From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 3.2 (1983): 149-59.
Copyright © 1983, The Cervantes Society of America

Male Versus Female Friendship in Don Quijote


IN THE INAUGURAL issue of Cervantes, Golden Age scholars Ruth El Saffar and Cesáreo Bandera initiated a polemic concerned with the nature of human relations in works of that period.1 I would like to call upon both Bandera and El Saffar to consider a variation of the same basic theme, to incorporate aspects of both scholars' research and conclusions, yet ultimately suggesting something neither of them mentioned. Not only may and should intra-male rivalry / reciprocity be examined but that between females as well. In dealing with the two-male-one-female triangle of desire, both scholars have neglected a two-female-one-male counterpoint.
     In Bandera's Mímesis, he outlined how male friendship may be something more complex when analyzed. Because friendship necessarily involves some form of desire (even if it is only to be safe from violence threatened by another, or to care for and be cared about by another), the possibilities for conflict are inherent. The same must be true of a female friendship. Even though the protagonist in Western literature, especially the non-contemporary, is more frequently male, and while male relationships may well be a cornerstone of the literary society's dynamics, female relationships in comparison may not only offer insight on their own merits but may illuminate male relationships as well.

     1 Ruth El Saffar, “On Beyond Conflict,” in Cervantes, 1 (1981), 83-94, and the exchange which follows, pp. 95-119.


150 DEBRA D. ANDRIST Cervantes

     Don Quijote de la Mancha, cited repeatedly by both Bandera and El Saffar, lends itself to such an analysis of friendship since male friendship is so frequently employed by Cervantes in the interpolated stories of Part One. While male friendship in this novel is described as a motif and established within the Italo-hispanic tradition by several hispanists,2 Bandera's Mímesis is the only critique that looks at a friendship as it exemplifies mediated desire.3 However, Bandera analyzes in detail only the Cardenio-Fernando and the Anselmo-Lotario interactions. I have undertaken to examine all of the friendships so portrayed in the interpolated novels of the first part of the Quijote, and furthermore, to compare friendships between men to those between women, as based-on-desire relationships.
     Dudley has established as prototypical aspects of male friendship the social equality of the participants; a common identity, almost as though the participants were twins; and public acknowledgment of the relationship. If the relationship is broken, and it usually is, at least temporarily, the disrupting factor is a competitive situation where the love of a woman causes one friend to betray the other (p. 32). While this portrayal of a male friendship holds within the interpolated stories of Don Quijote, Part One, for all friendships, this conclusion involves only one dimension of the dynamic of a male friendship.
     The first friendship is that of Grisóstomo and “aquel gran su amigo Ambrosio.”4 The narrator of the tale tells us that the two are known for their friendship and were students together before the fateful decision to become shepherds in order for Grisóstomo to pursue the beautiful Marcela. Grisóstomo confides his love for Marcela to Ambrosio “que también se vistió de pastor con él” (p. 110). On the surface, the elements of the prototypical friendship are met except for the competition and betrayal. However, Grisóstomo's

     2 Notable among the titles which mention friends are Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce, “El cuento de los dos amigos,” in his Nuevos deslindes cervantinos (Barcelona: Ariel, 1975), pp. 155-211, and, Edward Dudley, “Boccaccio and Cervantes: Novella as Novella,” Hispano-Italic Studies, Vol. 1, no. 3 (1979), pp. 23-40.
     3 Cesáreo Bandera, Mímesis conflictiva (Madrid: Gredos, 1975), Chapters VI and VIII.
     4 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quijote de la Mancha, ed. Martín de Riquer (Barcelona: Juventud, 1944), I, 12-24.

3 (1983) Male / Female Friendship in Don Quijote 151

decision to commit suicide might be construed as betrayal of his friend / friendship since he ultimately breaks relations with Ambrosio in the most definite way possible (death) due to his love for Marcela or due to his self-gratifying pain in the unreturned love. The idea that this “betrayal” is a successful mediation assisted by the “betrayed” is supported by Ambrosio's actions before and during the funeral for Grisóstomo: he has already imitated Grisóstomo, who imitated Marcela (in the final analysis, imitating Marcela, his rival for the attentions of Grisóstomo). Ultimately, he insists on carrying out Grisóstomo's unusual requests for his funeral, where he resoundingly disdains Marcela. This classic “double-bind” is straight out of Girard,5 exemplifying my claim that the underlying dynamics of friendship may be much more complex than the surface structure suggests. As Grisóstomo's obsession with Marcela grows, so does Ambrosio's obsession with Grisóstomo's quest and their friendship (the faithful helpmate). Grisóstomo moves out of the mental state of friendship with Ambrosio to devote energy to the hopeless love / pursuit of Marcela. Ambrosio does not fall into the stereotyped imitative behavior of wanting Marcela since Grisóstomo does, but, by assisting wholeheartedly in the quest, makes that (and thus, Grisóstomo as perpetrator of the quest) the object of his desire. Grisóstomo is / was his god (this is not to suggest a homosexual attraction), “the model of friendship” (Don Quijote, p. 128).
     Thus, what seems a simple prototypical friendship reveals a much more complicated sub-structure. Undoubtedly this course of inquiry could be expanded, but in the interests of my comparative focus the analysis of each friendship will be a somewhat truncated version to establish major currents.
     In the second friendship of the interpolated stories of the novel, Cardenio is the wishy-washy suitor of Luscinda (Bandera, pp. 100-01). The establishment of a so-called friendship between him and Fernando is based on mediation from the beginning, and therefore, on desire. As Bandera points out:

el duque Ricardo llama a Cardenio porque “quería que fuese compañero, no criado, de su hijo el mayor, [but instead he will be won over by] un hijo segundo del duque,” . . . que rivaliza con su hermano mayor en atenciones al recién venido, es decir, en

     5 René Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, Trans. Yvonne Freccero (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1961), Chapters I-IV.

152 DEBRA D. ANDRIST Cervantes

atenciones hacia aquello con lo que el hermano mayor ha sido distinguido por el padre: “que aunque el mayor me quería bien y me hacía merced, no llegó al extremo con que don Fernando me quería y trataba [says Cardenio]” (p. 103).

Thus, Fernando's motivation for friendship is quite of the opposite type of desire from those mentioned earlier in this paper as logical antecedents of friendship, though desire nonetheless: to upstage his older brother. The relationship is, nevertheless, established by Cervantes according to the model:

en poco tiempo [Fernando] quiso que fuese [Cardenio] tan su amigo que daba que decir a todos (p. 228).

“No hay cosa secreta que no se comunique [entre ellos]” (p. 229).  It is crucial to note at this point that this friendship based on reciprocally mediated desire is capable of overriding the social / class difference between Fernando and Cardenio and turning them into “enemy-twins”6 rivaling for the same object.
     Furthermore, the triangle of Cardenio, Fernando, and Luscinda is shown by Bandera to have deeper significance than the usual two friends rivaling for the attentions of a woman. Yes, Fernando betrays Cardenio's confidence and attempts to possess Luscinda, but as a result of Cardenio's mediation by lauding Luscinda and of his own desire for “lo que le es negado y sólo en tanto en cuanto le es negado” (Bandera, p. 106). The two friends inspire each other to greater heights of desire for the object / goddess / Luscinda, certainly a relationship but not a friendship as usually defined.
     Anselmo and Lotario of “El curioso impertinente” have the most fully developed and detailed friendship of the novel. Dudley calls it

the central and definitive version of the story in the Quijote and it must be used as the touchstone by which all the others are to be judged and understood (Dudley, p. 29).

Anselmo and Lotario are

dos caballeros ricos y principales, y tan amigos que, por excelencia y antonomasia, de todos los que los conocían los dos amigos eran llamados. Eran solteros, mozos de una misma edad y de unas mismas costumbres; todo lo cual era bastante causa a que los dos

          6 Cesáreo Bandera, Personal Letter, (7 August, 1982).

3 (1983) Male / Female Friendship in Don Quijote 153

recíproca amistad se correspondiesen . . . no había concertado reloj que así anduviese (p. 327).

But almost immediately upon the marriage of Anselmo to Camila, the real dynamics of the friendship begin to tell:

[Anselmo] aspira a ver a Lotario apasionadamente enamorado de Camila y a Camila igualmente enamorada de Lotario pero de tal manera que ninguno de los dos pueda lograr nunca la posesión del otro. (Bandera, p. 149).

Thus will he build up his own fast-flagging interest in his wife. Lotario recognizes the danger inherent in this desire and even chides Anselmo that “los buenos amigos se han de probar a sus amigos y valerse dellos [but] no se habían de valer de su amistad en cosas que fuesen contra Dios” (p. 332). Thus, desire begins another tale of reciprocal mediation. Eventually, Lotario, in spite of (or perhaps due to) his “solicitud y advertimiento . . . por la honra de su amigo” (p. 329), is mediated into a desire for Camila. While Anselmo's lack of ardor towards Camila, along with Lotario's conception of friendship and honor, should have dampened the ardor of Lotario, Camila's resistance was successful in making her a goddess for him. She, like Marcela, is the mediator for the second friend. However, Anselmo, like Cardenio and Fernando, uses his friend to create a desire in himself.
     In contrast to the three aforementioned friendships, that of Anselmo (number two, and an entirely different character from the Anselmo of the “Curioso”) and Eugenio is not established at the outset of the story according to the given criteria. Instead, they begin as equal rivals for Leandra, who betrays both by eloping with a third. There is no betrayal on the part of either friend since the rivalry predates the relationship. Their friendship grows out of their shared loss and decision to become shepherds. They are, however, as mentioned, equals, alike in their roles as shepherds, and recognized as friends by those other suitors who will, “a imitación nuestra,” according to Anselmo, be among “otros muchos de los pretendientes de Leandra [que] se han venido a estos ásperos montes usando el mismo ejercicio nuestro” (p. 509). So while their previous rivalry may have been a reciprocal mediation with Leandra as the object of desire, and they may possibly have affected each other's desire to become shepherds, Anselmo 2 and Eugenio are the models for others and have quite a different friendship from that of either Cardenio and

154 DEBRA D. ANDRIST Cervantes

Fernando or Anselmo 1 and Lotario. However, they are somewhat reminiscent of Grisóstomo and Ambrosio in that these friends may have led the exodus to join Marcela in a pastoral setting, since, after telling of their decision, Anselmo 2 especially mentions the others who took up this lifestyle.
     In each of the cases cited, certain established criteria have been met to support a so-called friendship between males, though the order of occurence may vary. While specific conclusions about the dynamics of such a relationship would be questionable inasmuch as only four examples are analyzed and neither the characters nor the author overtly acknowledges the aspect of mediated desire in the friendships, in each case desire has entered into the manner in which the participants interact. In the two central cases, because a reciprocity has been established between the friends, the object / woman “se devanece por completo” (Bandera, p. 107). In the first and last cases, the object involved, the woman, has some degree of mediating effect. In any case, the interwoven threads of mediation reveal a tapestry: to the casual glance, a friendship; to the analytical eye, an involved interdependency of actions and reactions.
     Since female friendship has not to my knowledge been studied either in the Italo-hispanic literary tradition or in the Quijote, a specific prototypical model is not available. Emphasis on such a friendship could thus be assumed to be at least less than on male friendship. In fact, antecedents in folklore, used by critics to give foundation to prototypical male friendships as exemplified in the Italo-hispanic literary tradition, yield striking discrepancies between the portrayals of male and female friendships. Tentative conclusions of a perusal of folkloric tales suggest that the majority of tales deal with male friendship and, of those tales that do treat female friendship, the moral has far more to do with virtues or defects of individuals than with exemplary aspects of the relationship. A definite conclusion is that the participants in a female friendship are ordinarily not social equals; almost always, the characters are a woman and her maid. While rivalry for a man is not unknown, more typical is the effort of the woman to disenchant or enlighten, with the help of her maid.
     From a historical perspective, given the societal attitudes that have dictated the limited mobility of women, in order to guard their honor, a friendship between a woman and her maid, reinforced by proximity, lack of other options, and intimacy, would not be unexpected. A possible result of this inequality between the female friends

3 (1983) Male / Female Friendship in Don Quijote 155

could be lack of the common identity which is necessary to male friends, and, in contrast to the emphatic public acknowledgment of the friendship of males, this friendship would be an inherent / hidden / presumed aspect of the lady-maid relationship. As a result of the social inequality, competition for a male between these female friends would be highly unlikely, at least in the society of the Quijote. This would appear to preclude the possibility of betrayal since the obvious object of desire is removed, and reciprocal mediation, if not unnecessary, would be unwieldy.
     Because the examination of female friendship in the interpolated novels of the Quijote is based on a completely different model from that of the male, the role of desire may be much closer to the surface structure definition of friendship mentioned earlier in this study: a caring / helping / single-purpose relationship rather than the self-serving / opposing-purpose relationship of the males. If the proposed model for female friendship holds, the lady and her maid will work together to attain the object of desire of the former, necessitating cessation of hostilities and, probably, active good will, between them.
     The first case in the interpolated novels where a lady and her maid are mentioned is that of Luscinda and “dos doncellas suyas” (Don Quijote, p. 269). That a relationship exists is, for the most part, the result of conjecture. Cardenio tells of his exchange of letters with Luscinda, which would necessitate a messenger. He also easily enters Luscinda's home without detection to view her actions at the ceremony with Fernando. The most obvious accomplice in these deeds would be a sympathetic maid. However, though this may support the thesis that a helpful female friendship exists, no overt dynamic is present for examination and comparison.
     Dorotea's tale yields a bit more: she affirms her “encerramiento tal, que al de un monasterio pudiera compararse, sin ser vista, . . . de otra persona alguna que de los criados de casa” (p. 280). It would be understandable if “con sola la compañía de una doncella que me servía” (p. 281), Dorotea confided in at least one and was her friend according to the tentative model set forward. But in this case, there is, if not a contradiction, at least an ambiguity. Dorotea says that “sin saber ni imaginar cómo, en medio destos recatos y prevenciones” (p. 281) she finds Fernando in her room. Then, immediately before she is seduced, her maid leaves the room but evidently does not sound the alarm. These two occurences suggest complicity on the part of the maid, either with Dorotea or with Fernando. While complicity with

156 DEBRA D. ANDRIST Cervantes

Fernando and betrayal of Dorotea is logical enough, it is conceivable that the maid leaves in accordance with Dorotea's wishes, since the latter is intrigued by Fernando's interest in her. It wouldn't be the first time that interpersonal relations got out of hand, against the wishes of one of the participants. Nor would it be the first time that a trap was set to force a prospective suitor into marriage. Even though Dorotea chides her maid for “la traición cometida de encerrar a don Fernando en mi mismo aposento” (p. 284), she may be lying to protect her own role in the seduction. Since the tale is told by Dorotea herself, that possibility exists. In any case, whether or not a “betrayal” exists on the part of a maid who acts against her mistress's wishes, obviously there is no rivalry on the part of the women for an object of desire, i.e., a man. Instead, the maid probably aids either the man and / or the woman to accomplish their ends: possession of the woman by the man. Woman is still the object. And there is no mentioned reciprocity as with male friends.
     The story of the friendship of Camila and her maid Leonela, from “El curioso impertinente,” is the most developed and detailed female friendship. This friendship is not implied but very nearly declared outright:

[Camila] siempre andaba rodeada de sus criados y criadas, especialmente de una doncella suya llamada Leonela, a quien ella mucho quería, por haberse criado desde niña las dos juntas en casa de los padres de Camila, y cuando se casó con Anselmo la trujo consigo (p. 343).

This is as close as Cervantes comes to establishing a relationship between two women.
     In this situation, conveyed in the third person by an omniscient narrator rather than the first person as in the case of Dorotea, the reader can accept a “betrayal” of Camila on the part of Leonela when the latter doesn't obey “el mandamiento de su señora” (p. 344) to remain in the room with Camila and Lotario. While Leonela would make Lotario an object of desire by preventing Camila from being alone with him, distancing him from her, as well as avoid the betrayal of not obeying her mistress, she does quite the opposite. Leonela betrays Camila, but not due to rivalry. It might be inferred that Leonela has an ulterior motive but not one with which we are familiar from the male friendships: Leonela has her own lover.

3 (1983) Male / Female Friendship in Don Quijote 157

     It is crucial to the conclusions of this study to focus on that fact: Leonela has her own lover. She has no interest in either Lotario or Anselmo. It would be simply preposterous in the society of the Quijote for a lady and her maid to reciprocally feed each other's desires by way of a single love-object since they are of different classes from which neither can escape. Dorotea may love out of her class but she needs no desire-heightening dynamics to do so, especially with her maid. In contrast, the social difference between Cardenio and Fernando is no obstacle to their rivalry.
     By knowingly aiding and abetting the illegitimate affair of Camila, which, when it becomes fact, “sólo supo Leonela” (p. 345), Leonela gains bargaining power for herself, not greater desire for her object. Her knowledge of the affair and the inherent threat that she will tell Anselmo about “cosas de más importancia de las que [Anselmo puede] imaginar” (p. 367), allows her to conduct her own affair almost openly in the house. Camila becomes one of those who “se hacen esclavas de sus mesmas criadas” (p. 352), but not in Girardian terms. Thus, up to a point, Leonela becomes the mistress —a reversal of roles rather than a rivalry of equals as in a male friendship.
     It may be noted that in this third female relationship the participants are again not linked through a common object of desire. Each woman has her own lover; the “betrayal” has a completely different motivation from that of the men, though at least one female participant “uses” the other, not to distance the object and heighten desire, but to achieve the object of her own choosing.
     Minor female relationships which could be conjectured between equals can hardly be called friendships according to either the male or female model, but when Luscinda, Dorotea, Zoraida, and Clara meet at the inn, there are a few references to the women gathering apart from the men, presenting themselves as a group, etc. All these women are portrayed as at least equal in beauty, if not social class. And, Dorotea becomes “noble” through her actions since “beauty elevated through modesty becomes noble” (my paraphrase of Cervantes, p. 379). However, the only possible rivalry is between Cardenio and Fernando for Luscinda, which is solved forthwith by Dorotea. (Interestingly, the only active female is not of the true upper class, which ties in with the active roles of the maids in “arranging” alliances.) Moreover, the women are brought together through the actions of men, rather than the friendship being broken by rivalry for

158 DEBRA D. ANDRIST Cervantes

one man / object of desire. The “helper” role is played by Dorotea in both the aforementioned case and in the case of Clara and Luis. So, even when some of the prototypical aspects of (male) friendship are met, such as equality, there is a mix with some of the aspects of female friendship set forward by this study, although the relationships are tenuous conjectures of friendship at best.
     To sum up the treatment of female relationships, the criteria, at least in the small number of examples available, appear to be: a lady and her maid as participants; a “betrayal” of the lady by the maid which is not based on rivalry for a common object of desire and may, in fact, be an aid to achievement of the lady's desire; little or no reciprocity of desire satisfaction between the participants, and finally, a considerable amount of conjecture on the part of the reader. As suspected, female friendship is simply not on a par with that of the males in the Quijote.
     A comparison of the dynamics of the male friendship versus the female (better called) relationship yields some very basic differences. Men generally focus on the same object of desire while women do not —either they have different ones (Camila and Leonela) or both focus on achievement of the chosen object of the lady. Thus the betrayal aspect is different as well, but not so much as might appear: men betray for the same object with the complicity of the other friend, though the complicity may be hidden under indignation (Cardenio and Fernando), for the betrayed's own use. Women betray with supposed complicity (they deny it while the men ignore it) for different objects, or none in the case of the maid. Out of this last comes a glaring difference: men reciprocally heighten each other's desires, even though they may be of different classes, but women do not. Men use each other as mediators. Because of this lack of reciprocal mediation these literary women appear not to have strong enough desires, or awareness of them, or the need to heighten them, and certainly not across class lines. As a consequence, the threat of violence inherent in the male rivalries appears to be non-existent in the female friendships, at least between the women themselves.
     The scanty development of female friendships and the incomplete dynamics between the participants in such relationships in the Quijote makes the female characters peripheral —nearly props in a play where the players are men. It also implies that Girardian internal mediation is fundamental to a developed and complete relationship.

3 (1983) Male / Female Friendship in Don Quijote 159

     What this means in terms of societal dynamics in the novel may well be basic to the roles of the sexes in the concept of cultural genesis as illuminated by Girard.7 Relating this concept to the findings of this study, Bandera comments, “[the prop status of women characters establishes them as] ‘peripheral’ to, i.e., relatively untouched by, the mimetic reciprocity of desire, and therefore, a little healthier, even though, when seen through the eyes of the male participants in the mimetic conflict, such relatively healthy periphery can only look like something irrelevant, or meaningless, or expendable.”8
     Evidently, differentiation does not erode as readily in female relationships as in male ones. The male violence that results from such erosion appears to be, at least for the most part, a danger to society growing out of the male sphere. Logically, this hypothesis is supported by the prototypical models presented for friendship among the sexes. The sameness reiterated by the male relationship model versus the differentiation underlined by the female relationship model is an obvious supporting factor. Female relationships are even based on social inequality which is an insurmountable obstacle and the participants, unlike the males, refuse to be mediated into a desire for a common object.
     This violence inherent in the breakdown of difference is the reason that Bandera calls the female relationship “healthier.” However, the so-called irrelevancy, meaninglessness, or expendability of the healthy relationship may, in fact, be a smokescreen for that which is relevant, meaningful, and unexpendable. That at least one of the sexes is resistant to violent reciprocity may be the saving factor in the maintenance of human society rather than its dissolution in chaotic violence.
     Woman may not be the saving “other” for man, as El Saffar says and hopes she is and as Bandera denies, but women may play that saving role for society through their own relationships. This confers a previously unrecognized integral status upon female friendship.

Baylor University

     7 René Girard, Violence and the Sacred, Trans. Patrick Gregory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977) pp. 139-142.
     8 Cesáreo Bandera, in an interview with the author at the State University of New York at Buffalo, Spring 1982.

Fred Jehle Publications of the CSA HCervantes