From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 13.2 (1993): 37-59.
Copyright © 1993, The Cervantes Society of America


Playing at Moslem and Christian: The Construction of Gender and the Representation of Faith in Cervantes' Captivity Plays1


IN the third act of El gallardo español, the play's protagonist, Don Fernando de Saavedra, engineers his own enslavement by the Turks in Oran to further the amorous project of the Moslem Alimuzel, who desires the love of the beautiful Arlaxa. In her encampment, which is therefore a feminine space, Don Fernando allows himself to be disguised as a Turk, and permits both Christian friends and Moslem foes to believe that he has renounced his baptism and has converted to Islam, “thus jeopardizing his social and military status” (Friedman Unifying 30). These are strategies unthinkable to “un tal de Saavedra,” who, the captive captain of Don Quixote tells us, remained a steadfast Christian in defiance of the wrath of Hazán Pasha of Algiers, also a character in El gallardo español. And the plot thickens when

     1 An earlier version of this article was read at a special session, sponsored by the Cervantes Society of America, of the 107th Annual Meeting of the Modern Language Association, in San Francisco, in December, 1991.


38 ELLEN M. ANDERSON Cervantes

the play's final act begins with the autobiography of Doña Margarita, recounted by the heroine herself to an audience of men and women, all in Moslem dress, and all therefore Moslems indeed, so far as she knows. Like Dorotea in Don Quixote, Part I, she has donned masculine attire to find the man she loves, Don Fernando, who, unbeknownst to her, is one of the hearers of her tale. And what advice does he give to this mujer varonil (McKendrick 79-80; Combet 263)? To achieve her heart's desire and win her freedom,

Muda ese traje indecente,
que en parte tu ser desdora,
y vístete en el de mora,
que la ocasión lo consiente (I, 84).2

     Or, according to this Catholic male's discourse, uttered, it should be recalled, by a hero whose clothing signifies apostasy, it is more of a transgression of decorum for her to dress and behave like a male, even if Christian, than to dress and behave like a Moslem, because female. It is almost as if “Moslem” and “woman” belonged together as part of an indivisible unity —as if each term were the other's mitad del alma.3 That they are indeed so in Cervantes' comedias de cautivos is the thesis of this paper. Their conflict and coexistence come to resemble the paradigm of romance more closely than that of Cervantes' novels as the settings of these plays depart ever farther in the time of their composition or in the space of their setting from those of his own life-story.4
     The differences in the construction of gender between these fictional paradigms has been explored by Ruth El Saffar. She argues

     2 Cervantes' plays will be cited here and henceforth by act number and page number in his Teatro completo.
     3 This is not true only of Cervantes in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but of Western European culture in general. Garber summarizes an excellent study of the connection between cross-dressing and the image of the Moslem as other in Western culture in the nineteenth and twentieth century, as “the complex ways in which some Westerners have looked East for role models and for deliberate cultural masquerade —for living metaphors that define, articulate, or underscore the contradictions and fantasies with which they live” (352).
     4 Friedman (21) argues that Cervantes' theater distinguished itself from Lope's precisely in the former's more episodic construction of plot, more typical of the romance.

13.2 (1993) Playing at Moslem and Christian 39

that in early-modern Europe the figure of the feminine had been stripped of its power to integrate the personality and had been repressed into the shadow of the collective unconscious, where it assumed monstrous proportions. She has argued as well that for this reason, Don Quixote faithfully represents this dilemma, unable as he is to deal with actual women, because for him, as for the psychologically orphaned modern European man whose consciousness he parodies, women represent the perilous “other,” which devours the subject if it is not conquered and annihilated. Indeed, his inability to control them contributes to the mortal depression that causes his death (Beyond Fiction 122-24). However, for the prose romance Persiles, the same scholar has described a different model of the conscious subject: the protagonist who reconciles and becomes one with the opposite gender, and who becomes him or herself through self-recognition in the sexual other. This is a psychological coniunctio oppositorum posited in the alchemy of Cervantes' time (“Persiles' Retort” 20-21, 30), and, I would add, in the trattati d'amore well known to Cervantes himself (Anderson, “Lover” 2-3; Wilson, Allegories 78), which share with alchemy a fascination with the figure of the androgyne developed by Ficino from Plato's Symposium. Persiles and Sigismunda represent in Cervantes' prose a way out of the irreconcilable antinomy of male and female, self and other evident in Don Quixote. Romance offers a vision of the ideal human as both masculine and feminine, a self which reflects but does not swallow the other (Wilson Allegories 78-105; “Splitting” 46-7). This integration of the masculine and feminine into the fully human is achieved only after the ego's experiences of aloneness, powerlessness and alienation from the crucial contents of the unconscious —symbolized by separation from the mother country. It is this process that is suggested by the prose romance's full title: Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda.
     The Spanish Catholic male self in Cervantes' works could also find himself helplessly in the grip of a different other, or, in the terms of Jungian psychology, in the grip of a different shadow, from the feminine: the Moslem. For the shadow (that is, any aspect of the personality of which the ego is a part that the latter finds unacceptable, inferior, and therefore necessary to reject) in the psyche can also be represented to consciousness by figures of a despised minority or of a hated ethnic category, as

40 ELLEN M. ANDERSON Cervantes

Jung has suggested.5 In the Spaniard of Cervantes' time, this repressed position was occupied by the Moslem and the Jew, both seen as so dangerous politically and psychologically that they were expelled from the body politic, a metaphor subtly analyzed by George Mariscal (Contradictory Subjects 53-61). The figure of the Moslem, then, like the figure of the opposite sex, could embody for the conscious mind of a Golden Age Spanish Catholic, all aspects of personality most feared and denied by the ego. Thus, the construction of gender in the fiction of this period is intimately connected with the Golden Age's depiction of ethnicity.6
     It is not surprising, therefore, that especially in Cervantes' literary universe the two issues are closely connected. For the most fully-documented period of Cervantes' life is his captivity in Algiers from 1575 to 1580.7 From being a hero at arms to Christians, he became a slave to Moslems, or, in the theology and literature of the time, a dead man, a thing without a soul (Camamis 102). He was, in other words, separated forcibly from his mother country (thereby living out physically the psychological condition of the European male of the period as described by El Saffar [“Literary Reflections” 12; “Praise” 212]) and a displaced person in a society whose members were the other, the shadow-side of the ideal Spanish Catholic human agent, primarily masculine in its ego-orientation.8 Cervantes was frustrated

     5 “Woman always stands just where the man's shadow falls, so that he is only too liable to confuse the two” (Jung, Civilization 113). For the survival of the conquered, yet feared, minority, in the collective unconscious of entire peoples and cultures, see his Civilization 502-14.
     6 For a review of critical literature surrounding the interplay of gender and ethnicity in the depiction of the subversive other, see Smith, esp. 1-58.
     7 Although Topografía e historia general de Argel was published in 1612 under the name of Diego de Haedo, Camamis' excellent study argues cogently that the work's true author was the priest Dr. Antonio de Sosa, who wrote the entire text as a captive in Algiers between 1577 and 1581, during the exact years that Cervantes was composing Los tratos (140-50). Indeed, as a named narrator within the text of Topografía, Sosa tells the story of Cervantes' many attempts to escape from Algiers, presenting the latter as one worthy to be included in the third book, entitled Diálogo de los mártires. The priest was an influence on the figure of Saavedra, the wise captive who is a biographical projection of Cervantes himself in Los tratos. Thus, it serves as a valuable point of reference for the interpretation of Cervantes' comedias de cautivos.
     8 The literary representation as virtually feminine of Moslems, Jews and, especially, those peoples regarded as less civilized because less Christian [p. 41] and less European in the Spanish Golden Age (for example the native tribes of Spanish America and of Africa) has been persuasively discussed by Mariscal (especially “Persiles” 93-94; and Contradictory Subjects 60). The representation of women as others dangerous to the Spanish Catholic male ego has been discussed by Cruz, who persuasively analyzes the pícara as the most extreme example of the progressive enclosure of the feminine, especially of female sexuality, both in Spanish life and in Spanish texts authored by males.

13.2 (1993) Playing at Moslem and Christian 41

in his attempts to escape the thrall of the religious other and to assert his autonomy as an adult male —as well as the privileged place that status gave him in Spanish society. He unwillingly held in Algiers the subordinate, repressed position that both women and Spaniards of Moslem descent held in the homeland he remembered with such nostalgia. Algiers itself, then, became a kind of alchemical retort, for it was a closed vessel of psychological transformation. It was for him physically an enclosed space in which he was stripped of the coordinates of his identity as a male hidalgo, an active subject and agent. And in that space he was forced to confront his naked self with the new coordinates of slave (that is, thing) and helpless object of desire and command, with which his Moslem captors tried to invest him by force. Captivity in a Moslem society is a condition wherein, I contend, he discovers the self in the other and the other in himself because he experiences as a captive that tension in his own body and soul between “masculine” identity and “feminine” role. Thus, ultimate “others” with whom reconciliation is possible or of whom rejection is necessary are both the opposite sex and the opposing religion.9 It is therefore especially in his stories and plays about Christian captives of Moslem corsairs where we can expect to find some clues about the interplay of identity and role, of self and other, crucial aspects of his construction of gender.
     For if, as El Saffar has argued, men become fully human in Cervantes' literary Spain only as they confront the repressed feminine in themselves and in their society (Beyond Fiction xii), is their humanity similarly enhanced when they are enslaved

     9 I am here applying Boyer's definition of the other woman in María de Zayas y Sotomayor's short stories and in Persiles: “one whose behavior flagrantly transgresses socially accepted —patriarchal— values and literary conventions . . . all women are perceived as different, or other” (60). This topic is treated at length by Gossy, whose chapters on La Celestina (19-56) and El casamiento engañoso and El coloquio de los perros (57-81) are devoted to the ways in which prostitutes and witches are essentially exaggerated cases of the otherness attributed by male writers to women characters generally.

42 ELLEN M. ANDERSON Cervantes

outside Spain —by the very Moslem who had been expelled? Spanish captives face the temptation of apostasy, of losing their souls, which in theological terms is the equivalent of losing their selves. Indeed, many of the Moslems in Cervantes' works are in fact former Christians who have apostatized. In Cervantes' literary universe this problem of ambiguous religious identity is paired with an ambivalent representation of gender, either in speech, in behavior or in costume. In Cervantes' prose, the most famous example is that of the Morisca Ana Félix. Branded as a crypto-Moslem by Spaniards, she seeks union with the Spanish Catholic hidalgo Don Gaspar Gregorio by adopting male dress to escape her Moslem captors, even as Don Gaspar Gregorio himself has adopted female dress while imprisoned in Algiers, waiting for his fiancee to bring him aid. She has adopted a societally designated “male” role, while he remains in an apparently “female” one. This story is cited by El Saffar (“Praise” 219-20) as at best an ambiguous result of the confrontation of male and female, Moslem and Christian, for each remains separate from the other and in danger, and only half of the complete soul of lover-beloved, male-with-female, described by Wilson (Allegories 78-105).
     Now Cervantes in the course of his literary career, and especially in his theater, comes to play ever more creatively with the givens of gender as he experiments with the depiction of Christian captives of Moslem slave-owners. Indeed, it is only in one of his plays (and not in Don Quixote or in El amante liberal) that male and female Christian captives play the role of the opposite sex and thereby win their freedom. Four of his ten extant comedias have as their subject the captivity of Christians by Moslems who desire them. In those most closely based on Cervantes' experience of captivity in Algiers (Los tratos de Argel and Los baños de Argel), the survival of male Christian captives depends on winning or manipulating the good will of the Moslem women who own them —even as the Christian women captives must do with their male owners. In those whose Moslem characters are Turkish, rather than Algerian (El gallardo español and La gran sultana), the principal Christian characters of both sexes have more choices: some openly confront their owners in speech and fight for the right to wear Christian clothing (Catalina de Oviedo in La gran sultana), while others pretend to adopt the dress, and by implication, the faith, of Islam (Don Fernando and Doña Margarita). Both sexes must, or choose to, adopt an apparently “feminine”

13.2 (1993) Playing at Moslem and Christian 43

(because subordinate) voice described by Jean Baker Miller (8), that is, one which ingratiates itself with the all-powerful, in role masculine, owner through subversive double meanings. An outstanding example of the use of subversive double meanings and word play is the galán Don Fernando in Los baños. He must fend off the sexual advances of his owner and would-be mistress, Halima, without offending her, in the presence of his beloved Constanza (also Halima's captive), whose jealousy he fears to provoke. And Constanza herself has been set the task of advising her mistress on how to win the man both women love. Significantly, both captives use the ambiguity of the words cautivo and renegado simultaneously to reveal and to conceal their true identities (II, 224-5). To this often deadly correspondence between the ambiguous representation of faith and the ambiguous construction of gender, this study now turns.


     In the Algerian plays, change of dress is closely linked with the interplay of Moslem and Christian and the interplay of the masculine and the feminine. For in these dramas, as well, Moslem slave-owners are suggested to be, or are actively represented, as homosexual pedophiles, who “en esta Sodoma” (Tratos III, 896) offer young Christian male captives life as apostates to Islam, or a hideous death as Christian martyrs, a choice signified by their urging of the young slaves' adoption of Moslem clothing and names. These Christian captives, when they embrace the role of the Moslem other, risk engulfment of their masculinity as defined in their culture by the sexual role of the effeminate, rather than the feminine, other. This result dramatizes the projected fear of the alienated masculine subject's ego, that is, its terror of absorption by either the religious or the sexual other.
     This is most effectively the case in Los tratos, the earlier of the two plays, very probably written during Cervantes' own experience of captivity (Stagg) in order to attract from its audience donations for the ransom of prisoners (Canavaggio “A propos”). In a subplot still heartrending to the modern reader, a mother, a father and their two small children are sold at auction, as their extreme poverty makes ransom an unlikely event. No one wants to buy the even the mother and the younger son together, much less the entire family. The two boys, Juan and Francisco, are sold to different buyers. One of the prospective purchasers demands

44 ELLEN M. ANDERSON Cervantes

that Juan, the younger child, adopt a Moslem name and wear Moslem dress, thereby replacing the signifiers of his original Christian heritage. The buyer then admits his passion: “Enamorado me ha / el donaire del garzón”. The last word clearly indicates the Moslem's pedophiliac desire.10 And yet, this sexual passion is presented as if it were the tenderness of a loving parent, almost of a mother: after haggling the price down to a satisfactory level, his language towards, rather than about, Juanico changes. He coaxes: “Ven, niño, vente a holgar” (II, 870). The appropriation of the mother's role by the very one who intends to separate the child from his mother, from Mother Church and from his mother tongue, is recognized and named accurately by the unfortunate woman herself rather than by the child's father. When Juanito declares his terror at their impending separation (“No, señor; no he de dejar / mi madre por ir con otro [ibid.]),” she contradicts him with the tragic truth: “Ve, hijo . . . que ya no eres / sino del que te ha comprado.” The enslaved child answers with the cry of the self, separated from the maternal (El Saffar “Literary Reflections” 4-5): “¡Ay, madre! ¿Habéisme dejado? (ibid.)” And, believing himself abandoned, he does indeed become in response, perhaps in unconscious revenge, what his mother had feared: a Moslem who has repudiated his past and his former self, as he declares in a much later scene to his older brother:

JUAN.                  ¿No saben ya que me llamo [. . .]
AURELIO.             ¿Cómo?

     10 Topografía e historia general de Argel, quoted in Schevill and Bonilla, Tratos, n. 42-6 (231), defines and describes these homosexual and pedophiliac tendencies with reference specifically to young male Christian captives: “Los demas todos [se trata de los genizaros] viuen una vida vestial de puercos animales, dandose continuamente a la crapula y lujuria, y particularmente a la hedionda y nefanda sodomia, siruiendose de moços christianos cautiuos que compran para esse vicio y luego visten a la turquesca, o de hijos de judios y de moros de la tierra y de fuera de ella, tomandolos y teniendolos a pesar de sus padres, con los quales estan dias y noches emborrachandose con agua ardiente y vino . . . La sodomia se tiene, como diximos, por honra; porque aquel es mas honrado que sustenta mas garçones, y los zelan mas que las propias mugeres y hijas, sino es a los viernes y pasquas, que los sacan a passear muy ricamente vestidos; y entonces concurren todos los galanes de la ciudad, y muchos que presumen de graues, a requebrarse con ellos, ofreciendoles ramilletes de flores y diziendoles sus passiones y tormentos.” In other words, the young captives occupy what would be the conventional feminine role in a heterosexual courtship.

13.2 (1993) Playing at Moslem and Christian 45

JUAN.                              [. . .] así como mi amo?
FRANCISCO.      ¿En qué modo?
JUAN.                                          Solimán.
FRANCISCO.        ¡Tosigo fuera mejor
que envenenara aquel hombre
que así te ha mudado el nombre!
¿Qué es lo que dices, traidor?
JUAN.                  Perro, poquito de aqueso,
que se lo diré a mi amo.
¿Porque Solimán me llamo,
me amenazas? ¡Bueno es eso!
FRANCISCO.        ¡Abrázame, dulce hermano!
JUAN.                  ¿Hermano? ¿De cuándo acá?
¡Apártese el perro allá;
no me toque con la mano!
¿Hay más gusto que ser moro?
Mira este galán vestido,
que mi amo me le ha dado,
y otro tengo de brocado,
más bizarro y más pulido.

     In this very early play, then, to adopt a name and to dress as a Moslem is to become, in effect, a renegade, an apostate to one's true identity as a Spanish Christian, heterosexual male. Algiers is indeed a dungeon where identity is so menaced that playing the role of the sexual and religious other inevitably leads to becoming those others. This idea is explicitly stated by no less a character than Cervantes' own biographical projection, the prisoner Saavedra. When Pedro, another Christian captive, confides to Saavedra his plans to gain his freedom by feigning conversion to Islam through adopting Moslem costume and a Moslem name, while secretly remaining a Christian, the latter rejects this exit because it is impossible to adopt the signifiers of a new self without changing the reality they signify. He repeats Christian doctrine that Pedro would be endangering his immortal soul, that is, his self, by living in propinquity to a lie.

SAAVEDRA.         Fíngete ya vestido a la turquesca,
y que vas por la calle y que yo llego
delante de otros turcos y te digo:
«Sea loado Cristo, amigo Pedro» . . .
Sin duda que me dieses mil puñadas,
y dijeses que a Cristo no conoces,
ni tienes con su Iglesia cuenta alguna,

46 ELLEN M. ANDERSON Cervantes

porque eres muy buen moro, y que te llamas,
no Pedro, sino Aydar o Mahometo.
PEDRO.                Eso haríalo yo, mas no con saña,
sino porque los turcos que lo oyesen
pensasen que, pues dello me pesaba, que
era perfecto moro y no cristiano; pero acá, en
mi intención, cristiano siempre . . . .
SAAVEDRA.         y así, con esta sombra y apariencia
deste vano deseo, se les pasa [a los renegados]
un año y otro, y llega al fin la muerte
a ponerle en perpetua servidumbre
por aquel mismo modo que él pensaba
alcanzar libertad en esta vida (III, 906, II, 907).

     Cervantes' second theatrical re-creation of his own experience of captivity among Moslems, Los baños de Argel, was probably composed thirty years later than Los tratos (Canavaggio, Cervantès dramaturge 22; Anderson, Role-playing 146). This textual Algiers contains the possibility of representing a more porous and flexible masculine ego, one which can generate and tolerate, albeit temporarily, an ambiguous representation of religion in dress and speech. This development is an absolute innovation with respect to the play's two principal dramatic sources: Los tratos and Lope de Vega's 1599 reworking of it, Los cautivos de Argel.11 The ambiguity and mutability of religious faith is signified in the play by a new member of the cast of characters: the repentant Christian renegade, the result of a process of transformation in a character's consciousness that shines by its absence in both Los tratos and Los cautivos. In the former, as we have seen, conversion to Islam by a Spanish Christian is irrevocable; in the latter, the process of apostasy is almost genetic, and therefore, also irrevocable. For the only renegade to Islam in Lope's cast is a Morisco who, after escaping to Algiers in order to return to the Islamic faith of his ancestors, betrays the inhabitants of his native village in Spain to the Algerian corsairs, out of hatred for the Christian authorities who have (justifiably, Lope suggests) suspected his people of treason. Significantly, this character is recaptured by the Spanish authorities during the raid, and is subsequently burned at the stake as an apostate. He

     11 For the date of composition of Los cautivos, see Kossoff. The genealogy of the three plays (Los tratos inspired Los cautivos, which in turn inspired Cervantes' composition of Los baños) is discussed by Ruffinatto and Fothergill-Payne.

13.2 (1993) Playing at Moslem and Christian 47

is a perfect representation of the Spanish Catholic fear-image of this societal other as immutably evil12 —and therefore so dangerous that he must be annihilated, or amputated from the body politic. But in Los baños, Cervantes' version of Lope's Spanish apostate to Islam is Hazén, a corsair of Spanish Christian origin, who was converted forcibly to Islam as a child-captive (I, 202). He repents his decision and seeks Christian captives to sign a notarial document attesting to the sincerity of his desire to return to Spain and to reconcile himself to the Catholic Church (I, 201-2): precisely the course of action that Saavedra in Los tratos had found incredible. Like Lope's Morisco, Hazén dies violently —but executed by the Algerian authorities for the crime of having in moral outrage killed the Spanish renegade Yzuf as a seller at the slave-auction of the latter's own young nephews, boys whom Yzuf himself had captured for the purpose from Spain. Hazén dies regarded by the Christian captives, not as a traitor to Christianity, but as one of its martyrs. The adoption of a Moslem name and of Moslem dress has only temporarily obscured his essential identity as a heterosexual male Christian, that identity which he proclaims at his death:

Cristianos, a morir voy,
no moro, sino cristiano;
que aqueste descuento doy
del vivir torpe y profano
en que he vivido hasta hoy (I, 218).

     As in Los tratos, the “vivir torpe y profano” to which Hazén refers is implied to be not only life as a religious other, but life as an effeminate other, the object of homosexual, pedophiliac desires. For his life-story resembles, not only that of the child Juan in Los tratos, but the script which Yzuf has destined for his two young nephews Francisco and Juan, the analogues of the child-captives of Cervantes' earlier play. In Los baños, too, religious conversion and sexual orientation are connected implicitly. For the purchaser Yzuf finds for his nephews is not just an anonymous Moslem, as in Los tratos, but the Cadi, the ranking religious

     12 The perfidy of the Morisco as a caste is so unquestioningly regarded as fact that it appears as part of the dictionary definition of the word itself. Note the simultaneous affirmation and denial of their Christian faith (and therefore of their virtue) in Covarrubias y Horozco, s.v. “Morisco”: “Los convertidos de moros a la Fe Católica, y si ellos son católicos, gran merced les ha hecho Dios” [my emphasis].

48 ELLEN M. ANDERSON Cervantes

authority in Algiers, whose interest in the boys is presented as a conjunction of religious and sexual conversion:

CADI.                  ¿Hay muchachos?
YZUF.                              Dos no más;
pero de belleza extraña,
como presto to verás.
CADI.                 Hermosos los cría España . . . .
CAURALI.            [...] con el tiempo me acomodo,
sin que lo estorbe su Roma,
dar dos pajes a Mahoma
que le sirvan a su modo (I, 211, 212).

     But the two boy-captives in this play can choose to respond to the fate chosen for them by their owner by temporarily adopting Moslem clothing without endangering their identities. In the second act, after having been sold to the Cadí, they appear dressed, according to the stage-directions, “a la turquesca de ga[rzo]nes” —significantly, for the purposes of the present study, in the company of an identically-costumed actress, “la señora Catalina, vestida de garzón” (II, 231). (It should be remembered that “garzón” is the term employed for the feminine-in-role object of male homosexual pedophiliac desire.) If these words are in fact the instructions of Cervantes himself (and since they were published with his permission, it is probable that they are), they suggest that even in the staging of this play, its author imagines the representation of gender as ambiguous when paired with the ambiguous representation of religion.13
     The children's father “reads” the boys' clothing as a sign of their conversion: “¿Qué se hizo del ropaje / que mostraba en mil semejas / que érades de Cristo ovejas . . . ?” (II, 232). The boys protest that they have been forced to adopt Moslem clothing, but

     13 Of course, the necessity to use the personnel available in a given theatrical company is sufficient to explain the use of an actress (in this case, Catalina Hernández Verdeseca, the wife of the celebrated autor de comedias Gaspar de Porres) in a given role, particularly in an era when actresses commonly played masculine roles. However, this is the only case I know in Cervantes' theatrical works where the name of a specific performer of either sex is designated for a specific role of either gender —it is unique even in the text of Los baños itself. Even —perhaps especially— if it is a slip of the pen, this stage-direction suggests that dressing as a member of the opposite sex and adopting the costume of the opposing religion were closely associated in Cervantes' mind at the time when this play was composed.

13.2 (1993) Playing at Moslem and Christian 49

that they have not changed their religious faith along with their costume: “que no deshace el vestido / lo que hace el corazón” (ibid.). In other words, they can play at being Moslems, an alternative unthinkable in Los tratos and in Los cautivos, wherein those boy-captives who do not apostatize categorically reject the adoption of Moslem costume. Moreover, the children in Los baños respond to the sexual implications of their master's plan for them, not only by playing for time by playing the role of Moslem, but by playing verbally with the gender of their owner himself. When the latter becomes furious that the children have disobeyed his orders by secretly visiting their Christian father, the younger child replies: “¡Válame Dios, qué alterada / está la mora garrida!” (II, 237). This observation becomes more grimly ironic to the play's audience when the Cadí announces his intention to adopt the child upon the latter's conversion —does he intend to become the child's father, mother or lover?
     The fate of the child is quite different from that of his analogue in Los tratos. For he is depicted as having the ability to decide his own fate, to choose apostasy or martyrdom. Yet these bleak alternatives are embraced by the child playfully:

FRANCISQUITO.                       ¡Aunque me den
dos trompos no seré moro!
JUANICO. ¡Qué niñería!
FRANCISQUITO.                             Pues bien:
¿piensa[s] que estoy burlando?
JUANICO.            Estamos cosas tratando
como si fuésemos hombres,
¿y es bien que el trompo nombres?
FRANCISQUITO.        ¿[He de] estar siempre llorando?
Mi fe, hermano, tened cuenta
con vos, y mirad no os hunda
de Mahoma la tormenta (II, 248-9).

     He is given gracia (both grace and a graceful sense of humor) to reject the roles he has been offered in the Moslem world in order to become a child-martyr in the Christian. Indeed, it is his brother, he suggests, who is more in danger of losing himself because he will not play —either roles or games. Juanico's secure, playful sense of identity allows him to contemplate, and momentarily to absorb, the role of the other without losing his identity —in theological terms, his immortal soul.

50 ELLEN M. ANDERSON Cervantes


     But it is in the two comedias de cautivos least closely based on Cervantes' own life-story (El gallardo español and La gran sultana) that the ties among gender, religion and identity become most elastic. As before, in these two plays, the Christians are enslaved by Moslem captors who in turn are captives of love for their slaves. However, the male Christian captives here confront and seem to admit both the feminine other and the religious other playfully into their own self-representation —and the female Christian and Moslem characters can do the same. The title-character of El gallardo español, Don Fernando, is captured because the beautiful Arlaxa, half in love with him for his fame alone, wishes to see the face of so renowned an adversary. And, in explaining the nature of her curiosity to a Christian captive, she says of herself:

Yo tengo un alma bizarra
y varonil, de tal suerte,
que gusto del que desgarra
y más allá de la muerte
tira atrevido la barra (I, 37).

     But because she does not know what Don Fernando looks like, he can pretend successfully to be someone else, and can even feign apostasy to Islam, an alternative virtually unthinkable for anyone in Los tratos and provisionally possible only for children in Los baños. The gran sultana Catalina de Oviedo, juridically helpless because a captive in the seraglio of the Grand Turk, ascends to a position of absolute supremacy in the harem, and therefore, of political power in the empire. For her beauty and discretion are visible to her consort not in spite of, but because of, her steadfast adherence to Christianity. Consequently, against all decorum, he allows her to resume her Christian name, her faith and her Spanish style of dress in the midst of the harem, where she now rules —even if enclosed there for life in a relationship invalid under Catholic canon law (Burton). Her every action in the play has deepened the resolve of the most powerful Moslem masculine agent, the Grand Turk himself, to submit himself to the desires and religious convictions of a Christian female slave. Becoming a consort of a Moslem in love precipitated apostasy or martyrdom in Algiers. In Istanbul, however,

13.2 (1993) Playing at Moslem and Christian 51

this decision leads to a captive sultana's empowerment to deliver her own enslaved father from a sentence of death and, ultimately, other Christian slaves from their captivity itself. Thus, a change of dress in these plays signifies a change of role, but not a loss of identity.
     This “religious cross-dressing” is linked to transvestism in both plays, for Christian characters disguise themselves both as Moslems and as members of the opposite sex in order to unite themselves with those they love. (Significantly, the story of the two boy captives disappears entirely in these plays; the cast of characters, Moslem and Christian, is exclusively adult.14 As we have seen, in El gallardo español, Don Fernando's beloved, Doña Margarita, disguises herself as a man to escape from the convent in Spain in which her brother has enclosed her so that paying her dowry will not reduce the size of his inheritance. He thereby leaves her, although in the exclusively feminine space (or no-man's-land) of the convent, in a no-woman's-land, for she is neither nun nor wife. Reversing the trajectory of the formerly free Spanish captives enclosed, like Cervantes himself, in the baños of Algiers, she escapes from feminine enclosure in Spain to the wide world of Moslem North Africa. She finds in Oran a beloved who now pretends to be a renegade, not to his sex, but to his religion. Once her disguise has been detected, she dons another as a Moslem woman at the suggestion of that same ambiguously dressed beloved, as we have seen. In La gran sultana, the nobleman Lamberto disguises himself as a woman in order to enter the Grand Turk's seraglio, where his beloved Clara is a captive. The results in both dramas are quite the opposite of the consequences of cross-dressing by Spanish captives of Algerian corsairs in Don Quixote, Part II: in the plays, alienation is overcome, opposites are reconciled, marriages are arranged. Doña Margarita and Don Fernando, precisely through their transvestism and apostasy in dress, overcome the opposition of her brother to their marriage, that opposition which had caused the heroine's flight. Their actions liberate not only themselves from captivity, but their captors from illusion, for Arlaxa is free to discover the true worth of her disdained suitor Alimuzel as himself,

     14 They are also heterosexual, with the exception of one character, the Cadí in La gran sultana. His homosexual and pedophiliac tendencies are jokingly alluded to by the quasi-gracioso Madrigal (II, 418). Nevertheless, he makes no sexual overtures to any character during the play, again a significant change from his analogues of the Algerian dramas.

52 ELLEN M. ANDERSON Cervantes

the man who loves her, and not only as a man who is not Don Fernando.
     Paradoxically, the seraglio of the Grand Turk, that most hermetically sealed and sexually segregated of spaces, becomes precisely the place wherein the conscious masculine ego is free to play most creatively with the donnés of its position and to recognize most accurately the necessity of the sexual and religious other to exist in its presence. For in the harem dwell two new characters who make choices unheard of in the Algiers calqued from Cervantes' experience of captivity: a Christian female captive who can choose to marry a Moslem who loves her without risking apostasy, and a Christian male captive who can choose to play the role of a Moslem woman without becoming the role he adopts. As Hegyi persuasively argues (99-114), the introduction of these new possibilities for Cervantes' Christian slaves of Moslem captors reflects the higher proportion of fictional sources (especially the commedia dell'arte, the novella and the Greek romance) in this example of Cervantes' typically original blend of autobiography, historical sources and literary motifs.
     In the first plot, the story of Catalina de Oviedo, the heroine incarnates a hybrid identity: a Christian wife of a Moslem sultan and the Spanish mother of an heir to the Ottoman Empire. Or, as Friedman elegantly phrases it, her “marriage represents a tropological shift from antithesis to oxymoron, manifested in the play's title . . .” (“Female” 222). In other words, roles are offered to her that the captives in the Algerian plays never see, roles that recombine the formerly exclusive alternatives of master or slave, Moslem or Christian, martyr or renegade, male or female. The Grand Turk himself adopts an apparently “feminine” position of submission to her every whim, as Friedman points out (“Female” 222). Indeed, she plays roles that, within the universe of the Cervantine comedias de cautivos, are masculine in scope. Like Doña Margarita in El gallardo, she is accorded the masculine, so to speak, role of a speaking subject —but unlike her analogue, Catalina names herself and works out her own salvation without resorting to the subterfuge of disguise either as a male or as a Moslem, for the Grand Turk gives her permission to maintain Christian dress after her marriage to him. Indeed, her rejection of the Moslem dress she wears at the play's beginning, signifying her status as a member of the seraglio, and her adoption of Christian costume, mark her emergence as an individual rather than as one more member of the harem. Like

13.2 (1993) Playing at Moslem and Christian 53

Francisquito in Los baños, she must respond to her father's fears that his child will apostatize in response to a Moslem male's sexual interest; however, unlike him, she is not offered the choice of martyrdom. Thus, in this play she represents in her dress and in her words the possibility of living as a Christian among Moslems:

SULTANA.                Finalmente, por quedarme
con el nombre de cristiana,
antes que por ser sultana,
medrosa vine a entregarme (III, 429).

     In the harem are also two Christian lovers, one of whom is a male dressed as a female. This subplot offers the greatest possibilities in La gran sultana for ludic escape from the closed psychological space of the exclusively masculine Spanish Catholic ego, now enclosed physically in a Moslem feminine space. In the story of Clara and Lamberto are fused all the levels of playful self-representation that shine by their absence in the analogous story of the Algerian captives Ana Félix and Don Gaspar Gregorio in Don Quixote Part II. Lamberto and Clara are dressed as Moslems, but harbor no intention of apostasy to Islam. They are given Moslem feminine names and Turkish feminine costumes —indeed, the stage-directions themselves follow these disguises closely, calling Lamberto “Zelinda” when he is in feminine garb, and Clara, “Zaida,” returning to their Christian names only when their ruse has ended. And yet, in a comic deconstruction of the Spanish Catholic fear-image of the deviant and promiscuous Moslem, the apparently Turkish and feminine “Zelinda” (Lamberto) has impregnated “Zaida” (Clara).15 When Zelinda/Lamberto is chosen as the Sultan's consort for the night (to the reader of Cervantine drama a playful parody of the demonic homosexual pedophilia of the Algerian plays), and is of course discovered to be male, he is saved by the Christian gran sultana. She herself, a faithful Christian, declares that his masculine identity is a gift from Mohammed, to whom the originally female Zelinda had prayed for the gift of masculinity, “por haber oído de las excelencias / y mejoras que tenía / el hombre más que la hembra (III, 450).” The ironies inherent in the ruse of superior Islamic

     15 Hegyi (100-101) points out that male cross-dressing, while less common than female on the Spanish stage, was used especially in the commedia dell'arte, where it served to heighten a piece's humor, exactly as it does in La gran sultana.

54 ELLEN M. ANDERSON Cervantes

masculinity spoken by a committed Christian dressed as a Moslem female are multiple. Not the least of these is the fact that he has been saved by two Christian women: Clara/Zaida, who has invented the ruse, and the gran sultana herself, who has convinced her consort of its truth in the words quoted above. This verbal ductility of masculine and feminine, Christian and Moslem, results in the Grand Turk's offer to the Christian Lamberto, not only freedom, but the political power of the post of Pasha of Rhodes —in the Ottoman Empire. As far as the play's audience knows, then, Clara and Lamberto never return to their Christian homeland, but rather find love and happiness under Moslem dominion. Male transvestism and apparent apostasy here win, not eternal separation from the beloved or religious martyrdom, but marriage for the disguised lovers and the promise of new life in the unborn children of Clara/Zaida and the gran sultana, Catalina de Oviedo. The latter, indeed, will give birth to “un otomano español” (III, 407). The son of a royal male/female, Moslem /Christian pair —an incarnate coniunctio oppositorum— he will embody the alchemical “divine child,” born of the marriage of opposing elements and a psychological symbol of the transformed self (Jung, Psychology and Alchemy 166, 232). Like the archetype, this future Ottoman Emperor is the fruit of the recognition and reconciliation of those sexual and religious contraries at best provisionally reconcilable in the Algiers of Cervantes' own life-story. The unborn heir's fortunate destiny as a ruler of hybrid origins also recombines and transforms the tragic alternatives of Christian martyr or Moslem apostate reserved in the Algerian plays for any Christian mother's son who becomes an adult under the sponsorship of a Moslem father-figure.


     Thus, the historical prison of Cervantes' Algerian captivity becomes in his theater a metaphorical laboratory for continued experimentation in the recognition and recombination of the signs of gender and the signs of faith.16 The study of these plays

     16 Combet's reading ignores the positive outcome of Lamberto/Zelinda's transvestism in La gran sultana, even though it mentions the episode (290). Indeed, he uses its existence as evidence to support an assertion that male transvestism throughout Cervantes' oeuvre results only in ridicule, classing it among other, very different, examples, whose outcomes are far less prestigious for their characters: Pedro de Urdemalas and the Tozuelo incident in [p. 55] Book III of Persiles (290-1). He goes on to establish an equivalence of the androgyny that male cross-dressing suggests and latent homosexuality, especially in Book I of Persiles (293). Combet's conclusion relies almost exclusively on Freudian psychology (with a cursory nod to Lacan), including Freud's axiom that androgyny can represent only an insufficient differentiation of the sexes (a clear differentiation presumed the only desirable state of a psychologically healthy humanity). The masculine orientation of the Freudian subject is taken by Combet to be that of the ideal, “normal” human agent. Hence, Combet classifies transvestism as among Cervantes' “conduites fétichistes.” (For a critique of the concept of fetishism as an exclusively masculine condition, and a contention that it underlies all theatrical representation, see Garber 118-27.) Nowhere does Combet take into account any of the cogent feminist critique of classical Freudian psychology (Luce Irigaray, to name but one of Combet's compatriots). Moreover, his argument assumes that human psychology in all periods of history is everywhere and always identical, an assumption that recent research on early modern Europe in general, to say nothing of Golden Age Spain in particular, does not substantiate (Mariscal Contradictory Subjects 61-2). As we have seen, Wilson provides convincing evidence that in Cervantes' own time androgyny was a symbol of human wholeness, while El Saffar (“Literary Reflections” 7-9) argues persuasively that the extreme differentiation of the sexes in the rearing of children (Freud's definition of a normal upbringing) was only beginning, and in the upper classes alone, during the sixteenth century.

13.2 (1993) Playing at Moslem and Christian 55

reveals that his construction of gender and of religion becomes ever more flexible, ever more problematic. It would appear that his vision of the human moves ever farther from the rigid defense of an immutable masculine ego identity threatened by archetypes of the shadow projected on to the societal other. Apart from the extraordinary artistic and philosophical achievement the open-endedness of Cervantes's continual experimentation with the comedia de cautivos represents, it is also an incalculable human achievement. It was hardly inevitable that a returned captive who had seen his companions and accomplices tortured or executed, and whose own career as a civil servant was derailed by his imprisonment, would eventually employ that very situation as a setting for a reconciliation of opponents that he himself never experienced. The ever greater tolerance of his oppressors shown by Cervantes in these plays contrasts markedly with the accepted Spanish portrait of them, as we have seen. Cervantes' human evolution, which deeply affects his literary production (and is a crucial element in his particular brand of critical yet compassionate humor), is exceptionally well brought out by Mas, whose book remains the standard study of the portrayal of the Moslem in Golden Age literature: “Grâce à elle [la

56 ELLEN M. ANDERSON Cervantes

captivité], Cervantès peut en quelque sorte tout repenser puisque les chaînes physiques que le retiennent dans un bagne lui donnent la liberté du choix” (I, 319).17
     And it is this paradoxical freedom of choice forged within the prison of necessity that Cervantes gives in ever greater measure to his Moslem and Christian dramatic characters. In them, his vision of the human approaches ever more closely an identity discoverable only through vulnerability to the shadow, and ultimately, to acknowledgment of the latter's need to be recognized, respected, and incorporated within the enlarged self. The key to this new, magnanimous (literally, “large-souled”) identity is the ability of the subject to play, rather than appropriate or annihilate, the role of the other. This ability to play, an ability that Don Quixote so singularly lacks, makes it possible for protagonists to become what they are by discovering within themselves the potential reality of what they apparently are not. Mortal combat between Moslem and Christian becomes its theatrical simulacrum, a kind of baile de moros y cristianos, the ritualized containment and catharsis of conflict. And play and detachment ultimately turn trabajos into juegos —or tragedy into comedy.



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