From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
8.2 (1988): 231-50.
Copyright © 1988, The Cervantes Society of America
||L. A. MURILLO|
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: Upon completion of this paper several years
ago, I submitted it to various colleagues for their comments. This note is
appended here as a reply to some of those comments.
An analysis of narrative structure seeks to isolate and clarify the basic narrative devices and determine their arrangement within generic design. Thus structures are separate, even independent, of whatever historical, sociological, moral or ideological meanings any given critic may also uncover or analyze. They are preexistent, nearly irreducible, and underlie the more apparent thematics of story. Thus isolated, they permit a new perspective onto the super structure of ideological elaboration. It may be argued that what an author reveals of himself at his most primitive is no less important than what he reveals at his most complex. Of course it is the whole which reveals the work as of its time and its author. ]
The following is a provisional outline of an approach to narrative structure in the Novelas Ejemplares. The twelve novels are divided into four groups (see below). In this outline I will concentrate on the five novels of the first group (Romance structure), because I believe they comprise the center of gravity of the entire collection. These five novels have been designated traditionally as idealistic and their
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theme described as love. . . amor, amatorias. Their structure is designated here as romance. They narrate the sentimental conflicts and trials of lovers through courtship to betrothal and close with the matrimonial ritual (bodas). In them Cervantes has idealized certain conditions and demands decisive or indispensable to a happy marriage, but they are not stories about marriage, real or ideal. Their structures are relevant to [the period of] adolescence: desire for freedom from parental authority, nascent attraction to the opposite sex, initiation and trials of jealousy, honor, fidelity and virginity, and their themes and motifs are subsumed to these structures.
NARRATIVE STRUCTURES IN THE Novelas Ejemplares.
|a) Romance structure||b) Biographic structure|
|[variation 1] IDEALIZED BETROTHAL||[variation 1]|
|La Gitanilla||Rinconete y Cortadillo|
|La española inglesa|
|[variation 2] IMPERILED COURTSHIP||[variation 2]|
|El amante liberal||El licenciado Vidriera|
|Las dos doncellas|
|[variation 3] BETROTHAL AS REWARD||[variation 3]|
|La ilustre fregona||El celoso extremeño|
|El casamiento engañoso|
|c) Legendary structure||d) Dialogic structure|
|La fuerza de la sangre||El coloquio de los perros|
|La señora Cornelia|
The meaning of the term romance (or this specific meaning of the term) is of course not current in Spanish and novela idealizada is an inadequate substitute. Romance by generic definition depicts the love trials and adventures of protagonists searching for and usually finding an ideal mate. In sentimental romance the outcome is of course happy, and this point, far from being trite or vulgar, is highly illustrative. For, if the conventions of romance prescribe idealistic or utopian situations (in which the high-born protagonists and lovers seek each other out and undergo trials) dislodged or removed from a realistic and verisimilar social context, the same conventions prescribe that their permanent happiness must be confirmed within a social context that is not only concrete but also of the most conservative or
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traditional sort. The world of romance may be idealized, distant in time and place and non-conformist, marvellous or imaginary, but as fiction it is rooted in expectations of merit and reward for its protagonists so explicit as to rationalize and justify the existing social order. If these protagonists are to live happily ever after, the narrator's audience must believe that they will enjoy the status, privileges, wealth and rewards of the powerful at the top of the existing social hierarchy. My thesis is that Cervantes incorporated the structure(s) of romance into narratives that by their exemplaristic (moral and rational) adjustment and equilibrium between one and the other, between the idealistic world of freedom and adventure and its resolution into molds of his contemporary social order, define themselves as novelas or novelas ejemplares.
PRELIMINARY. These five novels are structured as narratives of betrothal or courtship; they begin by disclosing or depicting the obstacles to the union of two idealized (usually adolescent) lovers who are given the freedom to select each other as their mate, and come to a close with the celebration of their marriage.
The idealization is centered in their relationship and from there extends to nearly every aspect of the novel. The lover is attracted to the female by her beauty and virtue (chastity). In the maximum degree of idealization she is as beautiful as she is chaste; she neither feels nor excites sensual or lascivious desire. The love she inspires is from the first moment transformed into a spiritualized eros. This maximum degree of idealization is implied in his respect for her virtue, her virginity. His spiritualized feelings for her exclude even the thought of subjecting her to amorous or sexual advances. Her virginity is not only the sign of her virtue but the indispensable condition on which she is to exercise the freedom to select and marry the man of her choice. If she preserves her virginity through the adventurous tests the story provides, and her lover respects her inviolateness, we have the maximum degree of idealization: Preciosa and Don Juan in La Gitanilla, Ricaredo and Isabela in La española inglesa, Ricardo and Leonisa in El amante liberal, and Don Tomás and Costanza in La ilustre fregona.
If the lover does not respect the female's virtue, but subjects her to amorous seduction, so that she willingly exchanges her virginity for his promise of marriage, we have the minor degree of idealization, for the indispensable her virginity and her freedom are compromised and imperilled: Teodosia (and Leocadia) in Las dos doncellas.
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[The two novels in which the heroine gives
birth to a child before marriage La fuerza de la sangre, La
señora Cornelia belong to another group, and have a
legendary structure. See below.]
The period of the fiction is the period of youth leading to betrothment and marriage (courtship). The protagonists are given the freedom to select their mate according to sentimental preference. This feature applies to both sexes, although it is more apparent in the freedom Cervantes bestows on women to seek out and/or accept the lover and mate of their choice. This feature is most highly idealized and exemplified in Gitanilla, and is operative in all, including La ilustre fregona, where Costanza tacitly accepts Tomás Lope (Don Tomás) as her suitor before she accedes to her father's agreement to give her as wife to the youth.
The protagonists' freedom to select a mate may or may not be in conflict with parental authority, but in general it does or did conflict with social custom or tradition. The greater the nobility and wealth of the families concerned, the greater the control and deliberation exercised by parents in arranging the marriages of their progeny. Family honor and interests, blood ties, lineage, material gain or loss dowry and inheritance were decisive in arranging marriages among the higher nobility, and imaginary cases like Preciosa and Don Juan (betrothed to one another poetically) would be just that, imaginary. However, Cervantes does not make the conflict between parental authority and personal freedom and preference the conflict of his novels (cf. CardenioLuscinda).
Because their freedom is counter to social order and custom, Cervantes proceeds to separate his protagonists from their native, real or family environment and to place them in another, alien or marginal to their native one and in which they find the near ideal or propitious conditions to reveal their sentiments and to exercise their freedom, Preciosa among gypsies, Isabela among the English, Leocadia and Ricardo among Turkish pirates, etc. So basic is this procedure to Cervantes' artistry that the structures of separation can be said to be nearly identical to what he conceived as fictional the assumed or fictitious identity of his protagonists: an hidalgo parading as Don Quijote, a precious noble child as a gypsy girl, two boys as picaresque initiates, a glass licentiate, two damsels in male disguise, two dogs gifted with speech, etc.
The structure of separation is used in various modifications. I am tempted to divide them into two cases, and call them imaginative separation and procreative separation. In the first case the separation
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allows the protagonists to undergo the adventures, conflicts, or experiences
that lead to maturity or moral transformation. I would call this Preciosa's
case, because her freedom to develop as herself has been essential to her
separation from family at the time she was stolen. The second case I call
procreative because it is intimately connected to the act of separation
at birth. The most specific case is Costanza's in La ilustre fregona,
where she is separated from her mother at birth, allowing her virtue and
ideal qualities to emerge and bloom in alien surroundings. Her virtue is
tested and proven and as a result redeems the illicit act by which she was
conceived. The other case is the illicit infant in La señora
Cornelia who is separated from his mother at birth, and this separation
precipitates the conflicts and trials of anxiety by which his parents are
reconciled in honor. Other modifications of the structure of separation appear
in the realistic novels such as Rinconete y Cortadillo, which however
does not contradict my assertion that this structure is characteristic of
The structure of separation is completed with the return and reintegration of the protagonists to their families and native social environment. Having found the ideal mate and undergone the inner transformations that entitle them to their choice, they pronounce the vows of betrothal and return to their parents (who sanction their choice) to assume the social position their trials have earned for them and to which they are now imaginatively entitled. In this way what had been apparently rejected (parental authority, family ties and obligations) is reaffirmed as the social fabric that ensures a happy and permanent future for them and their progeny. The only exception among the aristocrats is Ricaredo, the English nobleman who rejects the authority of his parents to become a Spanish subject, for this act completes the restitution of the heroine Isabela.
The reintegration that completes the structure of separation becomes an explicit statement of the exemplary meaning of the whole. The protagonists are reintegrated into the traditional or conservative molds of social life as a reward and recognition of their moral choices in freedom and nonconformity. In the realistic novels of biographic structure almost the reverse is the case: the protagonists are led astray by their use of freedom and nonconformity and fail to achieve reintegration. The novel's exemplary meaning lies in their self-deception and moral defeat.
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|[Variation 1] IDEALIZED BETROTHAL||
Gypsy theft. The initial disclosure sets in motion the abduction-restoration motif, which is part of the structure of separation-initiation-reintegration. Preciosa has grown up to be a wonder child preserving her natural virtue and beauty among a nomadic people who live by instinct and theft (a minimal culture) rather than moral reason and labor: her talents are vivacious and spontaneous: music, poetry, dance. As a gypsy she is in contact with the dynamic forces of nature, which have imbued or crystalized her virtue. With her beauty and discretion she seems to be more a product of nature than of culture. Her beauty and vivacity attract Don Juan, who presents himself to her as suitor. She is of course free to accept or reject him, but she does neither. She imposes on him a trial period in which his love for her will be put to a test and will prove that he deserves to be her lover and husband; the noviazgo she imposes is a romance variation of the initiation test. His love for her compels him to deceive his father and to abandon not only his family but his social class and his culture. He cannot of course lose his nobleman's identity: as a gypsy he behaves outwardly like one (athletic feats and thefts) and inwardly according to his code of honor. Now both the heroine and the suitor have been separated from their parents and their cultural or social environment, and living among gypsies share a common experience of freedom in nature, a premarital familiarity in which they can come to know and appreciate each other's deepest qualities, Preciosa s virtue being the quality that elevates Andrés's nobility to her level, thus equating them. As gypsies' they are permitted of their own choice to undergo a trial of love and fidelity leading to betrothal that their true social rank, family, class, and environment would never allow. For Andrés the tests (of fidelity, jealousy) and imprisonment that follow Carducha's accusation are the trial of initiation by which he becomes worthy of Preciosa and displays the inner qualities of his nobility: courage, humility, physical suffering and mortal anguish for the sake of the beloved, i.e., manhood. Having elected one another freely and confirmed their ideal sentimental affinity, their love is rewarded with the happy outcome following the providential disclosure of Preciosa's true identity by the old gypsy woman (a version of course of the fairy godmother), recognition by her parents and her restoration to them. In the reintegration of the final disclosures their sentimental or personal betrothal is legitimized by the social betrothal that the two sets of parents are pleased and proud to confirm. The betrothed are
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reintegrated into family and social class and privileges of rank and wealth
together with the sentimental advantage of a marriage by free choice and
love proven through dangers and the threat of death.
The structure of the novel has provided them with the imaginative freedom in which to experience their true selves and to unite in trust and love, whereupon the social sanction of their personal, verbal or spiritual betrothal becomes necessary to ensure their future permanent happiness. Their betrothal is idealized from every point of view: Preciosa on learning her true identity submits to her parents' authority as demanded by her social rank; she surrenders her freedom only when her choice has already been made. The theft of the child (treasure, jewel) by the old gypsy woman was by providential design a benevolent act by which the child's virtue was tested and proven in an adventurous life of freedom (temptation) and spontaneity. Her beauty and virtue (virginity) are the natural prize and treasure that her social class in the person of Don Juan now recovers and inscribes to its honor. The imaginative fiction of their freedom comes to a close with reintegration on the most conservative or traditional plane, for this alone is the acknowledged reward prescribed by romance. Cervantes has idealized in the form of a novela the conditions deemed by him indispensable to the union of young lives in marriage: personal virtue, personal freedom to select the desired mate (not authority or material interests) and a trial of love to prove itself true. He has idealized the betrothment of an aristocratic couple of a class-dominated society (thereby justifying it) according to his own deepest personal preferences and beliefs. By its structure his novela confirms both his own artistic nonconformity and his social conformity and acceptance of an aristocratic ideology.
LA ESPAÑOLA INGLESA
Theft of a child. At the age of seven the child Isabela is cruelly separated from her parents by the English Catholic Clotaldo, and reared in an environment and society alien to her nationality, language and faith. In the structure of separation-reintegration her virtue is identifiable and equated to her Catholic faith. Child lovers the constancy between her and Ricaredo is established from childhood. The obstacles to their eventual union and happiness in marriage will not become manifest until the couple appear before the Queen, whose person embodies the alien elements of nationality, language and religion. She imposes on Ricaredo the adventurous test
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by which he proves himself worthy of Isabela. He carries out an action at
sea in which he proves his daring, courage and generosity, liberating both
Turks and Spaniards, and he brings Isabela's parents to England, for they
were on their way to the New World when captured by Turkish pirates.
Isabela is the daughter of a mercantile family; she is not of aristocratic blood like Preciosa or Costanza of La ilustre fregona. Ricaredo is of noble English blood; despite his youth and inexperience, he carries out a daring exploit of piracy in the manner of Drake and Essex at the very doorstep of Spain's maritime domain, the straits of Gibraltar. He captures both a Turkish force (two galleys) which had raided shipping outside Cadiz and a Portuguese galleon returning from its Atlantic voyage around the Cape from India, loaded with spices and treasures. His exploit is then (both) a victory over Spain's enemy in the Mediterranean and the capture of a rich prize in the maritime rivalry between Spain, Portugal and England in the Atlantic.
He returns to London (after a month) with a rich prize that justifies the Queen's trust in his blood and ability. As a reward the Queen consents to his marriage to Isabel. But now the jealousy of his rival Arnesto and his mother bring on the crisis that provokes another and graver separation. Isabela is poisoned and loses her beauty: her disfigurement only elevates Ricaredo's love for her to a loftier moral level. Now his parents withdraw their consent to his marriage to Isabela and plan to have him marry a Scottish noblewoman; he thwarts their plans with a stratagem, deceiving them. Isabela and Ricaredo seal their love with the vows of betrothal, with her parent's knowledge and consent. His plan is that daughter and parents should consent to return to Spain, where he will join them within two years, after he has completed a journey to Rome (to reaffirm his Catholicism). Now each will undergo a trial of separation (constancy) which will see them reunited only after Ricaredo has undergone grave dangers and captivity and Isabela believes him to be dead. Their reunion in Seville at the doorway of the convent confirms the triumph of their love and devotion and of the Catholic faith, for Isabela is restored to her family, language and nation, and Ricaredo, believed by his parents to be dead, becomes a Spanish subject.
The structure of separation thus traces a pattern of obstacles or tests by which the courage of one and the virtue of the other, and the love and constancy of both, are proven as paradigmatic or exemplary in the most traditional or conservative terms of nationality and religion. Love and constancy as sanctioned by orthodox Catholicism
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replaces love and honor sanctioned by aristocratic blood as in La
Gitanilla. The Englishman has proven his courage and love through his
Catholic faith and merits the virtue and restored beauty of the daughter
of a Spanish merchant. The structure of separation-reintegration traces an
ethos commendable to a merchant class employed in maritime commerce but under
the auspices of the most orthodox Catholicism (in direct contrast to a Protestant
ethic, i.e. freedom of conscience).
The two-year separation is a self-imposed test in which Ricaredo undergoes three different experiences pilgrimage to Rome, near-fatal wounds, and captivity by Turkish pirates and liberation through ransom, as retribution for the action carried out against Catholic Spain for Protestant England and a redemptive and purgative offering. The two lovers who meet at the doorway to the convent have proven their love and constancy separately she was prepared to become a nun he is a redeemed captive and their reintegration into Spanish life is a triumph of secular Catholicism.
|[Variation 2] IMPERILLED COURTSHIP||
EL AMANTE LIBERAL
In the second variation the trials of the
protagonists are resolved in their eventual betrothal, but here the narrator
does not center his idealization so much on the moral qualities of the
protagonists as on what happens to them. Because his idealization is not
as intense as in the first variation, he has accommodated prominent motifs
from Byzantine romance and stories of women in male disguise. The conflicts
are more precisely those of an imperilled courtship.
In El amante liberal the all-inclusive structure is that of separation-reintegration, and the motifs of abduction or captivity of the lovers by pirates (separating them from their religion, family and homeland in Sicily) inhibit their freedom in every respect but the sentimental one. The structure of separation is exemplified in the relationship of crossed lovers: they are not truly lovers, for they are separated by a sentimental abyss. Ricardo has loved Leonisa since childhood and has courted and served her passionately and faithfully. Her parents even consented to their union. She however has refused his love and disdained him. The action of the novel, then, effects a separation of the two from Sicily (captivity) and from one another, in order to bring about the ideal conditions by which they may be sentimentally united and then reintegrated to their homeland, religion and family.
Their courtship is imperilled because the lovers are imperfect in their moral qualities. This imperfection moreover prevents each from
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discerning in himself and the other the true sentimental depth that unites
them and destines them to one another. Ricardo has loved Leonisa with vehemence,
but he is arrogant and presumptuous in his passion for her (his claim to
her restricts her freedom). He must acquire humility and respect for her.
His presumptuousness also conceals from her his other qualities and the depth
of his fidelity and affection for her. In her rigor and
disdain of him she pretends to favor Cornelio who is unworthy as her lover.
On the day they were captured by Turkish pirates, Ricardo interrupted a festive
outing to berate her and to insult Cornelio in an outburst of rage and jealousy.
When his verbal outburst turned violent (he drew his sword), she fainted.
At that moment the Turks appeared. They captured the fainted Leonisa and
Ricardo fought to liberate her, but was also taken captive. He attempted
to ransom both himself and her, offering for her ransom all of his estate.
At this point the protagonists were separated from one another and made to
endure separately the perils of captivity.
The novel begins with Ricardo's lament in captivity before the walls of Nicosia, in medias res and with the lovers' fortunes at their lowest point. His disconsolation and despair border on suicide, for he believes Leonisa to be dead. From this point Mahamut offers his help and in the next scene Ricardo will recognize Leonisa as the slave girl offered for sale by the old Jew and whom each of the three Turkish leaders, the Cadí, Alí and Hazán, will hope to buy and make his wife. Through the intrigue that now ensues, Ricardo will undergo the moral-sentimental trial by which, having been humbled by the fear of her loss by death, his love will be purified of egoism (presumptuousness, arrogance, jealousy) and become worthy of her in the final act of self-abnegation. Mahamut's help is indispensable. [He is not just confidant and friend since childhood, but a calculating organizer whose intrigues ensure that Ricardo will be motivated and free to undergo the moral test of his transformation.] Mahamut's role is very much like that of a providential intercessor.
The center of the novel is occupied by the intrigue (exploited and partly controlled by Mahamut) between Halima and the three Turkish rulers; it brings about the reunion of Ricardo and Leonisa in the palace: captives, they are each the object of desires of Muslim masters, he of Halima, she of the Cadí. Separated from their native culture and environment (in the world of their fictional transformation), compelled to serve their masters in demeaning roles, threatened by ugly dangers, they are nonetheless free here to fathom the depths
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of their feelings for one another. Leonisa becomes at last tolerant of him;
the menace that hangs over her life has made him humble and patient. Although
her beauty has attracted the lusts of the three Turkish rulers, the dignity
and honor of her person have protected her virginity. They are menaced by
enslavement and the lusts of their masters, yet it is in this perilous situation
and the intimacy it allows (in a culture whose sexual mores are diametrically
opposed to their Catholic culture) that they will discover their true sentimental
affinity, which would have been impossible in Sicily. The structure of separation
has thus ensured for them a freedom in captivity indispensable to their
sentimental and moral transformation.
They were separated by her dislike of him and they will be reunited by her consent to accept him. The scene of arrival back in Sicily is a festive celebration (with disguises) that epitomizes their newly won qualities. He has become worthy of her virtue in humility and service. He is now the lover so liberal that he surrenders her to the rival, only to correct himself and proclaim that only she can decide freely for herself who her mate will be. Renouncing his claim to her, he becomes worthy of her (he is free of his passions), and now both are fully free (they have attained moral freedom) to choose one another, having overcome the obstacles within to their union in marriage.
LAS DOS DONCELLAS
In the motif of the woman in male disguise Cervantes has unified the imaginative freedom he concedes to the female and the separation from parental authority and her proper social role that is one and the same with the female protagonists' fictional status. A pair of adolescent females wear a male disguise throughout the action of the novel until the moment of their betrothal Teodosia to Marco Antonio, Leocadia to Don Rafael, when they put on appropriate female dress. The male disguise is the sign of their dishonored conscience but as well of the freedom they have assumed to repair their honor. Three changes of clothing for the two females are basic to the structure of romance. While they wear the male disguise the two (one of whom is no longer doncella) have not only broken away from home and social role but are of course in an alienated state, suffering a personality disorder brought on by the inconstant lover Marco Antonio; they are, so to speak, separated from their true selves, hence the fictional or novelistic dimension they acquire as dishonored, betrayed or spurned damsels, and which they duly lose when, reunited with their lover-husband, they are reintegrated to
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their families and to their fine roles in social life. The two females are
bound to each other of course because they courted and were courted by the
The central courtship-Teodosia-Marco Antonio was imperilled because he did not respect her virginity and subjected her to sexual advances with the promise of marriage. She consented under this pressure to surrender her virginity to the man she chose as husband, but then he disappeared, apparently abandoning her. By the claims of the pre-tridentine secret marriage they are husband and wife, and the only happy solution to the novel is not just that he fulfill his vow but the social sanction that family and religion can provide their marriage.
The female's virginity (her honor) is then the loss which must be restored. Teodosia has broken away from her family, but in the inn she finds that the stranger to whom she has disclosed her plight is her brother. His aid is instrumental in the restoration of her virtue. Rather than avenge the family's honor by killing her, he will aid her, thus confirming her freedom. He will be rewarded for his efforts by discovering in her rival Leocadia a suitable wife for her personal qualities (beauty, discretion) and social status. The male disguise permits the two women (their beauty is the radiant beauty of seventeen; Marco Antonio is twenty-two) to pursue their sentimental designs with relative freedom and to acquire the experience and overcome the moral and sentimental conflicts they could not have known as doncellas recatadas [it also provides the undercurrents of suggested incest, etc.]; they become the active and aggressive pursuers of the inconstant Marco Antonio who, when wounded, finds himself in their arms and forced to decide between them. His decision confirms that Teodosia's claims are absolute he became her husband through sexual union.
The male disguise concedes to the female the freedom to undergo the ordeal that will rehabilitate her virtue and restore her honor. She must overcome her inner conflict (sense of insufficiency, jealousy and shame) as well as the claims of a rival. Leocadia feels dishonored, but she has not surrendered (except in thought) her virginity. Her virtue is intact and for this reason Don Rafael can claim her as bride. Despite appearances, the two doncellas represent two quite different cases while illustrating one case of an imperilled courtship. That her brother accompanies Teodosia and aids her is indicative of the theme that reparation of her virtue will be complete with her reintegration to her family and its concept of male honor. The theme of pilgrimage
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to Santiago (and pilgrim's garb) for the two pairs of betrothed is again in the way of expiation for actions that while true to personal preferences and sentiments violated the traditional social code of male honor and female virtue. The final scene of reunion with their families, and just in time to settle the dispute of honor between the three fathers, carries out the design of how personal freedom and sentiment require the social sanction of family and tradition to attain permanence, having traced to eventual conformity the unconformist adventures of the two females.
LA ILUSTRE FREGONA
The romance structure of BETROTHAL AS REWARD.
The romance structure is a resolution of four substructures:
(1) Attracted by the beauty of Costanza, young Don Tomás de Avendaño undergoes the lover's test of humility, patience, constancy, service, overcoming jealousy, is rewarded with her implied acceptance and consent and eventually with the full reward of her as his bride and social equal. (2) His separation from home and parents is the first phase of the initiation structure; he leaves home a restless, deceiving adolescent, uncertain of what ends his freedom is to serve, and will return there (two months later) with a bride of his choice, prepared and matured by experience, adventure and love, to assume the obligations of manhood. (3) Costanza's beauty and attraction radiate from the serene center of her virtue. The secret of her birth and identity is about to be disclosed as she reaches the age of radiant adolescence. She is a miracle child who has preserved her purity in a coarse environment, the inn. The secret child was conceived and born outside the morally and socially sanctioned, but yet becomes the incarnation of feminine modesty and virtue as sanctioned by the values of conservative and conforming social order. It is her virtue
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(not her words) which impose the test on Don Tomás, and as the
bride-reward she is betrothed to him by the authority of her father. (4)
Her reward is the social value by which Carriazo father and son are redeemed
for the sin of violent sexual union that otherwise dishonors their family.
The resolution of the four substructures necessitates a pair of adolescent youths, each of which undergoes initiation into maturity (and marriage) along opposite but parallel lines. The contrast between them permits the combination of humorous and serious treatment of themes and styles. The opening portion tells how young Carriazo left his parents' home at the age of thirteen (puberty) to spend three years in the indolence of picaresque life; a boy given to wandering, idle and sensual aimlessness, he repeats in adolescent form his father's hedonism, and provokes Tomás to deceive his parents, abandon his studies, and to join him in a second venture. Young Carriazo cannot be stirred from his indolence by love, so he feels no attraction to Costanza (who is his stepsister), but his instigation has brought Tomás within the orbit of her beauty and virtue. Under the influence of Costanza the two nobles take on names and jobs that (would otherwise demean them and) compel them to work and live beside coarse, popular types, muleros, mozas. Carriazo's initiation is treated half humorously; as water carrier he gets into fights, is arrested and jailed (his sense of honor compels him to be violent); la cola del asno is a plain reference to his sensual nature and (in the beatings he takes) to his role as ritualistic victim (not of love, but) of the flesh and his purgation through it. (4) The structure of procreative separation aligns Costanza's separation from her mother at birth, the boys' separation from their fathers in order to come within the orbit of her virtue, and provides the meaning of reintegration at the novel's close, the marriages arranged by the three fathers, that leads to the ultimate meaning of the romance structure created by Cervantes for novelistic narrative.
LA FUERZA DE LA SANGRE
LA SEÑORA CORNELIA
These two novels are also idealistic in the sense that their protagonists are the high born of an aristocratic society and their rewards commensurate with their moral conflicts and trials. The situation has moved, however, beyond the trials of courtship, for not only has the heroines virginity been despoiled, she has conceived and given birth to a child out of wedlock and the moral conflict to be
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resolved is the restoration of honor and legitimacy to the child through
the restoration of her virtue and honor in marriage to the child's father.
Virginity is exchanged for conception of a beautiful but illegitimate and
hence secret child fathered on a virgin or bride mother by an
illustrious father who denies or delays recognition of the child's legitimacy.
Restoration of his legitimacy is a way of restoring the mother's honor, and
to bring this about the operations of divine will are enlisted. The means
by which the secret child is protected by providence are nothing
less than miraculous or marvellous. For this reason I call their structure
legendary, for they are clearly derived from stories in which a divine
will has carried out its design through events that humble, constrain or
imperil, in order to elevate the protagonists to a higher reward (Christian
legends of saints) enlisting the aid of heavenly agents or miraculous
The legendary structures then are derivable from mythical and legendary accounts of divine intervention in favor of an elect protagonist. In La fuerza de la sangre the heroine Leocadia is abducted and violated at the age of seventeen by Rodolfo, a young nobleman of twenty-two. He takes her to his private bedroom (in the family mansion in Toledo) where he rapes her secretly and then releases her. From the first moment in the novel the virginity of a chaste maiden is violated and when her honor is restored with marriage to Rodolfo seven years later it is as a bride-mother. Since the novela descends from and repeats the mythological motif of a virgin ravished by a divinity (Europa / Leda // Zeus) who is above or beyond punishment, we can understand why Rodolfo, far from being punished for his licentiousness, is magnificently rewarded at its close with a beautiful and virtuous bride and marvellous child whom he hardly seems to deserve. This point has been a stumbling block to many readers who see the resolution as contradictory to Cervantes' exemplary aim. The theme of the novel, however, is not Rodolfo's act and his punishment, but the power of Leocadia's virtue to overcome the dishonor of her person and effect the restitution of her honor, the child's legitimacy and Rodolfo's salvation. A better title for the novel might have been La fuerza de la virtud. Rodolfo's blood and lust engendered without love a child, but it was Leocadia's virtue and affection as a mother that reared Luisico true to the transcendental design of Christian love, exemplified by the crucifix she found on Rodolfo's dresser and took with her, as a sign of her trust in redemption by her Catholic faith. The life-force (sangre) may be represented by Rodolfo's lust, or by the beautiful child conceived or by the power of attraction the child's
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features produce on his grandfather when he lies bleeding in the street,
or by the transmission of nobility from parents to offspring. But the
blood force in Rodolfo's act was a violent and blind union of
male and female, and nobility is truly a cultural or spiritual attribute,
not simply biological. And so Leocadia's faith and virtue are the moral qualities
that, while redeeming Rodolfo's lustful act, ensure the restoration of her
honor and her child's honor.
It was providential that Leocadia should find the crucifix and guard it, for it was the sign that a Christian God had been witness to her innocence and would provide for her restitution. Over and above the suggestion that the blood of the title might be the blood of Christ on the Cross, there runs through the novel the more powerful revelation that female virtue, not male sacrifice, is the redemptive quality of social life.
In La señora Cornelia the heroine has conceived and given birth out of wedlock to a male child whose status and legitimacy are imperilled so long as his father, the Duke of Ferrara, does not formally recognize him as his son and legitimate heir and his mother as his wife. Alfonso de Este became enamored of Cornelia (noblewoman but lacking the wealth and status to be a fitting match) but did not respect her chastity and, with the promise of marriage, subjected her to sexual temptation. She consented of her own will to his desire and to be his wife. From their secret love and sexual union the child that is born the night the novel begins (its structural beginning is the child's birth) was conceived. The Duke intended to come in secret to take her to Ferrara (so that she could give birth to the child there) when her brother Don Lorenzo and his men attacked him. He did not know the child had been born. The infant was to have been entrusted to a servant who was to hand him over to a nurse. The servant Fabio was not there to receive the bundle but by fortunate coincidence Don Antonio was. The Duke's plan, then, went askew; the child and his mother were separated, and the Duke's life was threatened.
The two Spanish noblemen who intervene to rescue mother, child and the Duke are a variation by Cervantes of the providential or heavenly benefactor or agent of medieval legendary narrative. This is made explicit by several references and descriptions of them as angelic guardians. Their intervention is decisive not just to protect the infant's life, but to ensure that his full rights as the Duke's heir are recovered for him. Two structures of legendary accounts are evident: (1) the structure of angelic intercessors and mediators (a pair of benevolent noblemen intervene to protect father, mother and child
|8.2 (1988)||The Novelas ejemplares: An Outline||247|
and on behalf of Cornelia's brother), and (2) the structure of unexpected
interference (when the ama or nurse alarms Cornelia and convinces
her to seek aid elsewhere, thus frustrating the Spaniard's efforts).
Don Antonio and Don Juan are endowed with ideal social and moral qualities commensurate with their quasi-angelic roles. They are kind, compassionate, gallant and courteous, brave and dignified, continent and pious. Don Antonio takes the child and comes to the aid of the Duke, and Don Juan rescues Cornelia; then Don Lorenzo seeks them out, for their trustworthy and benevolent qualities. But they were on the scene (separately) just after the child was born and separated from his mother. The underlying structure, then, is that of separation, and, again, procreative separation. Unlike the case of Costanza, the Duke's child will be reunited with its mother and father within days. In the meantime he becomes exposed to the perils of possibly permanent separation (his mother does not recognize him in poor swaddling clothes) or the dishonor of public knowledge of his existence. The Spaniards' benevolent and angelic offices guard him from these dangers. They also serve as mediators between Don Lorenzo and the Duke, a task made easier by the fact that the Duke's intentions are entirely honorable. The Duke intended no dishonor or deception toward Cornelia. He intended to make her his wife before she gave birth.
Yet these intentions were frustrated. Had all gone according to plan, he would have taken Cornelia to Ferrara that night and there shown his honorable intentions to all, including Don Lorenzo, by making her his wife. Providence would not allow this. The child, though elect and illustrious, was conceived out of wedlock and his legitimacy jeopardized, and the Duke primarily, but also Cornelia and Lorenzo, must undergo the trials of expiation through the anxiety of separation. Hence the course of events by which the child was separated from its mother at birth, entrusted to quasi-angelic guardians, and the rest of the intrigue . . . . The good offices of the Spaniards bring about the reconciliation between Lorenzo and the Duke and reunite mother and child. Beyond this point Cornelia, alarmed by the ama, seeks out the aid of the kind village priest, who will use his office to reunite her and child to the Duke. In the final scene of recognition the child's birth tokens establish not just his identity but his illustrious descent as well. Having expiated more or less their moral fault in conceiving him out of wedlock, Cornelia and the Duke are reunited in familiar joy and celebration amidst their
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benefactors, Cornelia (as her name indicates) is drawn along the lines of a virtuous Italian or Roman matron. She is a variation of the mother figure who bears suffering for the sake of her child. The structure of procreative separation has been instrumental to the depiction of female virtue as redemptive of social life in a manner parallel to La fuerza de la sangre.
|THE REALISTIC NOVELS||
An analysis of the structure of the twelve
novels of the collection does not permit their division into
romances or novels. All twelve are
novelistic or novelas in the sense that they trace out a Cervantean
act of conscience with exemplary reverberations. In the novels
of biographic structure the author has devised narrative structures
to endow his characters with the same freedom of choice he provided for the
protagonists of his idealistic novels, yet here his theme is not
love but something else. That something else is what is so special
about them. It may be said to be that in life which, besides love
ambition, fame, wealth or power can also fulfill it, knowledge
The biographic structure is defined as a (third-person) narrative of a complete life that is, as if the life were lived out to completion and a complete narrative of it could be told. But the only nearly completed life in the novels of this group is Carrizales' in El celoso extremeño. (As a group they do trace out the complete cycle of a male character.) Rinconete y Cortadillo discloses only a few days in the adolescent period of two youths. El licenciado Vidriera ends with the death of Tomás Rueda at twenty-three.
In Rinconete y Cortadillo the two most obvious structures are separation and initiation. It is obviously a novel about adolescent initiation through experience. As is usual when Cervantes treats picaresque subjects, we have a pair of male adolescents (two noble youths in La ilustre fregona, two dogs in Coloquio). Like Don Juan in La Gitanilla, the two youths have abandoned their parents to take up a life of adventure that will be their initiation into maturity. Here the similarity ends. For, though they are nearly the same age (14-15 years) as Don Juan, they feel no amorous impulse, no sexual desire or attraction to the opposite sex. Their interests are the more materialistic (and passive) ones of a picaresque existence, theft and deceit.
Two adolescents from the social class of tradesmen and petty
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officials are endowed with the freedom to experience life according to their
personal affinity and preference, to seek a new identity and find their own
challenge. Their experience leads them to Seville and then to Monipodio's
house. The narrative structure includes (serving as frame) a quasi-theatrical
structure, the scenes of picaresque life the boys witness, an
adaptation of Cervantes' manner in the entremés. The mock ritual
imposed by Monipodio is the explicit initiation (he renames them) but what
they see, hear and learn is the genuine or real initiation into life as the
knowledge of it that constitutes maturity. A life of sin and crime is presented
to their senses as problematic good and evil. The boys have already passed
their own self-imposed test (card playing and stealing) before
they arrive at Monipodio's house. Monipodio can only recognize their skill.
Because what they see of the life of the cofradía is a deformed
version of social life (love, honor, justice, honesty and loyalty among
criminals) their initiation is an abortive one: it does not really come off,
yet they will be allowed still another opportunity to enter manhood on genuine
grounds. This is the sense of the truncated or inconclusive ending (whether
and for how long they joined the cofradía). The distortion
of language (and hence of truth and virtue) in Monipodio's speech (and of
the other characters) is exemplified in the names given to the youths. The
diminutive suffix added to their surname expresses retrogression into a
fraudulent innocence of childhood, hence abortive initiation
(Cervantes' exemplary use of this picaresque convention).
In the first variation (adolescence) the structure of separation results in an abortive close. The other structures evident in the realistic novels are the structures of deception, apparent here in the boys' inventive untruths and of course in the deformed speech of thieves, prostitutes, and criminals. In the second variation (youth), Cervantes attempted the most experimental narrative of the collection, El licenciado Vidriera. He devised structures of separation and imaginative freedom for an isolated nonconformist in a world all but desacramentalized: Rodaja-Rueda is the only protagonist in the collection not paired (contrasted or complemented) by another, male or female. He is a structural case of alienation by Cervantes' most intimate procedures. An offspring of peasant parents, his separation from them leads to his isolation amidst student life in Salamanca and travels; then he is further separated, that is, alienated, by the love philter which, however, endows him with his illuminated glass personality The structure of separation produces a narrative which
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inverts imaginative freedom into nonromance and perhaps even nonnovel, since
the character's illuminated state fails to supply the self-realization that
would substitute for social reintegration. His story is a failure at
transformation. A structural analysis of the apothegmatic content would show
that Rodaja's learning is mainly folk wisdom (ingenio), taken from
experience on the street. It is hardly academic (scholastic or
humanistic) learning acquired in university halls or texts, despite the author's
assertions about letras humanas (it lacks concepts and
abstractions because not based on Latin learning; despite some Latin quotations,
it is decidedly laico, popular), and is mostly applicable to street
life, not the home, Court or cloister. All of which reveals the author's
own experience as well as his narrative aim.
In the third variation (maturity) the structures of deception and self-deception expose the failings of marriage in falsehood and adultery. In 1961 I wrote on the dialogue structure of the Coloquio and could add little at present to those pages.
The underlying structures of the realistic novels are, as one might expect, adaptations from romance and legend (traditional narrative; cf. the legend of the two friends in El curioso impertinence): initiation tests, transformations, adventurous quests (unfulfilled), tricks and deceptions, where the theme and conflicts of love are displaced by the moral conflicts of an isolated protagonist. In these narratives imaginative freedom results in loss and failure at self-realization. Together with the Coloquio they are usually thought of as more profound and artistically more original than the idealistic novels, and hence more revealing of Cervantes' dissent, skepticism and nonconformist attitude toward the Spanish establishment of his day.
In this outline I provision a contrary thesis: the idealistic novels are not as conventional artistically or ideologically as some critics have made them out to be. Moreover, in order to understand Cervantes' achievement in the realistic novels, including the Coloquio (that is, fathom their originality as narrative), one must first understand his great originality in the idealistic novels. I believe my analysis above lays out just such an approach. The structures of his idealistic novels reveal in a most surprising way just where and how Cervantes shaped the procedures of traditional narrative to his own means and ends. My provisional conclusion would be that the structures of romance and legend are very nearly the nuclear core of the collection, and the biographic structures of the realistic novels marginal.
|UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY|
||Digitized with the help of Contessa Marion||
|Fred Jehle email@example.com||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|