Cervantes in England (1905)




Read January 25, 1905

In Commemoration of the Tercentenary of ‘Don Quixote

Lord Reay, Your Excellencies, and Gentlemen:

My first duty is to express to the Council and to the members of the British Academy my thanks for the distinguished honour which they have done me in inviting me to address them on this occasion of high international interest; and my second duty is to deliver to you. Lord Reay, a message from your learned brethren who form the Royal Academy of Spain. As a member of that ancient and illustrious body, desirous of associating itself with your proceedings today, it falls to me to act as its spokesman, and to convey to you its fraternal greetings as well as its grateful recognition of the prompt enthusiasm which has impelled you to take the lead in honouring the most famous literary genius that Spain can boast. You have met together here to do homage to one of the great men of the world, and to commemorate the publication of the book with which he endowed mankind just three hundred years ago. It is in strict accordance with historic tradition that you, as the official representatives of British culture, should be the first learned body in Europe to celebrate this tercentenary, and I propose to show that, since the first decade of the seventeenth century, this country has been foremost in paying tribute to an amazing masterpiece. The work has survived, no doubt, by virtue of its intrinsic and transcendent merits; but, like every other creation, it has had to struggle for existence, and it is gratifying to us to remember that British insight, British appreciation, British scholarship, and British munificence have contributed towards the speedier recognition of Cervantes’s genius. I will ask your permission, my Lord, to demonstrate this restricted thesis instead of taking you and your colleagues through the labyrinth of aesthetic criticism for which the subtle ingenuity of three centuries is responsible. But it may not be out of place to begin with a few words concerning the author of Don Quixote and the circumstances in which his romance was produced. 

Many alleged incidents in his picturesque career have afforded subjects to poets and dramatists and painters; but these are exercises in the domain of imagination, and the briefest summary of ascertained facts will be more to my purpose. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born at Alcala de Henares in 1547. The son of a humble apothecary-surgeon, without a university degree, and constantly wandering from town to town in search of patients, Cervantes cannot well have received a systematic education; but we really know nothing of his youth except that, at some date previous to 1569, he composed copies of mediocre verses dedicated to Philip the Second’s wife, Isabel de Valois. He is next heard of as chamberlain to the future Cardinal Acquaviva at Rome; thence he passed into the army, fought under Don John of Austria at Lepanto (where he received the wound in his left hand which was to be a source of greater pride to him than any of his writings), shared in the Navarino and Tunis campaigns, and, after five years of service, set sail for Spain to seek promotion. He was captured by Moorish pirates on September 26, 1575, and was carried into Algiers, where his heroic conduct won him — not only the admiration of his fellow prisoners, but — the respect of his taskmasters. After nearly five years of slavery in Algiers, during which period he wrote verses (some of which have been preserved), he was ransomed on September 19, 1580, returned to Spain, was apparently employed in Portugal, married at the end of 1584, and in the following year published the First Part of an artificial and ambitious pastoral romance, La Galatea. At this time he was writing numerous plays which, so he tells us, won popular favour; evidently they were not so successful as their author imagined in his retrospect, for in 1587 Cervantes sought and found less congenial occupation in collecting provisions for the Invincible Armada. It was ill-paid work, but it gave him bread, while literature and the drama did not. This is his first association with England, and it was no fault of his if the equipment of the Armada was not complete, for he perquisitioned with such tempestuous zeal as to incur a threat of excommunication from the ecclesiastics whose stores he seized. He remained in the public service as collector of revenues, not greatly to his own satisfaction (to judge by his application for one of four posts vacant in America), and not altogether to the satisfaction of his official superiors (to judge from the fact that he was imprisoned at Seville in 1597 for irregularities in his accounts). He was soon released, but apparently was not reinstated. We cannot wonder at this: he had not the talent for routine. 

The next six or seven years must have been the dreariest period of Cervantes’s life. He lingered on in Seville, to all seeming ruined beyond hope. But he was not embittered: ex forti dulcedo. The alchemy of his genius was now free to work, free to transmute his personal misfortunes into ore more precious than that which the Spanish argosies brought from the mines of Potosi. In the Triana and other poor quarters of Seville, he had daily opportunities of studying the originals of Gines de Pasamonte and of Rinconete and Cortadillo, two diverting picaroons who perhaps came into existence before Sancho Panza; and in Seville, from 1597 to 1603, he had time to compare the dreams of life with its realities. All unconsciously he had undergone an admirable preparation for the task which lay before him. The vicissitudes of his troubled existence constituted an inexhaustible intellectual capital. To any ordinary eye they might seem a collection of unmanageable dross, but the man of genius wields a divining-rod which leads him through the dusk to the spot where the hidden treasure lies; and so it happened with Cervantes. In the course of his long rides, collecting the King’s taxes, he had observed the personages whom he has presented so vividly as to make them real to each of us three hundred years afterwards. It is the paramount faculty of imaginative creation to force us to see through the medium of its transfiguring vision, and we have the privilege of knowing Spain in Cervantes’s transcription of it. We accompany him in those journeys across baking plains and sterile mountains and we meet the characters with whom he was familiar. We cannot doubt that he had encountered innkeepers who could cap a quotation from an ancient ballad, and who delighted in the incredible adventures of Cirongilio of Thrace or of Felixmarte of Hircania; demure Toledan silk-mercers on the road to Murcia, with their sunshades up to protect them against the heat; barbers who preferred Galaor to his more famous brother Amadis of Gaul, and who were pleased to have Ariosto on their shelves even though they could not read him; Benedictine monks peering through their travelling spectacles from the backs of mules as tall as dromedaries; canons far better acquainted with the romances of chivalry than with Villalpando’s treatise on logic; amorous and noble youths from Aragon, disguised as muleteers; and perhaps a poor oldfashioned gentleman who in some solitary hamlet pored and pored over tales of chivalrous deeds till he persuaded himself that he was born to repeat these exploits and to restore the golden age — that happy time when maleficent giants were neatly divided at the waist by knights whose hearts were pure, and who themselves avoided similar inconveniences by timely recourse to Fierabras’s inestimable balsam, two drops of which joined to a nicety the severed halves of a bisected paladin. 

The time was coming when these casual acquaintances, embellished by the sunniest humour and most urbane irony, were to find place in Cervantes’s rich portrait-gallery and were to be his glory as well as our delight. While he was giving artistic form to his reminiscences as chamberlain, soldier, slave, poet, romancer, dramatist, tax-gatherer, and broken wanderer, his knowledge of life was continually extending. The Treasury was constantly upon his track. What actually took place is somewhat obscure: Cervantes was (probably) imprisoned once more in 1598 and (almost certainly) again in 1601-2. It may have been in Seville jail that he began to write what he describes as a story ‘full of thoughts of all sorts and such as never came into any other imagination — just what might be begotten in a prison, where every misery is lodged and every doleful sound makes its dwelling.’ What is certain is that early in 1603 he was ordered to appear before the Exchequer Court there to produce his vouchers and explain his confused accounts. It was the most fortunate thing that could have happened to him. We may be tolerably sure that the loose bookkeeping which had perplexed the Treasury clerks for years was not made clear in an instant, and that Cervantes’s examination was prolonged over a considerable period; and it seems likely that, on one of his journeys to and fro between Seville and Valladolid, he disposed of a manuscript which had passed through many hands before it found a publisher. This was the manuscript of Don Quixote. 

The internal evidence of the book shows that Cervantes began hesitatingly and tentatively, intending to write a comparatively short story about a simple-hearted country-gentleman, mooning his years away in some secluded hamlet till his craze for chivalrous adventures led him into absurd situations which invited description in a spirit of broad farce. The opening words of the sixth chapter — El qual dormia — are awkwardly carried on from the fifth chapter, and they go to show that no division of material was originally contemplated. Moreover, we may say with some confidence that the existence of the accomplished Sancho Panza is the result of an afterthought; the idea probably occurred to Cervantes just after penning the innkeeper’s statement that knights were commonly attended by squires. And it is curious to remark that the author fails at first to visualize the figure of Sancho Panza; he falters in the attempt to draw the short, ventripotent rustic, and as late as the ninth chapter describes him as tall and long-shanked. A long-shanked Sancho! One would have said that such a being was inconceivable had not his creator first seen him in that strange form. 

The writer’s primary aim was to parody a class of literature which, though no longer so much appreciated at court as in the days of Juan de Valdes, or at the time when it seemed natural to call California after the griffin-haunted island in Las Sergas de Esplandian still had its admirers in the provinces; and the parody is wholly admirable. But a mere parodist, as such, courts and even condemns himself to oblivion, and, almost necessarily, the more complete his success, the sooner he is forgotten by all save students: the books which he ridicules perish, and the burlesque dies with them. The very fact that Don Quixote survives is proof that it outgrew the author’s intention. Cervantes himself informs us that his book is, ‘from beginning to end, an attack upon the romances of chivalry,’ and we have no reason to justify us in rejecting this statement. Still we must interpret it in relation to other matters. Cervantes can never have meant to destroy so excellent an example of the feudal prose epic as Amadis de Gaula, a long romance which he must have known almost by heart: for in the twentieth chapter he draws attention to the minute circumstance that the taciturn Gasabel, the squire of Galaor, ‘ is only named once in the whole of that history, as long as it is truthful.’ And no man charges his memory with precise details of what he considers a mass of grotesque extravagances, of egotistical folly, and vapouring rant. The extravagances, the folly, and the rant which disfigure the works of such writers as Feliciano de Silva are destroyed for ever. What was sound and wholesome in the tales of chivalry is preserved in Don Quixote: preserved, illuminated, and ennobled by a puissant imagination playing upon a marvellously rich experience. 

The Manchegan madman has his delusions, but he is deluded on one point only: in all other respects he touches the realities of life and he remains a perpetual model of conduct, dignified in disaster, magnanimous in victory, keen in perception, subtle in argument, wise in counsel. With him goes, as a foil to heroism, Sancho Panza, that embodiment of calculating cowardice, malicious humour, and prosaic common sense. This association of the man abounding in ideas with the slower-witted, vulgar, practical person, vaguely recalls the partnership of Peisthetairos and Euelpides; and Aristophanes himself has no happier touch than that which exhibits Sancho Panza, aware that his master is too mad to be depended on in any other matter, but yet convinced that he may certainly be trusted to provide the unnamed nebulous island which the shrewd, droll villager feels a statesmanlike vocation to govern. Can we wonder that the appearance of this enchanting pair was hailed with delight when the history of their sallies was published at Madrid early in 1605? We know that it was ‘the book of the year,’ that within some six months there were pirated editions in Portugal, a second edition in Madrid, a provincial edition at Valencia, and that by June people in Valladolid spoke of the adventurous knight and his squire as though both were proverbial characters. Other contemporary novels — Guzman de Alfarache, for instance — may have had a larger circulation; but the picaroon Guzman was (by comparison) merely the comet of a season, while the renown of the Ingenious Gentleman is more universal today than it has ever been. His fame soon spread beyond the Pyrenees, and in 1607 a Brussels publisher reprinted the original to meet the demands of the Spaniards in the Low Countries. The book was thus brought within reach of readers in the north of Europe, and they lost no time in profiting by their opportunity. There are signs of Don Quixote in France as early as 1608, but we may neglect them today, more especially as there are still earlier traces of the book in this country. 

We read of Richard Coeur-de-Lion helping to defend Santarem against the Moors, of the Black Prince’s battles in Spain, of two or three thousand English pilgrims yearly visiting the shrine of Santiago de Compostela. But the literary connexion between the Peninsula and England was slight. Early in the fifteenth century Clemente Sanchez de Vercial translated Odo of Cheriton’s Narrationes under the title of El libro de los gatos; the Speculum Laicorum, an adaptation of Odo of Cheriton’s work commonly ascribed to John Hoveden, was translated into Spanish at about the same period; then too Gower’s Confessio Amantis was translated into Portuguese by Robert Payne, Canon of Lisbon, and, later, into Spanish by Juan de Cuenca; and the distinguished poet Francisco Imperial introduces English words into his verses. These few examples imply no great acquaintance with English literature, and we may say that there was practically no knowledge of Spanish literature in England till the beginning of the sixteenth century, when, in the year following the publication of Amadis de Gaula, Henry the Eighth married Catharine of Aragon. Spanish scholars visited London and Oxford, and though, as in the case of Vives, they may have censured some of the most popular Spanish books of the time, intercourse with them must naturally have awakened interest in the literature of their country. The results were seen in Lord Bemers’s renderings of works by Fernandez de San Pedro and Guevara, and Guevara found other translators in the persons of Bryan, North, Fenton, and Hellowes. Santillana was done into English by Barnabe Googe, who had already given versions of poems by Montemayor, Boscan, and Garcilaso de la Vega; Abraham Fraunce quoted the two latter poets in The Arcadian Rhetorike, Sidney versified songs by Montemayor, and there are translations of such devout writers as Luis de Granada. With histories, technical works and the like, I am not concerned here. It is more to our purpose to note that Amadis de Gaula was translated by Anthony Munday in 1589-95, and that it pleased readers to identify Gaula with Wales and to discover in the romance places so familiar to them as London, Windsor, and Bristol. Part of an earlier version by Lord Lennox exists in manuscript. 

The ground was thus prepared for Cervantes, and the new parody of knight-errantry was certain to charm those who regretted that Chaucer’s tale of Sir Thopas had been so brusquely interrupted. In the very year that the Brussels edition made Don Quixote more easily available a translation of the book was begun by Thomas Shelton, finished in forty days, and then laid aside for four or five years; and that there were other more or less attentive readers of Don Quixote is shown by many passages in contemporary authors — passages which have been collected by investigators like Emil Koeppel. George Wilkins, though possibly responsible for the rough sketches elaborated by a far greater artist into Timon of Athens and Pericles, is not precisely a writer of impressive independence and originality: rather, indeed, is he one whose eyes are constantly on the weathercock, watching the direction of the popular breeze. It is therefore all the more significant that in the third act of The Miseries of Inforst Marriage, a play given in 1607, Wilkins should make the tipsy braggart William Scarborow say: 

Boy, bear the torch fair: now am I armed to fight with a windmill, and to take the wall of an emperor. 

‘To fight with a windmill!’ The expression betrays its source; it would be unmeaning to any one unacquainted with the eighth chapter in which Cervantes describes Don Quixote’s terrible adventure with the giants whom the wizard Friston had transformed into windmills upon the plain leading to Puerto Lapice. Wilkins was not the man to write above the heads of his audiences, and he clearly believed that they would catch the point of the allusion. The experiment was evidently successful, for, in the following year, Middleton repeated it in the fourth act of Your Fair Gallants presenting Pyamont exasperated at the loss of his forty pounds and furiously declaring:

I could fight with a windmill now. 

A year or two passes and (probably about 1610) Ben Jonson in the fourth act of The Epicene causes Truewit to address Sir Dauphine Eugenie in these terms:  

You must leave to live in your chamber, then, a month together upon Amadis de Gaul, or Don Quixote, as you are wont. 

Manifestly the knight’s reputation was made, for within three years he took rank as the equal of his great predecessor, Amadis de Gaula, whose penance on the Pena Pobre (a locality which has been identified with the island of Jersey) he had imitated with such gusto on the Sierra Morena. That the reference was seized by the public is plain from its repetition next year by the same dramatist in the fourth act of The Alchemist, where Kastril vilifies Drugger as

a pimp and a trig.
And an Amadis de Gaul, or a Don Quixote. 

To about this date (1611) is assigned the composition of Fletcher’s Coxcomb and Nathaniel Field’s Amends for Ladies, which are both based upon the story of the Curious Impertinent interpolated in Chapters XXXIII-XXXV of Don Quixote. You may perhaps remember that Lothario compares Anselmo’s wife, Camila, to ‘a diamond of the first water, whose excellence and purity had satisfied all the lapidaries that had seen it.’ Field preserves the simile in one of the speeches allotted to Sir John Love-all:  

To the unskilful owner’s eyes alike
The Bristow sparkles as the diamond.
But by a lapidary the truth is found. 

This same episode of the Curious Impertinent, which Lessing and other critics have found tedious, furnished the theme of The Second Maid’s Tragedy, a play variously ascribed to Goughe, to Chapman, to Shakespeare, and— with more probability — to Massinger and Tourneur: and here again the simile of the virtuous woman and the diamond is reproduced. Shelton’s translation was printed in 1612, and was speedily followed by a very frank adaptation of Don Quixote in The Knight of the Burning Pestle. Fletcher makes no attempt to disguise the source of his piece: but it is amusing to observe his anxiety to assure his public that he knows Spanish too well to need Shelton’s rendering, and that in fact his play had been completed a year before the prose version was published. In 1613 Robert Anton closes his Moriomachia with a reference to ‘ Mambrinoes inchaunted helmet ‘; and both the knight and the squire are mentioned later in Drayton’s Nimphidia. 

This record is not meagre; but, since the ascription to Shakespeare of The Second Maid’s Tragedy is no longer maintained by any competent scholar, one mighty name is missing from the bederoll. Did Shakespeare know Don Quixote? The question is constantly asked, and the usual answer is that he could not have read the book because he knew no Spanish. I am reminded of the advice given to a newly appointed judge whose knowledge of law was rusty: ‘ Give your decision and it may be right; never give your reasons, for they are sure to be wrong.’ I do not dwell on the passage in Much Ado About Nothing which recalls Lazarillo de Tormes, nor on the points of resemblance between Montemayor’s Diana and the Two Gentlemen of Verona: they do not necessarily imply a knowledge of Spanish. But it is certain that Shakespeare might easily have known Don Quixote without knowing Spanish, for Shelton’s version was in print four years before Shakespeare died. Apart from this, however, the longer one lives the more chary one becomes of committing oneself to absolute statements as to what Shakespeare did, or did not, know. He may not have been an expert in Spanish: probably he was not. But he seems to have known enough to read a collection of dull stories published at Pamplona in 1609, and at Antwerp in 1610. This volume, never translated (so far as is known) into any other language, is the Noches de lnvierno of Antonio de Eslava, and the title of A Winter’s Tale is obviously taken from the title of the Spanish book. This, if it stood alone, might be explained away as an instance of unconscious reminiscence. However, as we have lately learned — from Dr. Garnett, amongst others — Shakespeare’s debt to Spain goes much beyond the mere borrowing of a title: for, from the fourth chapter of the Primera Noche de Invierno comes the plot of The Tempest, Prospero of Milan and his daughter Miranda being substituted for Dardano of Bulgaria and his daughter Serafina. All things considered, perhaps we should not dismiss too cavalierly a belated entry in the register of the Stationers’ Company: ‘ The History of Cardenio by Mr. Fletcher and Shakespeare, 20s.’ The lateness of the date (1653) deprives this entry of authority, and, as the play has vanished, it is impossible to discuss the question of its attribution; but we may plausibly conjecture that Shakespeare, or some younger contemporary, found material for yet another drama in the story told to Don Quixote by the tattered, distraught Andalusian gentleman whom he met wandering near the Venta de Cardenas on the northern slope of the Sierra Morena. 

Meanwhile, though the presses of Spain, Italy, and the Low Countries continued to issue reprints of the original in 1608, 1610, and 1611 respectively, the author was in no haste to publish the continuation mentioned at the end of the First Part. There we are told that an academician of Argamasilla had succeeded in deciphering certain parchments containing Castilian verses, ‘ and that he means to publish them in hopes of Don Quixote’s third sally.’ The promise is vague, and, such as it is, the pious aspiration is perhaps neutralized by a final ambiguous verse from the Orlando furioso:  

Forse altri cantera con miglior plettro. 

These concluding sentences have given rise to so much controversy that I shall be justified in dwelling upon them for a moment. If we consider the text and the quotation from Ariosto together, the passage may be taken to mean that any one who chose was welcome to continue the story, or it may be construed as an announcement of Cervantes’s intention to publish a sequel himself. Now, in view of what happened afterwards, the significance of these phrases may seem obvious; but we are not entitled to interpret them solely in the light of subsequent events. The questions for us to answer are two: what did Cervantes intend to convey when he wrote the passage? and what interpretation might his contemporaries fairly put upon it? If he meant that any other writer was free to publish a continuation of Don Quixote,  he had no cause for complaint when he was taken at his word. If he meant that he himself would issue the sequel, it is unfortunate that he did not say so with his customary plainness, and strange that he delayed so long in following up his triumph. 

It was not till 1613, more than eight years after the appearance of the First Part, that he publicly announced the sequel as forthcoming. Any honourable man who was already engaged upon a continuation would have laid his work aside and left the original author in possession of the field. Unluckily the idea of continuing Don Quixote had occurred to an unscrupulous writer. It is no easy task to be just, in this matter, to Cervantes and to his competitor; for, while Cervantes is, so to say, the personal friend of each man amongst us, his obscure rival has contrived to lose the respect of the whole world. But it is our duty to attempt it. In the first place, then, let us bear in mind that Cervantes was often almost as optimistic as Don Quixote; the conception of a book flashed into his brain, and he looked upon the composition as a mere detail. In this very prologue which announces the Second Part of Don Quixote, Cervantes announces two other books: Los Trabajos de Persies y Sigismunda, which appeared posthumously, and Las Semanas del Jardin, which never appeared at all. Elsewhere he promises works to be entitled, El Engano a las ojos and Bernardo, and these never appeared either. During thirty-one years, on five separate occasions, he promised the sequel to La Galatea, and that also never appeared. It has been argued that, in announcing the sequel to Don Quixote, Cervantes is fairly categorical; he promises it ‘ shortly ‘ (con brevedad). He undoubtedly does; but the words are of evil omen, for he used the same formula when he first promised the continuation of La Galatea. In the second place, we cannot infer (as we might in the case of a punctilious precisian who weighed his words carefully) that the Second Part of Don Quixote was nearly completed when Cervantes referred to it in the preface to his Novelas exemplares, which was licensed on July 2, 1612. Far from it! He may not have written even a chapter of it at that date; he had not written half of it on July 20, 1614, the memorable day on which the newly fledged Governor, Sancho Panza, dictated his letter to his wife Teresa. It follows that, if Cervantes worked at anything like a uniform rate of speed, he cannot have begun the sequel till about January, 1614. 

These circumstances, more or less attenuating, should be taken into consideration before passing sentence on Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda, who, in 1614, brought out a spurious continuation of Don Quixote, a clever, coarse performance, which, especially in Le Sage’s expanded version, has often been mistaken — by Pope, for instance, in the Essay on Criticism — for the authentic sequel, Avellaneda had a fair, or at least a plausible, case; but he completely ruined it by the ribaldry of his preface, in which he jeers at Cervantes’s misfortunes and alleged defects of character — his mutilation, his imprisonment, his poverty, his stammer, his jealousy, his lack of friends. These brutalities wounded Cervantes to the soul, and led him to conclude the Second Part of Don Quixote in all haste. Thus, quite unintentionally, the insolent railer probably saved the book from the fate which befell the sequel to La Galatea, and the other works already mentioned. Avellaneda deserves our ironical congratulations: he meant murder, but committed suicide. 

Within a year of his intrusion the genuine continuation of Don Quixote was published, and it amply disproved the truth of Sanson Carrasco’s remark: ‘Second Parts are never good.’ Goethe and Hallam preferred the First Part, and unquestionably the Second is but a splendid development of what preceded it. Coleridge draws a characteristic distinction: ‘Who can have courage to attempt a reversal of the judgement of all criticism against continuations? Let us except Don Quixote, however, although the Second Part of that transcendent work is not exactly uno flatu with the original conception.’ The First Part is the more humorous and fantastic, the Second Part is the more ingenious and artistic; but nobody has ever contended that this Second Part was ‘not good,’ with the single exception of Lamb, who was betrayed into this freakish outburst: ‘Marry, when somebody persuaded Cervantes that he meant only fun, and put him upon writing that unfortunate Second Part, with the confederacies of that unworthy Duke and most contemptible Duchess, Cervantes sacrificed his instinct to his understanding.’ ‘Sacrificed his instinct to his understanding!’ It may amount to a confession of ineptitude, but I confess I am not nearly so sure as I could wish to be that I catch the precise meaning of this expression, and I prefer not to take it too seriously. It occurs in a letter addressed to Southey, and perhaps not even the most judicial of us would care to abide by every word let fall in the careless freedom of private correspondence. At any rate posterity has not accepted Lamb’s emphatic verdict. Nor did the writer’s contemporaries and immediate successors find anything but praise for the story of Don Quixote’s later exploits. 

Cervantes lived just long enough to witness his triumph, and he needed all the solace that it could give him. Old and infirm, he was eclipsed in popular favour by the more dazzling and versatile genius of Lope de Vega, then in the meridian of his glory. We must distinguish between fame and popularity. Famous Cervantes was both in and out of Spain; he was not, like Lope, the idol of his countrymen. The greatest of all Spaniards, in life more than in death, Cervantes’s appeal was rather universal than national. He had survived most of his own generation, lived into a less heroic time, and, though he was no philosopher or sociologist, perhaps viewed with some misgivings the new society which had replaced the age of chivalry. 

He look’d on the rushing decay
Of the times which had shelter’d his youth
Felt the dissolving throes
Of a social order he loved
Outlived his brethren, his peers;
And, like the Theban seer.
Died in his enemies’ day. 

He died, in fact, on April 23, 1616 — nominally on the same day as Shakespeare, and we ask for nothing better than to be allowed to forget the difference between the calendars of Spain and England, and, adapting Homer, to say that in both countries the sun perished out of heaven at the same hour. 

Before long the Second Part of Don Quixote reached England in the Brussels edition of 1616. Probably the earliest trace of it occurs about 1619 in the fifth act of The Double Marriage, where Fletcher and Massinger introduce a scene between the courtier Castruccio and the doctor which is unmistakably modelled after the account in the forty-seventh chapter of Pedro Recio de Agüero’s attempt to deprive Sancho Panza of his dinner. In 1620 the sequel to Don Quixote was brought directly before the English public in Shelton’s translation, and in this same year Thomas May, in the first act of The Heir, after making Clarimont refer to ‘the unjust disdain of the lady Dulcinea del Toboso,’ describes Amadis de Gaula and Don Quixote as ‘ brave men whom neither enchantments, giants, windmills, nor flocks of sheep, could vanquish.’ This, of course, is from the First Part; but in 1620 Fletcher inserted one detail from the Second Part in The Pilgrim, and, in 1623, the second act of Massinger’s play The Duke of Milan reveals Mariana taunting her sister-in-law Marcelia with suffering from an issue: a reminiscence of the scandal about the Duchess confided to Don Quixote’s reluctant ear by Dona Rodriguez in the forty-eighth chapter of the Second Part. 

In the third decade of the seventeenth century writers in search of a theme sought it oftener in the Novelas exemplares than in Don Quixote. For instance, in 1621-2 Middleton and Rowley based The Spanish Gipsie on La Gitanilla and La Fuerza de la Sangre. A more assiduous follower of Cervantes was Fletcher, who in 1619 derived The Queen of Corinth from La Fuerza de la Sangre; in 1621, collaborating with Massinger, Fletcher based A Very Woman on El Amante liberal; in 1622 he inserted in The Beggars’ Bush some touches from La Gitanilla; in 1623, perhaps aided once more by Massinger, he produced Love’s Pilgrimage from Las dos Doncellas; in 1624 El Casamiento enganoso yielded him Rule a Wife and have a Wife; in 1625-6 he transformed La Ilustre Fregona into The Fair Maid of the Inn; in 1628 he went afield to take The Custom of the Country from Cervantes’s posthumous romance, Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda; but he returned later to the Novelas exemplares and dramatized La Senora Cornelia as The Chances. A still more convincing proof of English interest concerning Cervantes’s writings is afforded by the fact that Massinger in 1624 wrote The Renegade in view of the set drama entitled Los Banos de Argel, and The Fatal Dowry in 1632 showed a knowledge of the entremes entitled El Viejo celoso. It was comparatively easy for Fletcher to read the Novelas exemplares in the Brussels edition of 1614; but, as the volume of plays issued by Cervantes in 1615 was not reprinted till 1749, it is evident that Massinger must have taken the trouble to procure a copy of the Madrid princeps—a difficult matter at that date. 

This fashion ran its course, as you may read in the Master of Peterhouse’s admirable History of English Dramatic Literature; and, in due time, English writers went back to Don Quixote. In 1630 Davenant printed The Cruel Brother, borrowing from Cervantes the name of one personage and the characteristics of another:  

Lothario; a Country Gentleman
But now the Court Baboone, who persuades himselfe
(Out of a new kind of madness) to be
The Duke’s favourite. He comes. Th’ other is
A bundle of proverbs, whom he seduc’d
From the plough, to serve him for preferment. 

In 1635 an allusion to the ‘good knight of the ill favor’d Countenance’ is used to ornament the third act of The Lady Mother by Henry Glapthorne, a dramatist of no great repute, whose Wit in a Constable, published four years afterwards, contains Clare’s intimidating question to Sir Timothy Shallowwit:  

Is it you,
Sir Knight of the ill favor’ d face,
That would have me for your Dulcinea? 

In 1640 appeared James Mabbe’s fragmentary version of the Novelas exemplares which Godwin esteemed as ‘perhaps the most perfect specimen of prose in the English language.’ It is enough to call it admirable. But let me say frankly that I have two grudges against Mabbe: one because he omits six of the novels, perhaps the best in the collection: the other because, though he resided in Madrid from 1611 to 1613 as a member of Digby’s mission, he apparently took no trouble to meet Cervantes and gives us no information concerning him. Surely this is one of those rare cases in which all but the most austere of men would welcome a little ‘personal’ journalism. 

‘I have almost forgot my Spanish, but after a little may recover it,’ says Riches in Shirley’s masque A Contention for Honour and Riches, which dates from 1632; and perhaps Riches here speaks for the modest author. However that may be, Shirley knew enough Spanish to utilize Tirso de Molina in his Opportunity and Lope de Vega in The Young Admiral; hence it is not surprising that, when recasting his masque in 1652 under the title of Honoria and Mammon, he should introduce the ‘forehead of Dulcinea of Toboso ‘ into the fifth act. The Double Falsehood, based on Cardenio’s story and ascribed by Lewis Theobald to Shakespeare, has been conjecturally attributed to Shirley; but this is doubtful. During the Protectorate the only contribution specially interesting to the student of Cervantes is the curious, festive commentary by Gayton whose Pleasant Notesupon Don Quixote are still well worth reading. The Restoration was barely accomplished when in 1663 Butler launched the first part of Hudibras, a witty, pointed, violent lampoon written in imitation of Cervantes, but with blustering humour and rancorous jibes substituted for the serene grace and bland satire of the master. In 1671 Aphra Behn’s play The Amorous Prince showed how much that was objectionable could be infused into the story of the Curious Impertinent, but Aphra Behn was outdone in 1694 and 1696 by D’Urfey whose Comical History of Don Quixote provoked Collier’s famous Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage. It is one of life’s ironies that this fulminating protest should have been called forth by a work professedly derived from Cervantes who justly prided himself on the morality of his writings. 

D’Urfey was left to bear the burden of his sins: Cervantes’s vogue in England continued unchecked. Temple proclaimed Don Quixote to be, as satire, ‘the best and highest strain that ever has been, or will be, reached by that vein.’ Spence tells us that Orford’s inquiry whether Rowe knew Spanish led the latter to study the language, perhaps in the hope that it might lead to the Embassy at Madrid. Having mastered Spanish, Rowe announced the fact to Orford who drily said: ‘Then, sir, I envy you the pleasure of reading Don Quixote in the original.’ And no doubt Rowe did read it, and hence a line in The Fair Penitent which use has converted into a tag:  

Is this that haughty, gallant, gay Lothario? 

Addison gave a somewhat lukewarm allegiance to Cervantes in The Whig Examiner (No. 3) and in The Guardian (No. 135), as well as in The Spectator (Nos. 227 and 249), linking Don Quixote with Hudibras, and talking (not very acutely) of ‘mean Persons in the Accoutrements of Heroes.’ Steele did better when he promoted ‘the accomplish’d Spaniard’ to be patron of the Set of Sighers in the University of Oxford. In 1719 Arbuthnot unsuccessfully attempted to imitate Don Quixote in his short Life and Adventures of Don Bilioso de l’Estomac. Some biographers of Swift suggest that A Tale of a Tub is modelled upon Don Quixote; I see no trace of direct imitation, and nothing could be further apart than the Englishman’s splenetic gloom and the Spaniard’s delicate charm, but I admit that the unadorned diction and sustained irony of Swift recalls one of Cervantes’s many manners. 

A passage in the Characteristics of the third Earl of Shaftesbury is worth quoting: ‘Had I been a Spanish Cervantes and, with success equal to that comic Author, had destroyed the reigning taste of Gothic or Moorish Chivalry, I could afterwards contentedly have seen my burlesque itself despised and set aside.’ This utterance is interesting, for it implies that in 1703 Cervantes was still considered to be essentially a ‘comic Author.’ But a reference in The Dunciad to ‘Cervantes’s serious air’ shows that Pope had a truer insight into the significance of a book which, as I have already said, he began by reading in Le Sage’s amplification of Avellaneda. Henceforward, Cervantes becomes less and less regarded as a purely ‘comic Author.’ As far back as 1730 Fielding in the second act of The Coffee-House Politician declared that ‘the greatest part of Mankind labour under one delirium or another, and Don Quixote differed from the rest, not in Madness, but the species of it.’ Fielding’s play Don Quixote in England dates from 1734 and, poor as it is, it is a tribute to a great predecessor, a tribute paid more abundantly eight years later in the History and Adventures of Joseph Andrews where Parson Adams appears as an unmistakable descendant of Don Quixote’s. The Female Quixote, an imitation by Charlotte Lennox which was published in 1752, is praised by Fielding in the Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon, and was lauded by Samuel Johnson, who thought that Cervantes’s book had no superior but the Iliad. Sterne ranked Cervantes even above his other favourite, Rabelais, but we should have guessed this without Sterne’s personal assurance, for page after page of Tristram Shandy is redolent of Don Quixote. Though the title of The Adventures of Sir Launcelot Greaves proves that Smollett had the Spanish book in view, the imitation is wholly unworthy of the model, and in The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker the resemblance which we are told existed between Lieutenant Lismahago and the Knight of La Mancha is merely physical. Smollett’s imitative fiction is comparatively a failure but, as I shall show in an instant, he was a warm admirer of Don Quixote, and did Cervantes good service in another field. To that field I shall now turn, for The Spiritual Quixote of Richard Graves, published in 1773, and similar productions of this period have lost whatever interest they may once have had. 

During the eighteenth century there were numerous attempts in England to promote the serious study of Cervantes’s works by means which cannot fail to interest a learned audience. We have seen that the earliest translation of the First Part of Don Quixote was published at London in 1612 by Shelton: Shelton’s version of both parts was reprinted in 1731, and was also issued in a revised form by Captain John Stevens in 1700 and 1706. In 1687, Milton’s nephew, John Philips, had published a miserable travesty of the original, and in 1700 the French refugee, Peter Motteux, brought out a readable version, which is based on Shelton’s rendering, and checked by constant comparison with the French translation of Filleau de Saint-Martin. Motteux’ version, which included the earliest biographical sketch of Cervantes, is still reprinted, less on account of its own merits than because of the excellent preface which Lockhart wrote for it in 1822. But it was felt that these publications were unworthy of English scholarship. As Shelton was the first man to translate Don Quixote, so a London publisher, Jacob Tonson, was the first to produce a handsome edition of the original, which put to shame the sorry reprints issued in Spain and elsewhere. Tonson’s edition, published in 1738, was based upon the Brussels reimpressions of 1607 and 1611, was revised by Pedro de Pineda, and was preceded by the first formal biography of Cervantes ever issued. This life was written by the most eminent Spanish scholar of the age, Gregorio Mayans y Siscar, who received the commission from the English ex-Secretary of State, Lord Carteret. In 1742 the painter, Charles Jervas, published a new rendering of Don Quixote, in some important respects an advance on previous versions. Spence records Pope’s perfidious remark that his friend Jervas ‘translated Don Quixote without understanding Spanish.’ The charge is absurd: Jervas’s knowledge of Spanish is beyond cavil. His English style is thought inadequate by critics, and his rendering is neglected by his later rivals; but innumerable cheap reproductions prove that it satisfies a multitude of less exacting readers. Jervas’s version was likewise of great service to Smollett who utilized it extensively when engaged upon the translation which he issued in 1755; and the preface to this translation is exceptionally interesting, for here Smollett pointed out, six years before the point had occurred to any Spaniard, that the prisoner Cervantes, mentioned as a native of Alcala de Henares in Diego de Haedo’s Topografia e Historia de Argel, must be the author of Don Quixote. This detail, which was also made public at about the same time by Colonel Windham, practically settled the dispute as to Cervantes’s birthplace, A far more valuable contribution to students of Cervantes was the first commentary on Don Quixote ever published: this was issued in 1781 by John Bowie, vicar of Idmiston, who has done more to elucidate Cervantes’s masterpiece than any other commentator, with the possible exception of Clemencin. Envy and detraction did their worst in Barretti’s venomous Tolondron; but in vain, for all the world over ‘Don Bowie,’ as his friends affectionately called him, is held in honour by every student of Spanish literature. 

With the last century we reach ground familiar to all. It would be an endless and superfluous task to trace the allusions to Cervantes’s great book in English literature of the nineteenth century. Byron tells us in Don Juan that Adeline, like Rowe, 

studied Spanish
To read Don Quixote in the original,
A pleasure before which all others vanish. 

And her example was widely followed. Yet we may take it as certain that imperfect translations suggested the characters of Sam Weller, that Cockney variant of Sancho Panza, and of Colonel Thomas Newcome. ‘They call him Don Quixote in India,’ said General Sir Thomas de Boots, ‘I suppose you have read Don Quixote? ‘ Never heard of it, upon my word,’ replied Barnes Newcome, whose only contribution to literature was a Lecture on the Poetry of the Affections. But Hazlitt had heard of Don Quixote, and Southey, Scott, Lockhart, Macaulay, and FitzGerald knew the original well. Macaulay esteemed it ‘the best novel in the world, beyond all comparison,’ and found it even ‘prodigiously superior to what I had imagined,’ while to FitzGerald it became ‘ the Book.’ I believe that it is included in the Bibliotheque Positiviste, and that Comte placed Cervantes himself in the Positivist Calendar. We have not yet made Cervantes our national saint, but no one has written more delightfully of him than that distinguished Positivist, Mr. Frederic Harrison; and the greatest of our romance writers, Mr. George Meredith, celebrates with enthusiasm Cervantes’s ‘loftiest moods of humour, fusing the tragic sentiment with the comic narrative.’ The publication of three new and independent versions by Duffield, Ormsby, and Watts, in 1881, 1885, and 1888 respectively, is convincing proof of our unabated interest in Don Quixote. Two large quarto volumes — quorum pars parva fui — containing the first critical edition of the original appeared at the very end of the nineteenth century, and, if they indicate nothing else, at least imply a boundless belief in the future of Hhe Book’; and the only satisfactory rendering of the Novelas exemplares, due to Mr. Norman MacColl whom death has so recently snatched from us, figures in a translation of Cervantes’s Complete Works which was begun in the first year of the twentieth century. 

This brings my prolix exposition to a close. I have laid before you a body of facts to justify the assertions with which I began. I have shown that England was the first foreign country to mention Don Quixote, the first to translate the book, the first country in Europe to present it decently garbed in its native tongue, the first to indicate the birthplace of the author, the first to provide a biography of him, the first to publish a commentary on Don Quixote, and the first to issue a critical edition of the text. I have shown that during three centuries English literature teems with significant allusions to the creations of Cervantes’s genius, that the greatest English novelists are among his disciples, and that English poets, dramatists, scholars, critics, agreed upon nothing else, are unanimous and fervent in their admiration of him. ‘There is an everlasting undercurrent of murmur about his name, the deep consent of all great men that he is greater than they.’ That, Lord Reay, is my case: it is for you and your colleagues in the British Academy to judge if I have proved it. 

The Printing of the Second Part of Don Quijote

John O’Neill

The Printing of the Second Part of Don Quijote and Ocho comedias: Evidence of a Late Change in Cervantes’s Attitude to Print and of Concurrent Production as Practised by both Author and Printers

The Library, Volume 16, Issue 1, March 2015, Pages 3–23, https://doi.org/10.1093/library/16.1.3

Published: 26 March 2015

THE TITLE OF CERVANTES’S Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses nuevos, nunca representados (‘Eight New Plays and Interludes, Never Performed’) provides us with an ironic reminder of his failure as a playwright in his later years.1 In the prologue he elaborates on the reasons for his inability to find an audience for his plays, telling us that, although he had enjoyed some success with the works for the stage that he wrote in the 1580s, his later plays, completed in the early part of the seventeenth century—by which time the new style of theatre championed by Lope de Vega and his followers held sway—did not arouse any interest amongst the autores, the all-powerful actor-managers who determined the repertoire of the theatre companies:

I did not find an actor-manager who wanted them, even though they knew I had them; and so I threw them into a chest, consigning and condemning them to perpetual silence. At the time a bookseller informed me that he would have bought them, had an actor-manager of some note not told him that much could be expected of my prose, but of my verse nothing.2

For much of the period of four hundred years that has passed since their publication, Cervantes’s plays have continued to attract much less attention than his prose fiction, although in recent years there have been signs that the originality of his theatre is gradually becoming more widely acknowledged. Jonathan Thacker, for example, states that Cervantes is ‘a far more important dramatic voice than has habitually been recognized’, and Pedro, The Great Pretender, Phillip Osment’s translation of Pedro de Urdemalas, was included in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Golden Age season of 2004.3 Most critics, however, still consider Cervantes to be a much less significant dramatist than the famous triumvirate of Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Calderón de la Barca, and that opinion is reflected in the fact that many of the full-length plays have yet to be either translated or performed.

The first edition of Ocho comedias, like the plays themselves, has generated little interest, yet the preliminares, or front matter, of this volume reveal a connection with the second part of Don Quijote that is of interest both to students of Cervantes and to bibliographers in general.4 The purpose of this study is to investigate the significance of that connection—a process that has involved looking at the difficult conditions under which Cervantes wrote and his changing attitude to print, and analyzing data relating to books produced at two different Madrid print-shops during a period of four years from the beginning of 1612 to the end of 1615. The results of the research provide new insights into the working practices both of Cervantes and of his printers, challenging assumptions that have been made about modes of production in Spanish printing-houses during the early-modern period, and thereby supplying an answer to a question that has been raised about the length of time it took to print the second part of the Quijote.

The items usually included in the preliminares were the privilegio or licencia, the fe de erratas, the tasa, and the aprobación. There might also be a prologue and a dedication to the author’s patron, as was the case with both of Cervantes’s books. A licencia was simply a licence to print the work, whereas the privilegio gave exclusive rights of publication to the author for a limited period—twenty years for the second part of the Quijote and ten years for Ocho comedias. The author could—and usually did—sell the privilegio to a bookseller, who would then make a contract with a printer.5 The fe de erratas was not, as one might perhaps expect, a list of typographical errors, but an official testimony that the printed work was a faithful copy of the original de imprenta, a transcription of the author’s manuscript prepared for the printer by a scribe, which had to be submitted to the censor for approval (the aprobación). The date of the fe de erratas therefore indicates when the printing of the body of the work was finished.6 The process of production was not, however, quite complete, since the fe de erratas was usually followed, in most cases just a few days later, by the tasa— the setting of the selling price of the book—although in some cases the order is reversed and the tasa precedes the fe de erratas. In certain books other material from the front matter may also carry a later date than the tasa. For example, in the second part of Don Quijote the dedication was signed by Cervantes on 31 October, ten days after the tasa and fe de erratas, and the final date in the preliminares is 5 November, when Gutierre de Cetina signed the third aprobación.

Printing normally began only after the privilegio had been granted.7 It would have been in the interests of all parties—author, bookseller, and printer—that this should be as soon as possible, but the precise date on which production began may have depended on other factors, such as the other work that the printer had on hand. Since printing was generally completed—with the possible exception of certain other items in the preliminares—by the date of the fe de erratas, the period between the dates of the privilegio and the fe de erratas can be described as the production window— the period during which production must have occurred. In the case of the second part of Don Quijote almost seven months elapsed from the granting of the privilegio, on 30 March 1615, to the signing of the fe de erratas, on 21 October.8 That was more than twice the length of time it took to produce the first part—a significantly bigger book financed by the same bookseller, Francisco de Robles, and produced at the same print-shop, the one that bore the name of Juan de la Cuesta, but was actually owned by María Rodríguez de Ribalde.9

Returning to the preliminares of Ocho comedias, one finds that the privilegio for that volume was granted on 25 July 1615 and that the fe de erratas is dated 13 September, which means that, while the second part of Don Quijote was in production, the printing of the collection of plays, financed by a different bookseller, Juan de Villarroel, was completed at another print-shop, that of ‘La viuda de Alonso Martín’ (the widow of Alonso Martín), in just two months.10 Ocho comedias consists of sixty-five sheets of quarto, five fewer than the second part of Don Quijote, but it would have been a far more complex project for a printer to set the volume of eight plays and interludes, especially since the full-length plays were written in a number of different verse forms.

If the unnamed bookseller mentioned in the prologue to Ocho comedias as having rejected the plays were Robles, that would provide us with a neat rationale for Cervantes’s placing them with another publisher and printer. However, the full explanation, it will be argued here, is more complex, and the key to understanding it, and also the delay in the production of the second part of Don Quijote, is provided by evidence that Spanish printers of this period had in place a system of concurrent production similar to the one described by McKenzie in his famous study of a Cambridge print-shop, operating over eighty years later.11 There is also strong evidence to suggest that Cervantes, who had a keen understanding of the way the printing business worked, had his own system of concurrent production in place, designed to expedite the publication of his late works. However, in order to appreciate fully the significance of the events surrounding the production of Cervantes’s works in Madrid in 1615 it is necessary first to place them in the context of his publishing history, which is characterized by a strangely uneven chronology and an uneasy relationship with print.

Few of Cervantes’s writings were published in the first sixty-five years of his life. His first novel, La Galatea, appeared in 1585, when he was thirty-seven years old.12 This pastoral romance was well received at the time, running to seven editions by 1618.13 In his aprobación to the second part of Don Quijote Francisco Márquez Torres recounts having met some French noblemen, one of whom ‘had almost managed to memorize it’.14 Even Cervantes’s rival Lope de Vega voiced his approval, through a character in La viuda valenciana (‘The Widow of Valencia’), who declares: ‘This is Galatea, if you want a good book then look no further’.15 Despite this success, twenty years passed before the publication of the first part of Don Quijote in 1605, a period that he refers to in the prologue of that work as ‘the silence of oblivion’ (‘el silencio del olvido’), and another eight years followed before the appearance of the Novelas ejemplares (‘Exemplary Stories’) in 1613.16 However, this trickle was followed by a deluge, with four more works printed in the last eighteen months of his life: Viaje del Parnaso (‘Journey to Parnassus’, November 1614), Ocho comedias (September 1615), the second part of Don Quijote (October 1615), and Persiles y Sigismunda, which he finished writing in April 1616, just before he died, and which was published posthumously early in 1617.17 Moreover, according to what Cervantes tells us in the various prol ogues and dedications of these late works, he was preparing three more works for publication when he died: the second part of La Galatea, Semanas del jardín (‘Weeks in the Garden’), and Bernardo. This late flurry of activity becomes even more remarkable when we consider that Cervantes was not only in his mid to late sixties but suffering from chronic ill-health with oedema.

The story of the printing of Cervantes’s works is, therefore, a curious one: sixty-five years of relative inactivity followed by a frenetic three years in which he seemed determined to publish as much as possible. The long gap between La Galatea and Don Quijote can, at least in part, be explained by the circumstances of his life, for during much of this period, from 1587 until 1597 or later, he was working as a government civil servant in Andalusia, first as a commissary for supplies for the Armada and then as a tax collector. These were demanding and stressful jobs, involving a lot of traveling and a considerable amount of paperwork, which would have left him with less time for writing. The period of eight years between Don Quijote and the Novelas ejemplares is, however, more difficult to account for. Why did Cervantes not seek to build on the extraordinary success of the Quijote, which had made him the most famous writer of prose fiction in Europe? The answer probably lies in the reservations he felt about the medium of print, which he expresses on two different points in the second part of Don Quijote: in the conversation between Don Quixote and Sansón Carrasco in Chapter 3, which I will return to later, and during Don Quixote’s visit to the Barcelona Print-shop in Chapter 62.

Don Quixote’s visit to a Barcelona print-shop in Chapter 62 indicates that Cervantes was very familiar not only with the technical aspect of printing but also with the way the business worked.18 Don Quixote witnesses the key activities that take place—composition of the formes by the typesetters, the operation of the presses, and correction of the proofs—and then strikes up a conversation with a man who is having his translation of an Italian work called Le Bagatele (sic) printed there. The translator, who is determined to have his book printed at his own expense, responds as follows to Don Quixote’s warning that he may end up with a lot of unsold copies on his hands, as a result of the shenanigans of printers: ‘“Well what would you have me do?”, said the author. “Do you want me to sell the rights to a bookseller, who’ll give me three maravedís for them and think he’s doing me a favour?”’19 It is a complaint that is echoed in Chapter 1 of the Fourth Book of Persiles y Sigismunda, by a Spanish pilgrim, whom Periandro and Auristela encounter in an inn near Rome, who is writing a book of aphorisms:

I won’t give up the rights to my book to any bookseller in Madrid even if he pays two thousand ducados for them. There isn’t a single one of them there who doesn’t want the rights for free, or for such a low price that it doesn’t benefit the author of the book.20

The translator’s experience probably reflects that of Cervantes, who had recently financed the printing of Viaje del Parnaso out of his own pocket, and who had ample experience of how little money could be made from writing novels and how the odds were stacked in favour of the bookseller when it came to selling the privilegio. In June 1584 Blas de Robles agreed to pay him 1336 reales for the rights to La Galatea, yet just eighteen months later he was in such dire straits that he needed to borrow more than four times that amount—204,000 maravedís, or 6,000 reales—in order to settle a debt.21 The success of Don Quijote had brought fame, but not riches, for even that bestseller, which ran to two editions in the first year, had earned him very little. He had sold the rights to the bookseller Francisco de Robles for 1500 reales, which, bearing in mind the rampant inflation that the Spanish economy was experiencing at the time, was probably an even worse deal than the one he had struck for Galatea.22 While the fact that he had not published anything for twenty years might explain his failing to profit from selling the privilegio of Don Quijote, it does not account for the similarly unfavourable arrangement regarding the rights to the Novelas ejemplares, which were sold on 9 September 1613 for just 1600 reales, at a time when Cervantes was famous throughout Europe.23 A playwright could make money from having their work performed on stage, but there was little profit in writing novels, even for an author as celebrated as Cervantes. In the aforementioned aprobación of the second part of Don Quijote Francisco Márquez Torres relates how, when asked by the French noblemen who were aficionados of Cervantes’s writing about the author’s ‘age, profession, status and wealth’, he replied, to their surprise, ‘old, a soldier, low-ranking nobility, and poor’ (‘viejo, soldado, hidalgo y pobre’).24 That picture of hardship is confirmed by Cervantes himself in the dedication to his patron, the Count of Lemos, in which he describes himself as ‘extremely hard-up’ (‘muy sin dineros’).25 These words, and those of Márquez Torres, who was a chaplain employed by the Archbishop of Toledo, one of Cervantes’s benefactors, are an ironic reminder that, while patronage may have eased his financial situation somewhat, it certainly did not make him comfortable.

Since the vast majority of the profits from printed books went to the bookseller, and since Cervantes, for most of his life, received little or no benefit from patronage, he had no great financial incentive to have his writings printed. The possibility of achieving celebrity was, of course, another motive, as Cervantes indicates in the prologue to the second part of Don Quijote:

I know only too well the temptations of the devil, and one of the greatest is to put the idea in a man’s mind that he can write and print a book that will earn him as much fame as money and as much money as fame.26

Here, and in the conversation between Don Quixote and the translator in the print-shop, Cervantes seems to be suggesting that the writer needs to choose between fame or profit. The translator makes it clear that his motives are purely mercenary: ‘I do not have my books printed to attain fame in the world, for I am already known for my work. I want profit. Without it, fame is not worth a farthing’.27 Choosing literary celebrity, however, as Cervantes had done, also involved risks, as we are reminded by the fact that the remarks in the prologue to the second part of Don Quijote are directed at an unknown writer going by the pseudonym of Alonso Fernández Avellaneda, who, in the autumn of 1614, had published a hostile sequel to the first part, in the prologue of which he had launched a vitriolic attack on Cervantes.28 The hijacking of his literary creation outraged Cervantes to such an extent that he changed the timetable that he had planned for the publication of his works, suspending work on Persiles to bring forward the completion of the Quijote. He expressed his contempt for Avellaneda at various points throughout the text, for example in the episode in the print-shop, which ends with the knight storming out, piqued by his discovery that one of the works being produced there is Avellaneda’s Quijote.

Don Quixote thinks Avellaneda’s book should have been ‘burned to cinders for its impertinence’ (‘quemado y hecho polvos por impertinente’), and goes on to stress the importance of truth in fiction.29 However, the book-trade does not make a distinction between works of fiction that are true and those which are false, and that lack of discrimination clearly infuriated Cervantes. It also irritated him that it was the publication of Don Quijote that had given rise to Avellaneda’s apocryphal sequel, as is clear from one of the items in Don Quixote’s last will and testament:

Item: I beseech the aforementioned gentlemen my executors that if by chance they should meet the author who is said to have composed a story that goes by the name of The Second Part of the Adventures of Don Quixote of La Mancha, they should, on my behalf, ask him, as insistently as possible, to pardon me for unthinkingly having given him the opportunity to write such a load of claptrap, because I leave this life with pangs of conscience for having given him the motive for writing it.30

That print could have negative consequences, and expose one to criticism or ridicule, was something that Cervantes had realized several years previously, when the first part of Don Quijote was published. It is a theme that emerges in Chapter 3 of the second part, in a conversation between Don Quixote and Sansón Carrasco, who, as the reader learns in the previous chapter, has brought news from Salamanca that Sancho and Don Quixote have become literary celebrities through the publication of the first book:

‘It often happens that those who have cultivated and achieved great fame through their writings either lose it completely or see it somewhat diminished when they hand them over to be printed.’

‘The reason for that’, said Sansón, ‘is that, as printed works are viewed at one’s leisure, it is easy to see their faults, and, the more famous the person who wrote them, the more they are subject to scrutiny.’31

Cervantes, in the Adjunta al Parnaso, the prose postscript to his narrative poem Viaje del Parnaso, is keen to stress an advantage, where plays are concerned, of the medium of print, which allows the reader to appreciate at his or her leisure what passes quickly in performance:

I am considering handing over the plays to be printed, so that one might see at one’s leisure what happens quickly, or is disguised or misunderstood when they are performed. Moreover, plays, like songs, have their seasons and their times.32

However, in the conversation between Don Quixote and Sansón, and again in the following chapter, Cervantes dwells on a major disadvantage of publication. Errors, once fixed in print, can be difficult to erase, both from the book and from the memory of the reader.

The most infamous of the faults in the first part of Don Quijote that Sansón Carrasco mentions is the narrative of the theft of Sancho’s donkey. In the first edition of Juan de la Cuesta reference is made to its having gone missing, but with no explanation as to how, between Chapters 25 and 29. In Chapter 42 the donkey reappears, again with no explanation. In the second Cuesta edition of 1605 an attempt was made to resolve the problem by inserting an episode in Chapter 23 in which Ginés de Pasamonte steals the animal, but the donkey is referred to six times, as if the theft had not occurred, before its recapture is described in Chapter 30.33 These discrepancies were all corrected in the Brussels edition of 1607, printed by Roger Velpius, but, astonishingly, only two of those corrections found their way into the third Cuesta edition of 1608.34 Cervantes decided to make light of the issue by incorporating these botched attempts at repairing the original error into the metafictional fun and games that characterize the second part of Don Quijote. When Sansón remarks that ‘before the ass reappeared the author states that Sancho was riding it’, Sancho retorts that ‘either the chronicler was mistaken, or it was carelessness on the part of the printer’, thus laying the blame on the fictional narrator, Cide Hamete Benengeli, or the actual print-shop of Juan de la Cuesta.35 That Cervantes felt the need to address the issue ten years after the error had first appeared in print demonstrates how much it bothered him. However, if he thought that his authorial sleight of hand would spare him further embarrassment, he was mistaken. Lope de Vega, who had been angered by some disparaging comments that Cervantes made in Chapter 42 of the first part, concerning his commercial attitude to the theatre, was certainly not inclined to let his rival off the hook. In Act III of Amar sin saber a quién (‘Loving, Without Knowing Who’) he refers not just to the original mistake, but to Cervantes’s attempts at exculpating himself, when the gracioso Limón, regarding the loss of an ass, says: ‘Tell us its colour, shape and name, for there is a man who is still waiting to find out what happened to a brownish grey mule. If you don’t, they will say it was “forgetfulness on the writer’s part”.’36 For Chartier the textual inconsistencies in the narration of the theft of Sancho’s donkey ‘point up the similarities that exist between Cervantes’s writing and certain practices of orality’.37 However, while such errors may have been part and parcel of the episodic, oral approach to storytelling in which Cervantes excelled, once fixed in print they laid him open to ridicule.

Cervantes therefore had good reason to develop ambivalent feelings about the medium of print, for although it made him famous, it also exposed him to criticism, some of it vicious, gave Avellaneda the opportunity to kidnap his hero, and made him very little money. However, in the period leading up to the publication of the Novelas ejemplares in 1613 any reservations that he felt about print probably began to be outweighed by a growing awareness, as a result of his age and ill health, of his own mortality, and the knowledge that the printed book was the only means whereby he could ensure that his writings would be preserved for posterity. Everything that he writes in the prologues and dedications of his late works is indicative of an author who is striving to complete, and have printed, as much of his work as possible. In the prologue to the Novelas he refers to Viaje del Parnaso as already having been written, even though the narrative poem was not printed until over a year later, at the end of 1614.38 He also announces that the volume of stories will be followed by Persiles, the continuation of Don Quijote and Semanas del jardín, a work that was never completed, the title of which suggests that it may have been conceived as another book of novelas.39 In the dedication to Ocho comedias he informs the Count of Lemos that ‘Don Quijote de la Mancha has put his spurs on, in his Second Part, in order to go and kiss Your Excellency’s feet’ and that Persiles, Semanas del jardín, and the second part of La Galatea will follow.40 In the prologue to the second part of Don Quijote and the dedication that follows it, dated 31 October 1615, he tells his readers to expect both Persiles, which he is ‘in the process of finishing’ and ‘will complete, God willing, within four months’, and the sequel to La Galatea, while in the dedication to Persiles, written just three days before he died, he indicates his intention to complete, if his health allows, not only Semanas del jardín and the second part of La Galatea but also Bernardo.41 Since that is the first mention of the latter work, whose title suggests a chivalric theme, it may have only existed in embryonic form.42 However, the consistency with which Cervantes refers to Semanas del jardín and the continuation of La Galatea from 1613 onwards makes it likely that these works were, indeed, at an advanced stage.

Taking into account what Cervantes himself tells us, and other information garnered from the front matter of the books written in the last few years of his life, it is possible to construct the following timetable for the production of his late works:

Links to notes 43 and 44

The schedule that Cervantes set for himself in the final four years of his life would have been demanding for any writer, but it is particularly remarkable when we consider that he was a man in his late sixties in poor health. In all but two months of the period of approximately fourteen months between mid September 1614 and early November 1615 Cervantes had at least one work at the printers. From 1612 he was not only writing continuously, but also making plans for the completion of as many as four other projects at the same time. This feverish activity reached its peak in the late summer of 1615, for, during August and September of that year, while he was writing Persiles, both the second part of Don Quijote and Ocho comedias were in production, with two different printers. Cervantes, who, as he indicates in Chapter 62 of the second part, was familiar with the ‘ins and outs of the printing business’ (‘las entradas y salidas de los impresores’), knew that printers had a system of concurrent production in place, which could produce lengthy delays.45 He had, accordingly, devised his own method of concurrent production, in order to ensure that as much of his writing as possible would be printed.

Garza Merino has stated that Spanish print-shops were organized around one major project at a time: ‘We know from surviving printing contracts that generally, once an edition had been agreed, it was a requirement that no other work would be accepted until the new one had been finished, which, barring exceptional circumstances, implied that the print-shop would organize itself around one project, apart from any small jobs that might be taken on’.46

Garza Merino is not specific about her sources, but her remarks would, at first blush, appear to be supported by a sixteenth-century document by Juan Vásquez de Mármol, the corrector at the Royal Printing-House (Imprenta de Su Majestad), listing thirteen conditions that an author could require a printer to meet before entering into a contract.47 The first of these stated that the printer was obliged to begin printing within a certain period, and not to abandon the process once begun.48 It is possible, however, to interpret that condition in different ways. An author or bookseller keen to see their book produced quickly might hope that it meant that the print-shop would focus exclusively on their job, whereas the printer could argue that dividing time between two or three jobs did not mean that the process of printing any one of them had been abandoned.49 In any case, Garza Merino’s views are clearly at odds with those of McKenzie, who, in his essay Printers of the Mind, which considered the records of the Cambridge University Press between 1696 and 1712 and of the London printing-house of Bowyer and Son between 1730 and 1739, found that ‘the Cambridge and Bowyer presses, like any other printing-house today or any other printing-house before them, followed the principle of concurrent production’, and that there was no evidence to suggest that any printing-houses of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did not habitually print several books concurrently.50 McKenzie’s findings are supported by what happens in the episode in the print-shop, for there Don Quixote witnesses three books being produced concurrently. The aforementioned translation of Le Bagateleis being set by a compositor, while two other books are being proofed and corrected: a work entitled Luz del alma (‘Light of the Soul’) and—much to the knight’s displeasure—Avellaneda’s Segunda parte del ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha.

Analysis of information contained in the preliminares of sixty-five books produced at the print-shops of Juan de la Cuesta and La viuda de Alonso Martín between 1612 and 1615, obtained from Pérez Pastor’s Bibliografía madrileña, shows that printers in Madrid, like their English counterparts at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries, and like those in the Barcelona printing-house described in the Quijote, did indeed operate a system of concurrent production. Table 1 shows part of the data that was collated: the key dates that indicate the production windows of seven other books printed at the Cuesta and Martín shops between 30 March 1615 and 5 November 1615, while Ocho comedias and the second part of Don Quijote were also in production. 

Production windows of seven other books printed at the Cuesta and Martín shops between 30 March 1615 and 5 November 1615

The table helps to explain a question raised by Rico, who, in his study of the printing of the two parts of the Quijote, was puzzled by the fact that the second volume took so much longer to produce than the first one. The privilegio for the first part was granted on 26 September 1604, while the testimonio de las erratas is dated 1 December, which means that printing was completed in a little over two months.51 The corresponding period for the second part ran from 30 March to 21 October 1615—nearly seven months, even though the second volume is significantly shorter, at 280 folios, than the first one (316 fols.).52 Since there are more errors—almost double the number—in the second part, Rico thought it unlikely that the delay in the printing of the second part could be ascribed to a slower rate of production, and was unable to find any other explanation than bad luck, going on to say that the standard of printing in Spain at this time was incredibly low, and that print-shops were poorly equipped, undermanned, and lacking typesetters and correctors who were sufficiently qualified.53 That explanation is, however, thrown into question by Moll’s assertion that the Spanish printing industry of this period, despite facing technical problems, had a number of well equipped shops, with skilled workers who had an in-depth knowledge of their business and were capable of producing books of quality.54

It seems that Rico did not take into account concurrent production and must have assumed, like Garza Merino, that work in the print-shop would have been organized around one project. If one takes into account the other jobs with which the Cuesta shop was occupied, the real reason for the delay becomes clear. The production window of the second part of Don Quijote overlapped with that of four other works: parts V—VIII of Herrera’s Historia general; a new edition of Nebrija’s Dictionarium; Murcia de la Llana’s Compendio;and the second edition of Salas Barbadillo’s El Cavallero puntual (‘The Punctilious Knight’).55 The first two of these books were very large projects—319 and 213 sheets respectively, in folio format. Indeed, it is quite conceivable that, even though the privilegio for the second part of the Quijote was granted on 30 March, production did not get fully up to speed until the beginning of August, when work on the books by Herrera and Nebrija was completed. It would then have shared production time with the Compendio, another work in quarto, whose fe de erratas precedes that of the Quijote by only eight days, and El Cavallero puntual, a work in the comparatively rare duodecimo format, the erratas of which is dated 9 November, just four days after the final date in the front matter of the Segunda parte— the aprobación of Gutierre de Cetina.56

That the second part of the Quijote took longer to produce than the first part was therefore nothing to do with bad luck, poor equipment or insufficient manpower, but rather can be attributed to the fact that the book was printed concurrently with at least two others, and possibly as many as four. This was normal practice in the Cuesta shop during the period in question, and it was also the case in the printing-house of La viuda de Alonso Martín, where Ocho comedias was produced. As Table 1 shows, the volume of plays, comprising sixty-five sheets in quarto, was printed concurrently with three others: a book of sermons of one hundred and twelve sheets, also in quarto, and two works in octavo, the Rhetoricae Compendium ex scriptis patris Ioannis Baptistae and Ledesma’s Romancero, comprising twenty-five and twenty-four sheets respectively.57  The fact that these books were not printed serially is demonstrated by the fact that printing of the body of the four works was completed in quick succession: Ocho comedias on 13 September, the Sermones on 22 September, the Rhetoricae Compendium on 5 October, and the Romancero on 13 October.

Gaskell has summarized the reasons for concurrent production as follows: ‘Books varied so much in size that a balance between composition and presswork could not have been kept if they had been printed serially… for, depending on the relative magnitude of their tasks and on accident, either pressmen or compositors would constantly have been waiting for the others to catch up. Printers therefore had several books in production at once… so that when a man came to the end of a stage in the work, he would be in a position to take up something else’.58

This meant that an individual book took longer to print than it might have done if all the workmen had concentrated on it alone; but also that, by using plant and labour less wastefully, all the books could be printed in less time altogether, and at less cost, than they would have been by serial production.

In most cases production would not, therefore, as Garza Merino suggests, have involved two typesetters working in synchronized fashion on one book in order to supply one or two pressmen, thus ensuring that by the end of the day one sheet of a run of 1,000 or 1,500 copies had been printed.59 The organization of work would instead, as McKenzie argues, have been far more complex and varied, with typesetters and pressmen taking up whatever work was to hand, in order that they should not stand idle. What McKenzie discovered in the records of the Cambridge University Press was that each compositor would work on two or three books simultaneously, and that, even when two compositors worked on one book, the usual practice was that one would take over where the other left off. Like the compositors, a press-crew would usually be working on several books simultaneously, and the most efficient system was not to try to maintain a relationship between a particular compositor and crew.60 If the method of production in Madrid at the beginning of the seventeenth century were similar, as the evidence presented here suggests, then any study of the printing of a Spanish book from this period cannot view the production of that volume as an isolated event, but also needs to take into account other works that were printed concurrently in the same shop.

Since it was based on efficiency, the system of concurrent production worked to the advantage of both printer and author. However, writers keen to see their work published as quickly as possible would not necessarily have seen it that way. Cervantes had already experienced the frustrating delays that this mode of production involved during the printing of the Novelas ejemplares. The privilegio for that work, which was printed concurrently with Aranda’s Lugares comunes (Commonplaces) and the second part of Illescas’s Historia Pontifical y Catholica, was granted on 22 November 1612, yet the fe de erratas was not signed until 7 August 1613, over eight months later.61 By 1615 the ailing author, now sixty-seven years old, had probably realized that, if he were to achieve his ambition of publishing as much of his work as possible before he died, and, in particular, to have his beloved plays printed, he was going to need the services of more than one printer. It may well have been the case, as Cervantes hints in the prologue to Ocho comedias, that Robles, the bookseller who financed both parts of the Quijote and the Novelas ejemplares, was decidedly unenthusiastic about the idea of publishing the plays, but, even if that had not been so, Cervantes, for whom time was running out, would have been keen for him to find another printer, since the Cuesta shop was already occupied with the second part of the Quijote and the other works which were printed concurrently with it.

In the event, Cervantes managed to interest a newcomer to the book trade, the twenty-five year old Juan de Villarroel, in Ocho comedias. His shortlived career in publishing began in 1614, when he financed an edition of Juan Pérez de Moya’s Arithmetica Practica.62 He also acquired the rights to a new edition of Fernando de Mena’s translation of Heliodorus’s Historia etiopica de los amores de Teogenes y Cariclea, which appeared in the summer of 1615, just before Ocho comedias, although the title page of that volume indicates that it was financed by Pedro de Bogia.63 All of these books were printed at the print-shop of La viuda de Alonso Martín, which had been run by Francisca Medina since her husband’s death in 1613.64 Villaroel clearly ran into financial difficulties, for on 6 November 1615 there is a record of his owing 1,500 reales to Medina for the cost of printing both the Arithmetica and Ocho comedias.65 In the prologue to Ocho comedias, Cervantes mentions, with scarcely veiled irony, having been paid ‘a reasonable sum’ for the volume of plays; but he was never actually paid in full, for in 1626, nine years after his death, his widow, Catalina Palacios Salazar y Vozmediano, mentioned in her last will and testament an amount of 400 reales that Villarroel still owed.66

Medina’s print-shop was an obvious choice for the volume of plays. It was situated in Calle de los Preciados, a little further away than the Cuesta shop in Calle de Atocha, but still just a ten-minute walk from where Cervantes was living at the time, on the corner of Calle de León and Calle de Francos (now known as Calle de Cervantes), and even closer to Villarroel, whose address on the title page of Ocho comedias is given as ‘plaçuela del Angel’ (now known as Plaza del Ángel).67 The Medina shop, which printed many classic works of the Spanish Golden Age, had already produced Cervantes’s Viaje del Parnaso, and had just recently, on 3 April, completed printing of the Sexta parte (sixth part) of the plays of Lope de Vega, Spain’s most celebrated dramatist.68 Moreover, while the Cuesta shop specialized in the folio format, the printing-house of Medina was noted for working in octavo—the format in which Viaje del Parnaso appeared—and quarto, which was the usual format for plays. In 1615 it produced eight works in quarto, comprising 568 sheets, as opposed to Cuesta’s three (113 sheets). Ocho comedias, a work of sixty-five sheets, was produced in just eight weeks, with the result that although the privilegio for the plays was granted a month later than that of the Sermones and over two months later than that of Ledesma’s Romancero—the two books with which it was printed concurrently—Ocho comedias was the first of the three works to be completed. The privilegio for the plays was granted four months later than that of the second part of Don Quijote, yet the production of the plays was completed six weeks before the printing of the novel was finished. The efficiency of the Medina print-shop was such that, on 24 September, just two days after completing work on Ocho comedias, it finished the printing of the Sermones, a work of almost double the size in the same quarto format, the privilegio of which had been granted just three months previously; and by 5 October it had managed to produce the twenty-five sheets of octavo of the Rhetoricae Compendium, having only started work after 12 September. These are impressive rates of productivity for three books that were printed concurrently, and are an indication that the Medina shop probably had four presses at its disposal. It may also have been able to distribute work to other shops, for, as Moll points out, this often happened when a book needed to be produced quickly, as, for example, in the case of the second Madrid edition of the first part of Don Quijote.69 Time was certainly of the essence where Ocho comedias was concerned, for Cervantes must have been anxious to see his plays printed before he died, and one imagines he would have conveyed his concerns to both Villarroel and Francisca Medina.

While Ocho comedias and the second part of the Quijote were at the printers, Cervantes was working hard to complete Persiles. He had long been aware that printers in Madrid worked on many jobs at the same time, with the result that authors could experience lengthy delays in the printing of their works, and had therefore developed his own method of concurrent production, which proved to be particularly important in preserving his plays for posterity. For much of his life he had felt ambivalent about print, and with good reason, for it had made him little money and had exposed him both to ridicule and literary piracy. Now, however, with his health failing, he worked feverishly to ensure that as much of his work as possible would be passed on to future generations. The printed book, whatever its shortcomings, was the storage medium that would ensure that his writing survived. The dedication to Don Pedro Fernández de Castro, Count of Lemos, dated 19 April 1616, just three days before his death, is a moving testament to his determination to keep writing as long as he still has the strength to hold his pen:

I still retain in my soul the vestiges and traces of Weeks in the Garden and the famous Bernardo. If, by chance, by good fortune (though it would not be fortune, but a miracle), heaven allows me to live, you will see them, and also the final part of Galatea.70

In presenting his last work, Cervantes, who knows he is dying, also offers his patron and his readers, present and future, the ghosts of unfinished projects, those that neither the print-shop nor the wider world would ever see.


1 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Ocho comedias, y ocho entremeses nuevos, Nunca representados (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615). In references to early editions, including titles and quotations, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and accentuation is reproduced as found in the source consulted, with the following exceptions, all of which have been regularized: the long ‘s’; where ‘u’ stands for ‘v’ (e.g. ‘auenturas’) and vice-versa (e.g. ‘Don Qvixote’); and where ‘i’ stands for ‘j’ (e.g. ‘trabaios’).

2 ‘No hallé autor que me las pidiese, puesto que sabían que las tenía; y así las arrinconé en un cofre y las consagré y condené al perpetuo silencio. En esta sazón me dijo un librero que él me las comprara si un autor de título no le hubiera dicho que de mi prosa se podía esperar mucho, pero que del verso nada.’ La entretenida, ed. by John O’Neill (London: King’s College, 2014), published online at http://entretenida.outofthewings.org. All translations are my own.

3 Jonathan Thacker, A Companion to Golden Age Theatre (Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2007), p. 59. Miguel Cervantes, Pedro, The Great Pretender, trans. by Philip Osment (London: Oberon Books, 2004).

4 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Segunda parte del ingenioso cavallero Don Quixote de la Mancha (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1615 ).

5 Fermín de los Reyes Gómez, ‘La censura del libro: legislación y consecuencias. La impresión del Quijote’, in Imprenta, libros y lectura en la España del Quijote, ed. by José Manuel Lucía Megías (Madrid: Imprenta Artesanal, 2006), pp. 159—80 (p. 163).

6 Gómez, ‘La censura del libro’, p. 165.

7 ibid. pp. 164—65.

8 Cervantes, Segunda parte, fols. [ii]r—[v]v.

9 When Cuesta joined the printing-house of Pedro Madrigal in 1599, it was jointly owned by Madrigal’s widow María Rodríguez de Ribalde (who had married Juan Iñiguez de Lequerica, and been widowed again), and their son, also called Pedro Madrigal. In 1604, after the younger Pedro died, his widow, María Quiñones, married Cuesta, who took over the running of the shop. Books produced there continued to bear his name until Ribalde’s death in 1626, even though Cuesta moved to Sevilla in 1607, abandoning his pregnant wife. Juan Delgado Casado, Diccionario de impresores españoles (siglos XV—XVII), 2 vols (Madrid: Arco/Libros, 1996), I, 175; Jaime Moll, ‘Juan de la Cuesta’, in Gran enciclopedia cervantina, ed. by Carlos Alvar, 10 vols (Madrid: Castalia, 2005— ), III(2006), 3020.[Note from Spanish Classic Books: more correct information at this link]

10 Cervantes, Ocho comedias, fol. [ii]r.

11 D. F. McKenzie, ‘Printers of the Mind: Some Notes on Bibliographical Theories and Printing-House Practices’, in Making Meaning: ‘Printers of the Mind’ and Other Essays, ed. by Peter D. McDonald and Michael Felix Suarez (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2002), pp. 13—85.

12 Miguel de Cervantes, Primera parte de La Galatea, dividida en seys libros (Alcalá: Juan Gracián, 1585).

13 The other six editions were produced in Lisbon (1590), Paris (1611), Baeza (1617), Valladolid (1617), Lisbon (1618), and Barcelona (1618). See La Galatea, ed. by Francisco López Estrada and María Teresa López García-Berdoy (Madrid: Cátedra, 1999), pp. 124—25.

14 ‘Que alguno dellos tiene casi de memoria, la primera parte desta’; Don Quijote de La Mancha, ed. by the Instituto Cervantes, dir. by Francisco Rico (Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg/Círculo de Lectores; Centro para la Edición de los Clásicos Españoles, 2004), I, 669. References to this edition are by part, chapter (where applicable), and page.

15 ‘Aquesta es La Galatea | que, si buen libro desea | no tiene más que pedir’; cited in La Galatea, ed. Estrada & García-Berdoy, p. 99.

16 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1605). For the quotation see Don Quijote, I, Prólogo; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 11. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Novelas exemplares (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1613).

17 Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Viage del Parnaso (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1614); Los trabajos de Persiles, y Sigismunda, historia Setentrional (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1617).

18 Don Quijote, II. 62; ed. Instituto Cervantes, pp. 1247—51.

19 ‘—Pues ¿qué? —dijo el autor—. ^Quiere vuesa merced que se lo dé a un librero que me dé por el privilegio tres maravedís, y aun piensa que me hace merced en dármelos?’; Don Quijote, II. 62; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 1250. The basic units of currency when Cervantes was writing were the copper maravedí, the silver real (royal), equivalent to 34 maravedís, and the gold escudo (shield), the value of which fluctuated, from 350 maravedíswhen it was introduced in 1535, to 400 maravedís in 1566, to 440 maravedís in 1609. The gold ducado, worth 375 maravedís or 11 reales, was an older coin, which was replaced by the escudo during the reign of Charles V, but still functioned as a unit of account in Cervantes’s time. See Bernat Hernández, ‘Monedas, pesos y medidas’, in Don Quijote, ed. Instituto Cervantes, pp. 941—47 (pp. 941—42)

20 ‘-No daré el privilegio de este mi libro a ningún librero de Madrid, si me da por él dos mil ducados; que allí no hay ninguno que no quiera los privilegios de balde, o, a lo menos, por tan poco precio que no le luzga al autor del libro’; Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda, ed. by Carlos Romero Muñoz (Madrid: Cátedra, 2002), p. 635.

21 Krzysztof Sliwa, ‘Documentación’, in Gran enciclopedia cervantina,IV (2007), 3570—3646 (p22p. 3589—90).

22 Gómez, ‘La censura del libro’, p. 171.

23 Cristobál Pérez Pastor, Bibliografía madrileña, ó descripción de las obras impresas en Madrid, 3 vols (Madrid: Tipografía de los Huérfanos/Tipografía de la Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos, 1891—1907), II, 250.

24 Don Quijote, II, ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 670.

25 Don Quijote, II, ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 679.

26 ‘Bien sé lo que son tentaciones del demonio, y que una de las mayores es ponerle a un hombre en el entendimiento que puede componer y imprimir un libro con que gane tanta fama como dineros y tantos dineros cuanta fama.’ Don Quijote, II, ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 675.

27 ‘Yo no imprimo mis libros para alcanzar fama en el mundo, que ya en él soy conocido por mis obras: provecho quiero, que sin él no vale un cuatrín la buena fama.’ Don Quijote, II. 62; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 1250.

28 Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, Segundo tomo del ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, que contiene su tercera salida : y es la quinta parte de sus aventuras (Tarragona: Felipe Roberto, 1614).

29 Don Quijote, II. 62; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 1251.

30 ‘Iten, suplico a los dichos señores mis albaceas que si la buena suerte les trujere a conocer al autor que dicen que compuso una historia que anda por ahí con el título de Segunda parte de las hazañas de don Quijote de la Mancha, de mi parte le pidan, cuan encarecidamente ser pueda, perdone la ocasión que sin yo pensarlo le di de haber escrito tantos y tan grandes disparates como en ella escribe, porque parto desta vida con escrúpulo de haberle dado motivo para escribirlos’; Don Quijote, II. 74; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 1334.

31 ‘Muchas veces acontece que los que tenían méritamente granjeada y alcanzada gran fama por sus escritos, en dándolos a la estampa la perdieron del todo o la menoscabaron en algo. —La causa deso es —dijo Sansón— que, como las obras impresas se miran despacio, fácilmente se veen sus faltas, y tanto más se escudriñan cuanto es mayor la fama del que las compuso’; Don Quijote, II. 3; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 713.

32 ‘Pero yo pienso darlas a la estampa, para que se vea despacio lo que pasa apriesa, y se disimula, o no se entiende cuando las representan. Y las comedias tienen sus sazones y tiempos, como los cantares.’ Viaje del Parnaso, ed. by Miguel Herrero García (Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Instituto Miguel de Cervantes, 1983), p. 314.

33 El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, 2nd edn (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1605). The six occasions on which reference is made to the donkey can be found on fols. 109r, IIIV, 112r, 120V; 121r and 122r.

34 El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (Brussels: Roger Velpius, 1607). The six corrections are located on fols. 210r, 215r, 216r, 232r, 233r and 235r. El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1608). The two corrections can be found on fols. 96r and 98v.

35 ‘—No está en eso el yerro —replicó Sansón—, sino en que antes de haber parecido el jumento dice el autor que iba a caballo Sancho en el mesmo rucio. —A eso —dijo Sancho— no sé qué responder, sino que el historiador se engañó, o ya sería descuido del impresor.’ Don Quijote, II. 4; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 716.

36 ‘Dezidnos della, que ay hombre | que hasta de una mula parda | saber el sucesso aguarda, | la color, el talle, y nombre: | O si no dirán que fue | olvido del escritor’. Lope de Vega Carpio, Ventidos parte perfeta de las comedias(Madrid: La viuda de Juan Gonzalez, 1635), fol. 166r.

37 Roger Chartier, Inscription and Erasure: Literature and Written Culture from the Eleventh to the Eighteenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), p. 34.

38 Miguel de Cervantes, ed. by Jorge García López, Novelas ejemplares (Barcelona: Circulo de Lectores/Galaxia Gutenberg, 2005), p. 16.

39 Novelas ejemplares, ed. García López, pp. 19—20.

40 ‘Don Quijote de la Mancha queda calzadas las espuelas en su segunda parte, para ir a besar los pies a V. E. […] Luego irá el gran Persiles, y luego Las semanas del jardín, y luego la segunda parte de La Galatea’; La entretenida,ed. O’Neill.

41 See Don Quijote, II; ed. Instituto Cervantes, pp. 677 and 679, and Persiles, ed. Romero Muñoz, pp. 117—18.

42 The title of Bernardo could be a reference to the legendary Spanish hero Bernardo del Carpio, who appears as a character in Cervantes’s play La casa de los celos, and is mentioned in El gallardo español and (several times) in Don Quijote.

43 The preliminares of Avellaneda’s Quijote do not include a privilegio, fe de erratas or tasa. The last date in the front matter is 4 July, which is when the second aprobacián was signed (fol. [ii]r). It is unlikely that a work of this size (sixty-eight sheets of quarto) could have been printed in less than two months, so the earliest date that it could have been published is September, which is the date that Canavaggio gives (Don Quijote, ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. CCCI). However, it is difficult to imagine that Cervantes, had he known about Avellaneda’s Quijote,would not have found a way of inserting some reference to it in the preliminares to Viaje del Parnaso, just as he did in the dedication to Ocho comedias and the prologue to the second part of Don Quijote. Such a reference could even have been added after the fe de erratas (11 November) and tasa (17 November), as was the case with the dedication of the Segunda parte. It therefore seems unlikely that Cervantes found out about Avellaneda’s Quijote until late November or December 1614.

44 Since Cervantes mentions having only six plays and interludes ready for publication in the Adjunta al Parnaso(see Viaje del Parnaso, ed. Herrero García, p. 314), he probably wrote the new material in the period of approximately five months between finishing Don Quijote and handing over the manuscript of Ocho comedias to the printers.

45 Don Quijote, II. 62; ed. Instituto Cervantes, p. 1250.

46 ‘Sabemos por los contratos de impresión conservados que, por lo general, cuando se acordaba una edición, se exigía que no se aceptara otro trabajo hasta que se acabara el recién admitido, lo cual, descartando las salidas de la norma que hubiera, implicaba la organización de la empresa en torno a un proyecto, al margen de los pequeños encargos que se aceptaran’; Sonia Garza Merino, ‘La cuenta del original’, in Imprenta y crítica textual en el siglo de oro, ed. by Francisco Rico, Pablo Andrés, and Sonia Garza (Valladolid: Universidad de Valladolid, Centro para la Edición de los Clásicos Españoles, 2000), pp. 65—95 (p. 73).

47 Juan Vázquez de Mármol, Condiciones que se pueden poner cuando se da a imprimir un libro (Madrid: El Crotalón, 1983). The Condiciones are part of an autograph miscellany preserved at the Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid (sig. Mss/9226, fol. 243r—v).

48 ‘Que el impressor se obligue a començar a imprimirlo dentro de tanto tiempo y despues de comenzado no dexe de proseguir en el so cierta pena.’

49 Neither the Dictionarium nor El cavallero puntual required a privilegio, since they were new editions, so estimates have been provided. If the speed of printing of the Dictionarium matched that of the Historia general,which was 319 sheets of folio and in production for nine months, then this work, which was almost exactly two thirds as long at 213 sheets of folio, would have been in production for six months. If, on the other hand, one assumes that production was at the average rate of 4. 5 sheets a week for folio at the la Cuesta shop between 1612 and 1615, printing of the Dictionarium would not have started until late September 1614. The only other work in duodecimo format, apart from El cavallero puntual, produced by Juan de la Cuesta in the period in question was the 1614 edition of Jorge Manrique’s Coplas (see Pérez Pastor, Bibliografía madrileña, p. 297). The production window of that book, which comprised 17 sheets, spanned seven months, from 21 June 1613 until 17 January 1614. If the 13 sheets of El cavallero puntual were printed at a similar rate, production would have started sometime around the beginning of June 1615. However, none of these estimates should be regarded as reliable, since, as this study shows, it is very difficult to calculate rates of production for works that are printed concurrently.

50 McKenzie, ‘Printers of the Mind’, pp. 25—26.

51 El ingenioso hidalgo, fols. [ii]rand [iii]v.

52 Segunda parte, fols. [ii]rand [v]v.

53 Francisco Rico, El texto del ‘Quijote’: preliminares a una ecdótica del siglo de oro (Barcelona: Ediciones Destino, 2005), p. 210.

54 Jaime Moll, Problemas bibliográficos del libro del siglo de oro (Madrid: Arco/Libros, 2011), pp. 118—19.

55 Antonio de Herrera, Historia General de los Hechos de los Castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano [General History of the Deeds of the Castilian People in the Islands and Mainlands of the Oceans], pt. V—VIII, 2 vols (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1615); Antonio Nebrija, Dictionarium (repr. Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1615); Francisco Murcia de la Llana, Compendio de los Metheoros del Principe de los Filosofos Griegos y Latinos Aristoteles[‘Compendium of the Meteorological Observations of the Prince of Greek and Latin Philosophers Aristoteles’] (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1615); Alonso Jerónimo de Salas Barbadillo, El Cavallero puntual, pt. 1, 2nd edn (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1615).

56 Segunda parte, fol. [ii]v.

57 Sermones predicados en la Beatificacion de La B. M. Teresa de Jesus Virgen (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615); Rhetoricae Compendium ex scriptis Patris Ioannis Baptistae Poza (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615); Alonso de Ledesma, Romancero y Monstro imaginado (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615). A romancero is a collection of romances (ballads).

58 Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 164.

59 ‘La práctica más común fue el reparto de la composición de un cuaderno entre cajistas que, trabajando sincronizadamente, fueran suministrando las formas a uno o dos tiradores diferentes, de manera que al cabo del día pudieran tener impreso un pliego, por lo menos, de una tirada corriente de mil o mil quinientos ejemplares’; Garza Merino, ‘La cuenta del original’, p. 73.

60 McKenzie ‘Printers of the Mind’, pp. 28—30.

61 Juan de Aranda, Lugares comunes de Conceptos, Dichos y Sentencias en diversas materias, 2nd edn (Madrid: Juan de La Cuesta, 1613); Gonzalo de Illescas, Segunda parte de la Historia Pontifical y Catholica (repr. Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1613). See Pérez Pastor, Bibliografía madrileña, pp. 246—47, 26524.

62 Arithmetica Practica y Speculativa (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615). Villaroel was granted a licencia on 4 December 1614 (see Pérez Pastor, Bibliografía madrileña, p. 351).

63 Historia etiopica de los amores de Teogenes y Cariclea (Madrid: La viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615). The licenciawas granted on 10 February 1615, and the last date in the front matter is 13 June, which is when the dedication was signed (see Pérez Pastor, Bibliografía madrileña, p. 334).

64 The only other work with which Villarroel was associated was Persiles y Sigismunda, but that was printed by Juan de la Cuesta, although Medina’s shop did produce an edition, in 1619 (see Pérez Pastor, Bibliografía madrileña, p. 481).

65 K. Sliwa, Documentos de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Pamplona: Ediciones Universidad de Navarra, S.A., 1999), p. 369.

66 ‘Él me las pagó razonablemente’; La entretenida, ed. O’Neill. Regarding the debt, see Sliwa, Documentos, pp. 371—72.

67 Jaime Moll, ‘Viuda de Alonso Martín’, in Gran Enciclopedia Cervantina, VIII (2011), p. 7639.

68 Lope de Vega, Sexta parte de sus Comedias (Madrid: la viuda de Alonso Martín, 1615). Other important works produced at the Medina shop included editions of Cervantes’s Novelas ejemplares (1622), Montemayor’s La Diana(1622), and Rojas’s Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea (1632).

69 Moll, Problemas bibliográficos, p. 120.

70 ‘Todavía me quedan en el alma ciertas reliquias y asomos de Las semanas del jardín, y del famoso Bernardo. Si, a dicha, por buena ventura mía (que ya no sería ventura, sino milagro), me diese el cielo vida, las verá, y, con ellas, fin de La Galatea’; Persiles y Sigismunda, ed. Romero Muñoz, pp. 117—18.

© The Author 2015; all rights reserved

Don Quixote Virtual Printing

[Based on DIY Quarto: Printing quartos in Shakespeare’s time  https://www.folger.edu/publishing-shakespeare/diy-quarto]

Virtually Printing Don Quixote


Welcome to the Virtual Printing House

Try arranging pages into your own quarto edition of El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha.

We base this example on digital images of the BNE’s copy of the first printed edition of Don Quijote, in Madrid, 1605. One of our goals is to heighten the sense that you are viewing a freshly printed sheet.

Eight pages per sheet of paper

Take a single sheet of paper, print eight pages out of sequence, then with folding, create a readable text in what’s known as a gathering in quarto format. That is what the printers of Don Quijote did. To see how, drag and drop the text of four pages onto one side of a sheet of paper. Note the change in orientation for some of the pages. Then flip the sheet to “print” four additional pages. Fold to create one quarto gathering with the first eight pages of the play.

1r | [p. 1]
1v [p. 2]
2r [p. 3]
2v [p. 4]
3r [p. 5]
3v [p. 6]
4r [p. 7]
4v [p. 8]









For Don Quijote, the printers followed this process for eighty-two more sheets, to create eleven more regular gatherings, with eight pages each. To keep these sheets in order, each gathering was given an identifying letter of the alphabet as a “signature” by the printers. The text of Don Quijote started here with the letter A. Unlike England, where texts often started with the signature B, as printers left the A for materials like title pages, which were often printed last. In comparison, Hamlet has 12 sheets

The sequence of regular gatherings in Don Quijote runs from A through Z, then Aa through Az, Bb etc.

After the printing was finished, the sheets were folded and assembled in alphabetic order to be ready for sale.

Final – Don Quijote, espejo de la Nación Española

Dado el indudable interés de este libro del profesor Gustavo Bueno (España no es un mito. Madrid: Temas de Hoy, 2005) que se encuentra actualmente descatalogado, proseguimos la edición digital de esta obra, con el último capítulo que lleva por título:


Contra la interpretación de Don Quijote como símbolo de la solidaridad universal, de la tolerancia y de la paz

Año 2005. Se celebra en toda España el cuarto centenario de la publicación de Don Quijote (cuya impresión ya estaba terminada en diciembre de 1604). Y esto corrobora, evidentemente, la tesis que hemos mantenido en el cuerpo de este libro, acerca del carácter transparente, a la cultura española, de todas las regiones y «culturas» de España. Centenares de conferencias, pronunciadas en todas las ciudades y capitales de las autonomías, «históricas» o «sin historia», concursos, nuevas ediciones, lecturas públicas (colectivas o individuales), exposiciones, talleres e interpretaciones de toda índole: psiquiátricas (Cervantes habría descrito admirablemente el «síndrome de Capgras»), éticas (Don Quijote es la fortaleza y la generosidad), morales (Don Quijote simboliza, en la época moderna, las virtudes del estamento caballeresco de la época feudal), o bien símbolo de valores estrictamente literarios (la novela moderna), o de valores con implicaciones políticas (¿valores europeos?) o, más aún, valores universales, que convierten a Don Quijote en un símbolo del Hombre, de los Derechos Humanos, de la Tolerancia y de la Paz: «Don Quijote es patrimonio de la Humanidad.»

A las interpretaciones políticas de Don Quijote pacifista y tolerante se han adherido especialmente las autoridades, a la sazón socialistas, del «lugar» en el que vivió Alonso Quijano, el «Caballero de la Mancha», como se le llama. A saber, un lugar transformado en Comunidad autónoma, denominada Castilla-La Mancha, con capacidad legal para promulgar una Ley 16/2002 «del IV centenario de la publicación de El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha», en la que, considerando que «Don Quijote es un símbolo de la humanidad y un mito cultural que la Mancha siente honrosamente como suyo», busca crear una «Red de Solidaridad que, apoyándose en el valor de una lengua común, trabaje en la consecución de la igualdad y el desarrollo de todos los pueblos, fundamentalmente a través de la educación y la cultura», para contribuir al «desarrollo social, cultural y económico de Castilla-La Mancha (…) a fin de fomentar y difundir los valores universales de justicia, libertad y solidaridad que el Quijote simboliza» (artículo 1).

José Bono, presidente de la comunidad autónoma de Castilla-La Mancha al promulgarse esta Ley, fue nombrado, después del 11-M, Ministro de Defensa. Un rótulo que traduce, en las democracias de ideología pacifista, los rótulos de los antiguos Ministerios de la Guerra, aunque el Ministro de Defensa actual y los Ministros de la Guerra no democráticos, entendieran de las mismas cosas: cañones, misiles, acorazados, helicópteros y, en general, en la sociedad industrial, armas de fuego (en modo alguno, lanzas, espadas y yelmos de Mambrino). Su pacifismo, tan poco quijotesco, le ha llevado a pedir en este 2005 que se retire la palabra «guerra» de la Constitución española de 1978: no ha llegado a pedir la disolución del Ejército, si bien, acaso para justificar la intervención del Ejército español en Afganistán, parece que el gobierno socialista pretende, después de la retirada de las tropas del Irak, transformarlo en una especie de Cuerpo de Bomberos sin Fronteras dispuesto a ir a Afganistán para vigilar los incendios que puedan producirse casualmente en el periodo electoral de esa nueva proyectada democracia.

Ahora bien, no tenemos por qué entrar aquí en el debate sobre el alcance político que puedan tener los proyectos de justicia, paz perpetua, diálogo, tolerancia y solidaridad de los gobiernos democráticos fundamentalistas que conmemoran a Don Quijote y lo representan a su imagen y semejanza. Pero sí nos parece necesario concluir que si pretenden seguir manteniendo su pacifismo y solidaridad universal, tendrán que retirar la «devoción» a Don Quijote. Porque Don Quijote no puede en modo alguno tomarse como símbolo de solidaridad, paz y tolerancia. Que sigan con su política pacifista y antimilitarista, pero que no utilicen el nombre de Don Quijote en vano y en falso.

Y si Don Quijote es símbolo de algo, no lo es de la «solidaridad universal», ni de la «tolerancia». ¿Qué solidaridad mantuvo Don Quijote con los guardias que llevaban encadenados a los galeotes? Su solidaridad con los galeotes no puede ser llamada universal, por cuanto implicaba la insolidaridad con los guardias. Si Don Quijote es símbolo de algo, lo es de las armas y de la intolerancia. Ni siquiera tolera Don Quijote que, en su presencia, Maese Pedro represente con sus títeres una historia, la de Melisendra, que está a punto de ser capturada por un rey moro: como esto es inadmisible, Don Quijote saca su espada, la emprende a mandobles con el teatrillo y destruye «toda la hacienda» del titiritero. ¿Y quién concibe a Don Quijote desarmado? En el último capítulo, es cierto, Don Quijote «cuelga sus armas», a la manera como el fraile «cuelga sus hábitos»; pero mientras que para el cura o el fraile colgar los hábitos suele significar el renacimiento hacia una nueva vida, en la que su barragana quedará elevada a la condición de esposa, para Don Quijote, colgar las armas significa el paso que le conduce inmediatamente a la muerte.

Don Quijote no es símbolo autogórico

Don Quijote es un símbolo o, por lo menos, puede ser interpretado como símbolo, al menos si admitimos la discutible distinción (procedente de Schelling) entre símbolos autogóricos y símbolos alegóricos.

Los símbolos autogóricos son los que «se representan a sí mismos» y Don Quijote ha sido representado, y aún sigue siéndolo muchas veces, aún sin llamarlo así, como un símbolo autogórico de su propia figura imaginaria. Como símbolo autogórico, o conjunto de símbolos autogóricos, interpretan el Quijote quienes lo ven como una obra estrictamente literaria, «inmanente», sin más referencias que sus propias figuras imaginarias. Figuras imaginarias que se agotarían poblando un «imaginario» social. Pero ese «imaginario» no está constituido por representaciones e «imágenes mentales» (que son los contenidos de esas «mentalidades» estudiadas por los «historiadores marxistas» que se acogieron hace unos años a la llamada Historia de las mentalidades) sino por «imágenes reales», físicas, por ejemplo las que dibujaron ya en los siglos XVII y XVIII, Antonio Carnicero, José del Castillo, Bernardo Barranco, José Brunete, Gerónimo Gil, Gregorio Ferro; o en el XIX, José Moreno Carbonero, Ramón Puiggarí, Gustavo Doré, Ricardo Balaca o Luis Pellicer; y en el XX Daniel Urrabieta Vierge, Joaquín Vaquero, Dalí o Saura, por no contar también a los innumerables dibujos de los Quijotes para adultos o para niños, comics, películas, representaciones teatrales.

Ampliando discretamente el campo de la «inmanencia literaria autogórica», cabría citar también, dentro de este campo de los símbolos autogóricos, a las habituales interpretaciones del Quijote como obra literaria dirigida contra otras obras literarias, los libros de caballerías. Es decir, contra los caballeros andantes de papel, y no contra los caballeros reales, como pudieron serlo Hernán Cortés, o Don Juan de Austria, bajo cuyas banderas militó el propio Cervantes.

Interpretaciones «autogóricas» que podrían apoyarse en las palabras que el ventero dirige contra el cura (I, 32), cuando arremete contra esos libros mentirosos, llenos de disparates y devaneos, que matan el interés por los relatos de héroes históricos reales, tales como Gonzalo Hernández de Córdoba o como Diego García de Paredes: «¡Dos higas para el Gran Capitán y para ese Diego García que dice!», exclama el ventero, por cuya boca creen algunos que está hablando el propio Cervantes.

No negamos sentido a estas interpretaciones literarias (inmanentes) del Quijote; lo que sí ponemos en tela de juicio es la legitimidad de considerar como símbolos a los símbolos autogóricos que, a lo sumo, constituyen un caso límite de la Idea de símbolo, límite en el que el símbolo cesa de serlo, como cesa de ser causa la causa sui. Porque un símbolo, en cuanto figura alotética, dice precisamente relación a referencias distintas del propio cuerpo del símbolo. Y ello porque las referencias del símbolo han de ser también corpóreas: cada parte del anillo fragmentado que se entrega a cada partícipe principal de la ceremonia, es símbolo de la otra parte; el Credo es «Símbolo de la Fe» porque cada grupo de fieles que recitan versículos suyos, remite a los fieles que recitan los sucesivos, y de este modo la comunidad de los fieles configura una comunidad viviente, que es una parte real de la Iglesia militante.

Desde luego Don Quijote no es un símbolo autogórico, en el sentido más literal en el que, según Clarín, era, para el Magistral de Pas el versículo «y el verbo se hizo carne». «¿Creía don Fermín en este versículo?» En rigor, en lo que don Fermín creía (decía Clarín) era en las letras rojas que estaban escritas en un tablero dispuesto en el altar y que decían: «Et verbum caro factum est.» Las figuras, interpretadas como símbolos estrictos, alegóricos, nos remiten a referencias extraliterarias, a figuras reales, a figuras de la historia civil, política o social.

Don Quijote, ¿es una historia clínica?

En esta línea, suponen algunos intérpretes que en la figura de Alonso Quijano, Cervantes querría haber representado algún individuo real, que él pudo conocer directamente, o a través de algún amigo o escritor.

La referencia real de Don Quijote, según esto, sería Alonso Quijano, es decir, algún individuo de carne y hueso, pero afectado de un tipo específico de locura que Cervantes pudo conocer e «identificar» intuitivamente, sin ser médico o psiquiatra. Menéndez Pidal descubrió, en 1943, la figura de Bartolo, del sainete de Entremeses de los Romances; Bartolo era un pobre labrador que enloqueció de tanto leer el Romancero, y en quien Cervantes pudo haberse inspirado. Se cita también a don Rodrigo Pacheco, un marqués de Argamasilla de Alba, que enloqueció leyendo libros de caballería.

Los psiquiatras han tendido, como es natural, a interpretar a Don Quijote desde las categorías propias de su oficio. Desde el doctor Esquirol, en el siglo XIX, que interpretó a Don Quijote como un modelo de «monomanía» –él fue el inventor de este término– hasta el doctor Francisco Alonso-Fernández, que acaba de publicar una interpretación de Don Quijote según la cual ésta obra podría considerarse como una suerte de «historia clínica» de un sujeto afectado de un síndrome que Cervantes habría logrado establecer, ajustándose asombrosamente al síndrome que hoy es identificado como «autometamorfosis delirante». Un síndrome emparentado con los síndromes delirantes de Capgras, Frégoli y otros. En consecuencia, propone se considere como auténtico protagonista de la novela, no tanto a Don Quijote, sino a Alonso Quijano. En efecto (argumenta), fue Alonso Quijano quien padeció el síndrome delirante de identificación con un imaginario Don Quijote, que sólo existió en su mente; es Alonso Quijano quien logra curarse de su locura, gracias a las atenciones del bachiller Carrasco, del cura y del barbero, y a «una calentura que le tuvo seis días en la cama» (II, 74). Alonso-Fernández subraya cómo este incidente no pasó desapercibido «al perspicaz ojo clínico del eximio doctor Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra».

Hay que agradecer al doctor Alonso, gran amigo mío, su demostración de que Alonso Quijano padeció un síndrome que Cervantes logró describir con asombrosa puntualidad; lo que sólo se explicaría si admitimos que Cervantes había conocido y diferenciado casos específicos de locura (como también habría conocido y descrito la locura del licenciado Vidriera). Y en todo caso, ni Don Quijote ni Vidriera son puras «creaciones literarias».

Pero, ¿quiere esto decir que Cervantes se propuso como objetivo literario la «descripción clínica» de un tipo de delirio específico?

No necesariamente, si es que Cervantes estaba utilizando o aprovechando su descripción de un tipo de locura real como símbolo de otra referencia, a saber, acaso, la realidad de unas gentes de España (no de España misma, como muchos dicen) en la que los hombres, según muchos, habían enloquecido, porque iban a América, dicen algunos, o porque dejaban de ir (decimos otros). Porque iban a América en busca de El Dorado, o porque allí, evocando un libro de caballerías (Las Sergas de Esplandián) daban el nombre de California a un imaginario reino de las amazonas; o, en su momento, daban el nombre de Patagonia a las tierras en las que vivían hombres que les recordaban las tribus de salvajes monstruosos descritas en la novela de caballerías, El Primaleón. Más aún: cabría extender el simbolismo de la locura de Don Quijote a lugares que habría que buscar en España, y no en América, en Italia o en Flandes, en cualquiera de los lugares de la Mancha o de cualquier otra parte de España o Portugal en la que los fieles cristianos, en las iglesias, en las transformaciones del pan y del vino eucarístico, veían la carne y la sangre de Jesucristo. Cuando Don Quijote, al acuchillar los cueros de la venta, cree ver sangre derramada donde sólo hay vino, ¿no está intentando describir un género de delirio similar al de quien, tras las palabras de la consagración, se dispone a beber del cáliz un vino que se ha transformado en sangre?

Una cosa es que Don Quijote despliegue una serie de delirios que, lejos de ser meramente literarios, tengan una consistencia clínica (lo que ya nos obligaría a considerar a Don Quijote como una figura no autogórica, sino alotética) y otra cosa es que Cervantes se hubiera propuesto hacer (finis operantis) y, sobre todo, hubiera hecho (finis operis) la descripción anticipada de un síndrome delirante, padecido por un tal Alonso Quijano. Porque, ¿acaso Alonso Quijano no es él mismo una figura literaria? Sobre todo, ¿acaso no es el propio delirio sistematizado de Don Quijote aquello que es utilizado por Cervantes como símbolo de otras figuras reales, que precisamente no se consideraron víctimas de síndromes de Capgras o de Frégoli? ¿Y acaso las propias calenturas de los últimos días de Don Quijote, sin perjuicio de haber sido recogidas por el ojo clínico de Cervantes, no pueden simbolizar también las calenturas de España en unos años de profunda crisis?

Los delirios de Don Quijote, interpretados como símbolos alegóricos, tendrán como referencia, no a «locos de atar», que el psiquiatra ve en el hospital o en su consulta, sino precisamente a figuras históricas reales, que acaso pasan por ser figuras extraordinarias y aún heroicas. Otra cosa es identificar esas figuras y determinar el alcance que pueda tener la utilización, por Cervantes, de síntomas delirantes, como símbolos de ellos mismos.

El individuo y la pareja de individuos

Ahora bien, una figura humana, como sin duda lo es la figura de Don Quijote, nunca existe en solitario: una persona implica siempre a otras personas que se involucran las unas a las otras en coexistencia pacífica o bélica. De otro modo: el individuo, en cuanto existente, es un sinsentido, es una entidad metafísica y, por tanto, es ya simple metafísica el intento de interpretar a Don Quijote como símbolo de algún individuo aislado, ya esté cuerdo, ya esté loco. Un individuo, por sí mismo, no puede existir, porque existir es co-existir.

El individuo ni siquiera existe como tal cuando alcanza la condición de Rey o de Emperador. Por ello, la célebre clasificación de las sociedades políticas, de Aristóteles, en los tres géneros consabidos: monarquías, aristocracias y repúblicas, ha de considerarse como una clasificación propia de una ciencia política-ficción, sin perjuicio de que siga siendo nuestra referencia actual. No pueden distinguirse las monarquías de las aristocracias o de las repúblicas según el criterio aristotélico: o bien manda uno, o varios, o todos (o la «mayoría»). Y esto por la sencilla razón de que «uno» no puede mandar, porque no puede existir en cuanto tal «uno»: el Rey más absoluto no manda solo, sino como cabeza de un grupo.

El mínimo numérico de las personas coexistentes es el de dos; y acaso por ello alcanza un grado casi máximo de consenso universal la interpretación de las relaciones humanas desde el esquema dualista de las parejas (en especial de las parejas constituidas por individuos opuestos, ya sea según el género gramatical –masculino o femenino– ya sea según otros criterios de oposición: alto/bajo, tonto/listo, viejo/joven, gordo/flaco). Las personas, según esto, jamás estarán solas, sino emparejadas, y según pares de individuos que habrán de oponerse entre sí por diferentes y opuestos tipos de atributos. Y si los elementos de una pareja se consideran «iguales», la oposición entre ellos surgiría de su propia coexistencia, como ocurre por ejemplo con las situaciones enantiomorfas, en las que aparecen opuestas figuras iguales pero incongruentes, como ocurre con la incongruencia entre dos manos iguales pero de sentido opuesto (derecha e izquierda). Adán y Eva es el prototipo de una primera pareja, con oposición de género, pero acompañada de un cortejo variado de otros pares de oposiciones. Los dióscuros (Castor y Polux) fueron vistos, en la batalla del lago Regilo, montando en sus caballos blancos y luchando entre sí.

Desde el esquema dualista de la coexistencia, Don Quijote se ha considerado desde siempre asociado o involucrado con Sancho. El par «Don Quijote y Sancho», y las oposiciones más peculiares de atributos que entre ellos se establecen (señor/vasallo, caballero/escudero, alto/bajo, delgado/gordo, idealista/realista…) se considerará muchas veces reproducida en otras famosas parejas literarias, desde el par Sherlock Holmes/Watson, hasta el par Asterix/Obelix (que rompe alguna de las oposiciones de atributos consideradas como características, como la oposición leptosomático –alto, delgado– / pícnico –bajo, grueso–).

Ahora bien, hay razones muy serias para concluir que los esquemas dualistas son sólo un fragmento de estructuras más complejas. Adán y Eva, por ejemplo, es sólo un fragmento de la sociedad formada por ambos con sus hijos, Abel, Caín y Set. Don Quijote y Sancho suelen ser concebidos en función de oposiciones abstractas, tales como idealismo/realismo, o utópico/pragmático. Pero estas oposiciones fracasan en seguida: pues suponen que el «idealismo» es una suerte de disposición personal orientada a trascender el horizonte inmediato de la prosa de la vida, impulsando a las personas hacia el altruismo o la gloria, entonces Sancho no se opone a Don Quijote, porque también Sancho, desde el principio (y no en la Segunda parte, como se dice) está quijotizado, y acompaña a Don Quijote aventurándose en toda clase de peligros, y no sólo para adquirir riquezas (lo que ya sería suficiente, puesto que quien quiere adquirir riquezas poniendo su vida en peligro ya no es un idealista pragmático, en el sentido convencional), sino para elevar a un rango social superior a su mujer Teresa Cascajo. Sancho no es el tipo de villano que han concebido tantos historiadores villanos que ponen, como única motivación de los españoles que se alistaban a los tercios o a los galeones, la satisfacción del hambre (recordemos la película de Antonio Landa, La marrana).

Tiene para nosotros la mayor importancia advertir la incompatibilidad de los esquemas dualistas con los principios del materialismo filosófico, en la medida en que estos implican el principio platónico de symploké. Platón, en efecto, en el Sofista, establece las dos premisas que han de considerarse presupuestas en todo proceso racional: 1) Un principio de conexión entre unas cosas y otras: «si todo estuviese desconectado de las demás cosas, el discurso racional sería imposible»; 2) un principio de desconexión entre las cosas: «si todo estuviese conectado con todo, el discurso racional sería imposible.» Es preciso, por tanto, si queremos aproximarnos racionalmente a la realidad, presuponer que cada cosa no está conectada (por ejemplo, causalmente) con todas las demás, ni tampoco que está desconectada de todas las demás: es decir, es preciso presuponer que las cosas se encuentran entretejidas (en symploké) con algunas cosas, pero no con todas.

Pero cuando aplicamos a un grupo social dado (por ejemplo, el círculo de los individuos humanos) el esquema dualista de conexión, entonces la realidad se nos presentará como una pluralidad de parejas desconectadas entre sí (pues suponemos que los términos de cada par se refieren íntegramente el uno al otro). La conexión de los términos de cada pareja, en efecto, será completa internamente, tanto si cada individuo se considera correlativo al otro, como si se considera conjugado con él. Cada «par aislado» introduce una tal dependencia recíproca entre sus términos, que permite sea tratado como una unidad «monista», como un dipolo, tanto si sus relaciones son armónicas como si son dioscúricas. Por tanto, la realidad global se nos ofrecería como una multiplicidad compuesta por infinitas parejas entre las cuales sólo cabría reconocer interacciones aleatorias. Y en el supuesto en el cual el esquema dual se aplicase a un único par, coextensivo con la «realidad misma» (Ormuz y Arihman, entre los maniqueos; la diada Byzos/Aletheia entre los gnósticos; o el Yin/Yan entre los chinos), entonces ese «dualismo cósmico» equivaldría prácticamente a un monismo, y ello sin necesidad de que se contemplase la posibilidad de que uno de los términos del dualismo acabase venciendo o reabsorbiendo al otro. Sería suficiente que permaneciesen eternamente diferentes, aunque complementándose el uno al otro, o separándose el uno del otro, hasta la muerte («una de las dos Españas ha de helarte el corazón»).

Las tríadas

La estructura más elemental, compatible con el principio de symploké del materialismo filosófico, es la estructura ternaria. En una triada (A, B, C) los miembros estarán involucrados los unos con los otros, pero, al mismo tiempo, será posible reconocer coaliciones binarias [(A, B) (A, C) (B, C)] en cada una de las cuales queda segregado el tercer miembro, que, sin embargo, tendrá que mantenerse asociado al otro. La estructuración en triadas de cualquier campo constituido por individuos encierra además la posibilidad de que cada triada esté a su vez involucrada, a través de alguna unidad común, a otras triadas, dando lugar a eneadas (3×3) o a docenas (3×4), &c. El principio de symploké, en resolución, se cumple muy bien en pluralidades estructuradas en triadas, eneadas, docenas, &c. De esta pluralidad podrá ya afirmarse tanto la conexión (no total) de unas cosas con otras, como la desconexión (o discontinuidad) de unas cosas con otras, que seguirán su propio ritmo.

Por lo demás, la concepción de la realidad o de sus regiones en cuanto organizadas según esquemas ternarios, son tan antiguas como las concepciones organizadas según los esquemas binarios o dualistas. Baste recordar las célebres trinidades de los dioses indoeuropeos que Dumèzil puso de manifiesto hace años (Zeus, Heracles, Plutón), (Júpiter, Marte, Quirino), la «tríada capitolina» (Júpiter, Minerva, Juno) o sus transformaciones germánicas (Odín, Thor, Freya).

En la tradición cristiana, y más concretamente católica, a la que pertenece sin duda Don Quijote, la triada fundamental está representada por el dogma de la Trinidad, Padre, Hijo y Espíritu Santo, «que del Padre y del Hijo procede» (en esto se diferencian los católicos romanos de los ortodoxos griegos, para quienes el Espíritu Santo viene a ser como una emanación del Padre, sin el concurso del Hijo). No es evidente que la trinidad católica sea un mero caso particular de las trinidades indoeuropeas.

En el cristianismo romano el dogma de la Trinidad fue constituyéndose paulatinamente, y probablemente la apelación al Espíritu Santo tuvo que ver con la misma constitución de una Iglesia universal, que no tenía parangón, según su estructura social, con las estructuras sociales conocidas por los griegos (como pudieran serlo la familia o el Estado). Sabelio sostuvo, bien que heréticamente, que el Espíritu Santo representaba a la Iglesia, como entidad femenina (la «Santa Madre Iglesia»); también es verdad que en algunas trinidades germánicas, uno de los miembros es femenino (Odín, Thor, Freya), aunque acaso por contaminación con el cristianismo, como lo probaría la fórmula litúrgica, calco de la cristiana: «En el nombre de Odín, de Thor y de Freya.» Pero sí es cierto que la trinidad de Gaeta, o la trinidad de la Peña de Francia (en Salamanca), a las que encomendaba Sancho a Don Quijote en el momento de descender a la cueva de Montesinos (II, 22) son manifestaciones de la Trinidad genuina del catolicismo (Padre, Hijo, Espíritu Santo).

Las tríadas del Quijote

Si nos decidimos a dejar de lado el esquema dualista de estructuración, que nos impone la asociación en pareja entre Don Quijote y Sancho, por fundamental que esta asociación sea (unas veces explicada por su complementariedad, otras veces por su conjugación: Don Quijote mantiene la unidad entre los distintos episodios de su carrera a través de Sancho; y Sancho mantiene la unidad entre los episodios de la suya a través de Don Quijote) entonces, la reestructuración trinitaria de las figuras del Quijote se nos manifiesta con fuerza, y esto independientemente de que Cervantes hubiera sido consciente de esta estructura: tanto más interesante sería el caso de una estructura objetiva que se impone «por encima» o independientemente de la voluntad del autor.

Lo cierto es que Don Quijote aparece siempre como un miembro de la trinidad (Don Quijote, Sancho, Dulcinea); lo que no quiere decir que los miembros de esta trinidad no estén a su vez involucrados en otras trinidades diferentes. Don Quijote, por ejemplo, forma también triángulo con su ama y su sobrina (II, 6). Sancho aparece siempre involucrado con su mujer, Teresa Cascajo, y con su hija; así también con el cura y el barbero (I, 26). Dulcinea, según su figura más real de labradora, se le aparece a Sancho montada en un asno junto con otras dos mujeres también labradoras. «Y sucedióle todo tan bien [a Sancho], que cuando se levantó para subir en el rucio vio que del Toboso hacia donde él estaba venían tres labradoras sobre tres pollinos, o pollinas, que el autor no lo declara…», y poco después, cuando Sancho anuncia a su señor que ha visto a Dulcinea, «salieron de la selva y descubrieron cerca a las tres aldeanas. Tendió Don Quijote los ojos por todo el camino de El Toboso, y como no vio sino a las tres labradoras, turbose todo, y preguntó a Sancho si les había dejado fuera de la ciudad» (II, 10).

En cualquier caso, la «trinidad básica» en torno a la cual Cervantes parece moverse a lo largo de toda su obra es la constituida por Don Quijote, Sancho y Dulcinea. Si confrontamos, como desde nuestras hipótesis estamos obligados a hacerlo, esta trinidad con la Trinidad católica, se concederá que a Don Quijote le corresponde el papel del Padre; Sancho es el Hijo (al menos, así le llama una y otra vez su señor); en cuanto a Dulcinea habría que ponerla en correspondencia con el Espíritu Santo, que Sabelio interpretaba como entidad femenina, como la Madre Iglesia. En efecto, ¿cómo no reconocer que Dulcinea, como figura ideal, procede a la vez del Padre (Don Quijote) y de su Hijo (Sancho)?

Don Quijote concibe, desde luego, a la figura de Dulcinea, porque aunque su nombre real fue el de Aldonza Lorenzo, una moza labradora, hija de Lorenzo Corchuelo y de Aldonza Nogales, y de muy buen parecer (I, 25), y de quien él un tiempo anduvo enamorado, sin embargo nació, en cuanto Dulcinea, «por decreto» de Don Quijote, cuando a este le pareció bien darle el título de «señora de sus pensamientos». Pero fue Sancho quien también contribuyó al nacimiento y fortificación de la figura de Dulcinea, un moza de chapa, hecha y derecha, nada melindrosa, y teniendo mucho de cortesana: «¡Qué rejo que tiene, y qué voz!», dice Sancho a Don Quijote. «Ahora digo, señor Caballero de la Triste Figura, que no solamente puede y debe vuestra merced hacer locuras por ella, sino que con justo título puede desesperarse y ahorcarse, que nadie habrá que lo sepa que no diga que hizo demasiado de bien, puesto que le lleve el diablo.»

Y esta figura así concebida hubiera permanecido como una sombra de recuerdo meramente imaginario, si no hubiera sido por la industria que Sancho tuvo para encontrar a la señora Dulcinea, es decir, para establecer el vínculo entre la figura del recuerdo y algún correlato real, el que necesita re-anudarse, aunque no sea con la gallarda Aldonza, sino con una labradora carirredonda y chata (II, 10). De este modo resulta ser Sancho (y no ya la mente enferma y delirante de Don Quijote) quien, arrodillado, finge saludar a Dulcinea en la figura de la labradora chata y carirredonda, que Don Quijote, puesto de hinojos junto a Sancho, miraba también con «ojos desencajados y vista turbada», es decir, miraba a la labradora, a la que Sancho llamaba reina y señora. Y entonces la labradora, que había hecho la figura de Dulcinea, pica a su borrica con un aguijón, que en un palo traía; la pollina dio en correr prado adelante, de forma que Dulcinea dio en el suelo; «lo cual visto por Don Quijote, acudió a levantarla, y Sancho a componer y cinchar el albarda, (…) y queriendo Don Quijote levantar a su encantada señora en los brazos sobre la jumenta, (…) le quitó de aquel trabajo, porque, haciéndose algún tanto atrás, tomó una corridica y, puestas ambas manos sobre las ancas de la pollina, dio con su cuerpo, más ligero que un halcón». Y dijo Sancho (a Don Quijote): «…es la señora nuestra ama más ligera que un alcotán y que puede enseñar a subir a la jineta al más diestro cordobés o mexicano!, (…) Y no le van en zaga sus doncellas, que todas corren como el viento.»

¿No es evidente que Cervantes, que ha querido demorarse en la descripción de la visión poética de la labradora que Sancho ofrece a Don Quijote, poniendo en primer lugar la agilidad de esta labradora que su señor estaba viendo, como para ocultar tras ella su cara carirredonda y chata que también Don Quijote había visto? En cualquier caso, la transfiguración de la figura de la labradora en Dulcinea no puede atribuirse a un proceso endógeno psicológico propio de un demente en pleno delirio alucinatorio. Don Quijote ve, no a Dulcinea, sino, reforzado por Sancho, a una labradora ágil (también chata y carirredonda). No padece, por tanto, en absoluto, alucinación alguna: ni siquiera esta labradora podría evocarle la Aldonza de su juventud. Y «te hago saber, Sancho, que cuando llegué a subir a Dulcinea sobre su hacanea, según tú dices, que a mí me pareció borrica, me dio un olor de ajos crudos, que me encalabrinó y atosigó el alma». Cervantes parece tener aquí buen cuidado en subrayar que si Don Quijote relaciona a esta labradora con Dulcinea es por culpa de Sancho. Dulcinea se nos muestra aquí como asunto de fe, no de alucinación; de fe en la «autoridad revelante», que en este caso es Sancho, en cuya palabra Don Quijote confía y cree, cuando al salir de la selva las tres aldeanas, anunciadas como Dulcinea y sus doncellas, el caballero de la Triste Figura dijo:

—Yo no veo, Sancho –dijo Don Quijote–, sino a tres labradoras sobre tres borricos.
Y Sancho replicó:
—¡Agora me libre Dios del diablo! –respondió Sancho–. ¿Y es posible que tres hacaneas, o como se llaman, blancas como el ampo de la nieve, le parezcan a vuesa merced borricos? ¡Vive el Señor que me pele estas barbas si tal fuese verdad!
—Pues yo te digo, Sancho amigo –dijo don Quijote–, que es tan verdad que son borricos, o borricas, como yo soy don Quijote y tú Sancho Panza; a lo menos, a mí tales me parecen.

Por lo demás, la resistencia a ver el milagro de la transfiguración de la labradora en Dulcinea, milagro en el que Don Quijote ha de creer por la fe que le merece la autoridad de Sancho (en otras ocasiones tan crítico de las alucinaciones de su señor, ante los molinos de viento, ante los rebaños de ovejas…) no deja de recibir una «explicación teológica»: «Si yo no veo a Dulcinea en la figura de esta labradora, no es porque no lo sea, sino porque el maligno encantador me persigue, y ha puesto nubes y cataratas en mis ojos, y para sólo ellos, y no para otros, ha mudado y transformado tu sin igual hermosura y rostro en el de una labradora pobre.» Si los psiquiatras se empecinan en ver aquí delirio, habrían de agregar que no se trata de un delirio alucinatorio (la percepción de un labradora como Dulcinea) sino de un delirio de «racionalización teológica», orientado a explicar por qué esta labradora que veo no es la Dulcinea que Sancho dice ver; un delirio de racionalización teológica que los psiquiatras deberían también reconocer en la operación de Santo Tomás cuando pretende explicar por qué el trozo de pan, y el trago de vino que el consagrante está manipulando en el altar, son en realidad la transmutación milagrosa del cuerpo de Cristo invisible e intangible. ¿Y qué psiquiatra se atrevería a diagnosticar de loco a Santo Tomás de Aquino?

La locura de Don Quijote, como se demuestra por su comportamiento ante Aldonza Lorenzo, y ante la labradora anónima; pero también sobre todo, por su comportamiento ante los duques, que son los responsables de todos los «delirios» (en realidad engaños) que Don Quijote y Sancho experimentan en su compañía –incluyendo aquí a las escenas de Clavileño o a las de la ínsula Barataria– no son solo un proceso psicológico que hubiera afectado Alonso Quijano; es también, y muy principalmente, un proceso social, inducido por otras personas que rodean a Don Quijote, y que actúan como «genios malignos» engañadores cartesianos, aún teniendo al parecer voluntad de ayudarle, o simplemente de entretenerle. Genios malignos que actúan sobre Don Quijote, pero como contrafiguras de aquellos que actúan a través de Mefistófeles cuando va a presentarse ante Fausto: «Yo soy el espíritu que buscando siempre el mal hace siempre el bien.» Y en todo caso es gratuito atribuir la locura y el delirio a Don Quijote, reservando para Sancho la prudencia y el sentido común. Si Don Quijote se dice loco, porque emprende aventuras descabelladas, tan loco está Sancho que lo acompaña, y no en la primera ni en la segunda salida, sino también en la tercera. «Mirad, Teresa, –respondió Sancho–, yo estoy alegre porque tengo determinado de volver a servir a mi amo don Quijote, el cual quiere la vez tercera salir a buscar las aventuras; y yo vuelvo a salir con él, porque lo quiere así mi necesidad.» (II, 5.)

El escenario del Quijote contiene tres tipos de referencias: unas «circulares», otras «radiales» y unas terceras «angulares»

Desde el presupuesto general de que la persona implica siempre pluralidad de personas, hemos tratado de delimitar la estructura de esta pluralidad de personas en la que se mueven los personajes del Quijote.

Y descartando, como metafísicas, las estructuras monistas (que atribuyen a la persona la situación originaria propia de una persona absoluta, solitaria, «sublime soledad», propia del Dios neoplatónico: «Sólo con el Solo»), así como también las estructuras binarias (dualistas, dioscúricas o maniqueas), hemos encontrado la conveniencia de operar, en el momento de interpretar a Don Quijote, con estructuras trinitarias entretejidas, de las cuales, en cualquier caso, podemos obtener estructuras más complejas, como puedan serlo, según hemos dicho, las eneadas o las docenas, también presentes en la novela, bajo la forma del recuerdo de los doce signos del Zodiaco, de los doce apóstoles o de los doce caballeros de la tabla redonda.

La disciplina hermenéutica que impone este postulado estructural es bien clara: evitar sistemáticamente el tratamiento de Don Quijote (o de cualquier otro personaje), incluso en su soliloquios, como si se tratase de un personaje ab-soluto, o incluso como si se tratase de un personaje ligado a su complementario, aunque fuera al modo maniqueo (el que inspiró los famosos versos de Antonio Machado –su caletre no daba para más– que «la izquierda española» tomó como divisa durante décadas: «Españolito que vienes al mundo, salveos Dios: una de las dos Españas ha de helarte el corazón»); estimular sistemáticamente la investigación de las conexiones de los personajes del Quijote con otros personajes de los que aparecen en el escenario de la novela, es decir, sin necesidad de salirnos fuera de su inmanencia, buscando referencias extraliterarias o extraescénicas (que, sin embargo, habrá que encontrar en el momento oportuno).

El Quijote, se ha dicho muchas veces, es una novela escrita desde una óptica teatral (Díaz Plaja observó que el Quijote es la única novela cuyo personaje central va siempre disfrazado). Y aquí radicaría su virtualidad para hacer de ella representaciones pictóricas o escultóricas, y después cinematográficas o televisivas. Cervantes nos ofrece ante todo a sus personajes en escenarios bien definidos. En los escenarios se mueven, en principio, varias personas (sólo excepcionalmente un único actor, en monólogos, o en diálogos). También el triángulo es la estructura elemental del teatro.

Ahora bien, un escenario teatral, como pueda serlo la gran novela de Cervantes, no puede circunscribirse a los límites de su estricto recinto. Un escenario teatral en el que los actores individuales, al ponerse la máscara (per-sonare, pros-opon) comienzan a actuar como personas, es siempre una parte de un círculo de personas humanas, una parte del espacio antropológico.

En consecuencia, al escenario, además de las dimensiones «circulares» (las relaciones de las personas humanas con otras personas humanas) en las que se mueven las personas humanas, que en él desarrollan el drama, la comedia o la tragedia, le corresponde también una dimensión cósmica, en la que quedan englobadas, desde luego, las referencias geográficas e históricas externas a la inmanencia del escenario, pero involucradas internamente en él (llamamos «radiales» a esta red de relaciones e interacciones que las personas humanas mantienen con las cosas impersonales que las rodean); y al margen de estas referencias sería imposible, como trataremos de demostrar en lo sucesivo, entender la filosofía de Don Quijote, que permanece oculta, o sepultada, en las imágenes literarias o cinematográficas. Por último, el escenario, además de referencias y de figuras contenidas en el círculo de las personas humanas, o en la región radial del espacio, contiene también figuras y referencias que desbordan aquel círculo y esta región, porque aún siendo personales (de condición muy semejante a la de las personas humanas, por tener o pretender tener apetitos, conocimientos y sentimientos), no son de naturaleza humana (llamamos a estas referencias «angulares», y entre ellas pondremos a ciertos animales numinosos, a demonios, ángeles, diablos…).

En el Quijote aparecen varias menciones «angulares» a diablos, a aves de mal agüero (como la infinidad de grandísimos cuervos y grajos que salieron de la maleza que cubría a la boca de la cueva de Montesinos) y algún mono que «habla con el estilo del diablo» (II, 25). También se hace referencia a gigantes, como el gigante Morgante (que era afable y bien criado), que en Amadís es uno de los tres con los que se enfrenta Roldán, o bien el gigante Caraculiambro, señor de la ínsula de Malindrania, a quien Don Quijote espera vencer en singular batalla a fin de enviarle presentado ante su dulce señora.

Y, por supuesto, entre estas personas no humanas, hemos de contar también a las personas de la Trinidad de Gaeta antes citada, o a las de la Peña de Francia, Padre, Hijo y Espíritu Santo, a las que Sancho encomienda a Don Quijote en el momento de ponerse a descender a la cueva de Montesinos. En cualquier caso, conviene siempre recordar que Cervantes insiste una y otra vez en que él no quiere entrometerse en los asuntos reservados a la fe de la Iglesia católica.

Traduciendo estas reservas a nuestro lenguaje: Cervantes afirma rotundamente que él desea mantenerse siempre en torno al escenario humano (circular) y cósmico (radial), y también religioso (angular), al que parece atribuir un ritmo propio, aunque finito e inmanente (que contrasta con el ritmo indefinido y trascendente que conviene a los asuntos de la fe católica).

El escenario del Quijote no se refiere al «espacio antropológico» en general, sino al Imperio español

Ahora bien, ¿cómo determinar las referencias personajes humanos, de los contenidos radiales, o de las entidades angulares que figuran en la «inmanencia» de este escenario?

Podría decirse que tales referencias no están definidas en el Quijote, lo que es un modo de afirmar que no existen, al menos como referenciales determinados. Según esto, las figuras de Don Quijote, Sancho o Dulcinea, por ejemplo, habría que «referirlas» a la Humanidad, en general (a figuras de la Humanidad que podríamos encontrar en cualquier lugar y tiempo). Y en ello cifrarían algunos la «universalidad» atribuida comúnmente a la obra de Cervantes. Asimismo, como referenciales «radiales» podrían tomarse cualquiera de los contenidos del mundo cósmico, geográfico o histórico. Y, por supuesto, como referencias angulares, valdrían todas aquellas que, en todo lugar y tiempo, reunieran las características adecuadas. Dicho de otro modo: las referencias de Don Quijote serían universales o, lo que es lo mismo, los personajes y el escenario de Don Quijote, tendría referencias, dicho de forma positiva, pancrónicaspantópicas, lo que equivaldría a decir, en forma negativa, que es ucrónico y utópico, y que ahí reside la raíz de su universalidad.

Sin embargo, y sin perjuicio de reconocer la posibilidad de estas interpretaciones «universalistas» (posibilidad a la que se orientan las interpretaciones éticas o psicológicas de los personajes del Quijote, de su idealismo o de su realismo, de su fortaleza o de su avaricia, y otras tantas características de la «condición humana») preferimos atenernos a las interpretaciones, y no son escasas, históricas y geográficas muy precisas de Don Quijote, como condición suficiente, por no decir necesaria, para penetrar en su significado.

En una palabra, nos parece (como también les parece a otros muchos intérpretes) que el escenario del Quijote, en cuanto símbolo, nos remite a referencias históricas y geográficas muy precisas. Referencias que podrán ser puestas entre paréntesis, sin duda, si se pretenden mantener las interpretaciones humanistas, éticas o psicológicas. Pero cuando reinterpretamos las referencias históricas y geográficas, entonces se nos imponen, en primer lugar, las interpretaciones políticas del Quijote, que han de girar, de un modo a otro, en torno al significado del Imperio español, del «fecho del Imperio», si utilizamos la fórmula de la que se sirvió cuatro siglos antes Alfonso X el Sabio.

Según estas interpretaciones políticas, Cervantes ofrece en su escenario una interpretación del Imperio español, como primer «Imperio generador» que alcanza su culmen a lo largo de los siglos XV y XVI (el Imperio inglés o el Imperio holandés se habrían levantado a partir del Imperio español, e inicialmente como sus depredadores). El Imperio español habría alcanzado sus cimas más altas a partir de 1521, con la conquista de México, y después, del Perú, o de Flandes; y sobre todo a partir de 1571, en Lepanto. En Lepanto fue detenido el Imperio otomano, que amenazaba seriamente a Europa. Cervantes intervino en la batalla de Lepanto a las órdenes de Don Juan de Austria, y allí perdió su brazo izquierdo, recuerdo permanente, durante toda su vida, de la realidad de la ofensiva musulmana; además fue hecho prisionero por los moros, permaneciendo preso cinco años en Argel, hasta que fue liberado mediante rescate económico.

(Una «ministra de cupo» del gobierno de Rodríguez Zapatero, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, pero cuya connatural ignorancia está empapada del irenismo pánfilo de su grupo, declara en El País de 19 de mayo de 2004 que: «También creo que es importante nuestra proyección en el Mediterráneo. Si muchos nos hemos negado a la barbaridad de esta guerra [la del Iraq], es porque todavía sigue viva una vieja relación con el mundo árabe. Cervantes, sin ir más lejos, estuvo en Argel, en Orán… Tenemos que estar atentos a nuestra historia para saber quiénes somos.»)

Pero en 1588, fecha del gran desastre de la Invencible (aunque no de su destrucción, ni menos aún de la potencia, aún temible, que España representaba para Inglaterra, Holanda y Francia), tiene lugar una inflexión en el curso de su historia. No puede decirse que haya entrado en situación decrépita, todavía se mantiene como gran Potencia dos siglos más, los siglos XVII y XVIII. Pero su curso ascendente ha sido frenado, principalmente por los otros Imperios que han surgido a su sombra. Este es el momento en el cual Cervantes habría comenzado su meditación sobre el Imperio católico, una meditación que le conducirá a escribir su gran obra, Don Quijote de la Mancha.

La meditación acerca del Imperio español la entendemos como una tarea cuya importancia filosófica tiene un alcance mucho mayor, desde luego, que la meditación humanística sobre «la condición humana», aparentemente más profunda, pero que en realidad es una uniforme monotonía abstracta y vacía. En efecto, la meditación sobre «el Hombre» (o sobre la «condición humana») se presenta como una meditación metafísica a todo aquel que sepa que «el Hombre» (el Género humano, la Humanidad, la Condición humana) no existe, al margen de los Imperios universales; y que sólo desde los Imperios universales (que son una parte de la humanidad, pero no el todo) es posible tomar contacto con esa «condición humana».

Porque el hombre, en general, es una mera formalidad cuya materia sólo puede adquirirla a partir de sus determinaciones, no ya históricas, cuanto histórico-universales, es decir, a partir de las determinaciones o «modos de hombre» que han ido conformándose en la sucesión de los grandes Imperios, desde el Imperio persa hasta el Imperio de Alejandro, desde el Imperio romano de Augusto hasta el Imperio romano de Constantino y de sus sucesores, entre ellos, principalmente, el Imperio Hispánico, el Imperio Inglés y el Imperio Soviético. Sólo desde la plataforma de estos Imperios universales cabe aproximarse al fondo de eso que llamamos «condición humana», en tanto que ella no es algo invariante (salvo en sus estructuras genéricas, comunes con los primates), sino cambiante y dada en el curso de la Historia. La plataforma de los Imperios universales es, desde nuestras coordenadas, el más preciso criterio positivo disponible para diferenciar los análisis antropológicos (etológicos, psicológicos) de la «condición humana» de los  análisis filosófico históricos de esta misma condición.

Dicho de otro modo, la interpretación de Don Quijote, como figura universal, en el sentido del Género humano (¿qué tienen que ver los llamados valores del Quijote con los valores de los hombres musulmanes, en cuanto tales?), es una meditación vacía que recae, de un modo u otro, en puro psicologismo.

Y cuando nos decidimos a cultivar, una vez más, el género de interpretaciones políticas histórico-filosóficas del Quijote, en el sentido expuesto, lo primero que tenemos que despejar es la cuestión de las referencias extraliterarias que nos ofrece el escenario de Don Quijote, por el cual transita constantemente la trinidad Don Quijote, Sancho y Dulcinea.

Las referencias de las personas de la trinidad fundamental quijotesca

Ante todo, ¿cómo determinar las referencias extraescénicas de las figuras que aparecen en el escenario del Quijote?

Tomaremos como criterio las palabras que pronuncia, desde la propia inmanencia literaria de la novela, uno de los personajes más significativos que rodearon al Caballero de la Triste Figura, a saber, el bachiller Sansón Carrasco, «socarrón famoso» que, abrazando a Don Quijote, y con voz levantada, le dijo (en el capítulo 7 de la segunda parte):

—¡Oh flor de la andante caballería! ¡Oh luz resplandeciente de las armas! ¡Oh honor y espejo de la nación española!

Don Quijote, según palabras del bachiller (a través de quien muy bien podría estar hablando Cervantes), tiene como referencia inequívoca a la «nación española». Lo que tiene para nosotros un significado político del mayor alcance, no sólo porque demuestra que la nación española está ya reconocida en el siglo XVI, mucho antes de que fuera reconocida la nación inglesa o la nación francesa –o, por supuesto, la nación catalana o la nación vasca– sino porque nos ofrece explícitamente la referencia extraliteraria que Cervantes atribuía a la figura de Don Quijote.

Cierto que la «nación española» que, según el bachiller Carrasco, se refleja en Don Quijote, no es una Nación política en el sentido en el que ésta puede ser constatada en la batalla de Valmy, que ya hemos citado. La nación española a la que se refiere el bachiller Carrasco no es la nación política que surgirá a partir de las ruinas del Antiguo Régimen; pero tampoco es una nación meramente étnica, que viviera en los márgenes de algún Imperio, o acaso integrada, junto con otras, en el Imperio español. La «nación española» del bachiller Carrasco es una nación histórica, cuya extensión se superpone con la extensión misma de la Península Ibérica (cuando el bachiller Carrasco pronuncia su imprecación, Portugal está integrado en esa nación española: el propio Cervantes intervino el 26 de julio de 1582 en el combate naval de la Isla de San Miguel de Azores, contra mercenarios franceses que apoyaban las pretensiones de Don Antonio por convertirse en Rey de Portugal). La unidad y consistencia de esta nación española había podido ser captada desde fuera del Imperio entonces hegemónico y visible, había podido ser captada desde Francia, desde Italia, desde Inglaterra, desde América.

¿Y cual es la referencia de Sancho? También nos es dada, acaso, desde el mismo «escenario»: Sancho es un labrador de la Mancha, cabeza de una familia compuesta por su mujer y dos hijos. Sancho representa así a cualquier labrador de los que viven en la Península Ibérica, y cuya vida está destinada, junto con su mujer, a sacar adelante a su familia; porque Sancho, dotado de gran inteligencia (y no sólo labradora, sino también verbal y aún literaria), se entiende a la perfección con los otros labradores y gentes de su rango. Y, como ellos (o como muchos de ellos), Sancho, que está bien alimentado (no es un paria de la India, condenado a mantener miserablemente su vida en su propio lugar, aunque sea en presencia «del Todo»), está dispuesto a salir de su lugar, sirviendo a un caballero que puede llevarle a descubrir horizontes más amplios, sin perjuicio de los riesgos que su aventura le ha de deparar.

¿Y Dulcinea? Según decía, ya va para el siglo, Ludwig Pfandl (Cultura y costumbres del pueblo español de los siglos XVI y XVII, Barcelona 1929), «Dulcinea no es otra cosa que la encarnación de la monarquía, de la nacionalidad, de la fe. Por ella se esfuerza el manco, luchando contra los molinos de viento.»

Pero, si aceptásemos la interpretación de Pfandl, la referencia de Dulcinea, ¿no se confundiría con la referencia que el bachiller Carrasco señala para Don Quijote, es decir, la «nación española»?

De algún modo sí, de un modo general, como también Sancho (tal como lo hemos presentado) hay que referirlo a esa misma nación española que parece ya consolidada o existente como tal nación histórica, sin perjuicio de la profunda crisis que está padeciendo tras el desastre de la Invencible. Pero la circunstancia de que la referencia de Don Quijote, de Sancho y de Dulcinea sea, en términos generales, la misma, es decir, España, no significa que las perspectivas desde las cuales cada uno de estos personajes de la trinidad se refiere a España no sean distintas.

Despliegue histórico de la trinidad quijotesca: pasado, presente futuro

Acaso Don Quijote va referido a España desde la perspectiva del pretérito, Sancho va referido a España desde la perspectiva del presente, y Dulcinea desde la perspectiva del futuro (y, por ello, Dulcinea es asunto de fe, no de evidencia sensible).

Son tres perspectivas involucradas necesariamente entre sí, como involucradas están las personas de la trinidad quijotesca. Dicho de otro modo, si cada persona de esta trinidad escénica, Don Quijote, Sancho, Dulcinea, va referida a una España que ha entrado en una crisis profunda, es porque cada persona se refiere a ella a través o por mediación de las otras. Don Quijote, desde un pretérito que, aún en el tiempo escénico, está cercano (el tiempo en el cual los caballeros españoles usaban lanzas y espadas, en lugar de utilizar arcabuces y cañones); Sancho, desde el presente de un pueblo que vive gracias a los frutos que la tierra da tras el duro trabajo, y que ha se seguir produciendo en cada momento. Y Dulcinea representa el futuro, como símbolo de la madre-España, pero tomando esta referencia en sentido literal, que tiene poco que ver (la referencia) con el sentido de una «figura ideal» del «eterno femenino», si es que representa a la madre que puede parir a los hijos que, como labradores o soldados, podrán hacer posible el futuro de España.

Ahora bien, presente, pasado y futuro no son, en un tiempo histórico como el que corresponde a España, meros puntos de la línea que representa el tiempo astronómico. El tiempo histórico, el tiempo de España como Imperio emergente generador, que comienza a acusar las profundas heridas que le están infligiendo sus enemigos, los imperios depredadores europeos, es un conjunto fluyente de millones de personas en agitación e interacción constante, y que tienen la costumbre de «tener que comer todos los días». Este conjunto fluyente, este oceánico río de personas que hacen la historia y son arrastrados por ella, puede clasificarse en tres clases o círculos de personas teóricamente bien definidos:

En primer lugar, el círculo constituido por las personas que se influyen mutuamente, apoyándose o destruyéndose, durante los años de su vida; un círculo cuyo diámetro puede estimarse en cien años, los que corresponden a lo que llamamos el presente histórico (que no es, por supuesto, el presente instantáneo, adimensional, que corresponde al punto fluyente de la línea del tiempo).

En segundo lugar, el círculo (de diámetro finito, pero indeterminado) constituido por las personas que influyen, para bien o para mal, sobre las personas del presente, que tomamos como referencia, moldeándolas casi por completo; pero sin que quienes viven en el presente puedan influir en modo alguno, profunda o superficialmente, sobre aquellas, porque ya han muerto. Este es el círculo constitutivo de un pretérito histórico, el círculo de las personas muertas, aquellas que «cada vez mandan más sobre las vivas».

Y en tercer lugar el círculo (de diámetro indefinido) constituido por las personas en las cuales quienes viven en el presente influyen profundamente, hasta el punto de moldearlas casi por entero, marcando además sus caminos, pero sin que ellas puedan a su vez influir sobre aquellos que viven en el presente, porque todavía no existen. Es el círculo del futuro histórico.

Venimos suponiendo –si se prefiere, partimos de la suposición– que España es el lugar en el que hay que poner las referencias de los personajes simbólicos (alegóricos) que Cervantes nos ofrece en el escenario de su obra capital. Pero España es un proceso histórico. Afirmar que España es el lugar en el que hay que poner las referencias de los personajes escénicos –ante todo, Don Quijote, Sancho y Dulcinea– no es decir todavía mucho.

Hay que comenzar determinando los parámetros del presente, en el cual nuestro escenario está situado, como plataforma desde la cual podemos mirar también hacia su pretérito y hacia su futuro. Estos parámetros hay que obtenerlos, sin duda, siguiendo el método de análisis del propio escenario inmanente en el que actúan los personajes, es decir, de su inmanencia literaria. Y son varias, y concordantes, las que nos llevan a fijar las fechas en las que actúan los personajes en la época «del gran Filipo III». Más precisamente, la carta que Sancho, como gobernador de la Insula Barataria, escribe a su mujer Teresa Panza, está fechada el 20 de julio de 1614. Ha de concluirse, por tanto, que Don Quijote, cuando marchaba en busca de Dulcinea, también lo hacía en aquellos días.

Pero esto no significa que Cervantes haya querido ofrecer un escenario referido a la España de su presente, un presente que estará comprendido (si mantenemos nuestras hipótesis) en un círculo de cien años de diámetro que podrían ir desde 1616, año de su muerte a 1516, año en el que murió Fernando el Católico. El punto central de este diámetro se encuentra muy próximo a 1571, la fecha de la batalla de Lepanto, en la que Cervantes, con veinticuatro años de edad, estuvo gloriosamente presente.

Cervantes no se proponía hacer una crónica del presente, en el que suponemos ha situado su escenario. Desde su presente, por supuesto, Cervantes emplaza un escenario cuya referencia es España, pero no propiamente la España de la Edad Media (como pensó Hegel, cuando interpretaba a Don Quijote como símbolo de la transición de la época feudal a la época moderna). Don Quijote recorre una península ya unificada, sin fronteras interiores entre los reinos cristianos y, más aún, sin fronteras interiores con los reinos moros: la España que Don Quijote recorre es posterior a la toma de Granada en 1492, por los Reyes Católicos. Este es el «escenario literario» (no un escenario histórico) del Quijote.

Sin embargo Don Quijote no camina todavía a través de una España moderna (la del propio Cervantes, que ya sabe lo que es el olor y el ruido de la pólvora, los galeones que van y vienen a América, de la que no hay prácticamente referencia en su obra). Cervantes tiene buen cuidado de decirnos, en el primer capítulo de su obra, que lo primero que hizo Don Quijote, antes de salir de su casa, «fue limpiar unas armas que habían sido de sus bisabuelos, que, tomadas de orín y llenas de moho, luengos siglos había que estaban puestas y olvidadas en un rincón». Alonso Quijano (que vive en el presente) se disfraza por tanto de Don Quijote, un caballero del pretérito, pero de un pretérito que sigue influyendo, como es propio de todo pretérito histórico, de modo determinante en el presente, porque «los muertos cada vez mandan más que los vivos».

Sin embargo, como hemos dicho, Don Quijote y los suyos no se mueven en una época medieval, sino moderna. Ya no hay en España reyes moros. Incluso algunos de los moriscos que fueron expulsados vuelven a España, y se encuentran con Sancho:

—¿Cómo y es posible, Sancho Panza hermano, que no conoces a tu vecino Ricote el morisco, tendero de tu lugar? (II, 54.)

Parece evidente que Cervantes ha querido referirse, desde su escenario de 1614 (fecha de la carta de Sancho a su mujer) a la España de un siglo anterior, de 1514; una España que, aunque no es medieval, sigue siendo inmediatamente anterior a la llegada de Carlos I a España, y sobre todo a la entrada de Hernán Cortes en Nueva España, en México. Ocurre como si Cervantes hubiera deliberadamente querido regresar a una España ibérica anterior, si no al momento del descubrimiento de América, sí al momento de la «entrada» masiva de los españoles en el Nuevo Mundo (México, Perú, &c.) y a las repercusiones que de tal entrada hubieron de seguirse en la España de partida.

La España que Cervantes ve desde su escenario es una España que no aparece involucrada con el Nuevo Mundo, pero tampoco con el viejo continente (con Flandes, con Italia, con Constantinopla, ni con África). No es, por tanto, una España contemplada a escala de sociedad política coetánea, aunque el escenario esté emplazado en esa sociedad política que es su plataforma. Como si Cervantes hubiera querido iluminar las referencias que ve desde su escenario, que no es anacrónico políticamente hablando, sino sencillamente abstracto, como si estuviera siendo iluminado por una luz ultravioleta, capaz de desvelar una sociedad civil que seguía existiendo y moviéndose a su propio ritmo en el trasfondo de la sociedad política. Una sociedad civil con curas y barberos, duques y titiriteros, caballeros andantes arcaicos pero aún reconocibles, pero que aparecen, mediante los artificios de la iluminación, con un cierto aire intemporal.

El aire intemporal de una sociedad que, como la española, ya ha madurado, la primera, como nación histórica, pero que, aún abstraída de sus responsabilidades políticas perentorias (que obligan a movilizar ejércitos dotados de armas de fuego, hoy diríamos: de misiles con cabezas nucleares) necesita el cuidado de los caballeros armados con lanzas y espadas, porque la paz interior «intemporal» en la que se vive, la paz que los caballeros creen poder encontrar si se disfrazan de pastores, no tiene mucho que ver con la paz celestial, por cuanto siguen actuando los bandidos, los asesinos, los ladrones, los mentirosos, los engañadores, los desalmados, los canallas.

¿Cómo no tomar en serio, cuando queremos alcanzar alguna interpretación política del Quijote, esta «España intemporal» que artificiosamente habría iluminado Cervantes con esa luz ultravioleta de la que hablamos? ¿No parece imprescindible ver en esa «nación española», reconocida por Cervantes, y dispuesta para comenzar a flotar en esa atmósfera intemporal «ultravioleta» el artificio alegórico más significativo de la gran obra cervantina, cuando tratamos de interpretarla desde categorías políticas?

Así puestas las cosas, nos parece que cualquier intento de interpretación directa del escenario quijotesco mediante la referencia inmediata a las figuras históricas de su presente (como pudieran serlo Carlos I, Hernán Cortés, el Gran Capitán o Diego García de Paredes) habría que considerarla como primaria o ingenua («¡Dos higas para el Gran Capitán y para ese Diego García que dice!», replicó el ventero al cura).

El escenario del Quijote va referido a España, y a la España histórica, a su Imperio político; pero no de modo inmediato, sino por la mediación de una España intemporal, pero no irreal, sino simplemente vista a una luz ultravioleta, en la que una sociedad civil, dada en un tiempo histórico que habita la península ibérica, vive según su propio ritmo. Desde esta «mediación ultravioleta» tendremos que intentar interpretar los símbolos alegóricos de Don Quijote, que sólo a los lectores más bastos o primarios (aunque se hayan hecho eruditos) pueden parecer transparentes y sencillos.

Dos tipos de interpretaciones filosófico políticas del Quijote:
catastrofistas y revulsivas

Las dificultades aparecen ahora en el momento de la interpretación de las figuras del Quijote, aún en el supuesto de que se admita su condición de símbolos alegóricos con referencias ambiguas, tal como las hemos sugerido (referencias que juegan en el doble plano de la sociedad política y de la sociedad civil).

Hay muchas interpretaciones, formuladas a escalas muy diversas. Y lo primero que nos importa, desde la perspectiva histórico filosófica y política que mantenemos, es clasificar estas diversas interpretaciones en dos grandes grupos, el de las interpretaciones catastrofistas(o derrotistas,como pudiéramos llamarlas) y el de las interpretaciones no catastrofistas (o simplemente críticas, o revulsivas, en la medida en que interpretan al Quijote no tanto como la expresión de un derrotismo político irreversible, que sólo podría refugiarse en un pacifismo evangélico –propio de la izquierda extravagante– cuanto como ofrecimiento de un revulsivo que termina poniendo en las armas la condición necesaria –no suficiente– para remontar la decadencia o la derrota).

Interpretaciones catastrofistas del Quijote

Examinemos, aunque sea muy brevemente, algunas interpretaciones del significado de Don Quijote pertenecientes al grupo que hemos rotulado como «catastrofista», y en cuya reserva se encuentra el «panfilismo pacifista».

Según estas interpretaciones, Cervantes habría ofrecido en su obra fundamental la visión más despiadada y derrotista que de la España imperial podría haberse ofrecido jamás. Cervantes (dirán los agudos intérpretes psicologistas), resentido y decepcionado (escéptico, al borde del nihilismo) por los innumerables fracasos que su vida le deparó (mutilación, cautiverio, cárcel, fracasos, desaires, especialmente la denegación de su petición para trasladarse a América, a la que creía tener derecho como héroe de Lepanto), habría eliminado de su genial novela cualquier referencia a las Indias, así como también a Europa. Y las locuras de los caballeros reales españoles (Carlos I, Hernán Cortés, don Juan de Austria), que habrían acabado arruinando a su patria, estarían siendo aludidas alegóricamente por los héroes de los libros de caballerías que inspiraron a los conquistadores a ir a las Indias en busca de El Dorado, de California, o de Patagonia: «a las gentes de Hernán Cortés –dice Américo Castro– su entrada triunfal en México les pareció un episodio del Amadís o cosas de encantamiento», o ir a Inglaterra o a Flandes con una escuadra tan arcaica e «invencible» como pudiera serlo la propia lanza de Don Quijote, que se hizo añicos en el primer asalto.

Y si el bachiller Sansón Carrasco dijo a Don Quijote que era «el honor y espejo de la nación española», es fácil entender lo que quería decir. Pues, ¿qué es lo que reflejaba este espejo? Un caballero de esperpento, que acomete empresas delirantes y ridículas de las cuales sale continuamente derrotado. ¿No es este el reflejo de la nación española?

Y según esto, a Cervantes habría que ponerlo en la serie de aquellos hombres que, no ya desde el exterior, sino desde el interior de la nación española, más han colaborado (aunque de un modo más sutil y más cobarde) al entramado de la Leyenda Negra. En los lugares de salida de esta serie legendaria figuran Bartolomé de las Casa y Antonio Pérez; en los lugares terminales figura el último Premio Cervantes, Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, que escribió, en 1992, un libro titulado Esas Yndias equivocadas y malditas (que mereció, en época de gobierno socialista, el Premio Nacional de Literatura). Pero como figura central de la serie habría que poner, si fueran coherentes los que mantienen esta interpretación catastrofista, al propio Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616). Cervantes, con su Don Quijote, habría ofrecido el marco genial y oculto de la Leyenda Negra contra España, y habría contribuido a difundirla por Europa. Montesquieu ya lo habría advertido: «El más importante libro que tienen los españoles no es otra cosa sino una crítica a los demás libros españoles.»

En resolución, ningún español que mantenga un átomo de orgullo nacional podría sentirse reflejado en el espejo de Don Quijote. Sólo un pueblo como el español «inflado de orgullo» y «cargado de derechos» –decía un catalán, ya en 1898, Prat de la Riba– podría identificarse con algunas cualidades abstractas del Caballero de la Triste Figura. Folch y Torres, otro separatista que se regodeaba con los fracasos de Don Quijote (sin duda en la medida en que ellos representaban los fracasos de España) llegará a decir, también en ese año, en el que los «quijotes castellanos cometieron la locura de declarar la guerra a Estados Unidos» (en el curso de los conflictos con Cuba y Filipinas): «Quédense los castellanos con Don Quijote, y buen provecho les haga.»

Más aún: esta interpretación derrotista a partir de Don Quijote, por tanto, desde dentro del Imperio español, como obra de un delirio megalómano y cruel, no sólo habría dado el marco, sino que habría alimentado la Leyenda Negra promovida desde el exterior de las Potencias enemigas (Inglaterra, Francia, Holanda), Imperios depredadores y piratas carroñeros que se alimentaban, en su infancia y durante su juventud, de los despojos que iban arrancando a España. Y no falta quien sugiere (últimamente Javier Neira) que el mismo éxito extraordinario que el Quijote alcanzó muy pronto en Europa pudo ser debido, en gran medida, precisamente a su capacidad de servir de alimento para el odio y el desprecio que sus enemigos querían dirigir contra España.

¿Habría que avanzar, a partir de esta interpretación derrotista de Don Quijote, en la senda que ya inició el propio Ramiro de Maeztu, cuando aconsejaba atemperar el culto a Don Quijote, no sólo en la escuela, sino también en el ideario nacional español?

Si Don Quijote es un antihéroe español, loco y ridículo, mera parodia y contrafigura del verdadero hombre y caballero moderno, ¿por qué empeñarse en mantenerlo como emblema nacional, celebrando con pompa inusitada sus aniversarios y centenarios? Tan solo los enemigos de España –y sobre todo, los enemigos internos, los separatistas catalanes, vascos o gallegos– podrán regocijarse con las aventuras de Don Quijote de la Mancha.

Con todo, cabría intentar reivindicar un simbolismo de Don Quijote menos deprimente, aún reconociendo sus incesantes derrotas, si nos situásemos en las posiciones del pacifismo más extremado, ya fuera el pacifismo defendido por esa izquierda extravagante, tan próxima al pacifismo evangélico de los actuales Papas (cuyo «Reino –de ahí su extravagancia– no es de este Mundo») ya fuera el pacifismo defendido por la izquierda divagante, que proclama en la Tierra la Paz perpetua y la Alianza de las Civilizaciones. Para estos pacifistas radicales las aventuras de Don Quijote podrán servir como ilustración, por vía apagógica de hecho o de contraejemplo, de la inutilidad de la guerra, y de la estupidez de la violencia y del uso de las armas.

Los intérpretes más audaces de esta ralea, deseando salvar a Cervantes, acaso se atrevan a decir: la «lección ética» que Cervantes ha dado a España y al mundo en general con su Don Quijote nos enseña la inutilidad de las armas y de la violencia.

De este modo los pánfilos verán en Cervantes a un pacifista convencido, que intenta demostrar la importancia de la paz evangélica, de la tolerancia y del diálogo, por la vía apagógica de los contraejemplos, de las armas que resultan ser inútiles por esforzado que sea el ánimo de quien las empuña.

Sin embargo, quienes creen poder extraer semejantes conclusiones –«moralejas»– de los fracasos de Don Quijote con sus armas, cometen una imperdonable confusión entre las armas de Don Quijote y las armas en general. Una conclusión o moraleja sacada desde la petición de principio de que las armas de Don Quijote representan a las armas en general. Pero, ¿y si Don Quijote estuviera insistiendo, mediante su peculiar modo críptico de hablar, en la diferencia esencial entre las armas de fuego (con las cuales se obtuvo la victoria de Lepanto) y las armas blancas de los caballeros antiguos? En este supuesto, los fracasos de Don Quijote, con sus armas blancas, herrumbrosas, se convertirían inmediatamente en la apología de las armas de fuego con las que se abre la guerra moderna, a cuyas primeras batallas asistió Cervantes en varias ocasiones (Lepanto, Navarino, Túnez, La Goleta, San Miguel de las Azores).

Sin embargo, es preciso constatar que, en todo caso, las interpretaciones catastrofistas del Quijote, afectarían antes a Cervantes que a Don Quijote. Según la tesis de Unamuno, Cervantes, hombre resentido y escéptico, se habría comportado como un miserable con Don Quijote, intentando ponerle una y otra vez en ridículo. Pero no lo habría conseguido, y la mejor prueba sería la admiración universal que Don Quijote suscita, y no precisamente (salvo en los psiquiatras) como un loco paranoico. Porque, por más que Don Quijote cae y se descalabra, también se levanta y se recupera: representa de este modo la fortaleza, la firmeza y la generosidad del caballero, que vive, no en un mundo de fantasía, sino en el mundo real y miserable, pero sin rendirse ante las miserias.

Además, no es nada claro que Cervantes mantuviera ante el Imperio español la actitud nihilista del resentido que Unamuno le atribuye. Cervantes conservó siempre el orgullo de soldado combatiente en Lepanto, en donde la Liga impulsada por el Imperio español, detuvo las oleadas del Imperio otomano, «la mejor ocasión que vieron los siglos», dijo Cervantes. También nos consta, por el propio Quijote, que Cervantes aprobó la política española de expulsión de los moriscos, y que siempre se manifestó convencido súbdito de la Católica Monarquía Hispánica.

No dibujó Cervantes la figura de un héroe con los trazos groseros y primarios según los cuales fue dibujada a lo largo de los siglos la figura del rey Arturo, o la de Amadís de Gaula. El procedimiento de Cervantes fue más sutil y, sin duda por ello, sus resultados más ambiguos. Tanto como para dar pie a que los enemigos de España lo transformasen en motivo de escarnio para su historia y para sus hombres.

El Quijote como revulsivo

Examinemos ahora algunas interpretaciones críticas susceptibles de ser incluidas en el grupo de las interpretaciones revulsivas, pero no catastróficas, de Don Quijote.

En efecto, en el Quijote, podríamos ver, ante todo, la demoledora crítica dirigida contra todos aquellos españoles que, tras haber participado en las batallas más gloriosas, en aquellos hechos de armas a partir de los cuales se forjó el Imperio español, habían vuelto a sus lugares o a la corte, como hidalgos o caballeros satisfechos, dispuestos a vivir de sus rentas en un mundo intemporal, y de sus recuerdos de los tiempos gloriosos. Y olvidándose de que el Imperio, que protegía su bienestar –su felicidad–, es decir, su pacífica vida, más o menos apacible, estaba, después de la Invencible, siendo atacado por los cuatro costados, y comenzaba a presentar vías de agua alarmantes.

Esta masa de gentes satisfechas, tras el primer gran esfuerzo del Imperio, que está comenzando a desmoronarse, tiene el peligro de ser un lugar de cuyo seno podrá surgir el «quiero y no puedo» de algún caballero esforzado, a quien solo le queda esperar el ridículo, si intenta valerse de las armas herrumbrosas de sus bisabuelos, es decir, por ejemplo, de los barcos paralíticos de la Armada Invencible.

Las lanzas y espadas de los bisabuelos, o el baciyelmo que el propio Don Quijote se fabrica, podrán comenzar a ser vistos como alegorías a través de las cuales Cervantes, sin necesidad siquiera de ser muy consciente de ello, estaba intentando representar aquella España que él iluminaba con la luz ultravioleta de la que hemos hablado. Cervantes, según esto, con su Don Quijote, podría haber intentado, o al menos (si lo que había intentado hubiera sido dar suelta a su escepticismo casi lindante con el nihilismo) podría haber logrado ejercer el papel de agente de un revulsivo ante los gobiernos de los reyes sucesores de sus majestades católicas, de Carlos I y aún de Felipe II, de los tiempos de Lepanto.

Lo que Cervantes les estaría diciendo a sus compatriotas es que, con lanzas y espadas oxidadas, con barcos paralíticos, o con aventuras solitarias, menos aún, disfrazados de pastores bucólicos y pacíficos, los españoles estarían destinados al fracaso, porque su Imperio, que les protegía y en el que vivían, estaba seriamente amenazado por los Imperios vecinos. Cervantes estaría viendo también, sin embargo, aunque con escepticismo, que sería posible remontar la depresión, que afloraba sin duda en algunos de sus personajes, y entre ellos Alonso Quijano transformado en Don Quijote. Y por eso Cervantes parece querer subrayar en todo momento que sus personajes tienen efectivamente esa energía, aunque ella tuviera que expresarse en forma de locura.

Según esto, el mensaje de Don Quijote no sería un mensaje derrotista, sino un revulsivo destinado a remover de su ensueño a quienes, después de la batalla victoriosa, pensaban poder vivir satisfechos, paladeando la paz de la victoria, o simplemente disfrutando de su «estado de bienestar» (como los españoles dirán siglos más tarde).

Es decir, el nuevo orden que había logrado imponer a sus antiguos enemigos, olvidándose de que ese bienestar procedía del exterior de las fronteras, de esa América que el propio Cervantes elimina del Quijote. Estaría explicando el por qué en el Quijote no se dice nada de todo lo que rodea al recinto peninsular, con sus islas y territorios adyacentes, por qué no se dice nada de América, de Europa, de Asia o de África.

Por eso Don Quijote, al mismo tiempo que sus locuras, estaría ofreciendo algunos indicios de los caminos que sería preciso seguir. Ante todo recorrer y explorar todo el solar de la nación española: Cervantes se ha preocupado que Don Quijote de la Mancha salga de su lugar de los campos de Montiel, traspase Sierra Morena; incluso se ha preocupado de hacerle llegar hasta la playa de Barcelona (aquella misma, al parecer, en la que Cervantes vio cómo se hacía a la mar, sin que él, en una última oportunidad, pudiera ya alcanzarlo, el barco que llevaba a Italia a su protector, el Conde de Lemos).

Pero recorrer España peninsular no simplemente para solazarse en un «merecido descanso», o acaso para insultar en privado a sus gentes, sino para esforzarse, sin descanso («mis arreos son las armas, mi descanso el pelear»), interviniendo en sus vidas, en actitud de intolerancia ante lo intolerable (por ejemplo, el retablo de Maese Pedro). O induciendo a estas vidas a la fabricación de armas que no fueran baciyelmos, sino armas nuevas, armas de fuego (hoy diríamos, bombas de hidrógeno), necesarias para mantener la guerra que sin duda van a desatar las naciones que acosan a la nación española, si ésta no se les somete.

Porque Don Quijote no cree en la Armonía universal, ni en la Paz perpetua, ni en la Alianza de las civilizaciones. Don Quijote vive en un cosmos cuyo orden no es otra cosa sino la apariencia que cubre las convulsiones profundas que experimentan sus partes, que jamas ajustan las una a las otra: «Dios lo remedie [dice en el capítulo del barco encantado, II, 29], que todo este mundo es máquinas y trazas, contrarias unas de otras. Yo no puedo más.»

Por ello el Quijote ofrecerá no ya a los hombres (al «Hombre», en general), sino a los hombres españoles, un mensaje preciso: la apología de las armas, «que lo mismo es decir armas que guerra». Bien está que quienes se dirigen al Hombre en general, o bien al Género humano, o a la Humanidad, dirijan mensajes de esperanza en una paz perpetua; porque estos mensajes serán inofensivos si tenemos en cuenta que su destinatario (el Género humano, la Humanidad) no existe. Pero un mensaje de paz perpetua y de desarme dirigido a la «nación española» sería letal; sólo podría entenderse como un mensaje enviado a España por sus enemigos, esperando, una vez que España se hubiera desarmado, entrar en ella para repartírsela.

En cualquier caso no es necesario suponer que Cervantes se propuso deliberadamente, como finis operantis de su obra maestra, ofrecer una parodia que sirviera de revulsivo a aquellos validos de la monarquía, caballeros de Corte, duques, curas o barberos, a fin de hacerles ver, a través de las aventuras de un esperpéntico caballero, adonde podía conducir su complacencia, su bienestar, incluso sus aficiones literarias por la caballería andante o por la vida pastoril.

Es suficiente admitir la posibilidad de que Cervantes pudiera haber percibido de inmediato en ese hidalgo, loco por sus lecturas de libros de caballería, un hidalgo, al que llamó Alonso Quijano, y de quien tuvo sin duda noticias precisas, que le interesaron, tanto por su condición de loco como, sobre todo, por la naturaleza de su locura (poco tiene que ver la locura del licenciado Vidriera con la locura de Don Quijote, aunque las diferencias entre ambos quedan borradas groseramente cuando sólo se atiende a su común denominación de «locos»). Una locura que lo aproximaba en seguida a los caballeros de corte, caballeros entusiasmados, no ya sólo acaso por Amadís o por Palmerín, sino también por Hernán Cortés o por el Gran Capitán, aunque Cervantes habría querido separarlos, desviando la atención hacia aquellos, para no levantar sospechas incómodas o peligrosas, o desviar la dirección de su argumentación apagógica.

En suma, en el hidalgo loco por las caballerías, convertido en caballero, y «armado caballero por escarnio», podría Cervantes haber intuido la ridiculez de aquellos caballeros felices y complacientes que se alimentaban de aquellas historias. Más aún: puede concederse que esta alegoría, intuida desde el principio, pero en claroscuro, habría asumido como estímulo constante, que tomaba fuerzas al andar, sobre el autor, impulsado para entregarse, cada vez con mayor dedicación, al desarrollo de un personaje tan ambiguo y, por ello, inagotable; un personaje que tanto prometía, ya desde su simple definición inicial.

El febril desarrollo de su genial invención, es decir, el descubrimiento del «hidalgo loco de la Mancha por su afán de transformarse en caballero andante» pudo ser, desde luego, el cauce que recogiera la poderosa corriente que en Cervantes manaba, sin duda, desde hacía algunos años, y en la que iban disueltos tantos resentimientos, desencantos y desprecios hacia los caballeros, validos o duques satisfechos. Hacia esos próceres, que en pleno Estado de bienestar, se complacían con las memorias heroicas, propias o ajenas, que les acompañaban en las cacerías o en los salones, ya fueran los de Madrid, ya los de Valladolid, ya fueran los de Villanueva de los Infantes.

Podría haber sido en el curso de estos desarrollos de la ambigüedad de la figura inicial –ambigüedad que suponemos constitutiva de la figura de Don Quijote–, en la medida en que debe ir siendo desplegada tanto en función de las aventuras interesantes en el terreno psicológico psiquiátrico, como en función de los contenidos de tales aventuras, de interés ético o político. Sería a partir del desarrollo de esta figura ambigua, en su principio, como Cervantes habría ido advirtiendo, por el peso mismo de los contenidos específicos caballerescos de esta específica locura, el alcance alegórico, filosófico político de su ficción.

Alonso Quijano es un loco, pero Don Quijote canaliza su locura por cauces que generalmente son violentos, pero al mismo tiempo llenos de firmeza y generosidad. Además el héroe, un loco por sus hechos o hazañas, es héroe discreto e ingenioso en sus discursos, impropios de un loco; pero puesto que Cervantes piensa que los discursos son los que conforman y dan sentido a los hechos (hasta el punto de que estos puedan ser borrados o transformados por aquellos), Cervantes se habría visto obligado, por la fuerza objetiva del personaje con quien se enfrenta, Don Quijote, así como de las personas individuales involucradas en él, a ir atribuyendo los constantes fracasos de Don Quijote, más que a su locura a los instrumentos de los cuales esta locura se valía, tales como armas arcaicas, caballos famélicos, ridículos baciyelmos.

De este modo, el Quijote se habría ido transformando poco a poco en una obra que objetivamente (según su finis operis) iba asumiendo, simplemente por el filtro escéptico de Cervantes, la función de un revulsivo dirigido a los mismos caballeros cortesanos o villanos, a los duques y a los bachilleres que Cervantes conocía, y que eran aquellos que en la segunda parte ridiculizaban ellos mismos los trabajos de Don Quijote. Es como si Cervantes, desarrollando las virtualidades de su personaje, hubiera llegado a alcanzar una disposición de ánimo tal que le hubiera hecho capaz de decir a sus compatriotas: «Ved cómo del magma complaciente y satisfecho de los próceres, ociosos, caballeros, villanos, escribas y legistas, curas y barberos, han emergido las figuras de Don Quijote, Sancho y Dulcinea, cuyo rango los eleva inmediatamente por encima de la vulgar muchedumbre ambiente.»

¿Por qué entonces resultan risibles, sobre todo la figura de Don Quijote? No por su esfuerzo, fortaleza, firmeza o generosidad, sino porque utiliza instrumentos o se propone objetivos risibles: lanzas quebradas, baciyelmos, molinos de viento, rebaños de ovejas, incluso gobierno de una ínsula; pero manteniendo siempre aquella energía esforzada, firme y generosa, heredada de su estirpe.

Sustituyamos lanzas quebradas por cañones, caballos famélicos por naves artilladas y ligeras, caballeros andantes por compañías o batallones (la violencia individual no sirve para «desfacer entuertos» sino para encadenar otros nuevos), molinos de viento por gigantes ingleses o franceses que nos atacan; sustituyamos al escudero Sancho por millones de labradores que salen de sus lugares para acompañar a los caballeros en la lucha contra los enemigos reales, y a Dulcinea por millares de mujeres que arrojan al mundo nuevos labradores y soldados.

Cervantes pudo entrever esta alegoría a medida que su relato iba avanzando. Lo importante es que tal alegoría fuera entrevista por Cervantes, porque sólo entonces podría entenderse su disposición para llevar a Don Quijote, en un momento dado de su carrera, a colgar las armas y, al mismo tiempo, a decretar su muerte. Porque lo que no puede olvidarse es que la lección final y más profunda del Quijote, que Cervantes parece querer ofrecernos, es ésta: que aunque los proyectos esforzados de Don Quijote y de los caballeros armados que representa parezcan locuras, la disyuntiva es la muerte. Para renunciar a estas locuras, para curarse de ellas, tras la gran calentura, habrá que colgar las armas; pero con esto (que es lo que no ve el pánfilo pacifista) viene la muerte. La muerte física de Don Quijote, al recluirse, tras colgar las armas, en el cuerpo de Alonso Quijano, simboliza así la muerte de España, al colgar las suyas.

«Razones tan discretas que borran y deshacen sus hechos»

La facultad de hacer discursos discretos e ingeniosos, que es facultad propia de los letrados –que son ante todo quienes dominan las letras de las leyes–, es una facultad que Cervantes atribuye a Don Quijote, pero no en abstracto, sino poniendo en su boca los mismos discursos discretos e ingeniosos que acreditan esa facultad, que aparece en Don Quijote con tanta o más fuerza cuanto más débiles y quebradas nos parecen sus acciones, sus armas y sus hechos.

No puede afirmarse, por lo demás, desde luego, que Don Quijote, en su locura, careciera de discurso, como tampoco carece de armas. Pero tampoco puede afirmarse (con don Diego Miranda) que la «incongruencia» (locura o tontería) de Don Quijote se encuentre sólo en el terreno de la coordinación de los discursos y sus acciones. La incongruencia de Don Quijote se encuentra ya en su propio discurso, y es éste el que enferma o degenera. Aunque no es fácil determinar cual es la línea divisoria que separa el discurso sano y el discurso degenerado, que en Don Quijote toma la forma de locura, y según una figura ya conocida, si damos por buena la tesis de Menéndez Pidal sobre el entremés de Bartolo.

En el momento de tratar de establecer esta línea divisoria habría que tener en cuenta que la «parte sana» del discurso de Don Quijote tendría que ser compartida por el propio Cervantes; o, dicho de otro modo, que Cervantes estaría expresando su pensamiento a través del discurso sano de Don Quijote, y que un discurso no se opone solo, en globo, a las acciones –a los hechos, en cuanto acciones–, sino también al juicio sobre los hechos de experiencia, que no son tanto acciones cuanto percepciones, sin perjuicio de que, a su vez, estas percepciones estén «recortadas» por alguna acción previa o virtual, con tal de que esté integrada en el discurso.

Cervantes (si es que es Cervantes quien habla, en el capítulo XVIII de la segunda parte, por boca de Diego de Miranda) no parece diagnosticar quiebra alguna en el discurso de Don Quijote, y su locura la pone más bien en la incongruencia entre su discurso, en sí mismo sano, y sus acciones, entre sus «palabras» y sus «hechos», dirán otros. Cuando don Lorenzo, el hijo poeta de don Diego, pregunta a su padre su opinión sobre el caballero que ha invitado a su casa («el nombre, la figura y el decir que es caballero andante, a mí y a mi madre nos tiene suspensos»), don Diego responde:

—No sé lo que te diga, hijo; sólo te sabré decir que le he visto hacer cosas del mayor loco del mundo y decir razones tan discretas, que borran y deshacen sus hechos. (II, 18; cursiva nuestra.)

No es por tanto propiamente que los hechos deshagan las palabras; la situación es mucho más interesante: son las palabras las que, según don Diego, deshacen los hechos.

Don Diego, según este diagnóstico, parece desplazar la incongruencia de Don Quijote a un lugar distinto (aquel en el que se contraponen los discursos y las acciones), en el que su hijo don Lorenzo, el poeta, parecía ponerla inicialmente (el lugar en el que se contrapone el discurso y los hechos, sin distinción, por un lado, y por tanto el comportamiento global de Don Quijote, que será coherente en sí mismo, y la expresión personal, no solo verbal, de los mismos («que el nombre, la figura y el decir que es caballero andante…»).

Cabe, en resumen, ensayar diferentes criterios. El que nos parece más plausible se basa en una distinción entre el discurso doctrinal (necesariamente abstracto, político, filosófico) y el juicio de aplicación del discurso a las circunstancias concretas del momento, en el que ha de intervenir la prudencia, y la sindéresis, y no sólo la sabiduría de los principios o de la ciencia de las conclusiones (la coherencia) de la doctrina. Cabría poner en correspondencia el discurso doctrinal con el «registro representativo del lenguaje», mientras que el juicio preferiría el registro del lenguaje expresivo o apelativo, que se dirige a personas en concreto.

Por ejemplo, en el capítulo 29 de la segunda parte (en el que Cervantes expone la famosa aventura del barco encantado) se le supone a Don Quijote una ciencia sólida en su discurso sobre la Esfera, puesto que utiliza conceptos que Sancho no conoce: qué cosas sean coluros, líneas, paralelos, zodiacos, eclípticas, polos, solsticios, equinocios, planetas, signos, puntos, medidas… Pero el discurso se quiebra –como se quebraría la lanza– al aplicarlo a las circunstancias concretas, allí donde el buen juicio, o la facultad de juzgar, de subsumir lo particular en lo universal, o recíprocamente, ha de ejercitarse rectamente. Don Quijote comienza a calcular «cuantas paralelas» ha de atravesar el barco arrastrado por la corriente del Ebro; comienza a interpretar las aceñas como castillo en el que debe encontrarse alguna infanta o princesa malparada. El buen juicio lo mantiene aquí Sancho, pero también la «canalla malvada» y los molineros de las aceñas «que vieron venir aquel barco por el río, y que se iba a embocar por el raudal de las ruedas». «Los cuales [molineros], oyendo y no entendiendo aquellas sandeces [de Don Quijote], se pusieron con sus varas a detener el barco, que ya iba entrando en el raudal y canal de las ruedas.»

Lo que parece aquí imprescindible indicar es que la locura de Don Quijote, definida como quiebra del juicio, es tal que permite mantener intacto el discurso doctrinal «académico» (científico, filosófico, político). No es una locura común, propia del esquizofrénico que padece confusión y caos mental. La locura de Don Quijote es solo un caso particular de la misma quiebra de juicio que padecen los hombres más sabios, los políticos o los científicos, por ejemplo, que una vez que han construido firmemente su doctrina o su diagnóstico, tratan de aplicarlos al caso concreto, y si este se resiste, echarán la culpa al caso, y no a la doctrina («el cadáver miente»).

Otra cosa es el origen de ese desajuste entre la doctrina y el hecho. ¿Se debe simplemente al dogmático empecinamiento del político o del científico (que llega a proponer, pongamos por caso, como doctrina cierta, la teoría del big bang, sin perjuicio de los hechos en contra)? ¿Se trata de que los hechos son «trastocados» desde fuera (por ejemplo, desde el palacio de los duques), a fin de que aparezcan distintos a como deberían aparecer? Descartes, en días muy próximos a aquellos en los que Cervantes escribía el Quijote, cuando juzgaba que «acaso esta estufa sea una ilusión propiciada por un Genio Maligno engañador», se enfrentaba con el mismo encantador con el que se encuentra Don Quijote.

Porque también Don Quijote recurre al encantamiento de un Genio Maligno para explicar la falta de ajuste entre las doctrinas sanas y los hechos de experiencia. El propio Sancho llegaba a veces a «perder el juicio» como le ocurrió en el episodio de los cueros de vino acuchillados por Don Quijote (I, 35), que los tomó por gigantes, y al vino derramado por sangre. ¿Quién no asocia este «encantamiento» de la transformación del vino en sangre con los debates del siglo XVII, entre galileanos, gassendistas y cartesianos, a propósito de la presencia real de Cristo en la Eucaristía, y de la transubstanciación eucarística? Pero la doctrina de Santo Tomás, si la consideramos como un propotipo de discurso teológico racional, casi perfecto, dentro de los principios del hilemorfismo creacionista, ¿qué tiene que ver con esa locura de ver en el pan y el vino el cuerpo y la sangre de Cristo?

Nos permitimos advertir que la dificultad no aparece tanto en el terreno del discurso doctrinal teológico de Santo Tomás, cuanto en el juicio concreto acerca de si este pan de trigo, como hostia consagrada, es el cuerpo de Cristo, y si este vino de uva, consagrado, es la sangre de Cristo. Pero sólo puede asentirse a semejante juicio apelando a la acción divina, a un milagro, que es de algún modo obra de encantamiento. De un encantamiento que, como en el caso de Don Quijote, transforma el vino en sangre, y el pan en carne. (Cuando se cambiaba el discurso tomista, la doctrina, por ejemplo el hilemorfismo por el atomismo, el encantamiento se hacía mucho más difícil; y la defensa de la doctrina atomística sería el motivo por el cual, y no por su heliocentrismo, habría comenzado la persecución de Galileo.)

El discurso de las armas y las letras

Y entre los discursos más famosos, y también más racionales y sanos, atribuidos a Don Quijote por Cervantes (en cuya exposición, según hemos insinuado, estaría Cervantes manifestando su propio pensamiento), hay que contar, sin duda alguna, el «Curioso discurso de las armas y las letras» (Primera parte, final del capítulo 37 y 38).

Este Discurso, en sí mismo, no tiene quiebra, ni la tienen las armas a las cuales allí se aluden. Precisamente porque son «armas aludidas» (pintadas) y no armas utilizadas (vivas). La quiebra del discurso de las Armas y las Letras no aparece en alguna grieta o inconsistencia que en el mismo discurso podamos advertir, sino en el momento de su aplicación, pongamos por caso, en la falta de juicio que se manifiesta al tomar las aspas de los molinos por brazos armados de gigantes.

¿Y cual es la sustancia de este discurso perfecto de las armas y las letras? Es decir, ¿contra quien se dirige?

En nuestros días, en los cuales el «síndrome de pacifismo fundamentalista» (SPF)sacude intensamente a los ciudadanos y a los fieles (otros dirán, aún situados en «la izquierda», pero con reminiscencias clericales: sacude intensamente «a las conciencias»), quienes exaltan, en su cuarto centenario, a Don Quijote, esperarán poder levantar a su figura como un emblema más del pacifismo salvador. ¿No dice Don Quijote en su discurso que «las armas tienen por fin y objeto la paz»? ¿Acaso no recuerda Don Quijote en su discurso, aunque sin citarlo expresamente, a San Lucas, que en palabras de su Evangelio, con las que después se comenzará el cántico de la misa, dice: «Gloria sea en las alturas, y paz en la Tierra a los hombres de buena voluntad»?

Más aún, quienes, con Bataillon y tantos otros, ven a Cervantes como uno más de los españoles impregnados por Erasmo (¿qué escritor del siglo de oro español merecería ser citado por estos eruditos sectarios si no fuera porque en aquel discurso ven reproducida alguna idea de Erasmo?), leerán el curioso discurso de Don Quijote como una versión de la doctrina del pacifismo evangélico erasmista.

A fin de cuentas, Erasmo fue el gran abanderado del pacifismo de su época; la época en la que, en España, Vitoria y otros teólogos argumentaban a favor de la guerra, de la guerra que llamaban «justa». Pero a Erasmo no le gustaba España, porque era tierra en donde se toleraba con exceso a los judíos; aparte de ello el pacifismo de Erasmo no era tampoco un pacifismo puramente evangélico, porque estaba entretejido con intereses mundanos del siglo. Erasmo decía ser neutral: Francisco, rey de Francia, busca la paz, pero también Carlos la busca. Por eso diría Francisco: «Mi primo y yo estamos siempre de acuerdo, los dos queremos Milán.»

Pero el Discurso de las armas y de las letras de Don Quijote no es un discurso pacifista, ni, menos aún, es un discurso «erasmista». A lo sumo podría interpretarse como un discurso contra Erasmo (salvo que se suponga, y es mucho suponer, que Cervantes elogia la locura de Don Quijote cuando éste empuña sus armas). Y esto porque la doctrina que Don Quijote expone es, ni más ni menos, no la doctrina de Erasmo, sino la doctrina de Aristóteles.

Erasmo, en su Querella de la paz de cualesquiera pueblos, echada y derrotada, publicada en 1529, defiende, desde luego, la paz, atacando a las armas, en beneficio de las  letras y, sobre todo, de las letras divinas: la paz de Erasmo es la paz evangélica.

¿En qué se diferencia el hombre de los animales? En que el hombre, dice Erasmo, a pesar de tener inteligencia, se comporta de un modo más bestial del que las bestias acostumbran para relacionarse con las de su misma especie. Pero Erasmo, inventándose la etología, y sobre todo la etología humana, dice: «Entre las bestias más feroces encuentro yo más grata hospitalidad que entre los hombres.» Los animales viven en concordia cuasi civil. A menudo los elefantes se comportan entre sí como hermanos; los leones no se embravecen ante los leones; la víbora no muerde a la víbora. Debería bastar el vocablo «hombre» para establecer la avenencia entre los hombres. Y aunque la naturaleza los hubiera derribado o hecho caer, ¿no les bastaba Cristo? Cristo es el principio de la paz. A Cristo no le anuncian bélicas trompetas. ¿Por qué los hombres mueven guerras permanentes, a pesar de su inteligencia? Acaso por su pecado original. Pero Erasmo parece estar diciendo que si la inteligencia, o la razón, no hubiera sido menoscabada en el hombre por el pecado, como decía San Agustín, los hombres dejarían de cultivar las armas, precisamente en virtud de su racionalidad.

Se ha señalado una posible relación entre la Querela pacis de Erasmo, en que acusa la ambición de los príncipes belicosos, y el programa de Vitoria, De iuri belli. Manuel de Montoliu (Alma de España, págs. 632, 633) defiende esta relación. Pero semejante apreciación, a nuestro juicio, carece de todo fundamento, y es sólo fruto de la erasmomanía. Vitoria no es pacifista al modo de Erasmo; su posición sobre la guerra justa es precisamente la contraria a Erasmo.

Pero mientras que Erasmo afirmaba que los hombres deberían dejar de cultivar las armas, precisamente en virtud de su racionalidad, Don Quijote comienza reivindicando la condición racional de las armas. El hombre es animal racional, luego también han de serlo las armas, inventadas por el hombre. Tanto más importante es esta conclusión de Don Quijote cuando advertimos que sus armas no son armas-máquina (armas de disparar, como flechas, bolas, armas de fuego, granadas; menos aún armas automáticas, como cepos o misiles inteligentes) sino armas-instrumento (armas de blandir, como espadas o lanzas).

No imaginamos a Don Quijote manejando un arco o un arcabuz. Don Quijote sólo utiliza, como buen caballero andante, armas-instrumento, es decir, armas cuyo impulso lo reciben directamente del cuerpo del caballero, de forma que sea él quien directamente tome contacto con el cuerpo del enemigo, y en lucha «cuerpo a cuerpo» con él pueda percibir sus reacciones inmediatas. Los etólogos de hoy toman este criterio como base para distinguir la conducta agresiva animal (la conducta agresiva que actúa directamente sobre el cuerpo del enemigo) y la conducta agresiva humana, cuando ésta establece una desconexión cada vez mayor entre el agredido y el agresor. Lorenz habló de un «descarrilamiento del instinto de agresión», derivado de esta desconexión, cuyos primeros grados aparecerían ya en chimpancés, u otros animales que lanzan piedras, aunque propiamente no las disparan: la aceleración que experimenta la piedra lanzada con la mano –dejamos de lado la aceleración de la piedra lanzada con honda o la que es efecto de la gravedad– toma su fuerza de la mano que la lanza.

Pero no nos autorizaría esta distinción entre armas-instrumento (cuya energía procede del organismo, que utiliza los instrumentos como si fuesen órganos suyos: garras, colmillos, puños) y armas-máquina, a clasificar las armas instrumentales como armas animales irracionales. Las «armas orgánicas» no son, sencillamente, armas, sino órganos de ataque o defensa de un animal, o incluso a veces de una planta (espinas, venenos). Pero las armas instrumentales ya son armas estrictas, herramientas normadas, contenidos de la cultura humana, por lo tanto, como dice Don Quijote, racionales.

En consecuencia, ni las armas ni la guerra es propia de animales irracionales. La guerra no es cuestión de fuerza bruta, asentada en el cuerpo. La guerra supone el espíritu, el ingenio:

«Ahora no hay que dudar sino que esta arte y ejercicio [de las armas de la andante caballería] excede a todas aquellas y aquellos que los hombres inventaron, y tanto más se ha de tener en estima cuanto a más peligros está sujeto. Quítenseme delante los que dijeren que las letras [las letras de los letrados, de los legistas, del Estado de derecho] hacen ventaja a las armas, que les diré, y sean quienes se fueren, que no saben lo que dicen. Porque la razón que los tales suelen decir y a lo que ellos más se atienen es que los trabajos del espíritu exceden a los del cuerpo y que las armas solo con el cuerpo se ejercitan, como si fuese su ejercicio oficio de ganapanes, para el cual no es menester más de buenas fuerzas, o como si en esto que llamamos armas los que las profesamos no se encerrasen los actos de la fortaleza, los cuales piden para ejecutarlos mucho entendimiento, o como si no trabajase el ánimo del guerrero que tiene a su cargo un ejército o la defensa de una ciudad sitiada así con el espíritu como con el cuerpo.»

Y todavía dirá más: las armas tienen un fin superior a las letras («y no hablo ahora de las [letras] divinas, que tienen por blanco llevar y encaminar las almas al cielo»), porque mientras las letras [las que giran en torno a las normas éticas, morales, políticas o jurídicas] tienen como fin y paradero «entender y hacer que las buenas leyes se guarden», este fin no es digno de tanta alabanza como la que merece «aquel a que las armas atienden, las cuales tienen por objeto y fin la paz (…) Esta paz es el verdadero fin de la guerra, que lo mismo es decir armas que guerra.»

Ahora bien, esta famosa proposición («La paz es el fin de la guerra») procede, como es sabido, de Aristóteles (Política, 1334 a15). Pero hay dos modos principales de interpretarla:

(1) La Paz, universal y perpetua, es el fin de todas y cada una de las guerras; una paz que habría que entenderla, por tanto, como una reconciliación mutua y sempiterna de los contendientes.

(2) La Paz no es un fin universal e indiferenciado de todas las guerras, sino el fin particular y específico de cada guerra: quien está en guerra busca la Paz, pero esta paz es la Paz de su victoria. Quien entra en la guerra colabora a un desorden; y el fin de la guerra es restablecer el orden, pero tal como lo entiende el que quiere vencer. Por ello, el fin de la guerra es la Paz, la Paz de la victoria, del orden victorioso y estable que haya logrado establecer el vencedor.

La primera interpretación de la proposición de Aristóteles es claramente meta-histórica, por no decir metafísica. Si la Paz fuese la ley universal de los hombres, como animales racionales, la única manera de explicar históricamente las guerras sería suponer que los hombres, a lo largo de la historia, han entablado guerras por su irracionalidad; es decir, habría que suponer que toda la historia del hombre es la historia de la sinrazón.

Sólo la segunda interpretación puede recibir un significado histórico positivo, desde el supuesto de que la humanidad no tiene existencia como tal, sino que está originariamente distribuida en partes que no tienen por qué ser compatibles ni congruentes entre sí. La guerra habrá sido la forma extremada de la relación ordinaria entre esas partes.

Cuando, desde este supuesto, hablemos de paz, como fin de la guerra, nos referiremos a la guerra real, a cada guerra en particular; y entonces hablar de paz ya puede tener un sentido político e histórico, y no metafísico o metahistórico. Hablar de la paz como fin de la guerra es hablar de una paz política: bien sea de la Pax Romana, bien sea de la Pax Hispana, bien sea de la Pax Británica o bien sea de la Pax Soviética (de la que Stalin se proclamó abanderado en 1950). La paz es el fin al que aspira la guerra con el objetivo de instaurar el orden inestable que la misma guerra ha comprometido, reconstruyéndolo a medida del vencedor.

Que la proposición de Aristóteles entiende la paz como fin de la guerra, en este sentido positivo, se corrobora con otro pasaje suyo, un poco anterior al citado (Política, 1333), en donde Aristóteles pone en correspondencia la contraposición trabajo/ocio con la contraposición guerra/paz, y dice: «La guerra tiene como fin la paz, como el trabajo el ocio.»

Por eso la guerra, en cuanto actividad racional que tiene como fin la paz, o el orden justo obtenido tras la victoria, implica también racionalidad de este orden y de las operaciones que conducen a él. Por ello la guerra no puede tener como fin la esclavización de los hombres que no lo merecen, y menos aún su exterminio. La paz a la que aspira la guerra ha de tener como fin:

(a) O bien evitar ser esclavizados por otros: es el fin al que aspiran las guerras defensivas.

(b) O bien lograr obtener la hegemonía sobre otros, no para dominarlos simplemente, sino para proporcionarles bienes mejores de los que disfrutan. Se trata de lo que después se han llamado guerras de civilización, o también guerras de liberación.

(c) O bien la guerra tiene como fin gobernar a los que merecen ser gobernados, incluso como esclavos. Vitoria, incluso Sepúlveda, asumirán este tercer fin de la guerra como un título de guerra justa, si es que él se propone tutelar y educar a los pueblos incapaces de gobernarse a sí mismos, hasta lograr que desarrollen sus propias capacidades.

(Sobre estos asuntos véase nuestro libro La vuelta a la caverna. Terrorismo, guerra y globalización, I, 4: «La Paz como objetivo final de la Guerra». Para la polémica Sepúlveda, Vitoria, Las Casas, véase el análisis de Pedro Insua, «Quiasmo sobre ‘Salamanca y el Nuevo Mundo’», El Catoblepas, número 15, mayo de 2003 [http://nodulo.org/ec/2003/n015p12.htm].)

No parece, en conclusión, que pueda afirmarse que Don Quijote está predicando, en su famoso discurso, un pacifismo político y una requisitoria contra las armas a favor de las letras. Podrá estar dibujada en su horizonte una Edad de Oro, que por otra parte tampoco se identifica con la Paz evangélica, que él invoca en otras ocasiones. A lo sumo Don Quijote estaría defendiendo un orden –una paz– susceptible de ser mantenida a través de leyes justas, que a su vez sólo por la fuerza de las armas podrían ser efectivas. Este es el fundamento de la superioridad que, en su famoso discurso, Don Quijote (Cervantes) atribuye a las armas sobre las letras: sobre las letras humanas (de las letras divinas no quiere hablar), sobre las letras propias de los letrados, es decir, sobre las letras de las leyes.

Si utilizásemos el concepto que, dos siglos después, crearon algunos letrados alemanes (como Robert von Mohl), el concepto de Rechtsstaat, que nosotros traducimos como «Estado de Derecho», tendríamos que concluir que, para Don Quijote, el «Estado de Derecho» –el Estado de los letrados, el Estado de los legistas– carece de fuerza por sí mismo, y que la fuerza de obligar que él pueda tener la recibe de las armas capaces de hacer cumplir las sentencias de los jueces; así como también fueron las armas las que hicieron posible que el orden representado por esas leyes prevaleciera sobre otros órdenes distintos, contrapuestos o alternativos.

Don Quijote, por su parte, se considera siempre muy lejos de cualquier tribunal de justicia: «¿Y dónde has visto tú o leído jamás que caballero andante haya sido puesto ante la justicia, por más homicidios que hubiese cometido?» (I, 10.) Don Quijote, como caballero andante soberano, asume la posición tradicional de todo soberano, de la Iglesia, dotada de fuero propio, o del Rey de las monarquías absolutas, y residualmente de las constitucionales: «La persona del Rey es inviolable y no está sujeta a responsabilidad.» (artículo 56.3 de la Constitución española de 1978.) Pero también asume la posición que siempre corresponde a la soberanía política efectiva, la de un Imperio (como pueda serlo actualmente Estados Unidos de Norteamérica), a quien ningún Tribunal Internacional de Justicia (real y no de papel, como los que actualmente fingen serlo) puede juzgar, porque el cumplimiento de sus sentencias sólo es posible si es el Imperio mismo quien obliga a cumplirlas.

El orden representado en las leyes que pueda presidir a una Nación, tal como la Nación española, sólo puede mantenerse por la fuerza de las armas, que lo crearon y lo sostienen por debajo: las armas que lleva Don Quijote, pero no en solitario, sino asistido por Sancho y por Dulcinea, de la cual podrán salir los nuevos soldados y los nuevos legistas.

Una Nación desarmada o débil sólo podrá asumir el orden que le impongan otras Naciones o Imperios mejor armados. Y, por ello, las armas deben ser consideradas superiores y más racionales que las letras, que las leyes:

«Ahora no hay que dudar sino que esta arte y ejercicio [de las armas] excede a todas aquellos y aquellos que los hombres inventaron, y tanto más se ha de tener en estima cuanto a más peligros está sujeto. Quítenseme delante los que dijeren que las letras [la leyes del Estado de Derecho] hacen ventaja a las armas, que les diré, y sean quien se fueren, que no saben lo que dicen. Porque la razón que los tales suelen decir y a lo que ellos más se atienen es que los trabajos del espíritu exceden a los del cuerpo y que las armas solo con el cuerpo se ejercitan, como si fuese su ejercicio oficio de ganapanes, para el cual no es menester más de buenas fuerzas, o como si en esto que llamamos armas los que las profesamos no se encerrasen los actos de la fortaleza, los cuales piden para ejecutarlos mucho entendimiento, o como si no trabajase el ánimo del guerrero que tiene a su cargo un ejército o la defensa de una ciudad sitiada así con el espíritu como con el cuerpo.»

Las armas, en resolución, tienen un fin superior a las letras («y no hablo ahora de las letras divinas, que tienen por blanco llevar y encaminar las almas al cielo»), porque mientras las letras tienen por fin y paradero entender y hacer que las buenas leyes se guarden, este fin no es digno de tanta alabanza, como el que merece aquel al que las armas atienden, las cuales tienen por objeto y fin la paz. La paz es el verdadero fin de la guerra, puesto que lo mismo es decir armas que guerra.

Don Quijote nos obliga a afirmar –tal es nuestra interpretación– que si España existe, que si España puede resistir sus amenazas, que si España es una Nación y quiere seguir siéndolo, todo esto no pudo resultar ni podrá mantenerse solamente con las letras, con las leyes, con el Estado de derecho. Son necesarias las armas, es decir, es necesario estar preparados para la guerra, puesto que como afirma Don Quijote: «Lo mismo es decir armas que guerra.»

Don Quixote, Mirror of the Spanish Nation

by Gustavo Bueno (España no es un mito. Madrid: Temas de Hoy, 2005. Pages 241-290)

Translated by Brendan Burke
© 2010 FGB · Oviedo


Against the interpretation of Don Quixote as a symbol of universal solidarity, tolerance, and peace

2005. All of Spain celebrates the fourth centennial of the publication of Don Quixote (the printing itself had already been completed by December 1604). This celebration clearly supports the thesis I have maintained throughout this book – that all regions and “cultures” of Spain together share a common Spanish culture.{1}Hundreds of conferences spring up in every city and capital of each autonomous region, be they “historical” or regions “without history”: we see contests, new editions, public readings (both collective and individual), expositions, workshops, and interpretations of all kinds – psychiatric interpretations (Cervantes may have admirably described “Capgras syndrome”), ethical interpretations (Don Quixote is fortitude and generosity), and moral interpretations (Don Quixote symbolizes, in modern times, the virtues of the knight estate in the feudal period). And the readings go on – Don Quixote becomes the symbol of strictly literary values (the modern novel), or of values with political implications (European values, perhaps?), or even further, of universal values that convert him into a symbol of Man itself, of human rights, of tolerance, or of peace: “Don Quixote is part of the World’s Heritage.”

These political interpretations of Don Quixote as a tolerant pacifist have become particularly popular among socialist leaders from that “village” of Alonso Quijano, the “Knight of La Mancha” as he is more commonly known. This village has now been transformed into an autonomous region, Castilla-La Mancha – one with the legal capacity to enact a law which, considering that “Don Quixote is a symbol of humanity and a cultural myth that La Mancha feels honored to call its own”, seeks to create a “network of solidarity which, basing itself in the value of a common language, will work to achieve the equality and development of all its towns, fundamentally through education and culture” in order “to contribute to the social, cultural, and economic development of Castilla-La Mancha…with the goal of promoting and spreading the universal values of justice, liberty, and solidarity which Quixote symbolizes.”{2}

José Bono, the president of Castilla-La Mancha during the enactment of this law, was named Minister of Defense after the Madrid bombings of March 11, 2004: a position which, within democracies of pacifist ideology, replaces the previous position of Minister of War, even though both the current democratic Minister of Defense and the past non-democratic Minister of War dealt with the same things: cannons, missiles, battleships, helicopters, and more generally, in an industrial society, with firearms (by no means with lances, nor swords, nor Mambrino’s helmet). Bono’s pacifism, so unlike Quixote’s, has led him so far as to ask that the word “war” be removed from the 1978 Spanish constitution. He has yet to ask for the dissolution of the Army (perhaps in order to justify the intervention of the Spanish Army in Afghanistan), although it does seem that by removing the troops from Iraq, the Socialist government would like to transform the Corps into a sort of Firefighters without Borders, ready to deploy off to Afghanistan to keep an eye on any fires that might break out by chance during the electoral period in this new, projected democracy.

In any case I don’t think it’s necessary to get into the debate about the political reach that these projects of justice, perpetual peace, dialogue, tolerance, and solidarity might have – projects propagated by fundamentalist, democratic governments that commemorate Don Quixote and represent him in their own image and likeness. I do, however, see it necessary to conclude that if they want to keep maintaining their pacifism and universal solidarity, then they must back off their devotion to Don Quixote, for in no way can Don Quixote be taken as a symbol of solidarity, peace, and tolerance. Let them continue their pacifist and anti-military politics, but no longer by taking the name of Don Quixote in vain.

If Don Quixote is the symbol of something, he is neither the symbol of “universal solidarity” nor of “tolerance”. For what solidarity did Don Quixote show towards the guards watching over the chain-gang of galley slaves? His solidarity with the convicts implies a lack of solidarity with the guards, and cannot therefore be called universal. If Don Quixote is the symbol of something, he is the symbol of weapons, of intolerance – an intolerance so great that he cannot stand it when Master Pedro puts on a puppet show of the story Melisendra, who is about to be captured by a Moor king. This is unacceptable for Don Quixote and so he draws his sword, leaps in front of the stage, and demolishes the puppeteer’s entire show. And who can conceive of an unarmed Don Quixote? It’s true that in the final chapter he hangs up his armor, just as a monk hangs up his habits; however, for the priest or monk this implies the rebirth toward a new life, one in which his mistress is elevated to the status of wife, while for Don Quixote hanging up his armor signifies the step which will immediately lead him to his death.


Don Quixote is not a tautegorical symbol

Don Quixote is a symbol, or at least can be interpreted as one if we admit Schelling’s disputed distinction between tautegorical and allegorical symbols.{3}

Don Quixote has been represented (and still continues to be represented, without calling it “representation”) as a tautegorical symbol – one that expresses the same thing as itself. Those who see El Quixote as a strictly literary work, immanent – without references beyond its own imaginary figures – interpret it as a tautegorical symbol, or as a collection of tautegorical symbols. These imaginary figures would exhaust themselves as they inhabit a social imaginary. This social imaginary, however, isn’t made up by representations or “mental images” (images that compose those “mentalities” studied by “Marxist historians” who some years ago embraced the so-called History of Mentalities), but instead by real physical images – ones painted, for instance, in the 17th and 18th centuries by Antonio Carnicero, José del Castillo, Bernardo Barranco, José Brunete, Gerónimo Gil, or Gregorio Ferro. (Not to mention those painted in the 19th by José Moreno Carbonero, Ramón Puiggarí, Gustave Doré, Ricardo Balaca or Luis Pellicer, or even in the 20th by Daniel Urrabieta Vierge, Joaquín Vaquero, Dalí, or Saura…and not counting the innumerable drawings of Quixote for both adults and children in comics, movies, and theatrical representations).

Moderately widening the field of “tautegorical literary immanence”, we could also include the usual interpretation of Quixote as a literary work itself addressing other literary works – books of chivalry. This address, of course, would be directed toward those chivalrous errant knights in print, not those in real life, like Hernán Cortés or Don Juan de Austria, under whose flags Cervantes himself fought.

These tautegorical interpretations could even be supported by the speech that the innkeeper delivers against the priest, who attacks those books as being full of lies, absurdities, and nonsense, and for destroying interest in real historical figures, such as Gozalo Hernández de Córdoba or Diego García de Paredes: “A fig for the Great Captain and another for that Diego García character,” exclaims the innkeeper, through whom some believe Cervantes himself to be speaking.{4}

I don’t deny that these literary interpretations of the immanence of Quixote make sense; what I do question is the legitimacy of considering tautegorical symbols as symbols – at the very most, these tautegorical symbols constitute a limited case of the idea of the symbol, a limit in which the symbol ceases to be a symbol, just as a causa sui ceases to be a cause. For a symbol, as an alotetic figure, precisely expresses references distinct from the actual body of the symbol.{5} It does so because the references of the symbol must also be corporeal: each part of the fragmented ring handed to the main participants of the ceremony is a symbol of the other part; the Nicene Creed is a “Symbol of Faith” because each group of faithful that recites their verses refers to those that recite successive ones, and so the community of faithful forms a living community, one which is a real part of the active church.

Accordingly, Don Quixote is not a tautegorical symbol in the most literal sense, the sense in which Magistral de Pas understood the verse “and the Word became flesh.” “Did Don Fermín believe in this verse?”{6}Strictly speaking (and according to Clarín), Don Fermín believed in the red letters written on a panel on an altar that read, “et verbum caro factum est.” Figures, interpreted as strict, allegorical symbols, refer us beyond the literature and to real figures in civil, political, or social history.

Gustave Dor�, Don Quixote


Don Quixote: a clinical history?

Some critics suggest that Cervantes, through the figure of Alonso Quijano, meant to represent some actual individual, one he might have met directly or through some friend or writer. Accordingly, the real reference of Don Quixote would be Alonso Quijano – an individual made of flesh and blood, but affected by a specific type of insanity that Cervantes intuitively managed to discover and identify without being a doctor or a psychiatrist. In 1943, Menéndez Pidal discovered the figure of Bartolo in the comic sketch Entremeses de los Romances; Bartolo was a poor laborer who went mad for having read too many romances. Cervantes may have been inspired by him, or perhaps by Don Rodrigo Pacheco, a marquis from Argamasilla de Alba, who also went mad reading books of chivalry.

Psychiatrists have, naturally, tended to interpret Don Quixote from categories typical of their trade. In the 19th century, Dr. Esquirol interpreted Don Quixote as a model of monomania (a term of his own invention). More recently, Dr. Francisco Alonso-Fernández has published an interpretation of Don Quixote in which the novel is considered as a sort of clinical history of a patient suffering from a disorder that Cervantes managed to establish. In this interpretation, Cervantes very closely approximates what is today known as delusional autometamorphosis, a syndrome related to other delusional syndromes such as Capgras or Fregoli. In consequence, Alonso-Fernández proposes that Alonso Quijano – not Don Quixote – should be considered the authentic protagonist of the novel. As he argues, it was in effect Alonso Quijano who suffered from the delusional disorder that identified him with Don Quixote, who only existed in his mind; again, it was Alonso Quijano who managed to recover from the disorder, thanks to the care of the graduate Carrasco, the priest, the barber, and “a fever that kept him in bed for six days.”{7} Alonso-Fernández stresses that this incident did not pass unnoticed to “the perceptive clinical eye of the eminent doctor Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.”{8}

I must thank my dear friend Dr. Alonso for his demonstration that Alonso Quijano suffered from a disorder that Cervantes was able to describe with impressive precision. Such a demonstration, of course, can only be explained if we admit that Cervantes had known and differentiated other specific cases – as he may have done with the insanity of the lawyer of glass in his short story of the same name, El Licenciado Vidriera. In any case, however, neither Don Quixote nor the lawyer Vidriera are purely “literary creations”.

Are we so then to accept that Cervantes proposed the “clinical description” of a specific type of disorder as his literary objective?

Not necessarily, as it could be the case that Cervantes was using his description of a specific type of disorder as the symbol of another reference: the reality of certain people in Spain (not Spain itself, as many argue), a reality in which men, according to many accounts, had gone mad either because they went to America (as some say) or because they stopped going (as I, and others, say). The former argue that they went mad because they went to America in search of El Dorado or because, recalling a book of chivalry (Las Sergas de Esplandián), they named California after an imaginary kingdom of Amazons, or Patagonia after the tribes of monstrous savages in another book, El Primaleón. Even further, it would be possible to extend the symbolism of Don Quixote’s madness to places found in Spain, and not in America, Italy, or Flanders – to anywhere in La Mancha, or to anywhere in Spain or Portugal where Christian parishioners, while present in churches witnessing the transformation of the Eucharist bread and wine actually saw the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Don Quixote, slashing the wine skins in the inn, believes he sees spilled blood where there is only wine: is Cervantes here trying to describe a type of disorder similar to that of someone who, upon hearing the consecration, prepares to drink wine that has been turned into blood?

It’s one thing that Don Quixote displays certain disorders that, far from being merely literary, have a clinical consistency (which would obviously oblige us to consider Don Quixote as an alotetic figure, not a tautegorical one); it’s another thing altogether to claim that Cervantes not only proposed to make (finis operantis) but indeed had made (finis operis) as his literary goal the early description of a delusional disorder suffered by a certain Alonso Quijano. For is not Alonso Quijano himself a literary figure? Even further, does not Cervantes also use the disorder systematized in Don Quixote as a symbol of other actual figures who themselves weren’t considered victims of Capgras or Fregoli delusions? Perhaps the fever in Don Quixote’s final days (even while admitting the diagnosis of Cervantes’s clinical eye) could also symbolize Spain’s fever during years of profound crisis?

Interpreted as allegorical symbols, Don Quixote’s disorders would then refer, not to actual lunatics that a psychiatrist might see in a hospital or clinic, but to real historical figures who might pass as extraordinary or even heroic. Another matter is to identify these figures and determine the possible reach that the use of delusional symbols as symbols of themselves might have.


The individual and the pair of individuals

A human figure, such as Don Quixote, never exists in isolation: one person always implies others who relate to one another in either peaceful or hostile coexistence. In other words, an individual in and of itself is an absurdity, a metaphysical entity, and as such the attempt to interpret Don Quixote as a symbol of some isolated individual, whether sane or mad, is mere metaphysics – an individual in itself cannot exist because existence is co-existence.

Not even a king or emperor may be considered an individual, in the sense of an isolated being. Therefore, Aristotle’s famous classification of political societies into three usual groups – monarchies, aristocracies, and republics – is a classification better suited to political-science fiction, even though it continues to be our reference to this day. According to Aristotelian criteria either one commands, or some command, or all (the majority) command. But these criteria don’t help us distinguish monarchies from aristocracies, for the simple reason that “one” cannot command because “one” does not exist: even the most absolute monarch does not command alone, but as the head of a group.

Two is the numerical minimum of people to coexist; perhaps for that the interpretations of human relations from a dualist viewpoint (one based on pairs of individuals) reach nearly universal consensus (especially pairs made up by opposite individuals – either in their grammatical gender or according to other criteria of opposition: tall/short, clever/dumb, old/young, fat/thin, etc.).{9} In this viewpoint, people are never alone but are rather paired up with others who oppose them by their different and contradictory attributes. And so if the elements of a pair are considered “equal”, then the opposition between them must emerge from their own coexistence, which is the case, for example, with enantiomorphic objects in which opposing (equal but incongruent) figures appear, such as the incongruity of our two hands – they are equal, but opposing (left and right). Adam and Eve are the prototype of the first pair – opposite in gender, but accompanied by a variety of other opposing pairs; the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux) were seen in the Battle of Lake Regillus mounting their white horses and fighting between themselves.{10}

Don Quixote, from this dualist viewpoint of coexistence, has always been considered in relation to Sancho. The pair “Don Quixote and Sancho” and the most peculiar set of oppositions established between them (lord/servant, knight/squire, tall/short, thin/fat, idealist/realist…) have often been considered as the originals for later reproductions in other famous literary pairs, from Sherlock Holmes and Watson to Asterix and Obelix (who break down some of the oppositions of attributes, oppositions considered characteristic: the leptosomatic opposition of tall and thin, and the pyknic one of short and fat).

There are, however, very serious reasons to conclude that these dualist viewpoints are only a fragment of a more complicated structure. Adam and Eve, for example, are only a fragment of a society they make up together with their sons Cain, Abel, and Seth. Don Quixote and Sancho are usually thought of in terms of abstract oppositions like idealism and realism or utopic and pragmatic. But these oppositions fall apart immediately: they suppose that idealism is some sort of personal disposition geared to transcend the immediate horizon of the facts of life, and thereby impulses people toward altruism or glory. Sancho, then, does not oppose Don Quixote because he too (from the beginning, not only in the second part, as some critics contend) is quixoticized. Getting himself into all sorts of dangers,he accompanies Don Quixote not only to acquire riches (which itself would be enough, given that someone who wants to acquire riches by putting his life in danger is no longer a pragmatic realist in the traditional sense) but also to help his wife Teresa Cascajo ascend the social ladder. Sancho is not the sort of villain Spaniard that so many villainous historians imagine him to be in their assumption that his and others only motivation for signing up for the infantry or navy was the satisfaction of their hunger (I have in mind Alfredo Landa’s film La Marrana).

It is of great importance here to warn of the incompatibility between these dualist structures and the principles of philosophical materialism, insofar as the latter implies the Platonic principle of symploke.{11} In his Sophist, Plato established the two premises which must be presupposed in every rational process: the first is a principle of connection between some things and others – “if everything were disconnected from everything else, rational discourse would be impossible” – and the second is a principle of disconnection between some things and others – “if everything were connected to everything else, rational discourse would be impossible.” Therefore, if we want to rationally approach reality, we must suppose that neither everything is causally connected to everything else, nor is everything disconnected from everything else; that is, we must suppose that things are interwoven (in symploke) with other things, but not with everything.

But when we apply the dualist structure to a given social group (the circle of individual human beings, for example), we find that reality is presented to us as a plurality of pairs disconnected from each other (since we suppose that the terms of each pair refer integrally to one another). In effect, the connection of the terms of each pair is completed internally, whether each individual is considered to be correlated or conjugated with the other. Each “isolated pair” introduces a reciprocal dependency between its terms, one that permits the pair to be treated as a “monist” unity, a dipole, whether their relationship be harmonious or discordant. As such, global reality is seen as a multiplicity composed of infinite pairs whose interactions are merely random. In the case where the dualist viewpoint is applied to a unique pair – coextensive with “reality itself” (in Manichaeism with Ormus and Ahriman, in Gnosticism with the dyad Abyzou/Aletheia, or in Taoism with the Yin and the Yang) – this “cosmic dualism” practically becomes a monism, even without having to consider the possibility that one of the dualist terms would end up defeating or absorbing the other. It would be sufficient for them to remain eternally different, even while complementing or separating each other, until death (“one of those two Spains will freeze your heart”).{12}



The most basic structure compatible with the principle of symploke of philosophical materialism is the ternary structure. In a triad (A, B, C), each member is involved with the others, but at the same time it is possible to recognize binary coalitions ([A, B], [A, C], [B, C]) in which the third member, while segregated, still remains associated with the others. The organization of any field constituted by individuals also contains the possibility for each triad to be involved with other triads through some common unity, thus giving rise to enneads (3 x 3), dozens (3 x 4), and so on. In these pluralities organized in triads, enneads, and dozens, the principle of symploke is adequately satisfied. Both the connection (not total) of some things with others, and the disconnection (or discontinuity) of some things with others (which will follow their own course), can be affirmed from this plurality.

This conception of reality (or of its regions) as organized in triplets is just as old as conceptions organized dualistically. Dumézil argued years ago that it was present in the famous trinities of the Indo-European gods: Zeus, Heracles, and Pluto, or Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus, or the Capitoline Triad of Jupiter, Minerva, and Juno, or its Germanic transformation in Odin, Thor, and Freyja.

In Christianity, and more specifically in the Catholic tradition (to which Don Quixote undoubtedly belongs), the fundamental triad is represented in the dogma of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit which proceeds from the Father and the Son together (in this final aspect Roman Catholics differ from Greek Orthodox, for whom the Holy Spirit is some sort of emanation from the Father, without the participation of the Son).

This Catholic trinity, however, needn’t necessarily be interpreted as just a particular case of other Indo-European trinities. In Roman Christianity the dogma of the Trinity developed gradually, and the appeal to the Holy Spirit was probably related to the constitution of the Universal church itself, one which had no parallel in its social structure with the known social structures of the Greeks (such as the family or the state). Albeit heretically, Sabellius held that the Holy Spirit represented the Church as a feminine entity (“the Holy Mother Church”). In addition, in some Germanic trinities one of the members is feminine – Odin, Thor, and Freyja. This may be due, however, due to contamination from Christianity, with the Germanic liturgy reflecting a Christian one: “In the name of Odin, Thor, and Freyja.” In either case, it’s obvious that both the trinity of Gaeta and Our Lady of the Rock of France, to whom Sancho entrusts Don Quixote as they descend from the Cave of Montesinos (II,22), are manifestations of the genuine Trinity of Catholicism (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

The Triads of Don Quixote


The Triads of Don Quixote

Let us leave aside the dualist organization that imposes upon us the association in pairs between Don Quixote and Sancho, even if such an association may be very fundamental (in which the two are sometimes explained by their complementarity and at other times for their conjugation: Don Quixote maintains the unity between the different episodes of his quest through Sancho, who maintains the unity between the episodes of his quest through Don Quixote). Leaving that organization aside, the tripartite restructuring becomes patently obvious, even if Cervantes wasn’t aware of it. (The case would be even more interesting if this were an objective structure that imposed itself independently of the author’s will).

What is sure is that Don Quixote always appears as a member of the trinity that he makes up with Sancho and Dulcinea. Of course this doesn’t mean that the members of this trinity are not involved at the same time with other different trinities: Don Quixote, for instance, always forms a triangle with his housekeeper and his niece (II, 6); Sancho always appears involved with his wife, Teresa Cascajo, and his daughter, or with the priest and the barber (I, 26); Dulcinea, in her most real role as a peasant girl, comes towards Sancho on a jackass, along with two other peasant girls: “And events fell out so well for [Sancho] that when he got up to climb on his dun he saw three peasant girls coming towards him from El Toboso on three jackasses, or she-asses, because the author isn’t explicit on this point.” And a little later, when Sancho tells Don Quixote that he has seen Dulcinea: “They emerged from the wood and saw the three peasant girls not far away. Don Quixote surveyed the road to El Toboso, and since all he could see was these three peasants he became alarmed and asked Sancho if the ladies had been outside the city when he’d left them.”{13}

In any case, the basic trinity around which Don Quixote seems to move throughout the book is the one he makes up with Sancho and Dulcinea. Facing the Catholic Trinity (as my hypothesis obliges), it must be conceded that Don Quixote corresponds to the role of Father, Sancho to that of Son (just as his sire Don Quixote calls him time and time again), and regarding Dulcinea, she must be put in correspondence with the Holy Spirit, which Sabellius interpreted as a feminine entity, as the Mother Church. As an ideal figure, how can it be ignored that she comes from both the Father (Don Quixote) and the Son (Sancho)?

Don Quixote, of course, conceives the figure of Dulcinea. Although her real name was Aldonza Lorenzo, the young peasant daughter of Lorenzo Corchuelo and Aldonza Nogales, quite good-looking (I, 25) and of whom Don Quixote was in love for a time, she was nonetheless born as Dulcinea by Don Quixote’s “decree”, when it seemed right to him to give her the title of “Mistress of His Thoughts.” But Sancho too contributed to the birth and reinforcement of the figure of Dulcinea, an upright and polite girl, “not at all priggish” and “a real courtly lass”: “And now I can say, Sir Knight of the Sorry Face, that not only is it very right and proper for you to get up to your mad tricks for her sake – you’ve got every reason to give way to despair and hang yourself, too, and nobody who knows about it will say you weren’t justified, even if it does send you to the devil.”{14}

This figure thus conceived would have remained as the shadow of a merely imagined memory if it had not been for Sancho’s diligence to find la señora Dulcinea, that is, to establish the link between the figure of the memory and some real counterpart, a link that must be reestablished, if not with the brave Aldonza, then with the moon-faced, flat-nosed peasant (II, 10). And so it turns out to be Sancho, not Don Quixote’s infirm and delirious mind, who bows and pretends to salute Dulcinea, who takes the figure of the moon-faced, flat-nosed peasant. Don Quixote, on his knees next to Sancho, also looks with “clouded vision and bulging eyes” at a peasant who Sancho called queen and duchess. The peasant, who had made the figure of Dulcinea, prods her poultry with a nail that she was carrying and the poultry breaks into a canter across the field, dumping Lady Dulcinea among the daisies. “Don Quixote rushed to pick her up and Sancho hurried to put the pack-saddle…Don Quixote went to lift his enchanted lady in his arms and place her on the ass; but the lady saved him the trouble by jumping to her feet, taking a couple of strides backwards, bounding up to the ass, bringing both hands down on its rump and vaulting, as swift as a falcon, on to the pack-saddle.” Sancho said to Don Quixote, “Our lady and mistress is nimbler than a hobby-hawk, and she could teach the best rider from Cordova or Mexico how to jump on to a horse Arab-style!…And her maids aren’t being outdone, they’re going like the wind, too!”

Is it not obvious here that Cervantes is trying to linger in the description of the poetic vision of the peasant that Sancho offers to Don Quixote by drawing attention to her agility while concealing the moon face and flat nose that Don Quixote also sees? In either case, the transfiguration of the peasant’s figure into Dulcinea cannot be attributed to the endogenetic psychological process of a madman in the midst of a delirious hallucination. Don Quixote does not see Dulcinea, but rather, reinforced by Sancho, sees an agile peasant girl (moon-faced and flat-nosed). In no way, therefore, does he suffer from some hallucination: “Because I would have you know, Sancho, that when I went to replace Dulcinea on her palfrey (as you call it, although I thought it was a donkey), I was half suffocated by a blast of raw garlic that poisoned my very soul.” Cervantes seems to take great care here in stressing that if Don Quixote relates this peasant with Dulcinea it’s because of Sancho. Dulcinea is seen here as a matter of faith, not as a hallucination – faith in the “relevant authority” of Sancho, whose word Don Quixote trusts and believes. Seeing these three villagers (announced as Dulcinea and her duchesses) come out of the wood, Don Quixote says:

“All I can see, Sancho, ” said Don Quixote, “is three peasant girls on three donkeys.”
“God save my soul from damnation!” Sancho replied. “Is it possible for three palfreys or whatever they’re called, as white as the driven snow, to seem to you like donkeys? Good Lord, I’d pull out every single hair on my chin if that was true!”
“Well, I am telling you, friend Sancho, ” said Don Quixote, “that it is as true that they are asses, or maybe she-asses, as it is that I am Don Quixote and you are Sancho Panza; or at least this is how it seems to me.”

Don Quixote’s resistance to see the miracle of the peasant girl’s transfiguration into Dulcinea – a miracle which he must believe for his faith in Sancho’s authority (who on other occasions shows himself so critical of his master’s hallucinations: the windmills, the flock of sheep…) – receives a “theological” explanation: Don Quixote says, “If I don’t see Dulcinea in the figure of this peasant, it’s not because it isn’t her, but because the malicious enchanter is hounding me, and has placed clouds and cataracts over my eyes, and for them alone and not for other eyes has altered and transformed your [Dulcinea’s] face of peerless beauty into that of some poor peasant wretch.” If psychiatrists insist on seeing delirium here, they will have to add that they are not dealing with a hallucinatory delirium (that of seeing a peasant girl as Dulcinea), but instead a delirium of “theological rationalization” meant to explain why this peasant that I see here is not the Dulcinea that Sancho sees there. Psychiatrists might also recognize this same delirium of theological rationalization in Saint Thomas, when he tries to explain why the piece of bread and cup of wine that the priest holds at the altar are in reality the miraculous transmutation of the invisible, intangible body of Christ. And what psychiatrist would dare diagnose Saint Thomas Aquinius as a madman?

Don Quixote’s madness is seen both in his behavior toward Aldonza Lorenzo and the anonymous peasant as well as, most obviously, in his behavior toward the dukes, who themselves are responsible for all the “deliriums” (in reality, the ploys) that Don Quixote and Sancho experience in their company (including the scenes of Clavileño or the island of Barataria). This madness is not only a psychological process that would have affected Alonso Quijano. It is also (and primarily) a social process triggered by the people who surround Don Quixote and who act as Cartesian evil geniuses, deceiving him even while trying to help or even entertain him. These evil geniuses act on Don Quixote, but as counter-figures of those that act through Mephistopheles when he goes to present himself before Faust: “Part of that power which would do evil constantly and constantly does good.” 

As such, it’s untenable to attribute madness and delirium to Don Quixote while reserving prudence and common sense for Sancho. If Don Quixote is mad because he takes off on wild adventures, so too is Sancho, who accompanies him not only on the first nor on the second outing, but also on the third: “’Look, Teresa’, Sancho replied. ‘I’m happy because I’ve made up my mind to go back into service with my master Don Quixote, who’s riding off in search of adventures for a third time, and I’m going with him again, because my needs force me to.’”{15}

Don Quixote, Cave of Montesinos


The stage of El Quixote contains three types of references: circular, radial, and angular

From the general presupposition that a singular person always implies a plurality of people, I have tried to outline the structure of this plurality, the one in which the characters of Don Quixote operate. 

Rejecting both monist structures (that attribute to a person the original situation of an absolute, solitary person, in the “sublime solitude” of the neo-Platonic God, “alone with the Alone”) and binary structures (dualist, dioscuric, or Manichean) together as metaphysical, I have found it convenient to operate with interwoven tripartite structures in my interpretation of Don Quixote. Furthermore, these trinitary structures can give rise to other, more complex structures such as enneads or dozens, which are found in the novel in the form of the remembrance of the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the twelve apostles, or the twelve Knights of the Round Table.

The hermeneutic discipline that imposes this structural postulation is quite clear: to systematically avoid treating Don Quixote (or any other character) as if he were (even in his soliloquies) an ab-solute character, or a character attached to his complement, albeit in a Manichean way (the same way that inspired those famous verses of Antonio Machado – his talent offered little more – that the “Spanish Left” took as emblem for decades: “Little Spaniard just now coming into this world, may God keep you. One of those two Spains will freeze your heart”).{16} I would like to systematically induce the investigation into the different connections between the characters of Quixote, without having to leave the novel itself or look beyond its immanence for references outside the text and its scenes (references that nonetheless must be found at the proper time).

As has been said many times, Don Quixote is a novel written from a theatrical point of view (Diaz Plaja observed that Quixote is the only novel whose central character is always dressed up). Herein lies its potential to be made into sculptural or pictorial representations, and later into cinematographic and televised ones. Cervantes offers us characters in well-defined scenes. Various characters are always moving in these scenes, at least in principle (there are, of course, exceptions with a single character speaking in a monologue or two speaking in dialogue); the triangle is the elemental structure of the theater as well.

A theater stage (much like that of Cervantes’s great novel) cannot be restricted to the limits of its own physical space. It is a place in which individual actors, by putting on their masks (per-sonarepros-opon), begin to act as people and therefore it is a part of a circle of human beings, a part of anthropological space.

Beyond the circular dimensions (the relationships of people with other people) – those in which personae move and in which drama, comedy, and tragedy develop – a cosmic dimension also corresponds to the stage. In this dimension geographical and historical references external to the immanence of the stage are both included in and internally involved with the stage (I call these radial references – this network of relationships and interactions that human beings maintain with the impersonal things which surround them).{17} As I will try to demonstrate in what follows, it would be impossible to try to understand the philosophy of Don Quixote – a philosophy that remains hidden or buried beneath literary and cinematographic images – on the fringes of these references.

Finally, in addition to references and figures contained within both the circle of human persons and the radial region of space, the stage also contains figures and references that extend beyond this circle and region. For although they are personal (a condition very similar to human beings, in that they have appetites, knowledge, and feelings) they are not of human nature (I call these references angular – a region of anthropological space that includes certain numinous animals, demons, angels, devils, etc…).

In Quixote there are various angular references to devils, omen-bearing birds (like the countless huge ravens and rooks that flew out from the undergrowth covering the Cave of Montesinos), and some monkey that speaks “in the style of the devil.”{18} Further references are made to giants, like the giant Morgante (affable and polite) who was one of the three to face Roldán in Amadís, or the giant Caraculiambro, lord of the island of Malindrania, who Don Quixote hopes to vanquish in battle in order to send him to present himself to Quixote’s sweet mistress. And, of course, we must count others among these non-human beings: the Trinity of Gaeta already cited, or those of Our Lady of the Rock of France – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to whom Sancho entrusts Don Quixote as they descend from the Cave of Montesinos. (Nonetheless, it’s always important to keep in mind that Cervantes insists time and time again that he doesn’t want to get caught up in matters reserved for the Catholic faith.)

Let’s translate all of this into our language: Cervantes affirms that he always wants to remain in the human (circular), cosmic (radial), and religious (angular) stage. (Focusing on the unique rhythm that he seems to attribute to finite and immanent matters, he seems to set aside the indefinite and transcendent rhythm of matters that would concern the Catholic Church.)

Martin Wadlseem�ller map, 1507


The stage of Don Quixote does not refer to “anthropological space” in general, but rather to the Spanish Empire

How then are we to determine the references (beyond the novel’s stage) of the human personae, the radialcontents, or the angular entities that all figure in the “immanence” of this stage?

It could be said that such references aren’t defined in Quixote, which is another way to say they don’t exist, or at least that they don’t exist as definite references. Accordingly, the circular references of Don Quixote, Sancho, and Dulcinea would have to refer to “Humanity” in general (figures of humanity that we could find in any place or time), and this is where some place the universality commonly attributed to Cervantes’s work. Likewise, any of the contents of the cosmic, geographical, or historical world could be taken as the novel’s radial references; and, of course, any references that gathered the adequate characters in any time and place would be valid as angular references for the book. In other words, the references of Don Quixotewould be panchronic and pantopic, expressed positively; expressed equally but negatively, they would be uchronic and utopic – therein lies the root of its universality.

Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the possibility of these “universalist” interpretations (the foundation of ethical and psychological interpretations which direct their interpretations toward the characters of Quixoteand their idealism or realism, their fortitude or avarices, and so many other characteristics common to the “human condition”), I prefer to limit myself to the very precise (and far from scarce) historical and geographical interpretations of Don Quixote which I consider sufficient (if not necessary) conditions in order to penetrate its meaning.

In short, it seems to me (and many other critics) that the stage of Don Quixote, as far as it is a symbol, refers to very precise historical and geographical references. Undoubtedly, these references can be put to the side if one remains in humanist, ethical, or psychological interpretations of the novel. However, once we reinterpret the many historical and geographical references that appear throughout Quixote, then political interpretations of it impose themselves – interpretations which, in one way or another, revolve around the meaning of the Spanish Empire, of the fecho del Imperio, to use formula that Alfonso X (“the Wise”) used four centuries earlier.{19}

According to these political interpretations, Cervantes offers in his stage an interpretation of the Spanish Empire as the first “generating empire” that reached it peak throughout the 15th and 16th centuries (the English and Dutch Empires would have been raised from the Spanish Empire, initially as its predators).{20}In this interpretation, the Spanish Empire would have reached its highest peaks in 1521 with the conquest of Mexico, and later of Peru and Flanders, and above all in 1571 in Lepanto, where the Ottoman Empire, which was seriously threatening Europe, was halted. Cervantes took part in this battle under the command of Don Juan de Austria and there he lost use of his left arm, which served as a lifelong memory of the reality of the Muslim offensive. In addition to this loss, he was taken prisoner by the Moors and held captive for five years in Algiers until he was set free by a paid ransom.

(A certain minister who fills Zapatero’s government quota, whose name I cannot quite recall, shines with the patent ignorance common to the naive pacifism of her group, declaring in El País on May 19, 2004: “I also think that our projects in the Mediterranean are important. If many of us have refused to take part in the atrocity of this war [Iraq] it’s because an old relationship with the Arab world is still alive…Cervantes, to take just a single example, was in Algiers, in Oran…We have to be aware of our history to know who we are.”)

However, in 1588, the date of the Spanish Armada’s main defeat (although not of its destruction nor or a defeat of the still fearsome power that Spain represented for England, Holland, and France), an inflection takes place in the course of history. Spain hasn’t entered into a decrepit situation, as it will still remain a great world power for two more centuries (the 17th and 18th). However, its ascending course has slowed down, chiefly due to the other empires rising out of its shadow. This is when Cervantes would have begun his meditation on the Catholic (Universal) Empire – a meditation that would lead him to write his great work Don Quixote de la Mancha.

As I understand it, this meditation on the Spanish empire is a task whose philosophical importance has a much further reach than the humanist meditation on the human condition, which may seem to be a much more profound meditation, but in reality is but a uniform, abstract, and empty monotony. The meditation on “Man” or the “human condition” presents itself, in effect, as a metaphysical meditation to anyone who understands that “Man” (Mankind, humanity, or the human condition) doesn’t exist outside of universal empires and that only from universal empires (that are a part of humanity, but not its whole) is it possible to make contact with this alleged “human condition.”

For a human, taken in general, is but a mere formality whose material content can only be acquired from its determinations, not in some historically universal sense, but rather through the different determinations or “modes of man” that have taken shape throughout the succession of the main Empires: from the Persian Empire to Alexander, from the Roman Empire of Augustus to Constantine and his successors – the Spanish, the English, and the Soviet. Only from the continental shelves formed by these universal empires can we begin to approach the depths of what we call the human condition, not as something invariable (except in its genetic structure common with primates) but as something ever-changing and given in the course of history. From my position, the bases of these universal empires are the most positive criteria available in order to differentiate anthropological analyses (ethological, psychological) from philosophical-historical analyses of the human condition.

In other words, the interpretation of Don Quixote as a universal figure, in the sense of being human (and what, I ask, do the so-called “values” of Don Quixote have to do with the values of a Muslim, since they too are human values?), is an empty meditation that relapses into pure psychologism.

Once we decide to develop extensively these political and historical-philosophical interpretations of Quixote, the first thing to do is to clear up the question of the extra-literary references that the stage of Don Quixote offers us, the stage through which the trinity of Don Quixote, Sancho, and Dulcinea is constantly passing.

The Spanish Empire


The references of the characters of the fundamental trinity in Don Quixote

We must first ask ourselves how to determine the external references of the figures that appear on the stage of Don Quixote.

I will take as criterion the words pronounced from the novel’s own literary immanence, the words of one of the most significant characters who surrounds the Knight of the Sad Face: Sanson Carrasco, the “famous jester” who, embracing Don Quixote and with his voice raised, proclaimed:

“O flower of knight-errantry! O resplendent light of arms! O honour and mirror of the Spanish nation!”{21}

According to the graduate’s words (which Cervantes may very well be speaking himself), Don Quixote refers unequivocally to “the Spanish nation”. For our purposes, this has a far-reaching political meaning, demonstrating not only that the Spanish nation is already recognized in the 16th century (much earlier than the English or French, let alone the Catalonian or Basque nation), but also offering the extra-literary reference that Cervantes attributed to the figure of Don Quixote.

It’s true that the Spanish nation reflected by Don Quixote (according to the graduate Carrasco) is not a political nation in the sense that can be seen in the Battle of Valmy, as I have already noted.{22} The Spanish nation to which the graduate Carrasco refers is not a political nation that would have risen up from the ruins of the Ancient Regime, but neither is it a merely ethnic nation that either lives on the fringes of some empire or integrated with other nations in the Spanish empire. Carrasco’s Spanish nation is a historical nation whose extension matches that of the Iberian Peninsula. (When Carrasco pronounces his imprecation, Portugal makes up part of the Spanish empire – on July 26, 1582, Cervantes himself took part in a naval combat on the Azorean island of San Miguel, fighting against French mercenaries who supported Don Antonio’s aspirations to convert himself into King of Portugal). The unity and consistency of this Spanish nation could be understood beyond the then-hegemonic and visible Empire; it could be understood from France, Italy, England, and from America.

To what then does Sancho refer? He too is given to us from the same stage: a peasant from La Mancha, the head of a family made up by his wife and two children. As such, he represents any of the workers who live on the Iberian Peninsula and who are dedicated with their wives to keep their family going. Sancho, gifted with great intelligence (and not only manual intelligence, but also verbal and even literary), gets along perfectly with other peasants and people of his social status. And like them (or many of them), the well-fed Sancho (he is not a pariah from India, condemned to live a life of misery in his assigned station, even if in the presence of the “Whole”) is willing to leave his home and serve a knight who can expand his horizons, regardless of the risks that such an adventure may have in store for him.

And Dulcinea? In the words of Ludwig Pfandl nearly a century ago, “Dulcinea is nothing other than the incarnation of the monarchy, of nationality, of faith. The one-armed man [Quixote] strives for her, fighting against the windmills.”{23}

But if I were to accept Pfandl’s interpretation, wouldn’t then Dulcinea’s reference get confused with the reference that Carrasco saves for Don Quixote, the “Spanish nation”?

In some general way, yes, much as Sancho too (such as I have presented him) must refer to this same Spanish nation which now seems consolidated into, or existing as, a historical nation, regardless of the deep crisis that it is suffering after the defeat of its Armada. However, although the circumstantial reference of Don Quixote, Sancho, and Dulcinea may be the same – Spain – the perspectives from which each of these characters of the trinity refers to Spain are nonetheless distinct to each other. 

The battle of Lepanto, 1571


Historical spread of the trinity of Don Quixote: past, present, and future

Perhaps Don Quixote refers to Spain from the perspective of the past, Sancho from the perspective of the present, and Dulcinea from the perspective of the future (and for that Dulcinea is a matter of faith, not of actual evidence).

These three perspectives are necessarily involved with each other, just as the trinity of Quixote are involved with each other. In other words, if each person in this stage trinity – Don Quixote, Sancho, and Dulcinea – refers to a Spain that has entered into a profound crisis, it’s because each person refers to it through or by the mediation of the others. Don Quixote is seen from a past that, even during the time on the stage, is still close (the time in which Spanish knights used lances and swords instead of harquebuses and cannons), and Sancho is seen from the present in a village that lives thanks to the fruits that the land, which must keep producing in every moment, gives after hard labor. Dulcinea represents the future, as a symbol of the mother-Spain, but I take this reference literally, which has little to do with a reference in the sense of an “ideal figure” of an “eternal femininity” and more to do with the representation of a mother able to give birth to children that as rural workers or soldiers will make the future of Spain possible.

With that said, in a historical time like that which corresponds to Spain, the present, past, and future are not mere points on a line that represents astronomical time. The time of Spain as an emerging generating Empire that is beginning to show the deep wounds that its enemies, the European predatory empires, are inflicting upon it, this time is historical time – a flowing, constantly interacting collection of millions of people, each one used to eating daily and in constant agitation and interaction. This flowing collection, this oceanic river of people who make history and are swept away by it, can be classified in three classes or circles of people theoretically well-defined:

First, there is the circle made up by people who mutually influence one another, supporting or destroying one another during the course of their lives – a circle whose diameter can be estimated as a hundred years – the years which correspond to what I call the historical present (which is not, of course, the instantaneous, adimensional present corresponding to a flowing point on the time line).

Second, there is the circle (of finite, but indeterminate diameter) made up by people who influence the people of the present for better or worse and whom we take as references, molding them nearly completely, but without us being able to influence them in any way, neither profoundly nor superficially, because they have died. This is the constituent circle of a historical past, the circle of the dead, those who increasingly tell the living what to do.

Finally, there is the circle (of indefinite diameter) made up by the people influenced by those who are living in the present, with the latter nearly molding the former entirely by marking their paths, but without the former being able to influence those who are living in the present, because they don’t exist yet. This is the circle of the historical future.

We have been supposing – or if it’s preferred, we depart from the supposition – that the references of the symbolic (allegorical) characters that Cervantes offers us on the stage of his most capital work must be placed in Spain. Spain, however, is a historical process. So to affirm that Spain is the place in which the references of the stage characters – Don Quixote, Sancho, and Dulcinea – must be placed is still not saying much.

To begin, we must determine the parameters of the present, the present in which our stage is situated, and with that perspective as a platform we can look toward both the past and the future. Undoubtedly these parameters must be obtained following the method of analysis of the literary immanence – the immanence of the stage itself, the stage on which the characters act. These indications are various and concordant and lead us to fix the date in which the characters act – the time “of the great Philip III”. Even more precisely, there is the letter that Sancho, as governor of the island of Barataria, writes to his wife Teresa Panza, dated July 20, 1614. It must be concluded then that Don Quixote took off in search of Dulcinea in those days.

This doesn’t mean though that Cervantes wanted to offer a stage which refers to the Spain of his present – a present that covers (if I maintain my hypothesis) a circle with a hundred-year diameter and which could go from 1616 – the year of his death – back to 1516, the year in which Ferdinand the Catholic died. The central point of his diameter is found very close to 1571 – the date of the battle of Lepanto, in which the twenty-four year old Cervantes took glorious part.

Cervantes didn’t propose to make a chronicle of the present in which I suppose he situated his stage. From his present, of course, Cervantes summons a stage whose reference is Spain, but not exactly the Spain of the Middle Ages (as Hegel thought when he interpreted Don Quixote as a symbol of the transition from the feudal to the modern period). Don Quixote crosses a now unified peninsula without interior borders between the Christian kingdoms and even more, without borders with the Moor kingdoms: the Spain that Don Quixote crosses is subsequent to the capture of Granada in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs. This, therefore, is the “literary stage” (not the historical stage) of Don Quixote.

Nevertheless, Don Quixote does not yet walk across a modern Spain (Cervantes’s Spain – where the smell and noise of gunpowder were well-known, where galleons came and went to America – a Spain to which there is practically no reference in the book). In the first chapter of the book, Cervantes takes great care to tell us that the first thing Don Quixote did before leaving his house “was to clean a suit of armour that had belonged to his forefathers and that, covered in rust and mould, had been standing forgotten in a corner for centuries.”{24} Next, Alonso Quijano (who lives in the present) dressed up as Don Quixote, a knight from the past. However, this past, as is natural for every historical past, continued to heavily influence the present, for the “dead increasingly tell the living what to do”.

Nonetheless, as I have said above, Don Quixote and his group don’t operate in a medieval period, but rather in a modern one. There are no longer Moor kings in Spain. Some Moriscos that were expelled even return to Spain, and meet with Sancho: 

“You don’t mean to tell me, brother Sancho Panza, that you can’t recognize your neighbour Ricote the Morisco, the village shopkeeper?”{25}

From the 1614 stage (the date of Sancho’s letter to his wife), it seems obvious that Cervantes wants to refer to the Spain of the previous century – to the Spain of 1514 that, while no longer medieval, hasn’t yet seen the arrival of Carlos I to the throne, nor above all, Hernán Cortés’s entrance in New Spain in Mexico. It seems as if Cervantes had deliberately wanted to return to a previous Iberian Spain, perhaps not before the discovery of America, but as least earlier than the massive Spanish entrance in the New World (Peru, Mexico…) and the repercussions that such an entrance would have in Spain itself.

The Spain that Cervantes sees from his novel’s stage is a Spain that neither appears as involved in the New World nor in the old continent (in Flanders, Italy, Constantinople, Africa). As such it isn’t a Spain contemplated on the scale of a coeval political society, although the stage is placed in that political society which acts as its platform. It’s as if Cervantes wanted to illuminate the references he saw from his stage; politically speaking, this is not anachronistic but simply abstract. It’s as if he wanted to illuminate with an ultraviolet light capable of revealing a civil society that continued to exist and move at its own pace in the background of the political society – a civil society with priests and barbers, dukes and puppeteers: archaic but recognizable knights-errant who, through the tricks of illumination, show up with a certain intemporal air.

This intemporal air comes from a society that, like the Spanish, has already matured as the first historical nation. Nonetheless, it still needs the care of knights armed with lances and swords, even in those moments when it is abstracted from its imminent political responsibilities (those which oblige the mobilization of armies with firearms – today we would say missiles with nuclear heads). For the interior, “intemporal” peace in which this society lives, the peace that knights believe themselves capable of finding if they dress up as shepherds, has nothing to do with celestial peace, given that bandits, murderers, thieves, liars, cheaters, and heartless, cruel scum will continue to rob, murder, steal, lie, cheat, and deceive.

When we want to come to some political interpretation of Don Quixote, how can we not take seriously this “intemporal Spain” that Cervantes would have artificially illuminated with the ultraviolet light presented above? When we try to interpret the novel from political categories, should we not recognize as Cervantes’s most significant allegorical device this “Spanish nation” that he recognized and suspended in an ultraviolet, intemporal atmosphere?

Seen as such, it seems to me that any attempt to interpret the stage of Quixote directly through immediate reference to the historical figures of its present (figures like Carlos I, Hernán Cortés, the Great Captain, or Diego García de Paredes) must be considered elementary and naïve (“A fig for the Great Captain and another for that Diego García character,” replies the innkeeper to the priest).{26}

The stage of Don Quixote refers to Spain, to the historical Spain, and to its political empire. It does so not in an immediate way, but rather through the use of an intemporal Spain, one not unreal but seen simply under an ultraviolet light in which a civil society, set in the historical time that the Iberian peninsula lives, lives according to its own rhythm.


Two types of philosophical-political interpretations of Don Quixote:
catastrophist and revulsive

Difficulties spring up now when we interpret the figures of Don Quixote; even supposing that their condition as allegorical symbols with ambiguous references (that play a double role in political and civil society) is admitted, as I have suggested, difficulties remain. 

There are many interpretations formulated on diverse scales. The first thing that matters to us, from the historical-philosophical-political perspective that I support, is to classify these diverse interpretations in two large groups: catastrophist interpretations (or defeatist as we could also call them) and non-catastrophistinterpretations (or simply critical, or revulsive, insomuch as they interpret Don Quixote not so much as an expression of an irreversible political defeatism which could only seek refuge in a pacifist gospel – one typical of the “extravagant left” – but more as the offering of a revulsion that ends up putting weapons as the necessary (but not sufficient) condition to overcome decadence or defeat.{27}

Gustave Dor�, Don Quixote


Catastrophist interpretations of Don Quixote

Albeit briefly, let’s examine some interpretations of the meaning of Don Quixote belonging to the group we have labeled as “catastrophist” and in whose stock a certain “pacifist naivete” is found.{28}

According to these interpretations, Cervantes, in his fundamental work, would have supplied the most ruthless and defeatist vision of Imperial Spain that could ever have been offered up. As clever psychological critics say, Cervantes – resentful, skeptical, on the border of nihilism and disappointed by the innumerable failures that his life handed him (mutilation, captivity, prison, failure, and rejection – especially in his request to move to America, a right he felt he deserved as a hero in Lepanto) – this Cervantes would have eliminated from his brilliant novel any reference to the Indies, as well as any to Europe. The madness of the real Spanish knights (Carlos I, Hernán Cortés, don Juan de Austria) – those who supposedly ended up ruining the country – would then be alluded to allegorically by the heroes of the chivalry books that inspired the conquistadors to go to the Indies in search of El Dorado, California, or Patagonia: “To the people of Hernán Cortés,” Américo Castro says, “their triumphant arrival in Mexico seemed to be an episode from Amadís or some sort of spell”; those same books inspired them to go to England or Flanders with a squadron so archaic and “invincible” that, like Don Quixote’s own lance, was shattered in the first assault.{29}

And so if the graduate Sanson Carrasco said to Don Quixote that he was “the honour and mirror of the Spanish nation”, it’s easy to understand what he meant. For what is it that this mirror reflected? A deformed knight who goes on delirious and ridiculous adventures from which he returns defeated time and time again. Isn’t this the reflection of the Spanish nation?

Accordingly, Cervantes must be placed among those men inside the Spanish nation (not outside) who have most contributed to the development of the Black Legend (although others have done so in a much more subtle and cowardly way).{30} Bartolomé de las Casas and Antonio Peréz head this list of men, a list rounded off by the latest winner of the Cervantes Award, Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, who in 1992 wrote a book entitled Esas Yndias Equivocadas y Malditas (Those Damned, Mistaken Indies) that was awarded the National Award for Literature under the socialist government. Nonetheless, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) himself must be the central figure of this list. Cervantes, with his Don Quixote, would have made a brilliant and hidden framing of the Black Legend to use against Spain while also contributing to its diffusion throughout Europe. Montesquieu would have already advised of it: “The most important book that the Spanish have is nothing other than a critique of other Spanish books.”{31}

In short, no Spaniard who maintains even an atom of national pride could see himself reflected in Don Quixote’s mirror. Only a group of people as “inflated with pride” and “charged with rights” as Spaniards (as Prat de la Riba, from Catalonia, was already saying in 1898), could identify themselves with some of the abstract qualities of the Knight of the Sad Face. Folch y Torres, another separatist who took great delight in Don Quixote’s failures (particularly insofar as these failures represented Spain’s), went so far as saying, in the same year (1898) in which “Castilian Quixotes were so crazy to declare war against the United States” (in the course of the conflicts with Cuba and the Philippines): “Let the Castilians keep their Don Quixote, for whatever he’s worth.”{32}

What’s more, this defeatist interpretation taken from Don Quixote and therefore from the interior of the Spanish empire, whereby both are the work of a megalomaniacal, cruel delirium, would not only have framed the Black Legend, but also would have fueled it as it was promoted from abroad by enemy powers (France, England, Holland) – those predatory empires and scavenging pirates that fed themselves from their infancy to their youth on the offal they went ripping off from Spain. Some suggest (recently Javier Neira) that Don Quixote‘s rapid and extraordinary success in Europe could have been due in large part to precisely its capacity to serve as fuel for the hate and disdain that Spain’s enemies wanted to direct at it.

In this defeatist interpretation, must we then follow the path that Ramiro de Maetzu himself initiated when he advised to temper the cult of Don Quixote not only in schools, but also in the Spanish national ideology?

If Don Quixote is a mad and ridiculous Spanish antihero, a mere parody and counterfigure of the real man and the real modern knight, then why is there this determination to keep him as a national emblem by celebrating his anniversaries and centennaries with such uncommon pomp? Only the enemies of Spain – internal enemies above all, like Catalonian, Basque, or Galician separatists – could delight in the adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha.

It would still be possible to try to restore a less depressing symbolism of Don Quixote, even while recognizing his incessant defeats. We could do so by situating ourselves in the positions of the most extreme pacifism, whether it be the one defended by the extravagant left, so close to the evangelical pacifism of the current Popes (whose “Kingdom is not of this world” – thus its “extra-vagance”) or that pacifism defended by the digressive left which proclaims perpetual peace on earth and the Alliance of Civilizations. For these radical pacifists the adventures of Don Quixote could serve as an illustration, a reductio ad absurdum either in fact or in counterexample, of the uselessness of war and the stupidity of violence and the use of weapons.

Wanting to save Cervantes, the more audacious critics in this line might even dare to say that Cervantes, with his Don Quixote, has given to Spain and to the world in general an “ethical lesson” that teaches us of the uselessness of weapons and violence.

Along this line, these naive critics could see in Cervantes a convinced pacifist who tries to demonstrate the importance of evangelical peace, tolerance, and dialogue along a path of reductio ad absurdum of counterexamples – weapons that turn out to be useless, regardless of the bearer’s force of spirit.

Nevertheless, those who believe themselves capable of taking similar conclusions, “morals”, from the Don Quixote’s failures are unforgivably confused between the weapons of Don Quixote and weapons in general. This conclusion or moral is taken from the fallacious (petitio principii) premise that Don Quixote’s weapons represent weapons in general. What if Don Quixote, through his peculiar and cryptic way of speaking, were insisting on the essential difference between firearms (those with which the victory of Lepanto was obtained) and the ancient knights’ bladed weapons? According to this interpretation, Don Quixote’s failures with his rusty blades would immediately convert into an apology of the firearms that begin modern war, as seen in those first battles which Cervantes himself attended on various occasions (Lepanto, Navarino, Tunisia, La Goleta, San Miguel de las Azores).

Nevertheless, it is necessary to affirm that in any case the catastrophist interpretations of Quixote would affect Cervantes rather than Don Quixote. According to Unamuno’s thesis, a resentful and skeptical Cervantes behaved as a wretch with Don Quixote, trying time and time again to project him as ridiculous. He didn’t achieve his goal, however, and that is best evidenced by the universal admiration which Don Quixote arouses, which is not due (except for psychiatrists) to him being a paranoid madman. For as many times as Don Quixote falls down and gets beat up, so too does he pick himself up and recover; in this way, he represents the fortitude, firmness, and generosity of a knight who lives not in a fantasy world, but in the real, miserable world where he doesn’t give up when faced with misfortune.{33}

Furthermore, in no way is it clear that Cervantes held the nihilist, resentful attitude toward the Spanish empire which Unamuno attributed to him. Cervantes always maintained the pride of a combatant soldier in Lepanto, where the Holy League headed by the Spanish Empire stopped the influx of the Ottoman Empire, “the greatest occasion that the centuries saw,” as Cervantes said. In Don Quixote itself, we can also note that Cervantes approved of the Spanish policy to expel the moriscos and that he always showed himself to be a convinced subject of the Catholic Hispanic Monarchy.

In sketching his hero, Cervantes did not use the wide, elementary strokes with which King Arthur and Amadís de Gaul had been drawn throughout the centuries. Cervantes’s method was subtler. His results were without a doubt more ambiguous because of that – so ambiguous that they allowed the enemies of Spain to transform him into a pretext for derision of its history and its people.

Picasso, Don Quixote, 1955


Don Quixote as a revulsion

Now let’s examine some of the critical interpretations of Don Quixote that can be grouped together as revulsive.

According to these interpretations, before anything else one can find in Don Quixote a devastating criticism directed against all those Spaniards who, after having participated in the most glorious battles – those “events of weapons” in which the Spanish Empire was forged – had returned to their homes or to the court as satiate hidalgos and knights ready to live off the rent in some intemporal world, content with the memories of their glory days. They lived forgetful of the fact that the same Empire which protected their welfare, their happiness – their more or less placid and pacific life – was being attacked on all sides and starting to show alarming signs of leak after the defeat of its Armada.

After the first great push of the Empire (which is now starting to collapse), this mass of satiate people is in danger of producing the “I wan’t but can’t” of some strained knight, a knight for whom nothing is left but to wait, to wait for ridicule in trying to take up the rusty armor of his great grandparents, or the paralytic boats of the invincible Spanish Armada.

The lances and swords of his grandparents, or the bacinelmet Don Quixote himself makes, can then be seen as allegories through which Cervantes, without even needing to be aware of it, meant to represent the Spain that resulted from the ultraviolet light he used. According to this, Cervantes, with his Don Quixote, could have attempted or (if what he had attempted was to unleash his skepticism bordering on nihilism) at least could have succeeded in exercising the role of an agent of a revulsion before the government of the successive kings of Catholic majesties – Carlos I and even Felipe II, in the times of Lepanto. 

What Cervantes would be saying to his compatriots is that with rusty lances and swords, with paralytic boats, with solitary adventures, or less still, dressed up as bucolic and pacific pastors, that with all of this the Spanish people would be destined to failure because the Empire that protected them and the one in which they lived was being seriously threatened by neighboring ones. Nonetheless, Cervantes would also be seeing – albeit with skepticism – that it was still possible to overcome the depression that without a doubt appeared in some of the characters – among them Alonso Quijano transformed as Don Quixote. As such, Cervantes seems to want to stress in every moment that his characters effectively have the necessary energy – even if it had to be expressed in the form of madness.

According to this interpretation, Don Quixote’s message would not then be a defeatist message, but rather a revulsive one. Such a revulsion would be destined to remove satiate Spaniards from their daydreams – those who thought they could live satisfied after the victorious battle, savoring the peace of victory or simply enjoying their “welfare state” (as Spaniards will say centuries later) provided by a new order. But this new order which Spaniards had succeeded in imposing on their old enemies came from beyond their borders – from the same America that Cervantes himself eliminates from Quixote. This perspective provides an explanation of why nothing is said in Don Quixote about everything that surrounds the peninsular enclosure with its adjacent islands and territories, of why nothing is said about America, Europe, Asia, or Africa.

As such, Don Quixote, along with his follies, would be offering some hints of the path it would be necessary to follow. The first of these, before any other, would be to travel and explore the lands of the Spanish nation: Cervantes takes care that Don Quixote de La Mancha leaves his village in the fields of Montiel and crosses the Sierra Morena. He even takes care to make him arrive at the beach of Barcelona (the same beach, it seems, in which Cervantes saw how the boat carrying his patron the Count of Lemos took off to sea towards Italy, without Cervantes being able to catch it for a final chance).

Don Quixote doesn’t cross peninsular Spain simply for fun in a “deserved rest”, nor to privately insult his people, but rather to make some sort of effort without resting (“My arms are my bed-hangings/ And my rest’s the bloody fray.”), intervening in his people’s lives, taking an attitude of intolerance in the face of the intolerable (with Master Pedro’s altarpiece, for example).{34} Or he could even be seen as inducing these lives to the fabrication of arms – not bacinelmets, but new weapons: firearms (today we would say hydrogen bombs) necessary to maintain the war that those nations hounding the Spanish will indubitably unleash if Spain doesn’t submit to them.

For Don Quixote doesn’t believe in universal harmony, nor in perpetual peace, nor in the Alliance of Civilizations. Don Quixote lives in a cosmos whose order is nothing but appearance, one that covers the profound convulsions that its parts experience, parts that never adjust to one another: “May God send a remedy,” he says in Chapter 29 of the enchanted boat, “for everything in this world is trickery, stage machinery, every part of it working against every other part. I have done all I can.”

Quixote so offers a precise message not to men (“Man” in general), but to Spanish men: an apology of arms. “War and arms are one.”{35} Let them be then, those who direct messages of hope for perpetual peace to Man in general, or to mankind, or to Humanity, because these messages will be inoffensive if we keep in mind that their recipient (humanity) doesn’t exist. A message of perpetual peace and disarmament directed to the Spanish nation would be lethal, however. It could only be understood as a message sent to Spain by its enemies, hoping that once Spain had disarmed herself, they could then go in and split her up.

In any case, it’s not necessary to suppose that Cervantes, as a finis operantis of his master work, deliberately proposed to offer a parody that would serve as a revulsion to those court favorites of the monarchy, knights of the Court, dukes, priests, or barbers in order to make them see through the adventures of a grotesque knight where their complacency, their welfare, and even their literary taste for knights-errant or the pastoral life could lead them.

It’s sufficient to admit the possibility that Cervantes could have immediately perceived a particular kind of madness in the hidalgo whom he called Alonso Quijano and who was driven mad by reading chivalry books. Cervantes undoubtedly found an interest in both his condition as madman and, even more so, in the nature of his madness; there is very little in common between the madness of the licenciado Vidreiera and Don Quixote’s madness, although the differences between the two end up grossly erased when they are considered only in their common denomination as “madmen”. The madness of the latter resembled enthusiastic knights of the court such as Amadís or Palmerín, and even Hernán Cortés and the Great Captain, although Cervantes may have wanted to separate these last two, diverting attention towards the first two so as not to raise uncomfortable or dangerous suspicions or divert the direction of his reductio ad absurdum demonstration.

To summarize – in this nobleman gone mad by books of chivalry and converted into a knight – “a knight armed with derision” – Cervantes could have sensed the ridiculousness of those happy and complacent knights who fueled themselves on old stories. Even further, it can be conceded that this allegory – suggested from the beginning, but in chiaroscuro – became a constant stimulus for the author and gained momentum as it went, driving the author to dedicate himself with greater fervor to the development of such an ambiguous character, one so ambiguous that it became inexhaustible – a character that promised so much, even from its initial, simple definition.

The hectic development of his brilliant invention – that is, the discovery of “a nobleman from La Mancha mad for his effort to turn himself into a knight-errant” – could be, of course, the river bed that gathered the powerful current pouring into Cervantes. This current undoubtedly had been around some years before Don Quixote came to be, gathering resentments, let-downs, and slights towards knights, court favorites or satisfied dukes: all those national heroes who, living in a fully “welfare state”, took joy remembering their own or others’ heroic memories while chatting away on their hunts or in their salons, be it in Madrid, Valladolid, or in Villanueva de los Infantes.

Only in the course of developing Don Quixote’s initially ambiguous figure would Cervantes have become aware of the political and philosophical strength of the allegory provided by his specific, “knightly” madness. For although Don Quixote’s ambiguity was never abandoned and must be considered as central to his character, it was only during the development of his adventures that this ambiguity was filled with contents, whether of a psychological-psychiatric or a ethical-political nature. 

Alonso Quijano is a madman, and while Don Quixote channels his madness through generally violent means, they are nonetheless filled with strength and generosity. In addition, the hero – a madman in his acts and exploits – is a judicious and ingenious hero in his speech, so unlike a madman. But Cervantes thinks that discourses conform and give sense to acts (to such a point that the latter can be erased and transformed by the former). Given this belief and due to the objective force of the main character and those around him, Cervantes would have seen himself obliged to attribute Don Quixote’s constant failures less to his madness, and more to the instruments which this madness used – archaic weapons, starving knights, and ridiculous bacinelmets.

Accordingly, little by little Quixote would have become a work that objectively (according to its finis operis) began to assume (simply by Cervantes’s skeptical filter) the function of a revulsion directed at those same courtesan or village knights, dukes, and graduates who Cervantes knew and who ridiculed Don Quixote’s projects in Part Two. It’s as if Cervantes, developing the virtuosities of Quixote’s character, had come to reach a disposition of spirit that would have made him capable to say to his compatriots: “See how, from the complacent and satisfied magma of national heroes, idle, knights, villains, scribes and legists, priests, and barbers, see how the figures of Don Quixote, Sancho, and Dulcinea have emerged and how their rank elevates them immediately above the vulgar crowded atmosphere.”

Why then are these triadic figures laughable, especially the figure of Don Quixote? Not for his efforts, strength, fortitude, or generosity, but rather because he uses laughable instruments or proposes laughable goals: broken lances, bacinelmets, windmills, flocks of goats, even the governance of an island. But he does so always maintaining that forceful, firm, and generous energy inherited from his lineage.

Let’s substitute broken lances for cannons, starving horses for armed light boats, knights-errant for companies or battalions (individual violence redress wrongs but rather unleashes new ones), windmills for giant Englishmen or Frenchmen who are attacking us; let’s substitute the squire Sancho for millions of workers who leave their homes to accompany knights in the fight against real enemies; and let’s substitute Dulcinea for the thousands of women who bring into the world new workers and soldiers.

Cervantes could catch glimpses of this allegory as his story moved forward. The important thing is that Cervantes saw such an allegory, because only then can his disposition be understood to lead Don Quixote, in a given moment in his career, to hang up his arms and so decree his death. For it cannot be forgotten that the final and most profound lesson of Don Quixote that Cervantes seems to want to offer us is this: that although the projects undertaken by Don Quixote and the armed knights he represents seem follies, the only alternative is death. One must hang up ones arms in order to renounce these follies, to be cured of them after a great fever – but with this comes death (which is what the dimwitted pacifist does not see). After hanging up his arms and entering seclusion, Don Quixote physically dies in the body of Alonso Quijano, and so symbolizes Spain’s death, for hanging up her own arms.


“Words of such good sense that they dissipate the effect of his deeds.”

The faculty to give intelligent and ingenious discourses – that is, the faculty of the learned, those who dominate the letters of the law – is a faculty that Cervantes attributes to Don Quixote directly in his speech, and not abstractly, as if readers would have to take Cervantes word for it. He makes Don Quixote give intelligent and ingenious discourses that prove this faculty and appear all the more strong while his actions, weapons, and deeds appear to us all the more weak and disjointed.

Of course, it cannot be affirmed that Don Quixote lacks discourse in his madness, just as he doesn’t lack weapons. But neither can it be affirmed (with Don Diego Miranda, see below) that Don Quixote’s “incongruence” (madness or nonsense) is found only in the field of the coordination of his discourses and actions. As such, Don Quixote’s incongruence is evident in his own discourse, which is what makes him mad and degenerates him (a form of madness also present in Bartolo’s entremes, according to Menéndez Pidal). This goes in spite of the difficulty in determining the line of demarcation between a sane discourse and a degenerated one.

When trying to establish this dividing line, it must be kept in mind that the “sane part” of Don Quixote’s discourse would have been shared by Cervantes himself. Or, if you like, that Cervantes would be expressing his own thought through Don Quixote’s discourse, and that discourse does not, in total, only oppose actions – deeds, as far as they are actions – but also the judgment of the facts of experience, which themselves are not so much actions as perceptions – without denying that at the same time these perceptions are “trimmed” by some virtual or previous action so as to be integrated in the discourse. 

Cervantes (if indeed it is Cervantes who is speaking in II,18 through Diego de Miranda) doesn’t seem to diagnose any disjunction in Don Quixote’s discourse. Rather, he seems to put Quixote’s madness in the incongruence between his speech – itself sane – and his actions: between his “words” and his “deeds” as others might say. When Don Lorenzo, poet and Don Diego’s son, asks his father’s opinion about the knight he has invited home (“Mother and I are astonished at his name, his appearance, and his claim to be a knight errant”) Don Diego responds:

—I really don’t know what to say, my son. All I do know is that I’ve seen him perform the actions of the greatest madman in the world, and heard him speak words of such good sense that they dissipate the effects of his deeds. (my italics)

It isn’t then that the deeds dissipate the effect of his words; instead, the situation is much more interesting: they are the words that dissipate the effect of his deeds according to Don Diego.

According to this diagnosis, Don Diego seems to place Don Quixote’s incongruence in a different place (where speech and deed contrast each other) than where his poet son Don Lorenzo had seemed to put it initially (where speech and deed contrast without distinction: where, by extension, Don Quixote’s global behavior, coherent in itself, contrasts his personal expression – not only verbal – of those same things: “his name, his appearance, and his claim to be a knight-errant”).

It seems proper then to test different criteria for the division between coherent and incoherent discourse. The one which seems to me the most plausible is based on a distinction between doctrinal discourse (necessarily abstract, political, and philosophical) and the judgment to apply the discourse to the concrete circumstances of the moment – a judgment where prudence and discretion must intervene, not only the wisdom of principles nor the science of the conclusions (the coherence) of the doctrine. It would seem proper to match the doctrinal discourse with the “representative register of language”, while judgment would be more akin to the register of expressive or appellate language targeting concrete people.

For example, in II, 29 (where Cervantes offers the famous adventure of the enchanted boat), it seems that Don Quixote possesses a solid science in his discourse about the Sphere, in that he uses concepts Sancho knows nothing of: colures, lines, parallels, zodiacs, ecliptics, poles, solstices, equinoxes, planets, signs, points, and measurements. The discourse is broken, however – just as the lance would break – when applied to concrete circumstances, in which good judgment – or the faculty to judge, to subsume the particular into the universal, and vice-versa – must be exercised uprightly. While being carried away by the Ebro’s current, Don Quixote begins to calculate how many parallels the boat must cross; he begins to interpret watermills as a castle in which a distressed infanta or princess shall be found. Sancho here keeps his good sense, but so too does the “wretch” or the millers who saw “a boat approaching down the river and [realized] that it was going to be sucked into the mill-race…[those] who heard but couldn’t understand [Don Quixote’s] nonsense, and held out their poles to stop the boat, but now entering the mill-race.”{36}

It seems indispensable to indicate here that Don Quixote’s madness – defined as the rupture of his sense – is such that it allows doctrinal, “academic” discourse (scientific, philosophical, or political) to remain intact. It is not a common madness such as a schizophrenic suffering from confusion and mental chaos. Don Quixote’s madness is but a particular case of the same rupture of sense that most wise men suffer – politicians and scientists, for example – when they have a firmly established doctrine or diagnosis and try to apply it to a concrete case. If the case resists, they blame the case, not the doctrine (“the cadaver is lying”).

A different matter is the origin of this disagreement between doctrine and deed. Is it due simply to the politician or scientist’s dogmatic obstinacy (he who, as an example, proposes the certainty of the big bang theory, setting aside the facts against it)? Or is it that the facts are disrupted from the outside (from the palace of the dukes, for example), so that they seem different than they ought to? In days very close to when Cervantes was writing Quixote, Descartes judged that “perhaps this stove is an illusion brought about by some evil deceptive genius”, and thus faced the same charmer as Don Quixote.

For Don Quixote also recurs to the enchantment of a malin génie to explain the lack of adjustment between sane doctrines and the facts of experience. At times, Sancho himself even loses his good sense, as happened in the episode of the wine skins slashed by Don Quixote (I, 35) which he took to be giants and the spilled wine their blood. Who doesn’t associate this enchantment of the transformation of wine into blood with the debates of the 17th century between followers of Galileo, Gassendi, and Descartes, regarding Christ’s actual presence in the Eucharist and Eucharistic transubstantiation? But if we take St. Thomas’s doctrine as a prototype of rational, theological discourse, nearly perfect within the principles of hylomorphic creationism, what does it have to do with the madness of seeing Christ’s body and blood in bread and wine?

The difficulty doesn’t so much appear in the field of St. Thomas’s doctrinal theological discourse as it does in the concrete judgment as to whether this piece of wheat bread – the sacred wafer – is Christ’s body, and if this sacred grape wine is Christ’s blood. Such a judgment can only be assented to by appealing to divine action, to a miracle that is in some way the work of enchantment. An enchantment that, as in Don Quixote’s case, transforms wine into blood and bread into flesh. (This enchantment became much more difficult to accept as hylomorphism was being replaced by atomism; so much so that it has been argued – Pietro Redondi – that his defense of the atomistic doctrine and not his heliocentrism would have then been the motive for Galileo’s persecution).

Don Quixote, The discourse about arms and letters


The discourse about arms and letters

Let us now analyze one of Don Quixote’s most famous – and also most rational and sane – discourses; one in which, as I have insinuated, Cervantes is manifesting his own thought: the “Curious discourse about arms and letters” (I, end of 37 and 38). 

In itself, this discourse doesn’t contain any disjuncture. Nor do the arms alluded to, precisely because they are just that – “alluded arms” (drawn, painted arms) and not “used arms” (live, real arms). As far as I can see, there are no inconsistencies in the discourse itself, but rather appear in its application – for example, in the obvious lack of judgment by taking windmill blades to be giant’s arms. 

And what is the substance of this perfect discourse about arms and letters? Which is to say, against whom is it directed?

These days, a “fundamentalist pacifism syndrome” is intensely shaking citizens and faithful alike (others, situated on the “left” but with clerical traces, would say: “is intensely shaking the consciences…”). Both groups exalt Don Quixote on his fourth centenary and hope to lift his figure up as another emblem of redeeming pacifism. For doesn’t Don Quixote say that “the goal that arms have before them. . .is peace”? Perhaps Don Quixote, without explicitly citing it in his discourse, is reminding us of Saint Luke, when he says in his gospel (those words which signal the start the canticle of mass): “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will”. 

And what’s more, there are some – Bataillon and many others – who see Cervantes as another one of those Spaniards impregnated by Erasmus (which Spanish siglo de oro writers would deserve to be cited by these erudite sectarians without them seeing some idea of Erasmus reproduced in their discourse?). These scholars will here read Don Quixote’s curious discourse as a version of the doctrine of Erasmusian evangelical pacifism.

Erasmus was the great pacifist flag bearer of his day, a day in which Vitoria and other theologians argued in Spain in favor of war, of “just” war. But Erasmus didn’t like Spain because Jewish people were excessively tolerated there. Apart from that, Erasmus’s pacifism wasn’t really a purely evangelical pacifism, as it was interwoven with the worldly interests of the century. Erasmus said himself to be neutral: Francis, king of France, wanted peace just as his cousin Charles did – that’s why Francis would say, “My cousin and I are always in agreement: we both want Milan.”

But Don Quixote’s discourse about arms and letters isn’t a pacifist discourse, nor much less is it an Erasmusian discourse. On the whole it could be interpreted as a speech against Erasmus (except if one assumes – and it is a lot to assume – that Cervantes praises Don Quixote’s madness when he takes up his weapons). And this is because the doctrine Don Quixote expounds is, neither more nor less, not Erasmus’s doctrine, but Aristotle’s. 

In his 1529 Complaint of Peace, Erasmus of course defends peace, attacking arms to the benefit of letters – divine letters, above all: the peace of Erasmus is the peace of the Gospel. 

In what way is a man different from an animal? According to Erasmus, a man, in spite of his intelligence, behaves more bestially than beasts themselves in their relations with others of the same species. Erasmus, inventing some sort of ethology – human ethology above all – says, “Among the most savage of beasts I find more hospitality than among men.” Animals live in a quasi-civil concord. Elephants often behave as brothers one to another. Lions show no fierceness to other lions. Serpents don’t bite serpents. The word “man” ought to be enough to establish unity among men. And although nature had crushed them or made them fall, wasn’t Christ enough for them? Christ is the beginning of peace. He isn’t announced with bellicose trumpets. In spite of their intelligence, why then do men permanently start wars? Perhaps for their original sin? But Erasmus, just as Augustine, seems to be saying that if intelligence or reason had not been cut short in man by his original sin, then he would stop developing weapons because of his rationality

Some have signaled a possible relationship between Erasmus’s Complaint of Peace, in which he denounces the ambition of bellicose princes, and Vitoria’s program, De iuri belli. Manuel de Montoliu defends this relationship.{37} To my eyes, such an remark is only the product of Erasmusmania. Vitoria isn’t a pacifist as Erasmus is – his position on just war is precisely the opposite of Erasmus’s.

But while Erasmus affirmed that humans, precisely on the basis of their rationality, ought to stop developing weapons, Don Quixote begins by vindicating the rational condition of weapons. Man is a rational animal, and so to must be weapons, as inventions of man. Don Quixote’s conclusion becomes even more important when we realize that his weapons are not machine-arms (arms of discharge – arrows, bolts, firearms, grenades; much less automatic arms, such as a smart bomb) but rather instrument-arms (wielding arms, such as swords or lances).

It’s hard to imagine Don Quixote handling a bow or harquebus. As a good knight-errant, he only uses instrument-arms, arms which receive their impulse directly from the knight’s body in such a way that the knight himself makes direct contact with his enemy’s body. He can perceive his opponent’s immediate reactions in hand to hand combat. Ethologists today take this criterion as the basis to distinguish between aggressive animal conduct (which acts directly against the enemy’s body) and aggressive human conduct, in which the human creates a larger and larger disconnection between the aggressor and the victim. Lorenz spoke of “a suppression of aggressive instincts” derived from this disconnection, which is seen in its first degrees in chimpanzees or other animals that throw stones, but that don’t actually fire them; the acceleration that a stone launched from the hand undergoes is taken from the hand that throws it (leaving aside gravity’s effects or the acceleration of a stone launched by a catapult).

But this distinction between instrument-arms (whose energy proceeds from the organism, which uses instruments as if they were its own organs: claws, fangs, and fists) and machine-arms does not permit classifying instrument-arms as irrational, animal arms. Simply put, “organic arms” are not arms, but rather an animal’s attack or defense organs (or even a plant’s, through thorns and poison). But instrument arms are weapons strictly speaking, normalized tools, the contents of human culture. They are therefore rational, as Don Quixote says.

Consequently, neither weapons nor war come from irrational animals. War is not a question of some brute force rooted in the body. It requires spirit, ingenuity:

“It is no longer possible to doubt that this profession of mine surpasses all those ever invented by mankind, and that it should be held in even higher esteem for being exposed to more dangers. Away with anyone who gives letters [the letters of the learned, or law-makers, of the Rechtsstaat] the preference over arms, for I say to him, whoever he may be, that he does not know what he is talking about. The argument that such people usually adduce and depend upon is that brain-work is superior to physical work, and that the exercise of arms involves the body alone, as if it were the business of market-porters, which needs nothing more than brute strength; or as if acts of fortitude requiring a keen intelligence were not involved in what we fighters call soldiership; or as if the warrior who is in charge of an army or the defence of a besieged city did not labour with his mind as much as with his body.”{38}

And he goes on to say even more: arms have a superior goal than letters (“and I do not now refer to sacred letters, whose goal is to conduct souls to heaven…”), for while letters (those revolving around ethical, moral, political, or judicial norms) work “to interpret and enforce the law”, this goal is not as praiseworthy as that which “arms have before them, which is peace…This peace is the true goal of war; and war and arms are all one.”

Now, this famous proposition – “Peace is the goal of war” – proceeds, as known, from Aristotle (Politics, 1334 a15). There are, however, two main ways to interpret it:

1. Universal and perpetual peace is the aim of each and every war – a peace therefore understood to be everlasting and mutual among opponents.

2. Peace is not the universal and undifferentiated aim of all wars, but rather the particular and specific aim of each war: those who are in war are looking for peace, but it is the peace of their victory. Those who take part in war collaborate in creating disorder; the aim of war is to reestablish order, but such as it is understood by the victor. As such, the goal of war is peace, the peace of victory and of the victorious and stable order that victory manages to establish.

The first interpretation of Aristotle’s proposition is clearly metahistorical, if not to say metaphysical. If peace were the universal law of mankind, then the only way to explain wars historically would be to suppose that humans – rational animals – have started wars because of their irrationality. The history of mankind, then, would have to be the history of nonsense.

The second interpretation, however, can have a positive historical meaning if we consider that humanity as such does not have an existence, but rather is originally distributed in parts that aren’t necessarily compatible or congruent among one another. War then must be the extreme form of the ordinary relationship between these parts. 

Based on this supposition, when I talk about peace as the aim of war, I am referring to real war, to each war in particular. Only now does talk of war have a political and historical sense, not a metahistorical or metaphysical one. Talking about peace as the aim of war is talking about political peace, whether it be the Pax Romana, the Pax Hispanica, or even the Pax Sovietica (of which Stalin proclaimed himself leader in 1950). War aspires to peace with the objective of establishing the unstable order that war itself has compromised, tailoring that order according to the victor’s wishes.

That Aristotle understood his proposition on peace as war’s aim in this positive sense is backed up by another passage of his. In effect, a little earlier than the previously-cited passage (Politics 1333), Aristotle relates the work-leisure comparison with the war-peace comparison, saying, “The aim of war is peace, as the aim of work is leisure.” This is why war, as a rational activity with peace or the just order obtained after victory as its aim, implies a rational order and rational operations which lead up to that order. Accordingly, war cannot aim to enslave men who don’t deserve it, nor much less can it aim for their extermination. The peace to which war aspires must have one of the following aims:

a. Either avoid being enslaved by others (the aim of defensive wars),

b. Or to achieve hegemony over others, not to simply dominate them, but to provide them with better goods than they currently have (the aim of so-called civilizing or liberating wars),

c. Or to govern those who deserve to be governed, even as slaves. (Vitoria, even Sepulveda, assumes this third aim as the aim of a just war, if it proposes to tutor and educate people incapable of educating themselves, in order to help them develop their own capacities).{39}

To conclude, it doesn’t seem possible to affirm that in Don Quixote’s famous discourse he is preaching a political pacifism and a summons against arms in favor of letters. Perhaps he is painting the horizon for a Golden Age, one which he doesn’t identify with evangelical peace and which he invokes on other occasions. All in all, Don Quixote is defending an order – a peace – to be maintained by just and fair laws themselves only effective with the force of arms. This is the foundation of the superiority of arms over letters which Don Quixote (Cervantes) expounds in this famous discourse – a superiority over human letters, over human learning (he doesn’t want to speak about divine letters), over the learning of lawyers, that is, over the letters of the law.

Using a concept created two centuries later by some German lawyers (Robert von Mohl, for instance) – the concept of Rechtstaat, which is here translated (into Spanish) as a state of law, or rule of law – I can only conclude that for Don Quixote, the “state of law” – of the learnèd, of lawyers – lacks force in and of itself. Any force that it may have comes from the arms capable of enforcing judges’ sentences. These arms make it possible for the order represented by the laws to prevail over other opposing or alternative orders.

For his part, Don Quixote considers himself far removed from any justice tribunal: “Where have you ever seen or read of a knight errant standing trial, whatever outrages he is accused of?”{40} Don Quixote, as a sovereign knight errant, assumes the traditional position of sovereign, be it of the Church, invested with its own right, or of the Crown, either in absolute monarchies or residually, in constitutional ones: “The person of the King is inviolable and not subject to responsibility.”{41} But he also assumes the position that always corresponds to the effective political sovereignty – that of an Empire (as the USA currently may be) which no international tribunal of justice (whether real or on paper, as those today) can judge, because imposing its sentences is only possible if the Empire were to enforce them upon itself.

The order represented by the laws presiding over a nation such as the Spanish nation can only be maintained by the force of arms. These arms created that nation and sustain it from below and are the same as those carried by Don Quixote – not alone, but together with Sancho and Dulcinea – from which new soldiers and lawyers can issue.

A weak or disarmed nation can only assume the order that other, better armed nations or empires impose. As such, arms must be considered superior and more rational than laws, than human learning:

“It is no longer possible to doubt that this profession of mine surpasses all those ever invented by mankind, and that it should be held in even higher esteem for being exposed to more dangers. Away with anyone who gives letters [the letters of the learned, or the law-makers, of the Rechtsstaat] the preference over arms, for I say to him, whoever he may be, that he does not know what he is talking about. The argument that such people usually adduce and depend upon is that brain-work is superior to physical work, and that the exercise of arms involves the body alone, as if it were the business of market-porters, which needs nothing more than brute strength; or as if acts of fortitude requiring a keen intelligence were not involved in what we fighters call soldiership; or as if the warrior who is in charge of an army or the defense of a besieged city did not labor with his mind as much as with his body.”

Arms, in short, have a superior goal to that of letters (“and I do not now refer to sacred letters, whose goal is to carry souls to heaven”). While the goal of letters is to interpret and enforce the law, it is not as praiseworthy as that which arms have before them, which is peace…This peace is the true goal of war; and war and arms are all one.

Don Quixote obliges us to affirm – such is my interpretation – that if Spain exists, that if Spain can resist its threats, that if Spain is a nation and wants to keep being one, then none of this can come from nor be maintained by letters or laws or the rule of law. Arms are necessary. It is necessary to be prepared for war understanding that, as Don Quixote says, “War and arms are all one.” 

Don Quixote, Mirror of the Spanish Nation


{1} Bueno, Gustavo. España no es un mito. Madrid: Temas de Hoy, 2005. This excerpt is found on pages 241-290.

{2} Article 1 of La ley 16/2002 del IV centenario de la publicatión de El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha.

{3} Crediting Coleridge for use of the term, Schelling defended that mythology was not allegorical, but rather tautegorical. See Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, Einleitung in die Philosophie der Myhtologie, in Schelling, Schellings Werke, Vol. 6 (Eight Lecture): p.197 and following.

{4} I have used the English translation of Don Quixote by John Rutherford (London: Penguin, 2003). This quote is found on 292. Translator’s note.

{5} A symbol or sign which refers to something else (not itself), from the Greek allos αλλοξ. For a more extensive definition (in Spanish), see http://symploke.trujaman.org/index.php?title=Alot%E9ticoTranslator’s note.

{6} Leopoldo Alas “Clarín”, La Regenta (1884-85). English translation by A. Lane (1984).

{7} Rutherford 975.

{8} Francisco Alonso-Fernández. El Quijote y su laberinto vital. Barcelona: Anthropos, 2005.

{9} The opposition in grammatical gender (ella) is, of course, a differentiation that does not exist in English. Translator’s note.

{10} This refers to the legendary Roman victory in which these two mythical twins fought at the head of the Roman army. Translator’s note.

{11} Philosophical materialism is a philosophical system launched with Gustavo Bueno’s Ensayos Materialistas (Taurus, 1973). For an English overview of the essentials of the system and an associated bibliography, see General view of philosophical materialismTranslator’s note.

{12} See note 16.

{13} Rutherford 546-7.

{14} Ibid., 215.

{15} Ibid., 515.

{16} Robert Bly’s translation of an untitled Machado poem.

{17} For a brief account in English of the terminology of Gustavo Bueno’s philosophical anthropology and its description of “anthropological space”, see Philosophical materialism through materialist anthropologyTranslator’s note.

{18} Rutherford 660.

{19} For the author’s discussion of the Spanish Empire, see Gustavo Bueno, España frente a Europa. Barcelona: Alba, 1999. The capital letters used throughout the text (“Empire”) serve to signify a particular stage of imperial states in which the idea of empire itself reaches a philosophical meaning. Within Bueno’s theory of empire, this idea looks to cover all political societies, and so become universal. The often violent interplay among these Empires gives content to “universal history”. Translator’s note.

{20} A generating empire imposes itself on other societies in order to transform them into political societies that it considers virtuous. For a more extensive definition (in Spanish), see http://www.filosofia.org/filomat/df584.htm Translator’s note.

{21} Rutherford 529.

{22} See page 88 of España no es un mito.

{23} Pfandl, Ludwig. Cultura y costumbres del pueblo español de los siglos XVI y XVII. Barcelona: Araluce, 1942 (1929), p. 312.

{24} Rutherford 27.

{25} Ibid., 825.

{26} Ibid., 292.

{27} The concept of the extravagant left is part of a classification of the different generations of the political left. See Gustavo Bueno, El mito de la Izquierda. Barcelona: Ediciones B, 2003. Translator’s note.

{28} I have offered “naivete” as a translation for panfilismo, which Bueno takes from Greek and would translate literally as “lover of all”. Translator’s note.

{29} Americo Castro, La realidad histórica de España. México D.F.: Porrúa, 1973, page 58.

{30} The Black Legend refers to a tendency during the early modern period (1453-1789) to demonize the Spanish as cruel, intolerant, and fanatical. Translator’s note.

{31} Montesquieu, Persian Letters, Letter 78.

{32} Folch y Torres, La Tralla. As quoted in Carlos Alvar (ed.), Gran Enciclopedia Cervantina, vol. III. Madrid: Editorial Castalia, 2006, page 2083.

{33} Such virtues call Spinoza to mind. For a reinterpretation of his virtues as understood in philosophical materialism, see Gustavo Bueno, El sentido de la vida (Oviedo: Pentalfa, 1996). Translator’s note.


{34} Rutherford 33.

{35} Ibid., 355.

{36} Ibid., 28.

{37} Manuel de Montoliú, El alma de Espana y sus reflejos en la literatura del siglo de oro. Editorial Cervantes, 1942: 632-3.

{38} Rutherford 354.

{39} For more regarding this, see Gustavo Bueno, La vuelta a la caverna. Terrorismo, guerra y globalización, I, 4: «La Paz como objetivo final de la Guerra». For more about the polemic between Sepúlveda, Vitoria, and Las Casas, see Pedro Insua’s analysis, «Quiasmo sobre ‘Salamanca y el Nuevo Mundo’»El Catoblepas, n. 15, May 2003 [http://www.nodulo.org/ec/2003/n015p12.htm].

{40} Rutherford 79.

{41} Article 56.3 of the 1978 Spanish Constitution.

The Genesis of Don Quixote, by Ramón Menéndez Pidal

Ramón Menéndez Pidal was born in 1869 and died in 1968, so 2018 is the 50th anniversary of his death and 2019 the 150th anniversary of his birth. To commemorate these events, the Fundación Ramón Menéndez Pidal celebrates the ‘Bienio Pidalino’.

What follows is Ramón Menéndez Pidal, “The Genesis of Don Quixote,” from The Anatomy of Don Quixote: A Symposium, edited by M. J. Bernardete and Ángel Flores. First published in English by Dragon Press, 1932. Copyright 1924 by Ramón Menéndez Pidal; currently, this essay appears in Cervantes across the Centuries, edited by Angel Flores and M. J. Bernardete 1948, 1969 by Gordian Press, NY.
The origin of this article was a speech in Ateneo de Madrid in 1920, later published in Ramón Menéndez Pidal, «Un aspecto en la elaboración del Quijote», in De Cervantes y Lope de Vega, 1.ª ed., Buenos Aires, Espasa Calpe Argentina, 1940, pp. 9-56 (see online version in Spanish)

From the twelfth century onward, France, relying primarily on Bretonian legends, had set the model for the versified romance of chivalry, the taste for which spread throughout Europe, thanks to the charm of works such as Tristan, Lancelot, Perceval, and, Merlin, by Chrétien de Troyes or Robert de Boron, and to that of a body of prose literature that made its appearance in the first half of the thirteenth century. Heroic verse, which reflected traditional, political, and martial ideas and was characterized by domestic austerity and the absence of love as a poetic theme, was now succeeded by a new kind of narrative poetry, which, like the lyric, assumed the essential character of love poetry, with its scenes unfolding in a courtly, elegant world far removed from the stern feudalism of the epic.

The several and new emotions that enriched these poems of adventure were embellished by very diverse means. Through the famous works of Béroul, Chrétien, and Thomas, France was especially smitten by the poetry of fatal and turbulent love, whose poisoned shafts struck the breast of Tristan. Germany, in the poem by Wolfram von Eschenbach, contemplated the battles of inner purification fought in Parsifal’s soul, winning for him the kingdom of the mystical city of the Holy Grail. Spain refined the legends of Bretonian inspiration into the anonymous Amadís, inventing the innocent first love of the Doncel del Mar and Lady Oriana, which was destined to last from childhood until death “in such a manner that never for a single hour did they cease to love one another,” despite the temptations and hardships that relentlessly conspired against them.

Amadís, whose stout heart beats comfortably only at the shock of danger and in the midst of battles against deadly attacks, nevertheless trembles and turns into a coward in the presence of his lady, at whom he hardly dares to gaze. He goes numb upon merely hearing Oriana’s name, and he would actually fall off his horse were it not for his faithful squire Gandalín, who steadies and supports him. The romance of chivalry inherits this trait from the love poems. But because the latter originate immediately after the epic, it is not surprising that they, like the later romances of chivalry, have certain points of contact with the ancient heroic poems. Like heroic poetry, the romances of chivalry conceive their heroes within very similar ideals of chivalric perfection, placing them in a world made up of only two bands, one of the noble personages, the other of the wicked, who are locked in eternal antagonism with one another. Moreover, the struggle between them is settled in battles that use formulas and narrative techniques found both in the romances of chivalry and epic poetry.

Apart from the inspiration of love, other very profound differences in the conception of poetic life nevertheless separate the new literary productions from the old. In the romances of chivalry the struggle between the two forces previously mentioned is not carried out in an organized fashion, as in the epic—where the contest is generally played out before the king and his court—nor does it extend to entire nations. It is instead a purely personal struggle. The life of the ancient vassals, set in the midst of a powerful family group, faithful to or rebellious against their lord, abandons its national and political dimensions to assume a human and merely individual quality with the advent of the new knights-errant, who wander about alone in search of adventures, stimulated by whim and chance. The horrible revenges based on inherited enmities that characterized the epic are now replaced by what the Amadís calls “glorious vengeances,” which the knight executes in the name of justice as if following a professional protocol without himself being personally involved in the wrong he seeks to redress. The knight-errant fights as if to the death for any reason, whether it be to prevent the harmful enchantments of Archelaus or merely to compel a strange knight to declare his secret name. Heroic action is replaced in the romances of chivalry by actions that are arbitrary and more than human, both in the brutal acts of violence of the evil knight and in the lance thrusts of the good ones, which always cut through perversity’s strongest coats of mail. The epics’ heroic deeds unfold slowly in the middle of the life of societies of great historical density; meanwhile, the adventures of the romance of chivalry take place brusquely and swiftly against a lonely landscape, typically in a vast forest where the laments of the aggrieved go unheeded until the avenging knight hears them. If there arises on the edge of the forest a wellturreted castle inhabited by some powerful lord, or by a giant or an enchanter, be he evil or kindly, it is only for the purpose of initiating further complicated adventures which the good knight untangles and resolves with the blows of his invincible arm. If farther on a king’s court is occasionally found, it is only because the valiant knight-errant, who all by himself is more powerful than the entire kingdom, is awaited. How far removed is all this from the Poem of Mío Cid! The Corpes Woods, where the Cid’s daughters are ravaged, is not the center of the heroic life. The greatest of affronts committed against the hero in the oak woods is not immediately avenged on the spot, as a romance of chivalry would demand, but rather at the court of Toledo and under its authority. However, the romance of chivalry is actually not very far removed from the later epic—the new decadent epic of the Cid—in which the vassal repudiates his king and the entire nation and goes on to fight alone.

In Spain, this medieval romance had a very late revival. Around 1492 Garci Ordoñez de Montalbo adapted and expanded the old Amadís with such timeliness and good fortune—typical at the time of all Spanish endeavors—that the work, which for two centuries had been confined to the Peninsula, now sallied forth brilliantly and impetuously into the realm of universal literature, being translated and meriting repeated editions in a great many foreign languages. The romance of chivalry, which during the Middle Ages had scarcely produced any original works in Spain and which in France was completely forgotten, enjoyed in the plenitude of the Renaissance a profuse flowering which spread from the Peninsula throughout Europe. There came forth an entire series of sequels to the Amadís which recounted the lives of the sons and grandsons—Esplandianes, Lisuartes, Floriseles— of the fortunate Doncel del Mar. Additional series of Palmerines, Primaleones, and a hundred other knights, who came from the strangest and most archaic realms of fiction, entertained the spirits of those generations that deserved the more refined art of Bembo, Garcilaso, Ronsard, and Sidney. The last highly successful romance of chivalry, the one that survived the longest, was Diego Ortún ̃ez de Calahorra’s El Caballero del Febo (1562), whose adventures furnished plots to the courtly theater of Queen Elizabeth of England and inspired Henry Pettowe and perhaps even Shakespeare himself.

With some basis in fact, but also considerable exaggeration— justified by the exuberance of popular opinion on the matter— it has been claimed that chivalric and adventurous ideals were at odds with the Spanish character and spirit. For some, an unfathomable abyss existed between the Spanish epics (like the Poem of Mío Cid) and the romances of chivalry which, some had asserted, never enjoyed real popularity among us. It is true that the romance of chivalry is not derived from the ancient Spanish epic, but it is nevertheless linked to it, even if only by a tenuous thread. It is also true that it is primarily a reflection of foreign models, but this fact neither cancels out its popularity nor stands in the way of the intimate Spanishness of the Amadís, which was a happy adaptation to the Spanish spirit of a French trend. And if chivalric literature captivated the Spanish public from the remote times of King Don Pedro to those of Philip III, filling bulky tomes for the more cultured classes; if it descended the social scale in the form of cheaply produced broadsides for the humble classes and invaded even the beautiful ballads of the Romancero; if it inspired the national Hispano-Portuguese theater; if it found its way into seigneurial events and public fiestas; if its lengthy tales provided absorbing reading, capable of filling with bitter remorse the conscience of the old Chancellor Ayala, Juan de Valdés, or Santa Teresa, and of worrying the solicitors in the Cortes of the kingdom as well as the moralists Luis Vives and Fray Luis de Granada, then we must concede that this literary genre was not only popular but exceedingly so. The romances of chivalry did not triumph, as some believe, because they were the only narrative works of fiction available in the sixteenth century, but rather because they practically had no competition, as their adventures had long beforehand captured the Spanish imagination. These works spawned continuations and sequels because readers’ imaginations wanted to prolong the pleasure of living vicariously the life of exciting adventure with its victorious, avenging great deeds.

This literature was not dying of old age even as late as 1602, when Don Juan de Silva, Lord of Cañadahermosa, published his Crónica de don Policisne de Boecia. Then came the well-known moment when Cervantes decided to better the reading habits and morals of his homeland by discrediting the romances of chivalry.

Don Quixote is thus born with a special literary purpose, stated repeatedly by the author, according to which it may be believed that the novel bears only a negative relationship to such books and to the chivalric spirit that informs them. Lord Byron (in his Don Juan) thinks that Cervantes destroyed the Spanish feeling for chivalry and that he was thus responsible for his country’s ruin. Likewise, León Gautier (upon dedicating his monumental volume on the chivalric life to Cervantes himself), bitterly lamented the fact that ancient chivalry—his love of loves—was ridiculed and put to death by the great novelist. To forgive Cervantes for the imperishable yet demolishing pages of Don Quixote, Gautier was forced to evoke the heroic soldier of Lepanto, preferring the man over the book. Menéndez y Pelayo, at the opposite pole, maintained that Cervantes did not write a work antithetical to chivalry nor one of dry and prosaic negation but, rather, a work of purification and perfection: He came not to kill an ideal but to transfigure and exalt it. All the poetic, noble and human elements of chivalry were incorporated into the new work with the loftiest of meanings. In this way, Don Quixote was considered to be the last of the romances of chivalry, the definitive and most perfect one.

Between this latter point of view, which in itself seems paradoxical, and the other, more generally accepted one, we shall endeavor to develop our own judgment concerning the fundamental meaning of Don Quixote by taking a genetic approach.

Regarding the introduction of a comic dimension into a heroic domain, Don Quixote appears as the last exemplar of a series. This intertwining of the comic and the heroic had existed in literature for many centuries, since the very time of the epic’s splendor. It is sufficient to recall, as the most notable instance, the epic poem Pèlerinage de Charle Magne. The Renaissance stressed this way of understanding heroic poetry, because in that period, which contemplated serene classical beauty with great seriousness, the characters of the chansons de geste must have been seen as extremely simple poetic fictions, as monotonous in their turns of thought as in the wild blows of their swords. Spirits nourished by the ideas of Roman antiquity understood much less the empire of Charlemagne than that of Augustus, and they were unable to truly appreciate the simple grandeur of the medieval epic. Thus the Italian Renaissance, from the end of the fifteenth century, finding itself with Pulci and Boiardo confronting Carolingian and Bretonian poetic material that the northern Italian tradition transmitted to it, could not take that tradition seriously. By making Roland fall in love, Boiardo amused himself by presenting the unconquerable paladin as an awkward and timid lover, a stupid fellow, a babbione ever deceived by Angelica. Later, Ariosto (1516–32) continued this ridicule of the hero, making him a spurned lover, and exaggerating the furious madness of his jealousy to tragicomic proportions. With regard to these culminating scenes, the poet, whimsically and with a barely veiled smile, intertwines the knights of Charlemagne with those of Marsilio in a tangle of adventures—adventures replete with love affairs, battles, and enchantments, each one being interrupted and overtaken by the following one, like the calm waves of the sea, always continuous, always monotonous, foaming forever with playful novelty.

Almost a century after Ariosto, Cervantes took up chivalric adventures from a comic point of view. The Spanish author knew and admired Boiardo as well as Ariosto. He frequently imitated the Orlando Furioso, and Don Quijote even prided himself in being able to sing some stanzas of the poem. Still, face to face with his much admired predecessors, Cervantes achieved a strange kind of originality. While Pulci, Boiardo, and Ariosto carried forward the narration of the old poems with mocking humorism, Cervantes, on aiming to satirize the tales of chivalry in prose, did not set out to write a poem but rather a novel which took him into an artistic realm very different from that of the Italians. That is, Cervantes did not seek the initial source of his inspiration in their works, lofty as they were with artifices and the exquisiteness of monumental endeavors; instead, following the instincts of his Spanish nation, he sought inspiration in a simpler, more popular kind of literature.

Along with the comic scenes of the old French epic and the unbelievable narration of chivalric fiction created by Boiardo and Ariosto, there had long existed, in works of a lesser literary magnitude, another more openly hostile way of looking at chivalry: that of embodying its ideals in a poor madman whose fantasies are dashed to pieces against hard reality. For example, in the second half of the fourteenth century, I find in the work of the Italian novelist Franco Sacchetti a figure of the most exact quixotic appearance. In Agnolo di Ser Gherardo, Sacchetti created an extravagant personality, afflicted with a chivalric monomania in spite of his seventy years of age, who, mounted on a tall, lean horse that was the very image of hunger itself, goes from Florence to a nearby town to attend jousting matches. As his assistants help him put on his helmet and give him his lance, mischievous wags place a thistle under the tail of his nag, which begins to run, leaping and bucking, and does not stop until galloping all the way to Florence. There, amid general laughter, a woman takes in the battered equestrian, puts him into bed to cure him of the blows caused by his helmet and armor, and upbraids him for his foolish chivalric madness. Not only the comic structure but also the narrative details are similar to those in Don Quixote. Who can forget the old Manchegan hidalgo atop his lean Rocinante on the beach at Barcelona, where he, too, has gone to participate in certain jousts, and by his strange bearing arouses wonder in the merrymakers who surround him? Who does not remember the boys who place a bundle of gorse beneath his horse’s tail, producing the beast’s bucking that sends Don Quijote crashing to the ground?

Cervantes must have known Sacchetti’s story or a similar one, either in manuscript or in its oral telling, although he must have come to it late, only upon writing part II of the novel, where he exploits it. He also must have been familiar with some of the various stories then in circulation about comic delusions suffered by readers of books of chivalry, like the one about the student at the University of Salamanca who, because of these books, abandoned his studies and one day interrupted the solitude of his reading with loud shouts and sword thrusts in the air in defense of one of the characters in the novel he was reading; to such a point it had saturated his brain.

While Cervantes must have known stories of this sort, perhaps not knowing or remembering them until after beginning Don Quixote, it is certain that he conceived the first episodes of the novel as a response to the stimulus of a work of another type, a contemptible “Entremés de los Romances” (“Interlude of the Ballads”) whose importance, in my opinion, has not yet been understood by the critics.1 Adolfo de Castro happened to exhume this sorry theatrical composition, stating that Cervantes himself was its author and thereby attracting to himself the most justifiable and widespread disgrace among critics. Nevertheless, his foolish affirmation ought not to prevent us from examining the question without prejudice.

The “Entremés” must have been written about 1591 or shortly afterward. Its intention was to make fun of the extraordinary vogue of the Romanceros, the volumes of which had been published without pause for half a century, especially the Flor de Romances, which was reprinted and augmented from 1591 to 1597.

This “Entremés” introduces us to a poor peasant, Bartolo, who from “reading the ballads so much” goes crazy, as Don Quijote did from reading the books of chivalry. Bartolo insists on ridiculously imitating the knights in the ballads. His ravings bear the most striking resemblance to those of Don Quijote during his first adventure, that of the Toledan merchants. Having become a soldier in his madness, Bartolo believes himself to be the Almoradí or the Tarfe of the Morisco ballads, and he attempts to defend a shepherdess who is being harassed by her shepherd boyfriend. But the latter takes Bartolo’s lance and mauls him with it, leaving him flattened on the ground. In like manner, Don Quijote is beaten with his own lance by one of the merchant’s muleteers. Unable to get up, Bartolo consoles himself by thinking that not he but rather his horse was to blame for his misfortune. Don Quijote says the same thing, without being able to raise himself from the ground: “It is not through my fault that I lie here, but through that of my horse.” Resemblances increase when Bartolo, recalling the well-known “Ballad of the Marqués de Mantua,” now believes himself to be the enamored Valdovinos, who lies wounded in the deserted woods and exclaims: “Where art thou, my lovely lady/Feel’st thou not my cruel pain?” Don Quijote likewise believes himself to be Valdovinos, and he bursts forth reciting these same verses. Meanwhile, members of Bartolo’s family arrive, and he now thinks that it is the Marqués himself arriving; thus he greets them with more verses from the ballad: “O noble Marquis of Mantua/My uncle and carnal lord!” These are verses that Don Quijote also repeats when a peasant from his own town approaches him.

The “Entremés” goes on stringing together parts of the ballad, first in the mouth of Bartolo, then in those of the other characters who, humoring the madman, give themselves over to a foolish parody concerning the very famous history of the Marqués de Mantua. As would have been expected, Cervantes rejected such a grotesque parody, and he reduced it to a short narrative in which he says that Don Quijote only replied to all of his neighbor’s questions with verses from this ballad, recounting Valdovinos’s misfortunes as his own. In this short sequence, early in his novel, Cervantes allows himself to be swayed by the parodic system of the “Entremés.” He recalls that the Marqués, on approaching the wounded knight,

From his head and face his helmet
And his beaver first he drew;
Then with gore beheld him cover’d,
All of one ensanguin’d hue.
With his handkerchief he wipes him;
When his face from blood was clean,
Then, alas! too true the story,
Then too plain the truth was seen.

Cervantes tells us that, upon approaching Don Quijote, the peasant, “taking off the visor of his helmet…  wiped off the dust that covered his face, and presently recognized the gentleman and said to him…” Created by Cervantes without any burlesque intent, this parody is a significant vestige of his unconscious imitation of the ballads, as suggested by the “Entremés.”

Bartolo and Don Quijote are carried away in the same fashion to their respective villages, and while on the road the madness of both takes a violent leap from the ballad of the Marqués de Mantua to those on Morisco themes. Bartolo now imagines that he is the mayor of Baza, who laments with his friend Abencerraje the unfaithfulness of his beloved Zaida, and Don Quijote fancies that he is Abencerraje’s captive, who tells the mayor of Antequera about his loves. Both madmen finally reach their homes, and once in bed, they fall asleep. But in a short time both are back to alarming their concerned relatives, disturbing them with new follies: Bartolo ranting about the burning of Troy and Don Quijote about the tournaments of the twelve peers.

“May the devil take the ballads which have put you in such a plight!” says Bartolo’s neighbor. “May a hearty curse… light upon those books of chivalry that have put you in this pickle,” says Don Quijote’s housekeeper when he reaches home. The “Entremés” aims to make sport of imprudent readers of the ballads and treads its ground firmly when it makes Bartolo believe that he is a character drawn from them. Cervantes wants to censure the reading of chivalric romances, and he is very much out of his element when he repeatedly makes Don Quijote rave about the same ballad characters as Bartolo. It can be readily seen that the first idea of the madman who dreams that he is Valdovinos belongs to the “Entremés,” and that only thanks to its general, undue influence is it found in Cervantes’ novel. If we should claim for an instant that the “Entremés” was written after the novel and created in imitation of Don Quixote, we would be forced to confront the fact that it reaches into the very foundation of both works.

We should still add yet another substantial consideration on behalf of the precedence of the “Entremés.” A madman in whose head his own personality dissolves in order to be substituted by that of a famous personage is the crass and sole type of lunacy that governs the “Entremés,” which is mindful only of provoking the spectators’ laughter. But in Don Quixote this kind of madness only appears in the first adventure, in the fifth and seventh chapters about which we have been speaking. It is, moreover, a madness that is at odds with the one that always afflicts Don Quijote, whose personality remains on every other occasion steadfast and firm in the presence of those heroes who are the cause of his insanity. One must consider, then, in examining the foundations of that which is quixotically comic in the adventure of the Toledan merchants, that Cervantes did not conceive the episode by freely mixing the resources of his own fantasy, but that his imagination was constrained and limited by the indelible recollection of the “Entremés de los Romances,” which had left a strong comic impression in his mind. This tenacious, immoderate impression not only imposed on Cervantes an unconscious and incomprehensible substitution by the ballads of the Romancero tradition of the books of chivalry as the cause of Don Quijote’s madness, but rather, and in addition, implied a form of madness and a parodic procedure that were quite foreign to the untrammeled imagination of the novelist.

This is the fundamental element in the genesis of Don Quixote. Cervantes discovered a productive kind of humor in the “Entremés,” which poked fun at the mental derangement caused by the injudicious reading of the Romancero. This literary satire seemed to him an excellent theme. But he shifted it away from the ballads— an admirable poetic form—in order to transfer it to a literary genre despised by many, that of the romances of chivalry, which at the same time were as popular as the Romancero. There were authors, too, who, like Lorenzo de Sepúlveda, wished to apply a corrective to the influence of the old ballads, so “full of many lies and very little merit,” but Cervantes was not to proceed either in the manner of Sepúlveda or of that of the writer of the “Entremés.”

As soon as Don Quijote arrives home and goes to sleep, resting from the madness of having been the Valdovinos of the ballad, the priest and the barber proceed to the scrutiny of the deranged hidalgo’s library. In it, besides the great profusion of romances of chivalry, there are the Dianas, the Galatea, and other pastoral romances. There are heroic poems in the Italian style and the Tesoro de varias poesías, but we notice with surprise that there are none of the many Cancioneros, Silvas, Flores de Romances, or other Romanceros that had been published over the previous half century.2 To Cervantes, the brief poems contained in these collections were, so to speak, the poetic output of the entire Spanish people. They could not be the cause of the madness of the very noble knight of La Mancha, nor should they be subjected to the judgment of the priest and the barber. What really drove Don Quijote insane were those bulky old books of chivalry which were condemned to the fire, like the unwieldy Don Florisel de Niquea and that fat barrel of a tome, Don Olivante de Laura. Still, the first instance of Don Quijote’s immortal madness was not provoked by any of these but rather by a thin, cheaply produced broadside containing the “Romance del Marqués de Mantua,” which does not figure in any way in the witty and grand scrutiny because it entered not into Cervantes’ plans but rather into those of the mediocre author of the “Entremés.”

Solely through the immediate influence of the “Entremés” are we able to discover that the ballads, not the romances of chivalry, lie at the heart of Don Quixote. And this is not only the case in the adventure of the Toledan merchants but also in other events of chapter 2. At dusk on that hot July day which saw Don Quijote’s first longed-for sally through the Montiel plain, when he arrives at the inn where he is to be dubbed a knight, is he contented with the poor lodging that the innkeeper offers him, recalling the words of the mysterious ballad La Constaneira: “My only gear is arms,/My only rest, the fray”? And when the inn’s female attendants help him remove his armor, he goes on with his insanity by garbling lines from the ballad of Lancelot:

Oh, never, surely, was there a knight
So served by hand of dame,
As served was he, Don Quijote hight,
When from his town he came.

But all this changes completely as soon as Cervantes puts the “Entremés” behind him.

When a superior work of literature is in question, the study of the literary sources of an author, which is always an excellent way of understanding the sum of human culture of which the poet forms a part, should not be undertaken for the purpose of determining what that work takes from them in order to subtract from its originality. (That could only be done by those who do not understand what truly constitutes artistic invention.) On the contrary, the study of sources should serve to show how a poet’s conception rises above those sources, how it frees itself, and evaluates and transcends them.

Paradoxically, Cervantes is more original than ever precisely when he follows the “Entremés” most closely. Of that fresh, keen, and profound comic delicacy which makes the episode of the Toledan merchants one of the best in the novel, not a single element is derived from the “Entremés,” which imposed on Cervantes’ imagination only sporadically the most peripheral details of the adventure. The grotesque and clownish Bartolo resembles Don Quijote from the outset only in the crass materiality of some of his actions. To make use of the “Entremés” in the first chapters of Don Quixote, a gigantic creative effort was needed; this fact is forgotten by many eminent critics who are reluctant to believe that Cervantes’ (or Dante’s) inventive genius could have had more sources of inspiration than those commonly attributed to them. After providing Cervantes with a point of departure, the “Entremés” did not help but rather became a hindrance because it obligated him to carry out a corrective procedure that we are able to observe only partially and that to some degree was carried out not at the time of the work’s gestation but in the course of its execution.

Several inconsistencies in the sequence of the episodes and their relationship to one another can easily be observed in Don Quixote. This phenomenon has stimulated some critics to speak of Cervantes’ creative haste in writing his work, while others believe such a view to be merely a common misconception because it is known that Cervantes corrected and produced more than one draft of his writings. It should be clear that there are traces of every possible cause in the lapses that have been noted in the novel; there are cases of evident carelessness, half-made corrections, and bold displays of willful incongruities and absurdities. Forever changing direction because of the hero’s deranged imagination, the overall plan of the plot of Don Quixote received less attention than that which the author devoted to the Exemplary Novels. Cervantes wanted to allow the action to be fraught with all the trifling inconsistencies of improvisation, very much in the Spanish style. But that improvisation in no way presupposes indifference but rather gives a keen, lively, and profound impression that refuses to be bogged down by useless detail. Cervantes’ art is not a careless one because he happens to draw liberally from popular fiction; he knows how to carve out of that raw material facets of extraordinary poetic brilliance. It is not a careless art made simply to satisfy the shallow joviality of those who say: “Let us have more quixotic stunts, let Don Quijote attack and let Sancho comment, come what may, and with this we will be quite content!” Cervantes was perfectly aware that he was infusing his work with lasting human value. He writes, in the prologue to part II, that he believes “that there is not going to be… a language into which it will not be translated.” Yet in contrast to the carelessness we observe in some details, how much meditation is evident in the distillation of the quixotic type! What an intimate and prolonged cohabitation between the artist and his creation!

Our point of departure is that Cervantes’ fantasy did not conceive the type spontaneously but rather that it was in a certain fashion held in check by the outline of the “Entremés.” He did not create his protagonist according to a plan well defined at the outset; he worked instead from a somewhat imprecise and synthetic vision. Only during the development of the work did he, at times groping tentatively, draw forth and call to life all the complicated grandeur that was latent in his brilliant initial conception. One can easily understand how felicitously the gradual development of an idea may be in a long novel of adventures. Far from being a wearying repetition of the original type of the hero, Don Quijote’s adventures are a never-ending series of revelations, even for the artist himself, and they are therefore ever more gratifying to the reader. The character of the protagonist is not perfectly and completely revealed until the very end of the novel.

Don Quijote’s particular madness on his first sally, imagining himself at one time to be Valdovinos laying wounded on the ground, believing himself immediately thereafter to be Abindarráez the prisoner, and next Reinaldos, indignant with Don Roldán, was, as we have already indicated, very damaging to the personality of the ingenious hidalgo. Cervantes abandoned this course completely after he had exhausted the “Entremés,” his first source of inspiration. From then on Don Quijote would always and only be Don Quijote.

His character immediately receives firm support. In that same seventh chapter in which his delusions about his identity come to an end, Sancho enters the scene. He, too, comes from popular literature. An old proverb goes: “There goes Sancho with his donkey.” And here comes Sancho, inexhaustible reciter of proverbs, like an archaic type of squire who had first appeared in the fourteenth century in the oldest known romance of chivalry, El Caballero Cifar. In the very first conversations that Don Quijote holds with his squire there is already an anticipation of the hidalgo’s axiomatic mental habits that later will give weight to his madness and soon afterward, in the eleventh chapter, blossom forth in the eloquent speech on the Golden Age. Master and squire will continue to gradually complement (and complete) one another in such a way “that the madness of the master without the servant’s gaffes would not be worth a penny.” Rubió rightly adds that when Don Quijote is left alone in the Sierra Morena and at the home of the Duke and Duchess, which are the only two occasions on which the genial pair is separated, we feel for Sancho the same yearnings that the knight experiences in his own golden heart.

As soon as he put an end to the adventure suggested by the “Entremés de los romances,” Cervantes clearly understood that the kind of humor produced by the collision of a half-witted fantasy with cruel reality, which was consequent with the popular art of Sacchetti or the author of the “Entremés,” could not reach humoristic perfection by being based on the heroic and national ideals of the ballads. It is true that the Romancero and the romances of chivalry were half brothers as offspring of the medieval epic, but the Romancero, as a legitimate child, remained within the patrimonial legacy of the heroic world, while the bastard child (the romances of chivalry) went in search of adventures and lost its wits by pursuing them. Cervantes venerated the world of the epic, and as soon as he saw himself free from the influence of the “Entremés” he withdrew Don Quijote’s madness from the verses of the Romancero and made it take refuge, as if in its own castle, in the fantastic chivalric deeds of the prose romances. These, then, in the mind of Don Quijote, are elevated to the level of heroic fictions. The hidalgo claims to know that in the armory of the kings of Spain, next to the saddle of the Cid’s horse Babieca, stands the enormous peg, big as a wagon tongue, with which the valiant Pierres guided his wooden horse through the air. And he even places the world of the romances of chivalry above that of the epic, holding the Knight of the Blazing Sword in higher esteem than the Cid himself. Scandalized by this nonsense, the canon, on the contrary, discriminates between the epic heroes and the phantoms of chivalry, and he connects the former in a general way with historical personages. He had never seen in the Armory in Madrid the peg belonging to Pierres, but he believes in the authenticity of Babieca’s saddle (which archaeological scholarship has now banished from the royal collection), and he counsels Don Quijote to stop reading about the fanciful deeds of Felixmarte de Hircania and the Emperors of Trebizond and to pay heed to the (real) ones of Viriatus, Caesar, Alexander, Fernán González, and the Cid.

Without uncertainty we may say that Cervantes definitely understood that his Don Quijote could not continue reliving the episodes of the Romancero, of which the Spanish imagination was so notably fond, and that he knew that the comic force of his book would have to rely solely on the clash between the knighterrant’s asocial perfection and the life of society tightly organized and structured by the powerful institutions of the state. Don Quijote not only stops believing himself to be a character drawn from balladry; he also ceases to apply to himself the ballads’ verses. He only appropriates later a certain famous vow from the Marqués de Mantua ballad (“My arms are my only gear; my only rest, the fray!”) as indelible memories of the first manifestation of his madness as influenced by the “Entremés.” Apart from this, it seems as if Cervantes instinctively wished to remove himself as far as possible from the wrong road along which he had initially embarked, and in all the rest of the part I of Don Quixote he makes but few allusions to the ballads in spite of the fact that they were then in fashion and even used in ordinary conversation. Don Quijote cites only the ballad about Lancelot and the one about the Cid being excommunicated by the Pope, treating them as historical matters. By contrast, in part II of the novel, written when Cervantes was already free from the objectionable “Entremés,” the resonance of the Romancero tradition occurs twice as often as it appears in the first part and, as we shall see, it is much more fully developed there than in part I.

Even when Cervantes expressly avoided making reference to the Romancero in part I, he had it very much in mind and made use of it for his own personal inspiration. When he wanted to enliven part I of Don Quixote, crafting the plot with care and making the greatest effort that a novelist could make according to the art then in fashion, he created the series of episodes in the Sierra Morena. There came to his mind a ballad worthy of imitation, although its thrust was quite different from that which held sway in the parodic “Entremés.” It is the figure of Cardenio, taken bodily from a ballad by Juan del Encina that circulated along with the traditional ones in Cancioneros and broadsides. Rejected by his beloved, this Cardenio, leaving his dead mule behind, penetrates into the most rugged and remote part of the Sierra, and leaps from hedge to hedge amid brambles and thickets. Then, surrounded and pitied by the shepherds he encounters, he weeps, gives signs of madness, becomes speechless, and fixes his eyes on the ground:

A sorrowing knight presses
into the forges of a dark mountain
His steed, dead, he forsakes,
and scales the cliffs alone.
Deeper and deeper,
from bush to bush,
into the thickest of the forest
he penetrates.
With eyes downcast,
he does not stop lamenting.
His beloved has scorned him,
and never before has he felt such pain.
“Who hath brought thee here, Sir Knight,
into this dark forest?”
“Alas, shepherd, only my misfortune!”

Cervantes’ learned critics have failed to see the correspondence between this ballad and Cardenio’s actions, but it is clear to us, and it reveals how in the mind of Cervantes his inspiration in romance has shifted its focus.

Once Cervantes modified the relationship between the hidalgo’s madness and the Romancero, he was easily able to lead the protagonist to his perfection. Ever since his first sally, Don Quijote had proposed to right wrongs and punish the proud, but in this respect he does not yet differ greatly from the grotesque Bartolo, who confronted the shepherd pursuing the shepherdess. Only in the seventh chapter, cited earlier, in which the influence of the “Entremés” comes to its end, does the hidalgo elevate his madness to a comprehensive reflection, expressing the need for knighterrantry to be, through him, revived in the world. He is thus invested with a mission and this fleeting phrase signals the moment of genius of Cervantes’ conceptualization. For it is then that the author begins to look upon the madman’s fantasies as an ideal deserving of respect; it is then that he decides to depict him as grand in his purposes but inadequate in their execution. Perhaps the initial, flawed introduction of the Romancero into the novel helped Cervantes to rescue the heroic element still present in the romances of chivalry. These elements coincided with the epic, as we have noted, in the ideal of chivalric perfection. Don Quijote gradually fulfills in himself both the ideals of the epic and those of the romances of chivalry. He is steadfast in his love of glory and tenacious in his struggles in the face of danger; he displays a loyalty to which all ingratitude is foreign, and he will not tell a lie, even though he be shot for it. He interprets and applies the law correctly, aids all those in need, defends those not present, is liberal and generous, eloquent, and even listens to omens, daring to challenge those which are adverse to him, as did the ancient Spanish heroes. The romances of chivalry had added a further perfection to the epic ideal: that of being in love. Dulcinea rises up before Don Quijote because the “knight-errant without a beloved was a tree without either fruit or leaves, a body without a soul.” Thus, from the intricate adventures of the romances of chivalry, Don Quijote’s confused mind derived a pure heroic ideal that came down from the same stock as that of the ancient epic.

“Poor Don Quijote!” exclaims Paulin Paris, considering the superior beauty of the French poems of chivalry from which the romances of chivalry took their inspiration. “Poor Don Quijote! The romances responsible for your madness were nothing more than long colorless paraphrases. What would have become of you if you had read the French originals?” But no, if Don Quijote had read only Tristan and Lancelot with “that recounting, so sweet and smooth, of his brave and amorous deeds,” he would have been an ordinary madman, fortunate only in tragic loves. The parody would have come to an end and exhausted itself after a few scenes verging on buffoonery in which the knight of la Mancha would win Dulcinea, the “Tobosan dove,” by the might of his arm, realizing an accomplishment that Cervantes often had in mind and that he had announced in the introductory verses of Urganda’s prophecy. The French poems might well have maddened Don Quijote more, but only the happy Spanish adaptation of the Amadís could lend a superior nobility to his madness. After much racking of his brains in long meditations, Don Quijote decides to imitate not the madness of Orlando Furioso but rather the penitence of the knight from Gaul on the Pen ̃a Pobre. “And now,” he exclaims, “oh famous deeds of the great Amadís, come to my remembrance, and instruct me in the means by which I may begin to imitate you!” This is the moment in which his madness offers a glimpse of all the moral grandeur of which he is capable.

From that time onward, the gradual refinement of the quixotic type is assured. If before that moment the fidelity and veneration that Don Quijote feels for Dulcinea reveal some vacillation and serious lapses of reverence (part I, chapters 21, 25, 26), from now on the figure of the faithful lover is definitively established, especially in chapter 30 in which the knight-errant slights the Princess Micomicona. Recall the subsequent chapter in which Sancho, telling of his mission to El Toboso and its message, describes Dulcinea as a mannish country wench winnowing reddish wheat; the more the squire seeks to undo all the illusions of Don Quijote, the more successfully the knight-errant reconstructs them with delicate and untiring care.

This stubborn restoration of the ideal of the beloved is likewise treated a little earlier, in chapter 25. Yet how much more infelicitously, because of the vacillation and irreverence already mentioned! And still the progression continues. The peasant girl Aldonza, who had a better hand for salting pork than any other woman in all of La Mancha, with whom Sancho is acquainted, and whom Don Quijote has looked upon occasionally in respectful silence, disappears in part II of the novel and is converted into an ideal lady whom her knight has never seen, being in love with her solely on the basis of hearsay.

In like manner, the novel’s comic disposition, which at first manifested itself in confused fashion, gradually reaches its highest inner perfection. At the end of part I Don Quijote can say: “ever since becoming a knight-errant, I am brave, courteous, bountiful, well-bred, generous, civil, bold, affable, patient, and a sufferer of hardships, imprisonments and enchantments.” He has distanced himself from the allures of love and violence that the anarchical and fantastic world of chivalry offered in order to accept only harsh sacrifices, always placing before his imagination “the goodness of Amadís, the flower and mirror of knights-errant.” Firm in the idea that chivalry is a religion, he ennobles all his ridiculous life with profound mystical sentiment. He ascends to the purest sources of the heroic and, with the corporeal indifference of a martyr, he endures the greatest pains “as if he were not a man of flesh, but a statue of stone.” He is sustained by the most steadfast faith: “Get upon thy ass, good Sancho, and follow me once more; for God, who provides for every creature, will not fail us, especially since we have set about a work so much to His service; thou seest that He even provides for the little flying insects of the air, the wormlings in the earth, and the spawnings in the water. In His infinite mercy, He makes His sun shine on the righteous and on the unjust, and the rains fall upon the good and the malevolent.” Don Quijote always places his hopes in God, even though he always finds his expectations frustrated. He wishes to “improve this depraved age of ours” and to restore to it the purity of chivalry though the whole world be ungrateful to him for it. He seeks all about himself to entrust his downtrodden honor to those who show him the most sympathy: “I have redressed grievances, and righted the injured, chastised the insolent, vanquished giants, and trod elves and hobgoblins under my feet!… My intentions are all directed toward virtuous ends and to do no man wrong, but good to the entire world. And now let your Graces judge, most excellent Duke and Duchess, whether a person who makes it his only endeavor to practice all this, deserves to be upbraided as a fool!” It is all in vain. The Duke and Duchess, to whom he appeals in his sadness, are at that very moment playing a vicious trick on him in order to ridicule his misguided ideals. The most holy hopes of heaven and earth are frustrated. Is it because they are impossible? It does not matter. The hero’s noble madness assumes a bitter, tragicomic meaning. It is a madness sustained by an ideal which, although never realized, is deserving of humankind’s warmest sympathy.

At times we let ourselves be overwhelmed with the hidalgo’s comic aspect and think like his niece: “You should know so much, sir uncle, as to be able, if there were occasion, to get up into a pulpit and go to preach in the streets, and yet be so strangely mistaken, so grossly blind of understanding, as to fancy that a man of your years and infirmity can be strong and valiant; that you can set everything right, and force stubborn malice to bend, when you yourself stoop beneath the burden of age; and, what is yet more odd, that you carry yourself like a knight, when it is well known that you are none! For, though some gentlemen may be knights, a poor gentleman can hardly be so.” Nevertheless, when all is said and done, we believe that the ideal force of Don Quijote overcomes his abandonment of reason as well as all the other limitations imposed by reality. Being poor, he amazes us with his generosity; being weak and sickly, he is a hero possessed of unyielding courage in the face of misfortune; being old, he yet moves us with his absurd, mad first love; being crazy, his words and actions always stir vital chords in the enthusiastic heart.

Nine years after the publication of part I of Don Quixote there appeared an imitation which is of keen interest to us. Avellaneda seems to have written another Don Quixote solely to give us a tangible measure of Cervantes’ own value. The outstanding characteristics and qualities of the comic type are in Avellaneda, but they miss the mark of genius. This judgment can never be sufficiently emphasized if we are to avoid inadequate assessments of the novel. Every appreciation of Don Quixote which can be likewise applied to Avellaneda contains nothing unique to Cervantes. Avellaneda’s Don Quixote can be used as another touchstone for measurement.

From the point of view of the issues under consideration here, Avellaneda dwelt on both the hero’s delusions in which he assumed other identities as well as his ravings over the ballads; far from understanding how much harm they did to his hero, Avellaneda thus tediously insisted on the vulgar madness of the “Entremés” and Don Quixote’s early chapters. Avellaneda’s Don Quijote, wounded and defeated by a melon dealer, begins to recite the ballad of King Don Sancho, believing himself wounded by Vellido Dolfos, and he orders Sancho Panza to call himself Diego Ordón ̃ez and to go challenge the people of Zamora and the venerable old Arias Gonzalo. Again, Avellaneda “strings together a thousand beginnings of old ballads without rhyme or reason,” just like the Bartolo of the “Entremés.” Mounting his horse, he recites the beginning of the ballad “Ya cabalga Calaínos.” Upon entering Zaragoza he speaks as if he were Achilles; he later takes himself to be Bernardo del Carpio; in Siguenza he believes himself to be Ferdinand the Catholic; in the Prado of Madrid he imagines himself to be the Cid Rui Díaz; still later he says that he is Fernán González and stuffs his speeches with irrelevant ballad verses. This fool who, puffed up with vanity and boasting, appropriates the identities of heroes and kings, makes us appreciate all the more the vigorous personality of Cervantes’ Don Quijote, from whose mouth discretion and madness flow in gentle alternation. It is instructive to observe how, in the hands of Avellaneda, the same popular theme of the madman enamored of chivalry is punished by reality and ends in failure. Meanwhile, Cervantes, using that very same idea, tapped a powerful source of inspiration. Avellaneda’s gifts as a narrator are not accompanied by a profound poetic genius, and so his Don Quijote does not resemble the real one at all. In the false Don Quixote the worst kind of literary coarseness is shockingly combined with a pleasing form, at times in a solemn and labored way, just as immorality can coexist with superficial devotion to the rosary, self-flagellation, and hair shirts — all so far removed from the mystical religiosity of the real Don Quixote. The structure that Cervantes erects upon a popular idea is so much his own that, even after it has been assembled, it cannot be copied by the likes of an Avellaneda.

But a fact that cannot be denied is that Avellaneda’s work served as one of Cervantes’ sources of inspiration when he wrote part II of his novel. I believe that Cervantes had some fairly definite information about his competitor’s work before writing chapter 59, in which he refers expressly to it, and which marks the moment when it appeared in print. What is certain is that he wanted to derive the most reasonable profit from Avellaneda’s envy, that is, to have his work resemble in no way his resentful rival. It would appear as if in Avellaneda he saw clearer than ever the dangers of triteness and coarseness that the story contained, and that he struggled all the harder to eliminate them upon writing part II of Don Quixote. He no longer thought of drawing those two or three crude pictures elaborated in part I, even though they were far removed from the coarseness of his imitator. The superiority of part II of Don Quixote, unquestionable for me as for most people, may be attributed in great measure to Avellaneda. There are sources of literary inspiration that operate by rejection, and they may be as important as, or more so than, those that are mobilized by attraction.

The blundering way in which Avellaneda takes hold of the ballads contrasts strongly with the new use which Cervantes makes of them in part II. Having now forgotten his aversion to the “Entremés,” he again begins to use the ballads in profusion, but now, of course, never to impair the personality of the hero in the form of impertinent nonsense, as did the author of the “Entremés” and Avellaneda. The ballads reappear in order to render Cervantes’ prose agreeable with poetic reminiscences that at that time were remembered by all, and which everybody used in polite conversation: The novelty now is that this poetic resonance appears not only in the mouth of Don Quijote and in those of the more educated characters but, rather, principally, in the mouth of Sancho. The Sancho of the proverbs is now, at times, the Sancho of the ballads.

This evolution can be observed from the very beginning of part II of Don Quixote when, in chapter 5, Sancho refers to a ballad for the first time. It is the one concerning the Infanta don ̃a Urraca’s self-assuredness. It is true that this chapter is jokingly labeled apocryphal by Cide Hamete’s translator on account of containing “judgments that exceed Sancho’s capacity.” But its intimate authenticity is guaranteed by the dialogue that Don Quijote later has with his squire: “ ‘Truly, Sancho, every day thy simplicity lessens, and thy sense improves!’ ‘And there is good reason why!’ quoth Sancho, ‘Some of your worship’s wit must needs stick to me.’ ” Without doubt, Sancho is improving and being refined, too, at the same time that Don Quijote and Dulcinea are undergoing their own evolution. Avellanedas’s Sancho, gluttonous, brutal, and clownish to the point of not even understanding the proverbs that he chaotically heaps up pell-mell, rises up between the primitive Sancho of part I and the new Sancho of Cervantes’ part II. He makes us appreciate in all his perfection the Sancho of poor and kind heart, a faithful spirit who is skeptical of everything and believes in everything, and in whom prudence in abundance shows through his coarse shell of craftiness, achieving the keenest kind of folk wisdom as governor in decisions comparable to those of Solomon and Peter the Cruel.

The Sancho of part II of Don Quixote recalls verses from the Romancero several times in his conversation: “Aqúı morirás, traidor, enemigo de don ̃a Sancha,” “Mensajero, sois amigo,” “no diga la tal palabra,” or he alludes to the ballad of the Conde Dirlos, to that of Calaínos, to that of the Penitencia del rey Rodrigo, or to that of Lanzarote about which, as he declares, he learned by hearing them from his master.

Moreover, Cervantes used the Romancero not only for its phraseology but also for the very invention of the novel, although in a very different way than he had used it in the adventure of the Toledan merchants. In this as in everything else, one sees the superiority of part II of Don Quixote over part I. Savi López, an adherent to the opposite opinion, affirms that part I is predominantly comical, while in part II the grotesque dominates. But I believe in fact that quite the opposite is true. Limiting ourselvesto the special point that we are considering, the grotesque elements that appear in the adventure of the ballad of the Marqués de Mantua are completely absent from the episode that has its inspiration in the Montesinos ballads and succeeds because of its delicate comic sentiment.

While in part I of the novel, only a single adventure contains a resonance of the Romancero, in part II several adventures do so.

When Don Quijote enters El Toboso on that mournful night, looking in the darkness for the ideal palace of his Dulcinea, he hears a farmhand approaching, who, on his way to work before dawn, sings this ballad: “Ill you far’d at Roncesvalles,/Frenchmen…” His song, like an evil omen, startles and disturbs the mind of the knight-errant.

Later, the ballad of the undauntable Don Manuel de León, who enters a lion’s den for the purpose of retrieving a lady’s glove, is invoked for the great adventure of the lions. There the so frequently audacious madness of Don Quijote borders on extremes that approximate more the epic than the comic mode. The victory won before the lion which turns his hindside to the knight is ridiculous, but the valor of the Manchegan hero, comparable to that of Don Manuel de León, is realized not solely in his imagination as on other occasions; it is, instead, actually materialized in the midst of the fear of all those who witness his boldness in the presence of the savage beast, free to attack. He rightly feels himself strong: “No, these magicians may well rob me of success, but they can never take from me my strength and courage of mind!” He is so beside himself that he sends Sancho to remunerate the lion keeper with two crowns of gold; it is the first time that history records that Don Quijote has given a gratuity! Generosity, an essentially chivalric virtue, stands out only in part II of the novel. Is it not evident that here the hidalgo’s comic success far surpasses the repeated beatings by which the adventures of the first part are resolved?

Nor is there in part I as rich a development of the frequent quixotic delusions as appear in part II, in the adventure, for example, of Maese Pedro’s puppet show, so wisely and admirably commented upon by José Ortega y Gasset. Here we are interested in remarking only on one thing: Delusion in the presence of a theatrical spectacle was a common theme of popular anecdotes old and new, and it had already been incorporated in the quixotic fable by Avellaneda, when his Don Quijote, taking for reality the performance of Lope de Vega’s play, El testimonio vengado, leaps into the actors’ midst to defend the unprotected queen of Navarre. As if he had seen here an excellent theme poorly developed and now wished to use it, Cervantes even gave his competitor the advantage of being first! Hence he described the madman’s exaltation not before a performance of actors but of puppets, and the topic was not an original and cleverly dramatized action but a well-known ballad adventure familiar to young and old. The ballad recounts how the forgetful Don Gaiferos recovered his wife Melisendra from captivity. Cervantes’ success here is one of stylistic and psychological refinement. The picturesque narration by the boy who explains the action of the figures onstage is animated with such descriptive force that he brings to life that poor world of balladry and puppetry.

Nevertheless, Don Quijote listens and watches everything with cool sanity, even commenting upon the archaeological accuracy of the representation. But when the boy’s words project real emotion and anguish over the danger in which the fleeing lovers find themselves, the flash of chivalric obsession suddenly flares in Don Quijote’s mind and he hurls himself into the midst of the adventure to destroy with his sword the stage upon which the Moors of Sansuen ̃a ride at full speed in pursuit of the lovers. Reality soon again takes possession of the deluded knight and imprisons him in its powerful bonds; Don Quijote now agrees to the undeceived appraisal and payment for the broken clay figures. But in the presence of the most fleeting recollection of the dangerous adventure, his fragile and inconsistent imagination again goes wild and he once again escapes to live, as if it were reality, in the world of the ideal that is his and from which he sorrowfully feels banished.

The perfection so often attained in the real adventures was nevertheless not enough for the novel. Cervantes sought a type of adventure that could rise above the realm of the ordinary, “of the possible and verisimilar,” in which other adventures, craftedaccording to the aesthetic doctrines that he followed, could develop. He wanted a fantastic adventure that could serve as a sort of nucleus for part II, and he created it in the Cave of Montesinos, the visit to which he announces with solemn anticipation, relating it to subsequent adventures right up to the very end of the novel. Just as in the profoundly humorous episode of the galley slaves, where he had coupled his chivalrous hidalgo with the heroes of the picaresque novel, he wished now to associate him with the true and venerated heroes of medieval fiction. He did not seek them out in any book of chivalry. Once more, his mind turned to the ballads, although not, as we might suppose, to those of Spanish themes, but rather to the Carolingian.

Through an extravagant allusion, Don Quijote appears among Charlemagne’s knights for a second time in an adventure derived from the ballads. But this time he appears more nobly and rationally, so to speak, than in the adventure of the Toledan merchants. The ballads had given those first chapters the appearance of a caricatural parody. Now in part II they provide the best moment of the burlesque ideal, in which it seems as if Cervantes were making amends for having earlier allowed himself to be too greatly influenced by the “Entremés.”

If in Italy and Spain the Carolingian heroes had second homelands, conquered for them by Charlemagne’s campaigns in both countries, they had multiplied in our own with new characters such as Durandarte and Montesinos. La Mancha, at the time a frontier between Christendom and Muslims and a bulwark that the three powerful military orders defended, had made itself worthy of being inhabited by poetic figures prouder and more gallant than, though not as universally admired as, that of their belated compatriot, Don Quijote. A certain castle in ruins, with its fountain which stood on a rocky outcrop in the middle of one of the lagoons of Ruidera where the river Guadiana has its source, was singled out by Manchegan tradition as the wonderful castle of which the ballad sang: “The castle called Roca/And the fountain called Frida.” Silver battlements had been erected there on a foundation of gold, as the ballad states, studded with sapphires that shone in the dark of night like suns. In that castle had lived the maid Rosaflorida, disdainful of all suitors until she burned with love for the French Montesinos and, bringing him there, strew his path with pearls and precious stones. About the nearby cave, named for the same Montesinos, they told such marvelous things through all that realm that Don Quijote’s curiosity was aroused. This was a great good fortune for the Guadiana, a hapless river in which the poets of the Golden Age, who lavished their efforts on the Duero, the Tagus, and the Henares, could find not a single nymph, except perchance one who had been turned into a frog in its muddy pools! Don Quijote found in the medieval Rosaflorida the nymph who would endow those marshlands with poetry, converting them into the enchanted fortress of the chivalry of long ago. The lagoon and cave, along with the dusty roads, the burning hot oak groves, and all the monotony of the vast, disconsolate horizon of La Mancha, were exalted to the dignity of a landscape that was poetical, familiar, and pleasing to humankind—no less so than the sacred olive groves of Attica and the luxuriant groves of the Cephisus, which were never penetrated by the summer sun or the winds of winter but indeed were frequented by the choruses of muses and bacchantes and by Aphrodite, driver of the golden chariot.

The exceptional quality in this adventure of Montesinos’s cave, so insistently called to the attention of his readers by Cervantes, is that, for me, Don Quijote’s heroic ideal does not manifest itself, as usual, in conflict with reality but, rather, finds itself emancipated, free from annoying and painful contact with it. Don Quijote descends to the bottom of the cave and, slackening the rope held by Sancho and the guide—the only link that connects him to the outer world—finds himself removed from it, alone in the midst of the cold, cavernous darkness. The cave is then illuminated by the light of the Manchegan hidalgo’s imagination, as noble as it is unbalanced, and he finally finds himself among the heroes of the old ballads. He discourses amid the gloomy shades of Durandarte and Balerma, comic–heroic figures shrouded in a warped ideal. He appeases his mind with the placid and pitiful appearance of the enchanted Dulcinea, and in that mansion of ancient chivalry, where the lugubrious and the comic are powerfully blended in a fantastic picture of incomparable beauty and humorism, the eager spirit of the hidalgo realizes its supreme aspiration, the crowning of his effort through the mouths of the admired masters. Montesinos himself extols the restorer of knight-errantry and entrusts to him the important mission of revealing to the world the mysteries of the ancient heroic life and that of disenchanting the ancient paladins and the new Dulcinea. The novel’s entire machinery, built on the opposition between fantasy and reality, is suspended on this sole occasion.

Upon reaching the summit of his exaltation, the hero nevertheless also reaches the edge of the abyss. When Don Quijote, hanging onto the rope, returns to the land of mortals and relates the supreme success that he has achieved, he encounters more than ever in his faithful Sancho a bold, impudent skepticism, and finally he, too, falls into doubt. That firm soul, who always restored his idealism so energetically whenever it was crushed by the vicious blows of reality, does not know how to defend himself against doubt in this glorious adventure devoid of torments. In vain he tries to put his uncertainty at rest by questioning the soothsayers as to whether his experiences with the ballad heroes in the enchanted cave had been a dream or the truth. The ambiguous clichés of the replies obtained from such oracles gradually filter into his heart, and dejection holds sway over him. The hour of being reduced to ordinary thinking has arrived. The hero is convinced that he will not attain the promise of Montesinos, that he will not see Dulcinea in all the days of his life, and he dies of sorrow… and of sanity. He has recovered his reason but lost the ideal by which he lived and breathed, so nothing is left for him but to die.

In Sophocles’ tragedy, the offended Minerva sets in motion in Ajax’s mind the whirlwind of a chimera, and the maddened hero attacks a flock of sheep, believing that he is beheading the Atrides who have wronged him. On recovering from his delirium and seeing himself surrounded by dead animals, he realizes that spilled blood is a dishonor to his invincible courage and to all his achievements, and he runs himself through with his own sword. His madness is divine because it is a punishment of the gods, while that of Don Quijote is a divine creation of his ailing soul.

The hero of Salamis takes his own life upon feeling himself ludicrous in the face of the reality that he contemplates. He kills himself out of shame. The Manchegan hero dies of the sadness of life upon discovering that reality is inferior to him and upon seeing that the Dulcinea to whom he gave his being is fading away forever into the world of impossible enchantment.

Is this novel of a madman one more book of chivalry, the last, the definitive and perfect one, as some say? Or, is it the ruination of chivalry and heroism, as others contend? It was not when writing Don Quixote that Cervantes attempted to produce a modern romance of chivalry, but afterward, when he composed his last, and for him, his most valuable work, The Trials of Persiles and Segismunda. This the good canon seems to announce in chapter 47 of part I when, cursing the books that have caused the Manchegan hidalgo’s madness, he nevertheless finds in them something good, and this is “the subject that they furnished to a man of understanding with which to exercise his parts, because they allowed a large scope for the pen to expand upon without restriction, describing shipwrecks, storms, skirmishes and battles.” All this is found in Persiles, the real novel of adventures, not only because of the influence of the Byzantine novel but also because of the romances of chivalry. The latter are influential even through their conventional episodes, as when Periandro, at the head of the company of fishermen, goes out to sea righting wrongs—a seafaring Amadís, created by the author of Don Quixote.

As for Don Quixote, we cannot help considering it simply and plainly as antagonistic to the romances of chivalry, which it tries to condemn to oblivion by satirizing not only their unpolished and careless composition but also their subject matter, a blend of childish fantasy, unbelievable deeds, and elemental passions.

Yet on the other hand, because these books, far from being essentially exotic to the Spanish people, are deeply saturated with that part of their spirit that consists of the exaltation of the universal feelings of selfless generosity and of honor, Cervantes’ satire does not seek to damage the reputation of the eternal ideal of chivalric nobility. When he observes the ideal come to naught by its collision with daily life, he does not blame the ideal as much as he does reality itself for not turning out to be exactly as the heroic spirit would want it. Far from wishing to destroy that world adorned by the purest moral feelings, Cervantes holds it up for our respect and sympathy, showing us its ruins, bathed in a light of supreme hope, as a lofty refuge for the soul. Dulcinea del Toboso will always be the most beautiful woman in the world, as her unfortunate knight proclaims, even when he falls vanquished to the ground and begs his opponent to slay him.

In short, far from combating the spirit and fictions of heroic poetry, Cervantes received from the Romancero the first impulse to portray Don Quijote’s ideal madness, and he sought in the Romancero a great portion of the work’s inspiration and embellishments. Thus, popular heroic poetry was present at the creation that destroyed the molds in which the romances of chivalry were cast, removing its fictions from the world of chimeras to bring them to contend with the world of mundane reality. Thus Cervantes forged the first and inimitable prototype to which every modern novel, in close concert or somewhat distantly, is ultimately subordinated.


1. An entremés, literally a dish served between main courses of a meal, was a brief, one-act skit, a comic interlude performed in the interval between the acts of a play. Romance is the Spanish for ballad, a narrative poem in popular meter and rhyme. The first romances were derived from the epic poems, such as the Poem of Mío Cid, but as time went on they acquired a variety of themes, including the wars against the Moors and topics derived from the romances of chivalry. Romancero is the sum of all the romances and also a compendium or anthology of them. These popular, anonymous ballads enjoyed a great revival in the sixteenth century among cultivated poets, and they became a standard form in Spanish poetry that has endured up to the present. Menéndez Pidal was the foremost expert on the romances, which he placed at the core of Spanish literary history.

2. Cancioneros were anthologies of poetry in the courtly love tradition with much circulation in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Le Guzmán et le Quichotte apocryphes

Bibliothèque de la Casa de Velázquez présente un livre de David Alvarez Roblin intitulé  DE L’IMPÔTURE À LA CRÉATION Le Guzman et le Quichotte apocryphes dans Open Edition Books.

L’ambition de ce livre est de proposer un regard nouveau sur le Guzmán de Alfarache et le Quichotte. Il adopte pour cela un angle d’attaque singulier qui consiste à étudier ces deux chefs-d’œuvre du Siècle d’or en regard de leurs Secondes parties apocryphes.

Les Premières parties du Guzmán et du Quichotte ont en effet donné lieu à des continuations d’autres auteurs, parues respectivement à Valence, en 1602, et à Tarragone, en 1614, alors qu’Alemán et Cervantès préparaient eux-mêmes des suites de leurs romans. Si, de ce fait, l’entreprise littéraire de ces écrivains concurrents s’apparente à une imposture, elle comporte cependant une part remarquable de création : Luján et Avellaneda introduisent tous deux des innovations qui ne sont pas des maladresses ou des « erreurs ».

De surcroît, leurs projets romanesques stimulent la créativité des auteurs originaux, qui sont contraints de remanier – voire de réécrire – leurs propres Secondes parties. C’est la fécondité et la richesse de ces différentes interactions romanesques que cet ouvrage aimerait mettre en lumière.

© Casa de Velázquez, 2014

Don Quixote de la Mancha – MOOC in English and Spanish versions

The Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala is the home of the fantastic MOOC Discover Don Quijote de la Mancha, what many call the greatest book of all time. The Don Quijote MOOC, which was the brainchild of the brilliant Giancarlo Ibarguen, is beautifully created by professor Eric Graf and the UFM video production team in both English and Spanish versions. 

It has been made possible thanks to a donation from the John Templeton Foundation, with additional support from the Earhart Foundation. 

This MOOC uses many of the vibrant teaching techniques that makes the Internet a revolutionary teaching and learning tool. 

MOOC in English: http://donquijote.ufm.edu/en/

MOOC in Spanish: http://donquijote.ufm.edu