From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 18.1 (1998): 115-33.
Copyright © 1998, The Cervantes Society of America
ARTICLE

Mapping Identity in the Captive's Tale: Cervantes and Ethnographic Narrative


DIANE E. SIEBER

  The understanding of human society as primarily a Christian community, as opposed to idolatrous gentiles, unfaithful Jews and heretical Muslims, gave way [in the Renaissance] to a systematic mapping of human difference in natural and historical terms.

Joan-Pau Rubiés

In his recent rereading of “The Captive's Tale,” Paul Julian Smith suggests that North Africa is a cultural space in which the Captive is deterritorialized and thus liberated from the bonds of western European conformity. Within this “phantom, carnival space” (Quixotic Desire 230), traditional binary oppositions “dissolve” (232), and Ruy Pérez de Viedma is redefined by his contact with the Other (234-5). Because Smith analyzes the episode as an outing rather than a trip, he is not concerned with the details of the journey. However, this Renaissance voyage was undertaken upon a sea of change, at a time when, as Joan-Pau Rubiés reminds us, new definitions of human

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nature and diversity were being postulated in travel literature and in historiography (161). I propose to examine the journey itself, to consider Ruy Pérez de Viedma's narrative of confrontation with alterity as what Michel de Certeau has described as the “chronicle of a crossing” (History 218), an ethnological exploration of the new worlds which lay just beyond the boundaries of western European consciousness in the early seventeenth century.
     Michel de Certeau has defined ethnographic narrative as the “travel account” of a circular journey which develops in three stages.1 Descriptions of “the outbound journey: the search for the strange which is presumed to be different from the place assigned it in the beginning by the discourse of culture” and of “the return voyage, the homecoming of the traveler-narrator” frame a central “depiction of savage society, as seen by a ‘true’ witness” (Heterologies 69-70). In the de Certeau model, the account of the outbound voyage establishes “a rhetoric of distance . . . illustrated by a series of surprises . . . which at the same time substantiate the alterity of the savage and empower the text to speak from elsewhere and command belief” (Heterologies 69), as the narrator moves away from his home toward the increasingly uncanny world of the Other. Within the central ethnological depiction, the narrator performs his “activity of translation” (History 222), explaining the world of the alien in terms made credible by the framing “meta-discourses” (Heterologies 69). The account of the homeward voyage reverses the distancing process and “gradually draws closer to the place of production of the text” (Heterologies 78), returning both the narrator and his exotic subject to the world of the familiar.
     For de Certeau, the ethnographic narrative is characterized by a “circularity between the production of the Other and the production of the text” (Heterologies 68-9) and, one might add, by the narrator's redefinition of self. As the traveler orders and recounts the observations made on his journey to create a credible narrative, he “invents” the Other (History 212). When the voyager returns, he “brings back a literary object” (History 213). It is the Other “himself, originally absent from common representations, who returns in the text . . . [who] enters our language and our lands” (Heterologies 70). But the traveler-narrator

     1 Michel de Certeau defined this model in an essay published in French in 1975 and later translated as “Ethno-Graphy: Speech, or the Space of the Other: Jean de Léry” (History 209-243). He refined and amplified the model in a 1981 essay which was subsequently reprinted in English under the title “Montaigne's ‘Of Cannibals: The Savage I’” (Heterologies 67-79).


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posited by de Certeau is also altered in the process. The voyager has broken with the familiar assumptions of his native culture and confronted alterity, the profound “difference” of a previously unimagined alien world (History 209). The act of writing allows him to reflect on the experience and redefine his relationship to both the cultures he has experienced. Telling “the story effects his return to himself through the mediation of the other” (History 213).
     Modern ethnographers report the same phenomenon. Paul Rabinow suggests that the journey into alien territory initially decenters the ethnographer's identity but that writing, the recounting of his experiences, ultimately facilitates his “comprehension of the self by the detour of the Other” (5).2 Ruth El Saffar was the first to detect a similar transformation in “The Captive's Tale,” referring to the first half of Ruy Pérez de Viedma's encounter with the Other as “a process of disintegration of the self” (75). But in her analysis the metamorphosis is aberrant and transitory because, in El Saffar's view, Ruy Pérez possesses “a sense of order and integrity in his life” and therefore does “not lose his own centering” (76).3 I will argue that such a loss of centering is inevitable, a consequence of the circular ethnological journey which brings the Captive into contact with the Other.
     The outline of Ruy Pérez de Viedma's journey is deceptively simple. In search of a military career, he leaves his father's home in Castile and travels to Alicante where his outbound voyage begins aboard a merchant ship which transports him to Genoa. Ruy Pérez leaves Italy to join the Duke of Alba's army in Flanders, then returns

     2 Like the tale told by the fictional Captive, the Rabinow narrative recounts the author's personal experiences in North Africa. Rabinow, as Clifford Geertz explains, borrowed the phrase I have quoted from Paul Ricoeur, and several other ethnographers have subsequently appropriated the concept from Rabinow's text (Geertz 92).
     3 In the years since El Saffar published these observations, a number of critics have offered new perspectives. Mariscal, for example, addresses “the difficult issue of the decentered subject” (22) in order to discuss “subjectivity [identity of self] not as a thing but as a process” (23). In his opinion, all subjects are inherently decentered, and the characters in Cervantes are no exception, because “subjects themselves . . . are constituted not through single but through multiple discursive positions, and therefore they must negotiate at any given moment the various contradictions and interests that intersect them” (25). In Representing the Other, Paul Julian Smith suggests that “. . . for all their appearance of immutability, relations between self and other (of appropriation and depropriation) are always subject to change . . . that whatever paradigm is adopted, one fundamental principle remains: that the subject, however masterful, is always dependent on the object for its own sense of self” (4).


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as Captain to the Mediterranean where he is captured at the Battle of Lepanto, sent to Constantinople to serve on the Turkish galleys, and then transported as a slave to Algiers. After several years of imprisonment, the Captive makes his escape and begins the return voyage to Spain. His appearance at the inn with Zoraida completes the journey. And at the inn, Ruy Pérez orders his experiences and “composes” the narrative of his encounter with the Islamic world, of a journey described by Don Fernando as an “estraño suceso . . . peregrino, y raro, y lleno de accidentes que maravillan y suspenden a quien los oye; . . .” (I, 514).
     The structure of Ruy Pérez de Viedma's ethnographic “text” parallels the model suggested by de Certeau.4 At the center of the Captive's narrative lies the account of his experiences in North Africa, the tale of his encounter with alterity. The Captive interprets the nature of the Other for his Spanish audience and, in the process, reinterprets his past and his identity through the filter of his North African experience. Between the polar opposites represented by Algiers and Spain, the outward and return voyages constitute liminal or transitional spaces, points of “structural rupture” between two worlds, in the words of de Certeau (History 218), which first distance and then return the narrator to familiar terrain. Much of the transitional ethnographic reflection undertaken by Ruy Pérez is tied to two landfalls. Lepanto, on the outbound journey to Algiers, and the Cape of the Cava Rumía on the return voyage help to mediate the distance between Algiers and Spain, allowing a break for reflection on cultural heterology. On a symbolic level, Ruy Pérez's journey replicates in reverse the history of Spanish experience with the Islamic Other. These two sites represent pivotal moments of contact between the Spanish Empire and Islam. The Cava Rumía, encountered near the end of the Captive's journey, recalls the defeat of Visigothic Spain during its first contact with Islam in 711.5 Lepanto,

     4 Here one must keep in mind the obvious distinction between “The Captive's Tale” and the tale told by the Captive. “The Captive's Tale” is the title by which critics usually designate Chapters I, 37 through I, 47 of Don Quijote. The ethnographic narrative to which I refer, the “text” composed by Ruy Pérez de Viedma at the inn, appears in Chapters I, 39 through I, 41. Cervantes's larger episode frames Ruy Pérez's ethnographic narrative, supplying both contexts and commentary.
     5 The legend surrounding the Cava Rumía is, according to Michael Gerli, one of Spain's “paradigmatic cultural and religious myths” (41). The story of King Rodrigo's violation of La Cava Florinda “marks in the legendary history of Spain the Lord's damnation of the Gothic empire by means of the Apocalyptic [p. 119] Arab invasion” of 711, thus “. . . endowing Spain's history with a prophetic teleology of apocalyptic doom . . .” (45).


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where his journey into alterity begins, represents Spain's “final” victory over the Turkish empire which has threatened Spanish hegemony in the Mediterranean. These landfalls serve as framing locations in Ruy Pérez de Viedma's narrative. Between them he slips into an uncanny other-world experience.
     The Captain first crosses over into the world of alterity when he is taken prisoner by the Turks near Lepanto, in the battle which Sir John Elliott has described as, for Spaniards, “all that was most glorious in the crusade against Islam” (Imperial Spain 238).6 In the battle off Lepanto, Ruy Pérez is first separated from and then alienated from his compatriots. He alone of the Christian soldiers is unable to celebrate the victory and becomes the sole outsider, “el triste entre tantos alegres” and “el cautivo entre tantos libres” (I, 478). He wears shackles instead of the “naval corona” that his bravery merits (I, 477). The exchange of the familiar for the unknown initiates the distancing which will characterize his outward journey. From this point on, he will increasingly define his status in opposition to the “libertad” (I, 478) which he seeks at every turn. Lepanto is both the geographic and psychological point of rupture which initiates the narrator's contemplation of the Other and which simultaneously legitimizes his ethnographic account.
     At Constantinople the Captain, now self-identified as a Captive, begins to explore the differences between the Christian and Islamic worlds. As an oarsman on the Turkish battleships which attack his compatriots, the Captive has several years to reflect upon his own society and to acquaint himself with the different cultures of the Orient. The deceptiveness of appearances becomes the underlying theme of

     6 John Elliott notes, with specific reference to Cervantes, the paradoxical nature of the image of Lepanto in Spain during the years immediately following the victory: “The spectacular victory of the Christian forces at Lepanto in 1571 was to epitomize for contemporaries all that was most glorious in the crusade against Islam. It was an eternal source of pride to those who, like Miguel de Cervantes, had fought in the battle and could show the scar of their wounds, and of grateful wonder to the millions who saw in it a divine deliverance of Christendom from the power of the oppressor . . .  But, in fact, the battle of Lepanto proved a curiously deceptive triumph, and the attempt to follow it up was peculiarly unsuccessful. Although Don John [of Austria] captured Tunis in 1573, it was lost again in the following year, and the Ottoman-Spanish struggle died away in stalemate” (Imperial Spain 238). It is precisely this emphasis on the deceptiveness of the Mediterranean battles which follow that characterizes the Captive's discourse on Constantinople.


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his observations. He is surprised repeatedly by the weakness masked by the popular image of the invincible and cruel Turk. The Captive explains that at Navarino, where Christian forces chose not to attack el Uchalí's imposing fleet, the Turks had anticipated defeat and had gathered their shoes in order to run for the coast (I, 478). Conversely, Turkish forces easily breached the walls at La Goleta because Spaniards, assuming the fortress to be impenetrable, failed to send Christian reinforcements (I, 480).7 Ruy Pérez observes this alien landscape and notes that Spaniards who wish to escape must do so by means of disguises. Until the Captive's arrival in Algiers, the emphasis of his narrative is on the differences between the Islamic world and his own, on the strangeness of their ways and on the unseen fears and weaknesses of the enemy. On this outbound voyage, he documents and describes the marvels of initial encounter, structuring his observations in terms of the binary oppositions he has learned in Spain.
     The Cape of the Cava Rumía, the point of landfall which marks the beginning of the return journey, serves as a liminal space for the interpretation of Islamic alterity. The name of the location suggests a clue to the underlying problem of shifting signifiers in the tale. According to Covarrubias, the Arabs condemned Florinda / La Cava in the following manner: “Los moros llamáronla Cava, que vale cerca dellos tanto como muger mala de su cuerpo, que se da a todos . . . porque assí como la Cava o hoya recibe en sí diversidad de aguas, assí la tal recibe variedad de simientes y las confunde” (322). Agi Morato associates Zoraida with La Cava, the legendary lover of Rodrigo, when he accuses her of seeking a morally lax environment in Spain. The more profound significance of the site, however, lies in the issue of identity itself. La Cava is condemned by the Moors, according to Covarrubias, not so much for being a whore as for confusing identities by obscuring origins. The Cape of the Cava Rumía is thus the locus of shifting identity itself; it is the wellspring of drifting borders and sliding signifiers.8

     7 Here, Cervantes has his Captive / Captain cast doubt upon the validity of popular Christian accounts of these battles. This process of reevaluation is a critical component of the outward journey, as de Certeau has pointed out (Heterologies 69). Whereas on the outward journey, the ethnographer opposes the new world to his superior point of origin, on the return journey he will make every attempt to emphasize the points of similarity between the new world and the old, thus integrating alterity into the dominant system.
     8 Michel de Certeau comments on the blurred boundaries of the “terrain of the name.” Early ethnographers attempted to fix a “locus proprius” for shifting identities in their narratives but rarely succeeded (Heterologies 72). For different [p. 121] interpretations of the significance of La Cava in “The Captive's Tale,” see Garcés (86), Murillo (238), and Gerli (53-58).


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     This is the space in which the Captive, now a Captain once more, must divide the passengers of his boat for the return journey. Restored to a position of authority, he attempts to define each individual as Christian (the intrinsic, the assimilable) or as Moor (the extrinsic, the indigestible) according to the binary system which had structured his approach to the Muslim world on the outward voyage. And here he vacillates. Binary oppositions cannot explain the diversity of human experience which he has encountered. Ruy Pérez favors releasing Agi Morato until the renegade objects (I, 503). Within this liminal space Agi Morato, the supposed enemy of the Captain, exhibits sentiments which can only be described as Christian forgiveness; he is brought into the realm of the human, the identifiable, the same. Zoraida's father is not a Christian, but neither is he entirely foreign. Nor can one know with certainty to which world the renegade belongs. He claims to be a Christian, but his status as renegade warns the reader to question the sincerity of his Christianity.
     At the Cape of the Cava Rumía, even Zoraida appears to be more enigmatic than before. The Captain explains her odyssey in terms of religious conversion; she wishes to exchange falsehood for truth, Islam for Christianity. In his rage, Agi Morato raises doubt about her motivation, about the sincerity of her conversion, suggesting that his daughter wants only to escape moral constraints imposed in the Islamic world: “. . . ni penséis que la ha movido a mudar religión entender ella que la vuestra a la nuestra se aventaja, sino el saber que en vuestra tierra se usa la deshonestidad más libremente que en la nuestra” (I, 507). Perhaps this dispute over the nature of Zoraida's choice explains the Captive's insistence, at this point in the narrative, upon associating Zoraida with the Virgin Mary: “. . . sentía yo que iba llamado a Lela Marién . . .” (I, 504, my emphasis). He attempts to place an essentially ambiguous figure firmly within the camp of the identifiably Christian and assimilable. But the question of Zoraida's true nature is still unresolved when Zoraida and the Captain arrive at the Inn; thus Dorotea asks “¿Esta señora es cristiana o mora?” (I, 462).
     Once the principal order of delineation has been questioned, all assumptions about those in the boat are disturbed. As de Certeau observes, “When the savage sidesteps the identifications given him, he causes a disturbance that places the entire symbolic order into question” (Heterologies 70). The Cava Rumía serves to heighten the ambiguities of the narrative at precisely the point when we, as readers,


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might expect an absolute clarity of the symbolic order. We are cast adrift by the problems raised in this transitional space. In the boat at the Cava Rumía, Ruy Pérez de Viedma for the first time grapples with the fundamental difficulty faced by writers of travel narratives during the sixteenth century. The binary codes which had previously established human identity have begun to break down. When the Captive / Captain attempts to differentiate his passengers, his inability to categorize demonstrates the inadequacy of traditional perceptions.
     Between the liminal points, between the accounts of his capture near Lepanto on the outward journey and his experiences at Cava Rumía on the return voyage, Ruy Pérez has confronted alterity. His encounters while imprisoned at Algiers inform both his depiction of alien culture and his rereading of his former life in Castile. Algiers, it seems, is a place of infinite ambiguity where power and authority, speech and even identity can be freely exchanged in an economy of barter. Here Christians dress as Moors, renegades as Turks or Christian captives; and a Moor exhibits Christian symbols but speaks of “Alá.” Language shifts fluidly from Castilian to Arabic to a lingua franca which is “una mezcla de todas las lenguas” (I, 496).9 Dishonesty is attributed to Moors, Turks, renegades and Christian captives alike. Here all appearances are deceptive; nothing is as it seems to be. The Captive describes his sojourn as a series of interlocking structures of translation and exchange which must be interpreted and made comprehensible for those who assemble to hear his tale.
     As he begins his narrative, Ruy Pérez de Viedma is careful to establish for his “readers,” the audience at Juan Palomeque's inn, the circumstances of his life before the adventure in North Africa. The traveler's narrative authority will be based on more than his qualifications as testigo de vista. The Captive / Captain who appears at the inn was a Castilian gentleman before his journey began, an Old Christian whose testimony can be trusted. Ruy Pérez gives us the details of his birth and childhood to verify the story which is to come. However, he structures his narrative and interprets his former life and his identity on the basis of the lessons he has learned in Algiers. The unity of the point of view of this episode resides in the persistent structuring of “reality” as a series of interlocking exchanges. Social, monetary,

     9 Percas de Ponseti aptly refers to this lingua franca as a “maraña de la lengua” (I, 226) which both reveals and hides the “naturaleza de los sentimientos” (I, 227). The most recent study of sixteenth- and seventeenth century Algiers also explores the “gran movilidad” available to those individuals most adept at adjusting to that city's turbulent cosmopolitan society (Sola 214).


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power and linguistic exchanges underlie not just the locus of Algiers but the totality of his experience in the Mediterranean basin.
     Among the earliest systems of exchange fundamental to the structure of “The Captive's Tale” is that of social and family organization. Ruy Pérez de Viedma is the son of a prodigal father whose financial recklessness endangers the status of his family. Ruy Pérez, the primogénito, thus finds himself not in the position of son but rather of father. He feels himself obligated to assume his father's youthful profession by becoming a soldier and to return three-fourths of his rightful inheritance so that his father can live in relative comfort (I, 475). Later, in spite of his promises to inform his father and uncle of his good fortunes and adversities, he chooses to keep from them his captivity, thus displacing his unreliable father.
     The Captive presents his relationship to Zoraida in terms of a similar displacement of family roles. Whereas Agi Morato is literally a father to the Moorish girl, providing for her and mediating her communication with the world, Zoraida disaligns this structure through her direct communication with the Captive. When Agi Morato attempts suicide at the Cape of the Cava Rumía, he is acting upon a transfer of paternal authority which has already taken place. At the Cava Rumía, a site which symbolically represents the vengeance of a father upon his daughter's seducer, Agi Morato instead turns violence upon himself. In the end, the Captive describes himself as a father or squire rather than as a husband to Zoraida (I, 513).10 He takes upon himself the role of protector, provider and linguistic mediator with the outside world. Significantly, he will not marry Zoraida until he has been reunited with his own father in Seville. Only by restoring “fatherhood” to his father can he surrender his own paternal role and assume the role of husband to Zoraida. From the very beginning, then, Ruy Pérez de Viedma's tale dissociates the sign from its referent, a mechanism which de Certeau considers fundamental to the displacement and reevaluation of identity in ethnographic discourse (Heterologies 67-79).
     Monetary exchange is also central to the structure of the episode. The Captive begins his journey because a prodigal father has taken stock of his life and, wishing to help his sons like a father rather than

     10 For a different analysis of the Zoraida / Captive / Agi Morato relationship, see Weber (428-31). She concludes that “The Captive's Tale” is “una narrativa estructurada en torno al triángulo erótico: mujer / amante / oponente” (425) in which the figure of the opponent father is displaced by a new “mother,” the Virgin Mary (431).


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destroy them like a stepfather (I, 473), divides the remainder of his fortune among them.11 Money drives the fortunes of all three sons. The middle brother becomes a rich merchant in Perú. The youngest brother, the oidor, marries a wealthy woman and takes control of her money upon her death.12 The Captive's life depends on the acquisition of money for ransom because all of his previous attempts at escape have failed. In each case money is provided by a woman. This mimics the typically female “donor figure” of romance (Propp 39-42). The oidor inherits the dowry of his dead wife, although he has also been helped by his merchant brother. The merchant has obtained his money through connections in the New World, a region often depicted as an abundant female in Renaissance art.13 The Captive Captain relies upon the “lienzo . . . preñado” (I, 492), also an image of female abundance, lowered to him on a cane by Zoraida. Zoraida helps him to purchase his freedom, and she herself becomes the center and most curious aspect of this tangled network of economic exchange.14 As María Antonia Garcés points out, Zoraida is presented as wealth, as a precious jewel. She is virtually mineralized, that is, she is “reinscribed into a lapidary economy —an economy mediated by gold and precious stones— Zoraida disappears as a human being . . . thus Zoraida is turned into an ‘item of exchange’, taking the place of an ‘object’ in an imaginary exchange between men” (Garcés 77 and 92). I would add that Zoraida appears at the inn as an exotic artifact —as tangible evidence of the veracity of the Captive's narrative— and therefore that she serves much the same function as the written testimonials sought by the renegade in Algiers. To the renegade,

     11 Here we see an attempt on the part of the father to counter the dissociation of the name from its referent: “Pues para que entendáis desde aquí adelante que os quiero como padre, y que no os quiero destruir como padrastro . . .” (I, 473). Money or its absence is a frequent source of such displacement in the tale.
     12 Murillo points out that the oidor will later report that his youngest brother “está en el Pirú” (I, 518, n.15).
     13 Michel de Certeau alludes to this commonplace in The Writing of History (xxv), and translator Tom Conley describes an allegorical etching by Jan Van der Straet for Jean-Théodore de Bry's America decimae pars in which America is represented as a “supine, Rubenesque woman rising from her hammock” (xxi). John Elliott also points to the traditional representation of America as a woman in European art: “America —symbolized in the allegories of the four continents that began to appear from the 1570's as a naked woman with feathered headdress, seated on an armadillo, and sometimes surrounded by the exotic flora and fauna of a strange new world . . .” (World 649).
     14 Cervantes, we might recall, was freed from captivity only after his mother secured funds to pay his ransom (Canavaggio 90 and 94).


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money is worthless unless he can achieve reintegration into Spanish society. He undertakes the translation of Zoraida's letter not in exchange for money but for something to him far more valuable —testimonials to his true Christianity— so that he can be restored to the Church despite his apostasy. Zoraida, like the testimonials, must be defined, translated, and interpreted before she can authenticate the adventures related by the Captive.
     Translation is by far the most significant form of exchange in the narrative; it mediates all other levels of exchange. In “The Captive's Tale,” as in other ethnographic narratives, the linguistic operation of translation is the work of returning (History 222-3). All of the actions discussed so far have been perceived through the act of linguistic exchange, through multiple translations. Ruy Pérez de Viedma serves both as dictionary and as interpreter. On one level, he is the supplier of a concordance to foreign words.15 On another, he is indispensable as exegetic authority. This authority is founded upon his superior knowledge of the customs and forms of communication of the Orient. It is both first-hand experience and his break with the European world which endow him with the authority “to speak from elsewhere and command belief” (Heterologies 69). Just as the Captive inherits his social and familial roles from others, so too he inherits his authorization as translator from others. He is at first dependent upon the renegade for his communication in Arabic with Zoraida, and then he depends upon Agi Morato for the same mediation.
     Translation in and of itself poses delicate semantic problems. As Leo Spitzer has indicated, each time a word passes through the signifying prism of language, its meaning is made more unstable, more suspect.16 The act of translation is an act of “conversion” which further displaces signifier from signified. The underlying relationship among the various forms or levels of exchange in “The Captive's Tale” can perhaps best be found in the Golden Age definition of the word traducir, based upon the Latin traduco. As a trope, it signifies carrying over or removal from one place to another. Covarrubias captures this sense when he refers to “llevar de un lugar a otro alguna cosa o encaminarla” (972). This is precisely the activity undertaken by Ruy Pérez de Viedma. By extension, it can be read as the

     15 For discussion of Cervantes's use of foreign words in “The Captive's Tale,” see Spitzer (27-28) and Oliver Asín (75-77).
     16 While Spitzer emphasizes the linguistic multiplicity of “The Captive's Tale,” in this case he suggests that perspectivism is “subservient to the divine” (25), which makes all language intelligible.


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transformation of one item into another, either in the direct sense of material exchange or as the more indirect figurative transference of symbol. It is in this figurative sense that translation most affects the identity of characters in the narrative.
     In “The Captive's Tale,” even this tenuous linguistic communication frequently breaks down, and communication by signs becomes necessary. The use of sign language, image and gesture is preferred by Zoraida, who believes that Lela Marien can mediate such communication, thus making it intelligible (I, 490). Transference of symbol is therefore supernatural, extratextual for Zoraida. Not so for the Captive, who attempts by active means to assure a certain minimal level of signification in his communication with Zoraida. When even gesture does not communicate, the protagonists resort to clothing as a means of disclosure, and the signifier becomes even more tenuously identified with externals.17
     Throughout the tale one finds instances of dressing to confuse or mislead, that is, of cross-cultural dressing. Disguise is the primary means by which prisoners escape in Ruy Pérez's Mediterranean world. Pedro de Aguilar returns to Spain disguised as an Albanian (I, 482). Although disguised as a Moor, Pagán de Oria meets with death at the hands of the Moors to whom he has entrusted his life (I, 481). Disguise as miscommunication can signify freedom but also entails the serious risk of death. The renegade obtains his boat and crew by disguising himself as a Turk. During the return voyage, Agi Morato discovers the true intentions of his daughter not when he asks her why she is with the Captive but when, in the absence of verbal response, he notices that she is dressed in her best clothing. The presence of her jewelry box then confirms that she has left Algiers voluntarily.
     Miscommunication does not end when the escapees arrive on Spanish soil. Their first contact with a Christian raises an outcry when a shepherd runs from them shouting “¡Moros, moros! ¡Arma, arma!” (I, 511). Once in Spain, the former captives change their costumes. The renegade in particular wishes to divest himself of his Turkish disguise. The renegade can in fact be “read” as yet another emblem of shifting identity in the Captive's Tale; he is the ultimate “self-fashioner,” eager to change his costume whenever it is expedient and willing to remain silent in order to maintain the illusion of

     17 Michel de Certeau points to a mode of communication in the chronicles of the New World which is also pertinent to “The Captive's Tale”: “He who does not understand the language only sees the clothes” (Heterologies 74).


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his dress.18 Zoraida's arrival at Juan Palomeque's inn is the culminating moment of (mis?)read clothing. Does her Moorish costume deceive or reveal the truth? Zoraida, like Florinda / La Cava, has defied identity. Zoraida has displaced the signifiers through her silence and can not be “read” by her audience.
     The ultimate effect of disguise as a means of misleading is closely related to the shifting “terrain of the name” most apparent at the Cape of the Cava Rumía.19 During the outbound journey, the Captive actively differentiates Moor from Turk. The latter is a violent enemy; the former, relatively benign. On the return journey, the Christian French appear worse than the Moors themselves, although they too are less threatening than the Turk.20 Finally, when the travelers reach Spanish soil, the “¡Moros!” outcry is silenced by the revelation that the terrifying enemy is actually a group of Christians masquerading as Moors. The combined effect of disguise and of the juxtaposition of racial and religious alterities on the homeward journey is to return the Moorish Other to the identifiable. Michel de Certeau explains the patterns of identity in the ethnographic narrative as a “sliding [which] gives the word ‘savage’ a positive connotation. The signifier moves, it escapes and switches sides” (Heterologies 72). Dorotea, asking if Zoraida is Christian or Moor, reveals the non-travelers' inability to appreciate this shifting terrain of the name. She attempts the traditional binary demarcation which, as the Captain has already discovered, cannot explain alterity.
     Dorotea assumes that Zoraida is a Moor because of her dress and her silence. The fact that at the inn Zoraida appears to be incapable

     18 Such an intentional absence of discourse is necessary for the continued displacement of the clothing / signifier. On several occasions before the escape, the protagonists must maintain silence or reveal the true nature beneath their costume. The Christian oarsmen are forbidden to communicate with each other at their rendezvous point (I, 501). Agi Morato is told three times that any attempt to speak will be punished by death (I, 502-3). The renegade warns his fellow travelers not to answer the inquiries made by the French corsairs (I, 508). In this last instance, silence is interpreted as hostility or descortesía and results in the destruction of the escape boat.
     19 This terrain is, in the words of de Certeau, “a landscape of tumultuous, mobile, vanishing things . . . the boundaries [of which] are uncertain, their reality in motion” (Heterologies 72).
     20 Joan-Pau Rubiés points to this new differentiation among Christians as characteristic of the shift in perception of the European self as a result of voyages to the New World: “In a parallel development . . . Europe was seen and described more explicitly as nationally diverse” (160). The traditional binary opposition between Muslim and Christian is eroded even further, then, by differentiation among Christians.


128 DIANE E. SIEBER Cervantes

of speaking for herself raises a number of questions about the consistency of the Captive's version of events. Why does the Captive translate for Zoraida at the inn? How has he suddenly learned enough “arábigo” to communicate with her? Why can she no longer speak the “lengua bastarda” which, as we learned during their first conversation in her father's garden, they both understand? Perhaps she is capable of communicating her own story but is silenced by the Captain, who insists that she knows only Arabic in order to close the distance between her and those assembled at the inn. The term “estar en arábigo” commonly referred to “una cosa [que] está muy obscura, sumamente difícil de entenderse, y tan revesada e intricada que no se percibe lo que se quiere decir u dar a entender” (Autoridades II 368). I suggest that Zoraida intentionally “está en arábigo.” The Captive can thus continue his controlled “translation” of her. He understands the complexities of alterity, knows that she is both Christian and Moor and therefore is neither. As he converts one language into another, he is able to represent to his audience the “sameness” of Zoraida.21 Her own voice would certainly reveal her fundamental “difference,” the impossibility of fitting her into the non-travelers' binary paradigm. By the deliberate silencing of Zoraida, the Captain assumes the role of ethnologist.
     Ethnology, as de Certeau has observed, bases “its mastery of expression upon what the other keeps silent . . .  [H]eterologies (discourses on the other) are built upon a division between the body of knowledge that utters a discourse and the mute body that nourishes it” (History 3). The ethnographer cannot allow the Other to speak for him / herself because he is the ultimate mediator between two bodies:

     . . . the written discourse which cites the speech of the other is not, cannot be, the discourse of the other. On the contrary, this discourse, in writing the Fable that authorizes it, alters it . . .  [I]t is this death of speech that authorizes the writing that arises, the poetic challenge (Heterologies 78).

Ruy Pérez silences Zoraida so that he can compose his own narrative, so that he can face the “poetic challenge” posed by the silent Other.

     21 Michel de Certeau considers this attempt to integrate the Other into the sameness of the predominant discourse as the most characteristic element of the ethnographic narrative: “From this we can deduce that ‘over there’ no longer coincides with alterity. A part of the world which appeared to be entirely other is brought back to the same by a displacement that throws uncanniness out of skew in order to turn it into an exteriority . . .  [T]his operation will be repeated hundreds of times throughout ethnological works” (History 219).


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     Ruy Pérez de Viedma must compose his narrative if he is to reestablish his own identity. At the beginning of his journey, Ruy Pérez knew precisely who he was, recognized himself, in de Certeau's words, as one of “us” rather than one of “them” (History 215). He was a Castilian insider, an Old Christian of pure blood and relatively comfortable circumstances, when he chose to make his way in the world through service to his king. He was firmly anchored to his geographic point of origin, “un lugar de las montañas de León” (I, 472), and to the Viedma family “linaje” (I, 472) when he joined the Mediterranean fleet and sailed off to make war against the Other. In the course of his journey, however, his identity has been repeatedly transformed. The “capitán de infantería” (I, 477) forfeited his title when he was captured by the Turks. After Lepanto he became a “cautivo” (I, 478), and in Constantinople he sank further into captivity with each subsequent master (I, 479-80). While Ruy Pérez was imprisoned at Algiers, he identified himself as an “esclavo” (I, 496). Only Zoraida recognized what he had been in his former life, addressing him as a “cristiano . . . caballero” (I, 489). Though he seemed to be in command as he plotted the escape from Algiers, at the Cape of Cava Rumía it was Zoraida and the renegade who led the group of escapees. Those whom he has encountered after his arrival in Spain can no longer identify him as the Castilian gentleman he had been before he embarked on his journey into alterity (I, 511). By the end of his voyage, Ruy Pérez de Viedma can no longer define himself in juxtaposition to the Other, whom he has identified and with whom he has returned.
     The Captive / Captain who appears at the inn must explain his presence —and his past. Don Quijote's Discourse on Arms and Letters, delivered shortly after the refugees arrive, serves as an introduction to Ruy Pérez's ethnographic narrative and also forecasts the final alteration through which the identity of the Captive / Captain will be reconstituted. When Don Quijote reflects on the hardships and privations of a soldier's life, he comments on the experiences which Ruy Pérez will soon describe. Don Quijote also introduces the questions of shifting identity which will lie at the center of Viedma's narrative:

. . . ¿cuál de los vivientes habrá en el mundo que ahora por la puerta deste castillo entrara, y de la suerte que estamos nos viere, que juzgue y crea que nosotros somos quien somos? ¿Quién podrá decir que esta señora que está a mi lado es la gran reina que todos sabemos, y que soy yo aquel Caballero de la Triste Figura . . .? (I, 465).


130 DIANE E. SIEBER Cervantes

But the Discourse on Arms and Letters also prefigures the final shift which will restore identity to the Captive / Captain. In the act of composing his narrative, Ruy Pérez becomes the opposite of what he had been in the past. He ceases to be a man of action and becomes a man of letters, a practitioner of an art whose purpose, in Don Quijote's opinion, “es . . . poner en su punto la justicia distributiva y dar a cada uno lo que es suyo . . .” (I, 466). Ruy Pérez becomes a linguistic mediator of experience, a historian or ethnographer.22
     And through the composition of credible narrative, Ruy Pérez de Viedma becomes recognizable to those around him. Once his tale is completed, the audience at the inn, the assemblage who previously had been mystified by his ambiguous persona, embrace Ruy Pérez as “señor capitán” (I, 514), a man of “valor” and “virtud” (I, 517). His “readers” also comprehend the role of the enigmatic Zoraida, whose act of generosity has reduced her to “pobreza y necesidad” (I, 518). All offer their assistance to the Christian gentleman and to the companion who has effected his return. Fernando suggests intercession by his brother, a titled nobleman (I, 514), and the priest attests the Captain's veracity and bravery before the judge (I, 517-518). Because these representatives of the dominant culture —of the Church and the State and the Nobility— accept his version of events and intervene on his behalf, Zoraida is accepted and welcomed (I, 520), Ruy Pérez is reunited with his family (I, 519), and his “pobreza” is transformed into wealth (I, 520).23
     At Juan Palomeque's inn, Ruy Pérez de Viedma closes the circle of his journey. Like other Renaissance explorers, he has sailed into the unknown and encountered the Other. He returns in a guise which those around him do not recognize, bearing knowledge which defies traditional assumptions. Ruy Pérez's return to Spain is a return to the self, but to a different self, one mediated by the Other.

     22 This narrative can also be seen as a fitting end to the career of the Captain. We are witnessing the relación de servicios which often accompanied requests from returning soldiers for some type of government work in Spain. It is significant that, when a condensed version of his narrative is recounted for his brother, the oidor, Ruy Pérez is deemed to be worthy of both praise and reward.
     23 Despite the joyous reunions at the inn, Cervantes's framing episode leaves the fate of Ruy Pérez and Zoraida unresolved. Ruy Pérez has ended his narrative with an expression of concern about where they might go: “. . . el gusto que tengo de verme suyo y de que ella sea mía me le turba y deshace no saber si hallaré en mi tierra algún rincón donde recogella” (I, 513). Cervantes assures us that the two intend to travel on to Seville where they will be married. But readers are left to speculate about whether this unlikely pair can actually be assimilated into orthodox Spanish society.


18.1 (1998) Mapping Identity in the Captive's Tale 131

Once he has begun to perceive the impossibility of strictly categorizing the Other, he must face his own inability to reestablish himself within the contexts of the life he has left behind. We witness this process of discovery as he faces his “readers” at the inn for the first time. The Captive / Captain returns, bringing the Other with him, but he remains isolated from both worlds. Within the paradigm established by de Certeau and subsequently confirmed by Geertz and Rabinow, the traveler must recount his experiences in order to “return to himself” (History 213). Ruy Pérez presents the “chronicle” of his “crossing,” (History 218) translating the unrenderable language of alterity by collapsing its multiple discourses into the binary paradigm which his “readers” comprehend. And through the agency of his “text,” alterity —in the person of Zoraida— is integrated into the dominant culture, and Ruy Pérez redefines his own identity, becoming a man of letters.

UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT BOULDER



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Fred Jehle jehle@ipfw.edu Publications of the CSA HCervantes
URL: http://www.h-net.org/~cervantes/csa/artics98/sieber.htm