From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
2.1 (1982): 3-22.
Copyright © 1982, The Cervantes Society of America
HAT WE HAVE HERE, says E. C. Riley at the beginning of chapter 2 of Cervantes's Theory of the Novel, is not so much a theory of The Novel as a theory of a certain type of novel . . . . It accounts well enough for the Persiles, but only very partially for the Quixote, and not at all for such things as the psychological exploration of character in novelas like the Curioso impertinente and the Celoso extremeño, or the comic realism of novelas in the low style like Rinconete y Cortadillo.1 More recently, Riley has identified the certain type of novel referred to above. He has called it romance and has rightly pointed out that this genre constitutes a large part of Cervantes' fictional output.2 As can be seen from the above quotation, Riley's book does not aim to answer the question that it might initially seem to pose: i.e., What is Cervantes' theory of The Novel the type of fiction of which Dan Quixote or, on a much smaller scale, the comic novelas, appear now to be precursors?3 Yet this is a question to which anyone interested in the subsequent
1 I refer
to the first edition (Oxford: Clarendon, 1962), p. 49. Cf. the Conclusion,
2 See the section entitled Novela in his article on Teoría literaria in Suma cervantina (London: Támesis, 1973), pp. 310-22.
3 In the above-cited section Riley says that Cervantes senses a distinction between two species: romance and novel. The first deals with a fantastic, idealised world akin to dream; the events in it are the marvellous [p. 4] products of chance, and their ordering seems planned by providence. The second deals with life as it is experienced historically, and the events in it are ordered by natural causality. See pp. 319-20.
development of The Novel would clearly wish to have an answer. Even if Cervantes
does not have a systematic theory of comic fiction for this, in effect,
is what is in question does he not give some indication of what his
thinking on this subject might be?
Evidently he does. My evidence for the art of the comic fable which I attribute to him is of two kinds: what he says and what he does. The latter seems admissible when it constitutes a pattern repeated in work after work and hence could hardly be attributed to inadvertence. I have, however, cast this article in speculative form an imaginary discourse on this subject that Cervantes might have delivered to a literary academy in Madrid in about 1615 since its basic premises are somewhat, though by no means merely, speculative: first, that Cervantes would have perceived a generic similarity amongst a number of works which are disparate in various respects, and second, that he would have formulated his ideas in a specific way on the technicalities of his art. A justification for these premises may be given forthwith. The modem assumption that Cervantes was a reflective, self-critical artist virtually entails that he had a coherent conception of the literary art on which, as he apparently came to realise at the end of his career, his fame chiefly rested. I refer to the art of making readers laugh.4 Before handing over to Cervantes, I have some cautionary observations about the scope of this discourse. One would falsify Cervantes' conception of the comic fable if one tried to picture it as an inspired prediction of the subsequent form of The Novel. Moreover, considerations of economy and space demand that Cervantes should not address himself to all the questions which might plausibly have exercised him, but to some fundamental questions: unity, the mixing of genres, structure, the comic fable's relation to adjacent genres, and above all, how his conception of it developed.
4 In the
prologue to Persiles y Sigismunda written a few days before his death,
Cervantes describes an encounter between himself and a student, when he was
returning with two friends from Esquivias to Madrid. The student, realising
that he is in the presence of Cervantes, greets him as el manco sano,
el famoso todo, eI escritor alegre, y, finalmente, el reqozijo de las
Musas. Cervantes concludes that prologue by bidding farewell to life:
significantly, it is a farewell to jests and to friends. See the edition
by R. Schevill and A. Bonilla, 2 vols. (Madrid: Bernardo Rodríguez,
1914), I, p. lviii.
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ILLUSTRIOUS SENATE, I have been asked to address you on the general principles which have guided me in the composition of comic fables. You doubtless realise that my writings in prose divide roughly into two kinds: fables on amatory themes and on comic themes. In my works, the two species do not just co-exist; they are complementary and inter-dependent. The first species deals with the adventures, passions, and dilemmas inspired by love; it features dignified characters of good birth, equivalent to the principals in a comedia de capa y espada, and is written in a style matching their status. In the form of its plots, it resembles the novelle collected in Day Five of Boccaccio's Decameron; it also derives part of its structure and techniques from Heliodorus' Aethiopic History and the pastoral genre. Like my forthcoming history of Persiles y Sigismunda, it may be written on an epic scale, with a consequent upgrading of the tone, style, and status of the principals. Hence, the rules of the amatory fable fall between the prescriptions of comedy, to which it bears obvious general affinities,5 and the rules of the epic for example, as outlined in Don Quixote Part I, Chapter 47. This is also true of the comic fable.6 It depicts the behavior of base, indecorous, foolish, or eccentric characters; their status is low or middling; and the style of the fable is plain. Its specific aim is to astonish and move to laughter,7 its general aim, like that of all poetry, is to delight and instruct. This species also has general affinities with the comedia with the interludes for light relief rather than the romantic or heroic main plot. Therefore it falls beneath the general jurisdiction of its rules, referred to by the priest in Part I,
5 It has
affinities to the genre of comedy in the status of its protagonists, its
general theme (lances de amor y de fortuna), and its dénouments
often, too, in specific situations of plot, such as those in the Captive's
story (Don Quixote I, Chapters 39-41) and in Cervantes' plays on
imprisonment in Algiers.
6 In a number of contexts Cervantes implies the relevance of the traditional precepts of comedy to the comic fable: thus in the Prologue to Don Quixote Part I he refers to the requirements of imitation and plain style. The main precept, or problem, of epic theory which concerns him is that of unity and relevance. It emerges in the discussion of the relation between episodes and main action in Don Quixote; see especially Part II, Chapter 44.
7 These are the standard reactions of discreto characters to Don Quixote and Sancho, also to other comic figuras of Cervantes. See Don Quixote Part II, Chapter 44, in the edition by Martín de Riquer (Barcelona: Juventud, 1975), p. 850.
Chapter 48 of Don Quixote. Because it is essentially a narrative genre,
it adheres in certain respects to the rules of epic. Having made this obeisance
to the rules, I add these qualifications. Some of the precepts of comedy
for example, those relating to the unities of place and time
apply more to the stage than the comic fable, and need not be observed in
the latter. The followers of Lope de Vega might care to take note of this.
Furthermore, I do not support at all the doctrine of the separation of genres.
I endorse the principle expressed in the lines Lo trágico y
lo cómico mezclado, / y Terencio con Seneca . . .
and do so for the same reasons as were given by their great author: que
aquesta variedad deleita mucho; / buen ejemplo nos da naturaleza, / que por
tal variedad tiene belleza.8 In this
discourse, I shall suggest various ways in which spokes should be inserted
in Virgil's wheel. From this it follows that the rules of comedy only apply
to the comic fable as a loose, general framework.
The comic fable, like the amatory, may be large, middling, or small in size: examples of the three types are, respectively, Don Quixote, novelas like Rinconete y Cortadillo, and the episodes of light relief in an amatory fable or prose-epic. What of the literary precursors and models of the species? Suffice it to say for the moment that they are heterogenous and that I have compounded the heterogeneity. This can be clearly observed in my novelas, most of which are audacious hybrids, twisted into new shapes by the strangely assorted elements combined in the traditional mold of that genre. I modestly believe that my comic fables represent a new genre. My conception of it has evolved experimentally and in the following manner.
Between about 1600 and 1604 forgive an old man's haziness about dates I wrote Don Quixote Part I, El celoso extremeño and Rinconete y Cortadillo. Shortly afterwards about 1604 to 1606 came El licenciado Vidriera, El casamiento engañoso, and El coloquio de los perros; these were written when I was living in Valladolid. I wrote La ilustre fregona at about this time also, or a little later. La gitanilla, the last of my comic novelas, was written in 1610.9 These are the comic fables of which I
Lope de Vega, Arte nuevo de hazer comedias en este tiempo, lines
174-80, in Dramatic Theory in Spain, edited by H. J. Chaytor (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1925), p. 21.
9 These dates are offered as hypotheses to underpin the argument about the evolution of Cervantes' art of the comic fable. They are based partly on my own judgement, partly on the estimates of M. A. Buchanan, R. Schevill and A. Bonilla, L. A. Murillo, R. El Saffar, and others who have gone into the question. The argument is not seriously affected if one allows a margin of error of one or two years in the dates suggested.
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shall speak. The composition of Don Quixote Part I seminally influenced
my conception of the genre. In some ways it was an experiment, since I modified
my original idea of its possibilities in the course of writing it. The aspects
of plot, character, and dialogue which came to interest me most were further
developed in the novelas mentioned above; and these developments were
incorporated in Don Quixote Part II, the most mature and complete
example of my art of the comic fable.
In one important respect, Don Quixote is not representative of my other fables. The backbone of incident in it consists of the hero's chivalric adventures; and these are conceived as parodies of the typical lances of books of chivalry. Their form and prominence are very much determined by this fact. The catalyst of the adventures in Part I is the hero's fantasy, pre-disposed to find the makings of a romantic or heroic encounter in the trivial occurrences of his wanderings through La Mancha. When he acts on these misapprehensions, the result is a maverick clash between these and the instinctive recoil of brute human instinct, or the teasing perversity of human mischief. The comedy of Part I is characteristically dynamic, ebullient, abrasive; the hero's fantasies, anarchically immune to common sense, bring down a shower of palos upon him and reduce the world to temporary pandemonium. In Part II, the humor becomes milder, though its polemic objective remains the same. The hero's madness turns brooding and introspective as a result of his preoccupation with the disenchantment of Dulcinea it is also calmer and shows sporadic lucidity. Chief responsibility for engineering the adventures now devolves upon the burladores, who devise brilliant theatrical charades to tease the hero, parodying the situations of books of chivalry on a spectacular scale and with close attention to detail. Insofar as one can speak of adventures in my other fables the novelas they do not have the burlesque form or theme of those in Don Quixote. In general, they are derived from the genres of the novela and the picaresque. Furthermore, I think it would be misleading to characterise them as the backbone of incident of these works, since, as I shall explain, the focus of my interest does not fall primarily upon them.
The adventures were the high points of Don Quixote Part I, for the hero and for me. Yet I came to find equal interest and comedy in the uneventful conversations between Don Quixote and Sancho, manifesting the strange fancies, the rationalistic intricacies, and the vanity of the former's delusion, and contrasting its romantic elevation with the latter's ingenuous attachment to gain and creature comforts. The
composition of these enchantingly absurd dialogues made me realise that the
spontaneous self-revelation of human silliness can hold interest for the
reader even when no action or incident is involved. Their original model
was the typical pattern of dialogue between the galán and his
comic servant in the sixteenth-century comedia, a genre in which I
include La Celestina.10 I modestly
believe that I have surpassed the paradigms which I imitated and have discovered
an important new source of interest in the comic fable. For, now that I have
finished Part II, I see that the conversations embody the unifying theme
of Don Quixote: the slow evolution of the characters' view of themselves,
each other, and their enterprise, ending for Don Quixote in the
recovery of sanity. The conversations are essentially, but not merely comic:
there are traits of lucidity in both characters, which attain their full
potentiality in Part II.
Don Quixote's delusions, by which he transforms ordinary things and persons into the typical prodigies of books of chivalry, have a certain stylishness, coherence, and poetic force. They helped me indirectly to perceive possibilities of romance and adventure in the experience of persons who move in an everyday world. This lesson was re-inforced from other directions. In Part I, I adopted the ironic strategy of presenting the phenomena misinterpreted by Don Quixote in an initially ambivalent way so that they seem for a time to contain marvellous potentialities. Don Quixote is deluded about the strange clanking of the batanes; yet is not the dark wood in which he hears it a genuinely awe-inspiring place? Again, the ordinary wayfarers whom Don Quixote embroils in his adventures often represent the potential subjects of an interesting novela. You remember the lady from the Basque country, travelling to join her husband in Seville? How does he perform in his honroso cargo in the Indies?11 That sort of question remains unanswered in Part I; but I do not neglect it in Part II. Of course, one kind of novela is developed at considerable length in Part I too much length, some critics thought. I refer to the fact that Don Quixote's fellow-wanderers in the sierra and fellow-lodgers at the inn have exciting narratives to tell concerning their recent experiences, that is, the trials and misfortunes of their love-affairs. These interpolated narratives, designed to vary the main
my article Characterization and Dialogue in Cervantes's Comedias
en Prosa, MLR 76 (1981), 338-56 (p. 344).
11 Part I, Chapter 8 (p. 85).
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chivalric theme, are the most obvious example of the extraordinarily hybrid
nature of Part I. I need not explain before this audience how Don Quixote's
fantasies re-create the spirit and style of chivalric adventures, how my
techniques of comic narrative borrow much from amatory fables (for example,
Heliodorus' abrupt beginnings, his artful delays in clarifying mysteries,
his dramatic ironies . . .), how my burlesque style feeds directly
and with little deformation from the stereotype formulae of epic narration,
pastoral lament, Petrarchist hyperbole and other species of purple rhetoric.
In Don Quixote Part I one may see, fully manifest and fraught with
potential, the moot original feature of my comic fables: the way in which
they are cross-fertilised by genres which have previously been treated as
alien to the comic muse.
The first lesson that I learnt from writing Part I was that the comic fable the very titles of mine suggest this should concern an intriguing character,12 describing his adventures during an eventful period of his life. Here I differ from my precursors among the Italian novellieri, such as Boccaccio. Their novelle tend to be about a single action, such as the impudent confidence-trick with seduction as its end, the ingenious sally which saves a compromising situation, the witticism and the circumstance which occasioned it. Unlike my novelas, they observe quite strictly whether by intention or not the unities of action, time, and place. Even when they are about a more complex sequence of events, they engage our interest primarily in events (peripeties, crises, ingenious subterfuges and so forth) and secondarily or subserviently in personalities. My comic fables reverse that order of priorities. I give two examples.
When I wrote El licenciado Vidriera, I avoided the option of treating the hero simply as a convenient mouthpiece for the articulation of dichos agudos. The result would not have been a novela, but an anthology like Juan Rufo's Las seiscientas apotegmas.13 I wished to present
Cervantes was aware of this is implicit in the fact that in his comic
novelas, just as in Don Quixote, he repeatedly draws attention
to the extraordinary traits of his characters (the wit of Preciosa, the
sanctimoniousness of Monipodio's gang) and displays them in conversational
episodes. See, for example, the reflections of Rinconete on the conversation
that he has overheard in Monipodio's house, at the end of Rinconete y
Cortadillo. I have used the edition of Novelas ejemplares by F.
Rodríguez Marín, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1957), I, 216-17.
13 Or, indeed, like certain Italian novelle, which are brief anthologies of [p. 10] motti by some celebrated wit. See Franco Sacchetti, Il Trecentonovelle, ed. Vincenzo Pernicone (Florence: Sansone, 1546), novella 41.
Vidriera's extraordinary aberration and wit as a caso de
admiración, and engage the reader's curiosity in that. I wished
also to supply a natural explanation for the phenomenon of his wisdom. I
am aware, and have read in Juan Huarte, that madness can produce mysterious
and paradoxical effects; yet as Aristotle has said, things which are possible
but improbable are not appropriate subject-matter for fables. So I portrayed
Vidriera as a living embodiment of the proverb, which I frequently cite,
el que lee mucho y anda mucho, vee mucho y sabe
mucho,14 sketching the hero's career
of scholarship, travel, and soldiering from boyhood to death, and treating
his madness as the most significant period of it. In Part, I imitated the
biographies by Plutarch or Diogenes Laertius of eccentric sages like the
Cynic Diogenes or Cato the Elder, famous for their censorious maxims. I spiced
the tale with fictional interest: giving the hero mysterious origins and
a quasi-chivalric sense of vocation, characterising his madness with the
extraordinary symptoms of melancholy that we read of in medical text-books,
ending his career in a poignantly ironic manner.
My second example is El casamiento engañoso. I choose it, because, like El celoso extremeño, it conforms more closely than my other comic fables to Italian prototypes and therefore permits us to see clearly how my narrative techniques differ from theirs. It imitates very loosely the situation in the tenth story of the eighth Day of the Decameron. In this novella a courtesan of Palermo gets a merchant to fall in love with her and obtains from him the loan of a large gum of money, which she does not return; later, he gets his revenge by practising a similar confidence-trick on her. In my novela, the deceptions are simultaneous and reciprocal, and neither deceiver is left with advantage. Moreover, the focus of presentation is different. The affair is narrated in the first person, by one of the cynical parties to this opportunistic marriage, and is surveyed by him in chastened retrospect, after he has been purged in hospital of his pox and his folly. In delegating the narrative to the tale's protagonist, who confides his misfortunes to a friend, I was influenced by my habitual practice in amatory fables. I found that the device had a particular usefulness here, since it gave ironic and psychological depth to the tale. In his narrative,
Don Quixote Part it, Chapter 25, p. 725, Cf. Persiles y
Sigismunda Book II, Chapter 6, ed. cit., I, 194.
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Campuzano re-captures the infatuated view of Estefanía that he had
in his brief marriage to her, not revealing specifically the knowledge of
her motives that he gained subsequently. Nor does he disclose until the very
end of his tale the nasty surprise that he had in store for her. In this
way I rub in the moral point of the novela, that he who goes to gather
wool cannot complain if he returns shorn, and illuminate from within the
processes of cupidity, vanity, and infatuation which brought about Campuzano's
downfall. I also show the repercussions that the affair had on his moral
conscience, revealed indirectly in the enlightened wisdom of El coloquio
de los perros, which I link with El casamiento engañoso
as a sort of edifying counterweight. This pair of novelas typifies
the greater moral seriousness that I show by comparison with the Italian
novellieri; it has done something to redeem the novela as a
genre from the image of lewdness and irreverence traditionally associated
My comic fables, while having a central strand and focus of interest, have a discursive, varied form. My cardinal aesthetic principle, gentlemen, is chè per tal variar natura è bella.15 Even my shorter comic fables the novelas reflect it. Partly, an effect of discursiveness arises from my concern with character and characters: witness El licenciado Vidriera. Some novelas exhibit a dualistic structure, in which one type of matter contrasts with another. Thus, in El celoso exremeño, I turn the central section, which describes Loaysa's penetration of the old man's defences, into a sort of risible entremés contrasting with the morally grave initial section and the sombre conclusion. In La gitanilla and La ilustre fregona, the narratives which explain previously unclarified mysteries, such as Clemente's arrival among the gipsies, or the origins of the illustrious servant-girl, are developed on such a scale as to constitute miniature novelas within a novela. La ilustre fregona shows a Byzantine complexity of structure in the concluding part.
strength of Cervantes's impulse to apply this principle in Don Quixote
is not only evident from his practice; it is clearly implied by Cide Hamete
Benengeli's facetious complaint (Part II, Chapter 44), about the necessity
of having to restrict himself to the dry and limited subject of Don Quixote's
deeds, sin osar estenderse a otras digresiones y episodios más
graves y más entretenidos. Benengeli also says that el
ir siempre atenido el entendimiento, la mano, y la pluma a escribir de un
solo sujeto y hablar por la boca de pocas personas era un trabajo
incomportable (p. 848). The complaint is facetious because Benengeli
goes on to explain how he does manage to insert episodes in Part II, avoiding
the pitfalls encountered in Part I.
Variety may be desirable in the novela;
it is indispensable in a fable of the epic length of Don Quixote.
I have tried by every means to avoid the monotonous repetition of the same
kinds of character and situation in one episode after another a fault
incurred by authors of picaresque fables. The means by which I sought variety
in Part I were criticised by those who thought that I had strayed too far
from my main theme. So in Part II I reduced the scope and quantity of romantic
episodes. However, I did not sacrifice variety. As you will have noted, the
chivalric adventures now alternate with other types of adventure which resemble
them somewhat in form in marvellousness, mystery, novelty,
unexpectedness yet differ from them in substance. The encounters which
provide them are the prodigies of our everyday world rather than its prosaic
banalities, which is what they were, or were represented as being, in Part
I. The element of adventure in them consists less in incident
than in the motley parade of types, spectacle, and mores. The prodigies
include a boarhunt, a meeting with a troupe of actors in costume, a puppet-show,
a speaking head, acquaintance with brigands in Cataluña, a chase in
a galley after a Turkish corsair-ship, a rustic wedding, Sancho's meeting
with a morisco illegally returned from exile, the incident with the
squadron of armed villagers. From this bare enumeration you will appreciate
how I have enormously expanded the scope of the comic fable, introducing
into it types of subject-matter which one might expect to find in epic narrative,
in political treatises, in descriptions of courtly masques, in the pastoral
genre, and mixing all this and more with the comic fable's traditional
ingredients folk-tales, burlas, apophthegms, social satire,
and so on.
What unifies this varied material is that the events and personalities are presented in relation to Quixote's and Sancho's reactions to them. They are central figures in these episodes, not peripheral bystanders. They reveal the familiar idiosyncracies of Part I, now mixed with a greater lucidity, and in Don Quixote's case, a new capacity to see people as they are and listen with curiosity to their experiences, opinions, grievances. Thus we see the daunting, legendary Roque Guinart (Chapter 60) marvelling at Don Quixote's chivalric aberration, confiding to him the motives which led him into brigandage, getting counsel from him on the processes of penitence. We contrast the magnificence and excitement of the hunt (Chapter 34) with the comedy of Sancho's cowardice during it, and are amused by his frivolous argument with the Duke about the justification of
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this noble art. The tale of the two braying regidores (Chapter 25)
might seem an autonomous episode; yet it is told to Don Quixote, and its
sequel and climax (Chapter 27) integrate it with the main theme, by featuring
the hidalgo's wise but ill-starred discourse on the rights of war
to the peasant army. Through Don Quixote's and Sancho's reactions to such
incidents, I conduct a humorous yet edifying commentary on morals and manners.
Thus, in Part II I think that I have achieved the mingling of styles or genres
and the encyclopaedic range of thought and information that I envisaged for
the prose-epic in the observations contained in Part I, Chapter
Of course, the prevailing tone of the comic fable differs from that of epic. I wish now to characterise the general tone or ethos of my fables, comparing them to the Italian novella and the picaresque genre. I make continual references to these two genres because they are the major types of comic fable that I know, apart from my own. A common theme in the Italian novella the funny species of it is the humiliation of stupidity, crassness, vanity, and so on by mischievous cunning; usually the humiliation takes physical as well as moral form. The picaresque genre is the comical autobiography of a disreputable character who has been a man of many parts, a servant of many masters. He describes the swindling and hypocrisy that he found in his employers and associates, and how he quickly learnt their malpractices, losing virtue and honor in the process. Much of the novella passes into the picaresque; and much of both, I hasten to add, passes into my own comic fables. Yet in important respects these differ from the other two genres. My heroes and heroines share certain similarities with Don Quixote's pattern of experience. They tend, as a result of a caprice or an obsession, to be propelled from an anonymous existence on a quest for adventures, which take the form of vicissitudes on a meandering journey. They resemble tourists or pilgrims with an indefatigable curiosity for novelty and no very urgent need to reach the destination. They have something of Don Quixote's chivalric thirst for adventure, his sense of principle and propriety, his sense of mission. Despite their indecorous follies, they have qualities which elicit our intellectual, even our moral and emotional identification.
refer to the multiple forms of erudition or literary expertise which the
writer is envisaged as being able to display in the prose-epic: he can parade
as astrólogo, cosmógrafo. músico, inteligente en
las materias de estado, nigromante, épico, lírico, trágico,
cómico (p. 483).
Their relationship with others is often affable and convivial, even when
tinged with irony. Hence, though they move through a world akin to that of
the novella and the picaresque, they stay indulgently aloof from it
thanks to their intrinsic poise and poetical fancy. Their perspective is
more or less my own. Since this determines what is seen, not just how it
is seen, the comic figuras in my fables are often portrayed in a light
which is venially absurd, gay, and wondrous. This is not because I am indifferent
to their sinfulness, crime, or folly, but because I apply within my fables
the house-rules adopted by the ladies and gentlemen who tell the stories
collected in the Decameron. When they retire to the country-villa
outside Florence to quarantine themselves from the plague, they resolve to
banish morbidity from their entertainments. So it is in my comic fables,
which are designed not just to make men laugh, but to cheer them up not
necessarily the same thing.17
As an example of the tone and perspective to which I have referred, let me cite La ilustre fregona, a novela with a picaresque theme. Its humor springs direct from the miscegenation of styles which typifies my comic muse. In Diego de Carriazo I portray a young caballero from Burgos who, fired by fascination for the picaresque life, runs away from his noble home and spends three years in various notorious meeting-places for pícaros, of which the last and best is the tuna-fishing beach of Zahara. His delight in this existence makes him see its squalor in a rosy glow, in more or less the same way as Don Quixote's delusions cause him to see wretched inns as castles. Though he haunts gambling-dens and taverns, he is immune to his corrupt surroundings, displaying a gentleman's breeding and liberality. One can make a rough comparison here with Don Quixote's high-principled attitudes towards convicts, prostitutes, and the like. When he returns home, his mind turns secretly and magnetically towards his beloved beach, just as Don Quixote's inclinations turn irresistibly towards chivalry from his bed of convalescence. On his second sally, Carriazo takes Avendaño with him; and the latter, when they reach Toledo, perceives peerless grace and beauty in a serving-girl at an inn, falls in love with her, and courts her with a platonic devotion comparable to Don Quixote's love for Dulcinea.
e.g., the remark about Don Quixote in Viaje del Parnaso, Chapter
4, lines 25-27: Yo he dado en Don Quijote pasatiempo / al pecho
melancólico y mohino / en cualquiera sazón, en todo tiempo.
Cited from the edition by R. Schevill and A. Bonilla (Madrid: Bernardo
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Finally, the two fathers arrive at the inn by chance, are re-united with
their sons, marry them off suitably, and take them home. The youths return
to the fold of reason and normality, and renounce their folly.
The symmetries that I have drawn between the novela and Don Quixote are not intended to suggest that the comic situations in them are exactly alike. The fregona is really a lady; Avendaño's love is not a mad literary imitation. My point is that the humor of La ilustre fregona is deeply influenced by the inter-crossing of romance and comedy in the latter part of Don Quixote Part I and by the ambiance of its inn scenes. In fact, Avendaño's love for the fregona is more appropriately compared to Elicio's for Galatea, than Don Quixote's for Dulcinea. In La ilustre fregona, and even more in La gitanilla, I have transplanted the character-traits, emotional attitudes, and ethical conflicts of the shepherds and shepherdesses of La Galatea in a comically base setting, embodying them in characters of refined feeling but low status or vocation. I have then derived a whole system of ironic contrasts between the gentility of the principals and their undignified context. We see romantic devotion from the mocking viewpoint of one dedicated to picardía; Avendaño's noble feelings are travestied in the lewd attachment of the promiscuous maids to him and his friend; numerous references to the heroine's (Costanza's) qualities consist of indecorous or derisive remarks by persons whose style and outlook would be appropriate to Monipodio's gang. The result is comic; and the comedy is Quixotic in origin and essence. It is gentler and more forgiving than if our view of la posada del Sevillano had been identified with Lazarillo, instead of Carriazo and Avendaño.
The unifying thread of many of my fables is the journey, with its vicissitudes, interesting encounters, halts at curious sites and places of hospitality. I derive this structuring principle to a large extent from the pastoral genre, in which, as you know, I served my literary apprenticeship. My shepherds in La Galatea continually make journeys: for example, to an unusual spectacle or happening.18 The objective gives the journey a teleological sense, and the background to it may furnish an interest-whetting, incomplete tale. While the shepherds
such journey is that made by Tirsi, Damón, Elicio, and Erastro to
Daranio's wedding. The cycle of events comprised in it, and in their stay
in the village just prior to and during the wedding, lasts from mid-Book
II to the end of Book Ill. See the edition by R. Schevill and A. Bonilla,
2 vols. (Madrid: Bernardo Rodríguez, 1914), I, 94 to the end.
travel in anticipation, they beguile the time with songs, hear th sequel
to narratives left artfully suspended, debate the ethics of love, laugh at
the sallies of an ingenuous companion, commiserate with the victim of some
tragic misfortune. Even when the purpose of the journey is normal, being
simply to reach the village or the pasture, it serves to give the journey
an end-term and make its peripeties seem a unified cycle of
incident.19 The shepherds who make the journeys
are the principal figures in La Galatea the heroine, Florisa,
Elicio, Erastro, Tirsi, Damón, and others. They tend not to be directly
involved in the sentimental dramas which supply the fictional interest of
the fable, but observe them as curious, judicious, and sympathetic spectators.
They embody the sensibility which the fable arouses, and articulate its premises
of courtly discreción and gallantry. One of their essential
roles is that of commentators: on poems, questions of love, and so on.
There are various cycles of incident such as I have just described in Don Quixote Part I, and even more in Part II. They are based on journeys: from the goat-herds' huts to Grisóstomo's funeral, from the inn to the Sierra Morena and back, from the inn to Don Quixote's village, from the place where Don Quixote meets Don Diego de Miranda to the latter's house, from there to Camacho's wedding and thence to the Cave of Montesinos.20 And so on. One could regard the whole of Part II as a cycle based on a journey from a certain place in La Mancha to Barcelona and back again. One can even have a stationary cycle of incident, which occurs, say, in a place of hospitality and entertainment. An example of such a place would be Felicia's palace in Montemayor's La Diana, to which the inn of Juan Palomeque is a low-grade equivalent and the lordly mansions of Part II a high-grade equivalent. In Part I the travellers featured in the journey-cycles vary; they include, principally and prominently, Don
example of a normal journey it immediately precedes that
described in n. 18 is the expedition by Galatea and Florisa, later
joined by Theolinda, from village to grazing-ground and back. They repeat
the expedition next morning, meeting Damón and Tirsi on the way. See
La Galatea, ed. cit., I, 44-94.
20 These journeys occur respectively in: Part I, Chapters 11 to 14, Chapters 26 to 32 (the priest and barber retrieve Don Quixote from the Sierra), Chapters 47 to the end (they escort Don Quixote home); Part II, Chapters 16 to 18, Chapters 19 to 21, Chapters 22 to 24. In computing the length of these journey-cycles I include events which are their natural initiation or culmination.
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Quixote, Sancho, the priest and the barber. The priest jolly Pero
Pérez, good friend and neighbor, mediator in every crisis discharges
the role of the discreet shepherds of La Galatea. In Part II, the
role is mainly discharged by Don Quixote; in Rinconete y Cortadillo,
by Rinconete; in El licenciado Vidriera, by Vidriera; in El coloquio
de los perros, by Berganza and Cipión.
Do you see what I am driving at, gentlemen? You remember my remarks about the tone and ethos of my fables, and the poise, affability, and wit which I attribute to my heroes and heroines? These features of my art are due partly to the fact that I continue residually to envisage the events in my fables as quasi-pastoral cycles of incident, and to make my protagonists perform some of the functions of the shepherds of La Galatea. I have, as it were, pastoralised the comic fable; La Galatea Part II is already in print, implicit in Don Quixote Part II.
That is not all. I used the journey-cycle as a structuring principle in La Galatea mainly as a convenient device to unify varied and contrasted matter. I now wish to suggest that the miscegenation of styles and genres in Don Quixote Part I is due in large measure to the influence of the pastoral fable. When I first thought of incorporating non-comic material in Don Quixote Part I, I decided to vary the hero's burlesque adventures with a pastoral episode, tragic and noble in mood.21 By a natural association of ideas, I decided to treat it as the culmination of a journey-cycle the basic structural principle of La Galatea. The cycle would form part of Don Quixote's peregrinations, and would permit the insertion of miscellaneous matter to contrast with the theme of the burlesque of chivalry: Don Quixote's discourse on the Golden Age, Antonio's ballad, Pedro's narrative-preamble to the funeral, the description of the funeral cortege, the reading of the Canción desesperada, Ambrosio's oration, Marcela's sudden appearance and her spirited speech in self-defence. During the journey to the funeral, Vivaldo's interrogation of Don Quixote would temporarily
believe that the Marcela/Grisóstomo episode was Cervantes' first
experiment in the mixing of genres in Don Quixote, quite possibly
the first in his comic fiction; and that the way he handles the experiment
is deeply influential on his later practice. I am not convinced by the arguments
originally proposed by G. Stagg, recently carried forward by R. Flores, that
the episode, in a primitive version of Part I, occupied a place
in the middle of the book. See G. Stagg, Revision in Don Quixote
Part I, Studies in Honour of I. González Llubera, ed.
Frank Pierce (Oxford; Dolphin, 1959). pp. 347-66.
restore the chivalric theme. Note that comedy and tragedy are not just
juxtaposed, but super-imposed in this cycle. It is not by accident that I
choose goat-herds to lead Don Quixote to the funeral and inform him about
it. Partly, they are uncouth characters, on the same comic level as the drovers,
prostitutes, and others amongst whom Don Quixote has moved since his first
sally. At supper, they accommodate him on an upturned tub and serve a meal
which includes shrivelled acorns and a half-cheese harder than plaster. Antonio's
ballad is amusingly rustic. Pedro's story, though well told, is parochial
in outlook and alien to the elevated motivations of Grisóstomo and
Marcela; clearly he regards her as a capricious young miss who should
have been more firmly controlled by her uncle. So, the initial perspective
that is afforded on the pastoral tragedy is low and residually comic an
effective means of leading the reader from a plane of burlesque to one which
is radically different, also an appropriate means, since the goat-herds have
something of the innocence and goodness of shepherds in Arcadia. Significantly,
they are the first plebeian characters in the fable apart from Don
Quixote's friends and neighbors who do not make fun of him.
It would be difficult for me to draw a precise boundary between the comic fable and satire;22 the first often fulfills the function of the second: to censure vice and folly amusingly. However, there is a difference between them. It can be expressed positively: the first duty of the comic fable is to entertain. It can also be inferred negatively from the observations that I make in El coloquio de los perros about how easy it is for satire to contravene propriety and Christian charity, by carping maliciously, by giving personal offence, by preaching. You will discern the pride with which I claim, in Don Quixote Part I, Chapter 3, through Sansón Carrasco, that Part I is the most pleasurable and least harmful work of entertainment that has been seen so far. Though its fundamental purpose is censure, at times severely
the subject of satire, see Riley's previously cited article (n. 2) in Suma
cervantina, p. 299. There are frequent references to the theme of satire
and the problems connected with it in Cervantes's works. See El coloquio
de los perros in Novelas ejemplares, ed. cit., pp. 224, 240-41,
248; the concluding remarks in Don Quixote's discourse on poetry in Part
II, Chapter 16 (p. 651); Persiles y Sigismunda Book I, Chapter 14,
ed. cit., I, 98, and Book II, Chapters 4 and 5, in which the libellous satirist
Clodio is characterised. In the statement in Viaje del Parnaso, Chapter
4, lines 11- 12: Nunca voló la humilde pluma mía / por
la región satírica . . , Cervantes is
presumably referring to the type of personal satire which he so often
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and openly expressed, its target is human folly in a relatively venial and impersonal form (the implausibilities of a literary genre), and its humor mostly arises from the innocently ludicrous misapprehensions of a madman. It and Part II have a somewhat different character from El coloquio de los perros and El licenciado Vidriera, despite my attempts in both these satires to express moral indignation via a pleasing fiction and mitigate its harshness. One example will suffice to show the difference. In El coloquio de los perros, Berganza has a fine passage of invective against various types of idler and parasite who gain a living by trickery, spending their ill-gotten gains in taverns.23 He specifically mentions those who display puppet-shows and those who sell pins and coplas. In Don Quixote, this type of sponge of wine and weevil of bread is embodied in Maese Pedro, formerly known as Ginés de Pasamonte. All the points in Berganza's censure are implicit premises of my characterization of him in Part II, Chapters 25 and 26.24 Yet he is not primarily presented as a target of satiric condemnation. I depict him as an extravagant, jovial, facetious, and intriguing personality. He wears, mysteriously, a green patch over one side of his face and has a soothsaying monkey, who shows an inspired perhaps sinister knowledge of the identities of Don Quixote and Sancho. He exhibits the marvels such I call them of his puppet-theatre, which is based on the ballad of Gaiferos' rescue of Melisendra. We are amused to find its romantic events rendered into a showman's explanatory commentary, and gripped at the same time by the commentary's pictorial liveliness, evocative of the mime and movement of the puppet-show and of its capacity to entrance an audience. We laugh at its violent effect on Don Quixote's humor and at the sly way in which Maese Pedro manipulates his sense of compassion and honour in order to get him to make reparation. The haggling over the broken puppets is a burlesque of a commercial transaction, equivalent to the burlesque auction in Lucian's Philosophies for
esto del ganar de comer holgando tiene muchos aficionados y golosos: por
esto hay tantos titereros en España, tantos que muestran retablos;
tantos que venden alfileres y copias . . . . Toda
esta gente es vagamunda, inútil y sin provecho; esponjas del vino
y gorgojos del pan. see Novelas ejemplares, ed. cit., II, 282,
and cf. similar observations in El licenciado Vidriera, ibid.,
24 Maese Pedro slyly refers to himself as a vagamundo (p. 736). Obviously he is a glib charlatan at least in respect of his soothsaying monkey. He is suspected of being extremely rich and of having a splendid time in taverns, todo a costa de su lengua y de su mono y de su retablo (p. 724).
Sale. Finally, after Maese Pedro has left the inn, I resolve the suspense
about his enigmatic conduct, revealing that he is Ginés de Pasamonte
in disguise. Who else could he have been but Ginés de Pasamonte,
mystery-man of Don Quixote, continually making unscripted re-appearances
(unscripted in every sense) in the text? In short, satiric
implication is conveyed in the portrayal, but is subordinate to the arousal
of wonder, laughter, and suspense.
The geniality of my comic muse is explained in another way. If one makes a simplified typology of my characters, one sees that they are derived mainly from the comic literature of the sixteenth century: variations on the figure of Celestina, the gipsy, the thief, the pícaro, the lackey, the maid, and so on. Two broad categories include many of the types: the burlador and the bobo. Don Quixote is served by a bobo and ringed by burladores. If one considers also the traits which I depict for comic effect, one can visualise many of them as venial forms of bobería, especially in low-class characters: the ingenuous ambitions of Sancho, the artless gossip of Doña Rodríguez, the self-betraying protestations of innocence and honour of the boarding-house landlady in El coloquio de los perros. One of my novelas illustrates this point in a telling way: Rinconete y Cortadillo. The latter and principal part of it consists of scenes of dialogue depicting the characters in Monipodio's house. They are partly modelled on La Celestina, partly on the entremés-tradition, and partly on the picaresque.25 For example, the scene featuring la Pipota, who crassly mentions her daily religious devotions and her crimes in the same breath, consumes a huge draught of wine after initially pleading a migraine, and delivers a moralistic discourse on the theme Carpe diem, brings Celestina to mind. Yet despite their derivation, the characters of Rinconete y Cortadillo lack the cynicism and malice that one associates with La CeIestina and the picaresque, and the ribaldry to be found in the entremés. Their common trait is silly ingenuousness, evident in their sanctimoniousness, their solemn notions of hierarchy and rules, their barbarous jumbling of thieves' slang and culto solecisms. This humanises them, despite their evil profession. I wrote Rinconete y Cortadillo and Don Quixote Part I at about the same time, and in the conversational scenes of the first adopt the perspective of detached, indulgent irony with which I present the dialogues between Don Quixote and Sancho. In these we observe the absurd interplay of incongruous and deluded viewpoints,
my article (n. 10), pp. 343-44.
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neither of which is aware of the absurdity, but is cocooned from it by an
amiable innocence and solemn self-importance.
In a number of my fables, my heroes and heroines develop moral and satiric reflection from the encounters that they make in the course of their wanderings. I have already mentioned how, in Don Quixote Part II, I modify the characters of Don Quixote and Sancho in order to make this possible. El licenciado Vidriera and El coloquio de los perros helped to prepare the way for this modification. In Vidriera, I conceived a comic figura who, like the Don Quixote of Part I, has a split mind: deranged on one topic, lucid on all others. Yet unlike Don Quixote in that Part, he is primarily an elegant critic of manners. He derives his perceptiveness not just as an accidental side-effect of madness but also from wide travel and reading. He is in some ways in moralistic elegance if not censoriousness a model for the Don Quixote of Part II.
However, I was not altogether satisfied with that novela. Whatever the worth of Vidriera's witticisms, the circumstances from which each one arises have little fictional interest. In El coloquio de los perros I found a way of integrating moral/satiric reflection with the body of the fable. Sugar and pill now become consubstantial. The dialogue is a grave meditation on virtue and vice and a satire on various follies and undesirable types in our society. The dialogue consists of Berganza's narrative of his life, and arising from it, the observations of Berganza and his friend Cipión the more judicious and critical of the two dogs. Berganza's narrative has something of the rapid succession of incident and the fabulous prodigies of Apuleius; the misadventures, crafty thefts and impostures, and the extravagant characters of the picaresque; the form and allegorical implication of Aesop, the disenchanted wit of Lucian. Of all these models, the narrative most nearly imitates the form of the picaresque fable. It repeats the pattern of Lazarillo's experience: from one bad master to another and from frying-pan to fire. Berganza has something of Lazarillo's personality too, reacting to human perfidy with shocked surprise, biting the bad masters and befriending those who are kind, even when impoverished. Yet Berganza, like Cipión, differs from the typical pícaro in remaining uncorrupted by his prolonged acquaintance with vice. The dialogue also has a deep affinity with Guzmán de Alfarache, and I am glad to take this opportunity of paying homage to Mateo Alemán's masterpiece. My dialogue resembles it in the Protean variety of Berganza's experience, in the dogs' disenchanted view of human
sinfulness, in their charity, humility, and prudence, and above all, in the
way in which moralistic gloss is thoroughly inter-twined with comic,
autobiographical anecdote, preserving lightness and humor in its tone. Thus,
a little sermon on the Christian virtue of humility arises from the
self-ingratiating tactics employed by Berganza to gain employment from new
masters wagging his tail when a likely person approached, lowering
his head, licking the man's shoes, keeping guard by the gate and barking
at strangers. The episode of Berganza's employment as a sheep-dog is reminiscent
of various fables of Aesop; it has an important political moral, left tactfully
unspecific, about the need for those in authority to keep the trust reposed
in them. Yet its allegorical implication is an incidental consequence of
anecdote: for example, the amusing, natural description of how the shepherds
examine Berganza's jaws to discover his age and pedigree, feed him sops,
fit him with a spiked collar; the exciting narrative of how Berganza finds
out the identity of the wolf. The very relationship between Berganza
and Cipión is comical, reminiscent in various ways of that between
Don Quixote and Sancho. The dogs wrangle with each other; Cipión carps
at Berganza for his malice, his digressiveness; Berganza pokes fun at
Cipión for committing the same faults. Their dialogue, by its comic
form and edifying substance, prepares for the conversations of Don Quixote
and Sancho in Part II.
In conclusion, gentlemen, I would claim that I have given the comic fable a new decorum and moral seriousness, I have shifted its primary focus of interest, I have enriched it with poetic overtones and a new reflectiveness. I now see that, despite my classical principles, I have created an anti-classical genre anti-classical and thoroughly Spanish in its hybrid eclecticism. Though the peculiar polemical theme of Don Quixote will not, I expect, encourage or require imitation that task of demolition is now accomplished I confidently foresee that the structural and formal patterns implicit in it, particularly in Part II, will inspire the authors of fables for centuries to come.
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