Selecciona una palabra y presiona la tecla d para obtener su definición.


ArribaAbajo A Poet's Vanity: Thoughts on the Friendly Ethos of Cervantine Satire

Anthony Close

University of Cambridge

En este artículo me ocupo de la auto-imagen amistosa proyectada por Cervantes a través de sus textos reflexivos, mayormente los prólogos y el Viaje del Parnaso, considerándola como una estrategia retórica empleada para suavizar el impacto de la sátira literaria. En particular, me centro en los motivos psicológicos de la agresividad polémica que preside la primera parte del Quijote, y que se deriva fundamentalmente del rechazo a las composiciones dramáticas de Cervantes que éste padece al volver a su 'antigua ociosidad' (poco antes de 1600). Este revés provocaría el conocido y sólo aparente complejo de inferioridad que Cervantes ostenta con respecto a sus dotes poéticas, y, unido a su sed de fama después de años de anonimato literario, desencadenaría el rencor derramado sobre libros de caballerías, Lope de Vega y su escuela, autores de comedias, y demás obstáculos a su ambición y vanidad frustradas. En los textos reflexivos que siguen al triunfo de 1605, Cervantes recapacita la epopeya de sus amarguras, reveses y logros en una actitud de irónica serenidad, en que van entremezclados el orgullo, la auto-crítica, y una nueva benignidad para con sus rivales literarios. El Viaje del Parnaso es fruto de este examen de conciencia.

On his return from the voyage related in Viaje del Parnaso, Cervantes, wary of meeting any poetaster who might bear a grudge against him, is accosted by a richly attired youth outside the convent of Atocha in Madrid, sporting a huge ruff collar. To Cervantes's relief, the young man, instead of assaulting him, effusively embraces him and claims to be an admirer of his works and «apacible condición». He would have kissed Cervantes's brow had the collar permitted. Albeit a wretchedly inept poet, this engaging character, with the exotic name of Pancracio de Roncesvalles, proves to be an emissary from Apollo, bearing a letter to Cervantes from the god with sundry ordinances for Spanish poets. This incident is narrated in the appendix to the poem, the «Adjunta al Parnaso». Making due allowance for fantasy, one is struck by the fact that Cervantes sees nothing untoward in accepting embraces from complete strangers in the street, as is shown by the famous prologue to Persiles y Sigismunda, composed when Cervantes was in extremis. In view of these grim circumstances, one can scarcely suppose that he invented the encounter narrated in it. Here too he is enthusiastically saluted on a public highway by a youthful admirer sporting a peculiar collar: in this case, a flimsy contraption held in place   —32→   by two laces. This time, it is Cervantes who gives the stranger a warm hug, which wrecks the collar for good and all. From the uncanny way in which the fantastic encounter prefigures the real one, we may infer that the latter sticks in Cervantes's mind, and is included in the text which is his own literary epitaph, because it corresponds to an image of good-natured, disconcerted accessibility that he wanted to project. Pace Avellaneda, I see no reason to doubt what the prologue to Persiles, and Cervantes's other prologues, imply: that in his personal relationships Cervantes had many friends, enjoyed conversation and laughter, and was perceived to have an «apacible condición»44. In what follows, I want to examine how he turns this image of self into a rhetorical strategy intrinsic to his literary satire and why he modifies the strategy after 1605. These authorial self-projections run continuously through Cervantes's «reflexive» texts: not only the prologues, but also Don Quijote and, above all, Viaje del Parnaso45.

All the prologues that Cervantes wrote after the publication of La Galatea, take the form of, or are based on, conversations with friends, whether real or imagined, and include the reader in that intimate circle. In this respect, they are similar to the Satires   —33→   of Horace, cited by Cervantes as a model of the satiric genre46, and imitated in Spain in a long tradition of verse-epistles beginning with Garcilaso and copiously represented by the brothers Argensola. In his Satires Horace puts forward his brand of moderate hedonism and censures contemporary mores from a standpoint which is confessional, familiar, humorously off-guard. Accused of being too savage a satirist by some, and too facile a poet by others, he seeks advice from the lawyer Trebatius, who advises him to give up writing satire lest he come to a sticky end; Horace defends himself with the argument that this is what comes naturally to him and that his pen is a defensive, not an offensive weapon (II, 1). On the feast of the Saturnalia, Horace's slave Davus takes the customary license to tell him some home truths, proving that his adulteries, his gluttony, and social climbing make him the real slave (II, vii). Horace meets Catius returning home from a lecture on gastronomy and listens with ironically feigned wonderment to the esoteric precepts that he retails (II, iv). Out walking on the Via Sacra, he is accosted by an importunate chatterbox who resolutely ignores all Horace's ploys to shake him off (I, ix); the wry self-mockery and dramatic liveliness of this trivial encounter are reminiscent of Cervantes's meeting with Pancracio.

I do not particularly want to suggest that Cervantes «imitates» Horace, but rather, that their adoption of this authorial persona is motivated by a common concern, explicit in both cases, to legitimise satire and attenuate its offensiveness47. Although Cervantes's prologues are not all satiric, the prologue to Don Quijote Part I emphatically is; and the authorial persona that is projected in it is basic to his orientation as a literary satirist, both in that novel and elsewhere. Note that I distinguish, though without intending the distinction to be sharply exclusive, between literary and moral/social satire48. The ludic and disarming tactics adopted in the former stem from Cervantes's greater personal involvement   —34→   in the targets of his censure. In the latter, he tends to adopt an attitude of sober and reasoned indictment -a tactic also adopted, so far as literary satire is concerned, in Don Quijote Part I, Chapters 47 and 48- and takes rather different defensive measures, including the choice of marginalised, fantastic and embittered spokesmen for his opinions. Note too that I focus on satire in the «exagematic» mode: that in which the author, or spokesman on his behalf, inveighs directly against the target in question. Typically, in his literary satire, Cervantes despatches friends to do his dirty work for him on the assumption that their «friendliness» and other qualifications (e. g. priesthood, madness), will make the work seem less dirty. This delegation of responsibility is explicit in the prologues to Don Quijote Part II and the Ocho comedias; in both contexts, the friendly reader is charged with putting Cervantes's literary enemies in their place -respectively, Avellaneda and the impresario who had maligned Cervantes's talents as a dramatist.

The «Adjunta del Parnaso» is typical of the mood of amicable complicity created by Cervantes's self-projections. Albeit an epilogue to the Viaje del Parnaso, written some time after its completion49, it is, in effect, continuous with the poem's curt prologue: «si te hallares en él escrito, y notado entre los buenos poetas, da gracias a Apolo por la merced que te hizo, y, si no te hallares, también se las puedes dar»50. The same point is made less flippantly in Apollo's letter to Cervantes, and is implied by the fact that here we have Pancracio de Roncesvalles, who was excluded from Mercury's list of good poets, hobnobbing with Mercury's aide-de-camp and bearing a letter from Apollo to him. Moreover, the exchanges between Cervantes and Pancracio are notable for their good manners, good humor, conversational ease, polished wit and ironical undercurrents. These are brought into play by the contrast between the benign archness of Cervantes/Jeeves and the candor of Pancracio/Wooster, the plane of poetic spirituality to which both aspire and the mortifying mishaps to which both are subject. Here is an example:


MIGUEL.-  Desa manera, habrá V. md. compuesto algunas comedias.

PANCRACIO.-  Muchas, pero sola una se ha representado.

MIGUEL.-  ¿Pareció bien?

PANCRACIO.-  Al vulgo, no.

MIGUEL.-  ¿Y a los discretos?

PANCRACIO.-  Tampoco.

MIGUEL.-  ¿La causa?

PANCRACIO.-  La causa fue que la achacaron que era larga en los razonamientos, no muy pura en los versos, y desmayada en la invención.

«Tachas son esas», respondí yo, «que pudieran hacer parecer mal a las del mesmo Plauto».

(p. 123)                

This is worthy of Cervantes's entremeses. Yet despite his transparent doubts about Pancracio's talent, Cervantes generously sympathises with his failure, assuring him that plays, like a woman's beauty, have their days and seasons. He cites his own bitter experience of the arbitrariness of the autores. Noting that a half-real delivery charge is payable for Apollo's letter, he ruefully recalls the occasion when his niece, in Valladolid, paid one real for the delivery of an insulting letter to the author of Don Quijote. Pancracio cheerily waives the fee, and reassures Cervantes about this letter's contents, which, when perused, prove to be as friendly in tone and good-humoredly focused on poets' foibles as the preceding conversation: vanity, chewing finger-nails for inspiration, celestial conceits, dowdiness and hunger, addressing love-poems to fictitious mistresses. The mildness of the satire of poetry in the «Adjunta» is very notable when one considers it in a perspective of contrast51. In it, Cervantes re-visits terrain which, some ten years previously, he had been prone to divide into zones of black and white and to personalise aggressively: standards of good art in the theatre and elsewhere; the inquisitorial   —36→   scrutiny of Don Quijote's library; poisoned rivalry with Lope de Vega and his followers52. Here, there is a softening of former demarcations and a reluctance to cause offence, typical, as I shall argue, of Cervantes's writings in the last few years of his life. It affects all the literary targets satirised by him around 1605 -chivalry books; drama; pastoral romances; inappropriate pedantry and moralising; the solicitation of prestigious endorsements- and even softens the ridicule of Avellaneda in Don Quijote Part II53.


Cervantes's reactions to Pancracio exemplify another strain of Cervantine satire: mock-humility, allied to mock-deference or -praise. The major example of this is the narrative discourse of Don Quijote, which, in its basic and most characteristic mode, mimics the hero's turns-of-phrase and thoughts, and pretends to be infected with his enthusiasm, from the position of a humble, zealous and eulogistic chronicler. This discourse persistently adopts a historian's punctiliousness (quibbles about names, numbers, species, conflicting sources, apocryphal matter) and the flourishes and persona of an epic poet (emotional apostrophes to the hero, abstract personifications, the Muse, the narrator's quill; dawn-descriptions; sententious «canto»-preambles), while degrading this grandiloquent posture by means of persistent verbal humor, nonchalant flaunting of the ridiculous contradictions inherent in the figure of the Moorish (i. e. mendacious) chronicler, and relentless attention to prosaic menudencias, such as Dulcinea's skill at salting pork or the sex of her donkey. The discourse can be attributed without distinction to the chronicler or his editor, Benengeli or Cervantes, since the two are, in effect, indivisible, linked by etymology (Benengeli = berenjena = toledano), professional function, obsessive curiosity about Don Quijote's doings, and so on54. Benengeli, therefore, may be counted one of the principal friendly delegates of Cervantes's satiric muse.

One can cite various precedents and parallels for this mock-humble strategy: Socratic irony; Horace's modesty; Chaucer's feigned slow-wittedness; Mark Anthony's «I come to bury Caesar...». speech; Pascal's self-depreciation in Les provinciales; Swift's «Modest Proposal». And one can mention various Spanish precedents, all indirect, for Cervantes's ironically citational technique, by which a given species of fulsome style, precisely mimicked, is placed in mocking quotation-marks by decontextualisation or over-emphasis: the portrayal of Calisto in La Celestina and sundry rhapsodic lovers in Lope de Vegas plays (e. g. Belardo, in Belardo el furioso); the saturation of pastoral and   —38→   Moorish topics in late sixteenth-century ballads, leading to parody in various tones, from coarse travesty to subtler forms. Yet the main determinant of Cervantes's mock-humility is his own artistic temperament, rather than literary influence. This satiric stance was motivated by a particular set of biographical circumstances, to be discussed shortly. Suffice to say for the moment that Cervantes tends to see the various species of literary aberration under the sign of over-enthusiasm, and his mock-complicity with it is symptomatic of latent real complicity, curbed by critical conscience. His whole method of «high burlesque» in Don Quijote is firmly rooted in this ambivalence, since it involves the systematic exploitation of his own poetic or «purple» clichés, or those which recur in his favourite authors (e. g. Ariosto, Garcilaso, Rojas, Ercilla)55. The key text in this connection occurs early in the Viaje del Parnaso and is the basis of Cervantes's self-portrayal in the poem:

Son hechos los poetas de una masa
dulce, suave, correosa y tierna,
y amiga del hogar de ajena casa.
El poeta más cuerdo se gobierna
por su antojo baldío y regalado,
de trazas lleno y de ignorancia eterna.
Absorto en sus quimeras, y admirado
de sus mismas acciones, no procura
llegar a rico, como a honroso estado.
Vayan pues los leyentes con letura,
cual dice el vulgo mal limado y bronco,
que yo soy un poeta desta hechura.

(Chapter 1, lines 91 ff.)                

Even without the benefit of the last line, one could infer Cervantes's identification with this character-type from the frequency of its appearance in his writings and the variety of its forms, including the personality of Don Quijote. The sketch of the poet encountered by the pilgrims of Persiles in Badajoz is a good example, reminiscent in more ways than one of the above-cited self-portrait. Forced by poverty to exchange «los Parnasos por mesones, y las Castalias y Aganipes con los charcos y arroyos de los caminos y ventas», he works for a troupe of travelling actors, patching up old comedies and inventing new ones. No sooner   —39→   does he set eyes on Auristela and the painted scroll of the pilgrims' adventures than his fantasy has converted her into an actress, showered with gold and finery by aristocratic lovers, and the adventures into a play, complete with an improbable «lacayo consejero y gracioso» on the frozen northern seas. On meeting Auristela's blank refusal to subscribe to this dream, «miróse a los pies de su ignorancia, y deshizo la rueda de su vanidad y locura»56. Here we have the familiar traits of this Cervantine type: vanity; innocent unpracticality; starry-eyed enthusiasm, contrasted with humdrum circumstances; a redeemingly amiable potential for self-knowledge. Cervantes submits his fictional self in Viaje del Parnaso to the same kind of rude awakening. The link between poetry, vanity and theatrical vocation exhibited by this character, and also by Pancracio, is significant; we shall return to it.

In Don Quijote Part I, and more especially, its prologue, mock-humble irony has the aggressively personal edge previously mentioned. As Porqueras Mayo's study of Spanish Golden Age prologues makes clear57, that which precedes Don Quijote Part I is based on conventional motifs, yet its handling of them is, to say the least, distinctive, particularly in respect of its permeability to the book which it precedes and its exposure of the author's personality and circumstances. Considered as a genre, the prologue is an apparatus of rhetorical devices aimed at the reader. So is this prologue, yet its effect is to project attention upon the author: his vulnerability, mishaps, indecision. This is above all exemplified by that memorable picture of Cervantes in a dithering quandary, pen behind ear, cheek on hand, elbow on desk, not knowing how to proceed until rescued by his flippant counsellor. He begins in a winning pose of deference to the reader's judgement: «Authors are always prone to over-estimate their own achievements; I too suffer from this common vanity. Though, like any parent, I would like to think this son of mine is the fairest imaginable, doubtless he inherits the deficiencies of my poor wit and suffers from having been conceived in a prison. Since you have no parental attachment to him, reader, I shan't   —40→   entreat you, as others do, to overlook his faults, but leave you to make up your own mind». The playfully urbane posturing is transparent. The refusal to entreat is a polite way of doing that very thing; and the self-disparagement is belied by the allusion to the uniqueness of the invention:

Y así, ¿qué podrá engendrar el estéril y mal cultivado ingenio mío sino la historia de un hijo seco, avellanado, antojadizo y lleno de pensamientos varios y nunca imaginados de otro alguno, bien como quien se engendró en una cárcel, donde toda incomodidad tiene su asiento y donde todo triste ruido hace su habitación?

(I, 50)                

However, in this context, the humility is not merely assumed. In no other prologue does Cervantes lay it on so thick. The mention of his imprisonment and status or reputation as ingenio lego58, and his insistence on the potentially disconcerting oddity of this cherished son (i. e. the novel's hero), point to underlying uncertainty, whose nature is disclosed symptomatically, rather than directly, by the doubts that he proceeds to disclose and the impudent aggressiveness which these supposedly trigger. This prologue, brilliantly stylish and witty, is the bitchiest piece that Cervantes ever wrote; the way in which he lashes out at literary rivals suggests something rather different from the supreme self-confidence which Américo Castro once attributed to him59. The mock-alarm of «¿Cómo queréis vos que no me tenga confuso el qué dirá el antiguo legislador que llaman vulgo...?» conceals genuine apprehension. At the same time, it betrays the extraordinary sensitivity to his public image typical of all Cervantes's subsequent self-projections. Like all his enthusiasts, he was a candid fat-head. The avowed reasons for Cervantes's quandary stem from his desire to offer the book to the reader stripped of the customary baggage of preliminary eulogies and erudite references. This urge is inhibited by fear of what the public will say if he fails to bow to custom. From this dilemma he is rescued by his friend, who finds him in the posture described above and proceeds cheerily to pour scorn on his anxieties and on the pretentious   —41→   conventions which inspire them. Cervantes is so impressed by the friend's advice that he sets it down verbatim in lieu of a prologue. There seems no good reason to doubt that some such conversation took place, since Cervantes ruefully recalls it in the prologue to the Novelas. However, his insistence on his merely passive role is surely part-and-parcel of his mock-humility.

Cervantes's pose as mere editor of the prologue is directly aligned with his pose as narrator/editor of Don Quijote. To demonstrate this alignment, let us designate the two positions as Cervantes A and Cervantes B respectively. B opposes «la verdad de la historia», and by implication verisimilitude, to the fabulousness of chivalry books, dressed up in bogus trappings of historicity. A's friend debunks snobbishness and pedantry by essentially the same criterion: «sólo time que aprovecharse de la imitación en lo que fuere escribiendo...». (i, 57). A's dithering quandary is reminiscent of B's consternation when his sources run out at the high point of the battle between the hero and the Basque (I, 8-9). Posing as step-father, not father of Don Quijote, A anticipates B's pretence of merely being the editor of Benengeli's chronicle. The mock-laudatory language that A uses about «el famoso don Quijote de la Mancha, de quien hay opinión, por todos los habitadores del distrito del campo de Montiel, que fue el más casto enamorado y el más valiente caballero que de muchos años a esta parte se vio en aquellos contornos» (i, 58) anticipates the dominant tone of Benengeli/Cervantes B. A's friendly counsellor is very similar to B's «good friend'» -the priest of the merry scrutiny- in his jocular, level-headed iconoclasm towards bookish pretentiousness. Thus, the facetious suggestions of A's friend for remedying the supposed deficiencies of the novel -e.g. inventing eulogistic sonnets and fathering them on Prester John of the Indies and the Emperor of Trebizond, or citing that notorious falsifier of history Antonio de Guevara on the subject of the three wise courtesans of Antiquity, Lamia, Laida and Flora, «cuya anotación os dará gran crédito»- anticipate the tenor of the priest's jests in the merry scrutiny of Don Quixote's library and the Canon of Toledo's derisive examples of the flights of fantasy in chivalry books. The flippancy of A's friend is compounded by the suggestion that A's literary rivals go about adorning their books in this sort of way. And further insult is added to injury by the fact that the theme of this prologue is, in effect, «How I stopped worrying about the need to write a prologue». The priest's iconoclasm is just as provocative. Though discretion no doubt causes him, and his creator, to mention no   —42→   book in Don Quixote's library published after 1591, his eagerness to set fire to large swathes of Spanish literature published prior to that date, and his subsequent severity about most contemporary drama, imply derisive contempt for many of his literary contemporaries. The alignment between novel and prologue is equally manifest in Don Quijote Part II. When, in the prologue to this Part, Cervantes co-opts the reader as emissary to Avellaneda, he simply makes explicit what is implied by the chapters of Part II where readers of Avellaneda's version declare their partiality for Benengeli's, or for the two heroes celebrated by him. In one case, the delegation of responsibility is literal; in the other, metaphoric.

To some degree, this kind of alignment is only to be expected. Prologues are, in effect, epilogues of the texts that they introduce. So it is natural that the author should take cues from his book about how best to present it to the reader. Behind their meandering badinage, all Cervantes's prologues save that of Persiles crystallise some central commitment in the work in question, basic to his posture as narrator: e. g. exemplariness in the Novelas; pride in the superiority of his wit to Avellaneda's in Don Quijote Part II60. Yet the extent of such continuity in Don Quijote highlights the strength of Cervantes's self-assertiveness as narrator in this novel -more emphatic than in any other of his fictions. The reasons for this have to do with the degree to which his own literary principles and aspirations, particularly his raging thirst for fame, are invested in Don Quijote's story. Modern Cervantine criticism has tended to misrepresent this feature of Don Quijote, seeing the multiplication of authorial proxies as an expression of a relativistic and self-questioning outlook on life, and as a means of distancing creator from creation. I see it, rather, as a tactic of attenuation and self-disguise imposed by the decorum of the story, yet intended to be transparent as to its true origin. In this connection, let us note that Cervantes's pose of humility works not only as a vehicle for self-assertion but also as a restraint upon it. I shall return to this point in the conclusion.


The disarming purpose of mock-humble irony is shown, first, in the ludic and friendly forms that it is generally made to assume in Don Quijote, and secondly, in its subordination in Part I to the attitude of aesthetic/moral rationality embodied in the priest and the Canon of Toledo. Thus, in the merry scrutiny of Don Quijote's library, the priest takes the sledgehammer of a mock-auto de fe to the nut of his friend's innocent tomes in a domestic setting quite incongruous to such sinister associations. If his female assistants had their way he would exorcise the room with hyssop and holy water and set fire to every book on the shelves, including the innocuous pastoral romances. The niece's and housekeeper's exaggerated alarm adds to the air of burlesque family charade, which the priest sustains with his tireless puns. Here, burlesque over-severity is substituted for Cervantes's normal tactic of mock-praise; in reality, the two attitudes are two sides of the same coin, as is seen in the notoriously disconcerting passages where the priest switches from one to the other in the same breath with regard to the same book (notably, Tirant lo Blanc). What is notable about the merry scrutiny, and is belied by its ostensible purpose of casting books pell-mell to the bonfire, is the balance of its criticism, shown in the indulgence accorded to four meritorious chivalric romances which are exceptions to the inferiority of the mass (Amadís de Gaula, Palmerín de Inglaterra, Tirante el Blanco, Belianís de Grecia), and the praise of numerous heroic romances, epics, and pastoral romances which border on the chivalric genre and need to be discriminated from it: works by Ariosto, Boiardo, Ercilla, Rufo, Virués, Barahona de Soto, Montemayor, Gil Polo, Gálvez de Montalvo, and others. The sublimation of polemical severity in domestic comedy is also observable in a later version of the merry scrutiny: the priest's examination of the books and papers in the suitcase in Juan Palomeque's inn (Don Quijote I, 32). Here the emphasis falls particularly on the innkeeper's opinionated confidence in the historical truth of chivalry books, which, together with his delight in their violence, Maritornes's in their eroticism, and the daughter's in their sentimentality, are clearly seen as typical of ignorant, plebeian responses towards the genre. The innkeeper's stubbornness withstands all the priest's reasoned attempts to educate him -sign of the fact that, here and in most of Part I, Cervantes gives higher priority to laughter than lecturing. Yet the literary principles which underlie all this fun-and-games are given their due at the end of Part I in the   —44→   conversation between the priest and the Canon of Toledo, which proclaims, in obvious ways, its moral/aesthetic authoritativeness, and, less obviously, implies its own rational moderation. Towards chivalry books and the theatre respectively, Cervantes's two spokesmen adopt an enlightened post-Tridentine neoclassicism, which treats both genres as artistically viable if harnessed to principles of good art and morals. They shun the kind of blanket condemnations vociferously exemplified by the opponents of the theatre at the end of the sixteenth century, give credit where credit is due -notably, to Lope de Vega, and wield against Lope's school the very arguments whose force he later acknowledges in his Arte nuevo de hacer comedias en este tiempo.

However, despite such preventive measures, mock-humble irony in Don Quijote Part I stirred up a hornet's nest. The reason does not lie in the satire of chivalry books; its legitimacy, and merry and unmalicious tone, are clearly acknowledged by Avellaneda61. What riled Avellaneda, and no doubt Lope de Vega and others, was the impudently allusive prologue, the prefatory verses, and the scathing tone of the attack on the New Comedy: «espejos de disparates, ejemplos de necedades e imágenes de lascivia». All this, added to the hints of sweeping dismissiveness in the merry scrutiny, created the effect of cackling aggression to which Avellaneda refers62. Why did Cervantes over-reach himself?

The reasons that Cervantes offers for his quandary in the prologue to Part I are not, by any means, wholly spurious. A number of literary works published around 1600, in the genres of pastoral romance, courtly aphorism, the picaresque, epic, and Byzantine romance, advance upon the reader behind an imposing carapace of learning and/or prestigiously signed tributes: I refer to works by Juan Rufo, Rojas Villandrando, Juan Martí, Mateo Alemán, and, above all, Lope de Vega63. Granted that all this constituted some kind of literary fashion, its pressure was hardly strong enough to warrant the crushing sense of inferiority exhibited in the prologue to Part I, surely a pretext which licenses the friend's satiric flippancy.


The reasons for Cervantes's prickliness are to be sought in the prologue to the Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses (1615), highly revealing despite its reticences and delicacy about past rebuffs. Its purpose is to explain why Cervantes, renowned author and formerly successful playwright, has had to resort to publication as a means of bringing these eight comedies and farces to the public's attention, after having failed to get them performed. It is largely taken up with his reminiscences about the technical evolution of the Spanish theatre since Lope de Rueda's day. Their point, and the motive for his begging leave to depart from his customary modesty, are to highlight his own contribution to this process and the unjust disdain shown to him by the autores after the ascendancy of Lope de Vega had been established. The key passage in the prologue reports the remark which goaded him to publish his plays: «en esta sazón me dijo un librero que él me las comprara, si un autor de título no le hubiera dicho que de mi prosa se podía esperar mucho, pero que del verso, nada; y, si va a decir la verdad, cierto que me dió pesadumbre el oírlo»64. This passage, and its surrounding context, must be related to the «Adjunta al Parnaso» (dated July 22, 1614, about a year before the prologue to the Ocho comedias was written), where Cervantes plainly anticipates the publication of certain unperformed comedies and entremeses, specifying six of each rather than eight, and appears already to have felt the smart of «de mi prosa se podía esperar mucho, pero que del verso, nada». The significance of the remark, of course, is that plays were written in verse, not prose; the autor was obviously more concerned with Cervantes's dramatic verse than any other kind. It is surely no coincidence that in the «Adjunta» Cervantes links his own setbacks in writing for the stage with those of the inept poet Pancracio, and that it is precisely in this sphere, as distinct from lyric and heroic verse, where Pancracio reveals his ineptitude. Furthermore, there is good reason to suppose that the poor opinion of Cervantes's dramatic verse represented by the autor's disparaging comment, and Cervantes's sensitivity on that score, date from some time back65. Conceivably, the comment itself may have antedated the   —46→   librero's report of it by several years. These considerations cast an unexpected light on the priest's famous jest about Cervantes in the merry scrutiny of Don Quijote's library: «más versado en desdichas que en versos» (I, 6; i, 120). True, the remark is made in connection with La Galatea, hence Cervantes's lyric verse. However, the motive for the quip is more probably the romance's lack of commercial success than any sense on Cervantes's part of its artistic shortcomings66. Given the quip's generality of reference,   —47→   and the acute resentment that Cervantes vents against the autores in Don Quijote I, 48, the unexpected overtones that I have just attributed to it are, to say the least, plausible.

Since the late eighteenth century, posterity has been all too ready to assume that its low estimation of Cervantes's verse is endorsed in advance by the various, well known passages where he seems to express an inferiority-complex about his capacities as a poet67, and the equally notorious handful of disparaging comments about them by Lope de Vega, Villegas, and Suárez de Figueroa, not to mention that anonymous autor de comedias68. The   —48→   prejudice, though it has been rebutted or qualified by a long line of eminent critics (Menéndez Pelayo, Ricardo Rojas, José Manuel Blecua, Elias Rivers and others), still dies hard69. The reasons for its persistence have much to do with Cervantes's own symptoms of insecurity, which contrast markedly with his supreme confidence about his prose-fiction. So these symptoms clearly need to be accounted for. They probably express his recognition, implicit in the Viaje del Parnaso, that he is not in the very top flight of poets: the Garcilasos, Herreras, and their like. They certainly express his sense that poetry is a rare, precious and lucky gift, which should ideally be used by a discriminating elite, not prostituted by, or for, the vulgo70. However, they surely do not imply doubt about his poetic competence -to put it at the very lowest. His repeated insistence on the merits of his verse71; his self-portrayal in the Viaje del Parnaso as Mercury's aide-de-camp, fitted for this role by virtue of his talents and knowledgeable   —49→   familiarity with the most distinguished poets of his day; the esteem in which he was held by his contemporaries, attested by Lope de Vega's repeated public eulogies of him -all this makes nonsense of such a suggestion. In my view, these passages serve, in part, to place ironic inverted commas round the kind of opinion represented by the autor's remark, and refer particularly, if not exclusively, to Cervantes's setbacks as a dramatist. Their frequency in his writings is symptomatic of a mortification which still rankled after some fifteen years: the unpleasant shock of returning to the area of his former triumph and finding that «no había pájaros en los nidos de antaño». He plainly hints, in the prologue to the Ocho comedias, at the psychological and material consequences: wounded vanity («pensando que aún duraban los años en que corrían mi fama...»), envy («entró luego el monstruo de naturaleza, el gran Lope de Vega, y alzóse con la monarquía cómica...»)72, and financial loss; and one can infer that the experience may have contributed significantly to the diversion of his creativity into the channel of prose-fiction, which, in the 1580's, had been subordinate to his interests as a poet and dramatist73.

Resentment against the autores is undeniably a powerful, if indirect and invisible, stimulus to the satiric vehemence of Don Quijote Part I, though it would be unjust to suggest that this is merely inspired by a feeling of sour grapes, rather than aesthetic convictions. The Canon of Toledo's critique of chivalric romances in Chapter 47 is followed by his and the priest's denunciation of the New Comedy in Don Quijote I, 48; and their blame principally falls on the impresarios, guilty of commercial pandering to   —50→   the lowest common denominator of vulgar taste. The juxtaposition of the two critiques is significant. Abstractly considered, what have the plays of Lope and his followers got to do with Amadís and its progeny? The answer is: very little, apart from their massive popularity. Herein lies the reason for their association in Cervantes's mind. Both genres must have seemed to him, around 1600, to lie athwart his literary ambitions, corrupting popular taste for the kind of theatre or fiction that he wished to write. What kind of fiction? I am inclined to believe, as others have done, that Cervantes identifies himself with the Canon of Toledo's confession to having written over a hundred folios of a chivalric romance, which was never brought to completion, because «las que llevan traza y siguen la fábula como el arte pide, no sirven sino para cuatro discretos que lo entienden». (Don Quijote I, 48; i, 568). As the quotation shows, the Canon derives this argument from the example of the comedia; and from this one infers an underlying assumption on Cervantes's part that the bitter experience received in one sphere (theatre) would inevitably repeat itself in the other (romance). Clearly, he saw the demolition of chivalric romances as an indispensable preliminary to the composition of the ideal epic in prose that the Canon of Toledo outlines in Don Quijote I, 47, and more generally, to the composition of the kind of novelas which, interpolated in Don Quijote Part I, are offered as well-crafted stories for an age sorely in need of them (see the preamble to Don Quijote I, 28). Until such demolition was carried out, philistine prejudice, massively diffused and supported, stood in the way.

So, though chivalric romances are Cervantes's specific target in Don Quijote Part I, literature of entertainment in general is in question, particularly in the forms in which it impinges directly upon him: the comedia, pastoral romances, the novela, the prose epic, comic fiction, satire. In all these genres, he had a personal stake; his critique of them issues from an insider's position. The prologue to Part I issues from a state of almost paranoid sensitivity, caused, on the one hand, by Cervantes's thirst for prominence after a long period of obscurity, his conviction of the originality of his novel, and the rightness of his aesthetics, and on the other hand, by his sense of having suffered a string of adversities, including poverty, lack of rewards and recognition, a general cheapening of artistic standards, the consequent blocking of outlets, and the loss of opportunities to undeservedly luckier rivals. In this frame-of-mind he lashes out at every visible   —51→   obstacle to recognition. This diagnosis is based on Cervantes's own testimony. In the projections of authorial self composed after 1605 he harks back to these grievances, re-asserts them, and, at the same time, reflects on them critically in a mood of philosophical and humorous serenity induced by secure achievement. Like the prologue to Don Quijote Part I, they bring into play four «positions» -author, friend, rivals, rivals' friends- which may variably be occupied by different figures. Thus, in the prologue to Don Quijote Part II and the chapters dealing with Avellaneda's El Quijote (Part II, 59, 70, 72, 74), Avellaneda's book is «refuted» by being disowned by his «friends», who switch their allegiance to Cervantes's Don Quijote and Sancho, and through them, to Cervantes. The whole apparatus of tribute that is mounted in Part II by Don Quijote's readers -his friends in a literal sense, and Cervantes's in a metaphorical one- is indirectly referred from creature to creator. And at the heart of that triumph is a fatal canker, for Don Quijote and Cervantes alike; the former glimpses it occasionally, the latter sees it with crystal clarity.

The prologue to the Novelas ejemplares is written in the unmistakeable air of one who has «arrived»; the difference in tone from that of Part I is remarkable, and all the more noticeable because Cervantes explicitly harks back to that mischievous piece. Once more, he shows reluctance to write a prologue -this time, because of the hornet's nest stirred up by the previous one- and once more he occupies much space in the imagination of hypothetical content -here, the flattering inscription that his former friend and counsellor might have supplied for an engraving of Cervantes by Juan de Jaureguí. The purpose of the portrait and inscription is declared quite candidly: «con esto quedara mi ambición satisfecha, y el deseo de algunos que querrían saber qué rostro y talle tiene quien se atreve a salir con tantas invenciones en la plaza del mundo, a los ojos de las gentes»74. Another implicit purpose, ascribed to the friend, is atonement for the mess in which he landed Cervantes on the previous occasion by his advice. The hypothetical inscription and portrait correspond to the eulogistic tributes on which so much ridicule had been poured in the prologue to Part I, and the justification for them -«como es uso y costumbre»- is quite opposed to its merry anti-conventionalism. To cap it all, three laudatory sonnets and   —52→   one décima, all from courtly personages, including a Marquis, precede the collection of novelas. Cervantes now seems to share Lazarillo's unabashed motto: «Arrímate a los buenos y serás uno dellos». No wonder Avellaneda sourly speaks of this prologue's smugness75.

Cervantes's changed attitude in this prologue was the subject of a notable essay by Américo Castro, who attributed it to his having come in from the cold: the marginalised rebel responsible for Don Quijote Part I now, in 1612, gratefully sinks into the arms of an admiring establishment and signals his intention to write exemplary literature consonant with its values76. Others have emphasised the moral/religious motives for Cervantes's apparent switch to conformism. Despite the obvious simplifications of Castro's thesis, he was surely right to suggest that the gratification of popular fame and the flattering interest shown in Cervantes by illustrious personages have much to do with his mellow serenity in his last few years. Yet this is not the whole story. So far as the prologue to the Novelas is concerned, it, together with the prologue to Don Quijote Part Il, which strikes a similarly equable tone, reveal a sense that in Don Quijote Part I he had pushed satiric aggression too far. In so doing, he had not, strictly speaking, contravened his later declaration in Viaje del Parnaso, which, in effect, links satire to slander: «Nunca voló la humilde pluma mía / por la región satírica, bajeza / que a infames premios y desgracias guía» (Chapter 4, lines 36 ff.). The attempt to moderate satire's offensiveness in Don Quijote Part I is clear; even the mischievous verses of Urganda la Desconocida warn against indulging in buffoonish personal jibes77. Yet the rumpus created by Part I is proof that Cervantes failed to meet the admonition of Cipión in El coloquio de los perros: «quiero decir que señales, y no hieras ni des mate a ninguno en cosa señalada; que no es buena la murmuración, aunque haga reír a muchos, si mata a uno»78. These reiterated admonitions in El coloquio, and the sane licentiate's repudiation of his former satiric self in El   —53→   licenciado Vidriera, are, I think, signals of contrition after the event79.

Avellaneda's accusation of smugness against the prologue to the Novelas is unfair, albeit understandable. The prologue vents Cervantes's vanity and also mocks it. The laudatory balloon puffed up by the inscription is deflated by its non-existence; the engraving, so far as is known, never materialised either. Thus, jestingly at least, Cervantes puts himself back where he was in 1605: without friends to sing his praises, he is forced to invent his own. The imagined portrait, too, is wryly idiosyncratic; the initially flattering tone (aquiline face, chestnut hair, smooth and open brow, merry eyes, and curved though well-proportioned nose...) yields to self-mocking humor (just six ill-matched teeth, bowed shoulders and shuffling feet). However, the litany of achievements -books, Lepanto, wounded hand, fortitude in captivity- is seriously intoned; and the name is bestowed with the same kind of ceremonious flourish as many characters in Don Quijote Part II employ when they recognise the Don Quijote consecrated by fame. After the physical description, comes identification:

Este digo que es el rostro del autor de La Galatea y de Don Quijote de la Mancha, y del que hizo el Viaje del Parnaso... y otras obras que andan por ahí descarriadas, y, quizá, sin el nombre de su dueño. Llámase comúnmente Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Fue soldado muchos años, y cinco y medio cautivo, donde aprendió a tener paciencia en las adversidades. Perdió en la batalla naval de Lepanto la mano izquierda de un arcabuzazo, herida que, aunque parece fea, él la tiene por hermosa, por haberla cobrado en la más memorable y alta ocasión que vieron los pasados siglos, ni esperan ver los venideros».

(i, 21)                

Recognition, for Cervantes and Don Quijote, originates in physical presence, which guarantees the bestowal of the name and the familiar epithets, and the pompous declaration of achievements and attributes. One of Avellaneda's readers declares to Cervantes's hero: «Ni vuestra presencia puede desmentir vuestro nombre, ni vuestro nombre puede no acreditar vuestra presencia: sin duda, vos, señor, sois el verdadero don Quijote de la   —54→   Mancha, norte y lucero de la andante caballería, a despecho y pesar del que ha querido usurpar vuestro nombre y aniquilar vuestras hazañas como lo ha hecho el autor deste libro que aquí os entrego» (Don Quijote II, 59; ii, 486-87). In Don Quijote's self-introduction to Don Diego de Miranda the same warrants of identity appear, plus a curriculum vitae claiming, hyperbolically, thirty thousand volumes of Don Quijote already in print (Don Quijote II, 16; ii, 151). These symmetries between Cervantes's self-projection in the prologue to the Novelas and the scenes dedicated to recognition of the hero in Don Quijote Part II are significant. His hero's triumph and its fatal flaw, of which the hero is not aware, are a metaphor of Cervantes's artistic triumph, its limitations, and his fatal flaw. The key to the metaphor is provided by Viaje del Parnaso.

This poem is the most explicit, and, with Don Quijote Part II, the maturest of Cervantes's self-projections in that here he surveys the whole saga of his sufferings, aspirations, grievances and triumphs in self-critical perspective. The occasion for the composition of the poem was in all probability the disappointment that he, along with several other writers, including Góngora, suffered in his hopes of accompanying the Conde de Lemos to Naples, after the Count had been appointed Viceroy in 1608 and had asked Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola to select a group of men-of-letters to become writers in residence at the Neapolitan court. Lupercio and his brother Bartolomé exercised their influence in a deviously self-interested way, shutting out potential rivals; Cervantes specifically comments on their enmity and unfulfilled promises towards him, and Mercury indignantly talks of their setting up a Parnassian monopoly in Naples80. In all this, Cervantes implies that the voyage to Parnassus is a sort of fantastic compensation for, or alternative to, that other voyage which he was not invited to make. Once again, Cervantes puts himself in the undignified position of singing his own imaginary triumph in the absence of a real triumph to sing. As Mercury's aide-de-camp, he performs a similar role to that of Lupercio Leonardo de Argensola, nominator and selector on behalf of the Conde de Lemos. The snub that he received from the Argensolas is one of the principal motives of grievance that the poem expresses, but not the only one.


Considerable critical interest has been shown in the Viaje del Parnaso over the last twenty years, on account of the growth of awareness of its dense allusions to vicissitudes in Cervantes's life and the literary personalities of his age; these references, by virtue of their obliqueness and ludic mode of expression, promise ceaselessly to provoke, and never to exhaust, interpretation. What bliss for our sophisticated times!81 The critics tend to share the assumption that Cervantes's primary aims in the poem, behind its self-deprecatory masks and mythological burlesque, are to fix the image that he wants his public to have of him, satirise cheap cultural standards and unenlightened patronage in contemporary Spain, and generally, express his resentment about his shabby treatment. Over such readings of the poem lies the long shadow of Américo Castro's picture of a Cervantes smugly confident of the monumental worth of his achievements and scornful of the fawning manoeuvres and populist appeal of writers like Lope de Vega. That motives of grievance are expressed in the poem is true; but one must distinguish between «motives» and «grievance». They are held in check by a strand of critical reflection which is articulated at the poem's most significant moments, in terms evocative of Don Quijote Part II, and is implied throughout by the atmosphere of burlesque whimsy which envelopes the voyage.

The poem tells the fable of Cervantes's journey to Parnassus, provoked originally by his urge to drink from the Castalian spring and obtain the poetic inspiration that has always been denied to him:

Yo, que siempre trabajo y me desvelo
por parecer que tengo de poeta
la gracia que no quiso darme el cielo,
quisiera desachar a la estafeta
mi alma, o por los aires, y ponella
sobre las cumbres del nombrado Oeta;
pues, descubriendo desde allí la bella
corriente de Aganipe, en un saltico
pudiera el labio remojar en ella,
y quedar del licor, suave y rico,
el pancho lleno, y ser de allí adelante
poeta ilustre, o al menos magnífico.

(Chapter 1, lines 25 ff.)                

The lines illustrate the easy amble of the style, which accommodates lyrical or heroic motifs in keeping with the mythological theme, but constantly degrades them by the comic characterisation, pedestrian references, and the way in which the amble often lapses into a bathetic limp. «Magnífico» barbarously drops its accent and is made to rhyme with «rico»; «pancho» is crudely vulgar; «despachar a la estafeta mi alma» yokes the sublime to the commonplace. These anti-climactic devices, sustained throughout, are directly or indirectly self-puncturing, since Cervantes's «Yo», like Dante's «I» in the Divine Comedy, or that of Cesare Caporali in his Viaggio in Parnaso (1582), which is the immediate model of Cervantes's poem, is the prime mover of the epic machine: its fantasising engineer, protagonist, witness, and recollector82. The quoted lines also point to the inner sense of the poem's allegory: it is a dreaming or fantastic enactment of Cervantes's yearnings for just recognition, including the kind of recognition which would have scotched once for all the impresario's dismissive comment on his poetic talent.

The self-critical strain of reflection begins very soon after the above-quoted passage with mention of the force which impelled Cervantes to overcome his doubts about the wisdom of the journey: namely, «los humos de la fama»; these made him mount «las ancas del destino, llevando a la elección puesta en la silla». Then (Chapter 1, lines 94 ff.) comes Cervantes's self-identification, previously quoted, with the stereotype of the day-dreaming, self-absorbed, ambitious and unmaterialistic poet, undaunted by repeated disillusionment and, in Cervantes's case, old age: «cisne en las canas, y en la voz un ronco / y negro cuervo, sin que el tiempo pueda / desbastar de mi ingenio el duro tronco». The swan/crow metaphors allude to the ensigns borne by the armies of the good and bad poets in Chapter 7. Note the motive attributed to the type here: not money, but honor.


When he reaches Cartagena, he meets Mercury, messenger of the gods, who acclaims him as «Adán de los poetas» and world-famous «raro inventor», enlisting him in a new mission: to defend Parnassus against the poetasters. For that purpose, he offers Cervantes free passage on his splendid galley, made entirely of pieces of verse. So, before his journey is fairly under way, Cervantes has got full «recognition» -epithets, commemoration of achievements, compassion, patronage, perquisites- from one who is indeed a friend in the right place. The form of that recognition and of his confrontation with Apollo in Chapter 4, the associations of the places traversed on the voyage (Genoa, Naples, Corfu), and the literary relationships evoked by his praise of the poets on Mercury's list -all these permit the gradual unfolding of Cervantes's life-story. So we are made to see his achievements in full existential perspective. Yet, though so gratifyingly treated by Mercury, Cervantes wants more: fame as a poet and status as a writer. The manner of his reception on Parnassus shows his resigned realisation that they are unlikely to come his way, and furthermore, that he has, taken to heart Don Quijote's second commandment to governor-elect Sancho: «know thyself».

When the legion of good poets reaches Parnassus, it is conducted by Apollo to an idyllic garden where seats beneath hierarchically significant trees and shrubs are assigned to all according to their rank and merit. The aristocratic poets (Counts of Salinas, Saldaña, Villamediana, and the Prince of Esquilache) are especially honored, much to the envious chagrin of the rest. Cervantes is particularly put out, since he is left standing. Quivering with indignation, he makes a formal protest to Apollo reminiscent in its intemperate manner of Don Quijote's reply to the Duke's chaplain at the beginning of Don Quijote Part II, Chapter 32. The intemperateness does not lie in the claims of achievement, which observe a measured dignity and constitute important statements about Cervantes's art, but in the mortified vanity which motivate the protest and in its premise that his discomfiture is the result of envy and bad luck: «no se estima, / señor, del vulgo vano el que te sigue / y al árbol sacro del laurel se arrima. / La envidia y la ignorancia le persigue, / y así, envidiado siempre y perseguido, / el bien que espera por jamás consigue» (Chapter 4, lines 7 ff.). If we substitute «enchanters» for «vulgar» here, we have the very tone and terms of Don Quijote's characteristic laments. Apollo's reply to the proud list of achievements   —58→   is friendly, conciliatory and philosophic. Its gist is that good fortune and bad do not fall upon men out of the blue, but are woven in the strands of life-events and history which make up each individual destiny and are designed by providence as tests, rewards or punishment83. Apollo reminds Cervantes, much as Periandro and Don Quijote remind themselves, that: «tú mismo te has forjado tu ventura / y te he visto alguna vez con ella / pero en el imprudente poco dura». (lines 79 ff.). He goes on to offer Cervantes consolation which coincides with the conclusion of El coloquio de los perros, the main theme of La fuerza de la sangre, and the episode of Renato and Eusebia in Persiles Book II, Chapter 19: the virtue of patient resignation to undeserved misfortune is its own reward. Cervantes, even though he comments cynically that wealth and favour secure the best seats, bows his head piously on hearing this wise counsel.

His final lesson in self-knowledge comes in Chapter 6 when he recounts the dream which he had just prior to the battle of the poets. It is introduced by the reflection that dreams are the result of one of three causes; the one which matters here is the third: «Toca en revelaciones la tercera, / que en nuestro bien más que las dos redunda». (Chapter 6, lines 8-9). As examples, Cervantes cites the fevered man's vision of cool water, the valiant soldier's of heroic deeds, the lover's of happy fulfilment. Cervantes's dream, which he proceeds to recount, gave him uninterrupted bliss for over two hours. We note in passing that Don Quijote's vision of what happened in the Cave of Montesinos gives him similar delight for just over one, exhibits a similar grotesque style to this dream, and has a somewhat similar theme: Don Quijote's triumphant reception in a Carolingian Valhalla. In his dream, Cervantes finds himself transported to a delightful meadow, full of the scents and colours of spring. He sees a multitude of people running hither and thither, some dressed in hypocritically modest attire, others in resplendent finery. On an opulent throne, sits a fair, sumptuously adorned giantess, who appears larger when seen from afar than from nearby. She gazes proudly yet lovingly around, casting visual rays which seem alternately to fade and grow more intense. Two beauteous damsels attend her, murmuring sweet nothings and raising the blasons of her merit heavenwards, which, because they are so meagre,   —59→   seem written on the scribbling pads of oblivion. When the giantess stands up, her head surpasses the clouds, her arms extend from east to west, and her pot-belly, swollen by dropsy, seems to contain the sea. We later learn that her natural sustenance is wind. Someone identifies the enigmatic figure for Cervantes in a series of periphrases reminiscent of the terms and examples with which Don Quijote describes men's thirst for fame in Don Quijote Part II, Chapter 8. The giantess is Vainglory, and her two attendants are Adulation and Lies. Let us be clear about the significance of the allegory: this is Cervantes's vision of bliss; this is what, and where, «los humos de la fama» have brought him. More generally, it is every man's vision, since, as Don Quijote points out, «el deseo de alcanzar fama es activo en gran manera» (Don Quijote II, 8; ii, 96). He should know.

This grotesque allegory has its counterpart in the resplendent figure of Poetry, who appears on Parnassus in Chapter 4, beautiful as the dawn and escorted by the liberal arts. Like some Medieval personification of Nature or Wisdom, she is an epitome of cosmic perfection: sagacious scrutiniser of Nature, Love, Peace, War, and Destiny; guardian of divine and moral philosophy; store of wonder-provoking wit; sorceress capable of painting night in the midst of day and vice versa. The contrast between the two personifications, Poetry and Vainglory, helps to explain the sense of the poem's allegory and the odd interweaving of burlesque and encomiastic strains in it. Cervantes's quasi-Platonic idea of Poetry is not only rooted in an allegorical tradition which goes back to Martianus Capella, but is also related to his own ideal of womanhood: a flower of inestimable value if properly cared for, but easily soiled if neglected or misused84. He therefore distinguishes between Poetry as an ideal possibility, seldom realised, but breathtakingly lovely when it is, and poetry in its often imperfect manifestations. The most obvious examples of these in Viaje del Parnaso are the legion of poetasters routed in the battle: they are the poetas chirles ridiculed by Quevedo, by Juan de la Cueva, and, in various contexts besides the Viaje del Parnaso, by Cervantes. They include uncultured poets who turn the imagery of their betters into clichés, blind   —60→   ballad-singers, tavern-versifiers, and, generally, any poet who prostitutes his talent by satire, ribaldry or adulation -the vices that Cervantes claims to have avoided in his «manifesto» in Chapter 4. However, in this conflict between good and bad poets, imperfection is not limited to one side. The comically disillusioning vision of Vainglory applies to every poet on Parnassus. An obvious feature of the poem's gently debunking humor is the way in which it envelops even Apollo's supporters, reminding one constantly of the indignities, pettiness, silliness and envy attendant on the Muse. The paradox that the poem expresses is that one must, alas, love the giantess to have a vision of the damsel.

Two aspects of this all-levelling irony may be illustrated with reference to the episode of the arrival off Parnassus and ensuing rout of a ship laden with poetasters (Chapter 4, lines 459 ff. and Chapter 5). When the ship draws near the shore, one of the passengers hurls abuse at Cervantes, accusing him of partiality in having left the authors of El pastor de Iberia and Las ninfas y pastores de Henares off the list of favoured poets85. Cervantes, dismayed at the animosity that he has provoked, turns to Apollo and implores the god's protection on the grounds: «I was only following your orders». In taking refuge in this classic plea, he reveals a fear of causing offence that surfaces at the end of the poem and in its appendix, the «Adjunta». Comically exaggerated though its manifestation is here, it has evidently shaped the distribution of praise and blame in a way which differentiates the Viaje del Parnaso strikingly from that other «battle of the books», the merry scrutiny. As against the approximately one hundred and ten poets named and praised in the poem, a mere handful of writers -Pedrosa, López de Ubeda, Bernardo de la Vega, Timoneda, Lofraso, Arbolanches, Quincoces- are named and censured86. Of these, only López de Ubeda could be called a prominent living figure; the others are either unidentified non-entities, or were dead, or in their dotage at the time when the   —61→   poem was composed. The Viaje del Parnaso is striking testimony of Cervantes's reluctance, after the prologue to Part I, to wound sensibilities unnecessarily; the very pair of poets against whom Cervantes had most cause for grievance, the Argensolas, are credited with turning the tide of battle in Chapter 7 and are, implicitly, amongst the nine crowned with laurel in Chapter 8. To the objection that the omission of names is in itself tantamount to censure Cervantes replies in advance with his flippant prologue. Indeed, honorable reception on this seedy Parnassus, where, as in the Cave of Montesinos, sublimity and vulgarity are grotesquely intertwined, is hardly an enviable accolade. The contagiousness of its indignities is demonstrated by the description of the sinking and scattering of the above-mentioned poetasters, a parody of the storm whipped up by jealous Juno in Aeneid Book I. Neptune, a strapping ancient with a beard which is a sheep-fold for molluscs and squid, mischievously prongs drowning poets like a boy picking grape pulp from a hat with a pin. Venus, pitying their plight, tries to placate the sea-god by flirting with him like a courtesan from Madrid; when that fails, she transforms the poets into gourds, symbols of folly and presumption, and enlists Boreas's help to drive them, like a herd of grunting swine, back to Spain. Such is the effect of the transformation on Cervantes's fantasy, that he can no longer see a gourd or wine-skin without mistaking it for a poet, nor a poet, however good and respectable, without seeing him as a gourd or wineskin. So this burlesque epic both asserts a hierarchical division between «lizard-eating kestrels» and «non-tax-paying hawks» (Chapter 5, lines 254 ff.) and leaves the protagonist bemused as to which is which. His comical confusion is not meant to induce a sense of relativity of aesthetic values -the noble damsel is still divine, and so is the «divine» Herrera- but rather, to further the mockery of the vainglorious quest for status and to suggest that even good poets are capable of apostasy. It is in this state of mind that he composes the «Adjunta», featuring the encounter with Pancracio.

In the scenes of Don Quijote Part II where the two heroes are recognised and feted by their readers, the themes of the triumphant satisfaction of achieving fame and its essential vanity run in antithetical parallel. They are enunciated by the hero at the very outset of the third sally (Don Quijote II, 8; ii, 94-96), are implicit in the outward pomp and inner hollowness of his triumphs   —62→   in the Duke's palace and Barcelona, and are reflected in his conscious experience on numerous occasions87. If Cervantes's personal identification with these themes, especially the first, is obvious enough, his handling of both reveals a rare capacity to sublimate his own viewpoint and preoccupations in those of his fictional characters. It redeems the potential narcissism inherent in the self-projections studied in the preceding pages. The recognition-scenes of Don Quijote Part II are an excellent example of this. One may aptly compare their mode of reference to Don Quijote's own literary history, particularly the appearance of Avellaneda's sequel to Part I a year before the publication of Cervantes's own Part II, with Mateo Alemán's fictional response to the similar misfortune that he suffered at the hands of Juan Martí. To put matters simply, Alemán devotes the second book of Part II of Guzmán de Alfarache to a systematic, violent, allegorical denunciation of Martí's exploitation of his ideas and material: he turns the tables on his rival by appropriating Martí's protagonist, baptising him with Martí's pseudonym (Sayavedra), making him enact Martí's theft by proxy, before turning him into Guzmán's contrite and admiring servant and drowning him, in a fit of delirium, in the Mediterranean. The allegory makes the reader insistently conscious of the author's perspective on literary piracy: his outrage, sense of artistic superiority to the despicable rival, and so on.

Ultimately, the recognition-scenes of Don Quijote Part II -and this not only applies to the ones which deal with Avellaneda- likewise invite the reader to share the author's perspective. However, in the first instance, in sharp contrast with Alemán's procedure, they evoke the reader's viewpoint on the novel's literary history: above all, the curiosity and fascination aroused in readers by Quixote and Sancho as literary characters. Cervantes's «self-consciousness» directs attention less to himself than to his artefact. The friendly delegates of Cervantes's irony, who in Don Quijote Part I were responsible for humoring, mocking, cajoling and curing the hero, now, in Part II, have largely replaced these tasks with that of expressing and enacting their aesthetic appreciation for him. Thus, the novel objectifies in flesh-and-blood form the process of its own literary consumption. Contrary to what is often suggested, there is no slipping of the mask in this. When the two heroes meet their readers, they do   —63→   so as subjects of a historical biography, logically capable of being interviewed by readers of it, correcting errors and omissions, and furnishing the author, by their acts, with new material. It is on this footing that Sansón Carrasco meets Don Quijote and Sancho just prior to the start of the third sally (Part II, 3-7 inclusive). His interviews with the pair function allegorically as authorial apologetics: they are, in effect, a series of fictional prologues to the second Part, which review the reception of the first Part and imply that due note of the various comments, favourable and unfavourable, will be taken in the sequel. However, authorial apologetics are thoroughly transposed into Quixotic apologetics: the friendly reader's viewpoint, incarnate in Sansón, has been absorbed into the hero's fictional world. All the topics that Sansón raises in his report of the nature of Benengeli's chronicle -interpolations, palos, decorum, inconsistencies, and so forth- are seen from the perspective of the hero's burning need for reassurance that the chronicler has depicted him in a fittingly heroic manner. The irony of the dialogue works by contrasting Sansón's insinuations, omissions, euphemisms and evasions against the hero's limited perception of their significance, and conforms to the well-established pattern whereby clever characters (e. g. Dorotea) veil offensive truths in doublespeak soothingly opaque to the hero's self-esteem:

Si por buena fama y si por buen nombre va... sólo vuestra merced lleva la palma a todos los caballeros andantes; porque el moro en su lengua y el cristiano en la suya tuvieron cuidado de pintarnos muy al vivo la gallardía de vuestra merced, el ánimo grande en acometer los peligros, la paciencia en las adversidades y el sufrimiento así en las desgracias como en las heridas, la honestidad y continencia en los amores tan platónicos de vuestra merced y de mi señora Dulcinea del Toboso.

(Don Quijote II, 3; ii, 60)                

Multi-layered irony is rife here, and mostly wears the ambivalent air of «true in one sense, but not in another». Sansón's understanding of these ironies coincides with the discreet reader's in all respects save the most important one: namely, that the book in question is not Benengeli's chronicle but Cervantes's novel. It is sign of the author's paradoxical relation to his text: pervasive self-assertion mitigated by persistent self-effacement.