Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

Excerpts from Monarch Notes Guide to Don Quixote

Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

Excerpts from Monarch Notes Guide to Don Quixote

Article excerpt

Cervantes' Don Quixote. New York: Monarch, 1975, long out of print and hard to find.

Cervantes' Literary Career

The evolution of Cervantes' novelistic technique has never been satisfactorily delineated by literary critics and historians. It has often perplexed critics to note that Cervantes' first work, La Galatea (1585), is an example of the highly artificial and imitative genre of the pastoral novel, and that he refers several times throughout the rest of his life to a "second part," in which he seems to have been interested even as he was writing Don Quixote. The curate finds a copy of La Galatea in the course of his scrutiny of Don Quixote's library, and concludes that "we must wait for the second part which he [Cervantes] promises," and in the Prologue to Don Quixote II, and even in the Dedication of his Persiles, he is still promising the reader this continuation of La Galatea. The problem for criticism is of course the reconciliation of this affection for the stylized and artificial pastoral in the author who created the modern realistic novel. It is in fact Cervantes himself who first points out the artificiality of the genre, in one of his exemplary novels, "The Colloquy of the Dogs," when Berganza brings up the discrepancy between the lives of real shepherds and those books "dreamed up and well written for the entertainment of idle folks, and not true al all." Two aspects of the pastoral novel may have attracted Cervantes. First, it constituted an established genre and therefore a logical vehicle for a writer's apprenticeship, and one which combined prose and verse, thus afford a place for the poetry which Cervantes very much wanted to write successfully. Second, it also afforded the opportunity for a degree of psychological penetration in the characters' introspective laments.

Cervantes' Interest in Delusion.

After publishing La Galatea at thirty-eight years of age, Cervantes published nothing further until 1605, when Don Quixote appeared. Yet, extraordinarily, this book, published when he was fifty-eight, was only the beginning of his real literary legacy. In 1613 his Exemplary Novels appeared, establishing Cervantes as the founder of the modern Spanish short story. Although the influence of the Italian novellieri can be seem in some of these stories, the best of the collection, "Rinconete and Cortadillo," "The Deceitful Marriage," "The Colloquy of the Dogs," are entirely original in content, conception, and style. "Rinconete and Cortadillo" and "The Colloquy of the Dogs" each share some characteristics with the picaresque novel, though neither falls entirely within the genre. Another of the stories in this group, "The Man of Glass," reflects the interest in madness and delusion which is so important in the creation of Don Quixote. There are twelve stories in all, which critics tend to divide roughly in half, one group of realistic stories contrasting with another of romantic, Italianate tales.

In 1615 both Don Quixote II and Eight Comedies and Eight Interludes appeared. The eight plays, never produced, reveal Cervantes' attempt to come to terms with the new conditions which Lope de Vega's outstanding talent and prolificness had imposed upon the theater. The plays in this volume are all of the Lopean, three-act construction, as opposed to Cervantes' earlier predilection for four or five acts. They are quite overshadowed by the interludes published with them. These are brief, farcical pieces in prose or verse which were presented between the acts of full-length Golden Age plays, and Cervantes is the acknowledged master of the genre. His interludes are often presented even today.

An Unresolved Dilemma.

Cervantes' last prose work, The Hardships of Persiles and Sigismunda, published posthumously in 1617, presents another enigma for the critics. Why, after creating the modern realistic novel, did Cervantes turn again to a stylized and artificial genre, this time the so-called Byzantine novel of Heliodorus, a Greek author of the fourth century, A. …

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