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

The Epistemic and Emotive Foundations of Sancho

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

The Epistemic and Emotive Foundations of Sancho

Article excerpt

The variety of critical opinions regarding Sancho is staggering. For some, he is a hero-like companion. R. M. Flores, for instance, sees Sancho as a heroic squire when he compares him to Sam Gangee in The Lord of the Rings (106-112), arguing that "in this manner we can finally and distinctly perceive the true image of Sancho reflected by the magic looking glass of Tolkienian lore [in the figure of Sam]" (112). For others, such as Ciriaco Moron Arroyo, Sancho's character leaves much to be desired: "Sancho es mero sentido sin entendimiento" (338). Moron Arroyo later adds to this negative assessment by arguing that Sancho's merely being a squire "es como un pecado mortal" (344). Some of Sancho's adventures, such as the baciyelmo episode, have been analyzed from various--and often mutually opposing--perspectives. (1) Such debates about the nature of the baciyelmo can have a direct impact on our understanding of the squire because he is the character who named the object. As Moron Arroyo rightly notes, "el baciyelmo lo crea Sancho [...] no Cervantes" (340).

My purpose here is not try to take sides on these ongoing debates, but rather to offer a new area of exploration: to look at Sancho from the perspective of his knowledge and emotions in order to clarify a particular area of Cervantes's creative process. In other words, this essay is an attempt to explain Cervantes's talents as an epistemologist, particularly as this relates to Sancho, an area of study that seems not to have received all the attention it deserves. (2)

There are two additional reasons why such an investigation is useful. First, it answers a perplexing question: Given that the knight is crazy from the start of the novel, why does Sancho believe Don Quixote and thus agree to serve him? Second, such an investigation complements what some critics have said about the foundations of Sancho's character. More specifically, Anthony Close and Eduardo Urbina have shown that Sancho forms part of various literary traditions, the former arguing that he forms part of the traditions of the simpleton and the court-jester, with the latter focusing on the influences of the Arthurian dwarf and the literary squire. However, there must be some aspects of Sancho's character that apply only to him because even though it is true that he form parts of several literary traditions, it is also clear that he is unique. It is safe to say that in the history of literature, there has been only one Sancho. This essay argues that Cervantes combined epistemic principles and emotions in the squire in a peculiar way when he created him; therefore, by studying Sancho from this perspective we can appreciate in more detail Cervantes's great talent as an epistemologist.

SANCHO'S BASIC EPISTEMIC PRINCIPLE

Cervantes was fond of dealing with strange epistemic situations in his writings. In "El licenciado Vidriera" we have a man who thinks that he is made of glass, and the rest of the tale is an elaboration of that basic belief. In El retablo de las maravillas we have a situation where only those with pure blood will be able to see what happens on an empty stage. In "El coloquio de los perros," two dogs can talk and they try to make sense of that amazing fact. As a final example, we have Don Quixote himself, a character who believes that all he reads in his library is true, and the novel is the narration of the events that are brought about by his conviction. Sancho fits this pattern of strange epistemology because there is one fact about him in part one that is truly unique within the world of the novel: from the start of the tale he does not realize that his master is crazy and continues to serve him. (3) More specifically, if Sancho had realized that his master is crazy, then it is reasonable to say that he would not have gone to serve him. Instead, it is reasonable to maintain that he would have thought something along these lines: "This man is crazy; therefore his promise of a kingdom is crazy (or vice-versa: his promise of a kingdom proves that he is crazy); it is best to go home because serving him is likely a waste of time. …

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