From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
16.2 (1996): 4-28.
Copyright © 1996, The Cervantes Society of America
he disjunction between truth and fiction in Don Quijote has often been circumscribed as a literary problem: how is Don Quijote interpreting the world around him as a literary text and, conversely, how does that world resemble literature?* Yet there are moments of deception in Don Quijote that require deciphering within the social text of Counter-Reformation Spain a text in which the distinctions between appearances and reality are often much more nuanced than in the romances of chivalry that constitute Cervantes' primary literary referent. Reading the perspectivism of Don Quijote's literary madness is relatively simple: when he takes sheep for armies, or windmills for giants, he explains the disjunction between what seems and what is as the work of enchanters. As Michel Foucault has pointed out, Don Quijote's quest includes a built-in justification for his failure to find a reality that reflects the romances of chivalry:
* I would like to
thank Alban Forcione and Timothy Hampton for their suggestions for this essay.
[See also the closing note, p. 28. -F.J.]
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So all the indices of non-resemblance, all the signs that prove that the written texts are not telling the truth, resemble the action of sorcery, which introduces difference into the indubitable existence of similitude by means of deceit. And since this magic has been foreseen and described in the books, the illusory difference that it introduces can never be anything but an enchanted similitude, and, therefore, yet another sign that the signs in the books really do resemble the truth.1
Yet what of those transformations in the text that function as antisorcery,
introducing similitude where there should be difference? Located outside
Don Quijote's main sphere of operations and distinct from his chivalric madness,
these transformations have more to do with Cervantes' depiction of gender
norms and Spanish religious dogma. They cast doubt on our initial perceptions
as readers things are not what they seem to be as they disturb
the self-identity of gender in the novel.
By confusing the lines of gender and pointing out its constructedness, such transformations introduce a principle of ambiguity into the rigid binarisms of Spanish orthodoxy: male vs. female, Christian vs. Moor, heterosexual vs. homosexual. The transformational magic I allude to is transvestism. In an analysis of several instances of cross-dressing, mainly in Part II of Don Quijote, I will trace the implications of that particular magic for the novel's gender economy and for the way that it constructs Spanish selves in opposition to Moorish others. Studies of transvestism generally focus on the blurring of gender boundaries; I will tentatively consider transvestism, however, to include religious / ethnic transvestism (e.g. dressing up as a Moor) as well as the more familiar dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex (OED). This attempt to consider both kinds of passing simultaneously seems justified if one is to account for how Cervantes foregrounds gender confusion in episodes having to do with the rescue of captives, escape from the Moors, ambiguous conversos, and so forth.2 Such border transvestism, I conjecture,
Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences.
(New York: Pantheon, 1973) 47.
2 Significantly, transvestism makes its first appearance in Cervantes' Persiles when the heroine must be rescued from the barbarians who hold her captive. See Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda (Madrid: Castalia, 1969) 60.
manifests the social anxiety resulting from the impossibility of telling
apart Moors, Jews, and conversos from Christians within Spain.
For, in spite of the rampant stereotypes that attempt to pigeon-hole the
Spaniards' Others, and the Siglo de Oro jokes about big noses, misers, and
not eating pork, religious identity in Counter-Reformation Spain is never
really crystal clear. And, unlike sexual identity, which at least ostensibly
can rely on biology for confirmation,3 blood
purity is impossible to ascertain.
In Lope de Vega's El caballero de Olmedo (The Knight from Olmedo), c. 1620, the orthodox longing for clear markers of difference where religion is concerned is projected backwards, to the reign of Juan II (1406-54), who appears in the play mainly to proclaim the separation of Jews and Moors from Christians. This separation will be guaranteed, or so the play would have it, by clothing: a manera de gabán / traiga un tabardo el judío / con una señal en él, y un verde capuz el moro. / Tenga el cristiano el decoro / que es justo: apártese dél; / que con esto tendrán miedo / los que su nobleza infaman. (. . . the Jews should wear a tabard with a sign on it, and the Moors should wear a green hood. Thus the Christians will be able to distinguish them and behave with suitable decorum and avoid them so as not to be corrupted.)4 While the Jew wears a telling cape, and the Moor a green hood, the Christian remains the unmarked norm, wearing simply his decorum.
Although my analysis will focus on violations of gender decorum in Don Quijote, I believe that the most interesting cases of transvestism occur at the frontier that is, they reflect the anxieties surrounding sexual and religious difference simultaneously. Both these categories of difference, in their turn, become especially charged when they challenge the nation at its borders, and by conflating them Cervantes' text can air such anxieties without explicitly positing homosexuality or religious plurality within Spain. The conflation depends on the commonplace attribution of homosexuality to the Moors, as part of their othering, and on the romance and epic traditions
work of Thomas Laqueur in Making Sex (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1990)
has clearly problematized this notion of an easy access to biology for
objective confirmation of sexual identity.
4 Lope de Vega, El caballero de Olmedo (Madrid: Cátedra, 1993), 1. 1588-94. Translation by Jill Booty, in Lope de Vega, Five Plays (New York: Mermaid, 1981).
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of cross-dressing / border-crossing that Cervantes draws on for his text.
Cervantes' transvestism-in-prose conflates two earlier traditions: the wandering cross-dressers of romance,5 and the martial maids6 of epic. The former, with its conventions of intrigue, love stratagem or escape from danger7 responds to the exigencies of plot at the end comes a resolution which reestablishes the normative order of things, usually through the discovery of the disguise. This type of transvestism, with its spectacular possibilities for anagnorisis, proves irresistible for the Spanish, as well as the English, theater.8 Unstable gender identities on the stage provide a controlled titillation, ultimately resolved within the theatrical frame, yet even such limited and reversible transformations produce an incredible anxiety among critics of the theater. As Ursula Heise points out, transvestism is no less common on the Spanish stage than on the English, even though the presence of actresses playing female roles is generally tolerated in Spain. Heise underscores that from the time of Lope de Vega on until the late seventeenth century of Calderón de la Barca, plays whose plots require women to dress in men's clothing become so overwhelmingly popular that antitheatrical writers and stage legislation see themselves forced again and again to address the question of the legitimacy of female cross-dressing before a public audience.9 Lope himself, in his Arte nuevo de hacer comedias en este tiempo, (New Art of Play-Writing in This Time), of 1609, rather ambiguously advises women to avoid giving offense by cross-dressing, while acknowledging the appeal of such performances:
an account of this tradition, see Winfried Schleiner, Male Cross-dressing
and Transvestism in Renaissance Romances, Sixteenth Century
Journal 19 (Spring 1988): 605-619.
6 For discussions of this tradition, see Carol Ruprecht, The Martial Maid: Androgyny in Epic from Virgil to the Poets of the Italian Renaissance, (Diss., Yale University, 1977), Valeria Finucci, The Lady Vanishes: Subjectivity and Representation in Castiglione and Ariosto (Stanford: SUP, 1992) 227-254, and Elizabeth J. Bellamy, Translations of Power: Narcissism and the Unconscious in Epic History (Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1992).
7 Schleiner, 607.
8 See Ursula K. Heise, Transvestism and the Stage Controversy in Spain and England, 1580-1680, Theatre Journal 44 (1992): 357-74, and Stephen Orgel, Nobody's Perfect: Or Why Did the English Stage Take Boys for Women? The South Atlantic Quarterly 88 (Winter 1989): 7-28.
9 Heise, 358.
|Las damas no desdigan de su nombre;|
|y si mudaren traje, sea de modo|
|que pueda perdonarse, porque suele|
|el disfraz varonil agradar mucho.10|
(Ladies should not go against their name, and should they change clothes, be it in such a way as may be forgiven, because the male costume is often very pleasing.)
As an acute observer of contemporary culture, Cervantes is well aware of the intense fascination that cross-dressing holds for an audience: in his Persiles, a prose romance, a dramatist who chances upon the beautiful female protagonist, Auristela / Sigismunda, lovingly imagines her first not in a female but in a male role:
Digo, en fin, que este poeta . . . fue el que más se admiró de la belleza de Auristela, y al momento la marcó en su imaginación y la tuvo por más que buena para ser comedianta, sin reparar si sabía o no la lengua castellana. Contentóle el talle, diole gusto el brío, y en un instante la vistió en su imaginación en hábito corto de varón; desnudóla luego y vistióla de ninfa, y casi al mismo punto la envistió de la majestad de reina, sin dejar traje de risa o de gravedad, de que no la vistiese, y en todas se le representó grave, alegre, discreta, aguda, y sobremanera honesta: estremos que se acomodan mal en una farsanta hermosa.
(In short, I say again that this poet . . . was the one most astonished by Auristela's beauty. She immediately stuck in his mind, and, not giving a thought to whether or not she knew the Spanish language, he felt she'd be more than good as an actress. He was pleased by her figure, he liked the way she carried herself, and in his mind's eye he dressed her in a flash in a man's short suit, next he stripped her and dressed has as a nymph, then almost in the same instant clothed her with the majesty of a queen. There wasn't any comic or tragic costume in which he didn't dress her, and in all of them he imagined how she'd look acting serious, carefree, wise, witty, and exceedingly modest, opposites not usually found in a beautiful entertainer.11
wrote the Arte Nuevo as a speech to be read at the Madrid Academy.
I quote from the text published in Emilio Orozco Díaz,
¿Qué es el Arte nuevo de Lope de Vega? (Salamanca,
U. de Salamanca, 1978). The translation is my own.
11 Cervantes, Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda, 284. Translated by Celia Richmond Weller and Clark A. Colahan as The Trials of Persiles and Sigismunda, A Northern Story (Berkeley, UC Press, 1989), 200.
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As contemporary critics of the theater would certainly point out, transvestism
signifies the erotic. The inspired poet gains access to Auristela's body
by imagining her in male costume, as he progresses from the transvestite
fantasy to successive imaginative disrobings and re-costumings. Yet ultimately
the cross-dressing actress represents a discordia that never quite
becomes concors; she cannot represent many roles and at the same time
maintain an appearance of female
The controversy over whether women should be allowed to cross-dress on stage, Heise points out, rages far longer than the earlier one over whether they should be allowed on stage at all.13 Hence the scandal of Spanish transvestism as compared to English stage traditions: cross-dressing makes its repeated, insistent appearance on the Spanish stage even though there is no immediate need for it. Heise describes this insistent presence as the inverted return of the male transvestism proscribed as a theatrical institution;14 I would argue simply for the continued popularity of the transvestite plots, which flourish regardless of official censure, from the romance tradition to the theater.
Cervantes' use of such plots thus exploits the fantastic popularity of these devices while exploring the potential of narrated (versus staged) transvestism. For although the reality of the staged, immediate cross-dressing might seem transgressive in its actuality, it is disarmed by the theatrical frame. The end of the play brings the end of the ambiguity. Narrated transvestism, on the other hand, introduces a principle of uncertainty: though not as flashy, it disseminates cross-dressing beyond the stage, so that in fact any beautiful young man may be a woman in disguise, and every personable young lady a beardless gallant. By destabilizing a basic category of apprehension and social organization,15 Cervantes complicates readers' perceptions of reality: while Don Quijote goes on about windmills and enchanters, a more pervasive genre of transformations is afoot.
a discussion of the crucial figure of the androgyne in the Persiles,
see Diana de Armas Wilson, Allegories of Love: Cervantes's Persiles
and Sigismunda (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1991).
13 Heise, 359.
14 Heise, 360.
15 Finucci quotes Freud's Femininity to convey a sense of this confusion: When you meet a human being, the first distinction you make is male or female? and you are accustomed to make the distinction with unhesitating certainty. (The Lady Vanishes, 199).
In the earliest instance of cross-dressing in the novel, Cervantes contains the disruptive potential of cross-dressing by carefully locating it within the romance mode well known to his audience. Dorotea's adventure runs along familiar lines: she wears her male costume from necessity (and not very well at that), in order to find the lover who has betrayed her. The normal order of things has been altered by betrayals of honor; Dorotea's cross-dressing is just one more sign of that disorder. Her transvestite flight into the Sierra Morena can be compared to the escapes in male guise of Shakespeare's comic heroines, such as Rosalind, who respond to a disordered world by changing their gender roles and taking on a manly appearance for their own protection. But, unlike Rosalind, Dorotea does not conserve her independence or her masculine resolution for long. Once spotted by Don Quijote's companions, her game is up, and she immediately resumes both her female identity, and the deference and helplessness that are supposed to accompany it. Although the curate courteously keeps up some pretense of doubt about Dorotea's gender, he addresses her within the conventions of chivalry:
Lo que vuestro traje, señora, nos niega, vuestros cabellos nos descubren: señales claras que no deben de ser de poco momento las causas que han disfrazado vuestra belleza en hábito tan indigno, y traídola a tanta soledad como es ésta, en la cual ha sido ventura el hallaros, si no para dar remedio a vuestros males, a lo menos para darles consejo, pues ningún mal puede fatigar tanto, ni llegar tan al extremo de serlo, mientras no acaba la vida, que rehúya de no escuchar, siquiera, el consejo que con buena intención se da al que lo padece. Así que, señora mía, o señor mío, o lo que vos quisierdes ser, perded el sobresalto que nuestra vista os ha causado y contadnos vuestra buena o mala suerte: que en nosotros juntos o en cada uno, hallaréis quien os ayude a sentir vuestras desgracias.16
(Madam, your hair reveals to us what your costume would conceal. This is sure proof that it can be no slight cause that has hidden your beauty in such an unworthy disguise and brought you to this lonely place where we fortunately have found you. Let us, if not dispel your miseries, at least offer you our advice and
El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, Martín de Riquer,
ed. (Buenos Aires: Ed. Kapelusz, 1973), I, 359. Subsequent references are
in the text, by page or chapter number only. Translation by Walter Starkie,
Don Quixote of La Mancha (New York, Signet, 1964), except where indicated
by brackets. (I have substituted my own translation at points where Starkie
departs in some important way from the original text.)
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counsel in your distress, for no affliction except death can be so desperate that one should refuse to listen to words of comfort that are given in all goodwill to those who suffer. So, dear lady or dear sir, whichever you prefer, dismiss the fears that the sight of us has caused you and tell us of your good or evil fortune so that we three may be of assistance to you, either all together or singly.)
In spite of his gesture of deference to her gender ambiguity, the curate clearly underscores Dorotea's femininity. Under her male attire, the damsel in distress is abundantly revealed, as Dorotea acknowledges that her costume is ineffective and, moreover, that it requires her to provide a narrative to neutralize the danger she is in:
Pero, con todo esto, para que no ande vacilando mi honra en vuestras intenciones, habiéndome ya conocido por mujer y viéndome moza, sola y en este traje, cosas, todas juntas, y cada una por sí, que pueden echar por tierra cualquier honesto crédito, os habré de decir lo que quisiera callar, si pudiera (II, 360).
(Nevertheless, as I do not wish to fall in your esteem, now that you have discovered me to be a woman and see me, young, alone and in these clothes, circumstances that taken singly or all together are enough to ruin any honest reputation, I shall tell you something of my misfortunes, though I would far sooner draw the veil of silence over them.)
Cross-dressing tarnishes Dorotea's honra, while the discovery of her disguise relocates her as the passive female, who must appeal to men and participate in the patriarchal conventions of honor and female chastity if she is to seek redress. Thus Cervantes limits the cross-dressing to a crisis situation, and makes clear the disadvantages of Dorotea's male disguise: it is easily pierced by male observers, casts a shadow on Dorotea's virtue, and exposes her to the unwanted attentions of those, such as her own servant, who assume that she has donned promiscuity along with her male hose. When Dorotea chooses a less transgressive costume, casting herself as the Princess Micomicona in order to help get Don Quijote home, the situation becomes clearly ironic: not only is Dorotea in her real identity a damsel in distress, but her self-definition as such signals her complete relinquishment of a masculine role in her own cause, along with her masculine costume. Yet the containment does not entirely erase the transgressive effects of cross-dressing, for Dorotea's fortuitous appearance to play Micomicona only narrowly averts the original plan, by which first the curate, then the barber, were to
cross-dress as the damsel in distress (I, 26, 27). Not only is Dorotea
closer to the reality of the part, but her disguise is far less scandalous.
The rescue, in this case, seems to go both ways: the men will play the role
of saviors if Dorotea will save them from effeminization.
In the end Dorotea saves herself, if only by observing perfectly the rhetorical conventions of subjection to patriarchal authority. When, upon recognizing her deflowerer Don Fernando at the inn, Dorotea voices her own defense, she does so much more strategically than in her first, transvestite, attempt. Her appeal to Fernando highlights her own helplessness as a seduced female and her desire to be a slave to her rightful master (I, 455-56). This self-abasement, which operates fully within the patriarchal code, is far more effective than the first, aborted expedition: now fate has delivered Fernando to Dorotea, and she plays her (feminine) cards right.
Cervantes manages to acknowledge the staginess of romance transvestism even as he reworks it and complicates it in his prose. Don Quijote's own direct involvement with transvestism occurs in the episode of the dueñas barbudas: the women who seek his help after being bearded by the enchanter Malambruno, in the Duke and Duchess' most elaborate staged adventure. The stage is set, as it were, by the Dueña Dolorida's praise of Sancho's goodness in terms of beardedness (más luengo en bondad que la barba de Trifaldín, mi acompañador [whose goodness stretches further than the beard of Trifaldín, my attendant here present]) as she asks for his help, to which Sancho answers with a veritable tour-de-force on beards: De que sea mi bondad, señora mía, tan larga y grande como la barba de vuestro escudero, a mí me hace muy poco al caso; barbada y con bigotes tenga yo mi alma cuando desta vida vaya, que es lo que importa, que de las barbas de acá poco o nada me curo . . . (II, 306) (To say, my lady, that my goodness is as long and large as your squire's beard means precious little to me. May my soul be bearded and whiskered when I leave this life, that is the point, but I wouldn't give two farthings for beards down here.) But beards, it seems, are more relevant than Sancho knows, and we soon see why:
Y luego la Dolorida y las demás dueñas alzaron los antifaces con que cubiertas venían y descubrieron los rostros, todos poblados de barbas, cuáles rubias, cuáles negras, cuáles blancas y cuáles albarrazadas, de cuya vista mostraron quedar admirados el duque y la duquesa, pasmados Don Quijote y Sancho, y atónitos todos los presentes.
Y la Trifaldi prosiguió:
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Desta manera nos castigó aquel follón y malintencionado de Malambruno, cubriendo la blandura y morbidez de nuestros rostros con la aspereza destas cerdas; que pluguiera al cielo que antes con su desmesurado alfanje nos hubiera derribado las testas, que no nos asombrara la luz de nuestras caras con esta borra que nos cubre; porque si entramos en cuenta, señores míos (y esto que voy a decir agora lo quisiera decir hechos mis ojos fuentes; pero la consideración de nuestra desgracia, y los mares que hasta aquí han llovido los tienen sin humor y secos como aristas, y así, lo diré sin lágrimas), digo, pues, que ¿adónde podrá ir una dueña con barbas? ¿Qué padre o qué madre se dolerá della? ¿Quién la dará ayuda? Pues aún cuando tiene la tez lisa y el rostro martirizado con mil suertes de mejunjes y mudas apenas halla quien la quiera, ¿qué hará cuando descubra hecho un bosque su rostro? ¡Oh dueñas y compañeras mías, en desdichado punto nacimos; en hora menguada nuestros padres nos engendraron! (II, 311-312)
(Then the Doleful One and the other duennas raised the veils with which they had been covered, and disclosed their faces, all bushy with beards some fair, some black, some white, some grizzled. At this sight the duke and duchess gave signs of being wonder-struck, Don Quixote and Sancho were dumbfounded and all spectators scared.
Thus, continued La Trifaldi, did that ill-intentioned rascal Malambruno punish us by covering our smooth, soft skins with those rough bristles. Would to God he had cut off our heads with his huge scimitar, instead of shading the light of our faces with this fleece that covers us, for if we consider the matter, dear gentlemen and what I am going to say now I should say with my eyes cascading tears, but the thought of our misfortune and the seas that they have already wept keep them devoid of moisture and dry as ears of corn, and therefore I shall speak without tears where, I ask you, can a duenna go with a beard? What mother or father will take pity on her? Who will give her aid? And if even when she has a soft skin and tortures her face with a thousand sorts of lotions and cosmetics, she can scarcely find anyone to like her, what is she to do when she discloses a face like a jungle? O duennas, my companions, in an unlucky moment were we born, in an evil hour did our parents beget us!)
Trifaldi alludes here to the romance convention of the damsel in distress who dresses in men's clothes to seek help or redress; the catch in this case, of course, is that the beards cannot be removed by the transvestites themselves to produce the anagnorisis and secure the
sympathy of their real male saviors. In fact, the
dueñas' beardedness (hermaphroditism, if you will) is the problem,
rather than the solution, and the moment of revelation comes when their
maleness is exposed. Cross-dressing that sticks or the false
beard that cannot be pulled off undoes the convention of stage gender
transformations and ironizes such easy oscillations between genders. So awkward
is the persistent masculinity of beardedness that the dueña
wishes the enchanter had opted for a mock-castration (con su desmesurado
alfanje nos hubiera derribado las testas) instead.
The fabulous staginess of the plea to Don Quijote, with its references to the artifices of make-up practiced even by women who remain feminine, and Trifaldi's elaborate explanation for why she cannot actually cry at her plight (as realism would require) reveals Cervantes' highly ironic view of the conventional, almost burlesque uses of transvestism as a popular draw on the stage. Yet this staged hyper-awareness is followed soon after by its mirror opposite an episode that explodes the conventions of romance cross-dressing by removing all possible traditional explanations. If the dueñas barbudas are an example of a romance plot that sticks, the next cross-dressing escapade disturbs the easy rationale of romance by presenting transvestism without a plot.
The cross-dressing episode that proves the most resistant to any sort of explanation within the novel is the story of the children of Diego de la Llana. This inexplicable instance, however, serves as a touchstone for those episodes that advertise the clear function of transvestism as a device or as a means-to-a (clearly heterosexual)-end. Diego de la Llana's two children disrupt the careful orchestration of Sancho's government of the Insula Barataria with their nocturnal excursion into new gender territory. Unlike the rest of the diversions in the Insula, their escapade is not planted by the Dukes for their own amusement it is not in the script but presents instead an actual disturbance of the peace.
The young woman brought to Governor Sancho has been captured by the ronda while dressed as a man, and not an ordinary young man at that. The description of her clothing is highly aestheticized, almost baroque:
Miráronla de arriba abajo, y vieron que venía con unas medias de seda encarnada, con ligas de tafetán blanco y rapacejos de oro y aljófar; los gregüescos eran verdes, de tela de oro, y una saltaembarca o ropilla de lo mesmo, suelta, debajo de la cual traía un
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jubón de tela finísima de oro y blanco, y los zapatos eran blancos y de hombre (383).
(They noted that her stockings were of [red] silk, her garters of white taffeta, fringed with gold and seed-pearls; her breeches were green and gold, her close-fitting jacket of the same, under which she wore a doublet of fine white and gold stuff, and her shoes were white and [men's shoes].)
Through her manly dress, the text both directs attention to those parts of
a woman's body that would normally be hidden by modesty (the main accusation
against transvestite actresses on the
stage17 and eroticizes the male body
that she simulates. When interrogated, the young woman describes herself
as an unhappy maiden a quien la fuerza de unos celos ha hecho romper
el decoro que a la honestidad se debe (whom the spur of jealousy
has driven to violate the laws of decorum). Thus she introduces the
romance or honor plot that often justifies transvestism elsewhere in the
novel: perhaps she will prove to be another Dorotea. Yet, when pressed for
her story, the young woman deflates the romance expectations by insisting
that, No me ha sucedido nada, ni me sacaron celos, sino sólo
el deseo de ver mundo, que no se estendía a más que a ver las
calles de este lugar (386). (Nothing has befallen me, and I was
not driven out by jealousy, but simply by the desire to see the world, which
in my case did not extend beyond the streets of this village.) Mere
curiosity, it turns out, has moved her to escape from her virtual imprisonment
in her father's house by putting on her brother's clothes.
But this is not the only part of the story that resists explanation: when the young woman narrates her adventure, we are presented with the puzzling transvestism of her brother, who, in a kind of chiasmic match, wears the clothes that the young woman eschews:
. . . Yo rogué a mi hermano que me vistiese en hábitos de hombre con uno de sus vestidos y que me sacase una noche a ver todo el pueblo, cuando nuestro padre durmiese; él, importunado de mis ruegos, condescendió con mi deseo, y poniéndome este vestido, y él vistiéndose de otro mío, que le está como nacido, porque él no tiene pelo de barba y no parece sino una doncella hermosísima, esta noche, debe de haber una hora, poco más o menos, nos salimos de casa, y guiados de nuestro mozo y desbaratado discurso, hemos rodeado todo el pueblo . . . (385).
(. . . I entreated my brother to lend me some of his clothes and to take me out one night to see all the town while our father was asleep. Finally, giving in to my entreaties, he consented, and having lent me his clothes, he put on mine, which fitted him exactly, as he has no trace of beard on his face, he makes a mighty pretty lady. So, we slipped out of the house and took a ramble all over the town . . .)
The young man's transvestism functions as a supplement to the more logical
escapade of his sister. If she needs to wear men's clothes in order to expand
her confined world-view, why is he moved to wear women's clothes? Through
the chiasmic exchange, Cervantes underscores the perspectivism of assigned,
and arbitrary, gender roles: the young man puts on female garb in order to
see differently. Yet another, more disruptive, possibility involves focusing
on the young man's feminine desire, a desire that would correspond
to his sister's description of his effeminacy: lack of beard,
feminine beauty, and so forth. While the father sleeps, patriarchal
authority dissolves, and the son relinquishes his heterosexual obligations
as heir and continuator of his father's line in favor of an eroticized
femininity. His transvestite desire in addition to his narcissistic
identification with his sister completes the chiasmic exchange of dress,
thereby destabilizing the conventional wisdom that males enjoy a greater
freedom and mobility, and that theirs is the privileged social role. Notice
that the young man owns more than one suit of clothes his sister asks
for uno de sus vestidos so that his transformation, like
hers, is not a strictly necessary exchange. By desiring to play female, the
young man problematizes the status quo of contained female sexuality
as the undesirable gender position; moreover, he introduces the possibility
of a transvestite male desire that proves just as threatening to the prevailing
The disruption of patriarchal authority in this kind of play underlies the transvestite daughter's account of her paternity: Yo, señores, soy hija de Pedro Pérez Mazorca, arrendador de las lanas deste lugar, el cual suele muchas veces ir en casa de mi padre (383). (I, sirs, am the daughter of Pedro Pérez Mazorca [Corncob], a dealer in wool in this village, who visits my father often). As both the steward and Sancho note immediately, the daughter has succinctly presented two progenitors: one father who owns the house, and one who goes to the house often. Although the daughter admits that she is turbada and promptly rearranges her story (just as she will later rearrange the story of her romance motivations),
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the first version contains perhaps more truth than the emendation. If the
phallic Pérez Mazorca (the second last name drops out from the later
account) really came often to the house, such visits might explain why Diego
de la Llana kept his daughter in such close confinement, in an effort to
avoid a repetition of her dead mother's (possible) adultery. Yet if Mazorca
were truly her father, his continued presence in Diego de la Llana's house
would also serve to remind the reader that confinement does not necessarily
prevent adultery; disruptive female sexuality is difficult to contain. In
either case, this muddying of the clear lines of genealogy and paternity
reinforces the disruption produced by the transvestite escapade. Notice the
irony of the siblings' relative anonymity: they are never named, except as
the children of their father, but the certainty of this paternity is cast
into doubt by their story.
Governor Sancho and his steward (the Duke's servant) attempt to control the disruption by, first, insisting on a clear story of paternity and, second, inscribing the two siblings into a heterosexual, nuptial model of sexuality:
No se ha perdido nada respondió Sancho. Vamos, y dejaremos a vuestras mercedes en casa de su padre; quizá no los habrá echado de menos. Y de aquí en adelante no se muestren tan niños, ni tan deseosos de ver mundo; que la doncella honrada, la pierna quebrada, y en casa; y la mujer y la gallina, por andar se pierden aína, y la que es deseosa de ver, también tiene deseo de ser vista. No digo más.
. . . Llegaron, pues, y tirando el hermano una china a una reja, al momento bajó una criada, que los estaba esperando, y les abrió la puerta, y ellos se entraron, dejando a todos admirados así de su gentileza y hermosura como del deseo que tenían de ver mundo, de noche y sin salir del lugar; pero todo lo atribuyeron a su poca edad.
Quedó el maestresala traspasado su corazón, y propuso de luego otro día pedírsela por mujer a su padre, teniendo por cierto que no se la negaría, por ser él criado del duque, y aún a Sancho le vinieron deseos de casar al mozo con Sanchica su hija . . . (386-7).
(There's no harm done, Sancho replied. Come along with me and we'll see you home to your father's and perhaps he won't be any the wiser. But remember to be more careful in the future and don't be so childish and eager to go gadding abroad, for The modest maid stays at home, as if she had a leg broken; and Tis roaming ruins the hen and the maid; and She that longs to see, longs also to be seen. I'll say no more.
. . . When they came to the house, the young man threw a pebble up at a grated window, and presently a maid servant, who
had been watching out for them, came down and opened the door. They entered, leaving everyone amazed, not only by their good breeding and their beauty, but also by their strange wish to see the world at night without leaving the village. But they attributed this to their youth.
The steward's heart had been pierced by love, and he resolved to ask for [her] hand in marriage, for he was sure that her father would not refuse, seeing that he was the duke's steward. And Sancho had a mind to arrange a match between the young man and his daughter, Sanchica . . .18
I have quoted the text at some length in order to show how, even as the
Baratarian authorities try to re-order sexuality, the siblings' gender remains
impossible to pin down. Although Sancho addresses his advice to both, the
proverbs he quotes have to do exclusively with the containment of
female sexuality, as though the brother's femininity had
stuck, making him an appropriate target for this kind of proverbial wisdom.
But when Cervantes describes the siblings' return home, it is the sister
who seems to disappear, amid specific mentions of the brother as agent and
the plural ellos. Yet in the following paragraph, the steward resolved
to pedírsela a su padre, as though the female
antecedent were readily available. Clearly it is not a simple matter to restore
order where there has been such play with gender roles. The proposed unions,
which would establish rigid boundaries between masculinity and femininity,
are never described in the novel, and the siblings' uncomplicated return
home leads us to believe that the escapade will in fact be repeated.
Thus the episode of Diego de la Llana's children presents transvestism that cannot easily be dismissed as a means-to-an-end. Even if the daughter's cross-dressing were explained as an escape from the constraints of imposed femininity, her brother's transvestism seems motivated mainly by an irreducible desire to occupy a feminine subject-position. The test's refusal to explain his cross-over, I would argue, destabilizes the rational instances of cross-dressing elsewhere in the novel, which ostensibly serve a larger purpose. By analyzing some of these cases of female resourcefulness and male beauty in relation to the children of Diego de la Llana, I hope to show
translation eliminates a good deal of the ambiguity in this passage by using
pronouns that hide the gender of the subject(s). But Starkie goes one step
further in the last paragraph quoted, spelling out the maiden's
where Cervantes merely says her hand.
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the cultural justifications that Cervantes offers for his display of various forms of gender transgression.
I will turn now to two episodes at the end
of Part II, where transvestism explicitly complicates the external boundaries
of the nation, and for which the model of what I will call epic androgyny
is perhaps most relevant. The generic play involved in moving from one model
of transvestism romance cross-dressing to this second, more
problematic epic model foregrounds the importance of gender conventions even
in Cervantes' most daring representations. Such concern with genres, I
conjecture, might prove a way to draw transvestism in from the margins of
Don Quijote to link it with such fundamental preoccupations of the
novel as literary theory and the parody of popular literary forms. The challenges
posed at the border by epic passing as romance show how genre itself, as
well as gender, can contribute to the opening of such borders.
The episode of Claudia Jerónima, the bandit's transvestite daughter in II, 60, echoes Dorotea's case in a noir vein. It would be difficult to cast Claudia as damsel in distress; she lives among bandits and when she dresses as a man in order to take her own revenge for a perceived offense her costume includes a pair of pistols, a gun, and a dagger. Her style is definitely more Amazon than page-boy, and she is revealed as a woman only when she herself chooses, for Roque Guinart and his company fail to recognize her. In fact, as I hope to demonstrate, Claudia Jerónima reveals the other tradition of transvestism that informs Cervantes' text: the androgynous martial maid.
Although Claudia's story includes elements from both the epic and the romance traditions of cross-dressing, her episode marks a movement towards the epic concerns with borders and national/religious transgressions that will become more prevalent in the nueva aventura de la hermosa morisca (new adventure of the Moorish woman) which I discuss below. One crucial element of the martial maid tradition, from Virgil's Camilla, through Ariosto's Marfisa and Bradamante, to Tasso's Clorinda and Spenser's Britomart, is a decisive androgyny that contrasts markedly with the unstable staginess of what I have called romance transvestism. If transvestism is occasional, contingent and inherently unstable, androgyny is near-permanent, absolute and often ends only with death. From this angle, at least, androgyny appears the more profoundly disruptive, because it represents a continuous destabilization of gender roles, ending only when the androgyne is killed off. In her The Lady Vanishes, Valeria Finucci underestimates
the challenge of androgyny by focusing excessively on ends: Bradamante's
taming at the end of the Furioso carries more weight with Finucci
than the androgyne's seizing the phallus through most of the
text, and Marfisa's Amazon prowess, she argues, fizzles out in sororal
nurturing.19 Such critical defusing of the
androgyne's role fails to consider the constraints on the epic's representation
of gender trouble perhaps reading for the end (teleological,
marital, heterosexual and phallic) is not the best way to recover the true
audacity of these portrayals. One more sign of the disruptiveness of androgyny
might be its relative disappearance: I would like to conjecture that the
stage popularity of romance transvestism, with its unsustainable, framed
confusion, largely replaces the epic convention of androgyny, which becomes
too threatening to contemplate. Yet there are elements of the epic androgyny
in Cervantes' text, and they address precisely the questions of transgressions
at the border that these final chapters present.
Why use martial maid figures to describe disturbing border-crossings? Cervantes' strategy makes perfect sense, if we consider how such figures frequently present multiple crossings: of gender, religion and nationality / ethnicity. Marfisa in the Furioso and Clorinda in the Liberata, to take the two most prominent examples, combine their androgyny with an uncertain religious (and therefore military) status. Marfisa's Christian origins must be revealed to her by the wizard Atlante, so that she can be brought back into the fold after slaughtering Christians for most of the epic. But the ease with which Marfisa crosses sides operating now according to the highly personal code of chivalry, now according to the exigencies of the moment cannot be erased so quickly. The woman warrior remains a figure of transgression of battle camps and religious allegiances, as well as of gender roles.
Clorinda the Ethiopian poses an even more problematic example, because of Tasso's acute concern with the religious dimension of his epic. Whereas Marfisa's character, and her androgynous valor, remain the same regardless of her religion, Clorinda's great moment of anagnorisis-at-death conjoins the discovery of her femininity with her long-postponed Christian Baptism, as she is transformed from a Muslim warrior into the maidservant of God. David Quint has brilliantly shown how Clorinda's connection to Ethiopia serves to destroy, if only within the epic, the possibility of Christian heresy: Christianity as practiced in schismatic Ethiopia will not do, even if
237 and passim.
|16.2 (1996)||Border Crossings||21|
such Christians might prove important allies against the
Muslims.20 But Quint fails to stress the
connection between Clorinda's gender indeterminacy and her religious confusion:
it is because she is a pagan on the surface that Tancredi cannot approach
her other than in battle, even in those episodes where he knows she is a
woman; conversely, she fights him not primarily because of the code of chivalry
(as Marfisa might have done) but because he is on the Christian side. Finally,
it is surely significant that by taming Clorinda Tasso manages to kill two
birds with one stone heresy / Islam and transgressive, androgynous
femininity because warrior women both condense and confound ideological
To return to Cervantes at the border, then, consider Don Quijote's encounter with the war-like Claudia and the bandits on the way to Barcelona. The entire adventure of Claudia Jerónima occurs in a liminal space that is, by virtue of its historical bandit-ruler Roque Guinart, more real than any in the novel. And yet this authentic space exists at the expense of a centralized national rule: the reality of the outskirts of Barcelona is that they are overrun by bandits who cannot be controlled by the Catalonian viceroys.21 Furthermore, as Martín de Riquer points out, such bandits were closely connected to French Huguenots the heretics beyond the mountains and one famous bandit was even known as Lo Luterà.22 The transgressive cross-dressing episode thus occurs within a context of liminality that recalls the constant movement between Christian and pagan camps of the warrior women in Ariosto and Tasso.
On the surface, Claudia's plight is almost identical to Dorotea's a wayward lover has (apparently) violated his promise of marriage by taking another wife. This spurned maiden, however, takes revenge into her own hands, shooting the supposed offender and turning to a male authority figure, the bandit chief Guinart, only for help in arranging her getaway. The resolution of the episode both insists upon the porosity of national boundaries the frustrated Claudia intends to escape to France and recalls the two androgynous predecessors described above: the Amazon Marfisa, and Clorinda, tragically killed by Tancredi in the Liberata's most famous episode.
Quint, Epic and Empire (Princeton: PUP, 1993), 234-47.
21 Arthur Efron connects cross-dressing with the increased exploration, in the last part of the novel, of social authority, in his Bearded Waiting Women, Lovely Lethal Piratemen: Sexual Boundary Shifts in Don Quijote, Part II, Cervantes 2 (1982): 155-64.
22 See Martín de Riquer's note in the Kapelusz edition of Don Quijote, II, 460-61.
Claudia represents both the vengeful woman warrior and the
anti-Clorinda, as she mistakenly kills her lover and watches him die.
Her outlaw justice is fatally flawed: her lover has in fact been faithful,
and in her hasty revenge Claudia kills him without cause, just as Tancredi
killed a Clorinda who was Christian under her pagan appearance. Yet since
some kinds of justice are possible in the underworld, as shown by Roque Guinart's
somewhat tyrannical verdicts elsewhere, the failure of justice in Claudia's
case must be attributable to something other than her outlaw existence. If
her story is seen as a possible coda to Dorotea's, the message becomes quite
clear: tragedy is what happens when women take the role of men, and assume
their own defense.23 If Claudia had cast
herself as damsel in distress rather than attacking her lover in the guise
of a woman warrior, perhaps some male character could have intervened to
set matters right, affording the story the same kind of anagnorisis and
resolution that characterizes Dorotea's. Instead, Claudia bows out and heads
for a convent, albeit without accepting a male escort.
The cases of Dorotea and Claudia Jerónima establish clear parameters for female transvestism in Don Quijote. Cross-dressing is an outlaw activity, undertaken only in extreme circumstances and which, if not abandoned at the earliest possible opportunity, leads to disaster. Thus this kind of transvestism seems less a challenge to the patriarchal order than a catalyst for the re-ordering of the patriarchal world when something has gone amiss. In turning now to the episode of the captives in II, 63, I will analyze how transvestism functions when patriarchal Spanish society confronts its Moorish Other. Cervantes titles this chapter De lo mal que le avino a Sancho Panza con la visita de las galeras, y la nueva aventura de la hermosa morisca (Of the disaster that befell Sancho Panza on his visit to the galleys, and the strange adventure of the Moorish girl), thereby giving the cross-dressing game away but also establishing a parallel with the first adventure of a beautiful Moor the Captive's Tale of I, 39-41. In this later episode, the captain of the Moorish ship that has been fighting the galera Don Quijote and Sancho visit reveals herself to be the Christian Moor Ana Félix, raised in Spain but expelled by royal order. This Moor shares little with Zoraida: she does not need
that the other, much more developed instance of a dying lover in Don
Quijote is in the case of Marcela and Grisóstomo, another case
where the woman occupies a masculine position of liberty and
independence. And in that case also, in spite of Marcela's impassioned denials,
the masculine woman cannot quite shake off the accusations of
|16.2 (1996)||Border Crossings||23|
Christian captives to save her and instead arranges to save one herself.
She moves between Spain and Africa with the confidence of a true martial
maid: her assumed gender affords her protection, but it is her religious
ambiguity that permits her to pass as a Moor when necessary. Here indeed
is a new Clorinda, whose femininity and Christianity are similarly disguised
The second captive's tale presents a far more stereotypical vision of the North African Moors than the parallel story in Part I. Partly because Cervantes focuses on an apologia for Spanish Moors, and partly in order to make other the problematic insistence of homosexual desire, the foreign Moors are reduced to a caricaturized, demonic backdrop. Since such unambiguous presentation is uncharacteristic of Cervantes, the development of the story in Spain merits special attention. What are the ambiguities at home that pale by comparison to the sodomy and cruelty attributed to the North Africans?24
Stephen Orgel argues that in Elizabethan England sodomy only becomes visible when it intersects with some other behavior that is recognized as dangerous and antisocial.25 In her comparative study, Heise counters that Spain, by contrast, sees sodomy as a transgression with features of its own: Sodomy is not just one aspect of a general nonconformism of seditiousness, but one of the crimes most severely penalized by both inquisitorial and secular courts.26 Yet although it seems undeniable that Spain experiences an acute anxiety over a more concrete version of sodomy than England, I would argue that such concreteness does not rule out the superimposition of sodomy on other types of difference. Heise herself points out that those prosecuted for sodomy in Spain often included both homosexuals and those accused of bestiality; she points, too, to the connection between the increased persecution of homosexuals in the second half of the sixteenth century and the Inquisition's shift of focus, after Trent, from Protestants and conversos to the Catholic population. These connections surely suggest that sodomy, while understood far more specifically than in England, is still connected in the popular Spanish imagination to various forms of otherness.
the attribution of sodomy to foreigners, especially North Africans, see Orgel,
op.cit., and Paul Julian Smith, The Captive's Tale:
Race, Text, Gender, in Quixotic Desire: Psychoanalytic Perspectives
on Cervantes, Ruth Anthony El Saffar and Diana de Armas Wilson, eds.
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993).
25 Orgel, 20.
26 Heise, 364, 365.
Forced to drop her many disguises when captured, Ana tells the story of her forced exile in the company of her Christian, Spanish lover, Don Gregorio. Although enamored of Ana's beauty, Don Gregorio is as beautiful himself they are both described (while Ana is disguised) in exactly the same terms, as hermosos and gallardos. But Gregorio is not stigmatized for his effeminacy; instead, he arouses both homosexual and heterosexual desires. Ana Félix exploits his effeminacy, and the uncanny resemblance between her own feminine beauty and Gregorio's to save him from the Moors' homosexual appetites:
Turbéme, considerando el peligro que Don Gregorio corría, porque entre aquellos bárbaros turcos en más se tiene y estima un mochacho o mancebo hermoso que una mujer, por bellísima que sea. Mandó luego el rey que le trujesen allí delante para verle, y preguntóme si era verdad lo que de aquel mozo le decían. Entonces yo, casi como prevenida del cielo, le dije que sí era; pero que le hacía saber que no era varón, sino mujer como yo, y que le suplicaba me la dejase ir a vestir en su natural traje, para que de todo en todo mostrase su belleza y con menos empacho pareciese ante su presencia . . . le truje a la presencia del rey, el cual, en viéndole, quedó admirado, y hizo disignio de guardarla para hacer presente della al Gran Señor; y por huir del peligro que en el serrallo de sus mujeres podía tener y temer de sí mismo, le mandó poner en casa de unas principales moras que la guardasen y la sirviesen, adonde le llevaron luego (494-5).
(I was alarmed at the thought of Don Gregorio's danger, for among those barbarous Turks a handsome boy or youth is more highly prized than the most beautiful woman. The king immediately commanded him to be brought before him so that he might see him, and asked me whether what they said of this youth was true. Then, inspired, as I believe, by Heaven, I said that it was but that he must be aware that it was no man but a woman like myself. And I besought him to let me go and dress her in natural clothes, that she might display her full beauty and appear in his presence with less bashfulness . . . Then I dressed him as a Moorish woman, and that same evening I brought him into the presence of the king, who was struck with admiration at the sight of him and decided to keep this maiden as a present for the Great Turk. And to avoid the danger she might run in his own women's seraglio, he ordered her to be placed in the house of Moorish ladies of rank who were to guard her and wait on her.)
|16.2 (1996)||Border Crossings||25|
The Moor's appetites are infinite: not only does he pose a homosexual threat,
but he cannot trust himself to respect the chastity of the woman
that he will present to his ruler. Yet the threat of heterosexual violence
against women is elided in the face of the much greater threat of sodomy.
Ana Félix, a more resourceful warrior woman than her predecessors,
manages to protect herself from the Moor's inordinate lust by manipulating
his greed, and convincing him to let her return to Spain for her buried treasure.
Thus the inordinate appetites attributed to the Moor mask not only the
real effeminacy of Don Gregorio, but also Ana's
masculine adventurousness (there is no indication in the story
that anyone has told her to dress as a man; but her costume reflects the
social role she has taken on). Ana herself plays the martial maid to perfection
(recall, for example, Bradamante rescuing Rinaldo), while her knight waits
emasculated in the harem. Although, as the true Spaniard in both
racial and religious terms, he should clearly be the more powerful figure,
he languishes instead in the most confining of feminine spaces. Ana leaves
Gregorio a prisoner in the harem, while she herself takes on new
The double transvestism in this episode seems far more radical than the isolated instances of Dorotea and Claudia Jerónima. As with Diego de la Llana's two children, the exchange of clothing seems to complete an erotic transaction that destabilizes both gender roles, as opposed to simply pointing out the disadvantages of femininity. And, in this second captive's tale, the distraction of the Moor's far greater perversity shifts the focus of the narrative away from the transgressive nature of Ana's strategies. They are, after all, but means to a societally-approved end.
Ana herself only asks for help in saving Gregorio when she is captured by the Spanish and reclaimed by her father; it is tempting to think of her life as a Moorish pirate if her transvestite adventure had not been so rudely interrupted. When, if ever, would she have declared the adventure over? Even when Don Gregorio is finally rescued, by the ambiguous figure of the renegade,27 the text refuses to provide a complete return to the heterosexual order:
. . . Y aunque Don Gregorio cuando le sacaron de Argel fue con hábitos de mujer, en el barco los trocó por los de un cautivo que
a discussion of the ambiguity of such figures, see Smith, op. cit.
salió consigo; pero en cualquiera que viniera mostrara ser persona para ser codiciada, servida y estimada, porque era hermoso sobremanera, y la edad, al parecer, de diez y siete o diez y ocho años. Ricote y su hija salieron a recibirle, el padre con lágrimas y la hija con honestidad (504).
(Although [Don Gregorio] had been in woman's dress when they took him away from Algiers, he had changed it in the boat for that of a captive who had escaped with him. But no matter what dress he had worn, [he would have appeared a person to be desired, served, and esteemed], for he was exceedingly handsome, and evidently about sixteen or seventeen years of age. Ricote and his daughter went out to meet him, the father with tears and the daughter with [honesty / virtue].)
Don Gregorio, the narrator implies, would incite our desires regardless of
his assigned gender his beauty dissolves traditional categories of
male / female, homosexual / heterosexual. Clearly the implication at his
return is not that the Spaniards (those who greet him, or the readers themselves)
participate in the perverse desires attributed to the Moors sodomy
is what the foreigners do28 yet the
eroticization of his description complicates the distinction between heterosexual
self / homosexual other. For if even after he abandons the female disguise
that was justified by necessity Don Gregorio still presents the same kind
of beauty, what kind of masculinity can he possibly regain? Perhaps the
experience of captivity has essentially effeminized him, through transvestism,
even if Ana saved him from sodomy. Or is there something about his beauty
itself that not only effeminizes him but implicates both narrator and reader
in lusting after it? Is this dangerous beauty in the eyes of the beholder?
Thus in this second Moorish adventure the accusation of sodomy elsewhere comes home to roost, serving to disguise homosexual desire and the transgression of gender lines by not only Moors in Spain but Spaniards at large. Notice also in the above passage that Gregorio must exchange clothes with someone else in order to recover his (slightly more) manly appearance. This exchange implies a chain of transvestism, in which the return to normalcy becomes impossible without a new act of cross-dressing somewhere. In this closed economy of exchange, there will always be one man in women's clothes to disturb the equilibrium. And although the connection between
|16.2 (1996)||Border Crossings||27|
male transvestism and homosexuality is not always explicit, a good number
of the contemporary critics of such cross-dressing linked it to the
sin of sodomy.29 Perhaps more
significantly for my argument, in theologians' writings against the theater
the lassitude that comes from effeminization whether through the theater
or through ornate clothing was connected to Spain's own vulnerability
to the Moors or the English.30 Thus the
sodomy abroad is brought home, so to speak, in Gregorio's enduring
femininity and the feminine clothes with which he has effeminized some other
captive. Ana, for her part, appears similarly unwilling to return to
normal gender role. She does not greet Gregorio with a typically
feminine show of emotion; her father cries, but her own honestidad
seems to consist in refraining from such displays of feeling.
Cross-dressing disturbs the simple truths of gender ideology: it is one thing when Ana cross-dresses her lover to save him from the supposed sodomy of the vicious Moors, and another matter altogether when both she and he fail to relinquish their adopted sexualities, once safely back in Spain. This last episode of cross-dressing in the novel underscores not only the illusory nature of appearances but also the deceptive nature of binarisms of gender, religion and nationality. The Moorish perversity exists within Spain, not only because Ana and her father Ricote stay, but because normal, sanctioned Spanish virtues, such as the masculine beauty of Don Gregorio or Ana's sober honestidad, already have the potential to destabilize gender roles, regardless of the actual presence of Moors. In a sense, the Spaniards' ability to pass in either religious or gender terms undermines the wholeness of their Spanish selves.
Thus transvestism whether practiced by beautiful young men or by warlike women at the frontier works its own peculiar magic within Don Quijote, evincing the fragility of gender roles and nationality. Although in the cases of isolated female transvestism (Dorotea or Claudia Jerónima) Cervantes reinforces traditional binarisms by restoring order after a momentary disturbance, the irresolution of the episodes of Diego de la Llana's cross-dressing progeny and Ana Félix and her effeminate lover provides a starting point for a reading that challenges the prevailing patriarchal modes of authority and heterosexuality in the novel. These more radical instances, especially the latter, point to
30 Heise, 369.
the complicated intersections of gender and other categories of difference in Spain's attempt to define its geographical and ideological borders. Epic transvestism disguises not just gender, but potentially also religion or race, and the play of genres, from romance to the more transgressive epic models, undoes the easy certainties of literary convention as a point of reference. While the theatrical immediacy of Cervantes' gender-troubling prose recalls the enduring fascination of transvestism on the Spanish stage, it suggests that such transformations are far from limited to that stage. Perhaps most importantly, by portraying a transvestite desire that links Spain and its demonized Moorish others, the episodes of transvestism transform gender into a powerful crucible for difference itself.
Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the UC Santa Barbara Margins of the Human conference, and at Cultural Contexts / Other Worlds, a meeting of the Bay Area Early Modern Group at Stanford University. I am grateful for the many helpful comments received.
||Prepared with the help of Sue Dirrim||
|Fred Jehle firstname.lastname@example.org||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|