University of Illinois
Cervantes' novella El celoso extremeño might be described as a tale of sexual hostility and remorse in which no sexual act is accomplished. It also could be described as the story of an obsessive personality, of his perplexing motivation and overwhelming sense of guilt. However, this work which is so much about unconscious motivation has yet to be the subject of an extended psychoanalytic study. Perhaps the approach seems too obvious, and critics have feared the ridicule of putting the all-too-neurotic Carrizales on the couch. But it is a misperception that a psychoanalytic approach must be directed toward translating characterization into symptoms, or toward detecting the neurotic author behind his literary fantasies. I am not proposing that we treat Carrizales as an uncannily modern case history, or use the story to construct a psychological portrait of Cervantes, but rather that the insights of psychoanalysis be used to explore Cervantes' perception of the way guilt is generated in fantasy, evaded, and finally atoned for from within. I have not, in fact, used the word «jealousy» in my title, because I do not believe that the story is primarily about Carrizales' characteristic neurosis, but rather about the costs of his defenses and the difficulty of his struggle to achieve a degree of freedom from them.27—36→
Like many of Cervantes' works, El celoso extremeño is hybrid in genre. It elaborates comic motifs of a diverse popular origin which coalesced in the Italianate cuckold's tale of adultery in a May-December marriage.28 But unlike the cuckold's tale, this one does not end with the triumphant celebration of the natural sexual love between the young lover and the young woman. The serious and pathetic ending grafted onto the comic tale is a bold experiment which not only alters expectations in regard to plot and character, but also allows for the exploration of psychic conflict along unfamiliar lines. Thus the «novelty» or originality of this novela ejemplar lies largely in the incongruity between a comic genre and its coded psychic assumptions.29—37→
Theories on the psychological patterns of the comic genre, such as those put forward by Ludwig Jekels and later developed by Charles Mauron, have emphasized the fantasy of triumph in the Oedipal situation. In the cuckold's tale, as in the Latin New Comedy and its modern descendants, we find the repeated formula of the «fair-haired boy who fools the greybeard». According to Jekels and Mauron, the «boy» represents a son who succeeds in stealing his mother away from the older father-figure. But the real triumph lies in the way in which comedy defends against guilt. Although both tragedy and comedy involve the Oedipal situation, with its unconscious wishes of incest and parricide, in comedy the son's own guilty wish to disturb the love of the parents is projected onto the father, who is in turn infantilized and degraded. Thus the enjoyment of comedy, and its freedom from the anguish of the tragic situation, depend upon maintaining an affective distance from the degraded father-figure, who through manic reversal, becomes weak and morally defective, rather than omnipotent and just. The father becomes the ridiculous miser, hypochondriac, lecher, and petty tyrant who deserves his humiliation at the hands of the more clever or virtuous young man.30
In El celoso extremeño, however, the comic mania evaporates as the story draws to a climax. It is more than a backing away from the comic fantasy or a hasty re-erection of the incest barrier. It is rather a re-centering and intensification of affective focus on Carrizales, the ridiculous father-figure. The story becomes tragic not simply because of Carrizales' death, but also because our response to him is determined more and more by identification rather than projection.31—38→
Expressed in a different way, comedy attempts to «put the world right» through defense mechanisms which keep guilt at a distance. The reality and permanence of the injury are denied; the strength of the opponent is minimized whereas the power of the hero is exaggerated; the desires and deeds we do not wish to acknowledge as our own are seen to belong to distorted «others» - the hero's opponents. Tragedy, like comedy, attempts to «put the world right», but tragic reparation involves the surrender of these defenses of denial, reversal, and projection, and a receptivity to the experiences of loss and guilt.32
What needs to be put right in the world of «El celoso extremeño» has to do with the incompatible marriage between the old man, Carrizales, and his young wife, Leonora. The comic solution, or manic reparation, requires an exaggerated portrayal of the power of the young would-be hero Loaysa (who is captivating and clever), and of the weakness of Carrizales (who is old, impotent and unbalanced); a projection of blame onto Carrizales as the obstacle to natural love; and a denial of the psychic pain and moral implications of adultery. Such a description is appropriate for «El celoso extremeño» until the point at which Carrizales discovers his wife sleeping in Loaysa's arms. At this point, with the shift from the affective distance of comedy to the pathetic involvement of tragedy, the pain of betrayal is vividly —39→ portrayed. Carrizales comes to understand how his own ambivalent feelings towards his wife have led to his betrayal, and initiates the process of reparation in an attempt to recreate the destroyed love relationship. In Cervantes' adaptation of the cuckold's tale, the greybeard Carrizales has become the «hero of failure»33 -that is the subject of identification rather than the object of projection.
The affective shift is anticipated by the suggestiveness of Carrizales' past. The theme of his youth and early adulthood -the conflict between keeping and giving, getting and spending- provides clues for understanding his crisis of maturity. The young Carrizales is compared to the Prodigal Son -a promiscuous, profligate wanderer. Having depleted his patrimony in his wanderings through Spain, Italy and Flanders, he seeks a second fortune in the New World. But this new wealth carries a tainted aura, for the Indies are the refuge of Spain's pariahs: «... las Indias, refugio y amparo de los desesperados de España, iglesia de los alzados, salvoconducto de los homicidas, pala y cubierta de los jugadores a quien llaman ciertos los peritos en el arte, añagaza general de mujeres libres, engaño común de muchos y remedio particular de pocos» (p. 99).34 From this particularly vehement description of the New World company Carrizales will be forced to keep, we can understand something of his uneasy association with money. If his early behavior is a reflection of his need to distance himself from his family and other affectionate ties, the desire to acquire money is perceived to be illegitimate and fraught with danger. As Peter Dunn has observed, Carrizales' self-transformation from hidalgo to indiano, or New World entrepreneur, constitutes a class betrayal of his family.35 But his exploitation of American wealth can also be read as an assault on a treacherous —40→ «New Mother». The New World offers «refuge» and «asylum» only for those who can exploit her and escape.
The nature of Carrizales' unconscious guilt is thus revealed through his persistent and conflicting needs to dissociate himself from family ties and family wealth, and to replenish his depleted sense of self with «tainted» or «robbed» wealth. We can also see why there is no «return of the Prodigal» -no scene of reconciliation. In fact, Carrizales' reformation -his resolution to «take better care of his wealth, and to proceed with greater caution than heretofore in his dealings with women» appears to be associated with his continued fear of intimacy. Ironically, the death of his family allows him to substitute hoarding for his equally compulsive profligacy: «... sacó sus partidas sin zozobras; buscó amigos; hallólos todos muertos; quiso partirse a su tierra, aunque ya había tenido nuevas que ningún pariente le había dejado la muerte» (p. 101).
It is not surprising that although he has replenished his financial resources in the New World, Carrizales nevertheless feels «spent» and vulnerable to importunities and theft:
Unable to make restoration to his deceased parents, and unwilling to share with the poor of his native region, he finds no escape from his retentive anxiety. He is like someone who cannot digest what he has —41→ eaten -the gold bars kept uninvested are unfruitful (cosa infructuosa) and bait for thieves (from cebar to fatten). Marriage promises the hope of processing this wealth; by producing an heir, he can leave behind (dejar) without giving up (dar). But the failure of this solution is foreshadowed by the word which describes both wealth and marriage -carga means not only responsibility and obligation, but also burden, weight, and anxiety. This is Carrizales' dilemma -he needs possessions in order to vouchsafe his identity (to replenish his depleted sense of vitality), but the greater the burden of possessions, the greater his fear of disintegration:
The specter of an envious rival is simultaneous in Carrizales' mind with the very idea of marriage. Cervantes here gives us a portrait of what Freud was later to call delusional jealousy, which he considered to be among the classic forms of paranoia. Although Freud and Jones originally saw this paranoid jealousy as arising from Oedipal conflicts, later psychoanalysts have interpreted jealousy itself as a mechanism of defense against much more primitive sources of anxiety and aggression. As Otto Fenichel wrote, «The fear of loss of love is strongest precisely in those people to whom loss of love is the worst that can befall them -to whom it means not only a sexual frustration, but also a severe impairment of their self-regard and under certain circumstances a dissolution of the ego».37 Joan Riviere interpreted her patients' delusional jealousy in terms of the fear of —42→ retribution for their own aggressive impulses to rob and despoil the person who represented their most important emotional investment. Melanie Klein also perceived the close connection between what is manifested as jealousy and envy and greed. Envy and greed are characteristic of the ego configuration in which experience and relations are split into extremes of good and bad. Envy arises when the good aspects of relations are felt to be withheld, thus provoking in the subject the desire to deplete, rob or destroy the unattainable. Envy fused with greed leaves the subject feeling depleted and vulnerable to attack; consequently, a characteristic defense is the projection of these destructive desires onto another.38 The intense association of Carrizales' jealousy with his anxiety over sharing his possessions with a wife or heir, as well as his perception of his wife as a possession (carga), suggest to me that his paranoia arises from the projection of his envy and greed onto a non-existent rival. In other words, his jealousy is not primarily a «triangular situation» involving rivalry with a man over a woman, but rather a «dual situation» - an expression of a much more fundamental conflict that arises out of coincident loving and hating in a sphere of which Carrizales is unaware.
Once Carrizales does decide on marriage, his choice of wife and his actions toward her and her family show that he is, in Eric Erickson's words, «unable to master the problem of how to give without taking» (Childhood and Society, 2nd ed. [New York, Norton, 1963], p. 52). Carrizales takes Leonora not only because her extreme youth assures him of her virginity, but also because her poverty allows him to usurp her parents' role and make the entire family into economic dependents. A compulsive generosity (a repetition of the prodigality of his youth and the liberality of his military career) masks his greedy acquisition of the family. When Carrizales forbids a tailor to take his fiancee's measurements, the number and costliness of the dresses he orders divert attention from his bizarre behavior to his role as the family's economic savior:
Carrizales thus projects his desire to incorporate Leonora (to «measure», clothe and surround her) onto the tailor, then reactively overwhelms her with presents. Carrizales' need to appease the parents for what is taken from them is insisted upon. Indeed, there is reason for the appeasement, for they give every sign of being aware of Carrizales' pathological condition: «... que se la entregaron no con pocas lágrimas, porque les pareció que la llevaban a la sepultura» (p. 104). He continues, after the marriage, to placate them and to fear that they will take back what he has taken from them:
In his relationship with these surrogate parents, we can see Carrizales attempting to adjudicate his conflictive needs of possession and restoration. Indeed, his activities reflect the essential features of manic reparation -the attempt to atone for hostile acts, while defending against the pain and guilt they cause. Carrizales defends against his unadmitted hostility toward Leonora by making reparation to figures of secondary importance -her parents. By alleviating their poverty, for which he is not responsible, he can ignore the implications of his treatment of their daughter.39
In his relationship with his wife, Carrizales develops a different but equally manic reparative strategy -he re-creates in himself an omnipotent all-nurturing parent. His house, a stomach-womb populated with the offspring of his self-impregnation, is an oral paradise. —44→ His wife and her maids are encouraged to become golosas, while he enjoys «como pudo los frutos del matrimonio». It is clear that for Carrizales, the fruits of marriage are not sexual intercourse but the vicarious oral pleasures evoked in the passage:
By encouraging the infantile, oral behavior of his wife and her numerous servants, Carrizales treats them as the good possessions he needs in order to feel safe and full. His specially adapted house, with its boarded up windows, its enclosed stable, and its self-sufficient supplies of water and food becomes an undifferentiated body cavity which denies the need for elimination. In short, this aspect of Carrizales' manic reparative strategy consists of becoming the depleted parent, then replenishing himself.
We have seen that the idea of a rival is simultaneous in Carrizales' imagination with the idea of marriage. Loaysa comes into being as the necessary third partner in a triangular relationship. René Girard, Cesáreo Bandera and Louis Combet have previously discussed the significance of triangular relationships in Cervantes' works in terms of mimetic desire: the subject requires that his desire be stimulated not by the intrinsic qualities of the object, but by the presence of an Other, a rival who, in effect, chooses the object by designating it as desirable.40 In this respect, Carrizales is not dissimilar to the «insufficiently» jealous husband of «El curioso impertinente». For both husbands, the wife's desirability is increased to the extent that she exists as a temptation to the Other. Loaysa's desire is also mimetic. It is not simply the reports of Leonora's beauty, but the fact that she is so closely guarded which arouses his desire: «... le encendió el deseo de ver si sería posible expuñar, por fuerza o por industria, fortaleza —45→ tan guardada» (p. 107). In short, both Loaysa and Carrizales exist as mutually necessary rivals in an overlapping triangular relationship.
This is only one of several parallels between the two characters. As J. B. Avalle Arce has observed, in the open spiral structure of the story, both men occupy different temporal points on the same trajectory. Loaysa incarnates Carrizales' past as seducer and will repeat his exile in the New World.41 Their modes of relating to women follow a similar pattern in other respects as well. We have remarked that Carrizales' retentive anxiety pre-dates his encounter with Leonora. So too, before Loaysa has ever seen Leonora, he wants to storm the fortress of Carrizales' house. In the absence of a real object of desire, the house fills its metaphorical space, signifying, for Carrizales, a precarious maternal symbiosis, and for Loaysa a female image which withholds and frustrates. Leonora, enclosed in the erotic space of Carrizales' house, is merely a part-object, accessory to the phantom Other.
Both characters undergo a similar transformation from an active to a passive role in their relationships with women. Loaysa, though aggressive in his initial assault on the house, is no longer the seducer but the object of seduction once he gains admittance. The dueña, Marialonso, and the servant girls admire him, not as phallus, but as a dismembered assortment of feminized body parts:
Marialonso turns out to be one of Cervantes' grotesque libidinous older women, who demands Loaysa's sexual favors in return for the surrender of her mistress. Alone with Leonora, as Marialonso waits her turn outside the bedroom door, Loaysa is unable to make love to the young girl. It is well-known that in the Porras de la Cámara manuscript of the story, the sexual relationship was successful, but the printed version reads: «Pero, con todo esto, el valor de Leonora fue tal, que en el tiempo que más le convenía, le mostró contra las fuerzas villanas de su astuto engañador, pues no fueron bastantes a vencerla, y él se cansó en balde, y ella quedó vencedora, y entrambos dormidos» (p. 130). In the face of Leonora's resistance, Loaysa «tired himself in vain». If we accept Castro's thesis that these words are a sly reference to Loaysa's impotence («C. se nos desliza»), we can see a pattern which moves from aggression to impotence in the shadow of a grotesque female figure. The change in the printed version underlines Loaysa's psychological kinship with Carrizales.
Carrizales' impotence is logically accounted for by his advanced age and ill-health. As the traditional senex figure, he has married a young woman who remains a virgin a year after their marriage. Nevertheless, the pattern, though extended temporally, is the same as Loaysa's. Furthermore, as we shall see, Carrizales will be rendered impotent in a total physical and psychological sense by an aggressive, invasive female -his own Leonora. For it is Leonora who makes the final assault on the inner sanctum of Carrizales' bedroom. It is she who steals the master key from beneath his mattress and incapacitates him with a narcotic ointment:
This narcoleptic embalming, this mucous intimacy, is the real violation of the story; it is the inversion of and retaliation for what —47→ Carrizales has done to Leonora.42
The theme of impotence ironically can allow the work of reparation to begin. The objects of attack manage to survive the hostilities directed against them -both Leonora and Carrizales awaken from a profound sleep physically unscathed, The waking survival signals a break with fantasy and a strengthening of reality sense. In other words, reparation is worth while once the hold of fantasy with its belief in total omnipotence and total vulnerability has been broken.43 Carrizales forswears revenge on the supposedly adulterous couple, and calls Leonora's parents to his house as witnesses and recipients of his reparative acts. The process is still not free of manic elements -Carrizales' long speech contains a series of self-justifications, pointing back to his previous liberality, and projecting his guilt onto Marialonso and Loaysa, He still quantifies his affection -Leonora's dowry is doubled «... por que todo el mundo vea el valor de los quilates de la voluntad y fe con que te quise...» (pp. 133-34).44 But he is also able to hold his guilt and to recognize himself as the source of his unhappiness: «Yo fui el que, como el gusano de seda, me fabriqué la casa donde muriese, y a ti no te culpo ¡oh niña mal aconsejada!» (p. 133). The formulaic reference to the «punishment of the Divine Will» paradoxically leads into the affirmation of his own responsibility: «Mas como no se puede prevenir con diligencia humana el castigo que la voluntad divina quiere dar a los que en ella —48→ no ponen del todo en todo sus deseos y esperanzas, no es mucho que yo quede defraudado en las mías y que yo mismo haya sido el fabricador del veneno que me va quitando la vida» (p. 133). Carrizales' inability to feel what Erik Erickson has called basic trust (pp. 247-50) has resulted in a self-defrauding and a self-poisoning.
Although he does not blame his wife, he never comes to realize her actual innocence. Leonora is inexplicably silent on the events of the previous night, but for offering that she offended her husband «only in thought». In spite of the mutual verbal incomprehension, the couple do achieve a degree of physical intimacy in their shared distress: «... le sobrevino un terrible desmayo, y se dejó caer tan junto de Leonora, que se juntaron los rostros: ¡extraño y triste espectáculo para los padres, que a su querida hija y a su amado yerno miraban!» (p. 134). This contact, witnessed by Leonora's parents, is the only legitimate and guilt-free consummation of their marriage, the antithesis of their respective violations.45
But why is this tentative intimacy achieved only in the face of Leonora's apparent infidelity? I believe that the change from the manuscript to the printed version underscores Carrizales' failure to experience trust. It is the fantasy rather than the reality of feminine betrayal that motivates the story. The tragic irony of Carrizales' trauma is that although he comes to an awareness of his incapacity to feel trust, he cannot translate his awareness into experience.46 This irremediable failure in communication is best illustrated in the following passage: «[Los padres de Leonora] Fueron al aposento de su yerno, y halláronle, como se ha dicho, siempre clavados los ojos en su —49→ esposa, a la cual tenía asida de las manos, derramando los dos muchas lágrimas; ella, con no más ocasión de verlas derramar a su esposo; él, por ver cuán fingidamente ella las derramaba» (p. 132). His persistent failure to respond appropriately to Leonora's mirroring emotions means that he has overcome his fear of feminine retribution without achieving a positive formulation of trusting intimacy. Carrizales' triumph is that he is able to accept a sexualized Leonora as a separate person; his failure is that a mutual adult sexual relationship will remain beyond his reach.47
Carrizales is sixty-eight at the time he marries the pre-adolescent Leonora, and sixty-nine at the end of the story. The exaggerated disparity in ages between husband and wife supports the idea that the marriage would have been inappropriate, in the eyes of Cervantes, no matter what Carrizales' character had been.48 But Carrizales' choice of a young wife and his treatment of her are grounded in his personality, and therefore his failure as a husband is emotional as well as chronological. We are reminded again of Anselmo of «El curioso impertinente» who also found it necessary to distance himself —50→ from his wife's sexuality. Both husbands, the young and the old, commit intellectual and moral errors in depriving their wives of their free-will, but these errors are inextricable from their defenses against intimacy. Though Cervantes considered Carrizales' marriage unwise, or even unnatural, the problem of failed intimacy transcends his specific errors.49
Carrizales' struggle to overcome the fears which control his behavior is neither comic nor grotesque but essentially tragic. It is tragic in the sense that there has been partial triumph and irrevocable loss, and that understanding has come too late. Though Carrizales does move beyond fear and manipulation to forgiveness and compassion, the damage to all is not completely reparable. The comic denouement wished by Carrizales, the marriage between the two young people, will never take place, and sexuality will not be integrated into the social order.
Ruth El Saffar has written convincingly of Leonora's self-discovery and growth toward autonomy after her encounter with Loaysa: both in her rejection of Loaysa's adulterous advances and in her refusal of marriage to him, Leonora makes fundamental non-determined choices of her own (Novel, pp. 46-47). Her rejection of marriage is also her own act of reparation toward Carrizales, an atonement for her adultery in thought. But because her motivation remains unexpressed, the tragic loss is redoubled. She accepts her inheritance from Carrizales -a devitalized and desexualized existence which he repented having imposed upon her.
We are told that Carrizales dies of sorrow on the seventh day following his ordeal. Does this mean, therefore, that his death is an act of masochism, in Combet's words «l'acte fascinant (tenter de s'attacher une femme) qui lui donnera accès à la souffrance et à la mort» (p. 230)? Although, as we have seen, the desire for and fear of a totally possessive relationship has characterized Carrizales' life, the story moves toward an acceptance of the autonomy of the loved one —51→ and the self. His death points not to destructive merger, but to the isolation which results when trust and autonomy cannot be reconciled.