certain unmerciful Yanguesians Wednesday, Jun 6 2007 

We find in this chapter several interesting passages which in no way together form a central thesis of this post.

One: DQ and SP ride into the woods and find respite in a verdant oasis. In this same valley, a drove of Gallician fillies are feeding not far from our hero’s convenient spot. Rozinante

seized with an inclination to solace himself with some of those skittish females, no sooner had them in the wind, than deviating from his natural disposition and accustomed deliberation, without asking leave of his lord and master, he went off at a small trot, to communicate his occasions to the objects of his desire.

So it seems that the emotions of love and desire which grip the shepherds are the same as those suffered by DQ’s horse. And the same misperception of reality which characterizes DQ also characterizes his horse.

Two: When DQ suggests that SP fight against anyone who is not a knight, Sancho replies,

“Sir, I am a quiet, meek, peaceable man, and can digest any injury, be it never so hard; for, I have a wife and small children to maintain and bring up: wherefore, let me also apprize, (tho’ I cannot lay my commands upon your worship) that I will in no shape whatever, use my sword against either knight or knave; and that henceforward, in the fight of God, I forgive all injuries, past, present, or to come, which I have already received, at this present time suffer, or may hereafter undergo, from any person whatsoever, high or low, rich or poor, gentle or simple, without exception to rank or circumstance.”

Liberally sprinkling his speech with qualifying clauses, Sancho sounds just like a lawyer.

Three: After they have been thrashed by the unmerciful Yanguesian carriers, DQ decides they must seek out a castle where they can rest and recuperate. Rozinante, however, has been equally thrashed, and so DQ finds in the tale of Silenus entering Thebes upon an ass the legitamacy for his riding Sancho’s ass. This gives Sancho his first opportunity to display his sparkling and biting wit:

“It may be very true, that he rode upon an ass, replied Sancho, but, there is some difference, I apprehend, between riding and lying across the beast like a bag of dirt.”


fierce basilisk of these mountains Wednesday, Jun 6 2007 

When we finished reading Marcella’s defense, a magnificent speech on beauty and love, we had to return to the beginning of Vol.I, 2:4 and reread in full the story of Marcella. It is told quite thoroughly by the goatherd, with all necessary background, and then later the specifics are addressed individually and in detail by Marcella herself with almost no difference from the goatherd’s account. She makes plain Chrysostom’s folly.

We enjoyed the description of the dead shepherd’s malady:

“Chrysostom was woundily in love.”

What is Marcella’s crime?

“for, her affability and beauty allures all the hearts of those that converse with her to serve and love her; but, her coyness and plain-dealing drives them even to the borders of despair; therefore, they know not what to say, but, upbraid her with cruelty and ingratitude….”

Chrysostom goes into voluntary exile to forget about Marcella, but instead he writes a song of despair, and finds himself

harassed by groundless jealousy and imaginary fears, which tormented him as much as if they had been real….

He is lionized by his fellow shepherds for all this; yet when DQ describes his vision of chivalry and mission of knight-errantry, these same shepherds think he has lost his wits. Clearly Chrysostom’s and all the shepherds’ confusion of reality and imagination are no different than DQ’s.

Finally, to address an earlier comment in which Sylvia wrote that in DQ’s pursuit of Marcella,

I have no doubt that his intentions were no more honourable than those of the “shepherds.”

We do not find any evidence that DQ’s devotion to Dulcinea has lapsed, either when told about Marcella, or when she appears. After he hears about her, and before the funeral of Chrysostom, DQ

spent the greatest part of the night in thinking of his lady Dulcinea, in imitation of Marcella’s lovers.

He then spends some time expounding on every knight’s requirement of a mistress. In the midst of this episode, when asked to identify his mistress, DQ states that her name is Dulcinea. At the end of the chapter, DQ goes in pursuit of Marcella, not because he has been beguiled by her beauty and fallen woundily in love, forgotful of Dulcinea, but because he

thought this a proper occasion for exercizing his chivalry, in defence of distressed damsels….

This is entirely consistent with his normal mindset, and does not seem at all to suggest that he has been allured to serve and love her like the shepherds.

the sun and mirrour of Manchegan chivalry Tuesday, May 29 2007 

The author/narrator doesn’t seem to believe that Don Quixote is mad. In Chapter One of Book Two he explains how the conclusion to the combat between Don Quixote and the gallant Biscayan was missing from his source material, and he states,

…it seemed impossible, and contrary to every laudable custom, that such an excellent knight should be unprovided with some sage to undertake the history of his unheard-of exploits….

He goes further in his praise, while expressing his desire to know the complete history of Don Quixote,

the first who in this our age, and these degenerate times, undertook the toil and exercise of errantry and arms, to redress grievances, support the widow, and protect those damsels who stroll about with whip and palfrey, from hill to hill, and from dale to dale, on the strength of their virginity alone; …that for these and many other considerations, our gallant Don Quixote merits incessant and immortal praise….

So who exactly is this narrator, perhaps three times removed from the actual events? Is he meant to be Cervantes himself? And is he being facetious, or does he know a truth about Don Quixote which all the other characters in the book fail to recognise or understand?

After Don Quixote fells the gallant Biscayan, and the ladies of the coach beg for mercy, he demands that the Biscayan

“…go strait to Toboso, and present himself, in my behalf, before the unparalelled Donna Dulcinea, that she may use him according to her good pleasure.”

I will be interested to find out, first, if any of those he vanquishes actually do go to present themselves before Dulcinea, and, second, what happens when all these folks are running around looking for some Dulcinea del Toboso who doesn’t exist.

The Shepherdess and her Sheep Monday, May 28 2007 

“I was born free, and in order to live free I chose the solitude of the countryside.”

I loved the chapters in Don Quixote about Marcela the “shepherdess” and all the heart-broken “shepherds” who chased her in vain. Then, as now, people couldn’t believe that a woman, especially a beautiful woman, would choose a life of her own instead of marriage. Judging by the fools who wooed her, I’m not in the least surprised at her choice! These well-to-do, supposedly intelligent men, students at university at Salamanca, traded their academic’s robes for shepherd’s clothes as soon as they caught sight of Marcela tending her flock. Were they were attracted more by her beauty or her wealth? Certainly they felt entitled to a shot at both, and were deeply offended (apparently to the point of death for one of them) when she refused them all. If she is such a prize, she must be won by someone, right? No, she insisted on belonging only to herself, and this threw the social order into disorder and madness, bringing much opprobrium upon herself as a result.

If you read my last post on mimetic desire you probably picked up on that dynamic here. First Grisóstomo imitates Marcela by dressing as a shepherd. But what sets him off? He begins to desire after inheriting the second-largest estate in the vicinity—Marcela’s is the only one larger. He must marry her if he wants to be top dog, so he gives chase. All the other bachelors no doubt see that by wooing Marcela they can overleap Grisóstomo in status, so they imitate him with enthusiasm. The chances that any of them really care or desire Marcela for herself are minute, and she seems to know it.  She has no intention of becoming a trophy wife and greatly prefers “the solitude of the countryside” and “the honest conversation of the shepherdesses” to the finery and flattery of society. The fact that the spurned “shepherds” malign her completes the mimetic triangle—the struggle between rivals often ends in the destruction of the object of desire, which reveals the false nature of that desire. Though the shepherds don’t threaten Marcela physically, they do their best to destroy her reputation and go so far as to accuse her of murder.

The comic finale to the section is when Don Quixote threatens anyone who would dare to follow her, and then proceeds to follow her himself, supposedly to offer his assistance to that damsel in distress. As I read in later chapters, his devotion to Dulcinea can lapse at convenient moments, so I have no doubt that his intentions were no more honourable than those of the “shepherds.” (There is much that could be said on the topic of virtue in this book.) Luckily Marcela manages to give him the slip, and Don Quixote’s “adventures” continue, as before, with another bruising.