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ArribaAbajoHeroes and Villains in Galdós: Lo prohibido and Macbeth

James Whiston

Lo prohibido is so full of references to England and things English that it might with some justification be called «Galdós's English novel». His interest in English matters can be traced back to the friendship between young Benito and the Tare family in Las Palmas, documented by Berkowitz (26-27), where he probably had his first experience of the English language through his contacts with that family. The happy and unhappy intertwining of English and Spanish history from 1805 to 1833 -Trafalgar, the Peninsular Wars, the flight of Spanish exiles to Britain during the «ominosa década»- meant that Galdós could not ignore Britain, as he wrote the early series of his Episodios, set in those twenty years of the prolonged, if sometimes barely discernible birthpangs of modern Spain. Ricardo Gullón, commenting on the English influence in Galdós, in one of the most fluid and suggestive works that has been written on Galdós (and which I will have occasion to use throughout this article), makes the observation that Inglaterra «era el país organizado políticamente más de acuerdo con la mentalidad y las ideas de Galdós, porque había establecido la libertad dentro del orden» (26). Certainly Britain's repeal of the 17th-century anti-Catholic laws with the enactment of Catholic Emancipation in 1829, and then the Great Reform of 1832, which significantly extended the electoral franchise, were reforms that would have been dear to Galdós's heart, as examples of political and constitutional progress achieved without the shedding of blood, the latter a seemingly unavoidable requirement for waking Spain from what Antonio Machado was later to call her mystical, warlike slumber. In the British parliamentary session of 1884-1885 under the tireless reforming zeal of Gladstone, then in his mid seventies, a further' extension of the electoral franchise was being debated, this time to agricultural workers. These debates coincided with the writing of Lo prohibido, and Galdós was able to use this renewed interest in English political affairs in the characterization of the narrator/protagonist and of the anglophile aristocrat, Pepe Carrillo.

Berkowitz has also documented Galdós's first trip to England in 1883, when he spent the whole of the summer season there, based in London (180-81). And his biographer goes on to highlight, above all of Galdós's attachment to things English, his deep reverence for Shakespeare's life and works. «In Shakespeare», writes Berkowitz, «he saw the essence of divinity and regarded his birthplace as sacred soil» and the biographer goes on to assert that «in the [1880s] Galdós was an accomplished student of Shakespeare», continuing, with some exaggeration, «one might say that he knew his [Shakespeare's] plays better than his own novels» (182). Four years after completing Lo prohibido Galdós visited Shakespeare's birthplace, recording his abiding memories of that pilgrimage in his article «La casa de Shakespeare». Contemplating the English dramatists's tomb, as well as his bust in the Stratford-on-Avon church, Galdós recalls such a sensation of intimate sympathy with Shakespeare that the experience, he writes, «nos lleva a compenetrarnos   —78→   con el espíritu allí representado, y a sentirle dentro de nosotros mismos, cual si lo absorbiéramos por misteriosa comunión» (1438).

Shakespeare is iconographically present in Lo prohibido in the form of a bronze bust which is bought by Carrillo and later by the protagonist when Eloisa is forced to sell household effects in order to remain solvent. At a decisive moment -the day of Carrillo's funeral- in his negotiation of what he calls the «aguas turbias y traicioneras» (2: 23)49 of Madrid, the protagonist José María finds himself gazing at the bust of Shakespeare in the dead man's study. The first sentence describing the bust contains one of the strangest phrases that Galdós ever wrote: «El gran dramático me miraba con sus ojos de bronce, y yo no podía apartar los míos de aquella calva hermosa, cuya severa redondez semeja el molde de un mundo; de aquella frente que habla; de aquella boca que piensa; de aquella barba y nariz tan firmes que parece estar en ellas la emisión de la voluntad» (1: 290). The type of conceit used by the narrator in this sentence is probably unique in Galdós, who was not given to such paradoxical compression. The Aguilar edition of the Obras completas «corrects» the terms in order to give them a logical sense, as follows: «de aquella frente que piensa; de aquella boca que habla» (1762). The evidence of the manuscript, however, in the Casa-Museo Pérez Galdós suggests that the first edition is correct when it gives the paradoxical phrases. Galdós had written on page 491 of the final draft of the manuscript: «de [aquella barba enérgica, de] aquella boca que piensa, de aquella barba aguda que es la expresión de la voluntad». (He crossed out what is in square brackets.) It is unlikely, on adding «aquella frente que habla» at the galley stage, that he would have continued any original error. The paradox as we have it makes the point that for the narrator of Lo prohibido, and probably for Galdós as well, Shakespeare represented such an enviable unity of thought («frente») and word («boca») that these could be transposed and fused, so well harnessed were they by the dramatist's clearsightedness and strength of will. The sentence also draws our attention to the two qualities that to a greater or lesser extent are lacking in the protagonist: clarity of thought and integrity of action.

The narrator then confesses to being overcome later on by a similar sensation to Galdós's, when looking at the bust: «Me daban ganas de rezarle, como los devotos rezan delante de un Cristo, y de interesarle en las confusiones que me agitaban, rogándole que pusiera alguna claridad en mi alma». The similarity of the reactions, in the use of the religious comparisons, is probably only one example, among many, of the overlap in ideas between Galdós and his narrator, an overlap that is a central part of the complexity of this novel. The differences, however, between the two quotations are also telling. Galdós's sentiment, although expressed as a simile, is of complete communion with the spirit of Shakespeare. The narrator's form of sympathy is expressed as wishful thinking and a passing fancy («me daban ganas»), and «alguna claridad» would be sufficient in order to extricate himself from the difficulties that face him; hence the last phrase of the quotation captures the moment when José María's desire for enlightenment tails away into evasion and lack of resolve. If symbolism, or at least juxtapositional ironies, count for anything in Galdós, then the words that follow the narrator's reference to «alguna claridad» put his desire into a context that suggests less rather than more enlightenment. He immediately describes how, «Al anochecer», he flees the funeral gathering for the company of Carrillo's son, Rafaelito, whose bluntly innocent questioning then drives him away from the house altogether.


Camila's view of Shakespeare in Chapter 23 is probably meant to be interpreted as praise of the dramatist, when she remarks to Constantinc, of the plays: «éstas son muchas mieles para tu boca» (2: 240), although the remark could mean that Shakespeare is too difficult to be read aloud to another, as Constantino does for Camila. Shakespeare, it seems, is not for everybody: «Prosa, hijito, prosas claras que enseñen lo que se debe saber» is Camila's response to what is on offer from José María's bookshelves, as she rejects Shakespeare for Don Quixote. Camila's choice reinforces the mutuality of her marriage to Constantino: not for her the individual anguish of Macbeth or Hamlet expressed in soliloquy, but rather the prose that describes the dialogues between Quixote and Sancho. An important aspect of Lo prohibido is the way in which the worlds of «soltería» and of marriage are juxtaposed and explored. Macbeth, too, juxtaposes the individual consciousness with the «married» consciousness, and the expression of their conjunction and disjunction in the play may have acted as a stimulus for this exploration in Lo prohibido. On a broader, intertextual level, Galdós's portrayal of the dark moods and desires of his narrator, contrasted with the unquestioning mutuality of Camila and Constantino, juxtaposes Shakespearian and Cervantine world-pictures in this novel, enriching it in the process.

The use of a simple prop such as the bust of Shakespeare in Lo prohibido is a good demonstration of Galdós's usually unerring instinct for «la apropiada colocación de todas las cosas» (1: 28) in his novels (the words are the narrator's, describing Eloísa's skill as an interior designer). The strength, solidity and firmness associated with the bronze bust, the broad shape of the head, were perhaps sufficient on their own to suggest the two qualities lacking in the narrator of the novel: the capacity to think clearly and in the broadest context, and the willpower to put thought into practice. Galdós, of course, was not alone in worshipping at the shrine of Shakespeare. Nearly fifty years before Galdós's visit to Stratford, Thomas Carlyle wrote in his work On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History (delivered as a series of lectures in 1840: Shakespeare is included among the heroes) that «there is a kind of sacredness in the fact of such a man being sent into this Earth. Is he not an eye to us all; a blessed heaven-sent Bringer of Light?» (103). Shakespeare's presence as icon in Lo prohibido also serves as this kind of potential for enlightened action throughout the «oscuras páginas» (2: 392) that the narrator supposedly publishes at the end of his life/story. Galdós, seeing thought, word and action as a seamless piece in the life and work of Shakespeare, uses this view of the dramatist for his own dramatic purposes in Lo prohibido.

I put the word «dramatic» rather than «narrative» here because one is very conscious of the novelist as dramatist when reading Lo prohibido, where Galdós, using many theatrical references, plays off «serious» art against the popular kind. In this novel it is the poorly read Camila and Constantino who go to the serious theatre, the comedia (they meet there for the first time), while the narrator, owner of a large library, and Eloísa, his aesthetically conscious lover, patronize «los teatros y cafés cantantes más depravados» (1: 145) in Paris, and contemplate escaping to the more innocent Spanish counterparts of such theatres when they return to Madrid. José María, before his stroke, takes to frequenting the Lara, Variedades and Eslava theatres looking for quick laughs.

The bicentenary of Calderón's death falls within the time-scale of the novel and the celebrations that took place in Madrid during May 1881 are mentioned. Calderón   —80→   appears again as an aid to describing the sumptuous mirror, the purchase of which triggers José María's adultery with Eloísa. The latter's feasts, characterized by vanity and deceit, with the narator cast in the role of a nineteenth-century Nebuchadnezzar, have Calderonian overtones, none more so than when José María is being counselled by his «uncle» Rafael (his second cousin), a «deus ex machina» whose nineteenth-century version of levitation (being «suspendido todo el día» [2: 3141) is merely an imaginary affliction brought on by chronic overspending on the domestic budget. «Derrama, hijo, tu imaginación por los teatros de esta pequeña Babel, por sus tiendas, por sus increíbles y desproporcionados lujos» (2: 315), he expostulates, as his wife walks past them, dressed with the utmost extravagance. And could Calderón have ever incorporated a moralizing «senex» into such a comic vignette as Galdós does with Rafael when he is expounding on what he calls «el mal madrileño»? Having by this time lost some front teeth, Rafael's fricatives and sibilants escape through the gaps. Emphasizing words through exaggerated gesticulation (in lieu of effective action, Galdós may be slyly implying), the narrator imagines Rafael frantically plucking the air in order to put the lost consonants back into their proper places.

As described here, the joke falls flat, but in drawing attention to Galdós's ingenious mingling of the serious and the comic, one is observing that the intertextual lineage from the Renaissance to Galdós has a stronger thread of continuity from Shakespeare than from Calderón, even though Galdós, in Lo prohibido at least, took inspiration from both. With regard to dramatic structure as a general influence on this novel, Lo prohibido is probably the nearest Galdós came, outside the epistolary or dialogue form, to constructing a novel that approaches the condition of dramatic irony, whereby the protagonist/narrator, like Macbeth, cannot «look into the seeds of time», but has to wait for the «nuevos sucesos para calcarlos en el papel en cuanto ellos salieran de las nieblas del tiempo» (2: 238).

With volumes in English of Shakespeare's works in his library (and in that of the narrator of Lo prohibido, according to Camila, as she scans his bookshelves) Galdós probably read the dramatist in the original. Pedro Ortiz Armengol is also of this opinion, although it is unlikely that Galdós could do so with the degree of fluency and understanding he suggests: «A Shakespeare podría leerlo, con las dificultades en las que participa cualquier inglés, en su propio idioma» (1006). There are many references in Shakespeare to words or phrases of a proverbial nature or with native etymological roots that would be recognized instinctively by a native English speaker but not by a foreigner with a literary knowledge of the language only. To give just one example from Menéndez Pelayo's Spanish version of Macbeth and from one of the speeches from the play referred to in Lo probibido: Macbeth's fine, «For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind», is rendered as «Yo vendré a ser el bienhechor de la familia de Banquo» (146). To an English-speaking reader the shift from «file» to «defile» and thence to «foul» is not an onerous one (Nicholas Brooke, in the edition of Macbeth used for this article, also gives as a possible interpretation «sharpened [as for dagger]»50). However, it is easy to see why Menéndez Pelayo might have had difficulty with the word and would have opted for a neutral rendering of the line. Hope Goodale has suggested that María Juana's translation of the famous «too full o' th' milk of human kindness» (111) is also evidence that Galdós read the play in the original (253). María Juana's version is «hecho de la miel del cariño   —81→   humano» (2: 217), the «miel» in Goodale's view being a snap mistranslation by Galdós of the visually similar «milk» of the original. While agreeing that the line is based on Galdós's rendering of it from English, I am not so sure that it is an accidental mistranslation, as I will discuss later, when dealing with the quotation. Another pointer to an original reading of Shakespeare is when Tristana, using Macbeth as a language-learning text, quotes, in English, Lady Macbeth's cry «unsex me here» (113), surely one of the most profoundly illustrative uses of Shakespeare in all his novels.

Galdós had two Spanish translations of Macbeth (among other Shakespeare plays) in his library, as well as volumes in English of the dramatist's work, the Menéndez Pelayo translation and one by Guillermo Macpherson.51 It is impossible to know whether he had these translations at the time of writing Lo prohibido, especially the Macpherson verse translation, published in 1885, four years after Menéndez Pelayo's version. It is just possible, however, that a reading of the 1885 translation may have acted as a stimulus for the references to Macbeth that appear in that part of the final version of Lo prohibido which was composed from early to mid February 1885.52 Having perused both translations, my conclusion is that Galdós was certainly remembering the English original when referring to the play. María Juana's «hecho de la miel del cariño humano» is as far away stylistically from Macphersods «repleto / Del lácteo jugo de humanal clemencia» (165-66) as one could imagine any two knowledgeable translations of the same line. (Menéndez Pelayo's version reads: «tu carácter criado con la leche de la clemencia» [122].)

Brooke writes that this play «is unique among Shakespeare's tragedies in centring on an intimate marriage [...]. The characters of the two principals are simply and clearly defined, which has made them a favourite topic for junior exams; it is their relationship which is the focus of real interest in the play» (19). Although one might take issue with the adverbs that describe Macbeth and his wife here, the play's depiction of Macbeth's initial inner struggles and later descent into bloodsheed, and the opposite path taken by Lady Macbeth, traces a fairly clear quasi-biographical trajectory that is easy to retain in the memory, and hence makes an enduring impact. Macbeth is one of the shortest of Shakespeare's plays and perhaps his most concentrated, based on an appealing mix, especially for nineteenth-century taste, of domestic and social matters, and considerations of a socio-political nature such as kinship, citizenship and the health of the body politic. María Juana in Lo prohibido describes Macbeth as the play «par excellence»: «aquel drama de los dramas» (2: 217). An important point made by Brooke which is of relevance to Galdós's conception of heroes and villains is in connection with Shakespeare's use of his principal source for Macbeth, the Holinshed Chronicles. Holinshed described Macbeth's first ten years as King of Scotland in very positive terms, and Brooke suggests that Shakespeare, although suppressing this aspect of Macbeth's reign, «very possibly transferred the idea of it to the potential in Macbeth's character» (70). The mixture of attraction and revulsion with which the reader or spectator views the character of Macbeth is doubtless an important element in Galdós's incorporation of reminiscences of the play into Lo prohibido. Arising from this mixture of good and bad in Macbeth's character is another feature of the play which is a source of its endless fascination, a feature that is also a central part of the problematic of Lo prohibido, and which, as regards Macbeth, is summed up by Brooke as follows: «Macbeth may speak words beyond his consciousness;   —82→   which means that his language may show us things other than the man» (14). Is this not the same impact that the narrator of Lo prohibido makes on the reader: that there are times when he voices the values of an ideal implied author, even as at other times his observations, and his actions above all, descend to a conventional level of insensitive egotism which the reader cannot condone? It appears undeniable that, where heroes and villains were concerned, Galdós followed the Shakespeare of Macbeth, by a conception of character that incorporated the terms «both... and» rather than «either... or». Ricardo Gullón has contrasted Galdós and Dickens in this respect when he writes: «Generalmente, las ficciones dickensianas presentan personajes envarados, poco flexibles. En Galdós son más fluidos, indecisos, ondulantes» (53).

In Chapter 17 of Lo prohibido Galdós, through his narrator, offers a justification for any apparent inconsistency in his development of character when judged by classical canons. Evidently seeing his memoirs as nearer to the heroic rather than to the picaresque mode of narration, the narrator, nonetheless, asks why he should be expected to actively pursue and perform great and good deeds. And he goes on to distance the account of his own life from the lives of heroes and heroines as presented in Renaissance literature, especially the «comedia», which followed, he claims, «una lógica de encargo, la lógica del mecanismo teatral en la Comedia» (2: 23). Galdós's logic emerges from what he sees as a consequence of motivation and action, and is not a preconceived view of how character should develop. Much of Gullón's deep meditation on Galdós's novels revolves around the freedom that Galdós allows his characters, whereby «Nadie puede prever el comportamiento de estos personajes, porque el novelista [Galdós] no se finge habitante de ellos y los deja vivir, los deja en disponibilidad para la vida, para ser formados por los sucesos» (54). One of the doodles that Galdós penned on the manuscript of Lo probibido, on the page of the first draft that deals with the final illness of Carrillo, was a perfect copperplate rendering of the phrase «Caía y se le» (the last word being an abbreviation of «levantaba») followed by another exaggeratedly perfect version of the word «Caía», One can see in Galdós's drawn-out fondness for this truncated phrase an inkling of his mode of characterization: ups and downs and zigzagging patterns are of more interest to him than the imposition of a linear logic. This is not to say, of course, that logic is drowned in the cross-currents of affection and antipathy that are channelled through the novels. One of the recurring phrases or paraphrases that one remembers from reading Galdós is la lógica de las circunstancias, sometimes accompanied by an adjective such as «terrible». (A student of graphology, too, might point to the extravagantly neat penmanship of the doodle as a visual representation of Galdós's desire for an ordered pattern in what he wrote.)

Returning to Macbeth, where, Brooke tells us, «equivocation can properly be seen as a fundamental preoccupation of the play» (60), it is not difficult to see how the theme and text of Shakespeare's play made its way into the composition of Lo prohibido, even when one immediately recognizes the obvious contrast between the world-pictures of both works. «Equivocation», indeed, may be taken as another word for «inconsistency», much in the same way as the narrator of Lo prohibido argues for his right to be «inconsistent». We could take, for example, Malcolm's (admittedly second-hand) account of the dignity of the rebel Cawdor's death a disconcerting mixture of «foul and fair» that is in evidence throughout so much of the play. Or we could cite Malcolm's own   —83→   confessions of «Voluptuousness» and «stanchless avarice» (185) to the bemused Macduff. (These fantasies of avarice find their echo in Lo prohibido in José María's deliriums of wealth at the end of Chapter 9.) Macbeth's courage in fighting Macduff when all the prophecies have deserted him would seem to qualify him for inclusion in the ranks of Aristotle's most virtuous men (courage is given pride of place in the Ethics), and Macbeth's motivation appears to correspond to Aristotle's requirements that the courageous man should endure sufferings and even death, when he is convinced that «it is noble so to do or because it is base not to do so» (92).

Once we turn our thoughts conjointly towards Macbeth and Lo prohibido some surprising parallels emerge, apart from those suggested already, and from the four explicit references to the play in the novel. Both tell of a country (Spain/Scodand) contrasted with the good order and government of another (England). Both protagonists succeed in gaining access to «lo prohibido» early in their stories, the remainder of which tells of their fruitless quest for secure possession, because both, by the very act of possession, have destroyed the individual integrity of the institution (kingship, marriage) that they have usurped. Or, in the words of the narrator of Lo prohibido, «Robar lo robado nunca se consideró delito» (1: 174). The betrayal of kinship and friendship is central to both (Macbeth and Duncan are cousins; in the novel the narrator is similarly related by consanguinity or marriage to all the other major characters). Both works also have «three sisters» who play the major part in the protagonists' downfall. The first reference to Macbeth during the composition of Lo prohibido appears towards the end of the second manuscript draft of the novel, on page 555. It may have been the association of these three figures on the page in front of him that prompted Galdós's comparison of the buzzing sound in his narrator's ears with the greeting of the three Weird Sisters: «mi ruido de oídos, me decía, como las tres hermanas confederadas decían a Macbeth: 'salve Rey'.»53 The narrator, however, had just written that he wanted Camila for his wife «pesara a todas las potencias infernales y celestiales», so that this sentiment could have suggested the quotation from Macbeth. The three sisters of Lo prohibido cannot be called «confederate», because they live quite separate lives, but the narrator is convinced towards the end of his story that «entre las tres me habían puesto así» (2: 351), in which the first three words do suggest the sisters' combined effect on the narrator's sorry state.

After the death of the good but foolish Carrillo, José María emerges from the dead man's room into the dawn light, stained with his blood. His description of himself is certainly reminiscent of the bloodstained Macbeth leaving Duncan's room, with analogous overtones of murder, guilt, revelation and horror: «En el pasillo me vi a la claridad del día, que entraba ya por las ventanas del patio, y sentí un horror de mí mismo que no puedo explicar ahora. Parecía un asesinó, un carnicero, qué sé yo... Salióme al encuentro Micaela, la doncella de Rafael, que me tuvo miedo y echó a correr dando gritos» (1: 284). Linked with the idea of guilt in both works is its effect on the protagonists. Macbeth hears a voice crying «Macbeth shall sleep no more» (128), while José María too has the sensation after his financial collapse that he will not sleep again: «Luego desperté como quien no había de volver a dormir en toda su vida. ¡Despierto para siempre!» (2: 333). Both protagonists suffer increasing isolation as the works progress, a condition that, although they are surrounded by people, makes them feel imprisoned within the walls of their own mind and with a weakening resolve to live. Macbeth,   —84→   «cabined, cribbed, confined» (154) from the moment that he hears that Banquo's son has escaped, complains, as the military odds become stacked against him, I have lived long enough» (199). These sentiments are echoedby the narrator of Lo prohibido when Camila and Constantino exclude him from their life: «La soledad horrible de mi vida me iba acorralando cada vez más, poniéndome fosco y encariñándome con la fea muerte» (2: 313-14).

As with Macbeth, conventional gender role-reversal is associated with the protagonist of Lo prohibido. Macbeth's consciousness of Lady Macbeth's exhortation to him to «Be so much more the man» (120) had been anticipated by him in the lines «I dare do all that may become a man, / Who dares do more is none». In Lo prohibido the narrator's English upbringing is linked to his mother, and is given conventionally feminine characteristics («escrúpulos de la conversación [...] puritanismo en las costumbres» (1: 991). The nicknames applied to him by Fúcar and Camila («Traviatito» and «tísico») have more literary/artistic associations with women than men. At the end, José María's «voz atiplada» (2: 377) and «La absoluta muerte de las facultades más características del hombre» (2: 350) also suggest feminine, or at least non-masculine, attributes.

Bearing in mind these analogies, parallels and reminiscences, it is significant that the first direct reference to Macbeth in Lo Prohibido should be to the sleepwalking scene in Act 5, which is probably the most homely and intimate scene in the play, and therefore forms a parallel with the episode in the novel of Carrillo's first grave illness and the «malos augurios» (1: 223), as in Macbeth as well, of the doctor in attendance. The scene in the play shows us Lady Macbeth at her most vulnerable, carrying a light because of her fear of the dark -(«Hell is murky», (194), she says, as she walks in her sleep), continually rubbing her hands (195), as if trying to clean them, and imagining herself taking Macbeth by the hand and urging him to sleep. Seeing Eloisa dressed in her housecoat, also carrying a light and coming out from Carrillo's bedroom, José María momentarily confuses her with Shakespeare's character: «creí ver a lady Macbeth cuando el paso aquel de las manos manchadas» (1: 225). Apart from differences over money, and José María's dream at the end of Chapter 9 when he imagines Eloísa being unfaithful, the reference to the sleepwalking scene from Macbeth is the first occasion when Eloisa appears in his eyes as a burden. The sentence «Se había quitado su vestido de sociedad y puéstose la bata de raso blanco» is full of the significance with which Galdós can invest a seemingly innocuous few descriptive words. The abrupt change in Eloísa from dazzling society lady to «hausfrau» is a marvellous little «coup de théâtre» by Galdós, and a mortal blow to José Maria's ailing fantasies of sexual adventure and romance. To his involuntary glance Eloísa has already taken the same trajectory as Lady Macbeth. From the quiet obscurity of her social position before her secret affair with José María, through the scaling of the social heights with her famous Thursday «soirdes», he now sees her terrified of her bad dreams and of being left alone (2: 225-26).

Before José María goes home, Eloísa unconsciously imitates Lady Macbeth's concern for Macbeth in the sleepwalking scene («put on your nightgown, look not so pale... To bed, to bed... come, come, give me your hand») when she adjusts José María's cravat and collar against the night cold. As in the scene from Macbeth, the reader feels conflicting sentiments: one that moves us to sympathize with Eloísa and Lady Macbeth, the other   —85→   to distance ourselves from them, because each is -in very different ways- what María Juana later calls Lady Macbeth, a «grandísima bribona» (2: 217). Eloísa, of course, must gain the reader's sympathy in any comparison because of the latter's savagery, shown earlier in the play: in Galdós's prose lesser passions attenuate the physically destructive capacity of his characters. Ricardo Gullón uses Lo prohibido in his study as a typical example of the way that Galdós's characters in the Novelas contemporáneas are driven by desires that are domestic and vocational rather than any «folie de grandeur»; and of their emotional desires, he writes: «Lo prohibido que les atrae no es lo satánico, sino el pecado de cada día: pequeños adulterios, con ribetes de incesto en el caso de Bueno de Guzmán, que se imagina depravado porque codicia a sus lindas primas» (182). While agreeing with Gullón's general emphasis, the consequences of satisfying such desires in Galdós's novels, although not creating the murder and mayhem of Macbeth, may result in premature death, violent, natural, or, as in the case of Fortunata, somewhere in between; incarceration in prison or some from of institution; prostitution, emigration or isolation from Spanish society. Blake's marriage hearse is also a necessary mode of transport through life for many female characters in the novels.

Whatever may be the outcome of choices, forced or free, made in Galdós's novels, the distance between the two scenes under discussion is still very evident. Although Lady Macbeth's deep-seated guilt and intimate need of Macbeth in the sleepwalking scene lend pathos to its counterpart in Lo prohibido, the scenes are marked by distance, not closeness. In the latter scene José María is portrayed as a spectator, seeing Eloísa as if she were an actress in the play, thereby accentuating the process of distancing himself from her and dismissing their affair as a piece of theatre that would not outlive the magical illusion of the stagecraft that had created it. This insinuation is only fully recognized by the narrator on the death of Carrillo, which strips the affair of its enchantment. «Sí, sí; la muerte de Pepe había sido como uno de esos giros de teatro que destruyen todo encanto y trastornan la magia de la escena» (1: 295), the narrator comments two chapters later. Galdós uses the pathos of the sleepwalking scene in Macbeth, but adds a drier, harder edge to it, because, while not at all imbued with the primal passions and blooddrenched sensibility of Macbeth, in its own cool way the scene in Lo prohibido delineates the process of the destruction of an illusion, just as Shakespeare's shows us Lady Macbeth transformed into someone demented and fearful.

If the first reference to Macbeth in Lo prohibido, which we have just examined, allowed for some overlap between the kind of pathos evoked in both scenes, although each has quite a different emotional temperature, the next reference explicitly draws attention to the contrast between the protagonists of both works. The reversal of the narrator's name from the legend of heroic antiquity, whereby «Guzmán el Bueno» becomes «Bueno de Guzmán» is a fairly direct indication that Galdós is using this novel as a sounding board for a presentation of the possibility for heroism in an age of prose.54 The first direct quotation from Macbeth in the final paragraph of Chapter 19 quite openly contrasts the heroic and the prosaic, when the narrator remembers his despair at not being able to sow discord between Camila and Constantino. (Incidentally, the unusual word order, «eternal joya», which follows the original English, «eternal jewel», to the point of inverting the normal Spanish, is as decent a proof as possible that Galdós remembered the reference from an English edition. Menéndez Pelayo and Macpherson   —86→   translate the phrase as «el tesoro de mi alma» [146] and «La joya de mi vida» [191], respectively.

Aquella fe ciega que tenían el uno en el otro era lo que me desesperaba... ¡Que no vinieran los tiempos en que un hombre podía evocar al Diablo, y previa donación o hipoteca del alma, celebrar con él un convenio para obtener las cosas estimadas imposibles! Yo quizás no hubiera cedido mi alma sino a retroventa, para pagarla después de algún modo, o redimirme con oraciones y recobrar la que Shakespeare llama eternal joya... Pero ya no hay diablos que presten estos servicios; tiene uno que arreglarse como pueda.

(2: 97)                

The reference is to Act 3, Scene I, when Macbeth remembers the witches' promise to Banquo that he will be the progenitor of kings: «If't be so», Macbeth says in soliloquy:

For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind,
for them the gracious Duncan have I murdered,
put rancours in the vessel of my peace
only for them, and mine eternal jewel
given to the common enemy of man,
to make them kings, the seeds of Banquo kings.


The contrast between the satanic world of Macbeth and the stockbroking mentality of the narrator of Lo prohibido is evident, with mortgages, deferred payments and buyback clauses imagined as being built in to any agreement negotiated for the provision of «services» with the powers of darkness. Redemption through prayer is also considered a possibility, a Spanish option for a repentant Don Juan that is not open to Macbeth. Putting the reference to «mine eternal jewel» into the context of Macbeth's speech also underlines the gulf between the solemnity of Shakespeare's words and the flippant and comic tone of the narrator's remarks. The Macbeth quotation is not overly religious: it could be argued that Macbeth is at least as concerned that he has let down humanity by surrendering his soul to the enemy of all humankind as at any theological implications. But the solemnity, whether human or celestial/infernal, is in total contrast with the mentality exemplified by the narrator of Lo prohibido, who imagines his soul as a negotiable asset, placing the accent more on «joya» than on «eternal», in spite of the unusual order of the two words in the text. Also, Macbeth considers himself foredoomed, with his soul already given over to the devil, while the narrator thinks of his as still being in his possession because he has not yet seduced Camila.

Ortega's section «Irónico destino» in La deshumanización del arte is relevant to the narrator's tone in the paragraph from Lo prohibido under consideration. Ortega makes the point that in modern art the inspiration is «Siempre, indefectiblemente, cómica [...] Y no es que el contenido de la obra sea cómico [...] sino que, sea cual fuere el contenido, el arte mismo se hace broma» (60). According to this definition, Galdós is already inside the threshold of modernity, in the equivocal character of the narrator of Lo prohibido. Galdós's modern hero describes pain and loss in an ironic way because it is not possible for him to say with the Baroque protagonist that his soul is damned, in however humanistic a framework the latter may be expressed. Galdós captures pithily in the quotation from Lo prohibido the confused processes of the modern mind, wanting two   —87→   opposing attractions, forbidden fruit and integrity of soul, and counterpoises this with Macbeth's brutal clarity in accepting his own villainy. Macbeth is full of the «emociones fuertes» (2: 387) that the narrator of Lo prohibido at the end of his story says he has tried to avoid projecting as part of his narrative. Did Galdós have Macbeth in mind when his narrator then goes on to reject as untrue to contemporary experience a diet of «rebuscados espantos, sorpresas y burladeros de pensamiento y de frase, haciendo que las cosas parezcan de un modo y luego resulten de otro» (2: 388)? Dramatic «logic» in Macbeth includes all these ingredients that further the plot and hold a first-time audience in suspense. Although a genuine worshipper at the shrine of Shakespeare, Galdós was too conscious of his own integrity as an artist (very much in evidence in these last pages of Lo prohibido) not to recognize that he was responsible for his own «emisión [...] sincera de la verdad» (2: 387), describing some of the process of achieving it in this first section of the last chapter of the novel.

In his next reference to Macbeth, in Chapter 21 of the novel, the narrator compares his obsession with Camila to Macbeths fixation with his hands after the assassination of Duncan: «La miré de lejos, y su presencia, como a Macbeth las manchas de las manos, me arrancaba los ojos» (2: 149). The reference is to Act 2, Scene 2:

What hands are here? Ha, they pluck out mine eyes.
Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
clean from my hand? No -this my hand will rather
the multitudinous seas incarnadine,
making the green one red.


I have quoted the lines that follow the phrase cited in Lo prohibido to show how deeply rooted Macbeth's fantasy is in guilt and a desire for cleansing, whereas in Lo prohibido the blame, or at least the cause, for José María's plight is attributed to Camila: Macbeth never blames anybody but himself. The idea of blindness is common to this shared image, but in the transfer from the earlier to the later text the image of selfmutilation has been lost, and it is the contrasting use of the idea of blindness that Galdós may be underlining in the simile: the echo in Macbeth of Jesus's warning in Matthew 5, 29: «if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell». Therefore, where Macbeth's metaphorical blindness prompts some hope of salvation, through self-torture, at least of this metaphorical kind, the narrator in Lo prohibido attributes his blindness where Camila is concerned to a supernatural force against which he is powerless to act: at the end of the paragraph in which the reference to Macbeth appears, he excuses himself by writing that «Dios me habia hecho así y no podía ya ser de otro modo» (2: 150). Once again our narrator's religious/metaphysical sensibility appears remote and ineffectual compared to the agony of Macbeth's selfloathing. What Galdós does is to use the image of blindness naturalistically to show that José María's obsession with Camila literally blinds him to what his immediate surroundings offer him: his perspective on what is near becomes blurred because he only focuses on the distant Camila. The exacerbation of this physical perspective in José María's case means that Victoria, the young woman whom he is just beginning to court, «se borraba delante de mí» (2: 149) when Camila enters the room. José María's   —88→   perception then suffers a radical moral change: where before Victoria was interesting and sympathetic, she now becomes «la criatura más vulgar y sosa del mundo» (2: 150) in the course of a few minutes. «¡Injusticia mayor...!», José María as narrator comments. As narrator, therefore, José María suffers from an awareness of his disordered perception, as does Macbeth, but is without the tortured consciousness of the latter: that of being the centre of a struggle between satanic urges and gracious behaviour.

The most extended reference to Macbeth in Lo prohibido occurs in the conversation between Jose María and María Juana in Chapter 22 of the novel, when the latter offers her view of the play:

No es para que te pasmes... Vosotros los hombres sois más débiles que nosotras. Os llamáis sexo fuerte y sois todos de alfeñique. ¡Nosotras sí que somos fuertes! Ese maldito poeta inglés, ese Shakespeare era de mi misma opinión. Lee el Macbeth..., aunque supongo que lo habrás leído. Fíjate en aquel personaje, hecho de la miel del cariño humano, en aquel pobre hombre capaz de hacer el bien, y que hace el mal cuando la grandísima bribona de su mujer se lo manda; fíjate en ella, en lady Macbeth, que es el nervio y el impulso de la acción toda en aquel drama de los dramas. En fin, que nosotras somos el sexo fuerte, y sabemos ser heroínas antes que ustedes intenten ser héroes.

(2: 217)                

Of most interest generally is María Juana's interpretation of the play as a reflection of her own relationships, identifying herself with the strong-willed Lady Macbeth of the first part of the play, and comparing José María with the indecisive Macbeth, also of Acts 1 and 2. It is likely that María Juana's psychological characterization, that is, the play seen as a quasi nineteenth-century narrative, also appealed to Galdós. His interpretation, however, could not have been the eccentric one proposed by María Juana, who attributes Lady Macbeth's heroism to her savage authority in the early stages of the play and makes no reference to her remorse towards the end of it, whereas the reader's attention has already been drawn to the pathos of the sleepwalking scene earlier in the novel. In «La casa de Shakespeare» Galdós wrote that for him Lady Macbeth represented the essence of tragedy: she was for him the first of the «caracteres fundamentales de la creación shakespeariana: el trágico» (1439). María Juana, in buttonholing («Fíjate... fíjate») an outwardly submissive José María with her advice and theories in this Paragraph, is only a pale imitation of Lady Macbeth and is dealing with a character who has no intention of allowing her to dominate him. José María's deviousness gives the lie to María Juana's perceptions of her own superiority. Just as her interpretation of Macbeth falls short by seeing only one side of Lady Macbeth's character, so she also fails to see the complexity of José María, and how he is duping her.55

María Juana's characterization of Macbeth as «aquel pobre hombre» is a more intriguing reading of the play, in that it could be applied to all the phases of Macbeth's appearances in it. Three lines after her reference to «th' milk of human kindness» Lady Macbeth says of Macbeth: «What thou wouldst highly, / That wouldst thou holily» (111). Galdós's characterization of the protagonist of Lo prohibido may have been influenced by a reading of Macbeth as the story of a well-meaning man ruined by an «idde fixe». So too in Lo prohibido José María's thoughts before and during his affair with Eloísa are all of marriage to her, up to the death of Carrillo; and having seen the early demise of one former rival, he then hopes for a similar outcome for his new rival, the husband in the Miquis marriage. Galdós, of course, delights in accentuating the distance between   —89→   Macbeth and his own text, as well as exploring the analogies: the murders in Macbeth are associated with a warlike epoch, in much the same way, although greatly scaled down, as the warlike atmosphere of Doña Perfecta influences the murder of Pepe Rey, who symbolizes a new régime in Orbajosa, the murder influencing in its turn the melancholy decline of his betrothed Rosario. The wrong choices in Lo prohibido are mainly confined to matters financial and matrimonial, a long way from the dark powers that inhabit Orbajosa (although finance and matrimony feature here also) and worlds away from the Scotland of Macbeth.

Where the protagonists of Macbeth and Lo prohibido converge is in the estimate of their characters by the two women: that their husband/lover is, to quote Galdós's Spanish paraphrase of Shakespeare, «hecho de la miel del cariño humano». In this context it is worth recalling the order of the references to Macbeth in Lo prohibido: firstly, the one to the melancholy fate of Lady Macbeth, then the two that dramatize Macbeth's inner struggle, and finally the reference to the «th' milk of human kindness». While the three earlier references to Macbeth imply contrast and distance between the respective protagonists, the final one, made not by José María himself but by another character, invites a closer comparison between them, that of an innate value, suggested by the wholesome food metaphor and by the reference to «cariño humano/human kindness». However, while the latter is an apparent compliment by Lady Macbeth, it is potentially an insult too, because it applies to the warrior Macbeth attributions of specifically female nurture, this to a character who throughout the play attempts to assert his manliness. (Lady Macbeth's image could also be designed to portray her husband as an innocently contented, well-fed baby: the insult would still stand.) María Juana's translation of «milk» as «miel» avoids these implications of femininity or immaturity, and the reader therefore receives a view of the protagonist of Lo prohibido that is less barbed than the original in Macbeth.

That María Juana's view is meant to be read without irony is unlikely, given the equivocal mentality and situation of José María during his affair with her, and throughout much of the novel. Both the Shakespeare and Galdós stories can be seen as a struggle between opposing gender traits in their respective protagonists (as is also the case with Lady Macbeth and, without the tragic import, the portrayal of Camila). Macbeth fights on to the end, to redeem himself («lay on Macduff, / And damned be him that first cries 'Hold enough!'» [209]); the protagonist of Lo prohibido at the end feels the anxiety of Camila's birthpangs as his own (2:391). Galdós opts for the shaded tones of blended characteristics and it is with a more mellow version of the famous «milk of human kindness», spoken in the play at a time when Macbeth is still without blame, that Galdós chose to have a character refer to his protagonist, and also to bid farewell to Macbeth in Lo prohibido, as far as direct reference to the play is concerned. As we have seen, Galdós had already shown his independence of the Spanish translators of Macbeth, so that his choice of «miel» for «milk» seems deliberate enough.

Coming from a source such as María Juana, one phrase is not enough to turn our narrator/protagonist into a hero. It is a pointer, rather, in the overall context of the relationship between these two texts, to the ambiguous nature of Galdós's characterization of major personages in the Novelas contemporáneas, where the terms «hero» or «villain» are not discrete, mutually exclusive categories, and are, in any case, of   —90→   little help in establishing a taxonomy of characterization in Galdós. What we can say of Lo prohibido is that the presence of Macbeth in it and the order of the references to the former in the latter, enable us to view its disconcerting narrator/protagonist in a more benevolent frame of mind. If the redemptive warrior passions of Macbeth are absent from Galdós's novel, something of the play's primal candour remains at the end of Lo prohibido, as does also the link between their endings, where both protagonists attempt to salvage whatever honour they can, one in combat, the other financially, from the ruins. The final hope of integrity, in Macbeth's sword and in the narrator's pen, is only partially realizable, however, and both protagonists are left to inhabit a common halfway house between «foul» and «fair» at the completion of their stories.

Apart from its active pursuit of political reforms in the century, England, in Galdós's eyes, had also gained the most precious prize of all time: that of having been the cradle, home and final resting place of Shakespeare, whose works Galdós describes in his article on the dramatist as «patrimonio del género humano» (1439). Very much «a su manera», Galdós creates in Lo prohibido a protagonist who mixes the qualities of candidness and equivocation, just as Macbeth does, but who, living in an age of prose, does not see until the eleventh hour the opportunities or the examples of heroism that surround him. At the end Galdós's protagonist does not stride out to meet his destiny, like the desperate Macbeth, but succumbs to that most miserable of contemporary illnesses, stress. The result, however, is that he experiences a kind of resurrection, and finishes up as half a hero. Galdós's art, as we know, does not issue passports to fame into or out of his «comedia humana», except those coloured in the half tints of what Ricardo Gullón has so succinctly summarized with regard to Lo prohibido as «la aceptación de un fracaso que entraña la felicidad de [otra] y la conformidad última del triste con el destino» (219).

Trinity College, Dublin

Works cited

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