Closure in Don Quixote I: A Reader's Canon's36
State University of New York at Binghamton
My purpose in the following remarks is to examine one aspect of the «closural» pattern of Don Quixote I as it develops in chapters 47 to 52. In particular, I want to look at the role of the canon from Toledo and of the literary debate in which he engages with the curate and Don Quixote. I will not attend to the theoretical content of the debate as such, but rather to the relationships that can be established between the canon's theories and his development as a «reader» of Don Quixote's adventures. Also, I write «closural» in quotation marks because, in the strict sense of the word, there is no closure in the novel's first part. It leaves us in suspense with the promise of future adventures37. Yet, there have —42→ been other elements in the last chapters that suggest a pattern of recapitulation or even, to a degree, of completion.
My «reading» of the canon's formation as a nearly
complete or nearlyModel Reader takes as a point of departure the idea that
Don Quixote is an «open» text. I
base my notion of the «Model Reader» on Eco's definition of the
same when he says that the open text
«outlines a 'closed' project of
its Model Reader as a component of its structural strategy»
(938). Eco explains further, in comments that are
especially suitable to the canon's development in the novel's last pages, that
«a wellorganized text on the one hand presupposes a model of
competence coming... from outside the text, but on the other hand works to
build up, by merely textual means, such a competence»
(7-8). The text is open with regard to its making available a
range of interpretations, whereby the Model Reader is «free to reconsider
the whole of [his/her] semantic universe», but is bound by the necessary
coherence of such interpretation, for
«the reader is strictly defined
by the lexical and syntactical organization of the text: the text is nothing
else but the semantic-pragmatic production of its own Model Reader»
(9-10). I propose that the canon, as he converses with the members
of Don Quixote's homebound procession -and it should be noted that he does hear
every member of the group- receives partial,
encoded «readings» of the circumstances that have led to the
knight's present condition. These «readings» refer to codes that at
first either contradict appearances (the «cuadrilleros») or seem incomplete and
fantastical (Don Quixote, Sancho, barber, curate's first
explanation). The curate's final explanation, though it purports to be a full
account of Don Quixote's adventures, is also incomplete and one-sided. These
various «texts» gradually form the canon into a temporary,
almost-Model Reader, as he advances to the head of the procession and beyond
(he and the curate move ahead) and enters the «heart of the
matter», so to speak. He begins to reach a full understanding as he
witnesses Don Quixote's final adventures (the fights with Eugenio and the
flagellants), but at the same time he is drawn into the knight's fabulating
vortex, becomes a participant of sorts, and loses the distance necessary to
gain an overarching view. As he becomes an actor in the final adventure, his
own encoding of the «text» becomes as partial as that of the curate
and, from the point of view of the reader proper, he recedes to the level of
the other participants.
The end of Don Quixote I may be considered a critique of the possibilities of narrative conclusion: first, because it provides another occasion to parody the books of chivalry, notoriously reluctant to end their proliferating matter39. Secondly because, in a broader sense, it pursues the critical foregrounding of the traditional assumptions of narrative. Thirdly, because the closing moments of a narrative provide a special locus for the manifestation of the structures of authority that opened it and have underpinned it. One would expect such authority to assert itself anew and at least as decisively to close a tale. In a novel that seeks to highlight the unreliability of many traditional forms of authority, among them that of authors and of their language, the decision to end seems especially vulnerable to ironic treatment40.
In the last chapters of the novel, the «idle
reader»41 welcomes the appearance of the canon, who arrives to see
«... don Quijote
sentado en la
jaula...». (560). The canon and his men,
riding «mulas de
canónigo», of course, easily catch up with our
procession. Here is a representation of the power of the church, prosperous and
of higher rank than the curate. The canon is a forward-looking man, conversant
with modern Aristotelian42 literary theory. The
contrast between the energy of his party and the easygoing gait of the cortege
is an indication of the new intellectual vigor that arrives on the scene -after
canónigo» are «poderosas mulas- (on which the curate and the
par excellence. The cloak of
critical authority, worn until now by the curate, easily passes on to the
canon's shoulders. The canon, after inquiring about this curious group of
travellers, moves ahead with the curate in order to hear the latter's
explanation. The two ecclesiastics engage in a dialogue on books of chivalry
and other literary matters.
Their comments, which have frequently been understood to
represent an approximation of Cervantes' own views, would at first glance offer
an alliance of almost impregnable authority. But here, as in other instances in
Don Quixote, we should be wary of assertive
certainty. A number of critics consider that the canon's point of view may be
too narrow. Forcione suggests that the debate as a whole expresses
«Cervantes' suspicion of the fundamental direction of
sixteenth-century critical thought, which would institutionalize an esthetic
doctrine based on an empirico-historical interpretation of Aristotle's concept
of imitation» (125). The same opinion is expressed by
Riley, who further points out the difficulty of evaluating the reactions of
readers of romances, as Don Quixote himself strikingly illustrates, because
«el placer no es una cualidad existente en el
libro, sino una reacción nacida en el lector, y por tanto dependiente de
Doubtless, there is much of Cervantes' own thought in the canon's exposition. It has been argued that the latter's theories anticipate the general plan of the Persiles43. But it is only necessary to show that the authority brought to bear at this point directly on Don Quixote's limitations as a reader, indirectly on all levels of the novel, becomes, in context, vulnerable. Furthermore, this vulnerability of the canon's (and the curate's) authority is but one aspect of the indeterminacy that affects the decision to reach an end.
The canon is a considerate man. After all, he listens to Don Quixote attentively and with some kindness, trying to separate in the knight's speech the «disparates» from the «concertadas —46→ razones»44. He is distressed at seeing the deterioration of such a keen mind. The text, however, does not paint the canon in altogether unmixed colors, though to the reader, who has learned to see in Don Quixote something more than a buffoon, the canon emerges at this point slightly ahead of the curate. Nevertheless, his failings, such as they are, are not failings of character but of perception, for he, too, like the curate, the barber, Sancho, and Don Quixote, is an incomplete reader.
How does the canon actually enter the narrative? When he first
sees the cart and its company,
«iba primero el
carro guiándole su dueño; a los dos lados iban los
cuadrilleros...; seguía luego Sancho Panza sobre su asno, llevando de
rienda a Rocinante. Detrás de todo esto iban el cura y el barbero sobre
sus poderosas mulas, cubiertos los rostros (...) don Quijote iba sentado en la
jaula...». (560). At this point the
canon, we are told,
«ya se había dado a
entender, viendo las insignias de los cuadrilleros, que debía de ser
algún facinoroso salteador, o otro delincuente cuyo castigo tocase a la
Santa Hermandad» (560-561). This is a
reasonable assumption. The reader will recall that the Santa Hermandad had been
charged with Don Quixote's capture ever since the incident of the galley
slaves. On the other hand, whether we agreed or not with the forces of law and
order, it was possible to bear some sympathy with Don Quixote's initial impulse
to free those prisoners. As usual, it is in its application that the impulse
derails. When the demands of the Santa Hermandad and of the 'baciyelmo' barber
result in the free-for-all at the Inn of Juan Palomeque, the characters who
have become familiar to the reader (Don Fernando, Dorotea, the curate, and so
on) gain the upper hand and settle the matter. The curate indicates that Don
Quixote is mad and therefore must not be held accountable45. He and his friends
have a greater knowledge of the situation, as does, of course, the reader. But
the canon arrives with the same limitations as the Santa Hermandad did before.
His understanding of the situation is incomplete. Furthermore, the language
used to describe his first assumption («algún facinoroso salteador, o otro
delincuente»), while partly true -there is a sense in
which don Quijote is all this, the nar
rowest sense- creates an
ironic gap between him and the reader for it is disproportionate to the
The canon's first reductive deduction will now be gradually modified through a series of steps that will approximate his understanding to that of the reader. However, because the canon's first impression puts him at a disadvantage with regard to the reader, the authority of his statements and of his role with respect to other characters (including the curate), will remain vulnerable.
The canon first asks one of the «cuadrilleros» why Don Quixote is thus caged;
and the man refers him to Don Quixote:
«Señor, lo que significa it este caballero desta manera,
dígalo él, porque nosotros no lo
sabemos» (561). This answer is a
contradiction of the canon's original guess. Since the «cuadrilleros», who represent the Santa
Hermandad, profess ignorance of the reasons for Don Quixote's situation, it
cannot be that he is a «facinoroso
salteador». Our ecclesiastic must now start again from the
beginning, and one imagines the fellow's bewilderment as he enters the 'tangled
skein' of progressively more complicated and at times contradictory
Don Quixote, who has overheard, begins by saying that unless
the canon is well versed in the traditions of chivalry, he will not bother to
enlighten him. The canon reassures him on this point, and Don Quixote then
explains that he has been restrained by an evil enchanter. The curate, who with
the barber has approached the cart, confirms Don Quixote's statement while
setting forth the knight's renown. The canon is astounded:
«Cuando el canónigo oyó hablar al preso y al libre
en semejante estilo, estuvo por hacerse la cruz de admirado, y no podía
saber lo que le había acontecido»
(562). Three individuals, all of whom can claim some knowledge of
the matter, have left the canon in a state of complete ignorance. As a sensible
man, he cannot accept the explanations of the last two, while the first had
none to offer: «no podía saber lo que le
había acontecido». It is interesting to note that
for now the curate simply repeats Don Quixote's own peroration, if somewhat
more succinctly. At this point both the knight and his 'enchanter' (the curate)
function at the same fictionalized level so that for the canon the fact that
one is caged and the other free offers no clues. Neither his ears -language-
nor his eyes -appearances- can help him.
Now it is Sancho's turn to join in with his own interpretation. Though it seems as if the squire might provide a no —48→ nonsense view of the facts, his judiciousness is only apparent. Whether you like it or not, he says, Don Quixote is not enchanted. The evidence he adduces is quite factual and such as Sancho's literal-mindedness would take in: Don Quixote's bodily functions have not ceased (so far so good); therefore, he is not enchanted. This incongruous deduction of fantastical fact from the concretest evidence lets the cat out of the bag, so to speak, about Sancho' s equally profound delusion, since he does not question the notion of enchantment. It is this possibility, which Don Quixote, the curate -so far- and Sancho take for granted, that astounds the canon.
As Sancho's argument veers toward personal concerns, he ascribes Don Quixote's condition to the manipulations of the curate -whom he identifies behind his mask- and to his envy. The situation stands in the way of the squire's own advancement, but his advancement depended on Don Quixote's feats. Thus the whole «máquina» of fictional chivalry is again introduced as factual and legitimate.
The barber intervenes at this juncture. Rebuking Sancho for being as mad as his master, he wonders whether the squire should not join the knight in his cage. He throws some light on the situation by referring to Don Quixote's madness and implying Sancho's own. On the other hand, his authority is undermined by his disguise -he is still wearing a mask- and by the lack of restraint of his personal attack on Sancho. Sancho's response is equally personal and implicates the barber in the ongoing manipulations, as if their origin were some devious expression of selfinterest. As a result, one must imagine the canon still confused, realizing that some of these people are mad, but unsure of who is and who isn't: Don Quixote plainly seems to be; the curate also, so far, since he is disguised and has repeated the chivalric nonsense; Sancho, probably, since, though not masked, he makes little sense; the barber perhaps, because while referring to the madness of others, he is also masked and seems intemperate in his speech.
The curate will now set the canon's mind at rest. They both
ride ahead of the group so as not to be overheard. The curate's explanation
should represent the final
mise au point of the situation with
respect to what the canon can see. Actually, in order to make these events
clear, the curate has to recount the whole story of Don Quixote. He gives a
complete summary of Don Quixote's adventures, or of those that he knows -for
is not as complete as the reader's. There are four
main elements to the summary: 1. the causes of Don Quixote's madness; 2. his
«todo el progreso de sus
sucesos» (564)]; 3. the caging; 4. the
purpose of this very deception.
After expressing his amazement at the
«peregrina historia de don Quijote»
(564), the canon embarks on a literary disquisition on books of
chivalry. It is worth noting that this discourse parallels in a general way,
and from the point of view of a critique of the romances, the curate's
summarized account of Don Quixote's career. Thus we have: 1. the harmful
effects of such romances; 2. their fantastical subject matter (which Don
Quixote tried to reproduce in 'real life'); 3. the need to banish them, for
«dignos de ser desterrados de la
república cristiana, como a gente
This first part of the canon's discourse deals with the matter
and form of the books of chivalry. Its corresponding component in the book as a
whole -the curate's summary- would be Don Quixote's and Sancho's
«andanzas». The curate then
recounts his «escrutinio» of
Don Quixote's library, referring to the beginning of the present text and the
origin of all that has followed until now. The canon proceeds to an estimation
of the potential for good writing, varied and worthwhile subject matter that
such works offered, concluding
épica también puede escrebirse en prosa como en
verso» (567). The reader will refer these
statements to the manner of presentation of
El ingenioso hidalgo... and to the variety
and interest of its material:
«por [...] querer
resucitar [...] la ya perdida y casi muerta orden de la andante
caballería, gozamos [...] no sólo de la dulzura de su verdadera
historia, sino de los cuentos y episodios della»
The canon filters the story of the mad «hidalgo» through two more interpretations,
both times modifying the series of approaches that began when he first saw the
procession. But we have, metaphorically, yet another telling transformation of
the story, one that would illustrate the views that the canon has so far
expressed (matter to be treated and manner of treatment). He has written in
over one hundred sheets the beginning of his own version of a book of chivalry
and has asked the opinion of
apasionados desta leyenda, doctos y discretos, y con otros ignorantes, que solo
gusto de oir disparates, y
todos he hallado una agradable
aprobación» [ (567-68) my
emphasis]. The distinction between «discretos» and «ignorantes» implies that Don Quixote would
belong to the second category. In fact, later on, when Don Quixote offers the
canon his own evaluation of the romances of chivalry, he insists:
«léalos, y verá el
gusto que recibe de su
leyenda» [ (584) my emphasis].
Nevertheless the canon, after Don Quixote's story of the «Caballero del
Lago», must reexamine his opinion:
«Admirado quedó el canónigo de
los concertados disparates que don
Quijote había dicho» [ (588) my
emphasis]. Don Quixote, despite all evidence to the contrary, could not belong
to those «otros ignorantes»
who read the incipient book, nor is he among the «doctos y discretos». He is, rather, both at
once. Like his «concertados disparates», with their mixture of
fiction and history, Don Quixote bewilders the canon. But principally the
knight's response affords him yet another reading of the situation which, when
joined to the curate's explanations, brings him closer to our own.
At this moment the canon reaches his level of keenest
understanding yet. His first assumption turns out to be not so much wrong as
entirely beside the point. In some ways he admires Don Quixote's singular
madness, and now his evaluation of the knight's character is the exact opposite
of his earliest one. He exhorts him to abandon his fantasy, for
«[no] es razón que un hombre como
tan honrado y de tan buenas partes, y
dotado de tan buen entendimiento, se dé a entender que son
verdaderas tantas y tan estrañas locuras»
[ (583) my emphasis].
To recapitulate, the various interpretations of the events have been so far: 1. the canon's first unqualified assumption; 2, the «'cuadrilleros'» professed ignorance, which already modifies 1; 3. Don Quixote's bewildering (to the canon) tirade that introduces the topic of chivalry; 4. the curate's initial concurrence with Don Quixote; 5. Sancho's incongruous combination of the down-to-earth and the fantastic; 6. the barber's expostulations to Sancho: the squire is as mad as his master; 7. the curate's general summary of events to this moment (a view of the action); 8. the canon's own comments arising from the curate's summary or the 'theory' as parallel to the tale; 9. Don Quixote's response or 'counter-theory' to justify his endeavors. In effect, over these few pages we witness the formation of a nearly complete 'reader' of this text, i. e., of these events. The task is all the more carefully carried out since the canon is already a strong 'reader', armed with impressive theories of his own.—51→
Next to Don Quixote, whom we qualify as a misreader, the curate has been the 'reader' inside the text. His good sense and generally good intentions were a touchstone for us, the readers outside the text47. He has been an intermediary, offering a not unsympathetic middle ground between Don Quixote and a world that remained intractable to his fantasy. In fact, he was instrumental in the beneficial impact of Don Quixote on the lives of the characters whose paths cross at the inn of Juan Palomeque -Dorotea, Cardenio, and so on. But since the Sierra Morena, as the curate became increasingly an actor in the events, so his distance from the action naturally diminished and his role as 'reader' -so clearly established at the outset in the «escrutinio»- diminished as well48. Of course, the curate's opinions often tend to the ethical rather than the esthetic. An indication of his reduced authority was his actual evaluation of the tale of Anselmo and Lotario -«El curioso impertinente». His critique of the tale was less in tune with the reader's than had been his «escrutinio»49. He speaks more as a moral arbiter than as a critic. In addition, he is the actual creator of the enchantment that will bring Don Quixote home, i. e., of his caging. He brings about, finally, the plan that he had discarded in the Sierra Morena (at that point he was able to enlist the help of Dorotea as Princess Micomicona in order to extricate Don Quixote from his assumed penance for Dulcinea). His participation in, and invention of, Dorotea's fiction affects, ultimately, his distance from the action. His merging with the events is signaled by the need for him to wear a mask. When the canon appears, the curate's role is that of a character in the fiction he invented, and it is the canon who will take over as intermediary, who will gradually gain, at first, some distance from the events.
It should be pointed out that the canon is now needed precisely because the curate, when he becomes part of the fiction that he invents, can no longer fulfill his mediating role. The —52→ canon is an 'untainted' copy of the curate, with the greater authority that is needed in order to generate an overall judgment at one remove from the action.
The parallel development of the various roles in the last chapter delineates the distribution of authority according to the characters' ability to 'read' or suffer the power of fabulation. Don Quixote constitutes the heart of the fiction in his role as misreader and re-creator of his own life. His involvement with fiction is absolute. There is no gap between reading and living. The curate, at this point, stands at one remove from this center. He assumes a role in the action that he elaborates, though he does not remain invariably impervious to the effects of this action. The canon, when he has all the information available in hand, stands separate from the fiction. He expounds a theory of reading and has created, in correspondence to this greater objectivity, the beginning of a book of chivalry. The links of this 'creation' with the story of Don Quixote are those of its subject, chivalry; but the presumed 'events' in the canon's fiction stand in a comparable relationship to the life of Don Quixote, as do the canon's theories to the text that we are now reading about the life of Don Quixote. Within this widest gap yet, reflection penetrates and judges. Sancho and the barber, in this context, are but slightly modified instances of their respective counterparts Don Quixote and the curate:
|Don Quixote (misreader)||__>||lives his fiction|
|the curate (incomplete reader)||__>||makes up a fiction involving himself and Don Quixote|
|the canon (not quite complete reader||__>||writes an almost complete chivalric fiction (which he decides not to end)|
Beyond the canon, in terms of their distance from Don Quixote's «andanzas», are situated Cide Hamete, the translator, and the various «author» figures (inferred author, archivist, second author, dramatized author of the prologue). And beyond them we, the original «idle readers», now Model Readers who have been formed to this new fiction gradually (as was the canon) but whose distance from Don Quixote's level of the action would be greatest and whose evaluations contain all these levels. To further underline the various distances, in these last chapters we will encounter other 'misreaders' with whom Don Quixote will —53→ clash: Eugenio, also living his 'fiction' as a spurned lover (of the beautiful Leandra), the flagellants, other incomplete readers acting out an extreme form of their belief50.
The introduction of literary theory at this point in the novel can be considered a closural move for several reasons. It encourages the reader to form a totalizing evaluation of the text, i. e., to reflect in parallel manner to the characters (canon, curate, Don Quixote). It stands in retrospective correspondence to the parody of chivalric material at the beginning of the novel, to the «escrutinio» of chapter 6, and to the events of chapters 8 and 9 (emphasis on various narrative and authorial levels). There is some conclusive force to this hint of circularity. Also, the thrust toward a totalizing perspective is present in the canon's gradual acquisition of an inclusive understanding of the fiction/life of Don Quixote. Finally, this growth of the canon towards understanding represents, within the text, the parallel, more inclusive, appreciation that the perceptive reader has reached to this moment.
But the novel does not end here, and in fact the canon's
authority, which is linked to the objectivity that his distance from the action
affords him, diminishes as he participates in the events. During the fight
between Don Quixote and Eugenio:
risa el canónigo y el cura, saltaban los cuadrilleros de gozo, zuzaban
los unos y los otros, como hacen a los
perros cuando en pendencia
están trabados; sólo Sancho Panza se desesperaba, porque no se
podía desasir de un criado del canónigo, que le estorbaba que a
su amo no ayudase» [ (597) my
emphasis]51. Here the canon is clearly set next to the curate, in
the same relationship to the action, a fact that is underlined by
his servant's restraining of Sancho. The objectivity that he had gained and
which allowed him to evaluate both Don Quixote's madness and his
«buenas partes» is replaced
by amusement; for now, the action itself must be allowed to pursue its course
to the end. Don Quixote's fight with Eugenio and his attack on the flagellants
are as the last spasms of his chivalric madness. Thereafter, he is again caged
and arrives home utterly defeated. The canon, with his servants, and the
«En fin, todos se dividieron y apartaron,
quedando solos el cura y barbero, don Quijote y Panza y el bueno de Rocinante,
que a todo to que había visto estaba con tanta
paciencia como su
amo» [ (602) my emphasis]. There is in
this passage the suggestion of a coming to rest, after the preceding commotion,
and in this subsidence only those 'characters' remain -including Rocinante- who
saw the beginning of Don Quixote's adventures. Don Quixote arrives battered and
immobilized, a condition that recalls that of his first return in chapter 5,
when he was stretched across the back of his neighbor Pedro Alonso's mule.
Unlike Pedro Alonso, however, the curate has not waited until night to make his
entrance, unconcerned to spare Don Quixote any humiliation52.
Other elements point to retroactive circularity, a typical
closural pattern, and to a further thrust beyond it as well. We recall that Don
Quixote, after being 'armed' knight, decided that, together with a few shirts
and some money, he was in need of a squire in order to pursue his adventures.
The first thing that he does, as he prepares his second sally, is to enlist
Sancho. Thus, the scene between Sancho and his wife which, in the last pages,
follows the curate's delivering of Don Quixote to his household, has a twofold
purpose. It confirms the circular pattern through Sancho in a quite specific
manner: near the end of chapter 7, as Sancho anticipates the future gains of
his enterprise with Don Quixote, he envisions his wife, Juana Gutiérrez,
or Mari Gutiérrez (or Juana Panza, as below), as his consort in some
high estate, his children as princes. In the last scene, Sancho explains to his
wife -who wants to know what he has to show for his employment- that he will
obtain some title or governorship soon
after he and Don Quixote
start out again:
«Qué es lo que
decís, Sancho, de señorías, ínsulas y vasallos?
-respondió Juana Panza» (603). The
analogy between Don Quixote and Sancho at this stage of the development of the
characters is obvious and suggests that the circularity of the pattern noted in
Don Quixote's return is also reflected through Sancho and his own
circumstance53. The second effect of this scene, however, is to open
up the text anew in a perspective of further adventures. The circular pattern
seems at first closed with respect to Don Quixote's return and open with
respect to Sancho's. Finally the «historia» comes to a temporary rest with
openness toward another sally in the anticipation of Don Quixote's niece and
«[E]llas quedaron confusas y
temerosas de que se habian de ver sin su amo y tío en el mesmo punto que
tuviese alguna mejoría,
y sí fue como ellas se to
imaginaron» [ (604) my emphasis].
At this point those metafictional levels that the literary
debate had introduced are taken up again. With the reappearance of the
author/archivist, we are treated to the ironic manipulation of sources and
transcriptions in a chain of transmission closely reminiscent of that in
chapters 8 and 9: 1. «el
autor» seeks further documentation; 2. he finds it, by
sheer luck (
«un antiguo médico que
tenía en su poder una caja de plomo, que, según él dijo,
se habia hallado en los cimientos de una antigua
ermita» (60454); 3. there is a need for a
«unos pergaminos escritos con
letras góticas, pero en versos castellanos»
(604); 4. the «author» asks that
the reader give proper credit to his
«es digno nuestro gallardo Quijote de
continuas y memorables alabanzas, y aun a mí no se me deben negar, por
el trabajo y diligencia que puse en buscar el fin desta agradable historia;
aunque bien sé que si el cielo, el caso y la fortuna no me ayudan, el
mundo quedará falto y sin el pasatiempo y gusto que casi dos horas
podrá tener el que con atención la
leyere» (142). These words should be
«El cual autor no pide a los que
la leyeren, en premio del inmenso trabajo que le costó inquerir y buscar
todos los archivos manchegos, por sacarle a luz, sino que le den el mismo
crédito que suelen dar los discretos a los libros de caballerías,
que tan validos andan en el mundo; que con esto
se tendrá por bien pagado y
satisfecho, y se animará a sacar y buscar otras, si no tan verdaderas, a
to menos de tanta invención y pasatiempo»
This coda-like reference to the basic relationship between
source, transmission, and recipient, which returns us to the text's opening
concerns, rather than bringing about the expected end, serves to introduce the
level of the «historia» by
means of the epitaphs. The closural impact which these verses would ordinarily
convey has already been undercut by the gap that separates them from Don
Quixote's last moments in the just concluded action, since another sally was
anticipated. These adventures being, for the moment, indecipherable, the
epitaphs are given in their stead56. But their effect is to create more anticipation on the part of
the reader, a desire to see that gap between the knight's temporary quiescence
and his final rest. The lines that introduce the epitaphs seem to stress their
paradoxical incompletion; among the verses that could be read,
primeras que estaban escritas en el
pergamino... eran...». [ (605) my
What were then the rest of the words, after these first ones? Before we learn
anything of them, the clearly burlesque tone which the metafictional
complications may have led us to forget for a moment is reintroduced through
the epitaphs. Through them the 'author's' stated intent to put an end, through
laughter, to the sway of the chivalric romances is re-emphasized, as our knight
and all his knightly «máquina» (squire, steed, beloved,
etc.) are compared to the heroes they were meant to surpass (Amadís,
After the epitaphs, which end without ending, but which recall
to the reader the satirical intent of the book, the last lines
promise a continuation, but, curiously, they point to another's efforts, an
«académico» who, like
those verses we have just read, is no more, or less reliable:
«Tiénese noticia que to ha hecho, a
costa de muchas vigilias y mucho trabajo, y que time intención de
sacallos a luz, con esperanza de la tercera salida de don
Quijote» (608). The final line,
approximately recalled from Ariosto,
altro canterá con miglior plectio»58,
further seems to defer to other hands the authority to conclude. The same
retroactive circularity seems implicit at this metafictional level, creating an
effect parallel to the action -for the action is its echoof both closure and
What can we make of this apparent refusal of the 'author' to assume the responsibility for ending? In fact, what can we make of the systematic undermining, or at least questioning, of all forms of authority, both within and without the «historia», fictional, metafictional? A character on whose judgment we had learned to rely most of the time -if with some reservations-, the curate, cedes his prerogatives to another, the canon, who possesses much stronger theoretical claims to them. He, in his turn, will be able, it would seem, to give the adequate summarizing overview needed to situate Don Quixote's activities in their proper perspective. But he too is overcome by events, by a fabulating impetus of the text that seems nit to want to end, and incorporates such a perspective as part of its fiction. The 'author' himself, instead of ending, surrenders this responsibility to other voices who promise a continuation.
But this elusiveness is no longer surprising, or unexpected, not only because it has been characteristic of much of the novel, but also because we met with it as early as in the Prologue, to which the end leads us. For he/she who «con atención leyere», the Prologue generates a two-level reader: the one who responds —58→ to the rhetorical strategies of the text, and the one who, upon re-reading, observes himself/herself responding to such strategies. As the reader goes back to the Prologue, he/she will be able to re-read the novel with the increased distance that it has taught him/her to assume. Unlike the canon, he/she will know how to gauge the fabulating power of the adventures and to enjoy the knight's mixture of wisdom and folly and the text's «concertadas razones».
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