From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
16.1 (1996): 54-73.
Copyright © 1996, The Cervantes Society of America
||MARSHA S. COLLINS|
Cervantes's moving, profoundly
spiritual La española inglesa is born under the sign of
transgression. The tale unfolds during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I
(1588-1603), when England and Spain were mortal enemies vying for temporal
and religious supremacy. How then can one account for the story's heroine,
the lady in the title, who is both an English Spanishwoman and a Spanish
Englishwoman? Somehow the narrative terrain readers traverse from the initial
act of kidnapping to the triumphant final scene of restoration and fulfillment
manages to answer that very question and resolve the apparent paradox of
the title. At the same time, Cervantes subtly transfigures the text in ways
designed to inspire readers to submit their hearts and minds to divine influence
and Christian values that transcend self-interest and prejudice.
Prior to Alban K. Forcione's groundbreaking research on Cervantes's engagement with romance and Erasmian thought, much of the scholarship on La española inglesa focused either on the seeming implausibility of its plot and thinness of its characterization, or on internal chronological inconsistencies and uncertainty regarding the story's date of composition.1 Some critics escaped this scholarly bifurcation
everyone studying Cervantes today, I am greatly indebted to the scholarship
of Alban K. Forcione. In the case of this article, Forcione's illuminating
[p. 55] analysis of romance conventions and Erasmian
thought in the Novelas ejemplares, which he explores in Cervantes
and the Humanist Vision, has been especially inspirational.
Sánchez-Castañer 7:357-70 and El Saffar 150-51 provide summaries
of trends in scholarship on La española inglesa.
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between aesthetic and sociohistorical concerns, notably Joaquín Casalduero, who identified the ascendant movement towards spiritual purification and unity in La española inglesa, and Rafael Lapesa, who noted the literary kinship between this story, the Persiles (1617), and the other novelas idealistas (Casalduero 125-29; Lapesa 258-63). Still Casalduero downplayed many of the text's descriptive passages and sociohistorical details as lo pintoresco (132-34), while Lapesa stopped just short of integrating historical fact with fictional form (250-58).2 Forcione has stressed Cervantes's sophisticated reworking of romance in the Novelas ejemplares (1613), particularly the author's complex adaptation and accommodation of the genre's conventions to convey to readers multiple levels of exemplarityaesthetic, spiritual, political, social, historical. These multilayered hermeneutic renditions of romance, activated by reading, operate simultaneously in the narratives to stimulate thoughts and emotions. Modern readers of La gitanilla, La española inglesa, El amante liberal, Las dos doncellas, and La ilustre fregona, the romances that form the utopian core of the Novelas ejemplares, in general come to these stories ill-equipped to appreciate fully the significance of the relationships Cervantes establishes between romance patterns and sociohistorical facts.3 La española inglesa poses an especially acute
over the date of composition of La española inglesa based on
internal, contradictory, factual data in the text is a persistent aspect
of scholarship on this tale. Rodríguez-Luis's discussion of this issue
(1980; 1:30-33) is remarkably similar to that of Singleton (1947). I believe
the conflicting mix of historical facts in the novela is a deliberate
attempt on Cervantes's part to encourage readers to share the broader viewpoint
of an older, experienced artist and man nearing the end of his career and
life. For Cervantes's purposes in La española inglesa, the
sacking of Cádiz represents that of both 1587 and 1596, as well as
any other English incursion on Spanish soil within recent popular memory.
Coherent factual specificity is not as significant as the pattern of behavior
and collective attitude that have been generated by a series of events
interpreted in certain ways (not always accurately) in the past. See Johnson
and Stagg for a different point of view regarding the novela's date
of composition and the significance of the historical data incorporated into
3 On Cervantes's complex engagement with romance see chapter 2 of Forcione's Humanist Vision, Cervantes's La Gitanilla as Erasmian Romance 93-223. Pages 93-96, 208-15 in particular address the intersection of romance with the sociohistorical moment, stressing both the need for readers to recuperate the spirit and substance of Cervantes's time and the difficulty of doing so.
[P. 56] Murillo focuses on five novelas, among them La española inglesa, which comprise the center of gravity of the entire collection (231). He characterizes these tales as idealizing romances, narratives of betrothal or courtship; they begin by disclosing or depicting the obstacles to the union of two idealized (usually adolescent) lovers who are given the freedom to select each other as their mate, and come to a close with the celebration of their marriage (233). Significantly, Murillo groups La española inglesa with La gitanilla as romances of idealized betrothal (232, 236-39).
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problem in this regard because the narrative virtually commands the reading
public to reconcile the tale's historical referentiality and factual specificity
with its idyllic enactment of dreamlike romance.
In The Fictive and the Imaginary, Wolfgang Iser characterizes the actualization of literature as a fictionalizing process that consists of three transgressive acts: (1) selection, or the crossing of extratextual, sociocultural systems with literary systems delimited by the text; (2) combination, or the dynamic foregrounding and backgrounding of the lexical, semantic, and literary codes in the text; and (3) disclosure, or the revelation of fiction as fiction, in which readers transcend selection and combination to arrive at a realm of experience beyond the limits of the interactive extratextual and intratextual systems of meaning. While Cervantes proffers a fluid, seamless interplay of selection and combination in novelas such as La gitanilla, he employs a different aesthetic in La española inglesa, compressing selection and combination in an at times jarring fashion. The resultant, sometimes jolting juxtaposition of sociohistorical facts and romance conventions explains to a large degree the difficulty scholars have had in articulating in critical discourse the interaction of the two in the text. Following Iser's model, one might designate as acts of transgression the alternately conflictive and harmonious incursions of these two spheres of referentiality on each other in La española inglesa; however, in actuality, one might more accurately label them acts of transfiguration in which the imaginative potential of the fictional world they constitute far exceeds the sum of that world's component parts. I believe that the affective and intellectual power of La española inglesa resides precisely in the creation of an imaginary aperture in the narrative, in the construction of an as-if world that inspires readers to adopt a certain point of view towards this temporary displacement of . . . [their] own reality (Iser 19-20).4
(and other Renaissance Humanists) find a kindred spirit here in Iser, who
stresses the liberating, elevating, imaginative potential of literature.
In chapter 1 Fictionalizing Acts 1-21, Iser describes the
transgressive, transformational processes involved in the actualization of
the literary text.
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Cervantes alerts readers to the presence of
both historical referents and romance conventions at the very beginning of
La española inglesa. The story opens with an act of transgression,
a kidnapping, a classic romance motif that recurs several times in the
tale.5 The author elects to enact the kidnapping
within a historical frame of reference, namely the sacking of Cádiz
by the English, which took place in 1587 and 1596. Clotaldo, an English noble
and naval officer participating in the raid, returns to London with a
seven-year-old Spanish girl among the spoils of war (Entre
los despojos . . .47). He disobeys a direct order from his
commanding officer in doing so, because he cannot resist Isabela's extraordinary
beauty, an attraction which the narrator hastens to qualify as pure and Christian
(48). The modern audience might smile at the moral self-consciousness of
the voice, but in fact Cervantes has provided readers with two additional,
imaginative points of entry into the fictional world of romance. He has made
an oblique, figurative reference to the incest motif, which predictably appears
as a subversive taboo element in such idealizing tales, and in rejecting
that possibility, has informed readers that supernatural forces and a higher
realm of being that lie beyond human understanding are at work in the story,
governing Clotaldo's actions and dictating the subsequent course of events.
The Englishman's heinous crime generates the synergy peculiar to the romance
plot, predicated on the polarized oppositions. Given the circumstances in
which it occurs, the kidnapping not surprisingly appears to pit the English
against the Spanish, Protestants against Catholics, servitude against freedom,
and evil against goodtensions that mirror the conflicts of the
sociohistorical moment, and more than likely the attitudes of many of Cervantes's
contemporary readers. La española inglesa moves slowly forward
through a succession of episodic adventures that vacillate between good and
bad fortune, but that inevitably lead the protagonists and readers to an
emotionally charged scene of anagnorisis, recovery, and realization in Catholic
Spain. Cervantes inscribes an up-down, forward-moving plot within a dynamic,
circular frame of divine intervention that works through Isabela and Ricaredo
to propel them back to the homeland of the true faith.
The protagonists' tortuous path traces a series of adventures that, by accident or providential design, test the steadfastness of
Secular Scripture is the basis for my analysis of La española
inglesa as romance. The kidnapping motif is one of the standard themes
of descent (95-126) that often occur at the beginning of a romance,
initiating the plot with a downward plunge into captivity in a lower world
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their love and religious faith, which are inseparable in La española inglesa. Fate, challenges, and remarkable coincidences staples of romance fiction saturate the plot of the tale. When he returns to England with Isabela, Clotaldo and his wife Catalina raise the girl as their own child. Isabela at first regards her kidnapper's son Ricaredo as a brother, but as both young people mature, they grow wiser, more virtuous and more in love. As adults they pledge undying love for one another and receive his parents' blessing for their betrothal. But when they seek the Queen's approval of their wedding match, so taken is the monarch by Isabela's name, beauty, and goodness that she decides Ricaredo must prove himself worthy of such a prize. She sends him apirating to pillage and plunder with the Crown's permission. During his quest, the hero encounters ships belonging to Arnaute Mamí, the Turkish corsair who captured Cervantes. Mention of this historical figure suddenly foregrounds the story's crossing of extratextual and fictional boundaries, drawing readers' attention to its transgressive practices. Ricaredo returns with more than enough loot to satisfy the Queen, not to mention Isabela's long-lost parents, whom he just happens to bump into on the high seas. A happy ending seems imminent when the mother of Ricaredo's rival Arnesto vengefully poisons Isabela, whom she holds responsible for her son's misfortunes. The heroine survives due to the timely intervention of Queen Elizabeth, although Isabela loses her beauty. Yet Ricaredo maintains his love for the young lady now described as un monstruo de fealdad (81). He rejects an alternate bride, set aside before Isabela, and secretly exchanges wedding vows with his beloved. The young couple then initiate a plan of action to avoid conflict in London and reunite them eventually in Spain. Isabela returns home with her parents, while Ricaredo goes on a pilgrimage to Rome to confirm his faith and improve his religious practices. During the ensuing interval of time, Isabela and her parents settle in Sevilla, she recovers her former beauty and grows more devout in her faith, and her family recovers its previous wealth and prominence. A letter announcing Ricaredo's death prompts the English Spanishwoman to enter the convent, but on the day she is to take the veil, her husband shows up just in time to prevent her from making that final step. Ricaredo recounts his story, involving the false report of his death, his kidnapping by the Turks and subsequent captivity, and his deliverance, thanks to the intervention of the Trinitarian friars and the mercy of one of his Moorish captors, whom he had previously spared when he had the upper hand as a corsair captain. The couple renew their vows as the city's temporal and ecclesiastical
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authorities witness the ceremony. With a fairy-tale flourish that also returns
Cervantes's audience to the historical present of post-tridentine Spain,
the narrator states that as far as he knows, Ricaredo and Isabela still live
in wedded bliss in Sevilla.
Gemination, a common feature of romance, emerges as one of the primary structural components in La española inglesa. The story divides symmetrically into two sections, with the poisoning of Isabela as the peripetal point signaling the narrative's ascending movement towards greater spirituality and powerful, emotional evocation.6 The locus of dramatic activity shifts from Protestant England, the court of Elizabeth I, and the home of Ricaredo's parents in part one, to Catholic Spain, the convent of Santa Paula, and the home of Isabela's parents in part two. Ricaredo's kidnapping in the second half serves as a counterpart to Isabela's in the first half. The Christian mercy Ricaredo extends to his Spanish and Turkish captives in the first section is returned in the second section, when he is a captive of the Moors and is ransomed by Spanish friars. Both protagonists encounter doubles of themselves in other characters. Isabela and the English sovereign have their name in common and share uncommon virtue and wisdom, but the heroine finds a rival in a Scottish noblewoman who plans to marry the hero. Ricaredo battles a demonic double in his rival Arnesto, who nearly kills him in Rome. Three grand public processions echo each other and punctuate La española inglesa's spiritual ascent. In part one, a richly gowned and bejeweled Isabela makes her way through throngs of bystanders to reach the English palace of the Virgin Queen. After his pirate adventures, Ricaredo, armed as a conquering warrior, makes a similar journey through the streets of London to his audience with the Queen. The procession in Sevilla in part two, however, outdoes the previous ones in pageantry, theatrical staging, and representation of temporal and divine power. Here Isabela's destination is church and convent, God's palace, where she seeks to offer her beauty, pure heart, and earthly riches to Christ and to Mary, the Virgin Queen of Heaven. Most of the city accompanies her, including the magistrate and the archbishop's vicar, and together the crowd of spectators experiences the miraculous appearance of Ricaredo and witnesses his restoration to his Spanish Catholic family. The ornate procession and melodramatic recognition scene provide a fitting conclusion to a
Lowe and Casalduero 119-21 on symmetry as a prominent structural and stylistic
feature of La española inglesa.
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romance narrative in which the protagonists' love and religious faith triumph
over all obstacles and adversity.
Isabela and Ricaredo adhere to the schematic, archetypal perfection of the heroines and heroes of romance, but Cervantes has clearly chosen to develop their spiritual purity as lovers and as upholders of the Catholic faith above all other aspects of their respective natures. The author portrays Isabela as a celestial being, a Marian figure with superhuman powers to move, inspire, and persuade. On her way to meet the English sovereign, Cervantes transforms the protagonist into an icon of the Queen of Heaven, an object of adoration carried through the streets on a float whose miraculous beauty strikes the public dumb with amazement: con su gallarda disposición y milagrosa belleza se mostró aquel día a Londres sobre una hermosa carroza, llevando colgados de su vista las almas y los ojos de cuantos la miraban (54). Her Spanish attire underscores Isabela's earthly nationality, while the pearls and diamonds that drape her figure endow her with the precious, noumenal glow of the divine, set her apart from and above the masses, and complete the image of a Catholic religious procession that has suddenly, magically materialized in the middle of Protestant England. Cervantes advances the heroine's transfiguration at court. When Isabela learns Ricaredo must leave her to prove his worth with valorous and lucrative deeds, she metamorphoses into a lachrymose Madonna like Sevilla's Virgen de la Macarena: comenzó a derramar lágrimas, tan sin pensar lo que hacía y tan sesga y tan sin movimiento alguno, que no parecía sino que lloraba una estatua de alabastro (58). In accordance with Platonic tradition, the external perfection of Isabela accurately reflects her inner virtue and wisdom. Her beautiful form provides a suitable corporeal vessel for a heavenly, melodic voice: en lo que tuvo extremo fue en tañer todos los instrumentos que a una mujer son lícitos, y esto con toda perfección de música, accompañándola con una voz que le dio el cielo tan extremada, que encantaba cuando cantaba (49).7 This divine, musical voice confirms Isabela's spiritual kinship with a member of her family introduced in the second part of La española inglesa, a cousin única y extremada en la voz, a nun in the convent of Santa Paula whose religious avocation seems to presage the heroine's destiny (87). Significantly, this audible, if intangible link between the human and the divine extends to the extraordinary rhetorical skills of Isabela. As the Spanish captive prepares for her audience with the Queen, Catalina expresses
128-29 outlines the Platonic progression of the protagonists in their pursuit
of marriage and a peaceful life together.
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concern that Isabela will inadvertently reveal the family's illicit religious
beliefs. The heroine calmly asserts her faith that God will gift her with
words that will save and bring honor to her adopted parents: yo
confío en el cielo que me ha de dar palabras en aquel instante, por
su divina misericordia, que no sólo no os condenen, sino que redunden
en provecho vuestro (53). The heroine celebrates the capacity
of language to unite people across cultural and religious boundaries when
used in the service of universal Christian values. She envisions herself
as one who recognizes the spiritual potential of language and as one who
with God's grace can wield words as unifying instruments. Isabela clearly
shares this aspect of her faith with her Spanish creator. She uses her ability
as a linguist on several occasions to expand the community of listeners to
include members of hostile countries and cultures. She serves as interpreter
for her Spanish parents during their audience with Queen Elizabeth, who honors
the Catholic Spaniards as cherished guests. Ricaredo entrusts her with the
Spanish narration of his story of captivity to the crowd in Sevilla because
he acknowledges the complexity involved in the telling of a tale of conversion
and adversity that spans countries, cultures and religions. In short, era
mejor fiarlo de la lengua y discreción de Isabela (94). In her
role as communicator and intermediary in a secular context, the heroine resembles
the Virgin Mary at work as the advocate for humankind in heaven.
Despite the aura of divinity that surrounds Isabela, Cervantes resists the impulse of romance to apotheosize her completely. Instead he submits the heroine to a series of trials that prove her essential humanity even as they hone and evince exceptional, abiding love and genuine religious devotion. Her captivating beauty inspires adoration and spiritual conversion, but it also arouses Arnesto's all-too-human lust and the jealous resentment of a number of Queen Elizabeth's ladies-in-waiting. The tender emotions she displays towards Ricaredo and both sets of parents locate her on an earthly plane, as does her flesh-and-blood susceptibility to poison. Yet precisely at this peripetal point in the story, Isabela's dual nature comes to the fore. The royal physicians save the protagonist with a supernatural antidotepowders made from the unicorn's horn. Myth appears to invade and supersede verisimilitude in this instance, marking the narrative's move towards romance conventions, and metonymically reaffirming the heroine's association with the qualities traditionally identified with this magical creature, namely virginity, sovereignty, and Christian salvation. Nevertheless, it is plausible that here too Cervantes has elected to combine an extratextual, historical reference more accessible to his contemporary
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readers with the literary conventions of romance. When James VI of Scotland
succeeded Elizabeth I to the throne, the unicorn from the Scottish royal
coat of arms joined the lion in supporting the English shield in heraldic
representations. The peaceful reconciliation of the lion and the unicorn,
formerly enjoined in battle, ushered in a new, hopeful era of Spanish-English
relations ripe with the promises of
peace.8 In this context, Isabela's resurrection
from the dead becomes an almost allegorical instantiation of an imaginary
global realm in which England and Spain, previously mired in bloody conflict,
would enjoy harmonious coexistence. Still the English Spanishwoman faces
an even greater test of her mettle when she returns to Sevilla to confront
extraordinary adversity in the form of a two-year separation from Ricaredo
and the devastating report of his death. The constancy of her love and Catholic
faith provides the heroine with sufficient strength to lead an exemplary
life and withstand the blows of fate that would lead others to despair. While
awaiting Ricaredo, she ignores numerous aspiring suitors and embraces the
ascetic existence of a postulant preparing to take final vows (Pabón
65): procuraba vivir de manera que cuando Ricaredo llegase a Sevilla
antes le diese en los oídos la fama de sus virtudes que el conocimiento
de su casa . . . todo lo libraba en su recogimiento y en sus oraciones
y buenos deseos esperando a Ricaredo (88-89). The Isabela who encounters
Ricaredo at the convent door has undergone a process of spiritual purification,
an examen de conciencia that leads to a marriage sanctioned by the
Catholic Church, replacing both her illegitimate, secret ceremony in England
and her planned union with God as a cloistered nun, and returns her to the
social fabric of life in post-tridentine Spain.
The two saintly individuals reunited at the convent door in Sevilla meet as spiritual equals. Like his beloved, the man who weds Isabela in Spain has been tested and tempered by misfortune. The Trinitarian habit he wears symbolizes the purgative trials he has survived as a Christian prisoner in Moorish hands (Pabón 59).9 Even as a youth, however, Ricaredo displays mucha virtud . . . gran valor y
White 20-21 on the unicorn's supernatural powers and symbolism and Shepard
73-77, 119-27 on its prophylactic applications and significance as a heraldic
emblem. Hanrahan and Johnson examine the historical circumstances that aroused
hopes for a Spanish-English reconciliation during the reign of James I.
9 Ruta views Ricaredo as the genuine protagonist of La española inglesa, rejecting the notion of dual development of a heroine as well as a hero as central to the narrative (372).
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entendimiento (50). This early promise blossoms when Ricaredo reaches
manhood and humility before his beloved and before God forms an integral
part of his heroism. Torn between his potentially conflicting obligations
to Isabela, Church, and Queen, Ricaredo places himself in God's hands before
setting sail to prove himself worthy of the English Spanishwoman: en
su corazón pedía al cielo le deparase ocasiones donde, con
ser valiente, cumpliese con ser cristiano, dejando a su reina satisfecha
y a Isabela merecida (59). The perfect combination of virtue, wisdom,
and Christian mercy helps Ricaredo to attain those goals. The male protagonist
faces a more severe test of character when Isabela loses her beauty, but
he passes it with flying colors by remaining steadfast in a love that surpasses
physical attraction: el amor que la tenía pasaba del cuerpo
al alma, y que si Isabela había perdido su belleza, no podía
haber perdido sus infinitas virtudes (81-82). He subsequently consecrates
that avowal of love in the secret wedding ceremony that initiates his two-year
separation from the heroine. This time when Ricaredo departs London, he does
so in response to the demand of a higher authority than Queen Elizabeth.
The Virgin Queen of Heaven, vested in Isabela, has inspired the hero's
examen de conciencia in matters of faith, which sends him to Rome
to perfect his religious practices. By his own admission, Ricaredo is somewhat
of a lapsed Catholic (la cual [la fe católica] si no
está en la entereza que se requiere, he confesses to Isabela
as he makes his marriage vows (83), but once in Rome he reconfirms his faith
and undergoes an experience akin to conversion. The strength he derives from
this spiritual reaffirmation sustains the hero through Arnesto's attempt
on his life and his ritual death as a captive in Algiers. The fact that the
Trinitarian order pays his ransom and restores him to life and love in the
Catholic community of Sevilla indicates that God has taken part in arranging
this joyful recognition scene.
Yet something unexpected happens to La española inglesa on the journey to the convent door. As Cervantes accommodates the world of Counter-Reformation Spain to the schemata of romance, he does so in a fashion that undermines the polarized universe he appears to set up in the opening scenes of the novela. As a result, readers' expectations regarding the boundary-crossing between the extratextual world and the literary text in the fictionalizing act are dramatically altered, skewed in a way that encourages them to take a searching look at their own values and faith. Iser has termed the transgression of conventional patterns text play and has identified it as a characteristic of the interplay between the fictive and the imaginary
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essential to the continuity of literary tradition and to opening the text
and established genres to new symbolization (256).
As a general rule, romance relies on plot rather than characterization for dramatic tension. Such narratives usually unfold as games of agon, as a series of contests in which good eventually triumphs over evil (Frye 49-54; Iser 258-59). In La española inglesa, however, Cervantes has refused to construe agon along the predictable lines of battling nations, religions, and cultures. He chooses instead to fictionalize against the grain of popularly held thoughts and opinions, neutralizing their conflictive, polarizing potential. For example, the author does not characterize the kidnapper Clotaldo as a cruel, firebreathing English heretic, but rather as a warm and caring husband and father, as well as a respected nobleman devoted to the Crown. As it turns out, Clotaldo and his family are closet Catholics who remain true to their faith despite the considerable threat to their wealth, reputation, and lives if that secret should come to light. The English family provides Isabela with love, material luxury, and the education of a fine lady. They accept her as their future daughter-in-law, even though there are more suitable, advantageous matches for their son. Cervantes goes to great lengths to extend this same humane viewpoint to the rest of Clotaldo's countrymen, without condemning them on the basis of nationality or religion. The narrator labels the poisoning of Isabela una de las mayores crueldades que pudo caber jamás en pensamiento de mujer principal, y tanto como ella lo era (80). He judges the woman and the act on moral grounds, as a deed that belies the nobility of the lady's social station, but he does not link the crime to her country or religious practices. Cervantes paints a similar picture of her son Arnesto, portraying him as a lascivious, arrogant firebrand, a monster unacceptable to all civilized, moral people, whatever their background.
The substitution of moral for political correctness emerges most strikingly in the presentation of Queen Elizabeth I. Rather than the evil foil, wicked witch, or at the very least, the powerful adversary Spanish readers might expect, Cervantes gracefully executes some literary sleight of hand to transform the monarch into a fairy godmother. The English sovereign tests, aids, and rewards the hero and the heroine, inadvertently (in the human, but not the divine sense) putting in motion the forces that will eventually reunite the protagonists in Spain under the auspices of the Catholic Church. Like her young Spanish double, she becomes a Marian figure, a fictional realization of her popular image as the Virgin Queen. The Cervantine Elizabeth also possesses great moral perspicacity. She, too, regards Isabela's beauty with wonderment, but sees through appearances to
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the heroine's virtue. The Queen remains true to her own values as well. She
keeps her promises, even when pressured to go back on her word, and metes
out punishment to fit the crimes, but in penalties that are just and tempered
by mercy and judicious restraint. After the poisoning incident, she compensates
all parties for their material losses and assures Isabela and her parents
safe passage to Spain.
In fact, Cervantes has undertaken a daring experiment in La española inglesa, undercutting agon on the most conventional, superficial level of the text, only to reconstitute it as agonic play occurring within the confines of the protagonists' soul, but projected outward in words and deeds. Symbolic psychological conflict displaces dramatic tension as the dynamic, driving force of this narrative, a Cervantine version of the genre known for flat, dimensionless characterization. The author concentrates on one aspect of their personality in particular, their exercise of free will an ideological flashpoint of Reformation Europe. When Ricaredo the corsair comes upon the two Turkish ships of Arnaute Mamí, the description of the ensuing naval battle offers everything an adventure-seeking reader could possibly want in terms of swashbuckling, armed confrontation at sea. The hero displays the requisite strength and valor in the struggle, but his magnanimous show of Christian mercy towards the vanquished stands in marked contraposition to his newfound image of valiant soldier, justly waging war on the enemies of the Crown. Narrative attention shifts from details of the battle to the difficult decision-making process Ricaredo faces regarding the fate of the Spanish prisoners, formerly captives of the Turks, and the few live, remaining members of the Turkish crew. He rejects the suggestion to slay them all, judging that idea an act of cruelty unworthy of his noble heart and a moral betrayal of the victory God has brought them. Ricaredo decides to set the prisoners free and generously supplies them with sufficient money and provisions to make it back to their respective homelands. His choice does not meet with unanimous support: algunos le tuvieron por valiente y magnánimo y de buen entendimiento. Otros le juzgaron en sus corazones por más católico que debía (64). Still this exercise of free will brings him nothing but favor from the Queen. Similarly, Ricaredo tries to avoid conflict with his sworn enemy Arnesto by refusing to fight a duel with him. Furthermore, he actually argues against harsh castigation of the treacherous lady-in-waiting, against punishment that his sovereign offers to him as retribution for the poisoning of Isabela: Muchas cosas dijo Ricaredo a la reina disculpando a la camarera y suplicándolo la perdonase, pues las disculpas que daba eran bastantes para perdonar mayores insultos (82). Ricaredo willingly serves as an instrument
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of Christian mercy, charity, and forgiveness, turning down both opportunities
for what most would consider righteous revenge. Readers might also expect
a confrontation between Isabela and the Queen over religious differences,
yet such an incident never materializes. The heroine guards her English family's
religious secret, but she remains a firm and forthright adherent of the Catholic
faith, refusing to succumb to political expediency to promote herself at
court. The Queen actually regards Isabela's open devotion to Catholicism
and her repeated refusals to convert with great respect: la estimaba
en más, pues tan bien sabía guardar la ley que sus padres la
habían enseñado (80).
When Cervantes undermines readers' expectations of historical and political correctness, he transposes La española inglesa into a surprisingly different, more spiritual key. Dramatic tension unfolds as a series of soul-searching moral dilemmas resolved in acts of free will that both reaffirm Catholic faith and support a Christian ideology that transcends national and sectarian divisiveness. Cervantes thus skillfully blends the play of agon in the text with that of alea, which involves submission to a higher power (Iser 258-59). In this novela, the protagonists submit their fate to God and Christian values rather than public policy and prejudice. As a result, the author reconfigures a simple tale of kidnapping as a classic narrative of kidnapped romance, described by Northrop Frye as the genre's absorption into the ideology of an ascendant class (57). Yet in La española inglesa's carefully orchestrated transposition of romance conventions, Cervantes discloses an as-if world that runs counter to the standard ideology of the time, implicitly articulating an Erasmian plea for religious tolerance and moderation that flies in the face of the religious wars dividing Christian Europe. Erasmian thought creates in the narrative what Thomas Pavel has termed an epistemic path, a moralizing construct that enables Cervantes to generate for his readers a utopian vision of a united Christian community in which archenemies Catholic Spain and Protestant England peacefully coexist.10
describes utopias as fictional constructs that depend on worlds more
actual than themselves; utopias reshape their constituent worlds into
something new and different. He identifies utopian fictional worlds with
transformation and aperture (110-12).
Castro has written of Cervantes's concept of Christianity: Su cristianismo, según veremos, recuerda, en ocasiones, más a Erasmo que a Trento (256). Castro also emphasizes Cervantes's religious tolerance, citing La española inglesa to support his opinion (287-89), and noting that the author had a Christian [p. 67] attitude of amor y comprensión del prójimo (291). Bataillon characterizes Cervantes's religious beliefs as essentially orthodox in nature, but with tolerance that would let him include all Christians in a unified, communal whole (796-97).
|16.1 (1996)||Transgression and Transfiguration||67|
Cervantes has chosen what might at first seem two highly unlikely motifs as ontological founders, imaginative markers that reveal an Erasmian legacy of Christian brotherhood in a utopian, transnational community (Pavel 110). The detailed recounting of international money exchange, transfer of funds, and deposits in foreign banks has long been regarded as one of the most puzzling features of this story.11 Readers do perhaps learn more financial minutiae than they ever knew or ever wanted to know in the description of the movement of Isabela's money from England to Spain by way of France, and of Ricaredo's deposit of funds with a Florentine merchant to recover later in Spain. The money motif is far from a compositional flaw, however, for it celebrates the belief Cervantes shared with Erasmus that Christians should demonstrate their faith in daily life, in good works and acts of charity (Castro 294-95, 299; Bataillon 793-95). The financial network established in the tale defies political and religious taboos to constitute a European economic community whose funds make whole a scattered Catholic family, bringing an English, ostensibly Protestant, gentleman into the fold, and restoring all of them to their rightful place at the heart of one of Spain's most active religious communities, Sevilla. In a circuitous route that mirrors the narrative's twisted progress, the money that transgresses commercial sanctions as it crosses national borders is gradually transfigured into an instrument of Christian charity that ransoms the devout Ricaredo from the Moors and returns the flesh-and-blood icon Isabela to the sanctuary of a Spanish convent. Such a constructive, unifying spiritual investment stands in marked contrast to the expenditure of vast sums of money to wage bloody religious wars pitting Christian against Christian.
fact, Cervantes's detailed description of financial transactions in the tale
has been regarded by some as flawed technique, the lack of narrative control
of an immature author: El interés en las transacciones comerciales
podría equilibrarse con la creencia en los polvos de unicornio, como
manifestaciones opuestas de la dificultad para el escritor que está
aún fabricando sus instrumentos narrativos, de ceñirse a la
trama y de resolverla por medios perfectamente verosímiles
(Rodríguez-Luis 1: 53). Johnson 400-16 interprets the novela's
financial details differently, concluding that Cervantes eliminates
aristocratic protagonists in favor of the bourgeoisie. When Cervantes belabors
the financial infrastructure of the bourgeois lifestyle, he is insisting
on the emergence of the bourgeoisie onto center stage in both history and
|68||MARSHA S. COLLINS||Cervantes|
The author also counters historical strife
with the utopian model of the Christian family, a social ideal which he
approaches in a somewhat different manner in La gitanilla (Forcione,
Humanist 96-157). In Isabela's realization of this ideal, Cervantes
challenges readers to undergo their own examen de conciencia, question
common prejudices, and imagine a world in which an English Spanishwoman and
a Spanish Englishwoman can actually be one and the same person. When the
protagonist returns to Spain, she maintains contact with Clotaldo and Catalina.
The heroine considers them her other set of parents: escribieron a
Clotaldo y a su señora Catalina llamándolos Isabela padres,
y sus padres, señores (88). Love eliminates all boundaries,
creating an extended, cohesive, international family as Isabela's English
parents write cosas de mucho amor y de muchos ofrecimientos. A la cual
carta respondieron con otra no menos cortés y amorosa que
agradecida (88). As a result, those who inhabit the fictional world
of La española inglesa seem simply to be human beings capable
of good and evil, who are endowed with the ability to see and choose between
the two. The closely knit, if farflung, members of this story's family inspire
the reading public to emulate their communal model in acts that will heal
the wounds of a divided Europe, bridge the spiritual schism, and transfigure
the current, war-torn populace into the united Christian brotherhood just
glimpsed on an imaginary, visionary plane of their collective
Yet for all the bumps, turns, and detours along the way, in La española inglesa all roads eventually and inevitably lead to Spain and back to the Catholic Church. While voicing support for religious tolerance, the tale also provides an eloquent defense of Catholic dogma. The happiness and success that Isabela and Ricaredo find at the end arise from the proper exercise of free will, with fortitude, courage, love, faith, and Divine Providence to sustain them in adversity and offer counsel in their hour of need. Their choices constitute acts of devotion that produce exemplary lives richly rewarded by God. The celebration of religious icons, pageantry, and miracles another ideological battleground of Reformation Europe firmly aligns Cervantes with post-tridentine policy. This matter, however, is at the same time both a simple and complex one. The implied author who casts a scornful, critical, Erasmian eye on the perverse cofradía of Monipodio in Rinconete y Cortadillo clearly regards false religious practices as grotesque travesties of true devotion. La española inglesa shifts to the opposite end of the spectrum, offering an exemplum of sincere spiritual praxis, and perhaps more importantly, teaching the public how to read and interpret icons, pageantry, and
|16.1 (1996)||Transgression and Transfiguration||69|
miracles correctly.12 The protagonists, as usual, instruct by example. Ricaredo appreciates his beloved's heavenly beauty, but he recognizes her appearance is a symbolic shell, a physical embodiment of inner virtue. The hero shows that the beauty of icons should not inspire idolatry, but rather stimulate the soul to devotion by means that escape the bounds of rational comprehension and syllogistic logic. Isabela's loss of beauty tests his understanding of that fact, and strengthens his love and faith in her and what she represents. As a follower of the cult of Isabela, or the cult of the Virgin, he elects to confirm and perfect his faith on a pilgrimage to Rome:
llegué a Roma donde se alegró mi alma y se fortaleció mi fe. Besé los pies al Sumo Pontífice, confesé mis pecados con el mayor penitenciario, absolvióme de ellos, y diome los recaudos necesarios que diesen fe de mi confesión y penitencia y de la reducción que había hecho a nuestra universal madre la Iglesia (95).
Having received the gaze of genuine love directed at her by the eyes of
Ricaredo's soul, Isabela renews her faith in a similar manner with frequent
prayers and visits to the convent.
Cervantes consecrates his novela in a climactic scene of anagnorisis, rendering Ricaredo's timely return from the dead as a miracle witnessed by the entire population of Sevilla, the archbishop's representative, the magistrate, and by the readers, who join the panoply of the religious procession. Although the protagonists of this divine drama, one garbed in a Trinitarian habit and the other dressed as the Queen of Heaven, occupy centerstage, the dazzling splendor surrounding God's sudden manifestation in human affairs links all spectators in enraptured wonderment and suspension of rational thought: Todas estas razones oyeron los circunstantes, y el Asistente y vicario, y provisor del arzobispo, y de oírlas se admiraron y suspendieron (93). The crowd's amazement only grows as Ricaredo recounts his experiences and provides evidence to document the miracle: Lo que queda por ver son estos recaudos, para que se pueda tener por verdadera mi historia, que tiene tanto de milagros como de verdadera (98-99). To convince whatever skeptics
245 identifies Cervantes's religious belief as one of adherence to the Catholic
Church, but with faith tempered by rational, critical thought. Bataillon
785-91 states that Cervantes shared Erasmus's disdain for religious hypocrisy
in general, and insincere rituals and sham miracles in particular, but that
he also shared Erasmus's belief in genuine acts of devotion, meaningful religious
ceremonies, and true miracles, as well as in an active Christian life of
good works and acts of charity.
|70||MARSHA S. COLLINS||Cervantes|
might remain, Ricaredo's Florentine moneychanger pops up on cue, an occurrence
that the narrator assures the public ordenó el cielo and
that adds admiración a admiración y espanto a espanto
(99). Convinced of the validity of the miracle, ecclesiastical authorities
charge Isabela with writing the history of the event for the Church records,
thus associating chronicler and manuscript with the permanence and consequence
of holy scripture. The crowd responds by recognizing God's responsibility
for the wondrous happenings and by praising him in an act of communal devotion:
rompió en dar alabanzas a Dios por sus grandes maravillas
(99). A glittering display and heartfelt testimonials pay tribute to God's
infinite wisdom, which lies beyond the reach of human understanding.
At the end of La española inglesa the narrator executes another jolting change in frame of reference, returning readers to the historical present with a startling comment on the location of Isabela and Ricaredo's current dwelling and mention by name of the man from whom they purchased the house. The reader / spectator has just vicariously seen and experienced the admiratio technique, the sudden shift of focus which gives the reader a fleeting awareness of the work's otherness before the illusion settles in again around his adjusted scale of values in the miraculous recognition scene, only to be reminded again by a matter-of-fact narrator of a reality in which the English sack Cádiz on a regular basis, Arnaute Mamí takes people like Miguel de Cervantes hostage, and Christians fight Christians (Ife 88). Here the ever experimenting Cervantes treads dangerously close to breaking the illusion of fiction, but in pushing admiratio as far as it will go, he masterfully maximizes the aesthetic and moral impact of the entire tale on the reader, realizing to its fullest imaginary potential the transgressive process of disclosure. The author has cued us in the miracle play that like the audience of sevillanos, we should suspend disbelief and rational thought, and give in to the rapture of Christian romance's spiritual spectacle. In this light, the historical allusions serve as familiar signposts of the waking world in the midst of the romance dream, creating rifts in the fictive continuum or imaginary portals that permit Cervantes to expand the sacral space of the text into the readers' alcove, and that allow readers to see new realms of possibility in which English Protestants and Spanish Catholics can be reunited in the community of Christian brotherhood. This utopian vision may very well reflect the promises of peace identified with the England of the Stuarts, but it just as accurately captures the hopes and dreams born of the author's most profound
|16.1 (1996)||Transgression and Transfiguration||71|
Christian values.13 The points at which dream
and sentient worlds touch and merge in the narrative inspire readers to identify
with the novela, rethink their own values and beliefs, and embrace
Cervantes's idyllic notion of a global Catholic community.
In the last paragraph of the story, Cervantes widens the circle of his audience even further:
Esta novela nos podrá enseñar cuánto puede la virtud y cuánto la hermosura, pues son bastantes juntas y cada una de por sí a enamorar aun hasta los mismos enemigos, y de cómo sabe el cielo sacar de las mayores adversidades nuestras, nuestros mayores provechos (100).
The pronoun nos draws narrator, implied author, and readers together in La española inglesa's blend of fiction and facticity, stressing the universal nature of the moral imparted. Although the association of beauty and virtue obviously refers to their perfect Platonic combination in Isabela, and to her special ability to unite people across seemingly impenetrable barriers, the observation applies equally well to the narrative itself, a precious verbal icon endowed with a unique spiritual capacity to transfigure humankind. Cervantes has demonstrated in this work that writing and reading are devotional activities, Communal / communal acts of faith that unify souls through the magic of sincere, divinely inspired words. Finally, in a chiastic phrase that echoes the entanglement-disentanglement structure repeated so often in the text, the author reminds us that the ways of God remain inscrutable to mortals here below, and that just as Isabela's kidnapping initiated an enigmatic, heavenly plan that served a higher purpose, so too does an individual's or a nation's experience with adversity form part of an as yet unrealized mysterious holy plan that will ultimately bring peace, prosperity, and brotherhood to all people who face that adversity with fortitude forged by faith. In this sense, La española inglesa attests to Cervantes's devotion to Erasmian ideals, the Catholic Church, the concept of a Christian community, and to the power of imaginative literature and imaginary worlds to move, inspire, and uplift humankind.
|THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA|
AT CHAPEL HILL
13 On Cervantes's concept of community, and reading and writing as communal acts, see Forcione Afterword, especially 346-51.
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Casalduero, Joaquín. Sentido y forma de las Novelas ejemplares. 2nd ed. Madrid: Gredos, 1969.
Castro, Américo. El pensamiento de Cervantes. 2nd ed. Barcelona: Noguer, 1972.
Cervantes, Miguel de. La española inglesa. Novelas ejemplares. Ed. Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce. 3rd ed. 3 vols. Madrid: Castalia, 1986. 2: 45-100.
El Saffar, Ruth S. Novel to Romance: A Study of Cervantes's Novelas ejemplares. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1974.
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. Cervantes and the Humanist Vision: A Study of Four Exemplary Novels. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1982.
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Ife, B. W. Reading and Fiction in Golden-Age Spain: A Platonist Critique and Some Picaresque Replies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1985.
Iser, Wolfgang. The Fictive and the Imaginary: Charting Literary Anthropology. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins UP, 1993.
|16.1 (1996)||Transgression and Transfiguration||73|
Johnson, Carroll B. La española inglesa and the Practice of Literary Production. Viator 19 (1988): 377-416.
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Sánchez-Castañer, Francisco. Un problema de estética novelística como comentario a La española inglesa de Cervantes. Estudios dedicados a Menéndez Pidal. 8 vols. Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 1957. 7: 357-86.
Shepard, Odell. The Lore of the Unicorn. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1967.
Singleton, Mack. The Date of La española inglesa. Hispania 30 (1947): 329-35.
Stagg, Geoffrey. The Composition and Revision of La española inglesa. Studies in Honor of Bruce W. Wardropper. Ed. Dian Fox, Harry Sieber, and Robert TerHorst. Newark, DE: Juan de la Cuesta. 1989. 305-21.
White. T. H., ed. and trans. The Bestiary: A Book of Beasts. New York: Putnam's, 1954.
||Prepared with the help of Sue Dirrim||
|Fred Jehle email@example.com||Publications of the CSA||HCervantes|