Segundo asunto crítico para dialogar:
18-25 de abril de 2005

Coloquio Cervantes
Foro de discusión de Kurt Reichenberger & A. Robert Lauer
 

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Catalina de Palacios, the young lady Cervantes married in Esquivias: Co–authoress of the »Quixote« of 1605?

     The title sounds like a bad joke: Cervantes the great novelist and the young lady of Esquivias, co–authors? And as a finishing touch someone has written that she was unable to read. In similar circumstances it is advisable to start with general considerations: those of the correlations between the private life of an author and his work. This task has been postulated before, but is rather problematic in the case of Cervantes for the lack of solid facts in the biographies on his life (1). At any rate, some general observations might be helpful. Men, as a rule, are ambitious, wanting to be strong, heroic, radiant in their glory.  This is particularly the case with artists and authors: to show up before an admiring public, in particular with an audience of charming young ladies interested in les Belles Lettres. Whenever they fall in love, they will recite their verses to their adored females, and almost swoon at a gentle glance from the damsels. Or, stricken with jealous feelings, they will act up and raise their brows.
     Certainly, the situation in which Cervantes lives is not so dramatic.  Since 1584 he had been married to Catalina de Palacios, a young lady belonging to one of the important families in Esquivias. The matrimony was a success.  She admired his circumspection and his firm determination, and he simply adored her, for she was intelligent and energetic. She was a peach of a woman.  Enamoured of her, and with the generosity typical for Miguel de Cervantes, he wants to dedicate to her and lay down before her tender feet a glorious work of literature, renowned all over Spain.  But, in this case, Fortune, the goddess with the golden ringlets, proved renitent, not willing to help: His Galatea is a flop, and in the corrales they represent not his comedias, but those of Lope de Vega. Nevertheless, Cervantes does not give up, and continues to dream of a great work, worthy to be presented to his beloved Catalina.  And in the prison of Castro del Río the spark catches fire. At least Cervantes says so, but with him one never can be sure, whether it is the naked truth or one of his ingenious jokes.
     Some years later, in December of 1598, Cervantes recites in the Cathedral of Seville, at the catafalque of the late Philip II, a satirical sonnet, which causes a tremendous scandal. For Cervantes it is a revelation.  It serves him as a proof: If such a riot is possible with less than twenty verses, the course is right, he must go on in the same direction, roll up his sleeves and write a novel of about five hundred pages, all of them larded with satire. As a matter of course the joke with the prison of Castro del Río in the Prologue is a witty one. But the most important truth is the fact that he wrote the Quixote not in Castro del Río, but in Esquivias. No doubt, Esquivias.
     We ought to imagine the situation: A little village, a happy matrimony, the partners enamoured of each other. Cervantes, pen in his hand, in a pensive mood.  Catalina, where?  At his side, naturally.  Miguel de Cervantes, now decided, writes: «En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme» ("In a village of La Mancha, whose name I don’t want to remember"). A mischievous look, to the side, at Catalina. She, for a moment, utterly confused. Then she gives her husband a tender glance full of admiration. Esquivias! What else? A riddle of such an eccentric sort! No one would be able to solve it. Thanks to the paradoxical form it would remain a secret, known only by the two of them.
     Here we might comment that the knights-errant drag to their damsels a strangulated dragon. Catalina's beloved husband presents her with the great novel he is just starting. And the ingenious riddle is kind of a respectful dedication. He is a darling, and she gives him a kiss on his bearded cheek.  The rest of mankind, of course, would be on the wrong track.  Everyone who reads «de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme», tends to think of a disagreeable event that the author might combine with the name of the village: an old, shabby inn with a disastrous meal, or a tremendous row with some boozed creeps: things he doesn’t want to remember. 
     Or Valladolid in 1604.  The last revision of the manuscript must be handed in to the censors of the Santo Oficio. Present would be Catalina, at the right side of Cervantes; Magdalena and Constanza at the other. Miguel reads the first chapter of the book. At the end of the chapter Don Quixote indulges in day-dreams, invents a brutal giant whom he defeats and sends to his beloved Dulcinea.  His name runs: Caraculiambro. What follows is a wild emotion: cries of protest, bewildered frowns, laboriously suppressed laughter, accompanied on the part of Catalina by manifest shouts of joy, for she knows the eccentric inventions of her husband from experience. Then a great discussion ensues: Whether it is a mean and unacceptable obscenity, or a stroke of genius which exemplifies the state of the mad hero’s mind.  And in the midst of the uproar one finds a suitably amused Cervantes, who wonders at the effect of an ironical name, a bit risqué, improper, and, at any rate, completely inadequate in the heroic context of the romances of chivalry.  Critics, as a matter of course, will shout al unísono that these are idle phantasmagorias, quite impossible to prove. Nonetheless, there exist some arguments, which should be taken into consideration. 
     In the first place, it cannot be disregarded that Catalina was an intelligent woman and, even more, a mujer letrada (2).  And we may take it for granted that the romances of chivalry are not all Greek to her.  Her uncle, the prelate Juan de Palacios, took charge of the education of his niece, and it seems that she learned to read, in joint readings with him, books of prayer and, presumably, also libros de caballerías, most favored in those days (3).  Another relative of Catalina was Alonso Quijada: He was a monk and a passionate reader of chivalric romances.  At first sight it might seem a paradox but, most probably, Catalina de Palacios was, with respect to the libros de caballerías, more informed than her husband.  For where and when in his agitated life had he a chance to read libros de caballerías?  With the Jesuits in Seville?  Certainly not.  With his admired López de Hoyos in Alcalá de Henares?  Treatises by Erasmus, perhaps, but no romances of chivalry.  During the campaigns in the Mediterranean there was no time for extensive reading or, for that matter, during the years of his captivity in Algiers.  Back in Spain he was busy writing for the theater, and in the pastoral genre with his Galatea.  But romances of chivalry, no.  On the other hand, his Catalina, coddled niece of Juan de Palacios, shares with her uncle fifteen (!) years of joint reading.  In other words, she is an expert as far as contemporary literature and even romances on chivalry are concerned. As a matter of fact, one can hardly put aside the suspicion that most of the competent judgments exposed in the escrutinio de la biblioteca (DQ I, 6) are inspired by the adored Catalina. 
     And there is more.  Cervantes, in spite of his malicious protest in El viaje del Parnaso, reveals himself to be a consummate expert on satire.  The Quixote of 1605 evokes, in a carefully encoded way, what he considers to be the most disastrous scandals of his times (4).  And it seems that it is Catalina who provides him with the fundamental hints: to begin with the gravest case of all, the limpieza de la sangre, which poisoned the social atmosphere of the entire century.  Cervantes proceeds with the utmost precaution using skillful tricks to raise the curiosity of the reader and to disorientate him at the same time. He never says that Don Quixote is a converso, one of those New Christians, envied, despised, and even hated by the great majority of Old Christian stock.  But he insinuates it.  He begins with the enigmatic title of his novel and continues with sundry thoughts that never leave undisturbed the curious reader.  Catalina’s family members (and for many generations this was one of the three oldest and most important clans in Esquivias) were related to the Quijadas, a riquísima family of conversos.  Catalina knew their members and was acquainted with the execrable troubles they had in daily life (5). 
     Cervantes uses that background information provided to him by Catalina.  In the first chapter of the Quixote the first name he mentions with respect to his hero is Quijada. In his times, certainly not only the inhabitants of Esquivias and Toledo were informed about this name, but also everyone else with some insight into history.  For Quijada was a most famous family.  Something else Catalina might have known from her uncle or one of the Quijada family members was the office of the casamentero, which is based on an old Sephardic tradition.  However, in the Siete Partidas of Alfonso X, el Sabio (1221-1284), the activities of a marriage broker were considered to be grave delicts and punished most severely. Cervantes, informed of the facts, transforms this knowledge into a curious episode in the chapter on the galley slaves (DQ I,22) [6].  Finally, at the end of the novel, Cervantes inserts one more spiny hint, the most daring of them all.  In his dialogue with the canon of Toledo, Don Quixote mentions the famous Don Gutierre Quixada and pretends to be one of his descendants «por línea recta de varón» (DQ I,49). This would have been a tremendous shock for the reader of the day.  It would have been considered simply incredible to imagine his Don Quixote as the direct line descendant of a Jew (7). However, Cervantes, called to task, would probably grin maliciously and tell the nervous reader that he saw no trouble at all.  Imperturbably, he would probably start explaining to him that there was no reason to fuss.  For as everyone knew, his hero was mad, on account of his reading day and night, and no one should pay attention to the assumptions of a fool.  Also in this case one can be sure that Cervantes was informed by Catalina, who knew such details concerning the ancestors of the Quixada family.
     When Cervantes started to write the Quixote he had attained the fundamental insight that, to produce a bestseller it is indispensable to find a decent way to provoke the reader.  The terrible problems originated from the fatal concept of purity of blood, which was at the moment an issue of life or death.  At this point it may be pertinent to pose the indiscreet question as to which one of the happy couple had the brilliant idea of the title with the devilish epithet «de la Mancha», a title that evokes the genealogical stain on the escutcheon of the «manchego»—or «manchado»—hero, as the barber maliciously suggests.  Which of them invented the ingenious trick: Cervantes, or Catalina?  Was it the result of an animated discussion or of their thrashing out their differences in bed?  At any rate, there is reason to think things over. 

Notes

     1 With respect to biographic details see the volume of Krzysztof Sliwa, Vida de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Estudios de literatura 95). Kassel 2005, Part III, Chapter 3.
     2 The legend that Catalina de Palacios could not read is due to an error. When Cervantes died, it was she who procured the edition of the Persiles. With respect to Catalina de Palacios see María Carmen Marín Pina, «Don Quijote, las mujeres y los libros de caballerías». In: Cervantes y su mundo II (Estudios de literatura 91). Kassel 2005, pp. 309-340.
     3 In Part IV of El viaje del Parnaso, Cervantes states with a malicious smile that «Nunca voló la pluma humilde mía / Por la región satírica, baxeza / Que á infames premios y desgracia guía». But already in the next tercet he confesses that the best sonnet he wrote was «Voto a Dios que me espanta esta grandeza». Cervantes recited the sonnet in the Cathedral of Sevilla, at the catafalque of Philip II. A sonnet, which crushes the renown of the Rey Prudente with devastating irony.
     4 Don Quixote's wild attacks on the windmills and the herds of sheep evoke the greatest monetary scandal of the century: the silver coins, called by the experts in the mint moneda de molino, were replaced by the vellones, coins in copper, which officially had the same value, but were practically worthless. The chapter on the galley slaves contains an encoded critique of the courts of justice, and the doctrinaire clergymen of the time are ridiculed in the persons of the curate Pero Pérez and the canon of Toledo. See Kurt & Theo Reichenberger, Cervantes: el «Quijote» y sus mensajes destinados al lector. Kassel 2004, with special attention to the chapters 5, 7, 15 and 21. 
     5 Cervantes mentions Quijada as a possible family name of his protagonist in the first chapter of the volume. Américo Castro and Marcel Bataillon smelled a rat, supposed that there was a secret sense in the name, related it to quijada “jaw-bone”, and to the biblical hero Samson, who slew a thousand enemies with the jaw-bone of a mule.  Thus they constructed an argument for the converso status of Don Quixote. But they overlooked a more direct allusion to a genealogical stain in the escutcheon of Don Quixote, the manchego «manchado», as the barber apostrophes him. In Esquivias lived the Quijada, a well-to-do family, related to the Palacios, a most ancient family of Sephardic origin.  See K. Sliva, La vida de Cervantes Saavedra, o.c., Part IV, Chapter 5. 
     6. Among the prisoners, condemned to row in the galley of the king, there is also an old marriage broker.  Don Quixote interviews him and starts an encomium on this office, based on an old Sephardic tradition.  See Kurt & Theo Reichenberger, «El alcahuete condenado. Un detalle enigmático en el episodio de los galeotes». In: Cervantes y su mundo I (Estudios de literatura 90). Kassel 2004, pp. 275-280.
     7 With respect to Gutierre Quijada see K. Sliwa, La vida de Cervantes Saavedra, o.c., Part IV, Chapter 5.

Kurt Reichenberger

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Réplica:

Catalina de Palacios, the young lady Cervantes married in Esquivias: Co–authoress of the »Quixote« of 1605?

     El tema de discusión que ha propuesto Kurt para esta semana es muy sugerente.  No obstante, tendría que diferir del comentario respecto al alcahuete (no casamentero) en DQ 1.22.  La tradición de los judíos casamenteros en Iberia no creo que fuera algo tan desconocido que sólo alguien como Catalina pudiera comprender.  Las farças de Gil Vicente, por ejemplo, se valen de esta tradición para provocar risa, como vemos, por ejemplo, en el caso de los judeos casamenteiros Latão y Vidal en la Farça de Inez Pereira (1523), la mejer obra de Vicente según la crítica lusitana.  Otrosí, la palabra usada en DQ 1.22 es alcahuete, no casamentero.  Estaría más de acuerdo con el artículo de Kurt y Theo Reichenberger, «El alcahuete condenado, un detalle enigmático en el episodio de los galeotes», Cervantes y su mundo, vol. 1, eds. Eva y Kurt Reichenberger, Estudios de literatura 90 (Kassel: Edition Reichenberger, 2004) 275-80, donde se propone que «El interrogatorio del alcahuete (DQ I,22) y la reacción entusiasmada, casi hímnica de don Quijote resulta ser una jugada socarrona de Cervantes» (278).  A la vez, difiero de las opiniones críticas que tratan de ver la huella del Encomium Moriae de Erasmo por doquier y, específicamente, en esta parte (F. Sánchez Escribano, «Un tema erasmiano en el Quijote», Revista hispánica moderna 19 (1953): 88-93).  Más acertada es la opinión de Otis H. Green, “Don Quijote and the Alcahuete,” Estudios dedicados a J. H. Herriott (Madison, WI: U of Wisconsin P, 1966), 109-116, quien prueba que la defensa de la alcahuetería y la prostitución controlada tiene su base en De ordine I, 22 de San Agustín.  En la práctica, Roma, Palermo, la parroquia de San Martín en Madrid y la República de Venecia habían propuesto planes de control social de estas actividades en esta época (Green 116).  Sin embargo, llegar a la conclusión de Green que en este episodio de los galeotes “Don Quijote is concerned here more with civics than with theology (although in his day the two could scarcely be separated)” (114), es quitarle el humor a la obra.  Sí, estoy de acuerdo que don Quijote hace una defensa seria del alcahuete y de su oficio «necesarísimo en la república bien ordenada» (DQ [ed. Murillo] 269; 1.22).  También estoy de acuerdo en que hay una base patrística y una práctica social vigente en la época para justificar esta actividad.  Pero cuando el alcahuete dice que «Pero nunca pensé que hacía mal en ello: que toda mi intención era que todo el mundo se holgase y viviese en paz y quietud, sin pendencias ni penas» (ibid.), llegamos al límite de la socarronería, sobre todo cuando remacha su discurso aludiendo al mal de orina del que sufre, consecuencia indudable de su venerable oficio.  Ir más allá, o sea, ver en este oficio una alusión a prácticas casamenteras sefarditas es acaso algo arriesgado, en mi opinión.  Eso no impide ver la validez de las observaciones tan acertadas de Kurt Reichenberger respecto a la familia Quijada y a prácticas nefastas de la época como la probanza de limpieza para nobles.  ¿Comentarios?

A. Robert Lauer
The University of Oklahoma
USA