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ArribaAbajoTwo Deaths: Don Quijote and Marianela

Otis H. Green

- I -

In er interesting article, «Origin and History of the Plot of Marianela» (Hisp., XLVII [1965], 463-67) Louise S. Blanco has shown that in its main features the story of «la hija de la Canela» is an adaptation of a «sensational popular plot» apprearing in a tale contained in a book whose cut pages may still be consulted in the Galdós library (No. 2724): Charles Nodier's Contes de la Veillée, in an edition of 1875. Galdós' Marianela was published in 1878.

Miss Blanco has little to say of the manner of Marianela's death, merely this: «Nela tries to throw herself into the Trascava, and then dies of despair» (p. 464a). That moving death -of a broken heart- acquires a new dimension when the reader perceives the reminiscence which caused Galdós to portray it as he did.

An operation for cataracts has restored the eyesight of Pablo Penáguilas, whose study of Plato has caused him to conclude that all beautiful souls must of necessity be housed in lovely bodies. When, after the operation, Pablo touches Nela's hand and focuses his eyes on its deformed possessor, «lanzó un grito en que toda su alma gritaba». The girl, desperately ill with a consuming fever, confesses her identity: «Sí, señorito mío, yo soy la Nela.» She then twice kisses the hand of her beloved, «y al dar el tercero, sus labios resbalaron sobre la piel de la mano».

Golfín, the surgeon, cries out: «¡La mató! ¡Maldita vista la suya!» He causes the young man to withdraw as Florentina, soon to be the bride of Pablo, soliloquizes: «Morir... morirse así sin causa alguna... Esto no puede ser... ¡María! ¡Marianela!»

Perceiving that under his fingers «aún latía la sangre», Golfín «llamó y gritó; hizo traer medicinas, poderosos revulsivos» -only to be convinced that what he was doing was an act of cruelty: «¡Afuera todo eso!»- «¿No hay remedio?» asks Florentina. -«El que mande Dios.» -«¿Qué mal es éste?» -«La muerte, vociferó con inquietud delirante, impropio de un médico.» -«Pero ¿qué mal le ha traído la muerte?» -«La muerte.» -«No me explico bien. Quiero decir que de qué...?» -«¡De muerte! No sé si pensar que muere de vergüenza, de celos, de despecho, de tristeza, de amor contrariado. No, no sabemos nada... Sólo sabemos cosas triviales.»

Florentina continues to demand an explanation: -«Señor Golfín, ¿qué es esto?» -«¿Lo sé yo acaso?» -«¿No es usted médico?» -«De los ojos, no de las pasiones.» When she asks what passions can be killing the dying girl, the answer she receives is in effect another question: «Pregúnteselo a su futuro esposo.» To the next question, «¿Puede el dolor del alma matar de esta manera?»; Golfín replies: «Cuando yo la recogí en la Trascava estaba ya consumida de una fiebre espantosa.» This, Florentina objects, is not sufficient, but the physician insists   —132→   that it is: «Considere que la amaba un ciego, y que ese ciego ya no lo es, y la ha visto... lo cual es como un asesinato.» This is no mystery, he continues; it is reality: «Yo he traído esa realidad, yo!... La realidad ha sido... para ella... dolor y asfixia, la humillación, la tristeza, el dolor, los celos... ¡la muerte!» And he concludes: «Mujer, has hecho bien en dejar este mundo.»

- II -

It is now time to consider the death-scene at the end of Don Quijote. No informed reader of this book in the year 1615 would have asked, like Galdós' Florentina, whether heart-break (dolor del alma) could produce physical death. That it could was commonly accepted doctrine, from Alfonso de Madrigal (el Tostado) to Cervantes and beyond: el Tostado wrote: «[...] dice Ipocrás: -El amor es cobdicia que se face en el coraçón, por causa de la cual interviene[n] algunos accidentes de que por ventura muere el enamorado». Fray Luis de Granada: «[...] la hermosura de alguna criatura... basta muchas veces para trastornar el seso del hombre, y para hacerle caer en cama, y a veces perder la vida.»189

In the second part of his masterpiece Cervantes inflicts upon his hero an overwhelming number of saddening and humiliating adventures that produce the psychological and physical changes necessary to cause him to come back from the outward and centrifugal journey on which his overheated brain launched him in Part I (and the early chapters of Part II). I quote just one of the numerous texts cited in the studies listed in note 1, above: «Come, Sancho amigo..., sustenta la vida, que más que a mi te importa, y déjame morir a mí a manos de mis pensamientos y a fuerzas de mis desgracias» (II, 59). Cold melancholy, the bodily humor which is the exact opposite of the hot cólera (yellow bile) that drove the Knight to attack sheep and windmills, and made him feel himself to be the equal of all the knights that ever were, even to the entire army of the Gran Turco -melancholy, in the final chapter, brings him to the state suggested by Fray Luis de Granada: he takes to his bed and dies.

But before his death there is a period of perfect lucidity (now that the adust humor has been definitively conquered by its opposite), and Don Quijote departs in peace, praising God for His mercies.

- III -

It is not in the death as such that we see the parallel with Marianela, but rather in the relationship -obviously genetic- between the lament of Sancho and the lament of Florentina and Golfín.

When Don Quijote asks Sancho's forgiveness for having led him in a foolish quest of adventure -«de la ocasión que te he dado de parecer loco como yo, haciendote caer en el error que yo he caído»-, Sancho bursts into tears and exclaims: «¡Ay!... No se muera vuesa merced, señor mío;... porque la mayor locura que puede hacer un hombre en esta vida es dejarse morir, sin más ni más, sin que nadie le mate, ni otras manos le acaben que las de su melancolía. Mire no sea perezoso, sino levántese de esa cama, y vámonos al campo vestidos de pastores... Si es que se muere de pesar de verse vencido, écheme a mí la   —133→   culpa, diciendo que por haber yo cinchado mal a Rocinante le derribaron.»

Don Quijote calls them all to order: «ya no hay pájaros en los nidos de antaño». He was mad and is now sane; he was Don Quijote and is now Alonso Quijano el Bueno; after which he concludes the business of making his will, «y tomándole otro desmayo, se tendió de largo a largo de la cama». There remains a final parallel with Marianela: «Alborotáronse todos, y acudieron al remedio», so that during three days «andaba la casa alborotada». The day of departure carne, however, and «entre compasiones y lagrimas de los que allí se hallaron, dio su espíritu».

- IV -

Perhaps it is the circumstance that Don Quijote's psychological distress is ended -that he departs in perfect peace- that seems to cast a greater air of serenity over the death-scene in Don Quijote than is possible in Marianela, where the protests -«unworthy of a physician»- of Golfín, and the compassionate outcries of Florentina, are anything but calm. We may believe that Galdós was content with the effect he achieved: he reflects, without capturing it completely, the deep human pathos of Cervantes' final pages. We may also believe that he expected perceptive readers to note the parallels that he chose to establish:190 the death-dealing melancholy; the turning the sickroom topsyturvy in an effort to stave off the inevitable; the questions, the protests; the resignation of Marianela as she kisses Pablo's hand, the resignation of Don Quijote: no hay pájaros... Imitatio -in the Aristotelian sense- is not limited to Renaissance literature: though technical term be forgotten, the awakening of an old situation to a new life is the very essence of literary art.

University of Pennsylvania

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