From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 5.2 (1985): 163-67.
Copyright © 1985, The Cervantes Society of America

Cervantes' Redundant Midsummer in Part II of the Quijote


THERE IS A NEED to further explain the implicit (but, to our minds, unquestionable) Cervantine insertion of Midsummer festival rites in Chapters 34 and 35 of Part II.1 On the surface, at least, the fixing of Chapters 34 and 35 on June 23-24 would appear to support those scholars who, hoping to rationalize Cervantes' own chronological indications in Chapters 36 and 47,2 have determined that the festivities celebrated in Barcelona correspond to the date of St. John the Baptist's Martyrdom, August 29.3 With June 24 situated at Chapters 34 and 35, the explicit dates offered by Cervantes thereafter, July 20 and August 16, would reflect a forward-moving

     1 Alfred Rodriguez & Karl Roland Rowe, “Midsummer Eve and the Disenchantment of Dulcinea,” Cervantes, 4, (1984), 79-83.
     2 The specific dates cited in those chapters, a practice unheard of in the Quijote to that point, form part of the letters written by Sancho and the Duque, respectively. Cervantes' most unusual use of specific dates precisely at that point in the narrative, just after the implicit presentation of Midsummer and shortly before the reversion to Spring that we shall shortly refer to in Chapter 58, suggests an ambiguously playful attitude —in many respects a Cervantes hall mark— with regard to temporality and duration in his masterpiece.
     3 For a discussion of this dating and significant bibliography, see L. A. Murillo, The Golden Dial (Oxford: The Dolphin Book Co., 1975), pp. 61-62.



calendar time that would then culminate in the late-August celebrations that coincide with Don Quijote's arrival in Barcelona.
     The problem, as posited in our title, arises from the fact that we are convinced by Professor Murillo's argument that Don Quijote, ‘solar hero,’ is meaningfully identified (at the point of his definitive defeat in Barcelona) with a solar date, specifically Midsummer,4 and not some date in August that possesses no mythical solar significance. Nevertheless, Cervantes has, in effect, given us the June 24 date (St. John's birthdate and Midsummer) in Chapters 34 and 35, which results in a redundant Midsummer within the span of something less than forty chapters.
     The redundancy indicated would in itself do no damage to Professor Murillo's basic hypothesis, which necessarily postulates a reversion to Spring in mythical time after the hero's permanence at the ducal palace through the months of July and August;5 but the specific redundancy of Midsummer would seem to require some explanation in its own right. To this end, we propose, first, to reinforce textually Professor Murillo's contention that mythical time does, in effect, revert to Spring when Don Quijote leaves the ducal palace, and then, once the redundancy indicated is thus confirmed (or, at the very least, directly tied to textual evidence), to attempt to determine Cervantes' possible intent in redoubling his presentation of Midsummer.
     Soon after Sancho and Don Quijote leave the ducal residence —after a stay of perhaps two months, according to the dates inserted by the author— they encounter a group from a nearby town that has chosen to recreate a pastoral Arcadia in the countryside:6

. . . al improviso se le ofrecieron delante, saliendo de entre unos árboles, dos hermosísimas pastoras . . . .  Traían los cabellos sueltos por las espaldas, que en rubios podían competir con los rayos del mismísimo sol; los cuales se coronaban con dos guirnaldas de verde laurel y de rojo amaranto tejidas. La edad, al parecer, ni bajaba de los quince ni pasaba de los dieciocho.7

     4 Murillo, pp. 63-66.
     5 Professor Murillo (pp. 152-53) fixes the reversion to Spring after Chapter 59, the point at which Cervantes' knowledge of the Avellaneda text is indicated; but we believe —and hope to prove in the following paragraphs— that the reversion occurs somewhat before that.
     6 The fundamental difference between this and other pastoral inserts in the Quijote is its communal rather than individual character, a fact —never underscored by Cervantine criticism— that tends to support our interpretation of it as a ritual practice.
     7 M. de Cervantes, Don Quijote de la Mancha, M. De Riquer (Barcelona: Juventud, 1971), II, 958. All references to the Quijote will be to this edition.

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This encounter, viewed in the light of Frazer's compendium of European folk traditions and festivals, The Golden Bough, may be seen to offer substantial support to Murillo's theory regarding a mythic reversion to Spring. According to Frazer, the peoples of Europe assured the return of Spring by performing ceremonies in the meadows and fields bearing leaves and flowers: these “ceremonies . . . are believed to influence the course of nature directly through a physical sympathy or resemblance between the rite and the effect which it is the intention of the rite to produce.”8 Thus, the group encountered by Don Quijote and Sancho (in the countryside by design but not native to it and especially outfitted, as if in ceremonial garb) may well represent the ritualized European folk tradition related to the coming of Spring.
     Cervantes, it appears to us, could hardly have indicated more directly, short of an explicit dating, that mythical time has, indeed, reverted to spring. The pastoral literary convention he selected as the means of conveying the tradition-based ritual of going forth into the countryside to mimic the objects and colors prevalent in Spring and Summer unquestionably points to the return of the narrative, on a mythical level, to an appropriately permanent Spring-Summer.9 Every element of the Cervantine description of the Arcadian gathering is suggestive, too, of Spring: the green thread wound about the trees and across the road, both for its symbolic color and its ritualistic relationship to popular practices intended to symbolically capture and/or bind the sun;10 the woven garlands of green laurel and red amaranth, as noted in Frazer;11 the supposedly abundant birds, those element of the animal kingdom most popularly identified as harbingers of Spring; the age and the physical appearance of the shepherdesses, so directly and superlatively tied, as noted, to the sun (“que en rubios podían competir con los rayos del mismísimo sol”); and, finally, the mood, “. . . porque agora en este sitio no ha de entrar la pesadumbre ni la melancolía.” Furthermore, the chapter ends with an incident that, despite its clear comic intent, holds forth distinct symbolic possibilities regarding the arrival of Spring. Don Quijote and Sancho are trampled by a herd of bulls. It may well appear as sheer coincidence, but bulls are identified with Spring in the Zodiac and

     8 James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, 3rd Edition (London: MacMillan & Co., 1919), VII, 169.
     9 The pastoral genre itself is forever fixed, idyllically, in Spring-Summer.
     10 Frazer, I, 316. Such practices would include the Northern European maypole, and might even be reflected in the garlands described, “de verde laurel y de rojo amaranto tejidas.”
     11 Frazer, IV, 246-71.


with Dionysius, the primary god of Spring renewal, in classical mythology.
     If coincidence be discarded, as well it may in dealing with a writer of Cervantes' subtlety and depth, Chapter 58, with its peculiar fusion of Arcadian ideality and slapstick bull-trampling (both symbolically and/or traditionally expressive, however, of Springtime renewal), may well have been offered in precisely that manner in order to qualitative color that mythical reversion of seasons: Don Quijote's inglorious exit from ‘Arcadia’ —specifically what the symbolic bulls do to the ‘solar hero’— points, qualitatively, to the protagonist's last ‘chivalric season’ which will culminate, of course, in his definitive defeat at the hands of the Knight of the White Moon.
     So much, then, for a textual confirmation of a mythical reversion to Spring in Chapter 58, a seasonal reversion that allows Cervantes to have Don Quijote in Barcelona at Midsummer for the hero's definitive defeat in accordance with the mythic tradition of knight-errantry.12 What such a reversion itself confirms, in turn, is the redundancy of the Midsummer presentation, for we have already had one Midsummer —clearly reflected in the rituals involved and the purificatory context in which they take place— in Chapters 34 and 35.
     Unlike the explicit Midsummer presented by Cervantes in Barcelona, which is self-explanatory (after Professor Murillo has pinpointed its significance, of course) in the mythical progression of the solar hero's life, that earlier and implicit presentation of Midsummer (Chapters 34 and 35) requires further analysis if its literary manifestation also reflects symbolically, as we must presume, upon the solar hero. The logic of a simple equation may hold the key to an explanation of Cervantes' literary intent in this latter case: if, in keeping with the mythic symbol value of the Summer equinox, the explicitly presented Midsummer properly reflects the solar hero's definitive defeat, then the prior and implicit Midsummer presentation should perhaps represent an anticipatory simulacrum of the solar hero's fall.
     The implicitly presented Midsummer of Chapters 34 and 35 coincides with the first ‘adventure’ devised by the ducal pair for the ‘benefit’ of their ‘famous’ guest. This is meaningful because the encounter with the ducal pair initiates the segment of Part II that is structured by other characters' recognition of Don Quijote as the mock knight-errant made famous in the published Part I. With his entry into the world centered on the ducal palace —and throughout the remainder of Part II— Don Quijote's capacity to alter the real world according to his illusory specifications is usurped by the ducal

     12 Murillo, p. 128.

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pair and others who know of him from having read Part I. Don Quijote becomes mere ‘artifice’ and the two focal points of what remains of the novel, the ducal palace and the Barcelona home of Antonio Moreno, are keyed to make-believe, man-made happenings.13 Don Quijote will never again willfully alter reality, for reality is consciously and burlesquely tailored to fit the mold of his peculiar madness.
     There is, without question, a significant qualitative change in the vital texture of the hero's literary progress at the point of his encounter with the ducal pair. It is a qualitative change that Cervantes emphasized by the very length of the stay at the ducal palace, which allows —via a whole series of make-believe ‘adventures’— for that qualitative change to be unequivocally underscored. But this basic change is perhaps most directly indicated, we feel, by that first and implicit projection of Midsummer. By means of that first Midsummer insertion, coinciding with Don Quijote's abdication of his will to alter reality and his accommodation to others' burlesque inventions, Cervantes symbolically effected a manner of pre-fall, foreshadowing that which was to occur in Barcelona on an explicitly projected Midsummer. It is a symbolically appropriate pre-defeat and pre-death of a solar hero who has lost his regenerative powers and will have to live, in consequence, the burlesque parody of his own imagination.
     As indicated in our cited study, the Cervantine use of the basic rituals and paraphernalia of Midsummer ceremonies in Chapters 34 and 35 is appropriate to the context in which the ducal pair devise and implement the disenchantment of Dulcinea. But the Midsummer thus implied also coincides with Don Quijote's entry into the artificial world of ducal palace experiences, and it becomes, therefore, a relevant indicator of the fundamental qualitative change that the latter represent in his literary trajectory. The solar hero undergoes a simulacrum (consciously made implicit for that purpose, however clear it may appear upon analysis) of the knightly death that would become explicit in Barcelona somewhat later, for the qualitative change thus underscored at that point —via the appropriate symbolism of Midsummer— represents, in effect, a fundamental undoing of the chivalric protagonist: the quashing of his will to alter reality by the imposition of pre-planned and totally artificial ‘adventures.’


     13 It is true that such happenings sometimes backfire on their perpetrators (the Tosilos incident, for example, or the pirate incident involving Ricote's daughter); but even in such cases the strings of the action are far removed from Don Quijote's hands.

Prepared with the help of Myrna Douglas
Fred Jehle Publications of the CSA HCervantes