From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
4.1 (1984): 53-78.
Copyright © 1984, The Cervantes Society of America
||BRUNO M. DAMIANI|
for further investigation of originality in the treatment of the pastoral
has eloquently been made by Rafael Osuna, among
others.1 One such area of research deserving
of our attention is Cervantes' use of death in a bucolic setting. No human
experience carries with it so many connotations or elicits so many emotional
responses as death. It is the one fact of life experienced by all, writes
Theodore Spencer, and hence it is a subject matter of all art that
tries to imitate life, that attempts to comprehend and express the problems
of human existence. Our conceptions of comedy and tragedy, of novel or lyric
poetry, our ideals of fame, of beauty, of wisdom, our views of others and
ourselves, all are predicated on the fact of death, and were death suddenly
abolished, not one of them would remain the
In other studies I have shown the extent to which death hovers in the minds of the shepherds of La Galatea through an analysis of the novel's rich and varied network of rhetorical devices3 and symbolical language.4 In this study I propose to examine further Cervantes'
Osuna, La crítica y la erudición del siglo XX ante La
Galatea de Cervantes, Romanic Review, 54 (1963), 251.
2 Theodore Spencer, Death and Elizabethan Tragedy. A Study of Conventions and Opinion in the Elizabethan Drama (New York, 1960), p. vii.
3 The Rhetoric of Death in La Galatea of Cervantes, in La Galatea de Cervantes. Cuatrocientos años después, ed. Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce. Newark, Delaware: Juan de la Cuesta (in press).
4 Symbolism in Cervantes' Galatea, submitted to Romanistisches Jahrbuch.
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impressive preoccupation with death, its moral didactic implications, and its artistic function. I hope to show that, aside from any other merits that La Galatea has, its engaging and provocative treatment of death alone makes Cervantes' novel a masterpiece that defies its distorted characterization as a dull book, devoid of the slightest originality,5 as tedious, feeble and diffuse,6 with nothing in it to hold our attention . . . .7
Death defined in La Galatea as
atajadora de los humanos discursos (I,
126)8 transcends a merely rhetorical and
symbolical plane and becomes a genuine concern of the novel's characters.
Shepherds worry about the deaths of fathers and brothers (I, 65); Nísida
is thought of as having died of an agudo paracismo [parasismo]
(I, 185), while the surgeon curing Timbrio of the grave wounds received during
the Turkish assault on his ship mistakenly proclaims him dead (II, 117).
Most consistently, death comes center stage as an end to be wished for. In such instances, death is a sigh, a relief, similar in tone to the exhortation expressed by Marcus Aurelius: Hasten thy coming, death, lest I too forget myself (Meditations, IX, 3). Lisandro wishes for death and even views the man who would kill him as a friend: al que me induciere a procurar la muerte tendré yo por más amigo de mi vida (I, 54). Similarly, despair over the loss of her beloved Artidoro leads Teolinda to hope for a speedy death (I, 102), while Orompo proclaims: . . . el daño que la muerte hace, / . . . en parte satisface, / pues la esperanza quita / que el dolor administra y solicita (I, 220). Damón longs to die rather than to be subjected to the ingratitude of his beloved: bien es que muera; pues estando muerto no temeré a Amarili rigurosa (I, 108). His wish for death is accentuated when he announces a desire for enslavement and death in a distant land: Yo moriré, pastora, en las ajenas / tierras, pues tú lo mandas, condemnado / a hierros, muertes, yugos y cadenas (I, 109). Pleading to be spared additional suffering by Galatea, Erastro makes
Rennert, The Spanish Pastoral Romances (Philadelphia, 1912), p. 117.
6 See Henry Edward Watts, Miguel de Cervantes. His Life and Works (London, 1895), p. 90.
7 William J. Entwistle, Cervantes (Oxford, 1940), p. 48.
8 Textual references are to La Galatea, ed. Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce (Madrid, 1961), vols. I and II.
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the following supplication: antes que acabe del dolor que muero, /
haced, ¡Oh rayos!, que de un rayo muera (I, 119). Shortly thereafter,
Timbrio writes to Nísida: . . . espero restaurar la
vida, para serviros, o alcanzar la muerte, para nunca más ofenderos
The Elizabethans, we are told, were more intimate than we are with the conviction that only the best and purest characters are anxious to die.9 This is demonstrated time and again in the pages of La Galatea. The shepherd Galercio, who suffers unrequited love for Gelasia, is seen kneeling before her con un cordel echado a la garganta y un cuchillo desenvainado en la derecha mano (II, 78), pleading that she put an end to his suffering by pulling the rope around his neck or plunging the dagger into his breast. As the disdainful Gelasia takes leave of him, the shepherd cries out: Vuelve, pastora, vuelve, y acaba la tragedia de mi miserable vida, pues con tanta facilidad puedes añudar este cordel a mi garganta o ensangrentar este cuchillo en mi pecho (II, 79). This pathetic scene moves the rustics to compassion, as does the episode of Nísida seen falling on the wounded Timbrio, who had been attempting to protect her from Turkish seamen, begging to be killed rather than dishonored by them (II, 116). Kneeling before Tirsi, the grieving Lenio also begs for death: Ahora digo que puedes levantar el brazo, y con algún agudo cuchillo traspasar este corazón . . . (II, 164-65).
Perhaps due to the fact that passions are stronger among the characters of La Galatea than in any other pastoral novel,10 the wish for death leads often to attempts at suicide. Suicide had been violently disapproved by the church since the Middle Ages. Who is more capable of mortal sin, said Pope Nicholas I, than the fool, who, imitating Judas, follows the teaching of the devil and kills himself.11 St. Thomas Aquinas produced three reasons against it: it violated charity and self-love; it offended both human and divine laws of citizenship, and it usurped the rights of God.12 French secular law of the Middle Ages, however, excused suicide when it was committed in
Spencer, op. cit., p. 151.
10 Cesáreo Bandera, Mimesis conflictiva. Ficción literaria y violencia en Cervantes y Calderón (Madrid, 1975), p. 123.
11 Responsa ad Consulta Bulgarorum, art. XCVIII, ap. Labb, V, IX, p, 1565, cited by Theodore Spencer, op. cit., p. 159.
12 Summa Theologica, 2, 2a, q 9. LXIV, a.5; and 2, 2a, q LIX, a.3.
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a moment of mental alienation or as a result of intense
sorrow.13 This explains, in part, the presence
of suicide and expressions of a desire to indulge in it in medieval romances.
The convention of love, which demanded that suicide be promptly considered
at any hint of
disappointment, lasted through a great part of the sixteenth century. The way in which suicide was viewed by the end of the sixteenth century is summarized well by Theodore Spencer: it was admired in the heroes of antiquity; it was resorted to by virtuous women and the chief character in a love story; it was heartily condemned by the prevailing religion.14
The attempt at or act of suicide in a bucolic setting is itself a striking event, and it is particularly thought-provoking in a post-Tridentine novel.15 While for Seneca To die voluntarily is to die well, a supreme act of the human will, the idea contrasts sharply with the moral teachings of the second half of the sixteenth century, when suicide was considered by the Counter-Reformation as cause for condemnation of the soul.16
Although suicide itself as an honorable solution to amorous conflict is a Stoic attitude not widely entertained by Cervantes,17 it lurks nevertheless in the pages of La Galatea as a contemplated and nearly fulfilled alternative to suffering. Lisandro is discovered by Elicio on the verge of ending his own life. Persuaded by Elicio not to kill himself, he disappears after a brief stay by the Tagus at the end of Book I and is never seen again. Indeed, as has been suggested, his story is complete; his beloved Leonida is dead, killed by his rival Crisalvo, and nothing remains for him in life.18 Commenting on Timbrio's despair, Silerio notes que si el cielo no le socorre, con acabar la vida acabará sus amistades y enemistades (I, 147).
In La Galatea, as in several exemplary novels (e.g., El celoso extremeño, La Gitanilla, La ilustre fregona, Rinconete Cortadillo), there is a significant
L. von Bar, A History of Continental Criminal Law, trans. T. S. Bell
(Boston, 1916), p. 187.
14 Theodore Spencer, op. cit., p. 165.
15 Cited by Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce in his erudite book, Nuevos deslindes cervantinos (Madrid: Ariel, 1975), where he examines with considerable care the historical and literary implications of suicide in Golden Age Spain (pp. 104-15).
16 Ibid., p. 104.
17 La Galatea, ed. Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce, II, 15, n. 22.
18 R. G. Keightley, Narrative Perspectives in Spanish Pastoral Fiction, Journal of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association, 44 (1975), 209.
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interdependence on the functional level of the motifs of captivity, hell,
earthly paradise, and madness.19 At times
the idea of madness brought on by despair is expressed through the single
term desesperar.20 The association
will be repeated in Cervantes' later works (e.g., Quijote I,
XXV; II, XXI; Persiles, II,
XIV), and it also appears in Book II of La Galatea,
when we read: Sólo imaginaba que, según le vio triste
y melancólico después de la batalla, que no podría creer
sino que a desesperarse hubiese ido (I, 155). In the Tesoro de la
lengua castellana Covarrubias defines the term desesperar
as Perder la esperanza, adding furthermore that Desesperarse
es matarse de cualquier manera por despecho; pecado contra el Espíritu
Santo. No se les da a los tales sepultura; queda su memoria infamada y sus
bienes confiscados, y lo peor de todo es que van a hacer compañía
a Judas (s.v. Desesperar). Such, then, was the connotation of
desesperar at the time of Cervantes, and the association of
desesperar with suicide continued well into the eighteenth century,
as we see by the definition of the term found in the Diccionario de
Autoridades: Vale también matarse a sí mismo por
despecho y rabia, como sucede al que se ahorca o se echa en un pozo.
The idea of desesperarse continues when, concerned about his master's sudden, secret, and strange departure in the middle of the night, Timbrio's page rushes to Silerio to tell him about his master: según los estremos que le he visto hacer, creo que va a desesperarse (I, 156-57); the page also expresses a desire to avert the suicide: . . . debo antes acudir a su remedio (I, 157). Timbrio's mal formadas razones (I, 157) give evidence of his own state of madness, as does his furia (I, 158): no quieras, says Timbrio to Silerio, por lo que te parece que debes a mi amistad, dejar de dar gusto a tu deseo, que yo refrenaré el mío, aunque sea con el medio estremo de la muerte (I, 157). In addition, Timbrio is thought to have gone to Naples to desesperarse (I, 186), again in the sense of suicidarse. In another episode, vivo ya desesperado (I, 218), sings Orompo, who lives on the verge of taking his own life as he blames the fate responsible for Listea's death: ¡ay de aquel [hado] que la tiene / cerrada en la sepultura! (I, 218).
The action of desesperarse, in the sense of suicide, connotes retreat, flight or escape; it represents a negative solution of the
Mark Johnston, Some Guises of Pastoral in Cervantes: The Pastoral Design
in La Galatea and Four Novelas Ejemplares (Ph.D. diss.,
Univ. of Oregon, 1980), pp. 180-81.
20 See Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce, Nuevos deslindes cervantinos, pp. 104-15.
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problem at hand, a solution expressing fear, helplessness, lack of will power
and the defeatist attitude of the pessimist who leaves the battlefield without
attempting a resolute fight. As has been noted, Death for the person
committing suicide is merely a ceasing to exist, a ceasing to suffer. It
carries with it an utter disregard for any hope of a better life hereafter,
either in the Christian sense of a union with God or in the heathen sense
of union with nature. It is the attitude of the skeptic for whom life and
death are only two different forms of matter, devoid of any spiritual content
or function.21 We see this in the action
of Artidoro, in La Galatea, when he leaves a note affixed to a tree,
simply announcing that a trail of blood will lead to where he is (I, 99-102).
The suicide is not carried out. Agitated by Grisaldo's expressed intention
to wed Leopersia, Rosaura, the woman once dishonored by him, threatens to
kill herself: Y porque claro conozcas y veas que la que perdió
por ti su honestidad, y puso en detrimento su honra, tendrá en poco
perder la vida, este agudo puñal que aquí traigo pondrá
en efecto mi desesperado y honroso intento, y será testigo de la crueldad
que en ese tu fementido pecho encierras (II, 15). Then to show that
her intent to commit suicide is not mere rhetoric, Rosaura takes the dagger
into her hand and is about to thrust it into her heart when Grisaldo stops
her: Y diciendo esto, sacó del seno una desnuda daga, y con
gran celeridad se iba a pasar el corazón con ella, si con mayor presteza
Grisaldo no le tuviera el brazo . . . (II, 15-16).
The drama of Rosaura's scene of attempted suicide is intensified by the concomitant struggle to remove the dagger from her hand, as she forcefully pleads to be allowed to take her life: ¡Déjame, traidor enemigo, acabar de una vez la tragedia de mi vida, sin que tantas tu desamorado desdén me haga probar la muerte! (II, 16). The episode evokes scenes from one of the last temptations of the artes moriendi: Go a head and kill yourself, murmurs the devil to the man with a dagger in his hand.22 Unsuccessful in her attempt at self-destruction, Rosaura must go on living a semi-death. As Annemarie Rahn-Gassert notes,23 after Rosaura has tried to establish her claim on
A. Klemm, The Death Problem in the Life and Works of Gerhart Hauptmann
(Philadelphia, 1939), p. 63.
22 Alberto Tenenti, La Vie et la mort à travers l'art du XVe siècle, Cahiers des Annales, n. 8 (Paris: Armand Collin, 1952), p. 99, cited by Philippe Ariès, The Hour of Our Death, trans. Helen Weaver (New York, 1982), p. 123.
23 Annemarie Rahn-Gassert, Ei in Arcadia Ego: Studien zum spanischen Schäferroman (Heidelberg, 1966), p. 222.
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Grisaldo's heart and hand with a suicide attempt, the way to self-knowledge,
and therefore to objective truth, is open.
In Book III, another shepherd, Lauso, el libre Lauso (I, 232), enters the pastoral world of La Galatea, not demonstrating signs of freedom and contentment, but of despair. That despair is revealed, in his first song, by physical manifestations of amorous suffering: . . . en la amarillez de su rostro, en el silencio de su lengua (I, 235). Such characterization paves the way for his ultimate propensity to destroy himself; we are told that he había llegado a términos de desesperarse (II, 94). Through her contrived marriage to Artidoro, another character, the cynically egotistical Leonarda, leaves her sister Teolinda in a perpetual state of anguish and despair, in a state of emotional death (II, 81). Book IV, the central part of the novel, is suffused with violent action. A multitude of new characters and dramatic events pass before us with astonishing speed. Conforme avanza la lectura, notes José Siles Artés, tenemos la impresión de vernos envueltos en un torbellino que nos aturde hasta hacernos perder de vista las líneas maestras de la obra.24 It is as if Cervantes wanted to amuse himself by accumulating and intertwining incidents and events en laberíntica disposición.25 Book IV, a cadena de lances y sorpresas,26 begins as Teolinda is reported harboring the intention of fenecer la vida en triste amarga soledad (II, 7); and later she is seen en término de acabar la vida o de perder el juicio (II, 159). The shepherd Mireno, incapable of winning back his beloved, plunges ever deeper into despair and finally disappears altogether from the action (II, 217).
In Book IV, too, the tragic consequences of human impotence become even more pronounced in the story of Galercio, who, unable to win Gelasia's love, tries to commit suicide. Galercio, we are told, has been led to the verge of desesperarse a thousand times (II, 166) because of the unrequiting Gelasia. Finally, Galercio, to whom the adjective desesperado is often applied, struggles violently to keep his head under water as two shepherdesses, with the help of friends, prevent his suicide (II, 249-51). Anticipating the striking indifference manifested by Marcela at the tragic burial of her victim, Grisóstomo (Don Quijote, I, 12), the cruel Gelasia contemplates passively the scene where Galercio is drowning in the river; her appearance is
Siles Artés, El arte de la novela pastoril (Valencia, 1969),
26 Ibid., p. 131.
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termed an extraño espectáculo . . . la más
estraña cosa que imaginar pudieran los pastores (II, 249):
alzaron los pastores los ojos, y vieron encima de una pendiente roca
que sobre el río caía una gallarda y dispuesta pastora, sentada
sobre la mesma peña, mirando con risueño semblante todo lo
que los pastores hacían (II,
250).27 The horror of death by drowning is
superseded by Gelasia's frightening and in human quest for liberty which
the shepherdess ebulliently proclaims:
Del campo son y han sido mis amores; rosas son y jazmines mis cadenas; libre nací, y en libertad me fundo (II, 252). The 1iberty of the fictitious bucolic world enslaves and desensitizes its inhabitants until sooner or later, as Cesáreo Bandera has noted,28 these idols fall
victim to fascination with their own circumscribed world.
Echoing Theocritus' goatherd, who thinks of taking his shirt off before drowning himself (Idyll 3), Lenio, a desesperado mozo (II, 254), carries out this same action; moved by what is termed the furioso accidente (II, 253) of his amorous anguish, Lenio casts away his sheephook, removes his jacket and throws it into the Tagus, leading some shepherds to believe that his enamorada pasión le sacaba de juicio (II, 253). Seeing that his suspicious actions are noted by others, Lenio simply takes out his rebec and sings yet another mournful song of love.
Implicit, however, in the suicide theme is the accompanying theme of eternal damnation. We see this, for example, in Damón's advice to Galatea: . . . como no acabe la vida, ninguno, por ningún mal que padezca, debe desesperar del remedio (II, 136). Similarly, for having taken his own life, Grisóstomo (Quijote I, 12-14) dies sin lauro o palma de futuros bienes.29 Javier Herrero argues correctly that in the episode of Grisóstomo and Marcela Cervantes attacks the moral
La Galatea, ed. Avalle-Arce, II, 252, n.
28 Cesáreo Bandera, op. cit., p. 96.
29 The cause of Grisóstomo's death has been the object of intense controversy for some time: suicide by hanging, concludes Américo Castro, Los prólogos al Quijote, Revista de Filología Hispánica, 3 (1941), 337; the shepherd simply pined away on realizing that Marcela would not respond to his love, a traditional view eloquently defended by Luis Rosales, Cervantes y la libertad, II (Madrid, 1960), pp. 486-510, 537. Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce agrees with Castro that an argument can be made for suicide, but he stresses that a close reading of the text supports the view of natural death, an intentionally problematic question posed by Cervantes (Grisóstomo y Marcela: La verdad problemática, Nuevos deslindes cervantinos [Barcelona, 1975], pp. 89-116). Herman Iventosch rejects Avalle-Arce's contention and reaffirms Castro's opinion, without referring to Rosales (Cervantes and Courtly Love: The Grisóstomo-Marcela Episode of Don Quixote, PMLA, 89 [p. 61] , 64-76). Grisóstomo killed himself not by hanging, as Castro suggested, but by stabbing, according to Javier Herrero (Arcadia's Inferno: Cervantes' Attack on Pastoral, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 55 , 289-99).
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error of the sort of sentimental love portrayed in the novels of chivalry and the pastoral romances. He points up the fact that Grisóstomo's experience as a pastoral lover has more in common with hell or purgatory than with paradise; the shepherd's rewards are pain, despair, madness, and finally death by suicide.30 When considering Grisóstomo's death, Cervantes had to treat the topic of suicide with discretion, writes Harold Jones, who adds: Bluntness could have scandalized his readers and might have attracted the attention of the Inquisition, which could have looked askance at a suicide presented without the author's express condemnation of the act.31 Nevertheless, the theme is treated frankly, continues Jones; but to avoid scandalizing his readers and being censured by the Inquisition, Cervantes presents the idea of man's self-immolation with disapprobation of the act, as is seen in La Galatea, where suicide is looked upon as an infamous and cowardly remedy for human suffering (I, 32).32 Galercio is reprimanded for attempting to take his life, and the deed is equated with mal propósito and mal pensamiento (II, 254). In his play El rufián dichoso Cervantes declares that Judas Iscariot was more blameworthy for having killed himself than for having betrayed his Lord a conviction which is reiterated in another of his plays, La gran sultana, in which he insists that to kill oneself is cowardice.33
The morbid theme of suicide is complemented by scenes of attempted murder as well as of actual death. The aura of death in
Herrero, op. cit., pp. 289-90, 298.
31 Harold G. Jones, Grisóstomo and Don Quixote: Death and Imitation, Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos, 4 (1979), 89.
32 This is in keeping with Avalle-Arce's arguments that Cervantes was sensitive both to the literary aspect of suicide and to its ethical-religious implications, particularly in view of the Council of Trent, which emphatically condemned suicide (Nuevos deslindes cervantinos, [Barcelona, 1975], p. 104). In this context, Avalle-Arce is not altogether correct in stating that because of Tridentine teachings, the pastoral mode did not admit suicide after the first half of the sixteenth century (Ibid.). La Galatea certainly shows that the opposite is true, as do poems by Pedro Laínez (died 1584) and Francisco de Figueroa (1536-1617?), and an Egloga by Miguel Sánchez de Lima, where the shepherd Ergasto stabs himself in the chest (El arte poético en romance castellano [Alcalá de Henares, 1580], ed. Rafael de Balbín Lucas [Madrid, 1944], pp. 98-104). I owe this reference to Harold G. Jones, op. cit., pp. 91-92.
33 The appropriate passages are cited by Aubrey Bell, Cervantes (Norman, Oklahoma, 1947), p. 48, n. 20.
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Arcady reappears at the end of Book V, where eight shepherds, rebozados
pastores, come into the Arcadian setting and hold captive Damón
and Elicio while Artandro abducts Rosaura and takes her to Aragón.
The two shepherds friendly to Rosaura make a valiant but futile attempt to
prevent her violent capture: sacaron sus cuchillos y arremetieron contra
los siete pastores, los cuales todos juntos les pusieron las azagayas que
traían a los pechos, diciéndoles que se tuviesen, pues veían
cuán poco podían ganar en la empresa que tomaban (II,
138). The episode brings to mind the scene in which the wild men of Montemayor's
Diana forcefully try to ravish three
nymphs,34 with the difference, however, that
whereas in La Diana the background, motives, and the key participants
of the story are mythical in nature, in La Galatea the protagonists
are real people in a geographically identifiable setting and are brought
together for the sake of that very Spanish social concern termed
honra.35 Despite their differences,
both of these episodes illustrate once again the destructive force of love,
expounded too in the eloquent song of Lenio that begins with the verse Sin
que me pongan miedo el hielo y fuego (II, 54-56).
Prospects of death continue to the last book of the novel, where Elicio declares his intent to use whatever force is necessary to impede Galatea's forced marriage to another shepherd: Elicio pensaba poner tales inconvenientes y miedos al lusitano pastor, que él mesmo dijese no ser contento de lo concertado; y cuando los ruegos y astucias no fuesen de provecho alguno, determinaba usar la fuerza, y con ella ponerla en su libertad (II, 263). Thus, Elicio and other shepherds become involved in a battle plan bearing the potential for still more violent adventure and possible death. It is significant that the novel's protagonist should herself come to the forefront here as a likely cause of violence and death. In addition, in this episode violence and death are justified on transcendental ground. Samuel Gili Gaya notes the other-worldly level on which this episode is based when he says that Los pastores acuden en masa al llamamiento de Elicio,
siete libros de la Diana, ed. Francisco López Estrada (Madrid,
1946), pp. 88-90.
35 James Stamm, La Galatea y el concepto de género: un acercamiento, in Cervantes. Su obra y su mundo, ed. Manuel Criado de Val (Madrid, 1978), p. 342.
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dispuestos a impedir, de grado o por fuerza, que casen a Galatea contra su
voluntad con el pastor forastero; no por amistad a Elicio ni por la
atracción humana que algunos de ellos sienten por la hermosura sin
par de la pastora, sino por un amor más alto y casi abstracto: la
ausencia de Galatea privaría a las queridas riberas del Tajo de un
sol que, como una deidad venerada, irradia sus encantos sobre prados y bosques,
y como Idea Pura de la Belleza se comunica y derrama sobre las hermosuras
The fact that the threat of death is sustained up to the last pages of La Galatea with a call to battle contributes to a majestically Baroque ending, as Gili Gaya has noted, como si en el desarrollo académico-renacentista del amor fuese a irrumpir el anhelo gesticulante del barroco.37 Furthermore, the unconcluded episode of the final pages of La Galatea, itself a symbolically untimely death, may underscore the author's own impotence before an ideal goal.38 In addition, Elicio's valiant efforts on behalf of his beloved remind us that central to La Galatea, and indeed to most pastoral literature, is the juxtaposition of two diametrically opposed ways of life: the passive, contemplative, happy and innocent on the one hand; and the active, heroic and often crudely realistic on the other. In his decision to use force to thwart attempts of Galatea's father to marry her to a wealthy foreigner, Elicio departs from the traditional passive role of the shepherd and assumes a heroic quality in what is a superb example of the reconciliation of opposites. We must bear in mind that the confrontation and reconciliation of discordant forces is, after all, of crucial importance to the form and the esthetic effect of pastoral literature.
Instances of attempted death are part of the novel's interpolated stories as well. These bring forth a rich background of actions involving adventure and also passion, violence, and warfare, themes belonging more to heroic than to pastoral fiction. Amidst vignettes of adventures echoing those of byzantine tales is the example of Timbrio and a valiant cavalier named Pransiles; these two contemplate a serious duel, a mortal batalla over honor, resulting in discord between their families (I, 129). Defeated by Timbrio, Pransiles
Gili Gaya, Galatea o el perfecto y verdadero amor, in Miguel
de Cervantes Saavedra. Homenaje de Insula en el cuarto centenario
de su nacimiento 1547-1947 (Madrid, 1947), p. 100.
37 Ibid., p. 103.
38 Barbara Mujica, Antiutopian Elements in the Spanish Pastoral Novel, Kentucky Romance Quarterly, 26 (1979), 279.
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begs to be killed but is spared death only by Timbrio's compassion (I,
Threats of death are complemented by several examples of actual death. Heralding actual death in La Galatea is the opening octava real, which projects in emblematic fashion the themes of the hunter (eros) and the hunted (Elicio), in an array of life-threatening motifs saeta, red, lazo, and fuego (I, 16). Elicio's somber song is not only a revelation of the shepherd's own spiritual death but a prediction of the imminent death of the traitor Carino who, sometime later, falls victim to the punishing weapons of the vengeful Lisandro in a short and crude drama of violence and death from the south of Spain.
The image of death becomes vivid in the following description of the shepherd running with a dagger in his hand: vieron que del monte salía un pastor corriendo a la mayor priesa del mundo, con un cuchillo desnudo en la mano, y la color del rostro mudada; y que tras él venía otro ligero pastor, que a pocos pasos alcanzó al primero, y asiéndole por el cabezón del pellico, levantó el brazo en el aire cuanto pudo, y un agudo puñal que sin vaina traía se le escondió dos veces en el cuerpo . . . (I, 28). Here death is experienced and witnessed in the present. In contrast to Diana, where characters die without making speeches, La Galatea presents this and other death scenes complete with elaborate laments and philosophizing reflections on death reminiscent of similar scenes in operatic performances. Thus, moments before Carino expires he pleads for time to repent: Dejárasme, Lisandro, satisfacer al cielo con más largo arrepentimiento el agravio que te hice, y después quitárasme la vida, que agora, por la causa que he dicho, mal contenta destas carnes se aparta (I, 28). Carino's fate, which deprives him of the sacraments, illustrates the dangers of sudden death, stresses the inevitable punishment that befalls evildoers, and incites others to repentance. In the case of the treacherous Carino, death transcends its traditional role as the enemy of life and serves, to some extent at least, as an instrument of God in the meting out of just punishment due to man for his sin. Carino's death is just retribution. It is a sacrificial rite offered to Leonida, to whom Lisandro pledges his grief: Y tú, hermosa y mal lograda Leonida, recibe, en muestra del amor que en vida te tuve, las lágrimas que en tu muerte derramo (I, 32).
|4 (1984)||Death in Cervantes' Galatea||65|
Characteristically mannerist in
style,39 the flight and murder scene break
the ideal of classical perfection by juxtaposing violence and the tranquillity
of the pastoral setting. The single artistic perspective is broken, and different
planes or points of view are brought into play. The image of Lisandro with
his arm in the upright position, plunging his dagger twice into the body
of Carino, breaks the horizontal plane of the pastoral painting while reinforcing
the vertical and anamorphic quality of the scene. It is worth
noting here that Cervantes could have found inspiration for this scene in
the canvases of Renaissance artists, among them Giovanni Bologna (Sampson
and a Philistine), Titian (Crown of Thorns; The Sacrifice of Isaac),
and Michelangelo in several of his sculptures and paintings.
The striking verisimilitude of the death scenes depicted by Cervantes can well be related to the final stage of Mannerism, to what Walter Friedlaender has actually termed the antimannerist style, which he dates as commencing around 1580. The aggressive purpose of the new movement, he explains, was to cut loose from the degeneration of form just as much as from the degeneration of the spiritual into the playful and allegorical. A healthy down-to-earth spirit came into existence, paralleling a vigorous treatment of form achieved through purposeful work and a renewed contact with living reality. If a certain prosiness was to be the price of rationality, it was not shunned. It was understandable that an outspokenly realist tendency could now for the first time appear openly.40 Furthermore, in contrast to the violent scene of nymphs attacked by wild men in Montemayor's Diana, which leaves the shepherdesses simply en extremo admiradas, or remaining completely espantadas, while Felismena comforts herself with a discreet lament, an event like the murder of Carino by Lisandro cannot be viewed with detachment. One can no longer remain passive but must at least try to deal with reality when the sphere of real life crashes into the Arcadian world with such force.41 The novelty of such a scene in a bucolic setting stresses the importance given to imagination, adaptation, and innovation by Renaissance writers.
Dora Issacharoff, Imágenes manieristas en La Galatea
de Cervantes, in Cervantes. Su obra y su mundo. Manuel Criado
de Val (Madrid: 1978), pp. 30-31. I synthesize here the useful comments made
on this scene by Issacharoff.
40 Walter Friedlaender, Mannerism and Antimannerism in Italian Painting (New York, 1965), p. 50.
41 Annemarie Rahn-Gassert, op. cit., pp. 201-02.
|66||BRUNO M. DAMIANI||Cervantes|
Carino's sudden death is an example of what
medieval annals classified as mors repentina, regarded as frightening,
ignominious and shameful. In the case of a man killed by criminal action,
asserts Philippe Ariès, the victim cannot be exonerated; he
is inescapably dishonored by the vileness of his
death.42 Someone who dies in this manner
must not, however, be regarded as accursed: He must be given the benefit
of the doubt and receive Christian
burial,43 The thirteenth-century bishop
and liturgist of Mende, Gulielmus Durandus, stressed this point by noting
that wherever we find a dead man, we must bury him, because we do not
know the cause of his death.44 This
is exact1y the way two stunned shepherds, Elicio and Erastro, react as they
come upon the dead Carino. Witnesses to his murder and perplexed about the
reason for his death, they move quickly to lay the fallen stranger to rest:
Y así, se volvieron los dos con tiernas entrañas a hacer
el piadoso oficio, y dar sepultura como mejor pudiesen al miserable cuerpo
que tan repentinamente había acabado el curso de sus cortos días.
Erastro fue a su cabaña, que no lejos estaba, y trayendo suficiente
aderezo, hizo una sepultura en el mesmo lugar do el cuerpo estaba, y
dándole el último vale, le pusieron en ella y, no sin
compasión de su desdichado caso, se volvieron a sus ganados
(I, 29). The haste with which the burial of Carino is handled points up his
death as a strange and monstrous event, the sort of thing that people would
rather forget than talk about. Such had been the fate of Manfred, the natural
son of Emperor Frederick II, who died excommunicated in the battle of Benevento
in 1266. Dante reports that he was buried then and there, at
the bridgehead near Benevento, guarded by a heap of stones, and his name
Events surrounding the murder of Carino together with Lisandro's emblematic dream of it (I, 48) are all presented and completed within a brief space. This brevity is consonant with Cervantes' emphasis on the eurhythmic, well-balanced economy of composition, as E. C. Riley has noted,46 and shows the extent to which a skilled writer can manipulate a variety of plots and subplots.
Ariès, op. cit., p. 11.
45 Ibid., p. 43.
46 Edward C. Riley, Cervantes's Theory of the Novel (Oxford, 1962), pp. 116-30.
|4 (1984)||Death in Cervantes' Galatea||67|
Violence and death gain dramatic strength by juxtaposition with the peacefulness
and beauty of the bucolic landscape, particularly when this is described
with diminutives,47 as in the following example:
Y por mejor informarse de todo el sucesso, quisieran preguntárselo
al pastor homicida, pero él, con tirado paso, dexando al pastor muerto
y a los dos admirados, se tornó a entrar por el montecillo adelante
(I, 29). The diminutive is widely used for its evocative and expressive
qualities; for example, montecillo in the above passage suggests
a touch of innocence which contrasts sharply with Lisandro's act.
Death does not merely take place in La Galatea; it is also explained and justified, as in the case of the murderous Lisandro, who briefly reappears to give the gathered shepherds an account of his action against Carino: Perdonadme, comedidos pastores, si yo no lo he sido en haber hecho en vuestra presencia lo que habéis visto, porque la justa y mortal ira que contra ese traidor tenía concebida, no me dio lugar a más moderados discursos (I, 29). The learned language of the shepherd contrasts sharply with the baseness of the act committed, a fact which has surprised at least one critic, who speculates that Cervantes, aunque novato en el mundo literario de su momento y deseoso de contentar a un público cuyas aficiones apenas había sondado, se burla un poco del género pastoril en esta situación inaudita que ha creado: acción de una violencia jamás vista en la novela arcádica, explicada y justificada en un tono culto y comedido que vuelve la situación a la perfecta normalidad del discurso racional.48 Lisandro's retrospective tale narrated to Elicio is itself laden with events of death. From his story we learn that Lisandro and Leonida were lovers from rival families locked in a mortalísima discordia (I, 37), classic seed for a tragic love story, presumably based on some Italian tale in which the lovers belong to hostile families, as was the case with Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare.
From Lisandro's retrospective account we also discover that Lisandro came in contact with Leonida through the intervention of Silvia, who was loved by Crisalvo, Leonida's brother. Carino, a one-time adversary of Crisalvo's and Lisandro's brother, feigned friendship for the aspiring lovers and led Crisalvo to believe that Silvia loved Lisandro. Meanwhile, Lisandro and Leonida planned to marry secretly in a remote Andalusian village. Carino then took Leonida to
Emilio Náñez, El diminutivo en La Galatea, Anales
Cervantinos, 2 (1952), 269-85.
48 James Stamm, op. cit., p. 340.
|68||BRUNO M. DAMIANI||Cervantes|
the village and told Crisalvo that it was Silvia whom he was going to take
to be married to Lisandro. Thus deceived and enraged by Leonida's alleged
disdainfulness, Crisalvo killed his sister, mistaking her for Silvia. Vengeful,
Lisandro in turn killed Crisalvo and then the treacherous Carino. In the
absence of supernatural elements to put an end to their amorous suffering,
such as we see in Montemayor's Diana, for example, the rustics of
La Galatea rely solely on their fragile human instincts and consequently
succumb to inevitable human error and death. The flashback also reveals that
Leonida was led by Libeo to her death: tendía los temerosos
pasos para venir a buscar el último de su vida, pensando hallar el
mejor de su contento (I, 49). Libeo está sin vida
(I, 51), murmurs a dying Leonida about the faithless conspirator.
Although Cervantes often treats death euphemistically, he does not shun its macabre aspects. As in the late medieval treatment of death, in which death was regarded with fear and horror, Lisandro's episode depicts death in terms of its realistic aspects, without the slightest concern for esthetic articulation. The imprint of death is first cast dramatically in the initial scene of the novel, as Lisandro describes the murder committed by Crisalvo in terms which constitute an example of pictorial reinforcement. Crisalvo, we are told, is the first of the treacherous schemers to plunge the filos de su cuchillo (I, 49) into the body of the unsuspecting Leonida: in the darkness of night, Crisalvo se llegó a Leonida, pensando ser Silvia, y con injuriosas y turbadas palabras, con la infernal cólera que le señoreaba, con seis mortales heridas la dejó tendida en el suelo, a tiempo que ya Libeo por los otros cuatro creyendo que a mí me las daban con infinitas puñaladas se revolcaban por la tierra (I, 50). The five conspirators in the horrendous scene, referred to as crueles carniceros (I, 49) and pérfidos homicidas (I, 50), leave their victim envuelta en su propria sangre (I, 51).
There is a horrifying veracity about the above description. The morbid and detailed picture of death charges the emotions of the spectators. This appeal to emotion by an attempt at realistic portrayal of the objects of emotion marks a new stage in pastoral art, a stage that is evidenced further as the story unfolds. A vengeful and irate Lisandro, now seeing himself as a sañudo león (I, 52), under cover of darkness stabs the fratricide Crisalvo to death (I, 52). The event is made even more dramatic by the following words of Lisandro: Y antes que acabase de espirar, le llevé arrastrando adonde Leonida estaba, y poniendo en la mano muerta de Leonida el puñal que su
|4 (1984)||Death in Cervantes' Galatea||69|
hermano traía, que era el mesmo con que ella había muerto,
ayudándole yo a ello, tres veces se le hinqué por el
corazón (I, 52). This scene evokes the truism of Simonides of
Ceos, that Death comes even to the
Comforted by his vengeful act, Lisandro puts on his shoulders the body of Leonida and takes it to his village for a duly honrada sepultura (I, 52), an important stage in the crescendo of death consciousness that will lead to the elaborate ceremonies at Meliso's tomb in the sacred Valley of the Cypresses. In La Galatea, violence explodes uncontrollably, without the protective buffers found in earlier pastoral novels.50 Carino's murder and its subsequent justification by Lisandro exemplifies the idea of death as punishment. Thus the Old Testament God of might, with the law of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, finds place in Cervantes' philosophy. With this, Lisandro's flashback is now complete, and Elicio and Erastro are left profoundly disturbed by a story of such violence and death. The mysterious and terrifying reality of Carino's death jars the bucolic setting, and Cervantes' ingenious treatment of death here and elsewhere in La Galatea gives credence to the view aptly put forth by Curtius that tradition is a vast passing away and renewal.51 Cervantes takes up the death theme traditionally found in pastoral literature and infuses it with a greater degree of drama, by displaying violent and bloody scenes whose hideous reality is portrayed in detail, all of which disproves the theory expounded by Fitzmaurice Kelly that La Galatea gave [Cervantes] no opportunity of displaying his powers as an inventor.52
Repeatedly the peaceful pastoral thread is interrupted to make room for scenes of violence and death. A fascinating and intriguing subject of reflection, death captured the attention of dramatists, poets, and novelists as well as of the learned reader of the time. We can say of Golden Age Spaniards what has been said of the English of the Elizabethan era, that they enjoyed seeing people die on the stage, they enjoyed being moved by speeches about death, they enjoyed all
III. Sim. 65 (106), cited in Mary Evaristus, The Consolation of
Death in Ancient Greek Literature (Washington, 1932), p. 13.
50 Barbara Mujica, Violence in the Pastoral Novel from Sannazaro to Cervantes, Hispano-Italic Studies, I (1976), 50.
51 Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. William R. Trask (Princeton, 1973), p. 393.
52 Introduction, The Complete Works of Miguel de Cervantes (Glasgow, 1903), vol. XII, P. xxxiv.
|70||BRUNO M. DAMIANI||Cervantes|
the situations death produced.53 Conscious
of this artistic demand, Cervantes interpolates Silerio's story in order
to bring forth new and intriguing references to the killing of outlaws, the
landing of Turkish raiding parties, and the unjust death sentence of Silerio's
friend Timbrio, all of which point up the view expounded by Euripides that
the whole life of man is full of griefs, nor is there rest from
toils (Hippolytus, verse 189). The sight of his friend, handcuffed,
chained and bound by a rope around his neck, walking in the midst of a jeering
crowd, is all an horrendo espectáculo (I, 131) to a witnessing
Silerio. Shocked by the situation, Silerio plunges forward with sword in
hand in an effort to save his friend. Wounded in the process, he is taken
to prison, where he is himself sentenced to die, while Timbrio is rescued
by clerics and given safe harbor in a church.
The Turkish raid, termed dramatically a triste espectáculo (I, 138), leads Sireno to reflect philosophically on the plight of human existence: ¡ay!, que está tan llena de miserias nuestra vida (I, 138), it brings forth renewed references to death and suffering doloroso sucesso, consumido pueblo, heridas, llagas. In this context, writes López Estrada, Cervantes intenta coordinar el apacible sentimiento pastoril con la ráfaga violenta de la tragedia . . . .54 Tragedy in this sense, however, is not that which is seen as a constant in the pastoral the rhetorical death for unrequited love that traditionally plagues shepherds of Arcadia, and which Erasmus so gallantly attacks in his Colloquies (III); it represents, rather, as López Estrada has noted, a propensity on the part of Cervantes for situaciones sangrientas.55 Cervantes, we are again reminded, no evita los rasgos de crueldad ni la narración de espectáculos horrendos.56 Characteristic of this affinity for the lugubrious is the scene of the bloody kiss in the tale of Leonida and Lisandro, or the parade to a place of execution in the tale of Timbrio and Silerio.
Temporarily interrupted, the story of Timbrio and Silerio is continued in Book V, where there is a vivid account of a naval battle in which a merchant vessel is attacked by Turkish pirates who capture the few surviving Christian sailors. In Timbrio's tale of a sea battle between Christians and Turks, there is intense artillery fire lasting sixteen hours, con tanta priesa, furia y estruendo (II, 115)
Spencer, op. cit., p. 180.
54 Francisco López Estrada, Sobre La Galatea de Cervantes, in Homenaje a Cervantes, ed. Francisco Sánchez-Castañer (Valencia, 1950), p. 85.
55 Ibid., p. 84.
|4 (1984)||Death in Cervantes' Galatea||71|
that nearly everyone on the Christian ship is killed. A storm at sea pushes
the Turkish ship into the port of Barcelona. There, blinded by vengeance,
Christians take up arms to bring justice against the fierce pirates. The
death of the Turks is set forth in a dramatic passage: entrando los
del pueblo en la galera, que encallada en la arena estaba, hicieron tan cruel
matanza en los cosarios, que muy pocos quedaron con la vida (II 120).
In the whole of Silerio's story, Cervantes, the visual artist, etches with
bold strokes the salient features of the martial scene which he knew so well:
pirate ships, violence, abductions, killings, and fortresses. After all,
as Melveena McKendrick reminds us, Cervantes is always ready to transform
the stuff of his own experience into material for his
books.57 In La Galatea, Cervantes
brought into his novel the experience of the bitterness of defeat, the long
martyrdom of slavery, the thrills and disappointments of attempts to escape,
the narrow avoidance of death by torture, the wild joy of freedom, and the
high hopes of return to friends and loved ones.
Considering the overwhelming presence of death in La Galatea, which continually places the shepherds in confrontation with difficulty and crisis, one could certainly not accuse the characters of Cervantes' novel of what Montaigne would call the brutish stupidity, gross blindness and even nonchalance displayed by ordinary people.58 But then, literary shepherds are not simple folk. They are sophisticated figures whose pursuit of the platonic concepts of beauty and virtue clashes, as Barbara Mujica points out, with external reality, bringing on violence and death.59 At times, these shepherds, displaced from their own amorous pursuits, witness death. Orompo, for example, languishes for the death of his beloved Listea (I, 197; 205), and Telesio sounds the shepherd's horn to convene the rustics to hear news of shepherds who have died (II, 160-61). Under the aegis of Telesio, shepherds and shepherdesses gather in the Valley of the Cypresses to offer prayers and sacrifices at the tomb of Meliso, pseudonym of the renowned poet and statesman, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, who died in 1575.
McKendrick, Cervantes (Boston, 1980), pp. 60-61.
58 Essays III, 12.
59 Cfr. Barbara Mujica, Violence in the Pastoral Novel from Sannazaro to Cervantes, p. 50.
|72||BRUNO M. DAMIANI||Cervantes|
The consideration of La Galatea as an important example of mythopoetic literature in which pastoral fiction is to be understood as a conscious allegory60 is particularly relevant to Cervantes' treatment of death. Consonant with his ostensible intention of haber mezclado razones de filosofía entre algunas amorosas de pastores (I, 8), Cervantes gives his novel a distinct1y moral tone. This is perceived early in the work, in Lisandro's first song (I, 33-34), an apotheosis of his dead beloved. Although a traditional pastoral motif, the elevation of the beloved to divine status here reaches a hopeful crescendo that makes it one of the most moving and inspiring of its kind in Renaissance secular poetry:
|Goza en el sancto coro|
|con otras almas sanctas,|
|alma, de aquel seguro bien entero,|
|alto, rico tesoro,|
|mercedes, gracias tantas|
|que goza el que no huye el buen sendero;|
|allí gozar espero,|
|si por tus pasos guío,|
|contigo en paz entera|
|de eterna primavera,|
|sin temor, sobresalto ni desvío;|
|a esto me encamina,|
|pues será hazaña de tus obras digna.|
|Y pues vosotras, celestiales almas,|
|veis el bien que deseo,|
|creced las alas a tan buen deseo (I, 34).|
These verses suggest that in a sense one could say of La Galatea what
has been noted with respect to Cervantes' great Christian work, the
Persiles, that the novel is la universalización de la
experiencia humana, proyectada no contra el telón de fondo de lo temporal,
sino de lo eterno; no lo relativo, pero lo absoluto; no lo particular, sino
To think of death is to forsake sin, to leave aside corruption, to contemplate the afterlife. In an era of conflict between the interests of the present world and those of the next, life and the reminders of death were closely united, arid to know that death was always in the
Louis Edward Cox, Jr., The Pastoralism of Cervantes' La
Galatea (Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins, 1974), p. 7.
61 Avalle-Arce, Deslindes cervantinos, p. 73.
|4 (1984)||Death in Cervantes' Galatea||73|
background gave to the incidents of life a zeal and color which they might
otherwise have lacked.62 Indeed, adds
Theodore Spencer, even when the awareness of the conflict between the
two values was blurred, its subterraneous presence added intensity to thought
and energy to passion.63 This is
particularly felt as Lisandro reflects on death as a new beginning: En
la muerte de Leonida comenzó desventura, la cual se acabará
cuando yo la torne a ver (I, 53). The elevation of mortal human nature
to a sharing in the divine finds splendid expression in Elicio's song of
Neoplatonic love: Un bello rostro y figura, / aunque caduca y mortal,
/ es un traslado y señal / de la divina hermosura (I, 82). In
another instance, life is seen as a mar insano and death as a
dulce región maravillosa (II, 179). That special
region is further characterized by Lauso, who sings: Meliso,
digno de immortal historia, / digno que goces en el cielo sancto / de alegre
vida y de perpetua gloria (II, 177). Lamenting Meliso's death, Tirsi
adds the message of death's swiftness: ¡Oh muerte, que con presta
violencia / tal vida en poca tierra reduciste! (II, 178).
Death intimidates and humbles mankind, as Elicio's words at the tomb of Meliso suggest: Que aquello que contemplo agora, y veo / con el entendimiento levantado, / del sacro tuyo sobrehumano arreo, / tiene mi entendimiento acobardado, y sólo paro en levantar las cejas / y en recoger los labios de admirado (II, 182). The redeeming value of death is exemplified in Elicio's verses: Desta mortal, al parecer, caída, / quien vive bien, al cabo se levanta, / cual tú, Meliso, a la región florida (II, 182). In gratitude for their devotion to the dead Meliso, the muse Calliope promises wisdom and guidance to the gathered rustics: guiaré vuestros entendimientos (II, 188). Although Todo concluye y fenece (II, 230), in him who loves well faith is permanent. For this Marsilo can say que mi fe nunca fue muerta, pues se aviva con mis obras (II, 231), a paraphrasing a lo profano of the words of Jas. 2:26. This thought is reinforced later by the comment that while todo el bien desaparece . . . sólo la fe permanece (II, 231). Cervantes' serious and responsible treatment of death is algo seen in the final chapters of Don Quijote and in the brief paragraph Al lector which he composed on his deathbed for his posthumous novel, the Persiles. In the deeply moving prefatory page of his Byzantine novel, Cervantes presents death as dulce, though to be received reluctantly and with glimmerings of hope that life on earth
Spencer, op. cit., p. 37.
|74||BRUNO M. DAMIANI||Cervantes|
may yet be prolonged.64 Yet death is for
him the janua vitae, the door to a fuller life: ¡Adiós
gracias, adiós donaires, adiós regocijados amigos; que yo me
voy muriendo, y deseando veros presto contentos en la otra
Structurally, the motif of death in La Galatea functions as a means of creating interest and suspense; it serves to capture and sustain the reader's attention in the subject matter by generating an air of mystery, fear, and horror, as is produced when Lisandro, with dagger in hand, is seen pursuing the treacherous Carino through the sylvan fields. Shocked at the savage action of Lisandro, at the beginning of the novel, the reader tends to look upon the bloodthirsty episode as incongruous amidst the graceful narrative. Stylistically, however, it provides a useful break in the description of the quiet bucolic setting, thereby stimulating the reader's interest while giving the writer the opportunity of introducing a new tale.
The sensational murder of Carino, accompanied by the narrator's melodramatic words, y sin poder decir más, cerró los ojos en sempiterna noche, creates that effect of admiratio so often sought by Cervantes in his treatment of various incidents of love.66 The event of death presented in a shocking way, like anything seen in isolation, has a greater impact on the audience and evokes a stronger reaction from the readers. With respect to the scene of Carino's murder, we can say of Cervantes what has been noted of James Shirley in his treatment of death-related scenes, that is, that he likes to surprise us, he gives a list of tantalizing and anticipating details; our curiosity, our nerves, are excited, and we have to wait until he is prepared to satisfy us with the conclusion we have already half anticipated.67 The episode in which Lisandro kills Carino evokes an immediate response on the part of the reader, who becomes identified first with the dying Carino and then, upon learning the events that led to his death, with the suffering Lisandro, who was compelled by despair to avenge the death of his loved one.
The introduction of the theme of death at the outset of La Galatea prepares us for subsequent death scenes and for the funeral procession
64 Otis H. Green, Spain and the Western Tradition. The Castilian Mind in Literature from El Cid to Calderón (Madison, Milwaukee, and London, 1968), IV, 122.
65 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Obras completas, ed. Angel Valbuena Prat (Madrid, 1960), p. 1529.
66 E. C. Riley, op. cit., pp. 88-94; cf. Alban K. Forcione, Cervantes, Aristotle and the Persiles (Princeton, 1970), pp. 61-62.
67 Theodore Spencer, op. cit., p. 107.
|4 (1984)||Death in Cervantes' Galatea||75|
in honor of Meliso in the sacred Valley of the Cypresses at the end of the
novel. Death imagery and actual cases of death exhort the shepherds and
shepherdesses to think of their own ending. The hope of redemption suggested
by the death of Meliso, a virtuous man who by his conduct has merited the
rewards of eternal life, offers a note of consolation to the assembled shepherds
and to the reader as well. Furthermore, by aiming to arouse man to lead a
morally correct life, the author employs death imagery in service of the
designs of God.
Death, the sleep that is due to all, to quote Callimachus (Epigramata, 17), has, by its universality, been the occasion of more consolatory literature than any of the so-called evils of man.68 In La Galatea thoughts of consolation are supplied by the shepherds in words of charming sweetness, as we see not only in words of the priestly figure Telesio, who consoles the grieving shepherds at Meliso's tomb, but also in the episode of Silerio and Timbrio (II, 91-166), and in the story of Teolinda. Following her sung lament, movidas a compasión Galatea y Florisa, salieron de do escondidas estaban, y con amorosas y corteses palabras a la triste pastora saludaron, diciéndole, entre otras razones . . . estamos obligadas a procurarte el consuelo que de nuestra parte fuere posible (I, 62). The duties of the consoler were laid down by Plutarch: The discourse that ought to come from friends and people disposed to be helpful should be consolation and not mere assent. For we do not in adverse circumstances need people to weep and wail with us like choruses in a tragedy, but people to speak plainly to us and to instruct us (De Exilio . . ., line 599B). Furthermore, fellowship in misfortune is the greatest alleviation thereof. As Homer reminds us, the reflection that other men have died, that others have had to part with friends, helps to soften grief and moderate tears (Odyssey, I, 353).
One can well surmise that in La Galatea death is what gives full meaning to the history of several characters and therefore to the narrative. The episode of Silerio gave Cervantes occasion to transfer a part of his narrative to Italy and thus to enlarge the novelistic field with further notes of violence and death for the benefit of the reader, who would have grown weary of the peaceful banks of the Tagus. Perhaps, as Manuel Durán has noted, the author was aware, in this and other episodes, that the motifs of death, tragedy, and blood would be a welcome antidote to the music of Platonic love.69 In any
Evaristus, op. cit., p. 8.
69 Manuel Durán, Cervantes (New York, 1974), p. 86.
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case, as Durán observes, Cervantes is much more original, in
the general composition of his novel, and in many of its incidents, than
he has been given credit for in the
past.70 The treatment of violence and
death at the center of Silerio's story and in the intercalated stories
constitutes some of the best evidence of Cervantes' talent as a beginning
Violence and death accelerate the pace of the narrative; descriptive sentences give way to representation throbbing with verbs and action imagery. Events related to violence and death occupy much of the novel's narration. And it is narration of adventures rather than pastoral lyricism that predominates in La Galatea. Most of the work thus acquires what Northrop Frye would call a sequential and processional form,71 proper to plot in the romance. Indeed, this strong narrative thread is a fundamental characteristic of Spanish novels. Juan A. Tamayo notes this when he asserts that En las novelas españolas, empezando por Montemayor y sus continuadores . . . el hilo conductor del relato aparece robustecido y se hace más seguida la narración . . .; el desarrollo de la parte narrativa es evidente en la pastoral de Cervantes, no sólo si se la compara con las obras italianas, sino con sus precedentes españolas.72 Francisco Ynduráin takes this interpretation of the novelistic component of La Galatea a step further. En la obra de Cervantes, he observes, ha desaparecido la quietud lírica para dar entrada a lo novelesco en proporciones que relegan muchas veces a mero pretexto el cuadro bucólico.73
The anticipation of continued violence and possible death in Elicio's plan to free Galatea from an unwilling marriage adds continued dynamism and hence a greater novelistic interest, as Gili Gaya observes: El grito de guerra que lanza Elicio para salvar a Galatea, ¿no podría ser también el anuncio de que la novela estática de aquella dulce Arcadia iba a lanzar a los protagonistas a sufrir borrascas que no lograrían empañar la pureza de su amor? Este movimiento rompería la quietud contemplativa y razonadora del género pastoril, y armonizaría con las palabras de Cervantes cuando nos anuncia que a la primera parte, que no responde del todo a su
71 The Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (New York, 1967), p. 186.
72 Juan A. Tamayo, Los pastores de Cervantes, Revista de Filología Española, 32 (1948), 388-89.
73 Relección de La Galatea, in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Homenaje de Insula en el cuarto centenario de su nacimiento (Madrid, 1947), p. 108.
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deseo, seguirán otras de más gusto y de mayor
artificio. Mayor artificio supone más dinamismo, es decir, más
novela.74 Thus, the death motif serves
as a rhetorical ornament to the prose and poetry of the novel; it gives rise
to opportunities for in-depth characterization, psychological verisimilitude
and plot development, as well as for a multiplicity of points of view, as
several characters react to the jarring presence of death. Moreover, the
theme of death serves as a vehicle for the portrayal of human moods, as a
means of enriching characterization in the pastoral quest for self-discovery,
self-knowledge and humility.75 Cervantes
plays upon the emotions of the reader with the utmost skill by developing
a vast compendium of rhetorical devices, of images and symbols of death;
he thereby also effects a change in expressive technique significant in the
history of the pastoral mode.
Against a bucolic background, shepherds play their instruments, sing, and indulge in theoretical discourses on love; their activities are clouded, however, by an all-pervading sense of the ephemeral, of loneliness and death. Uncontrolled desires, deceit, and misplaced confidence even lead to murder, shocking reminders of human imperfection even in the supposedly ideal world of the pastoral. In contrast to the poetry of the Pléiade, where the word death was often avoided and replaced by euphemisms, and, in which depiction of the realistic aspects of death was carefully suppressed,76 Cervantes dwells on vivid description of violence and death in language that is vigorous and direct. In contrast to the pastoral lyrics of Garcilaso, where death is mentioned as an event of the past, the portrayal of death in La Galatea is dynamic, as violence, murder, and attempted suicide occur before our eyes, as also in the poetry of Catullus and, closer to Cervantes' time, in Montemayor's Diana.
The preoccupation with death and the ingenious treatment of death scenes demonstrate the fallacy of characterizing La Galatea and indeed the whole of pastoral literature as conventional,77 a
Gili Gaya, op. cit., p. 104.
75 Cf. Otis H. Green, op. cit., IV, 110.
76 Edelgard Dubruck, The Theme of Death in French Poetry of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (The Hague, 1964), p. 152.
77 For a comprehensive study of the misuse of convention, see Pilar Fernández-Cañadas Greenwood, Pastoral Poetics: The Uses of Conventions in Renaissance Pastoral Romances Arcadia, La Diana, La Galatea, L'Astrée (Ph.D. diss., Cornell Univ., 1981), pp. 7-36.
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view based on the erroneous assumption that these works deal with the artificial and false and are thus opposed to the more realistic kinds of literature. Indeed, pastoral literary fantasies are not devoid of the painful reality of human existence. Quite the contrary; here, too, suffering and death are inseparable from the self, as Ronsard had so eloquently expressed.78 In this regard La Galalea points up the belief that La vida otra vez triunfa sobre la teoría,79 a far cry from the view that No experience, no reality enters with a pastoral novel.80 In fact, Cervantes' novel presents a complex vision of human life and of human attempts to arrive at expression and understanding of that life. Through repeated and vivid representations of violence and death, Cervantes manages actually to destroy, as it were, the fabric of traditional pastoral literature, rebuilding with the fragments, as James Stamm has noted, todo un mundo literario, infinitamente más rico y complicado.81 It is a world which evokes an admirable balance of laughter and tears, of peace and violence, a world that is part of a larger set of circumstances and which points up once again Cervantes' foremost concern, the engaging relationship between literature and life.
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78 Pierre de Ronsard, Oeuvres complètes (Paris, 1967), 28; 176.
79 Avalle-Arce, ed., La Galatea, I, xxiii.
80 William Entwistle, Cervantes (Oxford, 1940), p. 48.
81 James Stamm, op. cit., p. 343.
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