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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 Nine: Pathos and Melodrama: Las dos doncellas and La señora Cornelia 211


Chapter Nine Pathos and Melodrama Las dos doncellas and La senora Cornelia The ninth and tenth novelas lend themselves to a contrastive study of the marriage theme. Here, before we arrive at the memora- ble "deceitful marriage" of the eleventh story, we encounter two explorations of love entanglements that resolve into, and are resolved by, marriage. Once again Cervantes explores the problems of love and abandonment, of injustice followed by redress and harmonious reunion. In both stories, the establishing of justice in questions sexual and ethical is seen as requisite for social order. But these novelas also confront the issues of identity and social relation- ships, as manifested in sexual transgressions, broken promises, and the gender-crossing implications of disguise. If, as Sears has so persuasively argued, the marriage plot and its implicit conservative ideology represent a crucial theme and structuring device of the Novelas ejemplares, then the juxtaposition of these two texts provides a penetrating and unexpectedly disturbing return to the question.1 Within (or despite) the seemingly happy endings of both stories, Cervantes's texts uncover two ironic and critical versions of the marriage resolution, the first story cast in a sentimentalized, slightly archaic, and unrealistic tone, and the second story suggesting an almost subversively farcical confusion of identities and socially stratified values.2 Most significantly, however, Las dos doncellas and 1 See Sears, A Marriage of Convenience, especially chapter six (175-95). 2 As Sears has argued, "The marriage plot (and its two dominant constituents, the courtship and the seduction plot) creates...

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