From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 16.1 (1996): 54-73.
Copyright © 1996, The Cervantes Society of America
ARTICLE

Transgression and Transfiguration in Cervantes's La española inglesa


MARSHA S. COLLINS

CCervantes'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

     1 Like 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 exemplarity—aesthetic, 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

     2 Debate 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 the tale.
     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

     4 Cervantes (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 good—tensions 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

     5 Frye's 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 (54).


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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

     6 See 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

     7 Casalduero 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 antidote—powders 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

     8 See 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

     10 Pavel 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.

     11 In 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 fiction” (408).


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 consciousness.
     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

     12 Castro 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


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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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Bataillon, Marcel. Erasmo y España: Estudios sobre la historia espiritual del siglo XVI. Trans. Antonio Alatorre. 2nd ed. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1966.

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.

Forcione, Alban K. “Afterword: Exemplarity, Modernity, and the Discriminating Games of Reading.” Cervantes's “Exemplary Novels” and the Adventure of Writing. Ed. Michael Nerlich and Nicholas Spadaccini. Minneapolis, MN: Prisma Institute, 1989. 331-52.

——. Cervantes and the Humanist Vision: A Study of Four “Exemplary Novels.” Princeton: Princeton UP, 1982.

Frye, Northrop. The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1976.

Hanrahan, Thomas. “History in the Española Inglesa.” MLN 83 (1968): 267-71.

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.

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Johnson, Carroll B. “La española inglesa and the Practice of Literary Production.” Viator 19 (1988): 377-416.

Lapesa, Rafael. “En torno a La española inglesa y el Persiles.” De la Edad Media a nuestros días: Estudios de historia literaria. Madrid: Gredos, 1967. 242-63.

Lowe, Jennifer. “The Structure of Cervantes' La española inglesa.” Romance Notes 9 (1967-68): 287-90.

Murillo, Luis A. “Narrative Structures in the Novelas ejemplares: An Outline.” Cervantes 8 (1988): 231-50.

Pabón, Thomas A. “The Symbolic Significance of Marriage in Cervantes' La española inglesa.” Hispanófila 21.63 (1978): 59-66.

Pavel, Thomas G. Fictional Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1986.

Rodríguez-Luis, Julio. Novedad y ejemplo de las “Novelas” de Cervantes. 2 vols. Madrid: José Porrúa Turanzas, 1980. 1: 30-54.

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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.

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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.

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Prepared with the help of Sue Dirrim
Fred Jehle jehle@ipfw.edu Publications of the CSA HCervantes
URL: http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/cervante/csa/artics96/collins.htm