36 chapters into Don Quixote

September 29, 2020

In chs. 26 and 27 there are intimations that to go mad for your lady is actually the point.  A possible motivation for our knight’s decision to take up this profession.  There are clear signs that, at least in the literature of chivalry, this is one way in which knights are distinguished.  And in our novel we see a number of men banishing themselves after rejection (Cardenio, Grisóstomo, Antonio of the Ballad), or withdrawing after betrayal (Anselmo), or in the case of our knight, camping out in the wilderness as a first attempt at wooing.  And there are some indications in these chapters that Don Quijote is sane, as when he tells Sancho that it’s wrong to think that all the knights pining for their beloveds actually possessed these women; and he says to Sancho straight out that he’s going to do crazy things, which Sancho must witness, so he can take them back to Dulcinea.  He even says he needs to be seen going mad for no reason.

Andres, the servant-boy whose whipping Don Quijote had made worse at the very outset of the book, rips into Don Quijote with raw ferocity, and it feels entirely justified (Vol. I, ch. 31).

The tensest moment thus far:  a hidden Cardenio, waiting to hear what Luscinda will say at the altar to refuse Fernando, hears nothing for an unbearable moment, then hears only a soft, weak “I do.”  She seems actually to love Cardenio, and maybe had not the strength to say so at the crucial moment; but he takes it as a full rejection.

Years ago I had read two stories from “Don Quixote” (probably because they were noted in the Norton Edition essays as non-integral to the plot):  El Curioso Impertinente; and Basilio’s marriage.  All these years later, I’d forgotten the latter story entirely and all the names from the former, but I remembered that a woman’s virtue “fell” after an astonishingly persistent campaign of wooing.  It was nice this time to see how El Curioso Impertinente is a kind of twisted mirror to the stories we have already heard.

And I had remembered more time passing between Lotario’s declaration of love and Camila’s “fall”.  Cervantes doesn’t make it seem to be sudden, or a short period.  It’s just that I had remembered it as prolonged!

Try reading this line to your wife: 

“I implore thee to tell me, if it doth not cause thee too much pain, what it is that distresseth thee, and who, what, and how many are the persons on whom I must wreak proper, complete, and entire vengeance.” (Vol. I, ch. 30, Grossman translation).

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