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Even knowledgeable readers, when they are not sufficiently alert to the allusive codes of Cervantes' conflictive society, will miss significant discharges muffled in the text's layered ironies. Jorge García López maintains that «tres figuras se salvan de esta crítica: los actores, los clérigos y los escribanos, aunque estos últimos en forma harto equívoca» (266).



Vidriera draws his admonition from 1 Chronicles 16.22 (and not from the parallel Psalm 105.15, which does not include «cristos meos»), in a psalm of thanksgiving that recalls how mindful the Lord God was of his covenant with Israel when they «were few in number and of little account», «wandering from nation to nation». He protected them from oppressors, warning: «Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm» 'Nolite tangere christos meos: et in prophetis meis nolite malignari' (1 Paralipomenon 16.22). It seems more than doubtful that those anointed wanderers, suffering privations amid enemies, were too fat to walk easily. It is possible but not certain that Vidriera means to suggest that this undisciplined religioso is a Judeo-Christian unfaithful to both Laws. Such an aspersion is consistent with popular prejudice and reactionary opinion in Cervantes' real world and would protect Vidriera and the laughing crowd in their parallel world from Inquisitorial scrutiny. What better justification of the Church's anxieties could there be than revelation that its dissolute clergy are lapsed New Christians? That is precisely the charge on which Archbishop Silíceo based his notorious and successful attack on the cabildo of the cathedral of Toledo (Sicroff, Chapter 3; Shipley, «Lazarillo»).



Lázaro, the narrator of Lazarillo de Tormes, exposes the decadence of his society's institutions through the representation of typical masters, relationships, and forms of degradation. He does this as a ploy to save his skin, arguing to his powerful first reader that he is no more degraded than those who are responsible for directing his perverted career. The anonymous author of Lazarillo makes his narrator (who entertains readers while infecting them with his diseased opinions and values) the most persuasive evidence of the corruptness of the world, while also contradicting his character by exemplifying in his art positive values -including courage and disinterested critical analysis- that are incompatible with his creature's bottomless cynicism. (I have argued for this understanding of Lazarillo in «Making» and elsewhere.) Similarly Miguel de Cervantes makes use of a demented but admired spokesman to celebrate the social consensus apparently while subverting in effect attitudes and values that no healthy society could endorse.



The added emphasis in the preceding paragraph is mine. Images of circularity abound in several of the Novelas ejemplares, notably in «La gitanilla», where they contribute to the affirmative characterization of the protagonist, who closely resembles Tomás in virtue, competence, and youthful accomplishment.



Kenneth Burke invites readers to realize «just how overwhelmingly much of what we mean by 'reality' has been built up for us through nothing but our symbol systems... To meditate on this fact until one sees its full implications is much like peering over the edge of things into an ultimate abyss. And doubtless that's one reason why, though man is typically the symbol-using animal, he clings to a kind of naïve verbal realism that refuses to realize the full extent of the role played by symbolicity in his notions of reality» (5).



In «A Checklist of Lacanian Terminology», Henry Sullivan explains that «the psychotic speaks an empty discourse, commanded by the repetitions and dead mechanisms of the Other» (188).



«Any dominant pseudo-species also harbors its own negative identity, and therefore the possibility exists for the moralistic treatment of others as embodiments of unacceptable ego tendencies» (Roazen 161). «The pseudospecies, then, is one of the more sinister aspects of all group identity» (Erikson, Identity 42; and concerning literary creation as a critique and corrective see 297-98). «All moral rules for the restriction of active hatred give the clearest evidence to this day that they were originally framed for a small society of fellow clansmen. In so far as we are all able to feel that we are members of one people, we allow ourselves to disregard most of these restrictions in relation to a foreign people. Nevertheless, within our own circle we have made some advances in the control of hostile impulses... Brutal hostility, forbidden by law, has been replaced by verbal invective» (Freud 122). Obliged to renounce hostile deeds, we have -adds Freud- «developed a new technique of invective, which aims at enlisting [third persons] against our enemy. By making our enemy small, inferior, despicable or comic, we achieve in a roundabout way the enjoyment of overcoming him-to which the third person, who has made no efforts, bears witness by his laughter».



Here and later the crowd and guard muzzle youngsters, not in order to teach them good manners or moral delicacy, but to forestall disturbances that might interrupt the entertainment. Vidriera obliges the elders with additional jibes aimed at the young (items {8}, {10}, {32}).



Another bromide accepted by the inexperienced Tomás is comparably vapid, «las luengas peregrinaciones hacen a los hombres discretos» (46), the vacuousness of which is illustrated in the experience of Felipo de Carrizales («El celoso extremeño»), the aimless wandering of the Spanish lads in «La señora Cornelia», and the well-traveled «dama de todo rumbo y manejo» (52). Nor does Berganza's glib and dim discernment lend authority to his similar notion, «el andar tierras y comunicar con diversas gentes hace a los hombres discretos» (2: 332). It would appear wiser but less memorable to claim that «los hombres discretos hacen luengas peregrinaciones» and to draw examples from Persiles y Sigismunda.



If not a social catechism, Vidriera's monologic dialogue with his followers could be termed a secular litany. Or a self-effacing pledge of allegiance in which the impersonalized first person «credo» voices what all believers agree to believe. It amounts to a daily confirmatory public recital of cultural dogma, what some today call the Law of the Father. Vidriera, designated by accident to play the role of favored but submissive Son of the Father of language, lives a travesty of Tomás R'.s humanistic and cosmopolitan understanding of the rule and practice of law. In the hollowed-out shell of a trinity in which Vidriera occupies the place of dutiful and mortified Son of the remote Father, the Holy Ghost's function is covered by Word-of-Mouth.