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Sixteenth-century pastoral books, narrative structure, and «La Galatea» of Cervantes

Elizabeth Rhodes

At its center we have a pastoral-idyllic chronotope, but a chronotope riddled with decay, its compact isolation and self-imposed limits destroyed, surrounded on all sides by an alien world and itself already half-alien... And this work gives rise to its own line of descendents in the further historical development of the novel.

M. Bakhtin on Daphnis and Chloë: The Dialogic Imagination                

E. C. Riley has observed that «the niceties of generic discrimination lend themselves to endless argument»1. An addendum to that remark might refer to the additional difficulties one is sure to encounter when confronting the works of Cervantes with even the most modest categories of genre. If held to limitations and established practices, the books seem determined to win. What appears to be a failure of genre criticism to accomplish its goals may, however, be turned to advantage: scrutiny of Cervantes' texts helps us arrive at more clearly delimited categories of genre precisely because his works do not conform to their restrictions. History proves that examination of heresy often leads to better definition of orthodoxy.

In most of his writings, Cervantes exhibits a talent for bending the literary traditions he inherited into something different from what those before him had written. La Galatea supplies particularly clear evidence of this trait because the conventions of pastoral are relatively marked and limiting, so their absence or manipulation stands out clearly. To date, critical attention devoted to La Galatea has focused on the more straightforward discrepancies between that convention and Cervantes' pastoral book, such as the notable violence of the action, the overpowering interpolations, and the exaggerated levels of both idealism and realism2. There is no doubt that the combination of these elements produces a text which is categorized as pastoral with some hesitancy. However, the same elements cited as evidence of Cervantes' failure to write a truly pastoral book can also be found in the genre-defining texts of pastoral prose fiction that preceded La Galatea, such as Montemayor's Los siete libros de la Diana and Gil Polo's Diana enamorada. The difference between Cervantes' book and the others is not the content but the way in which it is presented, a difference achieved by his breaking the code of narrative planes as it was generally used in pastoral books before La Galatea was published. Since that code has not previously been identified or isolated from the content it carries, study of it must be preceded by its definition. In the process, evidence of its use by Cervantes' precursors, as well as of its eventual demise at his hands, can be appreciated. Finally, several peculiar and decidedly non-pastoral characteristics of La Galatea can be evaluated as direct consequences of this transgression of the pastoral narrative structure which was employed in sixteenth-century books of a similar nature. Positive conclusions about the text are best drawn from examination of what it is not when compared with its models, since Cervantes is, in this case, the metaphorical heretic. A clear exposition of the differences between his pastoral book and those of his precursors is greatly facilitated by a preliminary reconsideration of some rather overworn literary terms related to this type of fiction.

Cervantes himself classifies his book as an eclogue, expressing a consciousness of having composed poetry when he penned La Galatea3. He refers to his activity as «La ocupación de escrebir églogas en tiempo que, en general, la poesía anda tan desfavorecida...», and immediately thereafter includes himself among «los que en esta edad tratan della» (I: 5)4. Also, during the examination of Don Quijote's library, Montemayor's Diana and its imitations (La Galatea included) are all called «poetry» (I: 74-75)5. In this context, the word «poetry» assumes its neo-Aristotelian meaning and refers not to versification but to a level of imitation: poetry here means literature in prose and/or verse in which the world is described as better than it is (rather than as it is, which falls into the category of history)6. One should expect, therefore, to find this neo-Aristotelian type of poetry in La Galatea. As will be shown, the writing of poetry as so defined constitutes the pretext of the entire work, but the manner in which Cervantes builds on that pretext muffles the harmony of Arcadia while amplifying the cacophony of the actual world, thereby thwarting the book's very purpose.

The meaning of the word «poetry» as used by Cervantes in reference to categories of imitation calls into question the need to label sixteenth-century pastoral fiction with modern terms which did not exist in the sixteenth century. To hesitate between «romance» and «novel» in reference to La Galatea and the books that inspired it is unnecessary because, as Wardropper has pointed out, in Cervantes' day, the word «novela» was used to refer to short stories, not what we call «novels», and the Spanish word romance had been preempted to refer to something quite different from what we call «romance»7. «Libros de pastores», in English «pastoral books», seems to be the most acceptable solution8. Use of that term makes it easier to identify the elements that distinguish these «libros de pastores» from other types of sixteenth-century fiction; unhindered by the obligation to interpret them as novels or romances, realistic or idealistic, the critic can focus attention on what pastoral books consist of in themselves, with the understanding that the resulting list of characteristics will not correspond to any categories we have since imposed upon literature.

The dominant feature of the pastoral books (that is, those texts of prose and poetry which flourished in sixteenth-century Spain under the name of «libros de pastores») is that in them shepherds are depicted as representative of the human condition, or some part thereof. Shepherds, in this context, are literary shepherds and shepherdesses, members of a fictitious guild who lead highly improbable lives and are obsessed by love. They faithfully depict a slice of sixteenth-century values in the same way that heroes and heroines of contemporary culture (some of whom lay scant claim to verisimilitude) reflect ours; their representative quality is achieved through the tangential and the fantastic, not the mirror image. The pastoral characters are emotional heroes and heroines, capable of emerging from encounters with rejection, separation, jealousy, and even death with a well-tuned instrument, a perfect voice, and never a sniffle or reddened nose from all those «copiosas lágrimas».

To suggest that pastoral books are by and large about shepherds and that the pastoral itself hinges upon the presence of «pastores» is not as banal as it may seem. The idea that at least some of the characters in pastoral books must be shepherds of the artificial, literary type described above makes the necessary distinction between the pastoral book itself and what might be called the pastoral impulse or the pastoral mode9. The presence or absence of shepherds as the representative anecdote of a text makes clear the difference between «libros de pastores» such as La Galatea and literature that lacks shepherds altogether but which is sometimes labelled «pastoral» nonetheless (such as «Rinconete y Cortadillo», or the cave episode in Persiles10). Riley, in this regard, refers to a literature that is recognizable as pastoral, «even when the furniture of sheep and goats is lacking»11. Although such a lack may be valid for the pastoral mode in general, the use of shepherds and shepherdesses as the representative anecdote is essential in pastoral books; the «libro de pastores» hinges upon the presence of «pastores» just as the «libros de caballería» depend on that of «caballeros». Cervantes relies on the fiction of the literary shepherds, an idealization of humans in love, to achieve the poetic intentions for La Galatea that he expressed in the Prologue.

Aside from the presence of shepherds and shepherdesses, there is another necessary characteristic of sixteenth-century pastoral books, one inherited from the classical tradition. Pastoral literature, beginning with that of Theocritus and Virgil, in some way evokes the myth of a Golden Age, and in so doing, «the present and even more the past are enriched at the expense of the future»12. The assumption that things could be better than they are (in the narrative present) provokes the characters' desire to remember experiences gone by. Pastoral literature describes an emotional reaction to a situation recalled from the protagonists' past, immediate or distant; it is «the art of the backward glance»13. This is of particular importance in the context of La Galatea which, compared with its precursors, contains less wistful recollection and more events that occur in the narrative present.

The impulse behind the escape to Arcadia is a desire for sentiment, not activity. Since pastoral books are longer than verse eclogues, that impulse toward pure emotion through recollection was necessarily expanded in them. The characters' sentiments were joined through intricate tales to their past experiences, into the context of which each individual's feelings were justified. As the eclogue in Spain passed from Garcilaso through Montemayor to Cervantes, the pastoral impulse was channelled through prose as well as poetry and through related events as well as feelings. History violated poetic Arcadia with the advent of the pastoral books, and each author of this type of fiction distributed the amount of action and contemplation in different percentages. In La Diana, for example, a decidedly lyric tone and passivity predominates. This is not the case in Cervantes' book.

Reading La Galatea might be compared to the experience of standing on the banks of the Tagus while gazing upon a picture representing classical Arcadia, as it appears in the Virgilian topos. Experience tells us to expect the picture (the book) to represent the closed, isolated, and idealistic world of the pastoral which is impervious to bad weather, seasonal changes, the need to work, and other general problems of life on earth as we know it. Within Cervantes' version, however, there are certain discrepancies that cause the canvas to look like an attempt to represent Arcadia in some ways, while in others it looks strangely like the world outside the picture, our own world. For example, there are courtiers depicted who lack the pastoral costume usually required for participation in the pastoral experience. There is also one shepherd who looks too much like a real sheepherder, and not the standard literary type we seek. Against all expectations, we behold a hermit, a priest of ambiguous denomination, and a killer shepherd. The subjects of the painting in general are moving restlessly at its borders, causing the frame to bend and lose its capacity to define the space and time that separate art from life, yet they are not «real» enough to jump outside the confines of art and exist beyond the frame. Aside from the fact that they have nothing to do except be in love (or be not in love, in some cases), they speak in absurdly polite, carefully chosen words and display an unbelievable capacity to recite long letters, songs, and full conversations effortlessly.

Since the narrative planes of Don Quijote are so dexterously handled, it seems appropriate to consider how they function in La Galatea. Again, what Cervantes does there is best captured in terms of his not doing something his precursors did.

There are typically two planes of narration in pastoral books, the first of which is the narrative present that constitutes the trunk from which the interpolations branch out. In La Galatea, this is the world of Galatea and Elicio, also referred to as Aurelio's territory. The narrator typically dominates first-plane narration through an omniscient point of view, which allows a large measure of direct quotation of the characters. Action that occurs on this plane occurs within the physical confines of the locus amoenus, and most of it involves singing and talking about love. Any event that takes place on the first narrative plane, particularly violence, should be allegorical, as is the incident with the three wild men in La Diana, or the stag hunt and the mock naval battle in Diana enamorada. The native shepherds and shepherdesses, such as Elicio, Erastro, and Galatea, belong to this first plane.

The first narrative plane is what the sixteenth-century pastoral book inherited from the origins of pastoral. In it, time takes on peculiar dimensions, appropriately described by Bakhtin: «This is a dense and fragrant time, like honey, a time of intimate lovers' scenes and lyric outpourings, a time saturated with its own strictly limited, sealed-off segments of nature's space, stylized through and through»14. This is the poetic, lyrical base upon which all pastoral literature is founded. Therefore, to the extent that this narrative plane is developed successfully and serves a purpose within the narration as a whole, the resulting text will be acceptable as pastoral. When Cervantes insisted he was writing not just poetry, but eclogues, in the prologue to La Galatea, he was referring to the events and feelings portrayed in this plane of his narration.

The second narrative plane is that of the interpolations, which are told within the context of the first plane by characters who enter the locus from another place, be it the court, a neighbouring village, or a distant land. Before entering the pastoral world from outside it, they usually don the rustic disguise that, among other things, promotes a certain kind of social equality of the characters within the first narrative plane. The interpolations related by these visiting characters are emotional autobiographies told by one person as another or several others listen.

In order to maintain the hermetic seal in which the pastoral mode is encased, second-plane narrations typically consist of unhappy remembrance of events that took place before the teller joined the company in the first plane of the narration. As long as the interpolation centres around the love problem that brought its protagonist to the locus, there are no restrictions of time, place, or degree on the things she or he chooses to relate about the past. Montemayor's La Diana proves that the second plane of pastoral narration is capable of encompassing such seemingly inappropriate events as death and murder for love, deceit of the most nefarious type, and stories that hint of homosexuality and incest15. Contrary to the first plane of narration, which is limited to relating events that occur (as they happen) within the locus, the second plane of the narrative consists of things doubly removed from the pastoral scene because first, they are past events, and second, they happened outside the locus.

The exaggerated level of activity in the second-plane narrations, similar to that which characterizes Byzantine fiction, is counterbalanced by the relative lack of activity within the plane in which they are told: the speaker and the listeners are seated within the pastoral environment, where the tranquil natural world provides a stimulus to lyricism and melancholic recollection. The autobiographical style of the second-plane narrations underscores the subjectivity of the pastoral by personalizing the characters and by intensifying the importance of each individual while minimizing the role of the impersonal narrator. It is within this second plane that the variety of place, time, and circumstance necessary to keep the fiction alive is introduced. Without such variety, the narrative structure would consist only of untenable, over-extended lyricism.

Montemayor and Gil Polo's characters appear on the pastoral scene, memories in hand and tears flowing, ready to participate in the emotional catharsis that the bucolic world offers. There is no dramatic change in anyone's emotional status until after Felicia intervenes in their lives16. In both Montemayor's La Diana and Gil Polo's Diana enamorada, Felicia's hocus-pocus provides the stratagem which conveniently forces the subsequent unraveling of the plots by supernatural means beyond the reach of the limited first-plane narration (the one in which nothing is supposed to happen). The lovers do not act, they are acted upon by a force that is superior to their human efforts. In this way, the basic lyricism of the strictly pastoral level of the narration is maintained; the outside world, the world which causes change, is kept at a safe distance through narrative technique, as long as the two levels of narration are kept separate and as long as any action on the first narrative plane is allegorical and/or controlled by superhuman powers.

In La Galatea, Cervantes does not follow either rule. In the first place, he repeatedly violates the separation of the first- and second-plane narrations. His characters do not appear with their personal histories neatly stopped at a seeming impasse, ready to be told to sympathetic companions. Lisandro appears applying the finishing touch to what will later constitute his emotional autobiography. Rather than recounting his past, he enters the locus with the final act of his dismal story yet to be accomplished. According to the rules of pastoral, he should wander mournfully on to the scene some time after his bloody history has ended, not as it is finishing. By knifing Carino to death in the present tense of the narration, Lisandro turns events that rightly belong in the second-plane recollection into first-plane activity. Thus, he bursts the idyllic bubble around Arcadia in two ways: by acting rather than contemplating and talking about his past, and by forcing a non-allegorical, extremely violent act directly on to the idyllic scene of Elicio and Erastro's amoeban song.

Death has a place in Arcadia, but only in a pastoral perspective, that is, as an event evoked from the past. One scarcely recalls the tragic death of Celia in La Diana, precisely because it is related among Felismena's previous experiences, and the impact of that death is softened when it is related on the second plane of the narration. Likewise, there is a place for violence in sixteenth-century pastoral books, provided it is introduced through the filter of memory on the second plane of the narration or it is raised to the level of allegory; both techniques effectively curtail any immediacy it may have. Like abrupt emotional change, violence or physical aggression should either be part of the past recollected or a symbolic representation of pastoral ideals. Lisandro's violent act is not tempered by physical distance, temporal distance, or allegory, but is brutally immediate and real. Rosaura's role is similar to Lisandro's in that she appears still living, not remembering, her love problems. She enters the scene threatening violence and is later carried away by force (II: 11; 137-41). As with Lisandro's case, her actions themselves are viable in the type of fiction Cervantes had proposed to write, but the way in which they are related is not17.

Teolinda's case is typically pastoral in that she appears in a suitably melancholic mood and relates her tale up to the moment of her arrival, thus explaining her purpose on the scene. But after some pastoral wandering around and singing, Teolinda notices that her problems are not resolving themselves, and since there is no wise Felicia around to work it all out for her, she anxiously leaves the locus to find Grisaldo in hope of retrieving Arsindo. She and her twin sister come and go from the pastoral domain with a frequency that directly implicates the messy affairs of life beyond the locus in what happens within the pastoral confines. Every time Teolinda or news of her arrives to the bucolic corps, something else has happened to update the initial story she told in Book I. Hers is not, therefore, one past to be resolved but one long initial second-plane narration followed by a series of short ones, recounted almost as they occur, like news flashes. Once most of her story is told, Teolinda has no time to remember her past or to amble around listening to anyone else's troubles because she is so busy with her own. The manner in which she and others enter and exit the first narrative plane fragments the narration into pieces of movement and detracts from the contemplative feature of pastoral, which is its very core. Cervantes relied on such simultaneous development of numerous plots in Persiles y Sigismunda with greater success. In the pastoral context, frequent interruptions segment the past and present alike, intertwining one too closely with the other and drawing in the world outside the pastoral enclosure. More importantly, the narration of so many pieces severely reduces the amount of time and energy available for coherent, thoughtful recollection or expression of emotion, for which the pastoral environment properly serves.

It is Silerio who finds a contemplative purpose within the pastoral setting, and it is his interpolation that fulfils the requirements of the double-plane narrative. He is introduced singing to himself on the first plane of the narration and immediately thereafter tells his story to some of the shepherds, explaining the misfortunes that led him to retire from the world on the second narrative plane. It is his presence in the locus that eventually allows for resolution of his problems within the bounds of the pastoral environment. If judged by the criteria of narrative planes, Silerio's is the perfect pastoral story. The irony is that he has not assumed the disguise of a shepherd, but that of the hermit, who shares the pastoral ideal of contemplation, the desire for a love experience, and the need to seek that experience beyond the confines of society. Silerio claims to be searching for a higher source of authority to which he can direct his emotions, his human resources having been exhausted. He was forced to take refuge in religion, albeit in a temporary and superficial manner; because of the way in which Cervantes constructed his pastoral microcosm, there was no other authority on which Silerio could depend.

One of the most notable traits of La Galatea is its lack of an authoritative figure capable of guiding human beings through the calamities which inevitably befall them. Recourse to magic in solving these problems not only reinforces the subjective nature of the pastoral, it is also the only way change can occur on the first narrative plane without altering the fragile, affective structure of muted activity that supports Arcadia. Magical resolutions of love dilemmas are the only kind capable of introducing change into the perpetual present of the first-plane narration without disrupting it. Such fantastic solutions are (apparently) brought about by Felicia in La Diana and Diana enamorada. Lope's Dardanio helps lead Anfriso to his eventual disillusionment, and Arcadia ends with Anfriso's visit to the wise Polinesta18. Except for the uninvolved Calíope, there are no such fantastic figures in La Galatea. This lack is not surprising, since Montemayor's recourse to Felicia and her magic water was censored by the curate in Don Quijote (I: 73). However, Cervantes' removal of a superhuman figure of authority leaves his characters on their own to work out their love problems. Since they are self-determining beings, they must change, act, do, be something other than literary shepherds if anything is to happen at all. Unlike those who journey to an Oz-like palace or a magician's cave wherein resides someone who can make time pass with magical speed, Cervantes' characters have to live out, not skip over, the time it takes for love problems to resolve themselves. Between the time necessary for such changes to occur within human limits and the time necessary to tell about them, there is scarce opportunity left for sitting together and singing or talking. Indeed, in La Galatea there is very little sitting done at all.

In Montemayor's Diana the structure of the pilgrimage route keeps the characters together, allows their problems to be solved almost simultaneously, and limits their activity so that they can be contemplative, not active, figures. Since La Galatea lacks that structure, merely keeping track of everyone is a busy activity, and thus there are passages in it that read like instructions for a marching band performance:

Mas después que por un rato en estas cosas hubieron razonado, tornaron a seguir su camino, llevando consigo a Lenio, y sin succederles otra cosa, llegaron al aldea, llevándose consigo Elicio a Tirsi, Damón, Erastro, Lauso y Arsindo. Con Daranio se fueron Crisio, Orfinio, Marsilo y Orompo. Florisa y las otras pastoras se fueron con Galatea y con su padre, Aurelio, quedando primero concertado que otro día, al salir del alba, se juntasen para ir al valle de los Cipreses, como Telesio les había mandado, para celebrar las obsequias de Meliso, en las cuales, como ya está dicho, quisieron hallarse Timbrio, Silero, Nísida y Blanca, que con el venerable Aurelio aquella noche se fueron.

(II: 166)                

Having removed the central figure of authority and the pilgrimage route from La Galatea, Cervantes was forced to orchestrate not only the characters' attempts at solving their problems independently, but also their comings and goings as they set about it.

The rambling structure of Cervantes' pastoral book is truer to life than directed pursuit of solutions to problems by withdrawal from activity to seek supernatural intervention. Other distinguishing features of La Galatea mark the same movement away from artificiality, such as the variety of characters presented, described above, as well as the various ways in which they are introduced. The standard practice that calls for pastoral lovers to relate the entirety of their emotional histories is not universally applied here, with the result that characters are presented at differing stages of their emotional stories and with differing degrees of depth. For example, Lauso falls in and out of love without ever providing anyone with the smallest detail of his experience. Florisa's regular presence on the scene is explained only by her mute friendship with Galatea19. Darinto appears merely as an auxiliary lover of Blanca; his past and personality remain mysteries. As happens in life, the characters are introduced in varying degrees of intensity rather than by complete autobiographies. In La Galatea, Cervantes varies the characters' involvement in the first plane of the narration and does not necessarily reveal everyone's past in the second-plane recollections. He thereby sacrifices the depth of pastoral friendship among his characters for a more realistic and wider variety of acquaintances for them.

Because La Galatea is peopled with active beings who come and go from the scene of the first narrative plane and who do not necessarily bare their souls to anyone, their lives are truer to real life than those of shepherds in earlier pastoral books. The higher fidelity to actuality came at a price, to be sure: because of the way in which most characters enter and exit the first plane of the narration and the differing degrees of intensity with which they participate in the pastoral experience, the locus ceases to serve as a retreat and becomes only a meeting place, which demeans the contemplative, sedate ideal of the pastoral mode. Indeed, the pastoral ideal as depicted in La Galatea is not sedate at all: the only second-plane narrations told while the protagonists and listeners are seated are those of Lisandro and Teolinda and the second half of Silerio's. Interestingly, the men's are told at night and Teolinda's during the noon hour, as if all time not reserved for sleeping were destined for physical activity20. This is indeed the case: all the other interpolations are related while the characters are busily walking from one place to another. The affinity between talking or singing and walking is taken so far that the characters lament arrival at their destination because they scarcely have a chance to play their roles as literary shepherds except while walking: «Bien tomaron por partido los que escuchando a Elicio y a Erastro iban que más el camino se alargara, para gustar más del agradable canto de los enamorados pastores» (II: 89). The most important development of plot in the first narrative plane, the news of Galatea's impending betrothal, is not only revealed to Damón by Elicio as they are walking (II: 129-30), but Elicio himself received the news from Galatea's father «en el camino» (II: 130).

It may be that the characters of La Galatea spend more time on the road than the most itinerant pícaro, and although they remain within the physical boundaries of the prescribed setting (here the banks of the Tagus), their constant movement within those boundaries undermines the inactive idealism of that very environment. Although these characters do indeed have past experiences to relate, the emphasis has shifted from the experiences themselves to what happens in their wake, and both are told within the context of movement. Whereas traditional pastoral «tells», Cervantes' pastoral «shows». The implication seems to be that contemplation is only done when time allows, on the way to something or somewhere else; the value of remembering, thinking about and discussing with others one's emotions no longer in itself justifies the narration.

The narrative structure here described, in which action occurs on the first as well as the second narrative plane, forces some disrupting consequences on the pastoral community in La Galatea. In La Diana and, to a lesser extent, in Diana enamorada, there is a sense of protection in an isolated world that allows the characters (and readers) to feel a certain intimate trust with each other and the environment. They come upon each other by accident, and a genuine sense of their solitude is communicated before they join the pastoral group. La Galatea, on the contrary, is packed full of characters who are not isolated physically from each other or from the concerns that the pastoral usually proposes to escape, honour and honestidad in particular. The pastoral disguise is no longer understood to guarantee purity of intention in love. Instead, characters control their behaviour as much for the sake of appearance as for their noble intentions: Galatea is almost smug when she hears Tirsi and Damón talk about her well-controlled relationship with Elicio, and «desde aquel punto determinó de no hacer por Elicio cosa que diese ocasión a que la fama no saliese verdadera en los que de sus pensamientos publicaba» (I: 111). Elicio, in turn, harbours a pointed concern with his shepherdess' spotless reputation: «Quedábase [Elicio] solamente con el gusto de aquel primer movimiento, por parecerle que a la honestidad de Galatea se le hacía agravio en tratarle de cosas que en alguna manera pudiesen tener sombra de no ser tan honestas que la misma honestidad en ellas se transformase» (I: 17; see also I: 116; II: 262-63).

The locus no longer offers even the semblance of a free space and time relatively uninhibited by society's paranoias. Instead, the characters display an acute sensitivity to life beyond Arcadia. For that outside world, in turn, certain individuals who live pastoral lives could serve as role models; for example, of Galatea it is said that «las discretas damas en los reales palacios crecidas y al discreto tracto de la corte acostumbradas, se tuvieran por dichosas de parecerla en algo, así en la discreción como en la hermosura» (I: 16). There are many points of contact such as this between the pastoral world and the larger one in La Galatea; the door separating the two spheres, in earlier pastoral books closed and locked, has been left decidedly ajar.

The preoccupation with what others think displayed by Cervantes' characters shrinks the pastoral environment uncomfortably; the shepherds and shepherdesses are always aware that what they are seen to do determines who they are, an awareness heightened by the fact that there is always someone listening to or observing them in one way or another. Because of the quantity of characters, their concern with honour and morality, and their restless movement -which forces them to run into each other constantly- La Galatea depicts a world in which there is no intimacy because there is no privacy. In no other pastoral book do the characters regularly go out of their way to spy on each other as they do here: Elicio is almost stoned by Leandro when the former emerges from a hiding place in the bushes (I: 35); Galatea, Florisa, and Teolinda hide so close to where Rosaura brings Grisaldo that Teolinda can immediately identify them both (II: 9-10); the same trio emerges disappointed from the hiding place from which they hoped to learn the name of Lauso's lady by eavesdropping (II: 27), and on go the examples. Such activities make the characters' obsession with themselves as visual objects, subject to judgement based on appearances, perfectly understandable, for theirs is a world in which no one's solitude is respected and no one's secrets are kept. The incessant and often stealthy contact between them creates an environment much less intimate than the isolated natural world of the earlier pastoral books. Certainly in Montemayor's La Diana there is an implicit respect for and sympathy with a human being's moments alone; for example, there is a quality of tender poetry about the moment in which the nymphs and shepherds happen upon Belisa as she sleeps alone on an island, her hair dishevelled about her face and tears still on her cheeks21. There is no such air of lonely and quiet melancholy about La Galatea, surely in part because the characters are rarely, if ever, described in a state of true emotional or physical solitude.

The environment of heightened social awareness depicted in La Galatea makes it clear that the age of the exalted individual was well on the wane by 1585. Indeed, the overall structure of the six books emphasizes conformity within a collective whole. Books I, II and III each end with the characters gathering at the end of the day, following a road together, everyone accounted for. The first three books culminate in a group activity, the wedding of Silveria and Daranio in Book III, where Elicio and Damón deliver sermonic discourses on pure love. This is the episode that Cervantes substitutes for the stay of Montemayor's characters at Felicia's palace. Appropriately, whereas Montemayor resorted to an allegorical ceremony at the middle of La Diana, Cervantes provides an example of that rite which is the social end to which all human love should be directed: Christian marriage22.

Books IV, V and VI work quickly up to an accumulation of characters and end with them dispersed into pairs or small groups, contrary to the pattern of reunion at the end of Books I, II and III. Book IV contains the second half of Cervantes' answer to Montemayor's gathering at Felicia's palace (where the characters of La Diana listen to love doctrine). Having gathered his characters together as well, Cervantes presents not an authoritative doctrine but a debate, as Lenio and Tirsi expound their differing views on love. The last three books culminate in Meliso's memorial service, where not only the characters of La Galatea «sino todos los pastores de aquella ribera» gather to celebrate a rite of death23. It is after these ceremonious reminders that love leads to marriage and that life, even in Arcadia, does not last forever that Elicio and Galatea begin to move out of the sphere of the literary shepherd and into the realm of action24.

No longer a retreat that holds a guaranteed, if fantastic, solution to each person's individual sufferings, the locus amoenus has been integrated into the rest of the world and the totality of life through narrative structure, and such structural integration implies a specific meaning. Prior to Cervantes, the separation of the two narrative planes of pastoral had served to dim most harsh realities, except the truth of emotions, for a brief time. The pastoral books having run their course, we find Cervantes leaving Arcadia as we read La Galatea. In it, the past is immediate and continues directly into the present, there is no hope for guaranteed satisfaction of desire, the pressures of the group overcome the desires of the individual, death is imminent. Both in narrative structure and the meaning it implies, La Galatea presages Don Quijote, in which a far more complicated narrative tapestry reveals still more poignantly the impossibility of escaping from the present or from the exigencies of surrounding society25.