Thursday, June 23, 2011

Meandering through La Mancha

Breathless followers of this blog are undoubtely wondering how things are going with the reading of Don Quijote in Spanish. The answer, I suppose, is "deliberately."

There are some things that ought not to be rushed, and if it takes me another ten years to make it through, that's OK. It will give me some comfort in not being an ungraduate trying to finish it in a semester.

And what has been most arresting? The story of the Grisostomo, who died for love of the "cruel Marcela," the beautiful shepherdess who spurned his advance is remarkable, both for its faithful telling of this rather standard kind of pastoral (complete with the late lover's despairing poetry), and for the epilogue in which Marcella is allowed to come on stage and ask, essentially, Where does Grisostomo get off dying for me? I didn't ask him to do it!

"Que si a Grisóstomo mató su impaciencia y arrojado deseo, ¿por qué se ha de culpar mi honesto proceder y recato? Si yo conservo mi limpieza con la compañía de los árboles, ¿por qué ha de querer que la pierda el que quiere que la tenga con los hombres? Yo, como sabéis, tengo riquezas propias y no codicio las ajenas; tengo libre condición y no gusto de sujetarme: ni quiero ni aborrezco a nadie. No engaño a éste ni solicito aquél, ni burlo con uno ni me entretengo con el otro."

"My condition is free, and I am not pleased to be subject to anyone." Some would say that this is "modern." I would be more inclined to say that it is more of Cervantes' contrast of the idyllic and the real. Marcella's protest is just as appropriate in the seventeenth century as today. It was, after all, Chaucer's Wife of Bath who informed us that that what women want is "sovereneyee/As wel over hir housbond as hir love,/And for to been in maistrei him above."

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