From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
17.2 (1997): 4-24.
Copyright © 1997, The Cervantes Society of America
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n the prologue to Don Quijote I, Cervantes's anonymous friend tries to ease the author's worries about the quality of his text by suggesting that he cite famous authors. Regarding women and love the friend suggests citing Ovid, Homer, Virgil, and León Hebreo. Cervantes also includes Antonio de Guevara, who was the bishop of Mondoñedo from 1537 to his death in 1545: En lo que toca el poner anotaciones al fin del libro, seguramente lo podéis hacer desta manera . . . . Si tratáredes de . . . mujeres rameras, ahí está el obispo de Mondoñedo, que os prestará a Lamia, Laida y Flora, cuya anotación os dará gran crédito (55-6).1 A prolific writer, Antonio de Guevara first collected and published his letters, including the one to which Cervantes's friend refers, in 1543, which circulated in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. His writings have long been regarded as possible sources for different passages and concepts in Don Quijote.2 However, numerous editors including Vicente Gaos, Luis Murillo, and John Jay Allen, have dismissed the prologue citation as nothing more than a fleeting comic remark where Cervantes
citations of Don Quijote are from the Murillo edition.
2 Critics who treat Guevara's influence on Cervantes include Erna Berndt-Kelley, who argues that ecos del contenido y estilo de la prosa de Guevara sirven fines paródicos (369). Gaos points out the similarities between Guevara's [p. 5] epistle and the prologue of Don Quijote. In his edition of Don Quijote, he notes that Cervantes ironically cites this author: que era sabido de todos que los libros de Guevara estaban llenos de falsedades y no eran dignos de crédito; la segunda, mucho más mordaz, el presentar a un obispo, poniéndolo al descubierto, dedicado a escribir sobre tales personajes y temas (28n 130). For a similar opinion, see Murillo's edition of Don Quijote (56). However, I disagree with his reasoning, as does Francisco Márquez Villanueva, who aggressively argues how Guevara constructively used falsification. Some contemporaries, such as Vives and de Rúa, criticized Guevara's lack of critical judgment and treatment of antiquity, yet others, like Cervantes, respected and imitated his work. See Ernest Grey (23-4) and, for the polemic between Guevara and de Rúa, see Asunción Rallo (89-101). Rosa María Lida de Malkiel addresses the shift from the popularity of Guevara's writing during the second half of the sixteenth century to the intense criticism it endured during the following centuries. For general studies on Guevara and his writing, see Joseph Jones, Rallo and Américo Castro.
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parodies Renaissance writing strategies and notions of authority. While Cervantes
does indeed poke fun at the accepted practice of overciting classical authors,
he also imitates Guevara's text. Before returning to Don Quijote,
I would like to recover characteristics of the ancient prostitutes and expose
how Guevara rewrites these classical women. Then I will examine how Cervantes
imitates Guevara. That Lamia, Laida, and Flora are prostitutes is of interest
to Cervantes to the extent that it substantiates the duality of these women
who are both prostitutes and saints. Cervantes borrows this construct from
Guevara's letter as well as specific qualities with which the prostitutes
are endowed. He then rewrites what he has borrowed from Guevara by redistributing
the notions of identity within new contexts and refiguring the prostitutes'
characteristics in the women in Don Quijote.
In order to discuss Cervantes's imitation of Guevara's text, a few words on this widely-debated Renaissance theory are in order. Although difficult to define, imitation can be understood as the process of borrowing texts from admired sources both to validate one's own writing by associating oneself with the classics and to surpass that text. Imitating classical texts justified an ontological truth that found its source in Antiquity and true exposition in the Renaissance. Some writers, Erasmus in particular, stressed the individual nature of the writer who collected and assembled materials and gave them new meaning.3
Lloyd-Jones notes that Erasmian authenticity flows from the personal,
original quality of the text, where the author's self is the controlling
authority (354). G. W. Pigman also explains that for Erasmus the
primary duty of the imitator is to be aware of the differences between his
own day and antiquity, in [p. 6] particular to
recognize the moral and stylistic revolution of Christianity, and to adapt
the writings of the past to the conditions of the present (30).
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Most scholars today focus on the self-conscious
awareness Renaissance writers felt when dealing with imitation
strategies.4 Thomas Greene, in his seminal
work The Light in Troy, points out that in writing there is a
responsibility to remember and preserve the past: It is through a
diachronic structure, an acting out of passage, that the humanist poem
demonstrates its own conscientious and creative memory (41). Greene
goes on to categorize and define different types of imitation including
heuristic and dialectic. The former exposes an important poetic
distance traversed while the latter and more courageous leaves a two-way
current of mutual criticism between authors and eras (45). However,
these definitions of imitation are inadequate for Cervantes, who does not
structure his imitation in diachronic terms but rather emphasizes a synchronic
perspective, measuring his work in terms of his contemporary readership.
Cervantes loosens the ties with the past and hones in on how imitation affects
his relationship with his reader. By concealing his corrective strategies,
Cervantes initiates a kind of hide and seek, inviting his readers to seek
out the dismantled, fragmented narrative pieces that are the result of a
complex rewriting. As E. C. Riley observes, Cervantes exploits the
complicity of writer, reader and character (34). Imitation for
Cervantes becomes an imitation of pleasure, a game both for himself, the
writer, and for the reader. In distancing himself from a struggle with his
sources and refocusing the historic effect of his imitation, Cervantes takes
full advantage of his authorial freedom and responsibility; he carefully
dissects and reconstructs his models. The echoes of Lamia, Laida, and Flora's
disguised presence can be heard, but only by the astute listener. Cervantes
offers us, the readers/listeners, an open invitation to share in the pleasures
of literary freedoms and responsibilities.
Guevara's letter can be divided into three sections: an introduction that captures the reader's attention with preliminary remarks about the illicit material; anecdotes that reveal the women's intelligence, charm, beauty and wealth; and finally, an ambiguous conclusion that both condemns the women's lives and insists that their
Cave states that, when imitating models, there exists the desire to
appropriate or naturalize an alien discourse (35). Other critics focus
on the historical moment of self-identification (Carron), the self-realization
and artistic originality the imitation of sources can bring about (Lloyd-Jones),
or the historical validity that the recovery of ancient sources offers (Orgel).
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story continue to be told.5 Guevara writes the letter, he says, to correct his misguided friend, Enrique Enríquez, who had sent him portraits of three women he had been worshipping as saints:
Esta Lamia, esta Flora, esta Layda, que vos, señor, tenéis por sanctas, fueron las tres más hermosas y más famosas rameras que nascieron en Asia, se criaron en Europa, y aun de quienes más cosas los escriptores escribieron, y por quienes más príncipes se perdieron. (438)
The women about whom Guevara writes are historical figures with an elaborate literary tradition. Yet Clemencín suggests that Guevara invents the subtexts he cites in recounting the histories of these three famous prostitutes, citando para ello autores que no han existido (LII). However, all three of Guevara's subtexts, Plutarch, Aulus Gellius and Suetonius, mention these women or celebrations associated with them. Guevara uses these ancient sources to give authority to his own writing. In ancient Greece there were three types of courtesans: dicteriades, auletrides and hetairae. The hetairae were intelligent, cultivated and artistic; they were spiritually and politically powerful.6 Jess Wells describes their influential status:
The Athenian women with the most exalted position and the most freedom were . . . the hetairae. They were intelligent, witty, articulate and educated, the only women in Athenian society allowed to manage their own financial affairs, stroll through the streets anywhere at any time. They were free to attend plays, ceremonies and speeches, to speak with whomever, whenever they pleased, to share the intellectual activities of Greece. They could take the sexual or romantic initiative with men . . . [T]he hetairae were accomplished conversationalists, the intellectual equals of the men they entertained. They were herbalists and midwives, the mothers and lovers of kings, statesmen, artists and poets. They demanded enough money for their sexual services to keep themselves and the prostitutes in their homes ostentatiously. (6-7)
Like the hetairae, the auletrides enjoyed certain privileges and were recognized as accomplished musicians (Beauvoir 102). Laida was a
the end of the medieval period through the sixteenth century, Europe experienced
a return to the cult of the courtesan. See Bullough (129-138). This renewed
popularity explains, in part, why a devout bishop of Counter-Reformation
Spain would choose to explore the subject.
6 For information on classical courtesans see Beauvoir (102), Bell (19-39), Henriques and Wells.
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hetaira and Lamia, an auletrid. Although Flora comes from the Roman tradition
and is not defined as a hetaira, she was worshipped as a
goddess.7 These sacred prostitutes
attend to both the body and the mind; they embody both the sexual and the
In his letter, Guevara retains the women's sexual and intellectual qualities. I define intellectual in terms of the counsel they give to kings, nobles and other people who approach them for advice on personal matters, particularly those relating to love and relationships between men and women. Lamia instructs Demetrius, king of Macedonia, and Laida, daughter of an Apollonian priest, advises the people of Corinth. She guides men and women alike who seek her advice on courting, on marital problems, and on how to educate their children in gender-related issues. Typical of all three women, Laida was so amorous in conversation and beautiful of disposition, she could have had anyone. Indeed, Guevara even restores to these women qualities that are lost to previous writers. For example, in Plutarch's account of Lamia, he briefly mentions her rebuking a judgment passed on another prostitute who complained of not having received her expected payment. However, the situation ridicules Lamia and her profession; it does not take seriously Lamia's ability to advise others (131-2). Plutarch, one of Guevara's sources for Lamia, Laida, and Flora, denies Lamia her intellectual character. In contrast, Guevara emphasizes her ability to reason and offer guidance.
In recovering these stories Guevara empowers these women to exaggerated proportions. They are exceedingly beautiful, the object of all men's desire, incredibly wealthy, and sought after by men and women for amorous guidance. By recognizing their ability to give counsel, he recuperates aspects of their lost sacredness and brings them closer to the saints Enríquez perceives them to be. Yet, in doing so, Guevara separates their spirituality from their physicality. As he recounts the individual stories of each woman, he contrasts their good and bad qualities. Lamia was capable of sound judgment but used it poorly: Era esta muger Lamia de muy delicado juicio, aunque en ella estuvo mal empleado (441). Laida was loved by all but never reciprocated that love: cuán bien fortunada fué esta
Iconographically, Flora is most often depicted as an allegory of Spring.
For her representation in Spanish Golden Age painting, see López Torrijos
8 Bell uses the term sacred prostitute in her discussion of the hetaira, Diotima from Plato's Republic-- whom she reads as a manifestation of the goddess whose flesh is not radically distinguished from the spirit (19).
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enamorada Layda, pues nadie la aborrescía, y cuán mal acondicionada
era, pues a nadie ella amaba (443). Flora's background was pure but
she was not: fué de sangre muy limpia, aunque no de vida muy
casta (445). These conflicts of good and bad qualities construct a
duality of purity / corruption, chastity / contamination, spritual /
In terms of imitation strategy, Guevara maintains the cultural context of these women. Lamia, for example, is still a second-century BCE hetaira who interacts with nobility and kings. However, by adding to their story a second narrative level responding to Enrique Enríquez's prostitute-saint confusion Guevara segregates physical pleasure from spiritual pleasure. The hetaira who in antiquity teaches simultaneously the receiving and giving of pleasure and the receiving and giving of knowledge is now split in two (Bell 19). While Guevara maintains their cultural context, he overshadows the women's intellectual capacity, that is, their ability to give counsel, by placing them in a new narrative context. Lamia, for example, is no longer a small detail in the historical accounts of a king but rather a central part of a narrative that seeks to correct the misguided ways of Guevara's reader. Traces of her spirituality remain and in fact explain why Enrique Enríquez may have thought the women were saints, but Guevara repeatedly returns to their physical nature. In the end, Guevara reminds his reader, these women are prostitutes whose presence causes discomfort and unpleasantness: yo estoy corrido, y aun afrontado, que tales imágines me enviásedes, y sobre tales liviandades me consultásedes (437).
There is, then, an ambivalence to Guevara's letter. While he separates the women's purity from their corruption, their spiritual from their physical, he is, at the same time, fascinated with them. In spite of Enrique Enríquez's offensive request, he does elaborately describe each of the three women. He is intrigued by them, wants to tell their story, and wants others to tell it too: Allá os torno a enviar las tablas de estas tres enamoradas, las cuales pienso que, si hasta aquí teníades en mucho, las tendréis de aquí adelante en mucho más, porque todos los que entraren en esta vuestra recámera tendrán que mirar en la pintura, y vos, que les contar en la historia (448).9
insistence that the portraits be retold in other terms is similar to Cervantes's
need to explain his own portrait found in the prologue, i.e., pen behind
ear, elbow on desk, hand resting on his cheek, etc. In both cases, the reader
sees the portraits, yet the writers of both the letter and the
prologue feel the need to retell their story.
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Guevara wants their story to be told but on his terms. By inventing this
new narrative context of correcting Enrique Enríquez's misunderstandings,
Guevara denigrates the hetairae. He distinguishes their spiritual knowledge
from their sexual knowledge. Lamia, Laida, and Flora are not enclosed within
a space that allows them to be either saints or prostitutes; they cannot
As the anonymous friend of the prologue suggests, Cervantes does turn to Guevara's letter to develop certain female characters in Don Quijote. However, Cervantes refuses to polarize his characters as simply good or evil, or in the case of these women, chaste or lascivious. He resists Guevara's oversimplified duality, which finds its root in Aristotle's pairs of contraries: good / evil, male / female, etc., and seeks to complicate Guevara's division.10 The sacred hetairae, who in Guevara's letter are fragmented, misunderstood rameras, are at first glance in Cervantes's novel vulnerable women forced into their profession by unfortunate circumstances Maritornes, for example. Guevara flattens the differences that sets the hetaira apart from the ramera, leaving the two to be erroneously synonymous. Cervantes is not so concerned with these marginal women that exchange sexual favors for money. Instead, the nobility and spirituality that previously defined the hetairae now belong to chaste women who seek to (re)integrate themselves into society via marriage: Luscinda and Zoraida. Finally, in the figure of Dorotea, Cervantes recalls that sacred space which combines spiritual and physical, maternal and libidinal, male and female.
In Don Quijote, gender / class relations are put to the test a number of times. Ruth El Saffar mentions the counterbalancing of lofty females and realistic working women. She points, for example, to Don Quijote who transforms the inn prostitutes into princesses, Maritornes whose deformity counterbalances Marcela's beauty, and the non virginal Dorotea who plays the role of damsel in distress (Beyond 56). On a diegetic level, many of the central female characters consciously shift their social status. Marcela gives up her middle-class lifestyle in the village to roam the countryside as a shepherdess.
the Metaphysics Aristotle attributes his 10 pairs of contraries to
the Pythagoreans: Limit and the Unlimited; (ii.) Odd and Even; (iii.)
Unity and Plurality; (iv.) Right and Left; (v.) Male and Female (vi.) Rest
and Motion; (vii.) Straight and Crooked; (viii.) Light and Darkness; (ix.)
Good and Evil; (x.) Square and Oblong (986a). For more on Aristotle's
pairs of contraries and their reception in the Renaissance see Diana de Armas
Wilson's compelling study of Persiles and Sigismunda (37-40).
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Zoraida sacrifices her position as daughter of a wealthy Moor and becomes
wife of a Christian soldier as she pursues the teachings of the Virgin. Dorotea
marries into a higher social level, which she loses when Fernando abandons
her, elevates herself once again as she plays the role of princess, and later
regains her upper-class status as Fernando's legitimate wife. These shifts
from one class to another form the backdrop for Cervantes's development of
specific female characters and their interaction with male characters.
Once Don Quijote leaves in search of adventures, the first women he encounters are metamorphosed from prostitutes to court maidens: Doña Tolosa and Doña Molinera. Later, Maritornes is mistaken for a damsel enthralled with the valiant knight as she attempts a midnight rendezvous with the mule driver. Maritornes is the most developed prostitute in Don Quijote. The narrator details at length her physical attributes and later gives a vague explanation of how she arrived at her condition: . . . presumía muy de hidalga, y no tenía por afrenta estar en aquel ejercicio de servir en la venta, porque decía ella que desgracias y malos sucesos la habían traído a aquel estado (201). Mary Elizabeth Perry describes prostitution in Counter-Reformation Spain as selling what other women gave away; yet, prostitutes worked under conditions that exploited their physical and emotional vulnerability. Perry explains that prostitution was a sexual transaction so deeply embedded within a power system that it became a relationship at least as concerned with power as with sex or sin (138). By the late sixteenth century, legalized prostitution restricted to brothels that were controlled by city-appointed males was on the decline, although illegal prostitution continued to flourish (Bullough 153-55). Maritornes, as an illegal prostitute who finds work outside the brothel, skirts the regulated boundaries that society has established.
As Don Quijote settles in to spend his first night at the inn, he fantasizes about the innkeeper's daughter, and believing Maritornes to be she, transforms the Asturian working woman into a princess:
Los cabellos, que en alguna manera tiraban a crines, él los marcó por hebras de lucidísimo oro de Arabia, cuyo resplandor al del mesmo sol escurecía. Y el aliento, que, sin duda alguna, olía a ensalada fiambre y trasnochada, a él le pareció que arrojaba de su boca un olor suave y aromático; y finalmente, él la pintó en su imaginación de la misma traza y modo que lo había leído en sus libros de la otra princesa que vino a ver el mal ferido caballero, vencido de sus amores, con todos los adornos que aquí van puestos. (203)
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Cervantes takes advantage of the identity confusion to develop Maritornes
in terms of a prostitute-princess opposition. While the description provokes
laughter and is central to Don Quijote's character and to Cervantes's parody
of chivalric traditions, it also problematizes social and gender status.
As both prostitute and princess, Maritornes brings together lower and upper
classes in one figure, erasing social differences. The prostitute and the
princess are the same, with the same body and the same physical needs. At
this point in the novel, Cervantes does not directly confront gender norms,
but, hidden under the laughter, he conceals an issue that corresponds to
every female character in Don Quijote: how she negotiates her intimate
relationship with a man.
The humorous scene erupts into chaos when the carrier, infuriated with Don Quijote's interference, attacks him. In the end, the innkeeper blames Maritornes for the confusion: ¿Adónde estás, puta? A buen seguro que son tus cosas éstas (205). Constance Jordan argues that prostitutes are a scapegoat for the faults of the patriarchal system and points out that the cliché that women bring men to their ruin is contradicted by the male presumption that women are inherently weak. How can a weak creature bring about anyone's ruin? The only way men can blame women for sin is if they first admit to losing control over women (299). This is the case with the innkeeper and Maritornes; he has lost control over her actions. Just as many prostitutes avoided the patriarchal enclosure of the brothel by working illegally, Maritornes escapes the patriarchal authority of Juan Palomeque. He blames her, but cannot catch her. If the inn is a microcosm of seventeenth-century Spain, then Maritornes is the figure who exposes weaknesses in society's effort to maintain order in the community.
Cervantes's prostitute has a very different role than Guevara's rameras, despite the fact all have complex histories and multifaceted personalities. Guevara evokes outstanding elements of the hetairae; Cervantes portrays Maritornes as ugly, poor, weak, and from a low social standing. She fulfills even her nocturnal promises with devotion and good will; she brings Sancho water, then wine, effecting a Christ-like transformation; and she plays painful jokes on the errant knight. In the bishop's letter, the prostitutes, mistaken for saints by Enríquez, are undeserving objects of worship. Although Lamia, Laida, and Flora are graced with desirable qualities, they are offensive to Guevara in spite of his extensive writing about them. The bishop feels degraded by the mere mention of their names. Throughout the letter Guevara repeatedly admits the delicate situation
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he has put himself in by writing about these women: no es esta historia
tan honesta y limpia para que ose emplear en ella mucho tiempo mi pluma
(439). With the exception of the innkeeper, no character or narrative voice
in Don Quijote expresses any violent reaction or discomfort in dealing
with prostitutes. In the early chapters of Don Quijote, apart from
having a scapegoat function, Cervantes uses Maritornes as a device to accentuate
Don Quijote's distorted perception of reality, much like Enrique Enríquez's
perception of Lamia, Laida, and Flora. While Maritornes does share this similar
narrative function and a public sexuality with the women mentioned in the
prologue, her connections with them are limited. Yet all these women are
part of an Otherness that is found at the extremes of social
In exploring social standards for men and women, Sherry Ortner explains that [f]emale symbolism, far more often than male symbolism, manifests this propensity toward polarized ambiguity sometimes utterly exalted, sometimes utterly debased, rarely within the normal range of human possibilities (86). The Otherness that is found at the extremes of social norms and that the female so often embodies is blended together in Don Quijote and is an important factor as Cervantes redistributes the positive qualities of Lamia, Laida, and Flora to women who are temporarily outcast and who strive to (re)integrate into society. Cervantes reverses the notion that these qualities belong to the extremes, to the prostitutes and virgins, as he incorporates the prostitutes' characteristics of wealth and verbal discourse, and the relationship of sex and money that is linked to them, into women who long to integrate into society as loyal wives: Luscinda, the recently-converted Zoraida-María, and Dorotea. In one way or another, all these central female characters pose a threat to the men that surround them and in spite of their physical beauty, moral standards, or intellectual prowess are eventually contained on the basis of their gender within the institution of marriage.
In early modern Europe, women had economic value that is, received material compensation for their services typically as wives and as prostitutes (Jordan 298). In Guevara, sex and money are bound together through the business deals the women negotiate for themselves. In Cervantes, the business deals focus on marriage and are less successfully negotiated by a male authority figure. Because of the economic arrangement underlying marriage and prostitution, the two institutions are symbolically equivalent. Perry suggests that the dowry system encouraged parents and
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other family members to regard marriage as an economic arrangement (67), one that preserves and increases material wealth.11 Those who marry for money exercise a prostitution of sorts; they negotiate sexual partners exchanging material wealth for women. In Cardenio and Luscinda's love story Luscinda's father plays the role of greedy negotiator. Cardenio remembers the mutual love they shared since childhood.
A esta Luscinda amé, quise y adoré desde mis tiernos y primeros años, y ella me quiso a mí . . . Sabían nuestros padres nuestros intentos, y no les pesaba dello, porque bien veían que, cuando pasaran adelante, no podían tener otro fin que el de casarnos, cosa que casi la concertaba la igualdad de nuestro linaje y riquezas. (292)
From the beginning Cardenio explains the important
relationship between marriage and money. When Cardenio's friend, Fernando,
betrays their friendship and tries to buy Luscinda's love, money figures
three times in the plot. First, Fernando sends Cardenio away to deliver money
to his needy brother. Next, Luscinda can communicate with Cardenio because
she is able to pay a man to deliver her letter. Finally, the connection between
personal possession and financial gain is best manifested in Luscinda's father
and his treatment of her marriage plans. In Luscinda's first letter to Cardenio
she tells him that she is ready for her father to negotiate their marriage
with Cardenio: si quisiéredes sacarme desta deuda sin ejecutarme
en la honra, lo podréis muy bien hacer. Padre tengo . . .
cumplirá la que será justo que vos tengáis (332-33).
However, after Fernando's interruption of their plans, in her second desperate
letter Luscinda explains the disrupted situation to Cardenio: y mi
padre, llevado de la ventaja que él piensa que don Fernando os hace,
ha venido en lo que quiere (336). Her epithet for her father explicitly
reveals his shortcomings: ya me están aguardando en la sala
don Fernando el traidor y mi padre el codicioso (337). Thus, it is
through the power of money that Luscinda is forced into marriage with someone
other than the man she loves. Like the prostitutes in Guevara's letter and
Maritornes, her body is exchanged for financial gain.
Zoraida's situation offers an interesting twist to the monetary-marriage ties. In spite of Moors' association with dishonesty and
Luis de León supports this economic view of marriage in La perfecta
casada. For more on the relationship between marriage and prostitution
in the Renaissance see Pearson and Perry (53-74).
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lasciviousness in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Spain, Cervantes
sympathetically portrays this Moorish
woman.12 In an illuminating article on Zoraida's
veil, María Antonia Garcés discusses Zoraida both in terms
of Moorish women's association with prostitution and in terms of her
Marianization, the two images being reflected in her dual name: Zoraida /
María and in the Captive's description of her true identity: Mora
es en el traje y en el cuerpo; pero en el alma es muy grande cristiana
(463) (76). When she initiates contact with the Captive, Zoraida is the daughter
of one of the wealthiest Moors in Algiers, Agi Morato. She sends messages
to the captive offering him freedom in exchange for her own marriage to
him.13 In her first note she proposes to
him: . . . y tengo muchos dineros que llevar conmigo:
mira tú si puedes hacer cómo nos vamos, y serás allá
mi marido si quisieres, y si no quisieres, no se ma dará nada; que
Lela Marién me dará con quien me case (489). For Zoraida,
marriage is essential to her pursuing a Christian lifestyle. Eventually Zoraida
does arrange the Christians' escape and returns with them to Spain. Here,
she exchanges not only her wealth but also her social and religious status
for marriage to a Christian so she can better understand the teachings of
the Holy Virgin. Instead of selling personal property to gain material wealth,
as Lamia, Laida, and Flora do through prostitution and as Luscinda's greedy
father does through marriage, Zoraida relinquishes her material wealth in
exchange for marrying a Christian. Zoraida's efforts are similar to the popular
prostitute-saint stories of Mary Magdalene and Saint Mary the Harlot, who
enact their own salvation only with the support of male
In discussing links between the social value placed on chastity, the practice of prostitution, and the legalized poverty of women, Jordan suggests that
more on the image of Moors in Golden Age Spain, see Domínguez Ortiz
and Vincent. For Cervantes's construction of Moorish identity in Don Quijote
I, see Garcés.
13 Cervantes fully inscribes the selling and ransoming of captive soldiers. In the Orientalist fiction, El Abencerraje, the captive rejects the Moorish woman's suggestion to buy his freedom; however, in Don Quijote the captive fully embraces her offer.
14 Perry explains that people knew the tales of famous prostitute-saints through stories and paintings (50-52).
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the ideology of partriarchy sustains and is sustained by the related institutions of marriage and prostitution, that it is manifest in the comparable lives women lead in the family and in the brothel . . . A woman gets rich because she sells the only property over which she has any control, and this action puts her outside the bounds of civilized (patriarchal) society. Within that society and (presumably) enjoying the benefits of civility; she is and must remain without economic power.(300-1)
This is the choice Zoraida makes. She exchanges her economic status as sole
inheritor of her father's wealth to enter into Christian society. In Cervantes's
time, wives had rank but could not command the wealth they possessed. They
were protected by patriarchy because they represented a vital, albeit submissive,
part of it. Prostitutes had virtually no rank although they controlled the
money they earned. Ruth Kelso asserts the importance of chastity: let
a woman have chastity, she has all. Let her lack chastity and she has
nothing (24). However, this chastity, in order for women to be accepted
into society, must go a step further; it must be controlled by man. Marcela,
for example, freely chooses a chaste lifestyle, yet she is still an outcast
because she opts for life beyond the reaches of the patriarchy. She refuses
to submit to any control. Zoraida, on the other hand, is equally chaste,
and earns her respected position after the Christian soldier agrees to marry
her precisely because her newly found salvation is enclosed within patriarchal
I conclude my discussion of Cervantes' debt to Guevara's text by examining women's verbal discourse and ability to give counsel.15 In the Renaissance, the prostitute was openly associated with public speaking. Peter Stallybrass reminds us that the signs of the harlot are her linguistic fullness and her frequenting of public space (127). Cervantes invests in Marcela the prostitutes' ability to express their thoughts freely; he endows the shepherdess with linguistic fullness.16 On a societal level, both the prostitutes and the
female discourse is, of course, not limited to prostitutes. Ovid's
Heroides, for example, gives powerful linguistic skills to women,
especially with regard to love.
16 I do not wish to refute the arguments for Cervantes's manipulation of pastoral and mythological sources for writing Marcela. However, traces of the hetairae, particularly their association with public speaking, cannot be overlooked. Regarding mythological sources for Marcela, El Saffar reads her as a representation of the goddess Artemis whose dual nature she foregrounds: the defeat or submission of the goddess always entails a breakup of the original triplicity [p. 17] of her nature, dividing the maiden from the mother, the mother from the crone, and the good qualities from the bad (Quixotic Desire 163); Berndt Kelley discusses Marcela as an Astraea figure; Herrero names her a Diana-like goddess (296); Elvira Macht de Vera also compares her to Diana: se aproxima más a Artemisa, casta hermana de Apolo, diosa lunar y celeste (8); Pierre Ullman argues that Marcela is a secularized virgin (310); Michael McGaha claims that the Apollo-Daphne myth provided the primary inspiration (35) although other mythological women Hippolytus, Eurydice and Hecate also figure in her construction. For Marcela as a mythological archetype see Dunn (4) and Iventosch (71). For images of women in literature as angel and monster, see Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar (3-44) and specifically in Don Quijote see Jehenson who argues that critics have interpreted Marcela as either Madonna or shrew (16).
|17.2 (1997)||Recovering the Hetairae||17|
shepherdess avoid discipline and enclosure. They make their own rules and hence, remain ostracized from patriarchal society.17 Marcela, like the prostitutes, has her independence but, unless she is willing to surrender that freedom, cannot become part of society. Katherine Rogers notes that the repeated attack on the prostitute was a common sign of fear of women in the Renaissance (132). Similarly, the shepherds' attack on Marcela endiablada moza (161), esta rapaza (164), fiero basilisco (185) is coupled with fear of her scorn: Su afabilidad y hermosura atrae los corazones de los que la tratan a servirla y a amarla; pero su desdén y desengaño los conduce a términos de desesperarse, y así, no saben qué decirle, sino llamarla a voces cruel y desagradecida (166). Their only protection against her rejection are insults and slander. Marcela's speech calls into question the institutionalized double standard and lack of freedom for women: mas no alcanzo que, por razón de ser amado, esté obligado por hermoso a amar a quien le ama (186). Emilia Navarro points out that Marcela's speech thrusts itself in direct opposition to the prescriptive social discourses of feminine conduct (32). Her speech outlines the limitations of love in the established system. For Marcela, all women should be free to choose their own love. She opts for solitude: Yo nací libre, y para poder vivir libre escogí la soledad de los campos (186). Although she fails to convince her audience of her freedom of choice, she nonetheless confronts the issue, leaving it open for discussion. Cervantes, in his presentation of Marcela, effectively challenges the gender arrangement imposed by marriage and thus steps towards a new viability.
choices are reminiscent of those Catalina de Mesa makes. She is an unmarried
woman who did not enter the convent and thus slipped through the webs
of discipline and enclosure; she could also escape male control unless she
married or took religious vows (Perry 67-68).
|18||CAROLYN A. NADEAU||Cervantes|
Lamia's and Laida's oratorical skills stem
from the spiritual tradition of the hetairae. Guevara recounts that King
Demetrius turns to Lamia for answers about men and women in relationships.
Likewise, men and women both ask Laida for advice on many issues. The
prostitutes' ability to give sound counsel surfaces in the characterization
and discourse of Dorotea, who offers advice to Luscinda, Fernando, and Clara
about how to approach their love dilemma. In her work on Cervantes's last
novel, Diana de Armas Wilson analyzes the significance of the Feliciana de
la Voz episode and the importance of the voice in female characterization
that challenges the institution of patriarchy. She convincingly argues that
by granting the voice of an angel to a fallen woman, Cervantes dismantles
the dichotomy of virgin-prostitute. I have pointed to this shattering of
the accepted binary found in all of the women thus far discussed; however,
nowhere is this destabilization more apparent than in the figure of Dorotea.
As in the case of Marcela, who like the prostitutes has the ability to articulate freely yet remains on the edges of social acceptance, Dorotea is invested with a sharp mind and tongue. At the inn she offers her services to Luscinda: ¿Qué mal sentís, señora mía? Mirad si es alguno de quien las mujeres suelen tener uso y experiencia de curarle; que de mi parte os ofrezco una buena voluntad de serviros (448). Although Luscinda chooses silence in keeping with the traditional role for women soon after Dorotea appeals to Fernando, in the presence of the others at the inn, to reclaim her marital status as his wife. Her speech persuades everyone and restores harmony to the fractured couples Cardenio and Luscinda and Fernando and Dorotea. Her words then are the deciding factor in the resolution and restoration of harmony.
Dorotea's public speaking calms the distressed lovers and restores social order. Marcela, who presents the limitations of women in their right to choose whom they love but fails to convince her audience, opens the way for Dorotea's more socially moderate speech. Both soliloquies share similar rhetorical devices and oratory strategies. Both fight for women's rights, but where Marcela asks to be left out of the marriage institution, Dorotea desperately fights to reenter it. Marcela's ideas are not accepted; however, Dorotea's are fully sanctioned.18 Like Lamia and Laida and like Marcela she expresses her
my article on Marcela and Dorotea's speeches, I point to these speeches as
the poles of failed and successful restoration of harmony and social justice
and discuss the rhetorical strategies employed in their discourses.
|17.2 (1997)||Recovering the Hetairae||19|
opinion on matters of love. However, while Marcela can only question the
lack of women's rights, Dorotea actively imposes a change.
I now briefly return to the beginning of the article and to my claim that Cervantes, by imitating Guevara, offers an alternative to the accepted writing practices he criticizes in the prologue. In his imitation of Plutarch, Guevara confronts the ancient text by rewriting Lamia's narrative context, altering her space, and privileging her with a strong verbal discourse. However, Lamia, Laida, and Flora are enclosed within a sexual boundary that denigrates their spirituality. His text unravels their spiritual qualities and reaffirms the low status they hold in the sixteenth century. While he pushes the prostitutes toward the stigmatized status society imposes on their profession, he also affirms that, as their story is told, the women's value will increase. He concludes his letter, leaving his reader with an ambivalent judgment of the prostitutes.
Cervantes's subtle manipulation of Guevara's letter generates more authorial freedom. By altering the context from the space of the classical hetairae to Counter-Reformation Spain, Cervantes further distances himself from his model and accepts the responsibility of his own authority. His most intriguing imitation of Guevara's epistle is the multi-layered restructuring of the duality that defines women. He borrowed characteristics of the spiritual / sexual being and redistributed them to women who seek to live between the extremes of prostitute and saint. Luscinda and Zoraida expose the parallel relationship between prostitution and marriage; both operate by exchanging economic wealth for sexual services. Finally, Cervantes reunites the divided sexual and spiritual qualities in Dorotea. As a manly woman one who cross-dresses and lives the life of a man she transgresses established gender boundaries. In describing society's responses to historical manly women those who cross-dress and live the life of men Perry explains that one woman, Feliciana Enríquez de Guzmán, was applauded for her manly intellect because she abandoned her male disguise, resumed her female identity,and married the man she loved (132). Likewise, as Dorotea restores her marriage to Fernando, she participates in her own oppression by reconfirming patriarchal authority. Like the hetairae of ancient Greece, Dorotea is intelligent and articulate, at the very least an intellectual equal to the men around her. She manages the financial affairs of her household, controls her own destiny by granting herself the freedom to leave the enclosed space of her family farm, and initiates her reconciliation with Fernando by actively pursuing him. Finally, at the inn, she carries with her the approval
|20||CAROLYN A. NADEAU||Cervantes|
of all who have listened. Apart from demanding money for sexual services
and her marriage into a higher social class recalls this type of
exchange Dorotea embodies all of the hetairae's characteristics. Echoes
of their exalted position and freedom reverberate within her.
In recovering classical elements of the hetairae, Cervantes portrays several possibilities for women. In Don Quijote I, there are no clearly divided poles of good and bad women. All carry with them varying degrees of sexuality and spiritualness. Maritornes, the prostitute figure in the novel, shares only distant ties with the hetairae. Those who choose marriage recuperate the fullness of the hetairae in a more balanced way. As a male commodity, Luscinda illustrates the shift of the site of exchange from prostitution to marriage. Zoraida, like the hetairae, negotiates her own sexuality, using marriage as the accepted social institution. She recuperates their spiritualness that in Guevara'a text is lost and in Cervantes's text is transformed into a Christian virtue. Likewise, Dorotea's beauty and intelligence, her stained honor and virtue, in short, her sexual and spiritual qualities are accepted as one. In this way, Cervantes corrects Guevara's reading of las famosas rameras. The site of exchange, while remaining sexual, shifts from the marginal zone of the prostitute to the enclosed conventional household. In Don Quijote, Luscinda, Zoraida, and especially Dorotea embrace the patriarchal institution of marriage. They are not only protected by it but, in actively pursuing their own marriages, simultaneously protect it.
|ILLINOIS WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY|
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|Fred Jehle firstname.lastname@example.org||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|