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ArribaAbajo Romance and Realism in the Interpolated Stories of the Quixote

Edwin Williamson

Birkbeck College
University of London

En este estudio se examina la manera en que Cervantes maneja las ambigüedades creadas por la inserción de relatos de corte idealista dentro del marco de una novela satírica y de tendencia realista como el Quijote. Cervantes asume estas ambigüedades de varios modos, convirtiéndolas en materia estética hasta llegar a poner en tela de juicio las convenciones del género. Puede hacerse, por lo tanto, una distinción entre los relatos de la primera parte y los de la segunda. La lección de aquéllos se mantiene en una ambigüedad irónica, mientras que en éstas la oposición entre la experiencia y lo ideal se convierte en un principio estructural.

The stories interpolated in the Quixote are placed variously in three of Cervantes' characteristic literary settings -pastoral, Moorish, and contemporary Spanish; but, like the Novelas ejemplares, their plots and devices are derived from the genre of the Renaissance novella which Cervantes claimed to have been the first to introduce into Spain.27 The inclusion of these tales in the Quixote, as many commentators have remarked, creates something of a paradox: a collection of stories generically related to romance is inserted into a novel whose repeatedly proclaimed objective is precisely to debunk romance. Thus the problem which still preoccupies Cervantine criticism of establishing Cervantes' attitude to literary idealism (or, in effect, romance) presents itself within the Quixote more acutely than it does even in the Novelas ejemplares or the Persiles.28 By studying the interpolated stories collectively and in sequence, I believe it is possible to shed further   —44→   light on the relations between romance and realism in Cervantes' work, and to contribute to the debate on whether Cervantes moves from romance to realism or, indeed, vice versa.

In Part II, Chapter 44 of Don Quixote, Cervantes shows himself to be aware of the incompatibility between the interpolated tales and the main narrative. At first sight his remarks seem to bear on the neo-Aristotelian problem of reconciling unity and variety in a long narrative, but on closer examination they reveal a concern with more fundamental incompatibilities. He announces that the inclusion of stories like El curioso impertinente and El capitán cautivo in Part I was designed to relieve the tedium of writing about «un solo sujeto» in the main narrative, which he found to be «un trabajo incomportable cuyo fruto no redundaba en el de su autor» (II, 44, 848).29 The interpolated stories were introduced primarily as a respite for Cervantes himself but also as an opportunity for him to display his imaginative gifts more openly to his reader. There is nonetheless a suspicion that the reader might find the interpolations themselves rather tedious and skip them altogether, «sin advertir la gala y artificio que en sí contienen, el cual se mostrara bien al descubierto cuando por sí solas, sin arrimarse a las locuras de don Quijote ni a las sandeces de Sancho, salieran a luz» (II, 44, 848-49). The problem of interpolation turns not so much on the theoretical ideal of structural unity as on the more practical question of aesthetic pleasure: the intercalated stories must compete effectively with the anti-romance comedy of the frame-narrative for the attention of the reader.

There is no evidence here that Cervantes wished to parody these romance-type tales. On the contrary, he favours them highly as vehicles which will enable him to impress his readers with the virtuosity of his imagination. But, curiously, he expresses a doubt as to whether the creative freedom and convenience they afford the author are not in fact opposed to the actual interests of his readers. It transpires that the basic difficulty with interpolation is that the main narrative exerts a kind of influence or contextual pressure on the individual tales which threatens to diminish their intrinsic aesthetic value and rob the author of the praise he feels he deserves for his inventiveness and wit. The act of interpolation represents a peculiar   —45→   challenge to Cervantes' literary skills, for unlike their counterparts in the Novelas ejemplares, these stories must rival the proven comic delights of the adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Therefore, in Part II Cervantes says he has tried to work the interpolations more effectively into the main narrative: «no quiso ingerir novelas sueltas ni pegadizas, sino algunos episodios que lo pareciesen, nacidos de los mesmos sucesos que la verdad ofrece» (II, 44, 849). It is, however, quite clear from this quotation that, as my emphasis shows, the «episodes» of Part II are not more obviously integrated into the structure of the whole, if anything they appear to be as loose and detachable as those in Part I. The real difference is that they are in some unspecified way subject to the same «truth» as informs the history of Don Quixote. It is part of my purpose in this article to determine what sort of truth this might be.

The stories I will discuss are those which are not, like El curioso impertinente, explicitly presented as fictional, but which nevertheless possess a plot distinctive enough to stand independently of the main narrative, while remaining within the ambit of Don Quixote's experience. Although my discussion will attempt to embrace both the internal generic features of these tales and the characteristics of their insertion into the main body of the novel, more emphasis will be placed on this latter aspect. In this way, I hope to bring into focus Cervantes' creative response to the acknowledged difficulties of interpolation, and to show that he makes a virtue of necessity and exploits these very problems in order to tap whatever new resources of aesthetic pleasure might be discovered in the grafting of two such discordant modes of narration.

Before proceeding to examine the stories in context, it is as well to outline their generic elements. All of them run to a narrative formula with a limited set of permutations: there is actual or potential love between a man and a woman which encounters an obstacle that is either overcome, whereupon marriage is celebrated, or else remains insuperable, in which cast death, madness or the woman's entry into a convent ensues. Variations occur both in the nature of the relations between the principals and in the type of obstacle before them. Then variations, again, are limited. Feelings are mutual but embarrassed by external factors, or unrequited by one partner, or forcibly exploited by the man. The obstacle to union consists in one or a combination of the following: jealousy, competition from another actual or potential lover, objections by the woman's father, or differences in religion or   —46→   social class. Finally, the manner of overcoming the obstacle or not is by far the most common way of varying the formula, but even here there are recognizably conventional elements such as transvestism or other disguises, deception, or some form of chase, flight, elopement or abduction. Since the primary elements are few, the aesthetic interest of the genre lies in the «gala y artificio» with which the author rings the changes on the basic formula. It is this type of aesthetic interest, associated with romance, that Cervantes is seeking to reconcile with or at least accommodate within the larger framework of his anti-romance satire.

The interpolated stories of Part I

Marcela's story is introduced by Pedro, a companion of the goatherds to whom Don Quixote has just delivered his speech on the Golden Age with its exposition of his chivalric aims, one of which is to restore to helpless virgins the right to walk the countryside safe from the lechery of men (I, 11, 105-06). Pedro relates the case of the shepherdess Marcela and her dead lover Grisóstomo at the behest of Don Quixote. Marcela had left home and chosen to roam abroad while inexplicably rejecting the solicitations of many rich and fine young men including Grisóstomo. Thus the somewhat utopian Golden Age ideal of free-wandering damsels uttered recently by the mad knight seems to have transpired literally in the very next episode.30

Further details link Marcela's story with Don Quixote's idealized chivalric world. Don Quixote that night meditates on Dulcinea «a imitación de los amantes de Marcela» whereas the commonsensical Sancho «se acomodó entre Rocinante y su jumento, y durmió, no como enamorado desfavorecido sino como hombre molido a coces» (I, 11, 115). The vulgar squire contracts out not only of Don Quixote's amorous world but of the love-lorn shepherd's too. The next day Don Quixote meets Vivaldo, who is on his way to Grisóstomo's funeral. They converse about the profession of knight errantry and about Dulcinea in whom, Don Quixote claims, «se vienen a hacer verdaderos todos los imposibles y quiméricos atributos de belleza que los poetas dan a sus damas» (I, 13, 121), Their dialogue is interrupted by the arrival of Grisóstomo's funeral procession. The dead shepherd's   —47→   poetic valediction to Marcela is read out. It is a florid, almost bombastic piece, employing conventional conceits («Tú, que en tantas sinrazones muestras / la razón que me fuerza a que la haga / a la cansada vida que aborrezco») and even at one climactic point indulging in one of those «chimerical and impossible» hyperboles that Don Quixote had claimed poets rhetorically attribute to their ladies («el cielo claro de tus bellos ojos»). The despair of the poem culminates in a rhetorical invitation to death which, since Grisóstomo actually died, seems to lend the piece a paradoxical, documentary authenticity. However, the shepherd who recites Grisóstomo's poem claims that its insistence on Marcela's lack of feeling conflicts with her actual reputation for diffidence and goodness. Grisóstomo's friend Ambrosio explains this contradiction («como aquél que sabía bien los más escondidos pensamientos de su amigo») by saying that the valedictory poem was written when Grisóstomo had voluntarily exiled himself from Marcela's company so that her absence would alleviate his torment, but that «como al enamorado ausente no hay cosa que no le fatigue ni temor que no le dé alcance, así le fatigaban a Grisóstomo los celos imaginados y las sospechas temidas como si fueran verdaderas» (I, 14, 129). According to Ambrosio, then, the poem is in fact the product of Grisóstomo's paranoid fantasy rather than a truthful description of Marcela's character.

At this point, Marcela herself appears and provokes a rather contradictory outburst of accusations of cruelty from Ambrosio. She then replies with a long speech in which she accuses Grisóstomo and her other suitors of a kind of suicidal presumption: «Y si los deseos se sustentan con esperanzas, no habiendo yo dado alguna a Grisóstomo ni a otro alguno, en fin, de ninguno dellos, bien se puede decir que antes te mató su porfía que mi crueldad» (I, 14, 131). Rejecting all blame, she turns away and leaves the assembled mourners. Don Quixote then reaches for his sword to leap to the rather unnecessary defence of this capable damsel whom he will persist in viewing as a «doncella menesterosa» according to chivalric convention. Merely by asserting her will, Marcela dismisses the whole incident as an unnecessary chimera engendered gratuitously and irrationally by the stubborn Grisóstomo. She resists her forcible insertion by Grisóstomo as the unyielding mistress of courtly love into the conventional frame of a love-story, or by Don Quixote into the equally conventional chivalric category of distressed damsel, even if it is only to continue in her semi-quixotic, Arcadian pastime of tending herds of   —48→   goats and holding innocent conversation with maidens from the surrounding villages.

Despite the decisiveness of Marcela's departure and the obvious finality of Grisóstomo's death there is a curious inconclusiveness about the story, a sense of undischarged energy, as if nothing had effectively occurred. It cannot be entirely explained by the futility of Grisóstomo's death because he has after all brought that fate upon himself. It is more a feeling of unkept promise: all the requisite properties of a drama of unrequited love have been assembled and at the anticipated climax the leading lady walks off because she has not consented to play such a rôle in the first place. The story seems constructed expressly to dissatisfy the reader; it initially arouses all the normal expectations of a tale of unrequited love but then at the point of dénouement it is folded back upon itself to reveal the arbitrariness of the assumptions that sustained it. As a result, the conventions of a Renaissance love-story are suddenly converted into a fantasy akin to the chivalric laws that govern Don Quixote's behaviour.

The peripeteia is produced by two interrelated factors -Marcela's decision, and the angle from which the story is presented. Her decision causes an effective reversal because we have been led up to the dénouement without being shown a glimpse of either the living Grisóstomo or Marcela. We are forced to be recipients of a story recounted from the particular perspective of Pedro who is in turn a passive recipient of a version of those events from another source. The whole movement of the story is from second-hand reporting to the actuality of Marcela's surprising decision. For reasons, no doubt, of narrative economy Cervantes has concentrated on the dénouement and eschewed direct presentation of its beginnings and development. Thus the constraints imposed by the interpolation of the story into the main narrative would seem to have been turned to good account by virtue of the structural heightening of the impact of Marcela's speech.

Since Marcela's speech is highlighted as the pivot of the entire tale, it effectively dispels all the conventional reactions to the news of Grisóstomo's amorous despair. But for precisely this reason it whets the appetite for a fuller explanation of Marcela's character. Why does she shun men? Why does she persist in roaming the countryside dressed as a shepherdess? These enquiries are cut short by her departure, and the very impossibility of their being answered   —49→   only adds to the strangeness and peculiar resonance of the story. Marcela so upstages Grisóstomo that the centre-piece of the tale -the suicide and funeral- stands exposed as unnecessary and pathological. The tale's centre of gravity has shifted to the nature of Marcela's character, yet the reader's impulsion towards her is arrested by her abrupt disappearance. The effect is to force the reader's interest beyond the actual ending so as to make the story both closed and open-ended at the same time.

The episode rests on a further paradox. Cervantes makes arbitrary pastoral conventions collide against a purposive will. Nevertheless, the consequences of the collision suggest a corresponding arbitrariness in Marcela's behaviour; she has rejected her courtly/pastoral suitors in the name of free will, which she then proceeds to indulge in another form of pastoral activity. Is she therefore as deluded in her way as Grisóstomo? The story reflects the contrariness of human motives, the way people project images on to each other without grasping the other's true self. Marcela rightly refuses to be type-cast but she nonetheless fails to emerge either as a more plausible character herself, or one wholly absolved from the taint of pastoral artifice. In the other interpolated tales one can observe similar tensions between the implicit complexity of individual lives and the restrictions of conventional plot-design.

The next four stories -the two interlocking ones of Cardenio-Luscinda and Fernando-Dorotea, the Captive's tale, and that of Don Luis and Doña Clara- are also presented in such a way as to heighten the impact of their dénouements by introducing them all after their main action is over. The incidents are reported by the characters and, as with Marcela's story, the reader is allowed directly to witness only the nature of their resolutions. This focus is sharpened even further by the grouping of these four tales, each following the other in accelerating succession, under the one roof of the inn where Don Quixote is staying.

The organization of such a convergence of dénouements relies on an accumulation of coincidences which Cervantes does nothing to hide and not a little to underline. The first spectacular coincidence is that of the arrival of Fernando and Luscinda at the inn where they are each recognized by their respective paramours. Cervantes insists on the extraordinary character of this meeting:

También don Fernando conoció luego a Cardenio, y todos tres, Luscinda, Cardenio y Dorotea, quedaron mudos y suspensos, casi   —50→   sin saber lo que les había acontecido. Callaban todos y mirábanse todos: Dorotea a don Fernando, don Fernando a Cardenio, Cardenio a Luscinda y Luscinda a Cardenio

(I, 36, 374).                

The very deliberate stylistic threading of all these names into a close chain exaggerates the exceptional nature of the occurence. The characters themselves lose no time in remarking on it. Luscinda says: «Notad cómo el cielo, por desusados y a nosotros encubiertos caminos, me ha puesto a mi verdadero esposo delante» (p. 374; my emphases). Luscinda attributes this marvellously coincidental reunion to the unfathomable designs of el cielo. References to the mysterious and miraculous workings of el cielo rapidly proliferate as the two interrelated stories approach their common climax.

In her eloquent entreaty of Don Fernando, Dorotea reminds him of how he had promised to marry her with el cielo as witness: «... y testigo el cielo, a quien tú llamaste por testigo de lo que me prometías» (I, 36, 376). Now Don Fernando is implored by all present to free Luscinda and take Dorotea for his wife. He relents and accepts the ways of el cielo: «Si el piadoso cielo gusta y quiere que ya tengas algún descanso...» (p. 377). However, when don Fernando sees Luscinda fall into the arms of Cardenio he is shaken («admirándose de tan no visto suceso») and characteristically reaches for his sword. Dorotea tries to restrain him by throwing herself at his feet, embracing his knees, kissing them, holding them tightly, and weeping copiously: «¿Qué es lo que piensas hacer, único refugio mío, en este tan impensado trance?... Mira si te estará bien, o te será posible deshacer lo que el cielo ha hecho...» (p. 377).

These entreaties are taken up by the assembled company who warn Don Fernando that although these events may appear fortuitous they are in fact the will of el cielo: «Que considerase que, no acaso, como parecía, sino con particular providencia del cielo, se habían todos juntado en lugar donde menos ninguno pensaba» (p. 378; my emphases). The priest urges Fernando to respect the bond between Luscinda and Cardenio, «permitiendo que... los dos gozasen el bien que el cielo ya les había concedido» (p. 378).

Don Fernando suddenly succumbs to this concerted pressure and accepts the dictates of el cielo, declaring Dorotea to be the lady of his heart. More surprisingly, he explains his refractory behavior by reference yet again to the unknowable hand of el cielo: «... y si hasta   —51→   aquí no he dado muestras de lo que digo (i.e. that Dorotea is his true love) quizá ha sido por orden del cielo, para que viendo yo en vos la fe con que me amáis, os sepa estimar en lo que merecéis» (p. 379). There seems to be a hint of casuistry here which could suggest an element of cynicism in Don Fernando. Nevertheless he expresses the hope that Luscinda and Cardenio may live together for many years: «que yo rogaré al cielo que me los deje vivir con mi Dorotea.» There follows a scene of general weeping.

This insistence on el cielo is interesting as regards the relations between romance and realism. The double tale can be considered wholly orthodox, no less morally, in its exaltation of the power of faith and the action of Providence, than aesthetically, in its attempts to elicit admiratio for a «tan no visto suceso» from its readers. However, Cervantes' narrative treatment of the two stories allows for a less solemn interpretation of their significance. In the first place, their overall aesthetic effect cannot be wholly abstracted from the circumstances of their interpolation. The separate and unconnected appearances of Cardenio and Dorotea, their respective involvement in the adventures of Don Quixote, the eventual surprise, both to themselves and to the reader, of their entwined destinies, all point to Cervantes' deliberate transformation of the compositional problems of interpolation into fundamental structural devices in the articulation of these stories. The predominant tendency of these devices is to exaggerate the marvellous implausibility of the double dénouement whose exceptional remoteness from everyday life Cervantes repeatedly emphasizes: «tan no visto suceso», «impensado trance», «tan trabados y desesperados negocios.» But then to justify such amazing coincidences and convolutions of plot Cervantes invariably resorts to the term el cielo. This is surprising because such a very non-committal expression is neither specifically Christian nor Classical, the reference never being explicitly to God, Fate or Fortune. It is as if the flagrant departures from verisimilitude which Cervantes had created by the nature of his interpolation could not seriously be justified by invoking divine Providence. Instead he employs the vague term el cielo as an anodyne alibi, a vestigial ideological camouflage for the necessary manipulations of a narrator of romance.31


For confirmation of such a hypothesis one can quote the last part of the long closing sentence of Chapter 36: «... y que así, acompañados de silencio y de lágrimas, habían llegado a aquella venta, que para él era haber llegado al cielo, donde se rematan y tienen fin todas las desventuras de la tierra» (p. 380). The cielo which has featured so prominently in the improbable resolution of this double tale, and which is the happy place where all earthly misfortunes end, is located by Don Fernando in the very inn which houses Don Quixote who, for his part, firmly believes it to be an enchanted castle.

At the beginning of the next chapter all the characters persist in their state of wonderment and happiness, with Don Fernando still giving thanks «al cielo por... haberle sacado de aquel intricado laberinto» (p. 381). The priest congratulates everyone:

Todo lo ponía en su punto el cura, como discreto, y a cada uno daba el parabién del bien alcanzado; pero quien más jubilaba y se contentaba era la ventera, por la promesa que Cardenio y el cura le habían hecho de pagalle todos los daños e intereses que por cuenta de don Quijote le hubiesen venido

(p. 381; my emphasis).                

Ironically, the happiness of the characters congregated in that putative heaven is topped only by the jubilation of the innkeeper's wife, after having extracted a promise of compensation for the damage caused by the mad knight when he took her inn to be a haunted castle. As the double tale eventually flows back into the main narrative it mingles with the ironic world Don Quixote moves in, and Cervantes makes sure that the comic potential of such a confluence is not entirely lost on the reader.

In the very same Chapter 37, the next story, the Captive's, is introduced with the arrival of two strangers dressed in Moorish fashion. The veiled woman is eventually asked to uncover her face, revealing her great beauty:

... y así, se lo quitó, y descubrió un rostro tan hermoso, que Dorotea la tuvo por más hermosa que a Luscinda, y Luscinda por más hermosa que a Dorotea, y todos los circunstantes conocieron   —53→   que si alguno se podría igualar al de las dos, era el de la mora, y aun hubo algunos que le aventajaron en alguna cosa

(I, 38, 387).                

Apart from this slightly malicious treatment of the rival merits of the three beauties, Cervantes introduces the Captive's tale straightforwardly after Don Quixote's remarkably sane Arms and Letters speech. The Captive narrates the story without any hint of irony. However, as with the other tales, the movement is from reported action in the past to the actuality of the present. It is when the deferred dénouement is about to be resolved at the inn that traces of irony show up once more.

Just as the Captive finishes his story a coach draws up outside the inn and the judge arrives with his beautiful daughter Doña Clara. This time Cervantes makes much heavier weather of the girl's beauty: «Traía de la mano a una doncella... tan bizarra, tan hermosa y tan gallarda, que a todos puso en admiración su vista; de suerte que, a no haber visto a Dorotea y a Luscinda y Zoraida, que en la venta estaban, creyeran que otra tal hermosura como la desta doncella difícilmente pudiera hallarse» (I, 42, 434). Now it is Don Quixote himself who, after inviting the judge to enter and «espaciarse en este castillo», extravagantly praises the new beauty: «Entre vuestra merced, digo, en este paraíso; que aquí hallará estrellas y soles que acompañen el cielo que vuestra merced trae consigo: aquí hallará las armas en su punto y la hermosura en su estremo» (p. 434; my emphases). The roadside inn which Don Quixote believes to be a castle, and which Don Fernando recently likened to heaven, is once again rhetorically transformed, this time into a paradise, a firmament spangled with the stars and suns of ineffable female beauty. The judge is left bemused and speechless, incapable of much else than to admire the constellation that already embellishes the inn: «... y sin hollar ningunas palabras con que respondelle, se tornó a admirar de nuevo cuando vio delante de sí a Luscinda, Dorotea y a Zoraida» (p. 435).

But even stranger things lie in store for the judge. By yet a further marvellous coincidence he is none other than the long-lost brother of the Captive. When they are finally revealed as such to each other, amidst scenes of general weeping, the narrator hurriedly sums up the results:

Las palabras que entrambos hermanos se dijeron, los sentimientos que mostraron, apenas creo que puedan pensarse, cuando más escribirse. Allí en breves razones, se dieron cuenta de sus sucesos; allí mostraron puesta en su punto la buena amistad de dos   —54→   hermanos, allí abrazó el oidor a Zoraida; allí la ofreció su hacienda; allí hizo que la abrazase su hija; allí la cristiana hermosa y la mora hermosísima renovaron las lágrimas de todos.

Allí don Quijote estaba atento, sin hablar palabra, considerando estos tan estraños sucesos, atribuyéndolos todos a quimeras de la andante caballería.

(I, 42, 438-39; my emphases).                

So extraordinary are these events that even the mad Don Quixote is inclined to think that they are fantasies engendered by the enchanters of romance.

The hammering repetition of allí -a very similar but clearly comic reiteration of allí occurs only a few pages later (p. 448) when Don Quixote is protesting at having his hand caught in a loop by Maritornes- creates a stylistic link between the extraordinary anagnorisis and the world of chivalric romance. Nor is this yet the end of the affair. After they are all bedded down for the night with Don Quixote standing guard («don Quijote se situó fuera de la venta a hacer la centinela del castillo», p. 439), a beautiful voice is heard singing outside. It belongs to a young muleteer who turns out to be Don Luis, the shy but devoted lover of the judge's daughter. Doña Clara proceeds to tell the others the background to this strange appearance of the disguised boy. Once again the dénouement is deferred as the action is intercut by several absurd adventures, namely Don Quixote's being strung up by the hand outside the inn, and a series of coincidental arrivals in quick succession: the arrival of Don Luis's father's servants in search of the boy (p. 448), the arrival of the barber to reclaim his basin (p. 456), and the arrival of three cuadrilleros (p. 460); the narrative energy thus accumulated is finally released in the farcical «caos, máquina y laberinto de cosas» (p. 462) which recalls for Don Quixote the camp of Agramante in Orlando Furioso.

The Don Luis-Doña Clara story, however, cannot be said to have a resolution, properly speaking. Don Fernando's authority is sufficient to reassure the servants who have come for the lad, and three of them are sent back to inform the father. Although little doubt is left in one's mind that everything will end well, the outcome itself is not revealed to the reader. By forgoing a definitive ending while leaving the reader somehow sure of a felicitous resolution, Cervantes throws into relief, by default as it were, the force of conventional expectations within that type of tale: the children of well-born parents need fear no formal obstacles to the fulfilment of their love.


The Don Luis-Doña Clara story is so slight that it could not have stood on its own; it exists as a corollary to the other stories, a thumbnail sketch of the elementary features of that type of plot. Inserted into that accelerating sequence of arrivals at the inn, its non-resolution placed inconspicuously between the climactic farce of the general dust-up reminiscent of the camp of Agramante and the cuadrilleros' equally chaotic attempt to arrest Don Quixote for his deliverance of the galley-slaves, this little representative story is swallowed up in the ironic anti-romance vortex of the main narrative of Part I. Contrary to Raymond Immerwahr's opinion that with the insertion of these stories into the novel «a highly imaginative literary world becomes a credible actuality; romance and reality are synthesized»,32 I would argue that their contact with the world of Don Quixote continually threatens to expose the implausibility of their romance devices.

Moreover, this precariously held balance between the observance of convention and surrender to irony is accompanied, as in the Marcela story, by a tantalizing incompleteness of characterization. As both Madariaga and Francisco Márquez Villanueva have observed,33 Dorotea is, in fact, the most fully drawn character in the double tale -her sensibility is portrayed with delightful subtlety by Cervantes. But I would nevertheless argue that her character is prevented by the nature of the action and its dénouement from developing beyond the conventional and rhetorical patterns of romance into the full-fledged independence of a modern character. In spite of her bold pursuit of Don Fernando to vindicate her rights, she finally achieves her aim not through any direct efforts of her own but thanks only to an amazing coincidence occasioned, as we have seen, by el cielo. Her destiny, furthermore, is dependent upon the inclinations of Don Fernando. This, of course, is fair enough so it goes, but Don Fernando's change of heart is so sudden a volte face that it could only be reconciled with plausible psychological reality if we attribute a kind of resigned cynicism to him. Don Fernando's pivotal decision, explained in the orthodox way as an abrupt enlightenment by el cielo, and by a   —56→   conventional reference to the quality of his blood («en fin como alimentado con ilustre sangre», p. 378), ultimately stunts the development of Dorotea, who is too suddenly subsumed in a mechanical and melodramatic dénouement.

Again, as Márquez Villanueva and Leo Spitzer have remarked,34 in the Captive's story which follows hard on the heels of the above, the motivation of one of the two principal characters, Zoraida, is teasingly inconsistent, if not contradictory. On the surface, her motive for wanting to escape with the Captive is irreproachable -her devotion to the Blessed Virgin has inspired in her a wish to convert to Christianity. But her actual behaviour towards her gentle and loving Moorish father, shows her to be deceitful, scheming and hardhearted. In typical Cervantine fashion the overt theme -in this instance, the exaltation of the Christian life above the Moslem- is ironically undermined by the evidence of the narrative. The girl could be viewed as a cold fanatic with possible ulterior motives who is prepared to be joined to the hapless Captive in a marriage which seems devoid of much mutual love or passion. The highly orthodox Tridentine theme of conversion therefore dissolves into a perplexing ambiguity which is revolutionary not only in ideological import but also in aesthetic implication, since it suggests an unresolved and troubled destiny for the couple beyond the mechanical conclusiveness of the happy ending required of romance and provided by what Márquez Villanueva calls the «anagnorisis archiconvencional del hermano oidor» (p. 122).

In all the stories we have discussed so far, there are tensions between the embryonic autonomy and complexity of characters, and highly stylized plots which resolve themselves into spectacularly melodramatic endings that are in turn qualified by ironic details and paradoxical implications. I would argue that the aesthetic instability of these romance-type stories is the result of conscious artistic purpose by Cervantes, who is beginning in Part I to turn the technical problems of interpolation into raw material for imaginative exploitation. In the first place, the narrative presentation and setting show unmistakable signs of premeditation. There is the concentration through deferred dénouements of the reader's attention on the resolutions of the stories in every case, together with an emphatic   —57→   reliance upon excessively melodramatic effects and coincidences, disguised by the thinnest of veils as the providential workings of el cielo, but whose implications call into question the conventional optimism of the endings. Secondly, the very entwining of the destinies of Dorotea and Fernando with those of Luscinda and Cardenio, their dovetailing into the Captive's tale, leading immediately into the trite and significantly unfinished story of Don Luis and Doña Clara, all of which reach their rapidly successive climaxes under the one roof, which also happens to house Don Quixote, the robbed barber and the cuadrilleros, seems calculated to produce a cumulative narrative momentum converging on the farcical rumpus reminiscent of the camp of Agramante. Both individually and in their collective organization the stories all abut on irony or farce when they come into contact with the main narrative. It is not surprising, in this respect, that all these tales are explicitly related by Don Quixote himself or by another character to the fantasies and implausibilities of the romances of chivalry. I would conclude, then, that in Part I Cervantes chose to incorporate these tales into the main narrative in such a way as to indicate as far as possible their lack of plausibility without actually invalidating through direct parody their capacity to evoke orthodox admiratio. These interpolated tales are an exercise in having the best of both worlds: they celebrate the traditional wonders of love and adventure without altogether excluding the knowingness of irony.

The interpolated tale which comes closest to overt parody is, as both Immerwahr (p. 134) and Javier Herrero (p. 294) also point out, that of the shepherdess Leandra. Coming at the end of Part I, it contains echoes of all the other preceding tales. Leandra is the daughter of a rich peasant (like Dorotea), she has no mother (like Marcela), and she spurns the love of Anselmo and Eugenio (again like Marcela). These two (like Grisóstomo and Cardenio) suffer an access of amorous madness which drives them to dress up as goatherds. Leandra (like Dorotea with Fernando) falls in love with a soldier, Vicente, and (like Zoraida with the Captive) elopes with him in the hope of going to foreign lands. The elopement comes to possess more of the practical characteristics of an abduction (as in the case of Luscinda) when Leandra is found abandoned and robbed on a mountainside (in a shift but, like Luscinda, quite intact). Her fate is similar to Luscinda's: she enters a nunnery, but her reclusion does not prevent the local swains from getting themselves up as goatherds to roam about the countryside (like those others in the Marcela story) weeping for her love.


It would appear that for this final tale in Part I Cervantes has assembled most of the conventional elements which exist in different permutations in the other tales and fashioned them into a composite story which verges on open parody and which is again likened to the romances of chivalry. In the first instance, Leandra's story is placed immediately after the lengthy discussion between Don Quixote and the Canon of Toledo on the poetic truth of the romances. It is introduced by a surprisingly cultivated goatherd, Eugenio, who offers to tell them the Leandra story in order to illustrate the unlikely paradox that goatherds are in fact educated people: «para que creáis esta verdad y la toquéis con la mano» (I, 50, 504). To this Don Quixote replies: «Por ver que tiene este caso un no sé qué de sombra de aventura de caballería, yo, por mi parte, os oiré, hermano...» (p. 504). Eugenio finishes his tale, lamenting Leandra's entry into a convent, whereupon Don Quixote offers to release her from it, much as Don Fernando forcibly sprang Luscinda from her nunnery in the earlier story.

The goatherd is puzzled both by Don Quixote's words and by his outlandish appearance. When apprised by the barber of the latter's identity and mission he replies: «Eso me semeja... a lo que se lee en los libros de caballeros andantes, que hacían todo eso que de este hombre vuestra merced dice; puesto que para mí tengo, o que vuestra merced se burla, o que este gentilhombre debe de tener vacíos los aposentos de la cabeza» (I, 52, 511). Naturally enraged by this imputation, Don Quixote strikes him with a loaf of bread, thereby provoking yet another ridiculous brawl. As in the case of the interlocking tales discussed above, we have the idealized world of romance rising high above the everyday only to tip over and collapse into farce when it comes into contact with Don Quixote.

The interpolated stories of Part II

Turning now to the interpolated love-stories in Part II, all four of them have a deferred dénouement but, unlike those in Part I, they are not -except for the Tosilos story which is part and parcel of the goings-on at the ducal palace- ironically undermined in the manner of their grafting on to the main narrative. In this respect they appear to be more «natural», less obviously artificial or separate from the world of Don Quixote, in accordance with Cervantes' own declared purpose in Chapter 44 of Part II. But if ironic disparities between the interpolated love-stories and the verisimilar mainstream narrative are   —59→   virtually non-existent in Part II, the ironic tensions between complexities of theme and character, and literary convention, still remain, albeit more discreetly indicated by Cervantes.

In the Basilio story Cervantes again employs the technique of the delayed ending, with the background to the story being related by a character as a prelude to the enaction of the dénouement. There are few if any ironic reverberations other than the obvious one in this story. But certain difficulties can be discerned on closer inspection. When Don Quixote is first told of Quiteria's imminent marriage to Camacho and her father's rejection of Basilio as a suitable husband, he supports the rights of fathers to marry off their daughters in a lucid and well-reasoned speech which contrasts with Sancho's emotional support for Basilio (p. 673). However, after Basilio's trick, when Camacho and his men set upon the usurping lover in their rage, Don Quixote takes up his arms and orders them to stop. The knight argues, again very lucidly, that in love as in war all manner of subterfuge is legitimate in order to achieve one's end (pp. 692-93). One might conclude that the moral of the story is that true love should triumph, in spite of Don Quixote's earlier opinions to the contrary. But Don Quixote next advises Basilio, once again in a well-reasoned speech which earns Sancho's spontaneous admiration, that he should strive to become wealthy in order to keep his girl. In this way he rather detracts from Basilio's position as the champion of true love and restores much of the right to the defeated Camacho. This advice, moreover, rather qualifies the «happy ever after» romance ending by suggesting, again as in the Captive's story, that troubles may lie ahead for the lovers should the husband not prove to be sufficiently adept at getting rich.

As a result of this last speech of Don Quixote's the story fails to cut much ice at the level of the theme. Cervantes paradoxically uses Don Quixote in one of his «sane» spells to neutralize the conflict between true love and material interest which the suicide trick had appeared to resolve in favor of the former. This irresolution of the theme is compounded by indecisiveness in characterization. Quiteria is totally passive, submitting to her father's wishes without reported opposition and later showing little enthusiasm for her designated rôle as a heroine of true love. More extraordinary still is Camacho's reaction to the preposterous and dishonouring hoax. His understandable anger is quickly doused by the mad knight's comminations, of all things, and beyond that, he displays unbelievable forbearance when   —60→   he decides to proceed with the junketings. Every thematic or psychological difficulty is smoothed over, throwing the suicide trick into sharp relief as the single salient feature of the story. It is very much as if the whole tale had been composed merely to highlight Basilio's ruse, a peripeteia which seems a cynical sop to a readership avid for spectacular forms of admiratio. As one might expect, true love triumphs, but thanks only to the combination of two rather unlikely factors -Basilio's mechanical trick and Don Quixote's braggadocio. Thus the triumph of love, since it is made possible only by such outrageously improbable devices, appears to be dangerously precarious, an exceptional concession to the sentimentality of romance in a world which would otherwise sweep away its self-assumed privileges.

That the story makes little sense in traditional generic terms, much less in realistic terms, is very well illustrated by Thomas Mann who protests at the immorality of the deceitful Basilio's winning of Quiteria: «Is this really fair? The suicide scene is painted with complete seriousness and tragic emphasis. The emotions of horror roused not only in the other actors but in the reader as well are quite unequivocal. Yet in the end the whole thing dissolves in laughter and betrays itself as a farce and travesty.»35 Mann further notes that it is in the Greek or Byzantine romances that such highly artificial devices for producing admiratio are to be found. He points out that specifically in Achilles Tatius' History of Leucippe and Cleitophon of the second century A.D., there is a scene which almost exactly foreshadows Basilio's trick. Stanislav Zimic has followed up Mann's reference and argues that whereas in Tatius the device is used to astonish the reader, with Cervantes it acquires a deeper significance, «elevándose a la preocupante meditación sobre el múltiple aspecto de la realidad36 Thus, Zimic accounts for Mann's puzzlement over this scene by referring to Spitzer's Perspectivism. I incline towards another explanation. Zimic observes that Cervantes must have known full well that in Basilio's mock death, it is the reader who is «el más burlado» (p. 881). Indeed, I think the story is conceived as a literary joke on the reader. In my view Cervantes is indulging in a sly subversion of the conventions of the novella by   —61→   choosing from a Greek romance a spectacularly artificial device for creating admiratio, and placing it in the «real» world of Don Quixote as the centre-piece of the story. He therefore goes as far as possible in the direction of open parody, exaggerating and virtually exposing the arbitrariness of the mechanisms which govern the romance-type love-stories of his time, without, however, permitting the reader to accept it conveniently as explicit parody. A superb tension between artificiality and verisimilitude is thereby generated. If Basilio's story represents an extreme of authorial manipulation, with its subordination of theme, character and moral coherence to an absurdly mechanical peripeteia, the Tosilos story shows more directly Cervantes' concern with the relations between plausible characterization and generic conventions. Much of its interest lies in the way in which the plot of the conventional love-story is so masterfully crossed with such devices of chivalric literature as enchantment and trial by combat.

The story initially emerges as a surprise, when the ridiculous duenna Doña Rodríguez requests Don Quixote to help her resolve a genuine problem. Her daughter has been dishonoured by a rich peasant's son but the Duke refuses to do anything about it because the peasant often lends him money. Doña Rodríguez asks for Quixote to challenge the peasant's son to a duel in order to uphold the honour of her daughter. Cervantes has cleverly combined the two genres by getting his characters to attempt to resolve a typical problem of the romantic novella by means of a classic technique from the chivalric canon. The Duke, seeing the comical possibilities of the situation, decides to extract more fun from Don Quixote and the duenna, and orders his lackey Tosilos to disguise himself as the rich peasant's son. However, the Duke's plans break down when Tosilos suddenly falls in love with the duenna's daughter as he is on the point of charging Don Quixote on the field of battle. The improbability of Tosilos' access of love for the maiden is here unmistakably exaggerated by Cervantes with his burlesque account of the activities of Eros («el niño ceguezuelo») who, it is said, was loath to waste the opportunity of conquering a lackey's heart and therefore pierced it with an arrow: «y púdolo hacer bien al seguro, porque el Amor el invisible, y entra y sale por do quiere, sin que nadie le pida cuenta de sus hechos» (p. 945).

Cervantes again uses a metaphysical agent (overtly Classical here because of the clear parodic intent rather than the ambiguity of el   —62→   cielo) to extricate the characters' genuine feelings from the Duke's machinations. These are exposed when Tosilos raises his visor and the imposture is detected by Doña Rodríguez. By a further comical twist, the full revelation of the Duke's schemes is neatly avoided when Don Quixote perversely uses his favourite notion of enchantment to explain away the puzzling substitution of Tosilos for the real culprit. The Duke decides to lock up Tosilos for a fortnight to see if the «enchantment» wears off. But again, his plans are thwarted when the duenna's daughter decides she will in any case marry Tosilos and live happily ever after. Having apparently resolved the story as happily as it deserves to be in romance, Don Quixote goes off to Barcelona. However, there follows an epilogue much later when Tosilos appears unexpectedly during Don Quixote and Sancho's journey back (I, 66, 1022). The lackey announces that the episode actually ended with his receiving a hundred lashes from the Duke, the duenna's return to Castile, and her daughter's entry into a convent.

Although the story is concluded in partial accordance with the rules of the genre, the manner of its conception and elaboration has prised it out of the moulds of convention. From the start the reader has been made aware of the delusion involved in the duenna's enlistment of the mad knight's services and of the latter's inability to alter the basic obstacles to a happy outcome -the fact of the Duke's power and his self-interested refusal to right the injustice. Don Quixote and the duenna are exposed for what they are -ridiculous upholders, in the best traditions of chivalry or courtly love, of absolute principles which are destined to founder on the bedrock of social realities. The story ends with the recognition of harsh social facts which render literary conventions futile and untrue; in ironic contrast to Basilio's story, no concessions are made to sentimentality or to optimistic illusions. Nevertheless, the ironic double ending of the story, while never flinching from the unpleasant reality of the Duke's power, obliquely illustrates its limitations; absolute social power does not necessarily entail total manipulation of individuals either. There is here an implicit recognition of the ways in which an inner world of feeling and amorous ideals, represented by the hapless Tosilos and his sweetheart, can assert itself unpredictably and endure for a while beyond the compass of social power. The double ending once again illustrates how the circumstances of interpolation have been converted by Cervantes into a source of new and deeper meanings which a straightforward narration of the conventional plot might have left undiscovered.


The brief story of Claudia Gerónima (II, 60) again pays lip-service to romance convention only to show up its limitations. The dénouement is once more detached from the narration of the background in order to heighten the surprise of the peripeteia. Claudia Gerónima believes that her lover Don Vicente has gone off with another woman, she follows him and shoots him. She then seeks out Roque Guinart and asks him to protect her father and herself from Don Vicente's family's revenge. Roque and the others go to the scene and discover the dying Vicente who claims that Claudia has misconstrued his motives through her blind jealousy and insists that he was never unfaithful. He even offers to marry her before he dies. Claudia now bitterly laments her impetuousness, and after her innocent lover's unnecessary death, enters a convent.

This story bears similarities with Marcela's in that its resolution points to a negation of the conventional impetus which produced it in the first place. Claudia acts on impulse in accordance with the established patterns of a typical story of a lover's revenge, without stopping to examine either her motives or her lover's, «sin ponerme a dar quejas ni a oír disculpas» (p. 977). Had she just begun to do so the tragedy would have been averted and the story could conceivably have developed along unprecedented lines by delving into Claudia Gerónima's inner life and examining the real motives for her overpowering jealousy. It remains significant that it is precisely the way in which Cervantes has constructed the story that self-consciously draws attention to its generic constraints and implies the possibility of an alternative destiny for its characters.

The last of the interpolated stories, Ana Félix's (II, 63-65), distinguishes itself by being the only genuinely open-ended one of the collection. Unlike the Clara story in Part I its inconclusiveness is not a form of narrative shorthand or elliptical brevity but is rooted instead in the very nature of its subject-matter. On the surface it falls within the same genre as the others and uses traditional devices for its development -transvestism, coincidences and elopement. But I would argue that in spite of all these features, the story is unfinished because it cannot be concluded within the terms of the literary tradition from which it springs. In the first place the obstacle the lovers encounter falls well outside conventional bounds. Had it been based on infidelity, unrequited affection, social or religious incompatibility, all these would have been comfortably overcome from within the resources of the genre. But Ana Félix and Don Gregorio come from rich families, they are united in a true and steadfast love, and   —64→   even though Ana is of Morisco background it is categorically stated that she is a firm and convinced Christian. What stands between them is an inescapable historical reality -Philip III's edict expelling all Moriscos from Spain in 1609.37 The conflict is between private rights and the anonymous world of public affairs, between personal convictions and racial or cultural identity.

The motif of inversion runs strong throughout. Ana is discovered accidentally, disguised as a man in Turkish clothes, and is about to be executed when her beauty earns her the indulgence of her captors who agree to listen to her story. She tells of how she was forced into exile with her family in spite of her sincere Christian faith and was followed to Oran by Don Gregorio, disguised as a girl. She left him there, in constant danger of being discovered and seduced by the pederastic Turks, in order to return to Spain to dig up some money buried near her home town. The transpositions and inversions are cultural, racial, geographical and even sexual. The lovers are driven to deny their true identities in their desire to stay together and surmount the massive historical barrier erected between them by the institutional authority of the State. Not only are their respective positions highly precarious, the only hope of their reverting to their stable and real identities -a destiny which is indispensable to the deepest requirements of romance- is if they can somehow swim against the swiftly rising tide of history.

Cervantes has written the story in such a way as to elicit great sympathy for Ana and so raise conventional hopes of a happy ending. However, when Don Gregorio returns from Oran the whole story is abandoned without any indication as to how it will be resolved. But how, we may ask, could Cervantes have ended it? There are three possibilities, each beset by insuperable difficulties. In the first place, if the lovers had married without permission Cervantes would have been putting private passion above public duty and the story would have become dangerously subversive given the historical context. Secondly, if they had definitely been forbidden to marry, the reader would have been disappointed and the story, as it is presented, would have become a tragedy clearly caused by Philip III's edict. Again, this would have been fraught with danger because the   —65→   reader's dismay could have been construed as implying criticism of the royal policy of expatriating Moriscos.

The only likely solution would have been a compromise, by which the lovers could have been granted permission to marry legally. This would have entailed making an exception of Ana Félix among her fellow Moriscos, and that would obviously have required adducing reasons to explain such a singular dispensation. Since Ana is already a convinced Christian and a loyal lover there would seem to be no other decisive qualities she would need to deserve a royal pardon, unless of course her own affirmations as to the strength of her faith or the truth of her love were to be put to the test in order to ascertain infallibly whether her true intentions correspond to her professed feelings. Such infallible tests of real motivation are obviously impossible outside romance fiction (viz. the Arch of Loyal Lovers in the Amadís) so that the basic problem posed by the story is how the individual can avoid being trapped within impersonal categories which have no regard for his private wishes or genuine beliefs. Cervantes has brought the Renaissance novella dangerously up to date, pushing it to the uttermost limits of its conventional possibilities, where to proceed beyond stereotypes of race, religion, culture and social station would have inevitably opened the Pandora's Box of individual intentions, passions, and irreconcilable divisions of identity.

Cervantes must have chosen to provoke these speculations because he precluded the only solution open to him in this type of tale, and one he had already used, albeit with a hint of irony, in the Captive's Tale in Part I, namely that of conversion. Here that solution is ruled out from the start by Ana Félix's pre-existent Christian faith. The remedy for the lovers' plight lies well beyond anybody's control. As a result, the transvestism central to the action ceases to be a well-worn narrative expedient of the genre and crystallizes with unexpected poetic force into a poignantly contemporary symbol of that intimate violence inflicted upon the individual by the impersonal and alienating forces of an absolute State.

In Ana Félix's story Cervantes seems deliberately to emasculate the genre of the Italianate novella by constructing his tale in such a way as to expose its inability to treat certain intractable human problems. The only way forward to a happy ending would have involved forcing the lovers to surmount the historical obstacle through a deus ex machina device typical of romance. Here Cervantes refrains from doing so and leaves the story significantly open-ended.   —66→   In striking contrast to the twinned Dorotea and Cardenio stories, or to Basilio's story, there is no recourse either to el cielo or to a cunning device to deliver the lovers from their historical fate. It is as if Cervantes were implying that even in the nominally free world of imaginative fiction not every problem should be susceptible of solution.

If we consider the interpolated stories of Parts I and II as a series, it is striking to observe how, from the utopian pastoral setting of the Marcela story or the vaguely contemporary locations of the other stories in Part I, Cervantes moves in Part II towards stories set in a more historically-specific reality like that of Claudia Gerónima, which is linked with the historical brigand Roque Guinart, or of Ana Félix, which is set in the context of the expulsion of the Moriscos. This difference in setting reflects a more fundamental and significant difference between the stories of Parts I and II. In spite of the contextual ironies, all the 1605 stories are articulated in accordance with mechanisms derived from the Italianate novella; its conventions form the ground of the characters' real experience, at least within the visible bounds of the stories themselves. But in Part II, all four stories demonstrate how these very conventions and procedures are delusions produced by the fantasy of characters like Doña Rodríguez or Claudia Gerónima, suspiciously improbable in the case of Basilio, or ineffectual as in the Ana Félix story. Although these 1615 tales are still derived from the genre of the Italianate novella, their functioning exposes their inadequacy as narrative vehicles capable of expressing or dealing with certain conflicts inherent in individual experience. Cervantes' intermittent ironic sniping at the genre in Part I has developed into a sophisticated subversion of its foundations in Part II, where the stories are so arranged as to reveal a progressive sapping of generic resources culminating in the unresolved, open-ended tale of Ana Félix. The stories of Part I are susceptible of being read on two levels: either in a manner blessedly innocent of irony, for the traditional pleasure of admiratio they provide, or with a certain ironic awareness of their literary artifice. In Part II this ambiguity is brought much further into the open and promoted to the thematic level as an opposition between the characters' illusions or aspirations and the recalcitrance of their actual circumstances.

When considered collectively, the stories interpolated into the Quixote, by their ironic dissonances and structural peculiarities, progressively point to an area of reality, namely the inward life of the   —67→   characters, their motives, passions and states of mind, which remains beyond the reach of traditional romance procedures. The stories of Claudia Gerónima and Ana Félix, especially, seem to herald the need for a narrative medium which would articulate individualized experience or even the interior lives of characters -Claudia Gerónima's obsessive jealousy for example, or Ana Félix's fears and frustrations- that is, forms of experience which would otherwise remain stilled or constricted by the limited permutations of the Italianate novella.

It is, then, the sharp contrast between the world of romance and the actual experience of the characters that makes the stories of Part II share with the history of Don Quixote's adventures the «truth» that reality often exceeds the fixed patterns of romance. But whatever «realism» can be attributed to the interpolated stories is negative, in the sense that it arises only to the extent that Cervantes manipulates the conventions he is using so as to reveal their formulaic basis. This is not to suggest that Cervantes set out to undermine the novella. It is rather that the problems of interpolation, combined with Cervantes' love of paradox and irony, lead from the playful ironies of Part I to the quite deliberate subversion of Part II.

Cervantes' attitude to romance is complex. There would appear to be no systematic, chronological evolution towards either realism or romance. Like most writers of his time, Cervantes starts from within a particular genre -in this case the Renaissance novella- but in his desire to delight his readers while at the same time reflecting plausible experience, he is prepared to follow his creative instincts or yield to the pressures of context, even to the point of straining genre beyond established practice. In the interpolated stories of the Quixote Cervantes remains within the bounds of romance even though he twists and bends the rules until finally he stretches them actually to the breaking point.