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Beneath the Fiction

The Contrary Worlds of Cervantes's "Novelas ejemplares</I>


Wiliam H. Clamurro

Cervantes's Novelas ejemplares rival Don Quijote in complexity and significance. This book analyzes all twelve novelas, seeking to illuminate the inherent tensions between the usually affirmative resolutions and lessons proposed by Cervantes's narrators, on the one hand, and the inescapable socio-cultural dissonances and ironies of story and language, on the other. This reading of the entire collection reveals the richness and complexity of many of the less-studied novelas as well as the striking modernity (or postmodernity) of the final text.


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Chapter Seven: Eros, Material, and the Architecture of Desire: El celoso extremeño 163


Chapter Seven Eros, Material, and the Architecture of Desire El celoso extremefio The seventh novela begins-and could be seen at its core--as one of the most conventional of the whole collection.1 A very old, suspicious, wealthy yet impotent man marries an extremely young woman. This May-December marriage contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction, and the inherent contradictions of the situation promise to play themselves out in the form of either farce or tragedy.2 In contrast to Cervantes's own farcical treatment of this plot concept in his entremes, "El viejo celoso," the exploration of the mismatch device in El celoso extremefio leads to a conclusion both pathetic and ambiguous.3 Once again, however, a possibly simple story reveals-in both the larger trajectory of its action and the seemingly less significant details of setting and characterization-a rich and troubling parable of social structures and individual conceptions of self. Although the story indeed encompasses the necessary central triangle of husband, wife, and intrusive seducer, along with the supporting cast of servants and slaves, the novela offers itself to us as the fevered projection of one person, Carrizales. 1 See, for example, Fordone: "Of all the tales in the collection none is more directly indebted in form and content to the central tradition of the European short story, which found its classical expression in the Decameron, and none reveals more clearly Cervantes's mastery of the narrative techniques which Boccaccio perfected and left as the classical standard for future short story writers" (Cervantes...

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