THE FERNANDO-DOROTEA-CARDENIO-LUSCINDA STORY:
CERVANTES’S DECONSTRUCTION OF MARRIAGE
While the Fernando-Dorotea-Cardenio-Luscinda story may be characterized as one of the many side-plots of the Quijote, it may be equally argued that it plays a key role in the development of the novel’s central themes. Two of the many examples that could be put forward are Dorotea’s part in the charade intended to lure don Quixote home and Fernando’s role in the final definition of the “bacía/yelmo” and the “albarda/jaez.” As Salvador Jiménez-Fajardo has pointed out, Dorotea’s situation doubly constitutes a story within a story as she plays her role of “damsel in distress as damsel in distress” (46). Fernando’s final judgement in the case of the barber against don Quixote and Sancho Panza or “Is the basin really Mambrino’s helmet and is the packsaddle really a harness?” is that regardless of the evidence and in disregard of the opinions expressed in the secret vote, he arbitrarily finds that the very obviously common burro’s packsaddle is really and truly the harness of a more elegant mount. The effect of this decision is the same as that of the never-ending intrigue of narrative authority which, as Maureen Ihrie has expressed it, is to throw all points of view “into equal doubt, without fully destroying any, and to leave as the only possible ‘resolution’ a skeptical suspension of judgment with regard to the ultimate truth of anything” (36). In the Fernando-Dorotea-Cardenio-Luscinda episode a similar suspension of judgment is brought about regarding the essential or true nature of marriage as Cervantes calls into question the theological, ecclesiastical and legal basis for this institution. The effect is what we all acknowledge today as a very thorough deconstruction of the constitutive elements of marriage.
Dorotea, by all appearances, represents the typical “doncella engañada y deshonrada” of Golden Age drama, but on closer examination her situation is more complicated. Her relationship with Fernando clearly constitutes what was popularly accepted in pre-Council of Trent Spain as a “matrimonio clandestino.” Cervantes here continues to exploit elements of the chivalry novels which provide so much of the material for his novel. Justina Ruiz-Conde’s study of this phenomenon cites examples of “matrimonio clandestino” in numerous chivalry novels, among them Tirant lo Blanch, and Amadís de Gaula (1-2). Both Dorotea and Fernando seem conscious of the fact that their mutual consent followed by physical consummation would be considered a legal marriage. What is interesting, however, is that this follows a pre-Council of Trent definition, since the Tametsi decree of that church council ruled in l563 that subsequent marriages contracted under similar conditions would no longer be considered valid.
The question of the validity of a marriage as underscored in the situation of Fernando and Dorotea involves both theological and legal issues which become apparent after a study of Spanish legal codes and ecclesiastical decisions concerning marriage. The entire third section or “título” of the fourth of the Siete Partidas of Alfonso el Sabio concerned itself with secret marriages and betrothals. The first law defines these as l) marriages which cannot be proved because of the absence of witnesses, 2) marriages in which there are witnesses but which fail to follow the proper customs of asking parents or guardians for the hand of the bride in marriage with the corresponding giving of the “arras,” and 3) marriages in which the proper pre-nuptial announcements have not been made in the parish of those involved (35; Partida IV, Tit. III, Ley l).
The position of the church on marriage was very complicated owing to disagreements between the Roman and Greek Orthodox Churches and between various theological schools (notably those of Paris and Bologne) as well as to the disparity between purely theological principles and the mounting pressures by civil authorities to establish greater control over marriage and thus property rights. Both the legal and theological issues manifest themselves in the situation of Dorotea and Fernando, and the consequences, which mirror historical and legal precedents, lead us into the more complicated case of Luscinda and Cardenio. The circumstances of both couples illustrate the theological polemics surrounding the essence of marriage which intensified with the development of canonical law from l140 on and which came to a head in the Council of Trent decree of 1563 (Joyce 57-65).
Until that decision was made, the Church, while under increasing pressure to prohibit these secret marriages, still accepted them as theologically valid. This was due to the position of most theologians that the form of the sacrament had been determined by Christ and that the Church could only administer it; it had no authority to evaluate its validity. The basic element of marriage was considered to be the free and deliberate consent of the two persons involved and in the absence of any impediment (such as consanguine relationship) the presence of this element was enough to constitute marriage. Later polemics disputed whether the consent must be followed by consummation, but this issue was not completely resolved. There were differences of opinion between the schools of Paris and Bologne and at least one pope made decisions based on the tradition that held that marriage was a contract and needed neither consummation nor prescribed religious ceremonies to be considered valid (Joyce 104-07).
The relationship of Dorotea and Fernando would likely have been understood by Cervantes’s reading public as a “matrimonio clandestino,” a marriage considered valid before l563 but prohibited by the Tametsi Decree of the Council of Trent. However, it is notable that some of the evidence to this effect is suspect in that it is given by Cardenio, who though formerly a friend of Fernando’s, must be considered now his adversary. It is he who describes not only Fernando’s motives in acting as he did with Dorotea but also his means of achieving his desire:
Estas tan buenas partes de la hermosa labradora redujeron a tal término los deseos de don Fernando, que se determinó, para poder alcanzarlo y conquistar la entereza de la labradora, darle palabra de ser su esposo.
Nevertheless, it is evident that Fernando gave his consent, thus providing from his side the prerequisite for the relationship between him and Dorotea to be considered marriage. It is also clear that both were conscious that what they were doing, giving words of mutual consent followed by the consummation, amounted to marriage. Dorotea sincerely believed that she could not be accused of wrongdoing in that she surrendered her virginity to Fernando under his promise to be her husband:
Pues si no hago ni mundo ni uso nuevo, bien es acudir a esta honra que la suerte me ofrece, puesto que en éste no dure más la voluntad que me muestra de cuanto dure el cumplimiento de su deseo: que, en fin, para con Dios seré su esposa. (283; pt. l, ch. 28)
In fact, it is Dorotea herself who forces Fernando to take this position when she informs him that regardless of the powers of persuasion he might bring to bear on her, no one will enjoy her sexual favors except under the condition of legitimate matrimony: “Todo esto he dicho, porque no es pensar que de mí alcance cosa alguna el que no fuere mi legítimo esposo” (282; pt. l, ch. 28).
Fernando accepts her conditions, and the mention of witnesses is significant given their importance in providing credibility to both civil and ecclesiastical marriages. On giving her his hand, Fernando tells Dorotea: “ves aquí te doy la mano de serlo tuyo, y sean testigos desta verdad los cielos, a quien ninguna cosa se esconde, y esta imagen de Nuestra Señora que aquí tienes” (282; pt. l, ch. 28).
Nevertheless, one notes not the questionable reliability of the witnesses, but their obvious unavailability to appear before ecclesiastical or legal authorities. This problem was underscored in the Siete Partidas which explained the position of the Church in moving towards a prohibition of such marriages while at the same time continuing its reluctance to change its theological stance declaring them valid:
et la razon porque defendió santa eglesia que los casamientos non fuesen fechos encobiertamiente es esta: porque se cuerdo veniese entre el marido et la muger, de manera que non quisiese alguno dellos vevir con el otro, maguer que el casamiento fuese verdadero, segunt que es sobredicho, non podrie por eso la eglesia apremiar a aquel que se quisiese departir del otro. Et esto es porquel casamiento non se podrie probar; ca la eglesia non puede judgar las cosas encobiertas, mas segunt que razonaren las partes et fuere probado. (36; Partida IV, Tít. III, Ley l)
Since this type of marriage, though theologically acceptable, could not be proved, a man could easily take advantage of it to deceive a woman in order to enjoy her favors and then leave her and marry another.
This, indeed, was the case of Fernando, who abandoned Dorotea and married Luscinda. This marriage “in facie Ecclesiae” appears to be a marriage which complies with the conditions of the Council of Trent, that is, that it was celebrated by the parish priest in the presence of two or three witnesses. Neverthless, it was carried out under some secrecy, and the proper prenuptial declaration of intent to marry had not been made. The validity of the marriage would have been questioned for other reasons as well. In the first place Luscinda’s consent was not freely given, she having only accepted Fernando on the insistence of her parents. (Forced marriages had also been outlawed by the Council of Trent.) Secondly, the marriage was not consummated, although this argument would not have convinced those theologians who still based their definition of marriage on mutual consent alone. A third factor was the legitimacy of Fernando’s previous “matrimonio clandestino” which would have prevented him from marrying again. Finally, there was another consideration with regard to the validity of the “esponsales” o mutual promises of future marriage.
These “esponsales” were very closely related to marriage and under several law codes carried the same obligations as did marriage, which was to say that a person bound by an oath of betrothal to one person, could not marry another without being accused of adultery. In the Fuero Juzgo we find the following:
Que los esposados non se departan
Otrosí mandamos seer pennados aquellos que egualmiente son ayuntados. Onde aquello que es dicho en la ley de suso de los barones, e de las muieres casadas, e de las sus cosas mandamos guardar entre los esposados que se parten pues que las arras son dadas y el prometimiento fecho cuemo manda la ley, e se casan con otros. (64; Libro III, Tít. VI, Ley 3)
Here again there was a difference of theological opinion regarding the force of the oath, according to whether it consisted of consent given “de praesenti” or “de futuro.” The School of Paris denied that consent given “de futuro” constituted marriage. However, Pope Alexander III declared that an oath of betrothal followed by consummation constituted a legitimate marriage based on the presumption that consent given “per verba de praesenti” would have preceded the consummation. In this way the Pope wished to prevent precisely the situation that Fernando was trying to get away with, which was the case of a man giving the promise of marriage in order to obtain the sexual favors of a woman only to repudiate her and marry another (Joyce 87-90).
When Cardenio hears Dorotea tell her story, it is the existence of the conditions mentioned above that explain his hope of attaining a favorable resolution of his troubles and those of Dorotea. Speaking to her, he summarizes their hopes thus:
Porque, presupuesto que Luscinda no puede casarse con don Fernando, por ser mía, ni don Fernando con ella, por ser vuestro, y haberlo ella tan manifiestamente declarado, bien podemos esperar que el cielo nos restituya lo que es nuestro, pues está todavía en ser, y no se ha enajenado ni deshecho. (290; pt. l, ch. 29, emphasis added)
It should be noted that the truth in which he puts his faith is of divine origin and it is in this source of authority in which he continues to have faith.
He does consider the relationship between him and Luscinda to be binding. As Cardenio relates his story in the Sierra Morena, he remembers the thoughts which passed through his mind as he hid behind the tapestries watching and awaiting the fateful words of consent that Luscinda was about to give Fernando. The following words which he dared not voice were intended for his false friend:
¡Ah traidor don Fernando, robador de mi gloria, muerte de mi vida! ¿Qué quieres? ¿Qué pretendes? Considera que no puedes cristianamente llegar al fin de tus deseos porque Luscinda es mi esposa, y yo soy su marido. (270; pt. l, ch. 27)
Cardenio’s declaration follows the theological position that mutual consent is indeed the sole constitutive basis for marriage.
In this regard, the lines in which the supposed marriage of Fernando and Luscinda is declared a “fait accompli” are particularly interesting: “dándole el anillo, quedaron en indisoluble nudo ligados (270; pt. l, ch. 27). A footnote in the Riquer edition indicates that the word “disoluble,” which appeared in the first edition, was undoubtedly a misprint. It is just as feasible to consider, however, that Cervantes intended to use the word “disoluble” and that he was playfully questioning their union and by extension the “essence” of marriage, in much the same way that he fancifully toys with the definitions of “bacía” and “yelmo,” “albarda” and “jaez.”
Both issues come to their textual resolution, within the ‘‘verdadera historia” of don Quijote, in the same arena, that of the inn, where all the elements (“bacía, yelmo. albarda, and jaez”) and all the players (Fernando, Dorotea, Cardenio, and Luscinda) in both cases eventually come together. The discussions surrounding both cases take on the aura of legal proceedings in an echo of the legal codes which had proliferated in an attempt to define the true nature of marriage. In stating their cases, Luscinda and Dorotea refer again to the true nature of their relationships with Cardenio and Fernando and the role played by “el cielo” in revealing it. Luscinda points out “cómo el cielo, por desusados y a nosotros encubiertos caminos, me ha puesto a mi verdadero esposo delante” (374; pt. l, ch. 36). Dorotea adds her argument “que soy tu verdadera y legítima esposa” (375; pt. l, ch. 36) and later reaffirms what Luscinda has said when she tells Fernando:
Tú tienes a tus pies a tu esposa, y la que quieres que lo sea está en los brazos de su marido. Mira si te estará bien, o te será posible deshacer lo que el cielo ha hecho, o si te convendrá querer levantar a igualar a ti mismo a la que, pospuesto todo inconveniente, confirmada en su verdad y firmeza, delante de tus ojos tiene los suyos, bañados de licor amoroso el rostro y pecho de su verdadero esposo. (377; pt. l, ch. 36)
Fernando bows to the inevitable as he states “no es posible tener ánimo para negar tantas verdades juntas” (376; pt. l, ch. 36). His final reluctance to see Luscinda pass over into the arms of Cardenio, is overcome by the supplication of those present, all of whom believed the “truth” so manifested by Providence, that Luscinda and Cardenio are joined for life as are Fernando and Dorotea.
Cervantes’s use of the words “verdad” and “verdadero” to refer to the relationships between the two couples raises the question of the essence of matrimony in much the same way that the discussion of the identity of the “bacía/yelmo” and the “albarda/jaez” does with regard to the essence of these objects. In the latter case, everyone present is asked to agree to the “real truth” that what was once—in its authentic and former life—a barber’s basin, is now a helmet. Only through an arbitrary ignoring of real qualities can it now be called what it is. The entourage in the inn prefers to honor the essential theological elements of marriage as constitutive of truth—consent first and in one case consummation as well. In the case of the “bacía” and the “yelmo” the new, imagined and arbitrary identity prevails in the “verdadera historia” of don Quijote. In the case of matrimony, the pre-Tridentine definition which seems to allow for the greatest satisfaction and happiness of those involved, enjoys the support of those present in the inn.
The truth decided upon in the inn, then, obviously does not coincide with the official validity of marital relationships as determined by the Council of Trent. This official declaration of what will be accepted as true marriage could be interpreted as identical in nature to the decision clarifying the identity of the “albarda” (as “jaez”). The barber, upon hearing the final verdict, exclaims in despair: “No la [parte] tenga yo en el cielo . . . si todos vuestras mercedes no se engañan, y que así parezca mi ánima ante Dios como ella me parece a mí albarda, y no jaez: pero allá van leyes . . ., etcétera . . . y no digo más” (461; pt. l, ch. 55). Might Cervantes have been suggesting that just as the “authorities” in the inn arbitrarily ignore the “natural” essence of the “bacía” and the “albarda,” the Church authorities (in their Tametsi Decree) have chosen not to honor the purely theological basis of marriage but rather to bow to practical and legal considerations?
In studying the question of marriage in the Quijote, one may attempt to determine, as indeed many have, whether or not Cervantes takes a particular position with regard to an issue of obvious concern for his contemporaries. I would argue that it is much more characteristic of Cervantes’s work to question the essence of marriage than to determine it. Not only is it not necessary to resolve the issue of identity, be it of basins and helmets or of marriage partners or of knights errant, it is indeed of the essence not to do so. Cervantes’s calling into question of the nature of “true” marriage echos his calling into question of the nature of reality and of its fictional representation. At the beginning of the fourth section of his novel, Cervantes, in speaking of the “dulzura de su verdadera historia,” states that “los cuentos y episodios della . . ., no son menos agradables y artificiosos y verdaderos que la misma historia” (275; pt. l, ch. 28). The issue of authority with regard to matrimony is thus an integral part of the seemingly endless deconstructive activity in which Cervantes plays one truth against another in order to call into continual question the arbitrary and relative quality of truth as each party claims to know it.
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___. “Cervantes y el Concilio de Trento.” Anales Cervantinos 9 (1961-62): 113-41.
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El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, ed. Martín de Riquer (Barcelona: Juventud, l971) 229; pt. l, ch. 24. All references to the Quijote will be from this edition and will be cited in parentheses indicating the page number, part and chapter.
After the first promises were made in the presence of the heavenly witnesses, Dorotea did call in her maid, the same one who had betrayed her mistress by facilitating Fernando’s entry to her chambers, and required him to repeat his oaths. Given the maid’s complicity in the affair, her reliability as a witness and her willingness to testify are also called into question.
A case had arisen in England in which a woman who had been married, although not in a religious ceremony, left that husband and married another following all the formalities. Pope Alexander III declared the second marriage invalid (Joyce l04-07).
I would like to thank Roslyn Frank for pointing this out to me and for her original suggestion concerning the topic of clandestine marriage in the Quijote.
Some critics have alleged that Cervantes believed in the Council of Trent decrees but used secret marriage as a dramatic device, preferring to give his characters free will and simply recording, as would a historian, their acts (Piluso 81). Américo Castro saw in Cervantes a preference for the pre-Council of Trent concept of matrimony (351), Hatzfeld felt that Cervantes adhered to Tridentine concepts (136-37), and Bataillon observed that Cervantes’s point of view reflected the attitude of society rather than that of the theologians (174).