierra Morena, to the woods and to the complicated stories that take place there.
Now, we said that Ginés’ cross-eyedness — if such a word exists — is monocular and convergent — monocular meaning of one eye, one eye goes into the other — so this does not allow him to perceive reality clearly, but slanted, by the conflicting angles of his visual access. It is a sort of — and this is the main point of what I’m trying to say — it is a sort of innate or congenital, internal perspectivism, prior to any perspectivism based on the multiple points of view provided by several characters. Perspectivism in Cervantes, which as I have mentioned before, is a topic of Cervantes’s criticism, presuppose the unified visions of several characters who view something like Mambrino’s helmet, i.e. the barber’s basin, and disagree on what that happens to be. Each sees reality in a way that represents his or her point of view and his or her way of being, but Ginés’ being cross-eyed suggests to me that such individual visions are already an abstraction and a hasty assumption, the assumption that each look is singular and represents only one individual. But being cross-eyed means that within each individual there are conflicting views and therefore, conflicting ways of seeing, and this is very much inline with the way that Cervantes’ characters behave, at odds with themselves, often.
Now, so the global result is not a unified but a conflicted vision within each of the character, and I said that this kind of double vision is called diplopia. It’s an awful sounding word of Greek origin, diplopia. So the new model I propose, based on this observation that Ginés is cross-eyed and given it importance, is that it’s a new model of conflictive being, conflicting being within him or herself, capable of seeing simultaneously in two ways, as if there were already an internal dialogue of sorts within each of the characters. This condition Cervantes represents, as is usual with him, in a very funny way. When Ginés, who was the first — who jumped free, remember — after they took away the chain: “he leaped free and is embarrassed [I’m quoting] upon the plain, and setting upon the fallen commissary, he took away his sword and his gun, with which leveling it, first at one, then at another, without discharging it, he cleared the field of all the guard.” [Unquote].
Being cross-eyed, is what I’m suggesting here, allows Ginés to guard each one of the guards at the same time or one after another. With one eye, he’s looking at one, while with the other eye he’s looking at the other, with a sword in one hand, with a gun in the other. And this is, I think, the way that Cervantes is representing this double vision of Ginés. If you don’t read those lines carefully you miss that subtle point that Ginés can do that because he is cross-eyed.
Chapter 2. The Prisoner of Sex: A Character in Brushstrokes [00:05:15]
So with that, having said that, I move on to another prisoner, who has been generally overlooked, and who occupies all of one paragraph. It is the prisoner or the galley slave that I call ‘the prisoner of sex’, and it shows Cervantes’ remarkable ability to create a character with a few brush strokes. And I am going to read and guide you to page 167 where the passage is contained. He has been asked, as all the others, why he is going to the galleys. And he replies:
So he has been sentenced to the galleys because he was having simultaneous affair with four women, two of whom were his cousins, and two others who were not, who were cousins to each other. And had a progeny, a series of children whose family ties were difficult to untangle. They were cousins, brothers and sisters, and so forth and so on, as you can imagine. Now, the historical reasons behind this, and Cervantes is very careful in couching all of these stories in very precise historical reasons, is that men were needed for the galleys at the time because of Spain’s overseas adventures, and so sentences were changed to send more prisoners to the galleys, and the age limit was lowered — I think it was to sixteen or something like that. So this is the reason behind it. Now, he is brazen, and to judge by his being good in Latin — oh, I forgot to read that at the end, where one of the guard’s says that he’s a good Latiner [latinist], that he’s good in Latin and so forth — and wearing a robe it shows that he’s a law student, and this is very significant. There were many law students at the time, and they were masters of rhetoric and syllogistic thinking and arguing, of course, this being the skills that lawyers presumably develop, the kind of syllogism that — you’re too young maybe to remember when President Clinton was being quizzed about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and he answered one of the questions, “It depends what ‘is’ is,” being evasive, he wanted to have everything defined. He was just using.
So the other precise legal background here is that he has engaged in what was called complex fornication. There was simple and complex fornication. Simple fornication was consensual sex between two individuals of different sexes who are unmarried. That is simple fornication. Complex fornication, you can imagine, one of the partners is married, two of the partners are married to other people, they are of the same sex, and so forth and so on, and, of course, the sentences for complex fornication increased — you see? And here, he has engaged in complex fornication because he has committed incest having had sex with his cousins, two of them, for good measure.
But his legal training is evident here in that he’s trying to turn what is a criminal case, incest, to put it in modern terms, into a civil case. It’s a question of inheritance law; how are we going to figure out the inheritance when these children’s family ties are so complicated. So as you can see, he has subtly, in his discourse, tried to diminish his culpability, but, of course, he is guilty of incest and therefore, has been sent to the maximum sentence, six years in the galleys. So he shuffles the question to a question of inheritance law — and you will be hearing a lot about that today — what is a case of incest, a criminal case. Incest is to make love or to engage in sex with someone you cannot marry according to Canon law, Canon law being religious law, and according to Canon law there are all kinds of prohibitions, but cousins you are not supposed to marry, although dispensations can be obtained from the church and all of that — of course, you cannot marry your mother, you cannot marry your sister, and so forth, but it goes down to your cousin, you cannot marry a nun, all of that is under the prohibition of incest.
But certainly here, he has been guilty of incest and this is why he is being sent to the galleys. You also notice that he says, ‘Well, this is the proper punishment for my crime,’ as if he knew, being already a budding lawyer and saying, I accept this,’ and he says that, ‘Well, life will go on, I’m young, I’ll come back from the galleys,’ and so forth, which was very unlikely that he’ll come back alive and then he disappears. But not before jumping on Don Quixote and taking the basin from his head and whacking him a few times with it. That’s the last we hear of this prisoner of sex who is a kind of libertine in the making. And he and the others disappear into the woods, into the same woods where Marcela disappeared, by the way, and into the same woods into which Don Quixote and Sancho are going to go also running away from the law. So notice, again, what I said at the beginning, how Cervantes has created this rather complex character in just one paragraph and by just his speech, what he says and how he says it.
Chapter 3. The Sierra Morena Episodes [00:14:06]
So now we go into the Sierra Morena and enter what is really the core of Part I of the Quixote, which is made up of all of these stories that we’ll be hearing about in the next few classes and that you’re reading now. They are running away from the Holy Brotherhood, about which I’ve spoken several times before, because they are fugitives from justice, and this is the overarching plot, they are running away from justice, in reality, they are running away from justice, but it’s in the real time of the period. They are, in fact, as you will see later when they are captured, being pursued by the Holy Brotherhood.
They are criminals who, in some way, are expiating their sins in the woods. The woods are a kind of labyrinth or a vision of hell, remindful in some aspects of Dante’s Inferno, some of its features, such as the asperity of the landscape, the cracks, and so forth. They are as far as possible from civilization. It is a world of disorder and madness; it is also the despoblado, the unpopulated, which in Spanish law meant areas not covered or protected by the law, the despoblado. These are areas where the law and where the power of the state, of the crown, did not reach. Cervantes uses those areas to send his characters into danger, into confusion, and into violence. Now, the Sierra Morena will be the setting of a series of tightly related episodes all dealing with the question of love and more mundanely with the issue of marriage.
Now, the interpolated stories that come after the Marcela and Grisóstomo episode which prefigured them and Rocinante’s disastrous flirtation make up, as I said, the core of the Part I of the Quixote. These stories peak and are resolved, for the most part, together with the main plot, the plot involving Don Quixote and Sancho which, as I said, resolves itself when he is captured and sent back home. This is a set of narrative trends tightly woven around two of the principal drives in the book. One, Don Quixote’s love quest for Dulcinea and the series of crimes and misdemeanors perpetrated by the hidalgo and his squire, that lead to his pursuit and apprehension. The interpolated stories have in common with the central plot, and with the Marcela and Grisóstomo interlude, and with each other the perpetration of offenses due to passion which result in injuries, to honor, body and property, and with the resulting need for restitution, recompense, requital, pardon or revenge. In all of them, marriage looms as the inevitable and most appropriate form of reparation, as well as the most effective kind of narrative closure. Marriage is also in this context a form of punishment.
Now, these stories involve potentially unequal marriages and most of them contain violence of some sort. Unequal in the sense that the individuals involved come from different social classes, and that difference is what motivates many of the conflicts, but not all. But although penal law, again, looms over the episodes, the penal law applied to criminals like Don Quixote and Sancho, the most developed legal aspect in them, in this stories, derives from testamentary law, something already at issue in the Marcela-Grisóstomo conflict. Remember how much importance was given to the fact that they had both inherited wealth, and how they had inherited; she being a woman, he being a man, and so forth. Inheritance and marriage codes both regulating succession drive and constrain the characters.
Restitution and compensation cooperate to make whole what they damage in the process of channeling their desires — if you know something about law, you know that ‘to make you whole’ is to bring restitution to you for some damage or loss that you have incurred. So the same symbolic topology reappears, that we have seen already between the road and the inn, now, here, it is between the woods and the inn, between the inn and the wilderness, which will be also a good way to translate despoblado, the wilderness. And the going back and forth from one to the other is punctuated, often, by interruptions in the narratives, interruptions that we will consider carefully later today.
Marriage has to do with the law, of course, as well as with the closure of stories. So it is an important structural issue too, structural in terms of narrative structure. Marriage is the ending of many tales and plays, ‘and they married and lived happily after’ so to speak, the end of many tales. That’s how things are resolved, how order is restored, and succession is in insured. The questions of love and marriage, which were important issues, both from a social and literary point of view, surface here as in the episode of Grisóstomo and Marcela, I underline, through stories of young people. The young people, I have written their names here, and I should get out of the way so that we have them clear, is Cardenio, Luscinda, Fernando and Dorotea. I forget, often, to say Don Fernando, but it says Don Fernando in the text because he is entitled to the ‘don.’
Now, these are decisive episodes in which Cervantes is dealing with love and marriage at a significant point in western history, both in social and literary terms. Is love an integral or even necessary part of marriage, or is marriage principally a social and economic contract? Do young people have the right to choose whom they marry? All of these questions have obvious answers today, but not then, and not for a long time. Even now, well into the twentieth century in some societies, marriages were arranged. I remember, Gayatri Spivak, a well-known critic and theoretician, telling me — she’s from India — that her mother had only heard her father’s voice once, in another room, before the day which she married him. The arrangements were being made and she heard the voice of this man who would be her husband for the rest of her life. These are things that are seen very, very far from our lives today, but not at the time. The issue of marriage was being debated in the sixteenth century, and it will continue to be debated through the centuries, and it is an important topic in Cervantes because it has to do with social, legal, and also with the issue of love.
Now, significantly it is now that Sancho learns to his astonishment Dulcinea’s real identity: Ah, she is the daughter of Lorenzo Corchuelo! Of course he knows who this woman is! Is that Dulcinea? The story of Don Quixote’s love for her is the background for the stories of Cardenio, Luscinda, Fernando and Dorotea, because Don Quixote’s love of Aldonza Lorenzo could have led to an unequal marriage, that of an aristocrat, even if a minor aristocrat, with a country lass, which is — and unequal marriages, as I’ve already said, it’s one of the constants in all of the stories in the Sierra Morena and reflect the society in flux, where there is insipient class mobility. The sixteenth century Spain was called by Américo Castro, a great historian and critic, a ‘conflictive age,’ and part of the conflict was this social effervescence, this social instability, about which I’ll speak more in the course of the semester — Aldonza appeals to Don Quixote or Alonso Quixano because of her manly qualities, which he transforms into sublime courtly love, into a sublime courtly love; beauty. She is manly, in the sense that, as we will learn, she’s brawny, strong, used to hard labor in the fields.
I think that this is the fetishistic appeal she has for Don Quixote, that, as opposed to the women in his class, one supposed — who are civilized and so forth — Aldonza would be more sexual in a more physical and open way. So this is what is, I think, behind his infatuation with her. What does Don Quixote’s love of Aldonza tell us about love? Aldonza/Dulcinea. This is one of those lessons for life. I told you in the first lecture, you might learn in reading the Quixote, the Quixote is also about life, your lives. What we learn from Don Quixote’s passion for Aldonza, whom he turns into Dulcinea, is that when in love we invent the object of our desire, and that that object depends on the projection of our own inner demons. So this is something to learn for life. I told you, you would learn quite a few things, I’ll be pointing out others; but this is perhaps the most important and urgent for you to learn, at least today. Okay.
Chapter 4. Background for Sierra Morena’s Cast of Characters [00:26:54]
Let us set up the cast of main characters in the stories in the Sierra Morena, so that we can untangle this as much as we can, because it can get complicated, and I’m going to also unravel the socioeconomic background behind all of this. Let us begin with Cardenio. Cardenio, the name suggests, cárdeno — it means purple, bright purple, it says bright purple with passion. In terms of literary history, Cardenio is a minor Orlando Furioso, Ariosto’s protagonist in the poem of that name, who goes berserk when he suspects that Angélica has betrayed him with Medoro, a youthful Moor. This is that famous poem, Orlando Furioso, that I have mentioned several times, and that if you’re a literature major or a literature person you should read at some point. Cardenio is mad as a result of a lover’s treason. He roams nearly naked, an image of his savagery, of his regression to the world of nature; he’s a wild man in the Renaissance tradition — in the Renaissance, the figure of the wild man appears often. Madness and love are embodied in Cardenio as they are in the mad knight in Don Quixote, because Cardenio is also a double of Don Quixote, and, in fact, Don Quixote has a feeling of the uncanny when he meets Cardenio for the first time. He says — I’m quoting from page 183 — Don Quixote [quote]: “advanced to embrace him and held him in a good space, very close between his arms as if he had been acquainted with him a long time.” [Unquote].
Perhaps he had been acquainted with Cardenio being acquainted with himself, and this is what the line suggests. So Don Quixote discovers in Cardenio like a sort of double. Cardenio is a poet. We discover this because of the little bag they find all rotten in the woods — Don Quixote and Sancho — that contains a book of poems and texts by Cardenio. We have, again, a literary text read in the novel as we did with Grisóstomo’s song, remember that episode. Like Grisóstomo, Cardenio is a Petrarchan or a Garcilaso-like poet, sick with love — Petrarca, the great Italian poet, about whom you have all heard is the, one could say almost the creator of modern poetry; fourteenth century. And Garcilaso, whom I have mentioned before, I think, but if not I mention him again, a disciple of Petrarch, was the great Spanish poet of the sixteenth century who brought about the whole revolution in poetic language, in the Spanish language. Sixteenth century, Garcilaso lived from about 1501 to 1536, a very short life. So Don Quixote is very happy to have found this text, and very curious about who the author might be, whereas Sancho is very happy to have found a hundred gold coins. And as you may have noticed, Sancho is not very interested in discovering who the owner of the bag is, because he doesn’t want to have to return the money.
Now, Cardenio and Luscinda belong to the low nobility. They are hidalgos, like Don Quixote, with sufficient wealth to make their marriage desirable. Both would gain, she would gain social status, because Cardenio’s status is higher, and he will gain wealth because she is rich, like Marcela. Her estate would become Cardenio’s dowry guaranteeing succession, a reassuring prospect to her parents, because she is a woman and there will be, again — as in the case of Marcela — there will be some concern about the legacy being lost. The added capital would even improve the lineage, of course. Dorotea, on the other hand, is a commoner. She is the rich farmer’s daughter, and she’s far below Don Fernando’s status, and marrying her would anger Don Fernando’s father because she is his vassal. Her name, as you may have already noticed, rhymes with Dulcinea. We will see other instances where Cervantes uses rhyme echoes of this nature to establish connections. So rhyming with Dulcinea there is something of a mirroring, or echoing effect here, a version of what Don Quixote’s and Dulcinea’s romance could have been, I told you, the same relationship, except that Don Quixote is old. The duke, that is, Fernando’s father, is so wealthy that while the increase of the estate would be welcome, it would not be much of an incentive. Now, so much for Cardenio for now and Luscinda.
Now, I move to Fernando, or Don Fernando, who is the most really complicated of these characters. He’s not exactly a hero, no. He is the character most vexed by judicial and economic pressures, who are the source of most of the troubles here, having seduced Dorotea and married Luscinda under false pretenses. He is guilty of estupro, of rape, and the priest, at some point, plans to denounce him, whereupon he will become a fugitive from justice like Don Quixote. Fernando’s actions have sent Cardenio and Dorotea into the wilderness, and left Luscinda in a dangerous situation, from which she also wants to escape, but she’s abducted by Fernando in that story that is told sort of laterally. And if Cervantes would have gone into that story we would have had an endless sequence of stories, so it’s just left hanging, what happens to her when she’s abducted from a convent, and so forth and so on. Don Fernando is a Don Juan type, thinking of Don Juan, the seducer, first appeared in western literature in a play by Tirso de Molina, a Spanish playwright of the seventeenth century. Fernando has caused injury to Cardenio and Dorotea’s families, not just to them individually, to each one of the young people, by comprising their honor and estate, meaning their social status and economic position. There is an implicit cause, an implicit, subtle, but strong cause for Fernando’s criminal actions. Don Fernando is an anxious segundón. I have the word here. It comes from the word ‘segundo’ in Spanish, which means ‘second’. ‘Segundón’ means a second-born son.
Now, to explain Don Fernando’s socioeconomic status, I must expound a little bit on a Spanish institution, the mayorazgo, which is that word I have here. In the Middle Ages Castilian law had elaborated the institution of the mayorazgo, an entailed state, a mass of wealth and property whose integrity and continuity was guaranteed by exceptional testamentary laws. An entailed state, in law, is to limit the inheritance of property to a specific line of heirs in such a way that it cannot be legally transferred — I’m just giving you the definition from Webster’s because not everybody knows what an entailed state is. As the name implies, mayorazgo, ‘hijo mayor’: hijo/son, mayor/eldest son; mayorazgo. The mayorazgo consisted in the privileging of first-born males in matters of inheritance. He, the first-born son, inherited the title and the bulk of the endowment. The mayorazgo was an entailment devised to ensure the accumulation and retention of wealth within one family by preventing its dispersal through marriages — because if you had three sons and each inherited the same, and each married a different woman, of course, then the estate begins to be dispersed and diminished.
By the middle of the twelfth century, the king allowed the establishment of mayorazgos that comprised entire villages. A mayorazgo could also be a royal grant from the king as reward for some special deed. In the Siete Partidas — this is a word, something you better learn, as I told you, you were going to learn some details about Spanish history and culture, essentially seven books. The Siete Partidas is a thirteenth century legal code that is the foundation of all Spanish law — The legal foundation of the mayorazgo was ultimately grounded — because how do you ground this, I mean on what? Why the first born? — by making specific mention of God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his first and most beloved son.
So the ultimate authority was the Bible. The Partidas, Siete Partidas, also explicitly allowed the testator, that is, the one whose legacy is being passed down, to forbid his heir from alienating the inheritance by sale or other means, obliging him to pass it on to his own first born son, and this legislation continued. In the sixteenth century, commoners were allowed to begin mayorazgos, and so forth. So the proliferation of these mayorazgos generated a class of segundones or second-born sons who were left out of the patrimony — you see what I mean? If only the first born could inherit, and of course, families had many sons and daughters and so forth, there were a lot of segundones — They had the social status, their usually illustrious names conferred upon them but not financial substance or position in society and an uncertain future. Elliott writes in Imperial Spain, page 114, which I think you must have gotten all ready — I hope:
[Unquote]. The term segundón, by the way, by virtue of its suffix is an augmentative, is derogatory — grandulón, if you know Spanish, is a lummox; regalón, someone who’s spoiled; coquetón, a flirt; empollón, a nerd; huevón, lazy bones, and so forth. Some of these are not very nice words for you to learn in this class, but it clearly points to the embarrassing position; you see? I’m trying to give you the background so you understand Fernando’s situation — It clearly points to the embarrassing position of someone who can, because of his heritage, act with the self sufficiency of his class, but has little substance to back it up. The way out of the situation was contained in a refrain of the times, “Iglesia, mar o casa real.” We will encounter it later in the captive’s tale, where it is applied to the sons of a man. It meant that the segundón could go into the church, obtaining a position of some importance because of his family’s connection; ‘mar,’ he could go out to sea, to seek adventures and to seek wealth, go to the colonies, and so forth; or ‘casa real,’ attach himself to the court or to the court of a grandee, of someone who is important.
So cut off from their parents’ legacies, the segundones became social and economic climbers, anxiously trying to make up for their deficiency in status. In the Spain of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries they became a class on to themselves, a laborious one, one should say, desperately seeking social and economic advancement. Don Fernando’s situations and actions betray all of the features of this class. Don Fernando is a segundón, the second son of Duke Ricardo. In fact, the text reads in Spanish, “Un hijo segundo del duque,” the duke’s second son. It meant all of the sons who were not the first born; it wasn’t only the second son, but also the third, the fourth, the fifth, they were all segundones, so the segundón is essentially he who is not first, the only position with entitlement. When Cardenio appears in Fernando’s home remember, he is summoned by the duke, explicitly to be the companion of his older brother, who is in line to be the father’s successor and is all ready a marquis, Don Fernando ingratiates himself with a visitor and wins him over to his side.
Cardenio is like a rival, or someone who reminds Don Fernando of the role that he would be called upon to play if he chose casa real, to the join the house of a grandee. He could be a competitor in that, by becoming the ally of his older brother, he could come closer to wealth and power than Don Fernando himself, prevented as he is by law from acquiring them from his father. Don Fernando is the odd-man out, literally number three, in this case, which is worse than second. So he lures Cardenio away and soon finds himself as his rival for Luscinda’s favors. His seduction of Dorotea could have an economic motive too, when he seduces Dorotea, even if he leaves her at first. In fact, when he does agree to marry her later, Don Fernando is potentially founding a state that could, conceivably could, become a mayorazgo of his own if it is rich enough and wealthy enough. So restitution takes on a whole new meaning when viewed from this perspective.
So readers of Cervantes’s time would have easily and immediately recognized all of the testamentary conflicts involved in Don Fernando’s actions and how the law impinges on his frantic love life. It is his anxiety that drives him to this frantic love life. The economic, social and ultimately judicial context that was the background of the Marcela-Grisóstomo episode is greatly expanded then here, to encompass deep social and economic issues in Castile during the sixteenth century. The judicial situation is accurate and precise. The source of the conflict in which Don Fernando, Cardenio, Luscinda and Dorotea are entangled is very precise. The impending marriage of Luscinda and Cardenio is one that is, again, dictated, by circumstances, as well as by mutual attraction. Cardenio says that Luscinda is a maiden ‘not only well born, but as rich as I am.’ The description he gives of their youth and early love is like the implicit blue print for the marriage of Marcela and Grisóstomo, only that it was nearer to taking place.
Actually, their marriage was very near to taking place when Fernando intervenes. But the ambition of social advancement first postponed the marriage, because Cardenio’s father feels that he should go and answer the duke’s summons, and then Luscinda’s parents are very interested in her marrying Don Fernando, because it would be a leap in social class. So, in fact, Cardenio accuses Luscinda of acting out of economic and social interest and this is why she left him, and this is the source of his feeling of betrayal that has sent him into the woods.
Now, we continue with the cast: Dorotea. Dorotea is the victim of Fernando’s treachery but she’s not a passive character — I told you Cervantes’s women characters tend not to be passive — and her actions are also dictated by the economic and legal determinations that drive the others. She’s the daughter of commoners who are, however, all Christians, and the characters boast of this at a time when being suspected of having some Jewish or Moorish blood background could be a disabling condition in the Spain of the time, so they are very proud, old Christians, wealthy, and so capable of social advancement. Her father is Clenardo, the Rich, a great name, Clenardo, the Rich, and he and Dorotea’s mother have great ambitions for their daughter. In fact, when Dorotea makes up a story that we’ll talk about soon when she’s disguised as Princess Micomicona she reveals that she is fearful of Fernando taking away her wealth, and she — if you remember, her characterization in detail — she’s the one who ran the farm; she says she’s the one who did all of the administrative work in the farm.
So while Dorotea is a woman and a vassal, she is well aware of her rights and legitimate aspirations, not to mention what an asset her own physical beauty can be — we’ll be talking about her physical beauty in the next class — when Don Fernando sneaks into her chamber determined to possess her by any means, she makes the decision to surrender, motivated by love, pragmatism and greed. In telling her story to the priest, the barber and Cardenio, Dorotea repeats what she told herself at that crucial point. She’s telling the story of what she thought at the moment that Fernando was pressing the issue, when he snuck into her room. She told herself:
So she draws a balance and decides that the best thing is simply to consent. Of course, she has made him swear that they are going to marry, and she has made him swear in front of her maid, who was the one who let him in, that he would marry and in the Spain of the time — I will talk about this much more — secret marriages were allowed, meaning, if you told your beloved in the darkness of night in a fit of passion that you wanted to marry her, and she said yes, you were, you were married, because God is everywhere and God is listening, so therefore, presumably you are married. Of course, the temptation not to abide by this marriage vows was great, and the debates about it in the Council of Trent, as we will have reason to discuss in classes concerning other marriage situations in Part II were great.
So Dorotea is faithfully, following both religious doctrine and Castilian law which condoned premarital sexual relationships after a betrothal, such as the one she has forced Don Fernando to make. He has sworn to marry her not only before God, but before herself and her servant. When she pleads her case at the inn, Dorotea invokes this oath, appeals to Don Fernando’s conscience, and assures him that, by law, he’s not compromising his or his family’s status because nobility is transmitted by the father, not the mother’s blood in Castile — as we had occasion to see in the case of Grisóstomo and Marcela. She convinces Don Fernando with a speech that has as much verve as Marcela’s, and is also couched in forensic rhetoric and terminology. So this is what is behind the legal, socioeconomic background of these stories, about which we will talk more.
Chapter 5. The Implications of Interruption [00:52:46]
But I’m now going to speak briefly, and in conclusion, about one important aspect that I mentioned before, and that is interruptions. You will have noticed that all of these stories, or that many of the stories, are interrupted at some point. The whole novel is interrupted. In chapter VIII, when the narrator claims to have run out of text — so that is perhaps the most famous interruption in western literature — but there have been many other interruptions; the story of Marcela and Grisóstomo being told by Vivaldo, and Ambrosio, and others, is interrupted several times, but the most — and also we have the proleptic interruption — very funny interruption of Sancho telling his story about Torralba and her boyfriend and the goats having to cross the river and all of that — remember that interruption?
But here, we have other interruptions. The most important and the most spectacular is that of Cardenio. Cardenio says, and I won’t read you the text because you have it there and you must remember it, that he will tell the story, but he will not be interrupted; he does not want to be interrupted with questions or anything, so that that is the precondition for his telling the story. But, of course, at some point he mentions Amadís de Gaula, and that is simply too much for Don Quixote to resist, and he breaks in, and interrupts Cardenio, and Cardenio goes berserk. He goes berserk, and he brings up this story about Queen Madasima having had an affair with a lowly surgeon — surgeons at the time did not have a very high status — and, of course, attacks Don Quixote and Sancho, and runs wild.
What is behind all of these interruptions and there are others? What is behind all of these interruptions is that they allow for a certain truth to come out, because what Cervantes is showing that stories have a sort of a self generating thrust, that they follow a certain script, and that they veil the truth instead of telling it, and that unless the teller is interrupted, the truth does not come out. So what is the truth here? The truth here, in the case of Cardenio, is that he has this paranoid fantasy that Fernando has already possessed Luscinda, and that therefore, Luscinda is not fit for marriage with him. It is unclear whether this happened, but the story that Cardenio tells, translated into literature, is that this Queen Madasima had this affair with this surgeon. The idea of the surgeon, of cutting, is obviously a story of deflowering that is deep in his mind, and that Luscinda has been deflowered by Fernando. So he has transformed that story in his fantasy into that paranoid fantasy, that what it reveals truly what is in his subconscious. This is similar to what we had in the case of Don Quixote making up that chivalric romance; that in telling the story, in this case, interrupting the story, it reveals another story.
What the Quixote, as a book, shows us is how to read stories. It is a primer on how to read stories. This is the second lesson for life that you learn here even, or particularly, if you’re going to be a lawyer. Why? Lawyers do not allow witnesses to go on speaking for a long time, they’re taught to interrupt them, because a witness can go on and let the story get away, and create facts that don’t exist, and so forth — The story that I always tell when I get to this point is one that happened many years ago, and that you are too young to remember, but it’s the story of Susan Smith.
You may not have heard of Susan Smith. She lived in a town in South Carolina. She had two children, and she claimed that she had been stopped at a traffic light in her town, and a black man had gotten into her car, and pushed her out, and run away with her children, and she came on TV tearfully for almost a week. There was a whole manhunt all over the United States to try to capture this abductor of the two children, who of course, claiming that he was black, added a racist component to this whole thing, until a certain sheriff broke into her story and asked her questions, and it turned out that Susan Smith had driven her car with her two children into a lake, and gotten out, and killed the children and just made the car disappear because she had a lover, a ‘Fernando’ of this South Carolina town, who was wealthy and a man about town, debonair, but didn’t want to marry a woman who had two children; Susan Smith was divorced.
So this came out, when she was interrupted, after having been on TV tearfully telling the whole story — so if you interrupt a story being told, a story gathering momentum from within itself, you may get the real story to emerge. And this is what’s happening in the interruption of all of these stories, which happens over and again in the Quixote. So what is most important to remember from these interrupted tales is to look for the story not being told, or for the story being told obliquely, as we did when considering Don Quixote’s invention of the generic chivalric romance, which was a roundabout way of speaking about his own anxieties and about his lack of social status. This is why in the psychoanalytic session, the analyst will interrupt you, and ask you questions, ‘Oh, what did you say about mommy? Hmm… What did you say about daddy? Hmm…’ And doesn’t let you go on. It’s in that give and take that the truth may emerge. So this is what this book is telling us. We will see this narrative device appear, again, when Dorotea, disguised as Princess Micomicona, makes up a story that is really that of her own turbulent love affair with Fernando. She cannot make up a fictional story without this emerging in the background, and there are little details that betray that that’s the story. So the Quixote is among many other things: a book about how to read, how to interpret stories, and in life we are surrounded by stories of all kinds, not just in literature.
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