Cervantes

Cervantes

Cervantes

Cervantes

Excerpt

IN ALCALÁ DE HENARES THE HEAT WAS STILL OPPRESSIVE DURING the last days of September, 1547. The citizens fanned themselves as they sat in the shaded patios of their low homes under a bright blue sky like a Velasquez background and sipped their wine, which smelled of fish, or their honeyflavored aloja . This city in which they lived was a city of Renaissance towers and their minds sparkled with the light of Renaissance life as synthesized in the harmonies of their plateresque university. They were contented people. They felt life had something to give them and that they had something to give life. As they took their customary stroll at sundown, they exchanged views across the narrow street with a freedom of expression and comment that few countries save Spain tolerated in the sixteenth century.

News traveled slowly; yet Alcalá had not a little to keep tongues wagging. It kept pouring in all the time. Soldiers arrived from the wars. Ex-captives or pretended ex-captives from Algiers, who made a good thing of exhibiting their scars and embellishing their tales for the benefit of the credulous devout, came and went. The passing pilgrim took time off from his devotions to repeat a little gossip. And the retinue of some circuit judge sent from the court to dispense stern justice brought the latest news from the capital.

Tongues ranged over a vast and far-flung territory. The Emperor's realms extended around the globe. Charles V was King of Naplesand Sicily, Duke of Milan, Lord of Franche Comte and the Low Countries. His overseas dominions ranged from the Cape Verde Islands and the Canaries, from Tunis and Oran to the West Indies . . .

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