From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
9.2 (1989): 21-41.
Copyright © 1989, The Cervantes Society of America
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N an excellent and informative article, Dulcinea and her critics (Cervantes, II , 1, 23-42), Javier Herrero has reviewed the studies of recent writers who have commented on Dulcinea. In doing so he reviews the debate between those critics who take the Romantic critical approach to Don Quixote and those who lean toward the anti-Romantic approach. He notes that pre-Spanish Civil War studies (mostly taking the Romantic view) are far more rhetorical than scholarly and that the trend toward a more scholarly approach (mostly taking the anti-Romantic view) begins with Alexander A. Parker, whose articles Don Quixote and the Relativity of Truth (Dublin Review, 220, , 28-37) and Fielding and the Structure of Don Quixote Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 33 , 1-16) initiated a direction of no-nonsense, irreverent reading of Don Quixote which is the basis of some of the most important modern interpretations of Cervantes's masterpiece (30-31). Herrero names Peter E. Russell's Don Quixote as a Funny Book, (Modern Language Review, 64 , 312-26) and Anthony Close's book The Romantic Approach
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to Don Quixote (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1977) as two of these influential interpretations. Herrero himself believes
these views to be extreme and reductive and defends his objection
by reminding us that Cervantes himself appears to establish several levels
of comprehension: [L]os niños la manosean, los mozos la leen,
los hombres la entienden y los viejos la celebran (II, 3). Herrero
then mentions, along with many other works, J. J. Allen's book, Don Quixote:
Hero or Fool? (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1969), which
indirectly attacks the interpretation of Don Quixote as purely burlesque.
In presenting the opposing views of the Romantics and the anti-Romantics,
Herrero's article nicely sets the stage for my discussion of the death of
Don Quixote, and serves as a convenient reference to certain ideas expressed
which are pertinent to this study, ideas with which my readers will most
likely be familiar.
Cervantes tells us in lines which begin Chapter 74 of Part II, Como las cosas humanas no sean eternas . . . llegó su fin y acabamiento cuando él (Don Quixote) menos lo pensaba; porque, ó ya fuese de la melancolía que le causaba el verse vencido, ó ya por la disposición del cielo, que así lo ordenaba, se le arraigó una calentura, que le tuvo seis días en la cama . . . Don Quixote's friends then visit him. Estos, creyendo que la pesadumbre de verse vencido y de no ver cumplido su deseo en la libertad y desencanto de Dulcinea le tenía de aquella suerte. They try to cheer him with talk of becoming shepherds. Pero no por esto dejaba Don Quijote sus tristezas. A doctor is called in. Fué el parecer del médico que melancolías y desabrimientos le acababan. Don Quixote sleeps; then awakens declaring himself cured of his madness and now an enemy of Amadís de Gaula and his brood. Dictating his will and turning to Sancho, he says: Perdóname, amigo, de la ocasión que te he dado de parecer loco como yo, haciéndote caer en el error en que yo he caído, de que hubo y hay caballeros andantes en el mundo. Sancho responds crying: ¡Ay! No se muera vuesa merced, señor mío, sino tome mi consejo, y viva muchos años; porque la mayor locura que puede hacer un hombre en esta vida es dejarse morir, sin más ni más, sin que nadie le mate, ni otras manos le acaben que las de la melancolía. In these four instances Don Quixote's approaching death is attributed to melancholy, just as Cervantes had already forewarned could happen in II, 1, as the madman in Seville warned his fellow inmates: Esfuércese, esfuércese; que el descaecimiento en los infortunios apoca la salud y acarrea la muerte.
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Either by the will of heaven or because of
his melancholy, Don Quixote, we note, is taken by fever and dies. Cervantes
remains, as ever, innocently, or perhaps deliberately, ambiguous. Since Heaven
can have no part of this as the character's death is literally ordained by
the author, of what, then, does Don Quixote die? We must suppose of a fever.
But since the fever has been brought about and stayed by melancholy,
with some logic we can insist that he dies of sadness and melancholy, as
suggested by his doctor and friends. Cervantes's vagueness, whether innocent
or deliberate, does allow for such an assumption. This conclusion, which
I believe is justly sustained, is one of the premises of the study herein
Don Quixote's miraculous recovery of mind should be accompanied by a recovery of body, one might think, and our hidalgo should then be able to go on to live a contented life in his new-found wisdom. He does not. As Alonso Quixano he still dies; a death, one can conclude at this point, to be incongruous. The incongruity can be resolved, perhaps, in this manner: As Don Quixote becomes Alonso Quixano el Bueno, he can be made to reject the detestable books of chivalry; he can be made to accept as error his having believed in the existence of knights errant; he can be made to repent of this supposed error; however, he obviously cannot physically separate himself from his other self who is dying of fever caused by melancholy. The contrite Alonso Quixano, having been allowed to take upon himself the sins of his other self, Don Quixote, therefore dies I repeat, not by divine ordination, for the author is behind his death but because of Don Quixote's tristezas and melancolías. Each self takes a part in the death of our character: Don Quixote provides the physical reason for the actual, dignified death while Alonso Quixano allows for deserved spiritual salvation. Cervantes, as usual, with incredible genius and with a remarkable expression of humanity and justice, succeeds in having it both ways. Alonso Quixano the Sane dies supposedly unaware, one is made to understand of the bitter disappointment, sadness and despair that is suffered by his counterpart, Don Quixote the Mad. I say supposedly unaware because in my belief his words to Sancho quite naturally, commonly interpreted as the expression of regret for his error taken in another way, can still reveal him to be as much a dreamer and idealist as his mad counterpart. As the novel ends, that schizophrenic part of the character which is Don Quixote, now purportedly put aside, still overwhelms that
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of Alonso Quixano. Cervantes himself writes (II, 74) even after Alonso insists
he is no longer Don Quixote de la Mancha, En fin, llegó el
último de don Quijote . . . and the clerk
who has written the testament adds, a few lines later, que nunca
había leído en ningún libro de caballerías que
algún caballero andante hubiese muerto en su lecho tan sosegadamente
y tan cristiano como don Quijote. It is now Alonso who
is being put aside, for he has merely provided a convenient and proper way
to bring Don Quixote back to his senses in order to allow for an acceptable
death in a Christian manner. Nevertheless, Alonso that other half of
our character despite his denial, as expressed in his words to Sancho,
can still be our would-be knight errant. His apparent, desperate,
still unsatisfied desire not his belief shown to be in error
that the Golden Age might exist again, seems enough to cast him,
too, in the role of idealist, whether knights errant ever existed or
As a second preliminary to my exposition, I proffer, then, these two premises: Don Quixote, whether considered as Don Quixote or Alonso Quixano, 1) dies of melancholy, and 2) dies repentant, but still an idealist. If these two premises are found to be valid, we can think anew as to whether Don Quixote's story is simply funny or something more than that, leading us back to Romantic views that have suffered such an intimidating barrage of criticism in the last three decades.
In this paper I attempt to show how the conclusions posed can be supported, by commenting on the death the three deaths, as I am putting it of Don Quixote, which deaths become a major part of the controversy and a key to the determination of Cervantes's thoughts as he finished his work
Don Quixote's death is mentioned three times in the novel: the first at the end of Part I, Chapter 52; the second after the episode of the Cave of Montesinos, II, 24; the last, of course, the explicit final death scene at the end of II, 74. Each described circumstance differs from the others, revealing important changes in the author's plans, changes which give us clues to his developing attitudes toward his protagonist. My quotations are from the eight volume Clásicos Castellanos ninth edition of Don Quijote de la Mancha by Francisco Rodríguez Marín (Madrid, Espasa Calpe, 1969). For the reader who may not possess this edition all quotations will be given simply by part and chapter.
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DEATH ONE: THE WOULD-BE KNIGHT-ERRANT, DON QUIXOTE DE LA MANCHA, FADES AWAY.
I, 52: Don Quixote is brought home in the cage,
put to bed, and watched over by his niece and housekeeper, who are concerned
that he may escape again. The author suggests that events turned out as feared.
No account, we are told, has yet been found about Don Quixote's third sally,
except that tradition has it that he went to Saragossa and took part in some
famous jousts in that city. A leaden box is found en la cual caja se
habían hallado unos pergaminos escritos con letras góticas,
pero en versos castellanos, que contenían muchas de sus hazañas
y daban noticia de la hermosura de Dulcinea del Toboso, de la figura de
Rocinante, de la fidelidad de Sancho Panza, y de la sepultura del mesmo
don Quijote con diferentes epitafios y elogios de su vida y costumbres
. . .
The author goes on to say he asks no recompense for his efforts to find the rest of the story, and with a broad smile hopes his readers le den el mesmo crédito que suelen dar los discretos á los libros de caballerías, que tan validos andan en el mundo. These tongue-in-cheek remarks are followed by burlesque epitaphs which supposedly had been placed on Don Quixote's tomb, and sonnets to Dulcinea, Sancho, and Rocinante written by the academicians of Argamasilla.
This first passing mention of the death of Don Quixote cannot be more appropriate to the ending of Part I which, on its face, has been an uproariously funny tale about a gentleman who has gone off purporting to be a knight-errant. No cure, no recovery is suggested or hinted at. Don Quixote at some time in the past is reported to have died, apparently still a madman. Our would-be knight is roundly mocked even in death, which death is befitting the entertaining parody Cervantes intended to write. No profound message or significance can be or should be attributed to Part I at this point in our reading.
DEATH TWO: DON QUIXOTE CONFESSES HE WAS PLAY-ACTING.
Part II opens with a visit by Don Quixote's
two friends, who find he is still mad and still believes in his mission.
Sancho appears and tells what the townspeople are saying about the two of
them. At one point Sancho makes this relevant comment: En lo
que toca á la valentía, cortesía, hazañas y asumpto
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vuesa merced, hay diferentes opiniones: Unos dicen: Loco pero
gracioso; otros, Valiente, pero desgraciado; otros,
Cortés, pero impertinente . . . (II, 2).
It is apparent that Cervantes did anticipate well in advance the variety
of ways his work would or could be interpreted. We should note how this statement
serves to corroborate Cervantes's multifaceted view of his story, as does
Herrero's quotation Los niños la
manosean . . .
After the episode of Camacho's wedding we visit the cave of Montesinos, II, 22-23. As Chapter 24 begins, Cide Hamete ponders over the veracity of Don Quixote's cave tale: Tú, letor, pues eres prudente, juzga lo que te pareciere, que yo no debo ni puedo más; puesto que se tiene por cierto que al tiempo de su fin y muerte dicen que se retrató della, y dijo que él la había inventado, por parecerle que convenía y cuadraba bien con las aventuras que había leído en sus historias (italics mine). Cervantes evidently had in mind here an ending in which Don Quixote would admit to play-acting in this and perhaps in other instances. There are places in the novel where one can infer this is happening. Don Quixote's death, however it may have been next planned to come about, would then take place. This death, one can suppose, would have been less vague and less comic than the first, but less dramatic than the last, probably leading to a denouement still fairly appropriate to the parody being written. A notable feature of this supposed second plan is that Don Quixote's admission to pretense would have rung false. The reader will note that while Cide Hamete makes the above statement, Don Quixote himself seems to confirm it on one occasion (II, 41) and deny it on another (II, 52). At first, as he speaks to Sancho after the ride on Clavileño, he does seem to suggest that he has invented the story, but in the second instance, as he questions Antonio Moreno's magical head, he seems in doubt about the truth of the matter. Cervantes would seem to have forgotten what he had said earlier as Cide Hamete. More probably he is admitting in a subtle way to a coming change in his plan. It is of some significance that he toys with, but eventually discards, the idea of what I am calling Death Two. His knight's stance his constancy, courage, wisdom, etc. was beginning to leave no room for falsehood or pretense.
Don Quixote, heading for Saragossa, encounters Master Peter, takes a trip on the Ebro, and then meets the duke and the duchess. Throughout this next long series of ducal episodes Cervantes never loses momentum, never falters. Sancho is given instructions on how to disenchant Dulcinea, and he receives and
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rules his isle for some ten days. Finally, at the end of Chapter
57, both take leave of the ducal pair. At this point in the novel a strange
event occurs, causing the careful reader to pause and suspect that a significant
change in Cervantes's attitude toward his character has really occurred.
It is likely that the idea for Death Two is definitely dropped here and a
third and final version begins to take shape.
DEATH THREE: DON QUIXOTE RECOVERS HIS SENSES, REJECTS BOOKS OF CHIVALRY, AND DIES AMONG HIS FRIENDS.
Sancho's letter to Teresa is dated 20 July, 1614 (II, 36), and the Duke's letter to Sancho is dated 16 August (II, 47). Writing at the same speed, Cervantes would have reached Chapter 57 toward the beginning or middle of October. This, we know, is about when Avellaneda's book actually appeared, though Cervantes may have heard of it prior to this time. II, 58: Outside the confinement of the duke's palace, Don Quixote makes a stirring speech to Sancho on liberty. Cervantes, for some good reason, I believe, has been prompted to recall his Algerian experiences here. Knight and Squire now stop to look at some images being carried by artisans. After commenting on the various saints represented, Don Quixote makes this very enigmatic statement: . . . Ellos fueron santos y pelearon á lo divino, y yo soy pecador y peleo á lo humano. Ellos conquistaron el cielo á fuerza de brazos, porque el cielo padece fuerza, y yo hasta agora no sé lo que conquisto á fuerza de mis trabajos; pero si mi Dulcinea del Toboso saliese de los que padece, mejorándose mi ventura y adobándoseme el juicio, podría ser que encaminase mis pasos por mejor camino del que llevo (II, 53).
This is the first time Don Quixote expresses doubt and confusion about what he has been doing. Something is bothering him, it seems, because something is bothering the author. We sense that Don Quixote as the protagonist has, at least for the moment, stepped outside the structure of the parody. Nevertheless, the humor continues unabated. Next, Don Quixote is welcomed by the young Arcadians. In response to their hospitality he stands once again in the middle of the road (as in I, 4) to challenge all comers. His fate this time is even worse: he and Sancho are trampled by bulls. Chapter 59: Knight and squire rest. Sancho hesitates to eat, and Don Quixote in a plaintive speech both
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funny and unfunny, summarizes his accomplishments and failures
as seen from his point of view. He is discouraged and in despair. Three times
he mentions dying. Sancho is made to counter with Muera Marta,
y muera harta and then,. . . y sepa,
señor, que no hay mayor locura que la que toca en querer desesperarse
como vuesa merced . . . Don Quixote recovers a
bit but then bemoans Sancho's unwillingness to lash himself to disenchant
Dulcinea, as Merlin had ordered back at the Duke's palace.
We now arrive at an inn and learn of the publication of Avellaneda's false Don Quixote. This, all along, has obviously been the main reason for the change in tone noted since the departure from the duke's palace: the emerging doubt in Don Quixote, his rising discouragement, the increasing sense of foreboding and pathos, all still nevertheless in juxtaposition with the humor. Cervantes, it would appear, has just had his first real look at Avellaneda's work and is truly appalled and hurt. His protagonist has not only been plagiarized, but transformed and distorted, and his own person besmirched in an insulting and vulgar manner. Angrily he must determine to terminate his novel as soon as possible, and to make certain changes. The most important of these will be the protagonist's death, prompted now by Avellaneda, a death which cannot be that of a buffoon as in Part I nor that of a gentleman who admits to having merely played the role of knight-errant. Cervantes will ponder this decision carefully.
The road now leads to Barcelona, instead of Saragossa. The humor is still lively, but Don Quixote becomes more and more a sorry and sorrowful figure. II, 60: In desperation he is tempted to lash Sancho himself, but is ignominiously overpowered by his servant. II, 64: On the beach Don Quixote is brought down in defeat by Sampson, just as the author had planned, in a brief but very powerful, climactic scene, a scene probably more dramatic now than Cervantes had originally imagined. Sampson, springing upon the downed knight cries: Vencido sois, caballero, y aun muerto, si no confesáis las condiciones de nuestro desafío. Then battered and stunned, without lifting his visor Don Quixote proclaimed in a low and feeble voice, as if he were speaking from inside a tomb: Dulcinea del Toboso es la más hermosa mujer del mundo, y yo el más desdichado caballero de la tierra, y no es bien que mi flaqueza defraude esta verdad. Aprieta, caballero, la lanza, y quítame la vida, pues me has quitado la honra.
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The scene is totally lacking in humor and also
stands apart from the parody Cervantes has been writing. The anti-Romantics
will of course insist that Don Quixote's bold, unwavering words merely represent
an imitation of the way in which a defeated, legendary knight would have
responded. Don Quixote, they will say, is still being satirized as the butt
of mockery in the parody. This is so, but now only in a very small way. The
mockery has subsided, lost its conviction and force. Since the mention of
Avellaneda's Don Quixote as indicated in Chapter 59, but known
by the author at least by Chapter 57 Cervantes's attitude toward his
protagonist has changed greatly. With a new appreciation of his character,
Cervantes is allowing him a measure of authenticity in recognition of the
admirable and even noble qualities he really has, qualities now recognized
clearly as they are compared to those of Avellaneda's character. The remarks
of all those critics who have stated that Cervantes in his Part II learns
to appreciate, admire, and even love his character prove at this point to
be well taken. Avellaneda is not only to be thanked for having prompted Cervantes
to pick up and finish his novel, but for having made him see more clearly
beyond the initial figure he had created, and beyond the figure of the
play-acting hidalgo consciously imitating a knight-errant.
After his defeat, Don Quixote remains for six days in bed, marrido, triste, pensativo y mal acondicionado . . . He hears of the rescue of Don Gregorio and is somewhat cheered saying: En verdad que estoy por decir que me holgara que hubiera sucedido todo al revés, porque me obligara á pasar en Berbería, donde con la fuerza de mi brazo diera libertad no sólo á don Gregorio, sino á cuantos cristianos cautivos hay en Berbería. Pero, ¿qué digo, miserable? ¿No soy yo el derribado? . . .
Fray Diego de Haedo in his work Topografía e Historia General de Argel (Madrid: La Sociedad de Bibliófilos Españoles, 1927), already written by 1605 but not published until 1612, mentions Cervantes's activities as a prisoner in Algeria saying que si al ánimo, industrias y trazas de Miguel de Cervantes correspondiera la ventura, hoy fuera el día que Argel fuera de cristianos, porque no aspiraban a menos sus intentos (xii). It is not illogical to suggest that, as Cervantes put the words spoken in the above quotation on Gregorio into Don Quixote's mouth, he will have thought of his own youthful brashness in attempting to free Christian slaves in Algeria. We should be reminded of Don Quixote's speech on liberty mentioned above, which certainly
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must have been prompted by Cervantes's Algerian experience. The
ánimo shown by the author as a young man is surely comparable
to that of his madman. Don Quixote's words may still be serving the purpose
of humor, but the possibility of Cervantes's identifying himself with his
creation certainly now becomes more credible as we consider the author's
new perspective, sharpened mostly by Avellaneda, and consequent increasing
respect and admiration for his protagonist. If the author here is making
fun of Don Quixote, then he has to be making fun of his own youthful folly.
The case that he is revealing his own suffering from disillusionment,
particularly from this point on, is strengthened.
II, 66: Knight and squire leave Barcelona. Don Quixote makes a stirring speech, inspired by Virgil, as he gazes at the place where he had fallen: ¡Aquí fué Troya! ¡Aquí mi desdicha, y no mi cobardía, se llevó mis alcanzadas glorias; aquí usó la fortuna conmigo de sus vueltas y revueltas; aquí se escurecieron mis hazañas; aquí, finalmente, cayó mi ventura para jamás levantarse! These portentous lines are no doubt still meant to be funny. What glory has Don Quixote won? What exploits have been eclipsed? However, if we allow ourselves to take his part in the drama developing quite apart from the parody, we see that sadness and despair are now growing logically and inevitably within him, foreboding and perhaps even an awareness of his coming demise, already being planned by the creator of his history and sensed by him, the character created. Don Quixote is now truly sad, no matter how much the fool he is being made to appear to be. Sancho attempts to cheer him. Don Quixote then speaks of Fortune and the saying that every man is the architect of his own destiny. Yo lo he sido de la mía; pero no con la prudencia necesaria, y así me han salido al gallarín mis presunciones . . .
J. J. Allen in his sequel monograph Don Quixote: Hero or Fool? Part II (Gainesville, University Presses of Florida, 1979) uses this last phrase to suggest that Don Quixote is admitting the error of his ways. Allen, in his praiseworthy attempt to define Don Quixote as hero, quotes him as saying: My presumptuousness has brought me to a sorry end (32). And then: Both Sancho and Don Quixote, then, have lived through a process beginning with pride and presumption and a consequent unawareness of their limitations, moving toward self-discovery through suffering and culminating in confession and repentance . . . (34) But Don
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Quixote is not here admitting to the error of his ways, not making a confession,
and not repenting, as suggested by Allen. The first phrase selected by him
is out of context. It reads . . . así me
han salido al gallarín mis presunciones; pues debiera pensar que
al poderoso grandor del caballo del de la Blanca Luna no podía resistir
la flaqueza de Rocinante. Don Quixote ends the statement
in this way: Camina, pues, amigo Sancho, y vamos á tener
en nuestra tierra el año del noviciado, con cuyo encerramiento cobraremos
virtud nueva para volver al nunca de mí olvidado ejercicio de las
armas. Don Quixote is clearly not confessing to any errors
here; no self-discovery has taken place. He is telling us, indirectly, that
the next time (if there ever is a next time) he charges a Knight of
the White Moon he may not be mounted on a Rocinante, but hopefully
on a Bucephalus or a Babieca. He has apparently at this point not given up
any of his ideals. The knight is still madly determined and constant to his
lady, and Cervantes is still attempting to write within the bounds of his
In this same chapter (66) Tosilos appears again and talks with Sancho. Sin duda este tu amo, Sancho amigo, debe ser un loco. ¿Cómo debe? respondió Sancho. No debe nada a nadie; que todo lo paga, y más, cuando la moneda es locura. Sancho's remark is most relevant. Don Quixote's madness has not only passed for coin with characters like the duke, the duchess, and Antonio Moreno, but for the author himself who is probably more and more aware that he, through the other characters in the novel, has been and is yet mocking (for coin) a well-meaning, admirable, and even noble figure.
II, 68: Don Quixote and Sancho are trampled by hogs. Déjalos estar, amigo; que esta afrenta es pena de mi pecado, y justo castigo del cielo es que á un caballero andante vencido le coman adivas, y le piquen avispas, y le hollen puercos. Note that Don Quixote's sin is that he has been conquered, not that he has been presumptuous. Again he is not confessing to errors. He then sings a madrigal, and the author, still writing his funny book, tells us Cada verso déstos acompañaba con muchos suspiros y no pocas lágrimas, bien como aquel cuyo corazón gemía traspasado con el dolor del vencimiento y con la ausencia de Dulcinea. The word gemía here appears in the indicative, suggesting that Cervantes, though understanding that most of his readers will be expecting funny situations, may here be beginning to allow, through the humor, some notice of his knight's
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grief. We are then taken back to the duke's palace for another playful skit
with Altisidora. II, 71: Sancho finally agrees to whip himself for money.
The idea and the scene are preposterously funny, and yet when Don Quixote,
anxiously awaiting the moment of Dulcinea's disenchantment, thinks that Sancho
is suffering pain, he shows himself magnanimously concerned about his friend's
welfare and stops the whipping. A curiously sane and gracious act committed
in the midst of what is or at least is supposed to be another
hilarious scene. Again coupled to the comedy, the knight's generous heart
is revealed, another sign that the author is now very much in sympathy with
and stressing the goodness of the man he has been and, supposedly, is still
Our pair next arrives at an inn, which Don Quixote takes to be an inn and not a castle, we are reminded, que después que le vencieron, con más juicio en todas las cosas discurría, como agora se dirá. Cervantes is preparing us for Don Quixote's recovery. II, 72: We meet Don Alvaro Tarfe who is asked to sign a certificate avowing our knight is the real Don Quixote. They travel on their way back to their village and Sancho, without fanfare, completes his whipping:
Aquel día y aquella noche caminaron sin sucederles cosa digna de contarse, si no fué que en ella acabó Sancho su tarea, de que quedó don Quijote contento sobremodo, y esperaba el día, por ver si en el camino topaba ya desencantada á Dulcinea su señora; y siguiendo su camino, no topaba mujer ninguna que no iba á reconocer si era Dulcinea del Toboso, teniendo por infalible no poder mentir las promesas de Merlín. So, full of hopes and expectations, they climbed to the top of the hill, and when they made out their village below, Sancho fell on his knees and cried: Abre los ojos, deseada patria, y mira que vuelve a ti Sancho Panza tu hijo, si no muy rico, muy bien azotado. Abre los brazos, y recibe también tu hijo don Quijote, que si viene vencido de los brazos ajenos, viene vencedor de sí mismo; que, según él me ha dicho, es el mayor vencimiento que desearse puede.
Déjate desas sandeces dijo don Quijote, y vamos con pie derecho á entrar en nuestro lugar, donde daremos vado á nuestras imaginaciones, y la traza que en la pastoral vida pensamos ejercitar. Despite previous signs of doubt and discouragement, Don Quixote shows himself still ready to give play to his imagination. Almost autonomously, it seems, he is staving off the fate decreed by his creator.
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Professor Allen has been quoted above as saying
that Don Quixote has recognized his errors, confessed his sins, and become
repentant. He then states also that this repentance is ratified by
epiphany at the moment knight and squire reach the top of the
hill before their village (Don Quixote: Hero or Fool? Part II, 34).
Again this does not seem to me to be the case. Despite the author's mention
that Don Quixote's judgment is becoming sounder, Don Quixote clings to his
ideals until his last moments. His acts his extravagant behavior
may be changing, but not his aims, his ideals. Sancho's speech is essentially
a humorous one which his master refers to as sandeces. What
self-discovery has taken place? In what way has Don Quixote conquered himself
up to this point? He has blamed his defeat on misjudging Rocinante's strength,
and up to the moment they climb the hill full of hopes and expectations he
is still searching for his Dulcinea. There is, in reality, no epiphany
at this point. Don Quixote recognizes no error he has committed insofar as
his ideals are concerned, and his love for Dulcinea remains as constant as
it was when he responded to the threat of the Knight of the White Moon:
Aprieta, caballero, la lanza y quítame la
vida . . . This is crucial, I believe, in determining
just what Don Quixote rejects on his death bed. Allen is in part misled by
Sancho, who in turn seems to be made to anticipate something the author has
in mind but has yet to carry out. A show of repentance does not really come
until Don Quixote lies on his death bed. Though Cervantes, now just pages
from his ending, insists Don Quixote's judgment is improving, strangely enough
we see very little of this. The strength of Don Quixote's beliefs and his
desire to return to the profession he can never forget is evidently so powerful
that it carries him through what I consider to be weak and therefore unconvincing
attempts to show he is regaining his senses, that is, in preparation for
his rejection of the chivalric romances and his death. Indeed, the continuing
strength of his beliefs is such as to make one think that Cervantes himself,
who has come to admire and defend his character perhaps now even identify
with him is formulating an ending that now may be against his own
II, 73: Two incidents occur as they enter the village, and Don Quixote takes these as omens he will never see his Dulcinea. Now he loses what strength he has left to believe in his ideal in an earthly sense. Death, by mandate of his creator, the author, has placed her cold hand on his shoulder. His concerns now
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must turn to those of the spirit and his relationship with the creator of
all men. Sancho again tries to cheer him up. When they speak of the plan
to turn shepherds, Don Quixote one last time wistfully insists that his imaginary
lady shepherdess will be Dulcinea. II, 74: Don Quixote becomes ill. As mentioned
at the beginning of this study, his friends, Master Nicolás, the curate,
Sampson Carrasco, the doctor, and Sancho are all convinced he is dying of
melancholy. Cervantes himself, it would seem, has gradually come to accept
the idea that his knight is suffering real grief, and now he is going to
allow Don Quixote to die of that same grief. Thus, as we reach the end of
the book, the parody, which has lasted a good one hundred twenty chapters,
ends abruptly. Don Quixote, who has, particularly since Chapter 58, gradually
become a different person, steps outside of the parody transformed from buffoon
to credible, disillusioned idealist, by virtue of his genuine grief over
his failures. Cervantes has fully noted, acknowledged, and accepted the humanity
and worth of his mad knight, and in the end he is no longer asking us to
laugh at him, for he himself has stopped doing so. As already suggested,
it is probable that, on the occasion just noted, as he prompted us to laughter
(Don Quixote's singing of the madrigal), he himself had already stopped
Now the author-sponsored recovery takes place. Don Quixote awakens from a coma, declares his mind cleared, and disparages those detestable books of chivalry, the cause of the obscuration of his mind. Yo me siento, Sobrina, a punto de muerte; querría hacerla de tal modo que diese á entender que no había sido mi vida tan mala, que dejase renombre de loco; que puesto que lo he sido, no querría confirmar esta verdad en mi muerte. Cervantes wants the world to know that his creation was a good man. He has let him roam the plains of La Mancha and the mountains of the Sierra Morena as a madman, but he will not allow him now to die as such. We remember Sampson's earlier statement made to Thomas Cecial: La diferencia que hay entre esos dos locos es que el que lo es por fuerza lo será siempre; y el que lo es de grado lo dejará de ser cuando quisiere (II, 15). However clinically insane Don Quixote may have appeared so many critics have insisted upon this his madness has simply served for entertainment, passed for coin, and, apparently because of its supposed negative, sinful implications, has to be and is easily denied at the end of the story. One
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should be reminded here that for a greater part of Part II, Cervantes evidently
dwelled on the possibility of having his knight confess on his death bed
(Death II) that he had only been imitating the knight-errant. A Don
Quixote finally, as in the beginning, acknowledged as mad prompted the drastic
turnabout seen in Death III, the return to sanity by the rejection of those
books which had brought on madness.
Don Quixote, now looking to the salvation of his soul, refuses to listen to his friends who urge him Calle, por su vida, vuelva en sí, y déjese de cuentos. Los de hasta aquí, replicó don Quijote, que han sido verdaderos en mi daño, los ha de volver mi muerte, con ayuda del cielo, en mi provecho (II, 74). Contritely repenting of his errors, his sins here we must suppose he refers to his madcap adventures as well as the ordinary sins of man he avows his death now will bring salvation. Then, Don Quixote makes his confession and draws his will. Tirant the White, too, had died a proper Christian death and willed his enormous wealth to relatives and friends. Don Quixote remembers the paltry sum he owes to Sancho and adds, giving it all to his former squire . . . será bien poco, y buen provecho le haga; y si como estando loco fuí parte para darle el gobierno de la ínsula, pudiera agora, estando cuerdo, darle el de un reino, se le diera, porque la sencillez de su condicíon y fidelidad de su trato lo merece. Y volviéndose á Sancho le dijo: Perdóname, amigo, de la ocasion que te he dado de parecer loco como yo, haciéndote caer en el error en que yo he caído, de que hubo y hay caballeros andantes en el mundo. Sancho pleads tearfully that he (Don Quixote/Alonso Quixano) not die just like that, finished off by his own melancholy. . . . quizá tras de alguna mata hallaremos á la señora Dulcinea desencantada, que no haya más que ver (II, 74).
This highly emotional exchange between Don Quixote and Sancho is surely the most moving and at the same time the most revealing of the novel. It indicates to us the only error to which Don Quixote, now Alonso Quixano the Good, is finally going to admit: believing that there were and still are knights errant in the world. This statement is of the utmost importance to us now.
Whenever it is suggested that Don Quixote does not reject the ideals of chivalry but only some of the silly and badly written books, the anti-Romantics have insisted that this stand is untenable. The aims, stresses Close, like the acts, are a madly
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literal mimicry of the stereotype behaviour of the heroes of chivalric romance.
In other words, the aims (like the acts) are presented as parody
(Don Quixote and the Intentionalist Fallacy, British
Journal of Aesthetics, 12 ([Winter, 1972], 19-39, 37). Close's contention
can perhaps be considered valid, but only until one gets to the end of the
novel, where the structure of the parody crumbles. Alonso Quixano's admission
to the error of believing is not rendered in a sorrowful, regretful tone
just because he realizes he has been foolish and has misled Sancho, but also,
we may have good reason to suspect, because learning that knights-errant
do not exist in his time and have never existed has saddened him.
I call attention to Sancho's remarks in response to those of his master which
show that he assumes that his master though now considered as the repentant
Alonso Quixano who has rejected the foolish romances is still dying
of melancholy. The mockery and parody would seem to end here with the
ideals the aims of chivalry now become, I submit, a real and
accepted part of the dying Alonso's being, since they are still a part of
the dying Don Quixote's being. One need not be convinced, in any case, that
this interpretation is acceptable. In the end, whether we are dealing with
a mad Don Quixote or a sane Alonso Quixano, the sadness is equally great
and significant, and in either case, as suggested in this study, this sadness
leads to death by melancholy. Cervantes has acquiesced in and ratified the
grief shared by these two half personages and so thus ceased at this point
to deride their aims, their ideals.
The implications here are tremendous. Standing behind either saddened character is the author himself, also, we can presume, having wanted to believe shown by the manner in which he has lovingly treated his character and brought about Don Quixote's final, unfunny, gracious death Death Three and evidently, in these last pages, just as disillusioned, despite his forced attempt at humor, as ever any of the Romantics will have thought him to be. Has he not, after all, himself been mocked as a physical cripple, if not a mental one, by one who has maliciously suggested that his proudest moment, Lepanto, has ceased to exist, as well? Has he not been tempted to consider his youthful efforts to rescue Christian slaves in Algeria just as foolish as Don Quixote's desire to do the same? Cervantes, like Don Quixote, has apparently fought his last battle, and he, too, just as disillusioned as his protagonist is ready to surrender and even die. For the two of them, their rest is no longer to be the the bloody fray, el pelear, but the tranquility of the ultimate Arcadia or Utopia, Heaven.
|9.2 (1989)||The Three Deaths of Don Quixote||37|
Sancho, on the other hand, despite his faults, being
very much alive, wanting to live, and also wanting to believe, is still ready
to believe, and so he half-believes half-hopes he and his beloved master
shall find Dulcinea one day behind some bush. The idea that Sancho has been
quixotizado, rejected even by Allen, does regain strength here.
Victor Hugo's comment quoted by Russell as sticking to the mind (despite, Russell says, its lack of validity) could not be more à propos here: One might suspect the Spanish author of having attempted to mock ideals, but that was a defect more apparent than real. If one looked carefully it would be seen that the smile was accompanied by a tear (Russell, 98). The tear Hugo speaks of, of course, is not one shed by our saddened knight who has shed many, but one shed by his creator. The trouble is that one has to read through 125 chapters all the way to chapter 74 in Part II to the deeply moving scene of Death Three to find that tear. In this way, all attempts, rhetorical or scholarly, to find surface sublimity in the Romantic sense throughout most of Cervantes's novel would seem doomed to failure. Borrowing the expression simulacra of sublimity from Anthony Close's Don Quixote's love for Dulcinea: a Study in Cervantine Irony referred to by Herrero (33), I argue, along with Close, that, on the question of Don Quixote's sublime madness or love for Dulcinea, one does find but simulacra of sublimity until, I now insist, one gets to the very last chapters, or even the last pages of the book, as suggested here. Alonso Quixano's search for the knight errant and the chivalric ideal is tied to Don Quixote's search for Dulcinea, his ideal, and Don Quixote's constancy which is evidenced in moments of doubt (II, 58), of defeat (II, 64), of despair (II, 68), of charity (II, 71), and even of hope (II, 72), cannot be impugned. In these last moments sublimity can be found amply enough, though it will still be found juxtaposed to humor.
Professor Herrero may wish to reject this view in the same way he rejects the anti-Romantic view that the novel is totally funny, thus reducing Don Quixote's role to that of a buffoon. Suggesting that Don Quixote is a buffoon up to II, 58 does not seem to be much help in supporting the stand of the Romantics or the Humanists. However, this objection, too, I believe, can be resolved. It happens that the sadness, the disillusionment now strongly pinpointed at the end of Part II, casts a dark pall back over the entire work, and it is this indirect influence, this double exposure that allows for seeing double, for the seeing of sublimity
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along with comedy even in Part I. It is not the careful but nondescript look
Hugo suggested we take to see the tear, but the look in retrospect strongly
colored by the emotional impact of the novel's last scenes. Cervantes, whose
Lepantine pride has been certainly wounded by the plagiarist and who may
very well indeed have shed that tear for this and other reasons, after looking
back over his work, could himself have found some of his funniest scenes
become sublime. The potential for sublimity was there from the beginning.
Because of this powerful, dual view, his entire great novel can rightly be
considered in retrospect and is justly so by many simultaneously
funny and sublime.
Don Quixote continues with his will and threatens to disinherit his niece if she marries a fellow who even knows what books of chivalry are. He then rails against Avellaneda and his book: . . . cuan encarecidamente ser pueda, perdone la ocasión que sin yo pensarlo le di de haber escrito tantos y tan grandes disparates como en ella escribe; porque parto desta vida con escrúpulo de haberle dado motivo para escribirlos. Cervantes's humor, now less than gentle, continues. Don Quixote falls into a faint. The house is in a turmoil. His end comes and the priest asks the clerk to write out a death certificate para quitar la ocasíon de que algún otro autor que Cide Hamete Benengeli le resucitase falsamente . . . There appears then Sampson's epitaph, a fairly complimentary one, nothing like the burlesque ones which appeared at the end of Part I, at Death One. The last page contains another diatribe against Avellaneda and an empty sounding but logically necessary restatement of the author's originally declared intention, de poner en aborrecimiento de los hombres las fingidas y disparatadas historias de los libros de caballerías, que por las de mi verdadero don Quijote van ya tropezando, y han de caer del todo, sin duda alguna. Vale.
Cervantes barely manages to stabilize the structure of his parody at least to add to its humor long enough to end his book. After Don Quixote speaks those last sad, well-known lines vámonos poco a poco, pues ya en nidos de antaño no hay pájaros hogaño . . . those which come from his lips then are not his that is, in his character but really the author's, whose always gracious humor is now marred by bitter rancor. The dying Don Quixote/Alonso Quixano we have come to know could hardly express his horror of books of chivalry when he had
|9.2 (1989)||The Three Deaths of Don Quixote||39|
wanted all along so strongly for the noble knight-errant to exist. At the
end of I, 52, Cervantes had laughingly joked about these romances, so
highly valued, and now, angrily, he rails against them hoping to arouse
contempt for them. After all, they too, have served him a good
purpose, have passed for coin. It is not the lies of these books
that have aggravated, and even enfuriated him, but the lies and mockery
of Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, the plagiarist and slanderer
who has hidden behind that name, who has meant to strip him even of Lepanto,
the last mainstay of his pride. Don Quixote here has merely served as Cervantes's
spokesman as he, the author, wearily brings his supposed potboiler to a
literarily and commercially acceptable close.
If Don Quixote is to be called a hero, it is not because, after painful suffering, he has discovered himself, as suggested by Professor Allen, whose efforts are deserving of praise, but because according to the conclusions one can draw above in the Romantic, existentialist, or humanistic sense, he actually does epitomize man's idealistic struggle a struggle considered banal and futile by some to make the world a better place, to better his life and that of his neighbor, to see life, as humanists so often put it, as it ought to be. Plato himself, who is not to be accused of banality, tells us: We are discussing no trivial matter, but how we ought to live (Republic 352d, quoted by Richard Mervyn Hare, The Language of Morals, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1952, 151). Cervantes was not unfamiliar with this concept, as he shows in his novel, and was actually a proponent of it. In II, 3, when Don Quixote insists that las acciones que ni mudan ni alteran la verdad de la historia no hay para qué escribirlas, si han de redundar en menosprecio del señor de la historia, Sampson responds: Así es, pero uno es escribir como poeta, y otro como historiador: el poeta puede contar ó cantar las cosas, no como fueron, sino como debían ser; y el historiador las ha de escribir, no como debían ser, sino como fueron, sin añadir ni quitar á la verdad cosa alguna. Later, in speaking to Sancho about the value of plays, Don Quixote asserts todos son instrumentos de hacer un gran bien á la república, poniéndonos un espejo á cada paso delante, donde se veen al vivo las acciones de la vida humana, y ninguna comparación hay que más al vivo nos represente lo que somos y lo que habemos de ser como las comedias y los comediantes (II, 12). Since Cervantes was writing a work in the form of a history (a funny history at that),
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he playfully felt though he allowed his own strong-willed character
to object under no obligation at first to relate things as they ought
to have been, thus relieving himself of the responsibility of doing so had
he been writing in a serious vein. However, as the funny history the
parody comes to an aborted end with the tacit acceptance of the goodness,
idealism and even nobility of Don Quixote/Alonso Quixano, the author then
finds himself back in the realm of poetry, obligated to support
and he does the very ideals which he has purportedly been mocking.
The turnabout is contradictory, but explainable in the light of Cervantes's
changed attitude toward his protagonist, for whom he in the end expresses
such sincere and obvious admiration. Avellaneda provides impetus for this
change, but he is, of course, not the only cause for it. Cervantes, undeniably
a very moral man, has all along despite his humorous approach and all
the business about Don Quixote's belief in giants and enchanters, and all
the slap-stick bumps and broken legs strongly inferred that his creation,
too, is a very moral, decent being. This is the underlying cause of the final,
inevitable transformation which is merely triggered by the plagiarist. Don
Quixote's heroism, I reiterate, stems simply but legitimately from his unwavering
faith in his ideals and the struggle he puts up to defend and achieve
I refer to Professor Herrero's article once more to make one last observation. Dulcinea, he says, is at the heart of recent controversies on the meaning of the Quixote . . .
From the Romantic movement, the criticism of the nineteenth and a great part of the twentieth century inherited the conception of Dulcinea as the embodiment of Don Quixote's idealism, nobility and, even, exalted religiosity, qualities which denoted a spiritual greatness which stood symbolically for the essence of the Spanish soul . . . (24)
If, as the result of my study or the result of any other study, Don Quixote can be validly considered a legitimate hero in the Romantic or humanistic sense, then it follows that Dulcinea remains as the embodiment of Don Quixote's idealism, etc. This has been difficult to see because, though Cervantes gradually changed his attitude toward his would-be knight, he did continue, albeit haltingly, with his parody. However, for the parody to have rung true, and to have lasted to the end, Don Quixote should have remained the character he was in Part I, where his behavior unmistakably befitted the satire intended. Don
|9.2 (1989)||The Three Deaths of Don Quixote||41|
Quixote's final display of grief stems, we have seen, from his defeat and
his failure to achieve his ideal, Dulcinea. Alonso Quixano grieves too, I
have suggested, for having wanted knights errant to exist and then learning
that they do not and have not ever existed. As one they die, indeed, for
the same reasons. In this manner Dulcinea literally and legitimately survives
as Don Quixote's ideal, and figuratively even as Alonso Quixano's ideal.
It is, then, but a short step here to spiritual greatness which
has been interpreted, as stated by Herrero, to stand for the essence
of the Spanish soul. Anglo-Saxon anti-Romantics (Herrero uses the
expression) may find this symbolism unwarranted, as may indeed some Hispanic
or other critics, but such an idea should seem more acceptable to us now
that it can be shown clearly, I believe, that Cervantes's attitude towards
Don Quixote does change from derisive to laudatory at the end of his work,
as he tacitly admits Don Quixote's idealism as legitimate and deserving of
praise. If he does not offer a stronger, unmistakable display of this, it
is probably because it was madness that was selling his potboiler, not idealism.
Idealism would sell books some two hundred years later.
Cervantes's ultimate willingness to see actual grief as the reason for the death of his brain child, speaks, as I have said, of his own thwarted idealism. The third and final death he devises for Don Quixote is, aside from all the other things suggested, at once an apology and a tribute. He is atoning for having mistreated him, used him for coin. Just as Don Quixote turns to Sancho to say Pardon me, friend, that I have caused you to appear mad like me, making you fall into the same sort of error as myself, the belief that there were and still are knights-errant in the world, one can easily imagine Miguel de Cervantes turning to his creation to say: Pardon me, dear friend, that I made you appear mad, for if there ever were knights-errant in this world, you had the soul to have been one of them. The author's deliberate, final accolade bestowed after the novel has ended and his dedication and prologue written, is his new title to Part II in which the word Hidalgo is dropped and another put in its place: El Ingenioso Caballero Don Quixote de la Mancha.
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