Don Quixote, post #8, ch 39-45

A bit late, but I’m here, with the story of the captive, which spans in chapters 39 through 41, plus four other chapters that relate the mayhem at the inn, with more people arriving, more stories, and a roughhouse of epic dimensions.

The captive arrives with a beautiful and mysterious Moorish woman. Their story starts in Leon, where the captive is from. At the time, Leon was the most noble land in all Spain, with people from prestigious linage. A father who loves his three sons but who is quite a spender, decides to give them their inheritance before he ends up with none, and suggests to his children to take three ways, church or studies, commerce, and soldier. The oldest, the captive, is the one who will become a soldier, who goes to Alicante, (a port from which he goes to Genoa and Milan), from there he wants to go to Alexandria, but hearing about a duke who’s going to Flanders to fight, follows that path instead. The youngest brother decides to study law, goes to Salamanca, city to first have a university, the heart of the liberal arts at the time. The middle brother goes to another port, Seville, where he takes a ship to try his luck at the “Indies”, -Peru, actually-.

I’ve listened to a commentary that says that implicitly, the story of the captive also tells how the Spanish people went from protectors to oppressors, -by the mention of the different men the captive goes to serve, and their historical doings.

The first discourse of the captive is full of places and events, and though I read and listen to it over and over, I can’t figure it out in simple turns. The main point would be that this man is out there, fighting battles that involve enemy parties and allies, captives and rescued captives.

There’s a mention to Alvaro de Bazán, quote:

On this expedition was taken the galley called the Prize, whose captain was a son of the famous corsair Barbarossa. It was taken by the chief Neapolitan galley called the She-wolf, commanded by that thunderbolt of war, that father of his men, that successful and unconquered captain Don Alvaro de Bazan, Marquis of Santa Cruz; and I cannot help telling you what took place at the capture of the Prize.
The son of Barbarossa was so cruel, and treated his slaves so badly, that, when those who were at the oars saw that the She-wolf galley was bearing down upon them and gaining upon them, they all at once dropped their oars and seized their captain who stood on the stage at the end of the gangway shouting to them to row lustily; and passing him on from bench to bench, from the poop to the prow, they so bit him that before he had got much past the mast his soul had already got to hell; so great, as I said, was the cruelty with which he treated them, and the hatred with which they hated him.

Admiral Alvaro de Bazán is renown in Spain. He was born in a maritime city, Granada, in South Spain, and he became commander of the Spanish navy at an early age. Curiously, the Spanish navy headquarters were not in a maritime city, but in the middle of Spain, in my father’s birth village, called Viso del Marqués, in Ciudad Real.

Seven years ago, when we traveled to Madrid, we went to see my father’s friends in El Viso, and visited the palace and navy headquarters.

That day, we bought two prints we framed and have on top of our bed in our bedroom, San Telmo’s Ship, and Royal Ship Carlos. Bazán died before the Spanish defeat against the English with the Spanish Armada, which ironically we called The Invincible. My husband always says that, had Bazán been alive, the outcome would have been different. We don’t know that, but we can safely say he was an admired man, so much as to have Cervantes pay him homage in this chapter of DQ.

This chapter is dear to me, as Malta, -where my husband is from-, is also mentioned. Malta resisted an impossible to win attack by the Ottoman empire. But they did it. With a mix of courage and cunning, the small island, with its few people, dispatched a super power back home.

It’s also a chapter in which the captive mentions a man, Cervantes, who was also a courageous soldier made captive too, which happened to Cervantes in real life. This story is full of true references to the society of the time, the captives, renegades, converts, the exploitation of war prisoners, and again, the biases of the time such as ‘you can’t trust a Moor’. It also talks about the psychology of the one made free who then forgets his promise to come back for his peers, such as in the Bible, when Joseph helps Pharaoh’s wine server to be free, and once free he forgets to help Joseph.

The story now focuses on him as captive, and a woman, daughter of a rich Moor, named Zoraida, who converted to christianity through a maid who has already died, and who taught her about Lela Marien, or the virgin Mary.

And then the story focuses on him as captive, and a woman, daughter of a rich Moor, named Zoraida, who converted to christianity through a maid who has already died, and who taught her about Lela Marien, or the virgin Mary.

This story is quite interesting, even though I know what happens, I relish it every time. I feel bad for Zoraida’s father. He truly loves his daughter. It all ends well with the party back in Leon, where the captive is known and restored to his normal life, though without fortune.

Earlier in the story, the captive mentions a brave soldier, Don Pedro de Aguilar, who happens to be Don Fernando’s brother. (Fernando was the one who took a fancy to Luscinda, and finally settled with Dorotea). Don Pedro was even the author of a sonnet, and the captive tells Don Fernando to recite it himself, for he’ll do it better than him.

As fate has it, the judge that arrives to the inn with his beautiful young daughter happens to be the captive’s brother. The captive, upon recognizing the voice of his brother, wants to make himself known to him, but he has reservations. He’s scared his brother will be ashamed of his current state, -he has no fortune-. The curate or priest would be the mediator here. He’s the one who presents the judge with the story of the captive. The judge is very happy to have found his brother. Don Fernando is happy to have gotten news of his brother, Don Pedro. And the judge tells his brother the captive, that their middle brother is a successful commerce man who made his fortune in Peru.

Add one more layer. The story of the judge’s daughter, and the young man in love with her. He’s from a good family but doubts that his loved one’s father will accept him as his son in law. When she embarks on a trip with her father the judge, the young man disguises himself as a servant, just to follow her. This boy can sing. Not only, he improvises, and invents his tunes and lyrics on the spot. His voice is angelical. He is corresponded. The young Clara explains to Dorotea who the singer is, and why she’s trying to not listen to him, in the hopes to forget about him. Theirs is an impossible love, for she’s from a most noble birth, and he doesn’t think her father would approve of him. But Clara’s father, the judge, approves of it, -it seems that the boy was from a good family after all, he just didn’t believe in himself-, however, the judge wants Don Luis’s, -the young man-, father’s approval. While three of the four servants who followed Don Luis go back to tell Don Luis’s father about all this, Don Luis himself, Don Fernando, the judge and Clara go to Andalusia together in good terms, waiting for Don Luis’s father to sanction the marriage.

More stories. The prank that Maritormes and the innkeeper’s daughter play on DQ. As you see, the stories are inserted one upon another, not told from beginning to end, but they interrupt each other. I had no problem following, did you? I’m not sure if the first time around this comes across as confusing. Tell me how these chapters have been for you. The prank. We can say that what goes around comes around. These girls want to laugh. Teens, right? They tie one of DQ’s hands to the window bars, with DQ on Rocinante, in a way that he can’t set his feet on the floor if he moves.

It’s late at night, and DQ doesn’t know where he’s at. He first thought the princess of the castle was offering herself to him. You have to shake your head here. The thought! No low self esteem here. He then feels trapped, and calls out for help, but Sancho and everybody else sleep. Maritormes hears him scream, and she unties his wrist. DQ falls at the feet of four travelers, and in front of the innkeeper who came to see what was going on. The travelers were young Don Luis’s servants sent by his father to look for him.

With all this noise, some men of bad repute, try to leave the inn without paying. The landlord notices it, and starts fighting against them, but he’s being licked. Maritormes, the landlord’s daughter and wife, go to DQ and ask him for assistance. Too bad, Maritormes and landlord’s daughter, now DQ is not wanting to fight this cause, since he’s given his word to not pursue any adventure until he is done with restoring Micomicona to her kingdom. Aha, what goes around, comes around, remember? DQ suggest to call Sancho, he’s the one who can fight men of that lower class. The three women witness all this in anger.

In the end, Cardenio and Fernando, -I believe-, offer to pay the landlord for all the damages and money lost, and things get calmer thanks to DQ’s words. I find it truly ironic that DQ manages to put a peaceful end to all the madness that is in great part originated by his actions.

By the end of chapter 44, who arrives at the inn but the barber! When he sees Sancho, and the basin and the pack saddle that they stole from him, he is determine to take them back. Sancho defends his right to those items, as loot after the battle his lord DQ engaged in, but the barber fights for his belongings with all his teeth. DQ thinks about knighting Sancho after he sees him fighting the barber so well.

This is a quote from the end of chapter 44:

In the course of the altercation, among other things the barber said, “Gentlemen, this pack-saddle is mine as surely as I owe God a death, and I know it as well as if I had given birth to it, and here is my ass in the stable who will not let me lie; only try it, and if it does not fit him like a glove, call me a rascal; and what is more, the same day I was robbed of this, they robbed me likewise of a new brass basin, never yet handselled, that would fetch a crown any day.”

At this Don Quixote could not keep himself from answering; and interposing between the two, and separating them, he placed the pack-saddle on the ground, to lie there in sight until the truth was established, and said, “Your worships may perceive clearly and plainly the error under which this worthy squire lies when he calls a basin which was, is, and shall be the helmet of Mambrino which I won from him in fair war, and made myself master of by legitimate and lawful possession. With the pack-saddle I do not concern myself; but I may tell you on that head that my squire Sancho asked my permission to strip off the caparison of this vanquished poltroon’s steed, and with it adorn his own; I allowed him, and he took it; and as to its having been changed from a caparison into a pack-saddle, I can give no explanation except the usual one, that such transformations will take place in adventures of chivalry. To confirm all which, run, Sancho my son, and fetch hither the helmet which this good fellow calls a basin.”

“Egad, master,” said Sancho, “if we have no other proof of our case than what your worship puts forward, Mambrino’s helmet is just as much a basin as this good fellow’s caparison is a pack-saddle.”
“Do as I bid thee,” said Don Quixote; “it cannot be that everything in this castle goes by enchantment.”

Sancho hastened to where the basin was, and brought it back with him, and when Don Quixote saw it, he took hold of it and said:
“Your worships may see with what a face this squire can assert that this is a basin and not the helmet I told you of; and I swear by the order of chivalry I profess, that this helmet is the identical one I took from him, without anything added to or taken from it.”

“There is no doubt of that,” said Sancho, “for from the time my master won it until now he has only fought one battle in it, when he let loose those unlucky men in chains; and if had not been for this basin-helmet he would not have come off over well that time, for there was plenty of stone-throwing in that affair.”

Image from here
Image from here

Basin or helmet, pack saddle or caparison? The barber starts to complain about those things they have robbed him from, the curate, acting again as mediator, pays him for the basin, so that DQ can keep it.

Some in the inn who know very well the things are basin and pack saddle, want to have some fun, and they argue the things are truly a helmet and a caparison. The new comers are not in the ‘joke’, and claim that they are basin and pack saddle. A big argument ensues. This is like a western saloon fight, everybody is punching, hitting, this is absolute chaos. Funny how we people go from defending something, our views, what we consider our reality, and how we get physical. The only crucial issue in my eyes, was the barber, who lost his belongings. Other than that, the fact of what those things are is inconsequential. Or it should be. If the new comers, -the four servants-, had been just one, I wonder if he alone would have insisted on the items identity as much as they all did. Because the two dissenting groups consisted of a few people, they continued pressing for their view. Once more, crazy DQ, comes to instill peace, with an outlandish explanation, claiming that the castle is enchanted, making us all see different things.

I may be stretching this too much, but I believe Cervantes is telling us that in life, circumstances or people with ill intentions, make us see or experience things in different ways. I don’t believe for a minute that this is a relativistic view of life or morality. We all know the articles are a basin and pack saddle. It’s more the realization that our understanding of life is skewed when we are ill, hurt, when we are biased, or when we twist things from evil motives or just to contradict others to make fun of them, or to pick a fight. DQ voices that recognition that we all need to remember that to every situation, there’s more than meets the eye. This is also a good example to us of a time when it’s not important to be right, but to stay calm and be at peace with each other.

DQ’s decisions and actions are disastrous, but not consciously mean. We see here that it wasn’t him exactly, the one who brought that big fight about, but others trying to get a laugh at his expense. The curate has a conciliatory nature, and so does DQ here, when he exercises his ability to be heard, and calls everyone to a halt. It’s not exactly what he says, but his call to stop what makes it.

More people arrive to the inn. Man from the Holy Brotherhood. One recognizes DQ as the person who freed those who were taken to the gallows. DQ fights with that man, -a knight in his eyes-, and when they come to separate them, DQ starts insulting. So much for being such a peace maker, DQ, :)! I guess that, whenever there’s men, there’s meant to be arguments, fights, insults, disputes, and ugliness.

Only seven more chapters. The book will start to wind down from here, as the next chapters will see DQ and everyone leave the inn.

If you’ve read up to here, congratulations. If these seven chapters are all twisted and tangled in your head, don’t hesitate to read a synopsis. That will surely help you to sort the different stories straight.

As my friend Karen noted, she read how they say that these chapters at the inn are the climax of book 1. After this, no more overlapping stories. We are really getting close to the second book now. We can do this!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s