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ArribaAbajoGaldós's Tristana as a subversion of the Tristan legend79

Joan Grimbert

From its appearance in 1892 Galdós's Tristana was seen as a feminist novel, tracing, as it does, a young woman's determined truggle to transcend the boundaries that nineteenth-century Spanish society set for women, whose honorable means of support outside of marriage were virtually non-existent. But the struggle the novel chronicles is ultimately futile, for if the heroine awakens to her plight and aspires to escape her destiny, she is thwarted two thirds of the way through the work by a cruel and apparently arbitrary stroke of fate. This circumstance initiates a rapid descent towards a resolution that represents at best a compromise of her ideals.

In an early review of the novel Emilia Pardo Bazán criticized Galdós for having, in effect, short-circuited Tristana's fight and humiliated her, claiming that if he had properly developed the feminist theme, the novel might have turned out to be one of his best («Tristana» 1120). As is well known, the novel was badly received and virtually ignored until the 1970s, but it is now recognized as a worthy and, indeed, eminently modern literary production of great narratological complexity.80 Since it has been demonstrated convincingly that subversion is a major thematic and structural component of the novel,81 the aspects that Pardo Bazán saw as flaws appear now in an altogether different light. Indeed, although she considered superfluous both the (unnecessarily heartless) amputation of the heroine's leg and the introduction of Horacio into Tristana's life, we shall see that these two elements are crucial for understanding the process of subversion as it relates to the Tristan legend.82

Subversion in Tristana depends in part on a complex and wide-ranging network of literary allusions, both explicit and implicit, especially to medieval and Golden Age literature, but also to more contemporary works.83 Galdós alludes to particular characters in a variety of specific works, as well as to stock figures from genres of popular literature that focus on traditional relationships between men and women (farce, «fabliau», «folletín»). But these allusions are designed to set up expectations in the reader that are subsequently thwarted. Although the protagonists seek consciously to incarnate certain ideal types (or unwittingly recall less ideal ones), they seem destined always to fall short. Germán Gullón (15-16) has shown that the three protagonists take on various identities without ever fully realizing any of them. For example, Don Lope, whose birth certificate reads «Don Juan López Garrido», behaves like the perennial womanizer (the nickname «don Lepe», which Saturna gives him, seems to allude to the devil's gift for beguiling women verbally) and is vehemently opposed to marriage. These are attributes that naturally recall the Don Juan myth, but that figure is subverted in a way that anticipates the decadent Don Juan figures in twentieth-century Spanish literature. Despite his manipulative ways, the aging roué (he is fifty-seven at the beginning of the novel when he seduces his twenty-one-year-old ward) is indeed a pathetic and somewhat ridiculous   —110→   figure, recalling the «celoso» of «fabliaux», ballads of «la mal maridada», and works by Cervantes.84

Roberto G. Sánchez (115-116) has noted that Don Lope also recalls Arnolphe in Molière's École des Femmes, but here again the situation is totally transformed: while Arnolphe, haunted by the fear of being cuckolded, seeks to isolate his ward and intended bride from the world so as to inculcate in her such virtue that she will never consider being unfaithful, Don Lope actually seduces his ward, and since he has no intention of marrying her, he plants in her mind the idea that marriage is slavery. Although jealous of her attraction to Horacio, rather than refusing to allow them to meet, he waits for their ardor to wane. Then when he is certain that Horacio has lost all desire to marry Tristana, he takes pleasure in «encouraging» their liaison.85 As for Horacio, Gullón (26) notes that although he incarnates to some extent the stock type of the unknown youth («el caballero incógnito») who rescues the female victim («la cautiva») from the monster «el gigante») oppressing her, he is far too cautious and conventional for such heroics and thus is unable to play out the role. Sánchez (117) speculates that Galdós may have chosen the name Horacio with Molière's Horace in mind, an allusion that is also clearly ironic, for unlike Horace, Horacio does not succeed in wresting the victimized Tristana from her calculating guardian, mostly because he falls far short of the idealized lover she imagines him to be.86

It is from a similar perspective that I propose to analyze evidence of Galdós's subversion of the Tristan legend according, moreover, to a process that plays specifically on Tristana's feminist instincts. Tristana, who aspires in life to transcend the masculine/feminine dichotomy, subsumes the traits associated in the Tristan legend with both lovers, eventually recalling more Tristan than Iseult. But Galdós undermines her aspirations at the same time as he subverts the Tristan myth: he substitutes for the legendary lovers' poignant demise a fate that not only is a betrayal of the legend (where love and death are inextricably intertwined) but also seems, from the viewpoint of the Romantic at least, almost worse than death. Tristana contains numerous elements that recall the Tristan legend, yet always in a way that is somehow twisted: inverted, subverted, even perverted. Critics have shown that the other great myths (particularly those of Don Quijote and Don Juan) to which Galdós alludes in the novel are subjected to a similar kind of distortion, but while some have mentioned the Tristan in passing, no attempt has yet been made to analyze in detail its peculiar relation to Tristana.87

Galdós signals the importance of the legend by giving the name Tristana to both his heroine and to the novel that chronicles her failed quest. Although this would appear to be the most obvious allusion, most critics have seen little more than an indirect reference. They have taken at face value the information supplied by the narrator who, speaking of Tristana's mother, reports that she had immersed herself in the world of fiction, especially that of Spain's «Siglo de Oro»: «Su niña debía el nombre de Tristana a la pasión por aquel arte caballeresco y noble, que creó una sociedad ideal para servir constantemente de norma y ejemplo a nuestras realidades groseras y vulgares» (1546).88 But some scholars have commented on Galdós's anomalous use of the name, noting, for example, the disturbing contradiction inherent in the heroine's full name: «Tristana» alludes to the tragedy of the Cornish lovers (Tristan and Iseult) and connotes sadness («triste», «tristeza»), while «Reluz» expresses the longing for enlightenment.89 Indeed, raised in the   —111→   dark world of her mother's obsessiveness and languishing in the oppressive atmosphere of her guardian's house, Tristana yearns for light in the form of knowledge, independence, and love. Although her identification with Dante's Beatrice is half comic, she does share with the latter a rejection of «the impurity of the tangible world» (Tsuchiya 59). But with the onset of her illness, the tangible world reasserts itself, and once Horacio reappears, she is forced to recognize that her «bello ideal» was a carefully constructed illusion that has not stood the test of time or separation. Thus, despite her determination, Tristana seems doomed from birth, like her legendary namesake, to have feelings and aspirations that make her feel alienated within society; but unlike Tristan, she is deprived ultimately of the joy and pain of an intense, «enduring» love that might compensate in part for that sense of alienation.90

The impulse to link Tristana to Tristan rather than to Iseult signals another significant anomaly, for although «Tristán» was once a fairly common name (in the late Middle Ages), «Tristana» was not.91 The latter, which according to Theodore A. Sackett, makes Galdós's heroine «the feminine version of the masculine archetypal lover», reflects her yearning for independence -the «symbolic desire to combine both sexes in one» (75), an aspiration that suggests an important reason, at least at the level of myth, for the failure of her dream: she is fated to bear alone the weight of its idealism. Indeed, although Horacio is both a catalyst and equal partner, initially, in her rejection of the shabby values of bourgeois society, it soon becomes clear that he is a most conventional man who would like to make of his lover the most conventional of wives. If he appears at first to be Tristana's salvation from the oppressive Don Lope, in the end he will fail to fulfill our expectations of the two stock literary figures he recalls, succeeding neither in freeing the hapless victim from the oppressor, nor in playing out the role of the true romantic lover.92 Galdós's tendency to subvert stock literary types, as we as entire myths, explains why elements of the Tristan legend appear in the novel in twisted form. Parallels are established linking Horacio and Tristana to Tristan and Iseult, respectively, but are eventually undermined, and at the precise point where Horacio ceases to resemble Tristan, Tristana herself takes on various aspects of the legendary hero's life. It is this fruitful process of allusion and subversion that is the subject of the following discussion, in which I shall be referring to elements of both the medieval tradition and Wagner's retelling, examining the links that can be established between Horacio and Tristan before showing how Tristana resembles both Tristan and Iseult.

Orphaned at an early age, Horacio is entrusted to the care of a tyrannical grandfather, who is determined to choose for him both a trade (as a druggist) and a wife; much later he goes to live with his aunt, who also attempts to control his destiny. Both relatives profess to love him as if he were their own son. The orphan Tristan also elicits strong paternal feelings in both the man who raises him (his father's steward) and his uncle, Mark, at whose court he arrives as an adolescent, but unlike Horacio, whose growth is effectively stunted, he enjoys a nurturing atmosphere. The two young men are, nevertheless, similar in that their artistic vocation sets them apart from their peers: at an early age Horacio takes refuge in art, and Tristan distinguishes himself from his peers by his excellence at courtly pastimes: chess, hunting, poetry, and especially music.

Horacio's initial contact with Tristana is extraordinarily intense, as the narrator observes, describing what they feel on that fateful day when Tristana's gaze meets   —112→   Horacio's: «y al cruzarse su mirada con la de aquel sujeto, pues en ambos el verse y el mirarse fueron una acción sola, sintió una sacudida interna, como suspensión instantánea del correr de la sangre» (1554). Both gaze, look away, then back, on that day and the next. Like Tristan and Iseult struck dumb initially by the effect of the love potion, as described by Cottfried (195-97), Tristana spends a restless night mulling over her emotions and her options, then finally makes contact the next day. Following a short, intense meeting, she tells Saturna that «a todo cuanto me dijo le contesté que sí... pero cómo..., ¡ay!, no sabes... vaciando mi alma por los ojos. Los suyos me quemaban» (1555).93 Like the Cornish lovers, Horacio and Tristana are convinced they were destined for each other. «Te quise desde que nací...», writes Horacio (1555), and Tristana, characteristically, goes even further, replying: «Te estoy queriendo, te estoy buscando desde antes de nacer» (1556). The intensity of their love «wound» recalls the mixture of pain and joy that characterizes Tristan's and Iseult's love: «Ni era posible decir si aquello era en ambos felicidad o una pena lacerante, porque uno y otro se sentían como heridos por un aguijón que les llegaba al alma, y atormentados por el deseo de un más allá» (1560). The two engage in a constant dissection and exaltation of their passion: «Sutilizaban los porqués de su cariño, querían explicar lo inexplicable, descifrar el profundo misterio, y al fin paraban en lo de siempre: en exigirse y prometerse más amor, en desafiar la eternidad, dándose garantías de fe inalterable en vidas sucesivas, en los cercos nebulosos de la inmortalidad, allá donde habita la perfección y se sacuden las almas el polvo de los mundos en que penaron» (1562). Such discussion is also a feature of the Gottfried/Thomas tradition; it undoubtedly inspired the metaphysical love discourse that dominates Wagner's opera and is greatly magnified by the chromaticism of the music.

As Tristan is eventually parted from Iseult, so too is Horacio from Tristana, although the circumstances are necessarily very different. Tristan is banished for romancing the wife of the man who is his uncle and lord, a double betrayal in a society where blood and feudal ties were paramount. Horacio simply acquiesces in his aunt's wish that he accompany her to Villajoyosa. Although he and Tristana both refuse initially to consider separation, they quickly see the merit in such a change: the notion of a «truce» after so much intensity is attractive. Besides, they know -from their study of lyric poetry, no doubt- that love involves pain as well as joy, and they are anxious to test and renew their passion: «querían probar el desconocido encanto de alejarse» (1578).

However, from the moment that Horacio arrives in Villajoyosa, he ceases to bear any resemblance to Tristan, and no doubt that is precisely the point. Despite his protestations of undying love, he manages to compensate for Tristana's absence, adjusting to the separation with an ease that would have been unthinkable for Tristan: despite his eventual marriage to a woman (Iseult of the White Hands), whose name and beauty reminded him of his true love, he could never bring himself to consummate it. Horacio, won over by the pleasures of his surroundings, becomes a land- and sea-scape painter. Galdós's treatment of the sea here shows another way in which he subverts the Tristan legend. Horacio was «nacido en el mar» (1556) and eventually becomes enamoured with it while in Villajoyosa: «El Arte se confabuló con la Naturaleza para conquistarle, y habiendo pintado un día [...] una marina soberbia, quedó para siempre prendado del mar azul, de las playas luminosas y del risueño contorno de tierra» (1580). Although the   —113→   initial reference to the sea reinforces his orphaned state, as it does that of Tristan (who in Eilhart's version was actually born at sea and ripped from his dead mother's womb), the second reference alludes to the triumph of Art and Nature over Love in Horacio's heart. By contrast, in the Tristan legend the sea, which figures prominently in all of Tristan's and Iseult's trips between Cornwall, Ireland, and Brittany, plays a major role in bringing them together (it is at sea that they consume the fatal love potion) and in underscoring the pain of their separation. Unlike Tristan, then, Horacio is easily taken with the rural pleasures of domesticity and invites Tristana to live with him in the country and «ser una feliz y robusta villana» (1581). She laughs at this picture, so incompatible with her own exalted vision.

Horacio's initial resemblance to Tristan is paralleled by Tristana's resemblance to Iseult. It has been noted that her alabaster beauty evokes the Renaissance «bello ideal» with which she and Horacio identify in their love letters (Tsuchiya 58). It is a type similar to the medieval paradigm of feminine beauty; and the description (a catalogue of ideal attributes reminiscent of medieval portraiture94) recalls both Tristan's lover, Iseult of Ireland, and, in the specific references to Tristana's paleness and her perfect hands, the woman he eventually marries, Iseult of the White Hands (Gullón 17). Tristana's circumstances also recall somewhat those of Iseult, who, though not orphaned, feels alienated once she has left Ireland for Cornwall. When accused of treason by King Mark, she complains bitterly of never having felt at home in her adopted country and laments having no family to which she can turn for support. Consequently, she is dependent for counsel and affection on her servant and confidante, Brangien (Gottfried/Thomas 325-27), who, after having unwittingly provoked her mistress's liaison, is drawn permanently into the lovers' intrigue and facilitates their contact.95 The orphaned Tristana shares a similarly close bond with Saturna («Sin la compaña y los agasajos de Saturna, la vida de Tristana habría sido intolerable» [1549]). Saturna is witness to the sudden attraction that unites Horacio and Tristana, and she lends them constant support thereafter. The fact that Tristana is handed over to a figure of her father's generation who will serve the double function of protector and «husband» clearly recalls Iseult's relationship with Mark, which Gullón calls «quasi-incestuous» (17). This is a label which in the legend actually applies more to Iseult's relationship with her lover, in that Mark, as Tristan's maternal uncle, stands legally in the stead of his deceased father. Consequently, the ambivalent feelings that Tristana has for Don Lope (whom she calls «una combinación monstruosa de cualidades buenas y de defectos horrible? [1564]) are mirrored in the complex relationship that both Tristan and Iseult share with Mark. Like therril Tristana is adept at leading a double life: her talent for lying resembles their ubiquitous recourse to ruse and deception in order to escape detection and punishment.96

It is Tristana's appropriation of Tristan's attributes and their subsequent subversion that suggest most clearly how the novel undermines the legend. Assuming first Tristan's name and his orphaned state, Tristana aspires to earn her own living and to be her own head of household; she even refuses to consider marrying Horacio. Noting that her tastes and abilities make her more like a man than a woman (see especially 1571-73, 1580), she mentions two instances of women who defy the masculine/feminine dichotomy. She describes her English teacher as «profesora, aunque más bien la creerías del género masculino o del neutro» (1582), a portrait to which Horacio alludes when he expresses   —114→   to Tristana his fear that her teacher «te contagie de su fealdad seca y hombruna» (1583). In her next letter, Tristana mentions her interest in Lady Macbeth, reveling at her exclamation «Unsex me here» (1584). Seeing in the arts a possible means of support, she takes a great interest in them and shows real aptitude, threatening even to surpass Horacio. Tristan is a skilled musician: it is his harp-playing97 that initially wins him a place at Mark's court and is his sole consolation when, suffering from the poisonous wound inflicted by the Irish champion, Morholt, and convinced he is doomed, he sets himself adrift. When he lands in Ireland, his minstrel disguise earns him the privilege of giving music lessons to Iseult. It is significant, then, that of all the arts that Tristana learns, music holds the most enduring interest, and Horacio will eventually buy her an organ to compensate, literally and figuratively, for her lost limb (and, clearly, for the loss of his love). With her dreams of true independence shattered, she takes refuge in music, which raises her into another sphere, far beyond the sordid reality of her circumstances, and as Horacio listens to her play, he too is transported (1609). It is a scene reminiscent of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, but in Galdós's novel Tristana and Horacio accede to a spiritual realm in which they are in no way united; rather, each revels separately in a state of complete and absolute isolation, often to the point of becoming unaware of the other's presence. So music, very important throughout the Tristan legend, actually presides in the novel over the final phase of a failed love relationship.98

One of the most telling instances of Tristana's appropriation of aspects of the legend associated with the hero is the creative part she takes in concocting the love fantasy, and especially her progressive assumption of its entire weight when Horacio's interest appears to flag following his departure. A major figure with which Tristana identifies is Paquita de Rimini, the very Francesca whom Dante places along with Paolo among the great lovers in the second circle of his Inferno. As is well known, literature is the «Galeoto» in the affair of Francesca and Paolo as portrayed by Dante: the two fell in love while reading the thirteenth-century French romance of Lancelot and Guinevere, whose couple forms a triangular relationship with King Arthur, paralleling the triangle formed by Tristan, Iseult, and Mark in the French Prose Tristan of the same era.99 Literature also plays a significant role in the creation of Horacio's and Tristana's romance, and once the two become separated, Tristana, intent on prolonging their idyll to the point of recreating by herself one even more beautiful than the one they had fashioned together, «reinvents» Horacio to replace the image of him that she admits has faded from her mind. «Lo más raro de cuanto me pasa es que se me ha borrado tu imagen» (1584), she writes, adding later: «Mientras más te adoro, más olvido tu fisonomía; pero te invento otra a mi gusto, según mis ideas, según las perfecciones de que quiero ver adornada tu sublime persona» (1591; see also the following letter, 1592).

This process, which again owes much to images culled from Tristana's voracious reading, is stimulated in part, no doubt, by an intuition that her lover has ceased to think of her as a romance figure and that he is not as preoccupied with her as she is with him. In one of her letters, she laments the pain, anxiety, and fear she feels, and in an ironic recognition that the lusty call of nature may triumph over their love (now supported by mere paper) by awakening in him a desire for other women, she says: «Tengo celos del mar azul, los barquitos, las naranjas, las palomas, y pienso que todas esas cosas tan bonitas serán Galeotos de la infidelidad de mi señó Juan» (1583). Then, in the very next   —115→   paragraph, she exclaims that because she has just received a letter from him, her gloom has suddenly turned to happiness. Tristan is plagued with similar feelings of anxiety and frequent mood swings during his exile in Brittany. Imagining that Iseult may well find solace in the arms of ardent suitors like Kariado, he recreates in a woodland grotto a lifesize image of her in a stance and with an inscription that reiterates for all time the mutual love they swore when they drank the potion and reconfirmed when they parted. Tristana's recreation of Horacio bears little resemblance to reality, as she eventually discovers, and while Tristan's statue of Iseult is strikingly lifelike, the ideal expressed by the image and inscription are in stark contrast to the feelings of frustration and jealousy that he «confides» to the statue as often as he reiterates his loving affection.100

In the legend the intrusion of reality into the lovers' idyll is recorded most clearly in Thomas's poem, but even there the pain and anger brought on by the lovers' separation are totally eclipsed whenever they are reunited. This is in sharp contrast to the disillusionment experienced by both Tristana and Horacio in their first meeting following the amputation when each finds the other disconcertingly «diminished». For although the heroine's disfigurement clearly contributes to her lover's disenchantment, her own disappointment is also palpable. Upon seeing him, she suffers «una desilusión brusca. Aquel hombre no era el mismo que, borrado de su memoria por la distancia, había ella reconstruido laboriosamente con su facultad creadora y plasmante» (1605). That Don Lope foresaw this reaction can be seen in his response to Saturnds affirmation that Tristana must be allowed to see Horacio because she loves him: «No lo sabes. Enamorada de un hombre que no existe, porque no puede existir, porque si existiera, Saturna, sería Dios, y Dios no se entretiene en venir al mundo para diversión de las muchachas» (1602).

No doubt the most fascinating instance of transferal to Galdós's heroine of an element associated with the legendary hero is the illness that leads to his death. Tristan is wounded by a poisoned spear while fighting to help a dwarf, also named Tristan, rescue his love, who has been abducted. Because Tristan's wound is in the loins, which, like the leg, is a metonymic euphemism for the genitalia,101 and because it is incurred in the service of an amorous knight whom critics generally consider to be Tristan's double, the injury clearly alludes to the Ovidian love wound (see note 14). Thus, although in the legend the potion replaces the dart as the catalyst for love, the familiar love-wound metaphor is incorporated at the moment that the potion is about to fulfill its promise of death. When various herbal remedies and medical intervention fail to cure Tristan, he sends for Iseult, who has nursed him back to health twice before. Since in this instance it is not just her medical expertise he seeks but also reassurance of her love, he instructs his messenger to raise on the return ship a white sail if Iseult is aboard and a black sail if she is not. Tristan's wife, overhearing the conversation and seized with a jealous desire for revenge, reports that the white sail on the returning boat is black. The hero, believing that his lover has ceased to care for him, expires, as does Iseult, upon her arrival just minutes later. Thus, the lovers really do die of love.

In Tristana it is the heroine who is afflicted with an ailment (melanoma, presumably) that begins in an area -her leg- which modesty forbids her to specify,102 and, like a poisonous wound, threatens to infect her entire body. «La reabsorción..., el envenenamiento de la sangre...» (1594), specifies Dr. Miquis, explaining to Don Lope that the disease has spread. Various remedies are attempted, including herbs («hierbas   —116→   calleras» [1594]), depicted here rather amusingly as an unreliable last resort, whereas Tristan is twice cured by herbs administered by Iseult (and/or her mother), and Iseult's skill as a healer is the pretext for requesting that she come to him on his deathbed. Of course, what Tristan desires is primarily the assurance that his lover cares, and Tristana would presumably be heartened by similar signs from Horacio. But if Horacio eventually does come, it is as a physical presence only, a mere shell, emptied of his earlier passion. For Tristana amputation is, in the end, the only «salvation». But it is an especially cruel fate, all the more so when compared to that of the medieval hero, and it is this very element of Galdós's plot that most effectively subverts the legend. Indeed, to understand the enormous gulf between the destiny that Tristana dares to imagine for herself at the start of the novel and the one with which she is ultimately served, we need only consider how immeasurably our perception of the Tristan legend would have been altered if its hero, instead of being allowed to languish and expire, had suffered amputation! But such is Tristana's plight. She is denied not only the enduring passion that characterizes her namesake's life, but also the poignancy of his death as well as that posthumous transcendence envisioned by Wagner and, in a very different way, by most medieval redactors who claimed that intertwining trees grew out of the lovers' tomb(s), symbolizing everlasting union beyond the grave. Tristana fate instead, as if by design, is the very opposite of the one celebrated by the Tristan legend.

Of the many ways in which Galdós distorts the Tristan myth one element in particular suggests most clearly the meaning of his subversion, even though it may not seem unusual in a novel of bourgeois realism. It is the fact that Tristana's marriage to Don Lope occurs at the end of the novel and actually crowns the failure of her (and his) delusions, whereas in medieval romances that involve adultery marriage between the heroine and the -usually much older- man her parents have chosen for her occurs near the beginning of the tale: it constitutes the major obstacle to permanent union with the lover and usually serves to deepen the forbidden love. The extent to which Galdós plays on this aspect of the Tristan legend and of the romance tradition generally can be seen in the fact that Horacio actually believes Tristana is married to Don Lope, an error instilled in him by Saturna and corrected only when Tristana feels obliged to tell him the truth. This revelation, by removing the obstacle that Horacio saw as preventing their permanent union, changes the dynamics of their relationship. Horacio's pressure and Don Lope's increasingly oppressive jealousy push Tristana to an angry confrontation with her guardian. Shortly thereafter, she accedes to Horacio's desire to consummate their love, an act that she had purposely put off, fearing that it would change the quality of their love. It does not.

What does change it is the intrusion of reality: not so much the abrupt emergence of Tristana's illness as the progressive and far less dramatic dulling of Horacio's will to persist in a love that has become inconvenient, to devote himself unconditionally to an all-consuming passion, especially for a woman he now sees as ill-suited to be at his side. Horacio's interest in Tristana has waned even before he sees her for the first time after the operation, a fact that Don Lope realizes when he visits him as a preliminary to the reunion. He had expected to meet «un romántico, con cara de haber bebido el vinagre de las pasiones contrariadas» (1603), but, to his relief, Horacio is no Tristan: there is mention neither of a permanent union nor of love unto death. «No le veo muy aferrado a la infantil manía del matrimonio», muses Don Lope, «ni me ha dicho nada de bello   —117→   ideal, ni aquella de amarla basta la muerte, con patita o sin patita» (1603-04). Once he understands that Horacio feels only friendship and pity toward Tristana, he makes a pretense of actively promoting their relationship, the better to seal its doom. For only when he is sure that Horacio does not seek to marry Tristana does he dare broach the subject, and his suggestion that Horacio might be contemplating a proposal actually makes his rival recoil as expected. Under these circumstances Don Lope's decision to allow Horacio access to the ailing heroine in his care is no less treacherous than the opposite behaviour of Tristana's wife. He realizes that time and distance have cooled Horacio's ardor and that the lovers' renewed contact will only confirm the downward momentum, whereas Iseult of the White Hands knows that Tristana's passion for his lover has persisted undiminished and that their reunion will confirm it.

Even as Don Lope presides over and hastens the disintegration of Tristana's «bello ideal» he is forced to relinquish his own vision of himself as a legendary figure, and we witness his gradual metamorphosis into ardent devotee (and loving husband, eventually). That he has effectively taken over Horacio's role can be seen by juxtaposing two scenes that echo each other. At the height of Horacio's passion, the narrator notes: «Creía sinceramente el bueno de Horacio que aquél era el amor de toda su vida, que ninguna otra mujer podría agradarle ya, ni sustituir en su corazón a la exaltada y donosa Tristana» (1571). But by adding that Horacio rather hoped time would temper the fever of her ideas, which he found unsuitable for a wife or mistress, the narrator anticipates Horacio's subsequent change of heart, feelings that will crystallize with Tristana's illness, the same moment that Don Lope realizes that he himself has undergone an inverse transformation. As he tells her doctor: «Creo que hasta el momento presente no he conocido cuánto la quiero, ¡pobrecilla! Es el amor de mi vida, y no consiento perderla por nada de este mundo» (1593-94).103

At the novel's end the subversion of the Tristan romance triangle is complete: all three protagonists have been forced to come to terms with reality and accept the collapse of their former dreams. Horacio has married someone else, news that Tristana appears to accept with equanimity, and she and Don Lope are persuaded to legitimize their union and actually seem to appreciate the humble joys of a comfortable domesticity. Even more radical than the change in their situation is the transformation of their self-image. Nothing could be more different from the fate of the three protagonists in the Tristan legend than the ability displayed by Horacio and Tristana to relinquish the love they once considered exclusive and all-consuming. It is, as we have seen, a change anticipated and even orchestrated to some extent by Don Lope. The old «caballero» is considerably more worldly-wise and wily than King Mark, though he falls victim in the end to his own machinations, compelled to renounce the role of Don Juan. The conclusion is particularly striking as it relates to Tristana, who has borne the major burden of the Tristan legend. As is fitting for a heroine who has tried to assume both the masculine and the feminine roles, the reversal seems to stem, not simply from the confrontation between reality and the romantic ideals in which she sought her identity, but also from her initial desire to go beyond the confines of romance and reject the relatively dependent role that is the lot of even the most active heroine.104

Michel Tournier has noted that the Don Juan and Tristan myths can be seen as different attempts to repudiate society. He goes on to assert -with understandable   —118→   trepidation- that the lovers' emphasis on sexual fidelity in the Tristan legend makes it a «feminine» myth (a wornads dream, but a man's nightmare), while Don Juan's obsession with sexual freedom makes it a «masculine» myth.105 Tristana does, indeed, prize fidelity, but although she does not endorse sexual freedom, she does cherish the idea of economic freedom as necessary to preserve the purity of her love. Her constant refusal to marry Horacio and her initial determination to embrace a career shows that her ideal transcends the masculine/feminine dichotomy. But her eventual acquiescence regarding marriage -to Don Lope, no less- demonstrates the abysmal failure of that ideal.

*  *  *

Given the numerous and varied ways in which the Tristan legend is present in Tristana, it would be useful if we could determine what particular version or versions of the legend Galdós knew. It is a difficult question since Tristan, unlike Don Quijote and Don Juan, was not an original creation of Spanish literature. Although the legend filtered into Iberia as early as the twelfth century, its most palpable influence was on lyric poetry and romance of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, because of the popularity of the French prose Tristan. All of the Spanish prose versions of the legend appear to have descended from the same (non-extant) version of the prose Tristan that served as the basis for the Italian versions, but the lost intermediary may well have been a Catalan version. The earliest complete Spanish version is the Libro del esforçado cauallero don Tristán de Leonís y de sus grandes fechos en armas, published in Valladolid in 1501, with subsequent imprints in 1511, 1525, and 1528. The Corónica nueuament emendata y añadida del buen cauallero don Tristán de Leonis y del rey don Tristán de Leonis, el joven su hijo, a reworking of the Libro, appeared in Seville in 1534, followed by a sequel about a son and daughter who are supposedly born to Tristan and Yseo and who live through certain events of late medieval Spanish history.106

Interest in the legend waned in Europe as a whole in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but it subsequently enjoyed an enthusiastic revival in nineteenth-century England, France, and Germany, partly because of the interest in the Middle Ages shown generally by scholars and the Romantic poets, but especially because of the success of Wagner's opera, written in 1859 and first performed in 1865. Oddly enough, the legend's revival in Italy and Spain was nowhere nearly as decisive as it was in northern Europe, despite Wagner's popularity in Barcelona during the 1880s and in Madrid at the turn of the century. Although I have been unable to find evidence that Galdós actually saw the opera or read the libretto, it would be surprising, indeed, if an author (and opera critic) as conversant as he was with contemporary European literature and music had not felt the appeal -or at least the influence- of the celebrated legend.107 Wagner's opera may well have stimulated Galdós's interest and contributed to the tone of the lovers' rapturous discourse, but his extensive use of the legend suggests that he had knowledge of one or more of the medieval versions (probably those of Gonfried von Strassburg and Thomas), the most important of which were translated into numerous languages in the first half of the nineteenth century and summarized in various European scholarly journals.

Catholic University of America

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