From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 19.1 (1999): 4-26.
Copyright © 1999, The Cervantes Society of America

Cardenio's Twice-Told Tale


At first blush it appears so straightforward, that pained narrative about how Cardenio loses the beautiful Luscinda, his childhood sweetheart and later fiancée-to-be, to the segundón Don Fernando. Cardenio imputes all fault to both of them but more so to her as a typically flighty female. He gets so mad that indeed it appears that he does go mad from time to time, yet he is not averse to telling all about it once begged to do so. Finally, prompted by the determinedly vengeful example of Dorotea, another victim of that same socially noble seducer, Cardenio screws up his courage and promises to do the right thing. Because of a providential meeting of all of the four embroiled, it develops that Cardenio's plight isn't as bad as he had imagined and feared; by implausibly good fortune a general reconciliation is effected as well as an apparently happy ending.
     But his tale forms part of Miguel de Cervantes's 1605 Don Quijote de la Mancha; the seasoned reader has been made aware of how deceptive and deceitful are Cervantes's narrative arts and, knowledgeably eschewing gullibility, goes on to find matters to wonder about, matters which may well not perplex one who reads Cardenio's narrative for the first time.1 Why, for example, after his Luscinda

     1 “We, of course, as supposedly skilled readers [not “supposedly” for any reader of Cervantes, of course], are not deceived by the apparent authenticity —vouched for by the use of the first person— of Cardenio's narrative” (Stephen Gilman, “Cardenio furioso” 345).


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begs him to, does this purportedly impassioned lover make no overture to his father which could easily have led to arranging the marriage he claims he has so fervently wanted for so long and believes to be favorably looked upon by both families, but instead spends forty-eight hours close-mouthed? Why does he arrange it so that his new-found companion, Don Fernando, whom he knows to be a libertine and of such wealth and social status as would facilitate pardon for almost any reprehensible behavior, be able to view Luscinda's delightful form by the suggestive light of a candle? Why, hidden there “‘en el hueco que hacía una ventana de la mesma sala’” (I: 27)2 in which Fernando is about to wed Cardenio's “own” longtime beloved, does he look on mute and passive, then to slink away without undertaking the protective intervention which in such manly words he had promised Luscinda only moments earlier? He states that because of his suspensión y arrobamiento —his words— he cannot recall what she was wearing that night, but then how is it that he is able to describe the colors, the jewels, “‘la belleza singular de sus hermosos y rubios cabellos, tales, que, en competencia de las preciosas piedras y de las luces de cuatro hachas que en la sala estaban [details, details], la suya con más resplandor a los ojos ofrecían’”?
     Why, once fled to the wilds leaving all means of identification behind as he awaits heaven's punishment for having been cobarde y necio (again, his own words), is he mad and sane in turn? Why does he demand no interruption when first he relates his mishap3 but does not do so the second time, in fact does not react when one in his audience interrupts to beg that he continue his largo discurso —Cardenio's characterization— in which even the ancillary details elicit the same admiración as the central story? Why is the narration so stylish, so far more composed than the emotions which it is reputed to portray and of which the telling, he claims, recalls, revivifies, and intensifies his great pain and suffering?
     In short, why so many glaring inconsistencies? And, given the weakness of his purpose, perhaps even the repugnance his

     2 I cite part and chapter to orient readers to their preferred edition of Don Quijote; quotations not thus identified are to be found in the same as the preceding.
     3 All textual evidence indicates that it is indeed the first voiced narration. The goatherd can provide only the little information about the expressed need for penitence (see below) and what he and his fellows have witnessed. Might it be possible —as well as revealing— that Cardenio would agree to tell his tale only to those whom he might consider sufficiently sensitive and literarily appreciative?


submissiveness stirs, why should anyone feel as sympathetic as he obviously believes one should? With good reason has Helena Percas de Ponseti stated that, “Leída con detenimiento, [. . .] la historia de Luscinda y Cardenio encierra una de las más logradas revelaciones psicológicas salidas de la pluma de Cervantes” (1). And probably one of Cervantes's most masterly literary deceptions, for “If we believe that Cardenio is a reliable narrator,” states Charles Anderson, “then he does seem to be an innocent babe caught up in a maelstrom of hostile and irresistible social dictates” (23). Maureen Ihrie includes Cardenio in the group of narrators who “attempt to provide truthful enough accounts, but their narrations are tainted by the very limited, and therefore inaccurate, nature of their knowledge. The total effect [. . .] is not to make each point of view equally valid and truthful, but rather to demonstrate the inaccessibility of any such accuracy, or truth, for any narrator, to throw all into equal doubt [etc.]” (“Classical Skepticism” 36, emphasis added). She sees Cardenio as trying to convey the truth; I think him deceiving with self-serving mistruths, that is, willfully distorting some of that knowledge which he has. Our understanding of the process differ, but the end is much the same: Cervantes makes his point, that Cardenio is as faithful a narrator as Benengeli.
     This young noble may have been rendered inadequate by his timidity4 and lack of a sense of self-worth, but he is more than up to the task of recreating himself, as we shall see when we look closely at his historia, history or story, in search of possible answers to the questions raised.

*  *  *

     Don Quijote has freed the galley slaves. When Sancho suggests that they prudently take flight to the Sierra Morena in order to evade the punitive grasp of the Santa Hermandad, his master acquiesces on condition that it be known that he is retiring on Sancho's account, not fleeing on his own: “‘jamás, en vida ni en muerte [eternity yawns . . .], has de decir a nadie que yo me retiré y aparté deste peligro

     4 “Toda la desgracia de Cardenio mana de tan nimia causa remota como su timidez ante las menudas complicaciones de urbanidad que son todo lo que, al comienzo, se interpone ante su matrimonio con Luscinda. [. . .] Lo poco que Cardenio hace es siempre a destiempo y su especialidad consiste en reconstruir, moroso, lo que debería haber dicho o hecho en tal o cual momento en que ni hizo ni dijo nada” (Francisco Márquez Villanueva 51, emphasis added). Vicente Gaos points out that the name “Cardenio” evokes cárdeno and lívido, signs of timidity and anger (477, n. 61a).

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de miedo, sino por complacer a tus ruegos; que si otra cosa dijeres, mentirás en ello, y desde ahora para entonces, y desde entonces para ahora [resuscitated!], te desmiento, y digo que mientes y mentirás todas las veces que lo pensares [silently . . .] o lo dijeres [in Quijote's earshot or not?]’” (I: 23).5 Once in the mountains, of course, adventures will doubtless beckon: “Reducíansele a la memoria los maravillosos acaecimientos que en semejantes soledades y asperezas habían sucedido a caballeros andantes.” And of course, as happens so very often in the Quijote, his imaginings soon become fact: they come across what proves to be “un cojín y una maleta asida a él, medio podridos, o podridos del todo [Benengeli is not the most accurate historiographer], y deshechos”; the contents not only are evidence of the status of the unknown owner but also are very fortunately coordinated to the principal interests of the discoverers: a purse of gold for Sancho,6 for Don Quijote a “librillo de memoria, ricamente guarnecido” and containing sheets of a lover's complaints, all proof enough of the gentility of the bearer and his gentleman's sensitivities and bitter disappointment.7
     Our knight-errant is naturally most curious. In one of those moments which in Cervantes's tales ought to surprise us but won't once we know that his novelistic technique includes liberal doses of Providence,8 in a gap of the hillside a strange man suddenly and briefly appears in the tatters of once-fine clothes, half animal in his hairiness and bare shins and feet and further dehumanized by his goat-like scramblings. And then another magical moment: a goatherd comes

     5 My intercalations draw attention to the ridiculousness of what the knight proposes. Diego Clemencín comments: “Desde ahora para entonces ya bien: es un mentís anticipado; pero desde entonces para ahora envuelve un absurdo que sólo cabe en la cabeza de un loco” (1225, n. 6).
     6 The finding is sufficient to assuage all of Sancho's pains: “aunque no halló más de lo hallado, dio por bien empleados los vuelos de la manta, el vomitar del brebaje, las bendiciones de las estacas” (I: 23) and a long et cetera. Don Quijote will of course be amply rewarded as well; stimulated by Cardenio's mad doings, he will seize the opportunity to imitate Ariosto's Orlando —an adventure!
     7 Carlos Feal wonders, as will most readers, about Cardenio's leavings: “if keeping his affront a secret matters so much, why does he mention it in a letter that he has recorded [?] in a book? Furthermore, Cardenio loses his writings and never makes any attempt to find them; not once, in his speeches, does he refer to this loss. I suggest that Cardenio envisions an audience of readers, and it is to them, more than Luscinda, that he addresses his writings” (180). Cardenio envisions an audience, to be sure, but may one not surmise that the writings were drafts, texts to be improved in his bosky solitude?
     8 See John J. Allen, “The Providential World of Cervantes's Fiction,” Thought 55 (1980), 184-95.


by and, after averring that he would not, could not, did not, touch those cast-off belongings, he is able to shed light on the mystery abuilding.9
     He describes the first meeting with the “‘mancebo de gentil talle y apostura, caballero sobre esa mesma mula que ahí está muerta, y con el mesmo cojín y maleta que decís que hallastes y no tocastes’” (are we not to interpret this decís que as slyly intimating doubt?). That young man was seeking the wildest wilderness and later took the hollow of a tree for his bed; in his reappearances he has been either violent and demanding, giving clear sign of madness10 as he wrenches bread and cheese from the goatherd's fellows, or sanely and quietly polite, requesting the food and obliquely referring to his circumstance, at such times giving full evidence of his courtly upbringing: “‘en sus corteses y concertadas razones mostraba ser bien nacido y muy cortesana persona.’”
     One time he most furiously attacked, crying out “‘“¡Ah, fementido Fernando! ¡Aquí, aquí me pagarás la sinrazón que me heciste: estas manos te sacarán el corazón, donde albergan y tienen manida todas las maldades juntas, principalmente la fraude y el engaño!”’” Saddened by such dementia in a man they perceive to have been born to better things, the shepherd and four companions plan to capture him and take him to be cured, “‘si es que su mal tiene cura, o sabremos quién es cuando esté en su seso, y si tiene parientes a quien dar noticia de su desgracia.’” And in the course of the relation of what the mancebo said we find the intriguing reference to penitence:

     9 Charles Oriel presents a list of the narrative steps in Cardenio's emergence (58) and comments on the “‘fractured’ effect” of the “interruptions, both intradiagetic and metadiagetic” (59). Ramón Nieto places in perspective the role of chance: “El azar, que había sido pretexto en Chaucer y Boccaccio, en Cervantes se convierte en una necesidad: sin el azar, a partir de Cervantes, ya no será posible escribir novelas ni explicarse la realidad” (497).
     10 Michèle Gendreau-Massaloux provides the “tres categorías esenciales” of love melancholy: “En primer lugar, [. . .] hace pasar al hombre de la sociedad urbana y del comportamiento racional al mundo salvaje: suele huir hacia bosques, selvas o picos inaccesibles, y se transforma en fiera, o bruto, dejando crecer barbas y cabellos, despojándose de sus vestidos y abandonando todo comercio con sus semejantes. Luego aparece una serie de fenómenos característicos de la apatía y postración, abatimiento general, horas pasadas sin movimiento aparente, mirada vacía y fija, mutismo, privación voluntaria de alimentos. Estas manifestaciones, que calificaríamos de depresivas, pueden llevar, en un proceso de autodestrucción, a la muerte por suicidio. Por fin, en contraste con la abulia anterior, pueden producirse crisis violentas, furores repentinos, con agitación frenética, gritos, comportamientos agresivos” (688). I leave it to the reader to compare Cardenio to this checklist.

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he would live thus cut off from society “‘para cumplir cierta penitencia que por sus muchos pecados le había sido impuesto’” (emphases added).11 The mention of desgracia and three repetitions of locura pique the reader's curiosity as they do Don Quijote's: “quedó con más deseo de saber quién era el desdichado loco.” And does not Cervantes's use of the passive voice provoke the reader to wonder by whom it was imposed?
     Speaking of fortuitous coincidences: the very same young man now approaches! He and Don Quijote embrace, each amazed by the appearance of the other, each searching the face of the other, the Caballero de la Triste Figura “como si de luengos tiempos le hubiera conocido,” the Ragged Knight of the Disreputable Countenance (John Ormsby's title) “como que quería ver si le conocía.” This moment prompts more reader's questions: what did Cervantes mean by this scene?12 Are we to deduce parallel locuras entreveradas? But if Quijote will have to feign mistreatment by Dulcinea as an Angelica-like cause for his rantings and ravings in imitation of Orlando and of this present “knight” (only so in Quijote's eyes), they, at least, had very good reasons.
     Responding in equally chivalrous terms to Don Quijote's request to learn of his misfortune and to the offer to succor him in whatever way possible, Cardenio will tell of his desgracia, though with the condition that he not be interrupted, “‘porque en el punto que lo hagáis, en ése quedará lo que fuere contando’” (I: 24).13 Curiouser still: Cervantes himself, in case the reader had forgotten, reminds one that Sancho's tale of Lope Ruiz and Torralba was cut short because his

     11 “A cada lector le toca identificar los pecados y maldades de Cardenio” (Percas de Ponseti 17). And of course penitence could assuage guilt, and it may be this which so affects Cardenio: “that of the many manifestations of fear and sorrow, feelings of guilt seemed to weigh so heavily on the melancholy was a fact which struck him [Robert Burton] most forcefully. They endure the ‘most intolerable torment and insufferable anguish of conscience’” (Bergen Evans 57).
     12 “The meeting of Cardenio and Don Quijote is one of the most carefully prepared and fully realized events in the Quijote. It takes up an entire chapter by itself, signifying that this adventure is to be of considerable weight” (Edward Dudley 122).
     13 “Semejante prevención no es verosímil. Si Cardenio estaba loco, parece impropia esta advertencia, la cual supone previsión y juicio, y tanto la advertencia como la razón que se da de ella, no asientan bien en boca de un demente. Pero el intento de Cervantes hubo de ser preparar algún pretexto para interrumpir la relación de Cardenio, dividiéndola en dos trozos [. . .]” (Clemencín 1236, n. 8, emphasis added). Later the critic adds two more trozos, when these three meet Dorotea, and then when all are together in the inn (1274, n. 24).


master did not keep count of the sheep which had passed over the swollen Río Guadiana. That moment was comic (I: 20), a fiction meant to entertain, despite Quijote's consternation; does Cervantes inject this recollection in order to warn us that another tale might be fiction as well? That it all isn't quite as serious as it may seem? It is doubtful that there is a thematic link, Cardenio fleeing the importuning sexual advances of Luscinda as Lope Ruiz did Torralba's.14 Or is he, as Clemencín proposed, preparing us to expect an interruption (an equally ridiculous one?) and be on the lookout for it, thus perhaps to pay closer attention to the text itself?
     “‘Mi nombre es Cardenio; mi patria, una ciudad de las mejores desta Andalucía; mi linaje, noble; mis padres, ricos; mi desventura, tanta, que la deben de haber llorado mis padres y sentido mi linaje, sin poderla aliviar con su riqueza; que para remediar desdichas del cielo poco suelen valer los bienes de fortuna.’” Thus begins his narrative, the plot of which need not be followed line by line. On first reading one might feel sympathy for Cardenio, as perhaps was Cervantes's intent, but on subsequent consideration little details, thematic but also stylistic, render his historia at the very least a bit suspect. He is most assuredly crying out against his desdichas, but on reflection we realize that they are not del cielo but rather that he created them himself, by his cowardice and inadequacy, perhaps even by fainthearted love.15
     Cowardice and inadequacy. After Luscinda's father had admonished him for the manner of begging her hand, saying that since his father is alive, “‘a él tocaba de justo derecho hacer aquella demanda,’” he agreed: “‘luego en aquel mismo instante fui a decirle a mi padre lo que deseaba.’”16 But the letter from Duke Ricardo had just come and Cardenio's father told him that he was to leave within two days to join the ducal household. Dutiful son, yes, but pitiful as

     14 “When Cardenio resumes his story in chapter 27, we once again witness his great resistance to marriage” (Feal 191); this point of view is dubious, given the conditions of the final resolution and the concomitant statement of the fact of their union. And given their betrothal it is difficult to justify Carroll B. Johnson's point of Cardenio's “fear of intimacy with a woman” paralleling Quijote's (112), a thought echoed by Feal; any parallel to Lope Ruiz thus vanishes.
     15 See the discussion by Louis Combet of the question of what it is that Cardenio really wants in this triangle (201-02). Percas de Ponseti notes that “La amistad por Don Fernando es un sentimiento todopoderoso que parece suplantar el amor a Luscinda” (3).
     16 Gaos rightfully suggests “Nótese el contraste entre esta súbita decisión [. . .] y la apatía con que a continuación se conduce” (479, n. 96).

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well: he does not even mention his desire to wed Luscinda, never mind seek permission17; he speaks with her but once and then once again with her father, petitioning Macías-like that Luscinda's hand be kept free for him until he returns.
     Did Cardenio fear his own father's rejection? We back up a little bit for an answer: “‘Sabían nuestros padres nuestros intentos, y no les pesaba dello, porque bien veían que, cuando pasaran adelante, no podían tener otro fin que el de casarnos, cosa que casi la concertaba la igualdad de nuestro linaje y riquezas.’” Fear of authority prompting passivity18 and not true cowardice? Is his love too feeble to prompt action?
     Leaving sentiment to one side for a moment, is it possible that Cardenio expects a better match by ducal arrangement, some salutary social climbing? Percas de Ponseti points out that “lo de casarse con Luscinda es condicional. En su carta, el duque le ha prometido ‘poner[le] en estado,’ por antonomasia casarle ([Diccionario de] Autoridades) —según corresponde a la estimación que le tiene” (15). Having become the friend and companion of the segundón don Fernando, Cardenio tells him of Luscinda's father's advice, “‘que era en que mi padre se la pidiese, lo cual yo no osaba decir, temoroso que no vendría en ello, [. . .] porque yo entendía dél que deseaba que no me casase tan presto, hasta ver lo que el duque Ricardo hacía conmigo’” (I, 27, emphasis added). Parental avarice sparked by matrimony is a ready topic in Golden Age literature; in this case it has perhaps been passed on to the son.
     An irony in this vein begs highlighting as perhaps a slip in Cardenio's self-representation: “‘Dile títulos de cruel, ingrata, de falsa y desagradecida; pero, sobre todos, de codiciosa, pues la riqueza de mi enemigo la había cerrado los ojos de la voluntad [. . .]’” (I: 27). By this standard is he not himself codicioso, prompted by that letter at least to consider possible advancement? I agree with Percas de Ponseti that all these pejorative titles apply to him as well (12). Further evidence?: in his sentence moments later —“‘me resolví en que poco amor, poco juicio, mucha ambición y deseos de grandezas hicieron

     17 Nieto appropriately queries “Si éste [Fernando] fue capaz de organizar una boda en cuarenta y ocho horas, ¿por qué aquél [Cardenio] no hizo lo mismo después de años y años de ferviente y correspondido amor?” (503). Feal points out the obvious: “It looks very much as if Cardenio could have avoided going to the duke's house simply by marrying Luscinda, without facing strong opposition from anyone” (184).
     18 “One cannot fail to note the extent of his submission to other men, whom he perceives as superior” (Feal 192).


que se olvidase de las palabras con que me había engañado, entretenido y sustentado en mis firmes esperanzas y honestos deseos’”; there's much here which might well be said of him also.
     Or have love's passions cooled because their physical union already been accomplished and, as he soon explains in reference to Don Fernando, “‘como el amor en los mozos, por la mayor parte, no lo es, sino apetito, el cual, como tiene por último fin el deleite, en llegando a alcanzarle se acaba [. . .]’”? But then how to reconcile this with that stylistic delicacy as he describes in his second telling his most passionate daring: “‘a lo que más se estendía mi desenvoltura [!] era a tomarle, casi por fuerza, una de sus bellas y blancas manos, y llegarla a mi boca [. . .]’” (I: 27)?19
     Don Fernando, second son of a duke, “‘mozo gallardo, gentil hombre, liberal y enamorado’” (I: 24), shares with his new-found companion his plot of seduction of a rich labradora; Cardenio, bound in trust to serve the duke, would feel obliged to reveal this affair to him, but Fernando slyly puts Cardenio off by suggesting that they go visit the latter's town in order to buy horses.20 Cardenio embraces the plan eagerly: not only will he be relieved of this unpleasantly irksome duty to tattle (he does not know at this time that the seduction has already been successful) but also it will afford him the pleasant opportunity to see Luscinda. But, fully aware of Don Fernando's libertine ways, why does he spend so much of his time with him praising Luscinda's social and personal charms? Why this convoluted expression of his pleasure and pride at visiting her?: “‘vi yo luego a Luscinda, tornaron a vivir, aunque no habían estado muertos ni amortiguados, mis deseos, de los cuales di cuenta, por mi mal, a don Fernando, por parecerme que, en la ley de la mucha amistad que mostraba, no le debía encubrir nada’” (emphases added to the equivocal statement and the idea of authority).
     Gilman and Anderson see Cardenio presenting himself as beset by social pressures to conform, to obey, to be completely self-effacing.21 For Cardenio, then, Don Fernando appears to be as much

     19 Clemencín: it would be “tan fácil a la persona de adentro evitarla; por eso dijo Cervantes y dijo bien, casi por fuerza” (1277, n. 45). Given that Luscinda appears to be more forward than Cardenio it seems unlikely that she would resist.
     20 “His [Fernando's] character flaws are his overaggressive tendencies and passions, so unbridled that they recognize no social or religious limitations, thus presenting an obvious contrast to Cardenio's meekness and passivity” (Anderson 27).
     21 Gilman: “poor Cardenio condemns himself not just by confessing his failure as a human being but also by his inability to create a protective narrative [p. 13] persona” (“Cardenio” 345). Anderson: “He paints a portrait of himself as a youth pursued and trapped by various social traditions and customs” (23).

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an authoritarian figure as was his father and Luscinda's, but one may be led to imagine that beyond meek acceptance Cardenio would wish in this instance to express his own worthiness, perhaps even his own masculinity: see what a girl I've got! Percas de Ponseti also wonders about Cardenio's true emotion: “¿Cuáles son los móviles de la conducta de Cardenio: el amor a Luscinda o la vanagloria de mostrarse querido por una joven de tales perfecciones?” (3). And unspoken throughout is the “fact” that he has deflowered her.22
     Not wishing to counter Don Fernando verbally, Cardenio suffers silently when the segundón makes Luscinda the principal topic of their conversations: “‘no se pasaba momento donde no quisiese que tratásemos de Luscinda, y él movía la plática, aunque la trujese por los cabellos.’” He can feel jealousy, of course,23 as Don Fernando continually brings their talks to bear on Luscinda; though he claims to trust her, so much talk “‘me hacía temer mi suerte lo mesmo que ella me aseguraba.’” And telling of Luscinda's desire to read a libro de caballerías he chooses Amadís de Gaula, which romance —fiction in the guise of history— comes then to be argued by two fictional characters, Cardenio and Quijano, gentlemen who have adopted literary roles as rejected pastoral lover and knight-errant, the two of them thrashing out the historical truth regarding the relationship between Elisabat and the Reina Madásima, all this in what, a metafictional history? The moment is pure Cervantes.
     There has been critical discussion about whether Cardenio's tale is a prosified comedia de capa y espada, a pastoral-bucolic tale, or

     22 Obviously I agree with Dudley: “it becomes clear later that Luscinda is not a virgin. However he omits any reference to this is [sic] his own story. It is only one of the small but crucial dishonesties in his storytelling technique” (133). Dorotea specifically accepts them as having been wedded, presumably because Cardenio has told her so: “‘Tú tienes a tus pies a tu esposa,’” she says to Don Fernando in Palomeque's inn, “‘y la que quieres que lo sea está en los brazos de su marido’” (I: 36). This interpretation appears to deny the “fear of intimacy” which Carroll B. Johnson posits (112) and Feal echoes ten years later: “Undoubtedly he fears the realization of his desire” (191).
     23 Burton provides this applicable anatomy: “Jealousie is described and defined to be a certaine suspition which the Lover hath of the party he chiefly loveth, least he or shee bee enamored of another: or any eager desire to enjoy some beauty alone, to have it proper to himselfe only: a fear or doubt, least any forrainer shoud participate or share with him in his love. Or (as Scaliger addes) a feare of loosing her favour, whom he so earnestly affects” (273).


something akin to an epistolary novel.24 All would agree that at base it is sentimental, whatever the genre; as Rodríguez-Luis states, Cardenio is “excesivamente tímido en su caso ante las dificultades que se le presentan —y hasta algo ansélmico en el modo en que le muestra su amada a don Fernando [. . .]—, pero muy dentro de la retórica sentimental” (105-06, referring to Anselmo's flaunting of his wife Camila's beauty to his friend Lotario in El curioso impertinente). The two great fictional works which figure in the background here are the Amadís and Orlando furioso, in each of which the hero suffers from the lady's rejection, Oriana's in error, having been given to believe that Briolanja has captured Amadís's heart, Angélica's more resounding in her ardent physical liaison with Medoro. Each spurned lover goes mad, as later, inspired because he has seen the connection in Cardenio, Don Quijote wills himself to do so —or to act so. Not only is Cardenio's madness “de tradición literaria” (Avalle-Arce 168), “unintentionally, as far as he is concerned [, . . .] patterned after the 13th canto of the Orlando furioso” (Gilman, “Cardenio” 343),25 so also our knight-errant's, and doubly so by virtue of its two sources (each fictional, of course . . .).

     24 For the comedia, Gilman in “Inquisidores”: “Con calculada malicia y sin indicios obvios, Cervantes ha entretejido la complicada trama de una comedia de tema honroso con la ridícula vocación caballeresca de su hijastro” (132; see also Novel 160-61); Julio Rodríguez-Luis following Gilman: “es decididamente una novela de amores combatidos del tipo que caracteriza no ya la literatura pastoril, sino la comedia del Siglo de Oro” (107); and Anderson: “Cervantes, novelist and dramatist, gave the tale [. . .] the outline of a three-act play” (21; see his graphic presentation on 33). For the pastoral, Finello: “a bucolically devised fragment” created out of the “pathetic self-absorption” of a “madcap [??] lover” (114-15, 104, and 116). For the epistolary, Dudley: “we find the outline of an epistolary novel” (128). Gilman points out in “Cardenio” that “The literary source of Cardenio's madness is obvious, but Cervantes's acknowledgment of it is characteristically oblique” (343), and Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce tells us that Cardenio “considera a su vida personal como materia artística” (168), which is, in effect, what these pages trace. And the sentimental novel? Each of those sentimental romances which Patricia E. Grieve has studied “somehow implies real life versus fictional life or blurs the lines between them in order to confuse us, but also to remind us of the dual and occasionally indistinguishable duty of words to record both truth and fiction” (117); this sounds awfully pertinent here. For comments on Cardenio and Diego de San Pedro's Leriano in Cárcel de amor, see Dudley 131.
     25 “Although Cardenio's wretched and antiheroic account of loss of nerve in a small-town Andalusian ambiance may seem antithetical to the only too justifiable fury of Orlando, a fantasy hero in a fantasy demesne, they do have one thing in common. Both are ‘knights’ who, having reason to believe their ladies have betrayed them, fail to live up to the exigencies of their knighthood” (Gilman, Novel 158; see also 156-57).

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     The tale is interrupted, as the reader might have suspected that it would be. I have argued that three of the intercalated tales in Part One display as one principal theme the untrustworthiness of a narrator,26 in this way paralleling the creation of Cide Hamete Benengeli, that Arab historiographer of dubious reliability. The lesson is that a reader, though thoroughly enjoying an intellectual and perhaps emotional immersion in the “life” of others, must ever keep in mind that the titles of Author and Liar are not mutually exclusive. Why bring this up here? Because the Amadís itself as object, book, serves two different functions for Cervantes, who does not explain them. His artistic reason has been discussed by Rodríguez-Luis (108-09) but Cervantes makes no attempt himself to reconcile the two differing mentions of that text in the “life” he is creating, first the book as something for Luscinda to read and then the book as hiding place for her letter to Cardenio. But of course Don Quijote cannot remark upon the difference, nor can Pero Pérez and Maese Nicolás, for the one heard the first version and the others the second. Is there a clue here for us readers only?
     I do think so, and there may be evidence —one always has to hedge one's bets on proposing exegetical absolutes for the Quijote— to defend the point successfully. All critics will agree that the whole episode in the Sierra Morena is liberally seasoned with literature, overtly of course, but subliminally as well, hidden —almost— in its style. The opening give-and-take between Cardenio and Quijote is the height of courtly politesse, closing with the knight's self-description, pompous if not arrogant in its false humility: “‘Y juro [. . .] por la orden de caballería que recebí, aunque indigno y pecador, y por la profesión de caballero andante, que si en esto, señor, me complacéis [by telling his problem], de serviros con las veras a que me obliga el ser quien soy, ora remediando vuestra desgracia, si tiene remedio, ora ayudándoos a llorarla, como os le he prometido.’” This mannered speech is in fact outdone in its baroque prolixity by Cardenio's opening reply to the priest Pero Pérez (I: 27): his first sentence runs on for one hundred and eleven words with one semi-colon, the second for one hundred and thirty, also with but one semi-colon. And the literary nature of this second phase of the tale is underscored by the two poems which introduce it, poems Cardenio declaims aloud whilst wandering alone in those wilds —practicing his delivery? In like fashion, of course, our very

     26 See the chapters on Dorotea, the cautivo, and Eugenio in my Not Necessarily Cervantes.


first introduction to Cardenio is the sonnet from the librillo de memoria which Don Quijote read aloud:

“O le falta al Amor conocimiento,
o le sobra crueldad, o no es mi pena
igual a la ocasión que me condena
al género más duro de tormento.” (I: 23)

The listing of options is essentially gratuitous; it does, however, reveal an assiduous application of cancionero-like clichés.
     Anthony J. Cascardi has intimated the inescapable self-awareness of this sometime poet: “Although Cardenio is mad with jealousy and wild with rage at Fernando's deception and Luscinda's apparent betrayal, his sonnet presents him as one who is nonetheless able to achieve good form, as exemplified in the poem's well-balanced and harmonious shape [. . .]” (223). Poetry, in fact, and belles lettres have been virtually the sum of the language of love between Cardenio and Luscinda once parted by their parents: “‘aunque pusieron silencio a las lenguas, no le pudieron poner a las plumas, las cuales, con más libertad que las lenguas, suelen dar a entender a quien quieren lo que en el alma está encerrado; que muchas veces la presencia de la cosa amada turba y enmudece la intención más determinada y la lengua más atrevida’” (I: 24).27 And missives figure centrally in those moments of the putative mala suerte which so try Cardenio, says Dudley (127): that of the duke which initiates his absence; that from Luscinda found in the Amadís which beseeches Cardenio to ask for her hand and incidentally sparks Don Fernando's interest and hyperbole, calling her “‘una de las más discretas y avisadas mujeres de su tiempo’” (I: 27)28; that from Luscinda warning Cardenio of her impending marriage: “‘A Dios plega que ésta llegue a vuestras manos antes que la mía se vea en condición de

     27 “Los amores de esta pareja tienen, desde un principio, un tono de blanda y almibarada quejumbre, traspuesto a un intercambio de artificiosos billetes y versos” (Márquez Villanueva 55). Dudley writes that Cardenio confesses that his relationship with Luscinda “has reached its warmest level since they have communicated by letter, because he is tongue-tied in her presence. His verbal inhibitions have, nevertheless, not placed any barrier in the way of their physical communications,” the proof of which is Luscinda's lost virginity (133); it's hard to carry this as far as to call Cardenio “autistic” (idem).
     28 The letter Quijote finds in the valise prompts him to propose to write to Dulcinea, a letter which will never be delivered, as the one to Luscinda apparently was not —a conscious Cervantine irony? Feal explicates the verse “el terrible dolor que adoro y siento”: “Cardenio adores his penance as much as his [p. 17] love; that is, he adores the penance that love procures for him” (179). In fine censoriousness Clemencín declares that this missive is “de lo más sutil, lamido y remilgado que puede verse; es decir, el más impropio en una persona a quien se supone agitada de pasiones vehementes” (1275, n. 29). For Gaos it imitates “el estilo alambicado que llegó a prevalecer en nuestra literatura barroca” (464, n. 137b); he recalls Márquez Villanueva's remark: Cardenio's poetic efforts “perfilan una personalidad creadora elegante y falta de nervio, que no puede hallarse más acorde con la naturaleza profunda del personaje” (58).

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juntarse con la de quien tan mal sabe guardar la fe que promete,’” this sentence itself a rather studied expression of hope.
     We are amused and/or saddened by Don Quixote's imitations of the caballeros andantes whose histories he has so thoroughly absorbed, and of the titanic rage of Orlando. Should we not feel the same way(s) about Cardenio? Whatever his bookish source, he does not really fit the paradigm of the hot-blooded and committed forever-and-a-day lover. If he has indeed achieved the physical satisfaction of his love he does not himself reveal this to the reader; nevertheless, Dorotea understands them to be wed by mutual consent and it is she who so informs us all and implies consummation. Yes, he goes on at great and rhetorically elegant length about how he suffers from Luscinda's treason and Fernando's perfidy. Yes, he has spent six months in the wildest wilds with intermittent outpourings of rage born of frustration, but, as Anderson has pointed out, “with each passing utterance, it becomes clearer that it is Cardenio's own blunders and weaknesses that have caused his problems. [. . .] As this autobiographical narrative becomes more genuinely confessional in nature, both Cardenio and his audience realize that he can no longer rationalize away his failures by crying out against unfavorable circumstances” (23 and 24). Should we not claim the opportunity sometime later to apply this as well to Don Quijote? There is a parallel, conscious or not on Cervantes's part, between these two book-born beings who come to see that the tales they spin of themselves are not, cannot be, the reality they would have us accept as their own, really.
     How to reconcile fact and fiction? “‘Tú,’” says that soul of discreción, Dorotea, to Don Fernando, “‘no puedes ser de la hermosa Luscinda, porque eres mío, ni ella puede ser tuya, porque es de Cardenio” (I: 26), the parallel es de marking equivalency in a matrimonio clandestino. In the letter which Don Quijote found in the valise Cardenio referred to Fernando in this fashion: “‘haga el cielo que los engaños de tu esposo estén siempre encubiertos’” (I: 23). He believed


that the marriage had taken place, and publicly, thus one assumes his goal was to keep secret his own union with Luscinda and to conceal what he imagined would be due cause for the charge of bigamy (another act of submissiveness?).29 The perceived need for silence has been nullified and the way is clear for Cardenio to take the role he has always wished for, that is, if he can screw his courage up enough to claim it.30
     Dorotea comes to mind in another way too, closer to our central theme, as “an example of how its author or spinner may intentionally make an autobiographical narrative something rather short of the truth —fiction or maybe romance, then, not history or autobiography in the strictest or most objective sense of the terms— while at the same time providing, within the flow of the tale, clues which the perceptive reader may use to see things more ‘objectively,’ which may help the listener to come closer to the ‘truth’ [. . .]” (Hathaway 14).31 The solitary Cardenio has had a lot of time to mull over the events of his desgracias and in his fashion he has used that time well, writing poems, perhaps practicing the classical epithets he will hurl at the absent Fernando: “‘¡Oh Mario ambicioso, oh Catilina cruel, oh Sila facinoroso [etc.]’” (I: 27); this humanistic leavening was perhaps

     29 A recent argument for a legitimized union comes from Henry W. Sullivan, without consideration of consummation: their “match is contracted by their spoken promise. While the father of Luscinda is aware of Cardenio's honorable intentions, Cardenio's father does not give his consent”; the valid union “illustrates the basic tenet of [the Council of] Trent that the essence of matrimony is the mutual consent of the contracting parties” (161). The “promise” is implicit: “‘Sabían nuestros padres nuestros intentos, y no les pesaba dello, porque bien veían que, cuando pasaran adelante, no podían tener otro fin que el de casarnos, cosa que casi la concertaba la igualdad de nuestro linaje y riquezas’” (I: 24). Had we access to the other letters and poems that were found, this apparent problem might shed its thorns.
     30 Márquez Villanueva rightfully suggests that “los papeles están invertidos, que es Cardenio quien actúa como una damisela atolondrada y Dorotea quien hace cara al infortunio en actitud viril” (52).
     31 “Cardenio, like Marcela, gradually comes to life in varying degrees, as do the storied shepherds of pastoral romances whose tales are based on accounts of acquaintances. It is then the reader's job to sort out the credible elements in the tale. This could mean [this does mean] that the storytellers [. . .] may be judged according to their own appreciation of fiction. When all is said and done, a character's credibility rests on how well he tells stories and acts out roles from them, roles with high artistic standards that are familiar to him and are observed carefully by his audience” (Finello 120, emphasis added). Is it meaningful that Pero Pérez is interrupted by Dorotea's voice and is thus prevented from making any critical comment on Cardenio's presentation, never mind providing the razones de consuelo?

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intended to impress the priest as was the palatine stylization in his speeches to Don Quijote, and certainly contrasts with the single “‘“¡Ah, fementido Fernando!”’” which the cabrero overheard (I: 23).
     Did the scene at Luscinda's house really take place as he relates it? When they talk at that street-level window, she implores Cardenio “‘procura hallarte presente a este sacrificio, el cual si no pudiere ser estorbado de mis razones, una daga llevo escondida que podrá estorbar más determinadas fuerzas, dando fin a mi vida y principio a que conozcas la voluntad que te he tenido y tengo’” (I: 27); we must recall also that it was she who pressured the idea of marriage. No plea for help, no apparent expectation thereof, she will do what must be done: “‘“una daga llevo escondida que podrá estorbar más determinadas fuerzas”’” One must assume that this speech could not be part of Cardenio's fictionalizing, for it strongly suggests that she knows that he is not the stuff of heroism. Cardenio, then, does not recognize that Luscinda shows no confidence in any challenge he might make against this powerful opponent, this authority figure, even though he responds stoutly: “‘“Hagan, señora, tus obras verdaderas tus palabras; que si tú llevas daga para acreditarte, aquí llevo yo espada para defenderte con ella o para matarme, si la suerte nos fuere contraria”’”? He had hastened there and found her dressed to wed Don Fernando yet he merely makes an ambiguous promise: defense or suicide, depending on the chance outcome. To a readership acquainted with the contemporary comedias de capa y espada, this is no real lover's pluck!32
     Impressive words they were, to be sure, but of course Luscinda didn't hear them all: “‘No creo que pudo oír todas estas razones, porque sentí que la llamaban apriesa, porque el desposado aguardaba.’” It has long been my perception that Cervantes meant to suggest that Luscinda heard only the first seven words,33 those which, standing alone, would easily convince her that she was being left to her own devices, abandoned to whichever suerte she herself would

     32 It is intriguing to ponder whether or not Cardenio knows that she knows he'll do nothing, and whether this might weigh on his conscience; after this moment he becomes, by his own admission, a fugitive from his failure to intervene, to do something. As Burton wrote, the force of “a galled conscience is as great a torment as can possibly happen, a still baking oven, [. . .] another hell” (458); the reader of the Quijote must decide whether this is a factor in the fashioning of his tale.
     33 This point of view must presuppose that Cardenio did indeed say all that he says that he said . . . but of course he “knows” that she didn't hear it all, and if so, why did he keep on speaking? Some more draft revisions?


be left to choose. No wonder she will faint, too weak to draw the dagger, too powerless to say no, facing the awful concrete realization at this crucial juncture that Cardenio has done nothing, no doubt will do nothing. And no dagger will Luscinda wield in self-protection but —in character— a letter in her bosom, as Dorotea reveals: “‘le había tomado un recio desmayo, y que llegando su esposo a desabrocharle el pecho para que le diese el aire, le halló un papel escrito de la misma letra de Luscinda, en que decía y declaraba que ella no podía ser esposa de don Fernando, porque lo era de Cardenio [. . .]’” (I: 28).
     Cardenio did not intervene, but he can and will agonize self-interestedly: “‘Cerróse con esto la noche de mi tristeza, púsoseme el sol de mi alegría; quedé sin luz en los ojos y sin discurso en el entendimiento’” (I: 27). This is not a cry of anguish recalled and revivified but a description artfully given the same “well-balanced and harmonious shape” which Cascardi finds in that sonnet. Read on, learn what Cardenio says he did, take note of his digresiones which do not really digress but rather emphasize his theme, and recall the aggrievèd shepherds and shepherdesses who found their voice in the cancioneros, those storehouses of clever conceits and intellectualized sentimentality. Cervantes gives Cardenio six months to recall, to imagine “what if?” And remembering, imagining,34 ordering facts, fears, and feelings into an historia, thus to project himself overcome by circumstances beyond his control, is an exercise which ultimately must prove hollow and unconvincing.
     And if indeed there has been some influence from the sentimental novels, Cardenio is an imperfect offspring:

Just as Don Quijote de la Mancha may be viewed as a book about reading, so it may also be stated that the sentimental novel Cárcel de amor is a book about persuading. The art of persuasion is formally exercised by all main characters of the work in both written and verbal fashion, through love letters, challenges, pleas, rebuttals, an exhortation to battle, debates, an encomium, even a suicide letter. In a sense, it is more a compilation of position papers than the interplay of characters. All characters address their circumstances through formal, rhetorical conventions (Ihrie, “Rhetoric” 1, emphases added).

     34 “Vivere nell' immaginazione: in Cervantes è in pratica un tema ricorrente, centrale ovviamente nelle figure di don Quijote e del licenciado Vidriera, ma ritrovabile anche, per esempio, nei pastorie innamorati che si refugiano nella solitudine agreste [. . .]” (Mariarosa Scaramuzza Vidoni 113).

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The italicized phrases fit Cardenio's affair, but of course there is no suasory intent, he and Luscinda having been born to love each other —if the narrative is accurate. Ihrie's last sentence may have more bearing, for whether written or oral, Cardenio's descriptions of his plight and feelings certainly lack spontaneity and true passion.35 Even in the moment of what should be his most intense anguish he stifled any expression thereof until the moment was, in his own mind, right and appropriate: “‘cuando me vi en el campo solo, y que la escuridad de la noche me encubría y su silencio convidaba a quejarme, sin respeto o miedo de ser escuchado ni conocido, solté la voz y desaté la lengua en tantas maldiciones de Luscinda y de don Fernando, como si con ellas satisficiera el agravio que me habían hecho’” (emphases added) —and the como si is still an hypothesis as he speaks. The air of self-conscious posturing is intensified by what may be one of those revealing slips of the tongue which will undo some of Dorotea's self-portrait: “‘yo no siento en mí valor ni fuerzas para sacar el cuerpo desta estrecheza en que por mi gusto he querido ponerle’” (emphasis added). If that estrecheza, the sierra, is his chosen stage, is he not then acting, giving in to a literary stimulus?
     The mode of crying over love's reversals when as one with nature is nothing new —recall Jorge de Montemayor's Los siete libros de la Diana, for example— but Cardenio's “action” is counterpoised by his implicit need for someone to listen to him. His stipulated condition that he not be interrupted by Don Quijote (or Sancho) has found explanation —“That he is fully aware of the perilous fragility of his mind and of his story is apparent in his preliminary warning to his initial audience” (Gilman, “Cardenio” 344)— but I believe one should still be a bit skeptical when the same “perilous fragility” apparently disappears when next he explains how it is that he turns mute under the pressure of recalling his pains36 and then goes on to

     35 Márquez Villanueva compares the love letters, giving a slight nod of favor to Luscinda's: “Vale más [. . .] que la requintada carta de quejas de Cardenio, pero se impone reconocer a la vez que no se trata sino de un buen ejercicio de pluma, de una joyuela de artesanía: frases ensambladas con ingenio algo redicho, conceptos moldeados muy en frío y sólo una nota briosa en su «sin ejecutarme en la honra», cuya medida fórmula deja adivinar cierto desplante de desgarro andaluz” (58-59, emphases added). I regard this as support for my perception of two people entertaining —titillating?— themselves and each other in belletristic exercises rather more than trading real emotional soul-searchings. Luscinda begs commitment, Cardenio begs off.
     36 He states that “‘a mí se me trasluce que la fuerza de la imaginación de mis desgracias es tan intensa y puede tanto en mi perdición, que, sin que yo pueda [p. 22] ser parte a estorbarlo, vengo a quedar como piedra, falto de todo buen sentido y conocimiento [etc.]’” (I: 27). He ends the tale by asking of his audience, with their “full knowledge” of what has transpired, “‘la amarga historia de mi desgracia: decidme si es tal, que pueda celebrarse con menos sentimientos que los que en mí habéis visto’” and begs them save themselves the trouble of trying to “‘consolar un mal que de todo consuelo es incapaz.’”


repeat the first portion interrupted by Quijote and continue for thousands of words in detailed “recollection.”37
     From all the evidence sifted above, it appears legitimate to consider Cardenio to be yet another amongst Cervantes's untrustworthy narrators, another of those wool-pullers Cervantes inserts in Part One of the Quijote to tempt us to believe we know “the truth.” Perhaps not as blatantly self-serving as Eugenio or as subtly self-revealing as Dorotea, more self-pitying than Ruy Pérez de Viedma, Cardenio is attempting to present himself as the equal of fictional star-crossed lovers, not as epic as Orlando, to be sure, but worthy enough that his tale be told —his way, as “‘la amarga historia de mi desgracia’”: “‘Desta manera paso mi miserable y estrema vida, hasta que el cielo sea servido de conducirla a su último fin, o de ponerle en mi memoria, para que no me acuerde de la hermosura y de la traición de Luscinda y del agravio de don Fernando [. . .].’” Note that he doesn't expect to do anything about this himself, heaven help him.
     But of course here comes Dorotea. Prompted by her exemplary fortitude Cardenio will seem to take heart, making stout promises of manly assistance: “‘yo os juro por la fe de caballero y de cristiano de no desampararos hasta veros en poder de don Fernando’” (I: 29), to the point of a duel if need be. We find later, however, that he has not enough heart to confront Fernando directly38 at Palomeque's inn: “c'est seulement lorsque don Fernand se résigne à abandonner ses

     37 “Cardenio demands that, for the sake of brevity [?], no one interrupt his story. Such reasoning becomes suspicious when we later witness how the Ragged One, in narrating his life, delves into superfluous details” (Feal 182). And as we are seeing, silence can be informative as well: “He reveals himself not only by what he says but by what he doesn't say” (Dudley 134).
     38 When all four have been recognized, first Luscinda, then Dorotea speak (I: 36); only afterwards does Fernando say “‘Venciste, hermosa Dorotea, venciste [etc.]’” and Cardenio comes forth, “que a las espaldas de don Fernando se había puesto porque no le conociese.” Riquer correctly points out (377, n. 10) that this is an error, that the two had indeed seen each other, but Cardenio's “caution” of avoiding confrontation is as meaningful as the fact that Fernando ignores Cardenio after having seen him and does not let hold his grasp of Luscinda until Dorotea's plea has proven successful, i.e., it is in effect she who liberates Luscinda.

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droits sur Lucinde, que Cardenio trouve le courage d'intervenir” (Combet 103, emphasis added). Our self-styled tragic protagonist, then, does not achieve a true “sociopsychological recovery” (Anderson 25); he is in fact merely allowed to recover “his” Luscinda. Would he ever recognize how hollow this “victory” is? Could he ever accept this truth about himself?
     Has the reader found much to celebrate?



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——. “Rhetoric, Didactic Intent, and the Cárcel de amor.” Hispanófila 30:2 (1996): 1-13.

Johnson, Carroll B. Madness and Lust. A Psychoanalytical Approach to Don Quixote. Berkeley: U California P, 1983.

Márquez Villanueva, Francisco. Personajes y temas en el Quijote. Madrid: Taurus, 1975.

Nieto, Ramón. “Cuatro parejas en El Quijote.” Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos 276 (junio de 1973): 496-527.

Oriel, Charles. “Narrative Levels and the Fictionality of Don Quijote, I: Cardenio's Story.” Cervantes 10 (1990): 55-72.

Percas de Ponseti, Helena. “Luscinda y Cardenio: Autenticidad psíquica frente a inverosimilitud novelística.” 37 pp. (The distinguished professor emerita graciously sent me a typescript of this paper.)

Rodríguez-Luis, Julio. “Los dos comienzos de la historia de Cardenio.” Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica 25 (1976): 102-11.

Sullivan, Henry W. Grotesque Purgatory. A Study of Cervantes's Don Quixote, Part II. University Park PA: Pennsylvania State UP, 1996.

Vidoni, Mariarosa Scaramuzza. “Fantasia e immaginazione in Cervantes.” Don Chisciotte a Padova. Atti della I Giornata Cervantina, 2 maggio 1990. Ed. Donatello Pini Moro. Padova: Editoriale Programma, 1992. 101-21.

Fred Jehle Publications of the CSA HCervantes