Notes on Chapters XXII through XXXIII

I was reminded of the image above (taken at the Bristol Renaissance Faire in September 2013) at the beginning of Chapter XXX: “[A]s he drew near he realized they were falconers. He came closer, and among them he saw a graceful lady […] dressed in green….”

Rereading Chapters XXII and XXIII

In Our Lord Don Quixote, Miguel de Unamuno invites us to reread “the narrative of the astonishing visions of Don Quixote; let him judge as he should judge, by the joy and the delight derived from the reading, and let him tell me later if these experiences are not more believable than others no less astonishing which God is said to have granted to certain of his servants, dreamers in the profound enchanted cave of ecstasy. And there is no choice but to believe Don Quixote, a man incapable of lying….”

Is Don Quixote “incapable” of lying? Again and again, I wonder about the role of “truth” and “true” in this narrative. Are dreams and visions “true”?

My marginalia for Chapter XXII includes a note about the continued abundance and kindness accorded to Don Quixote (i.e., the gifts and respect of the newlyweds); a mark around Sancho Panza’s observation, “What a devil of a knight errant you are, and what a lot of things you know!” (p. 598); and another mark around Don Quixote’s exclamation to Sancho Panza, “[T]here are some who exhaust themselves learning and investigating things that, once learned and investigated, do not matter in the slightest to the understanding or the memory” (p. 601). Oh, and regarding the length of rope: A hundred fathoms is six hundred feet or forty stories.

Last week, I described the events of Chapter XXIII as a “remarkably benign (Arthurian-inspired?) dive into the cave.” Following the required reread of these chapters, I researched my hunch about the nature of the Cave of Montesinos episode. Here are two articles that may interest others:

(1) “The Grail Quest: Imagery and Motif in the Episode at the Cave of Montesinos in ‘Don Quixote’” by Bruce Tracy. The Bulletin of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association, Mar., 1974, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Mar., 1974), pp. 3-9.

Tracy writes, “Cervantes has combined the Grail Quest motif with the dream vision, and ingeniously, but not adequately, integrated Dulcinea within it.”

(2) “The Subterranean Grail Paradise of Cervantes” by Philip Stephan Barto. PMLA , Jun., 1923, Vol. 38, No. 2 (Jun., 1923), pp. 401-411.

Barto notes, “That we are here dealing with the Arthurian grail-paradise is further attested by the mention of the necromancer Merlin, Queen Guinevere and Quintoniana, cupbearer to Launcelot. Even Launcelot would seem, by implication, to be here, since it is said of his cupbearer that she served him ‘when he came from Britain.’”

A few notes on Chapters XXIV through XXXIII

● I laughed aloud at Sancho’s lament, “O wedding of Camacho, O plenty in the house of Don Diego, I miss you so often!” (p. 617) One could reread this novel simply to observe the (wildly unreliable) ways in which characters mark time. 

● Also from Sancho: “Is it possible that a man who knows how to say all the many good things that he’s said here can say he’s seen the impossible foolishness that he says he saw in the Cave of the Montesinos? Well, now, time will tell.” (p. 619) Time is not the only topic about which our characters display an extraordinary lack of consistency or reliability; they also vacillate on such subjects as truth, intelligence, and sanity, among others.

● How did I know Señor Master Pedro was Ginés de Pasamonte? Was there a textual clue I am now failing to recall – perhaps in the introduction? (That is certainly a pitfall of reading a long work over many weeks while reading other books: Despite note-taking, discussion, and marginalia, some details are inevitably lost; this novel requires rereading.) Well, although the mild-mannered puppeteer betrayed nothing of the fierce persona displayed in Part I, I saw through his disguise. Also, in this episode – an echo or mirror of the attack on the wine bags (giants) – I appreciated that Don Quixote had enough money to make amends.

● While the duke and duchess certainly ply the knight and his squire with food and compliments, this is not the same abundance about which I wrote last week; this is sport at the expense of someone else’s dignity, made worse when one learns that for Don Quixote “this was the first day he really knew and believed he was a true knight errant and not a fantastic one” (p. 658). Later I cringed when Don Quixote expounds, “If knights, and the great, the generous, and the highborn considered me a fool, I would take it as an irreparable affront” (p. 666); is that not how the duke and duchess feel about him?

● Earlier this week, I finished reading Michael F. Moore’s new translation of The Betrothed, the 1827 novel by Alessandro Manzoni. In addition to an unfortunate character who collected many works of “chivalric science,” the book includes this remarkable passage: “In this manner, they wandered wherever fate might lead (hence the glorious name of knights-errant) among the poor pedestrian riffraff of city and country folk whose only weapon to ward off death and soften the blow were the rags on their backs. Ah, the knighthood! Such a beautiful, wise, and useful profession.”

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