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Death and Ritual in Don Quixote.

En Don Quixote, las preparaciones para la muerte del protagonista son varias, y Cervantes muestra familiaridad con los ars moriendi, los testamentos y los inventarios. Cervantes refleja la tension entre la resignacion recomendada por los humanistas y la ansiedad revelada por las practicas testamentales. Al final, Alonso Quijano el Bueno confiesa y dicta un testamento conforme a los ars moriendi. Sin embargo, el inventario de bienes en la primera parte es menos virtuoso. El cura y el barbero catalogan y destruyen la biblioteca antes de que el protagonista pueda hacer su testamento, robandole la oportunidad de resignar a sus bienes.


In Alonso de "Valdes's 1533 Dialogo de Mercurio y Caron, two very similar souls cross into the afterlife in Charon's boat. They have made near-identical preparations for death: they have confessed, made a will, and arranged for Christian burial. However, one man is bound for hell and the other for heaven. The man doomed to hell made expensive funeral arrangements, bought a fine tomb, and had his body dressed in a Franciscan habit. The other man observed these rituals with a certain amount of sloppiness, allowing his dependents to make the decisions (Valdes 30-31, 110-111). The difference between the two cases has to do with the material and emotional leave-taking that should conclude a life. The hell-bound soul was so anxious to express his piety that he neglected business concerns; Charon explains that he has been sentenced to hell for a material rather than a spiritual fault. The other man, presumably, kept his spiritual and material life in proper balance through the control of emotion. Rather than fearing death, he accepted it rationally, and his faith, moderation, and confidence in the afterlife assured him what the Spanish Golden Age deemed a "good" death.

Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote reflects a similar understanding of the good death, and death preparations occupy considerable space in the first and second parts of the novel. Cervantes reveals a deep familiarity with the ars moriendi tradition as practiced by Spanish humanists and with the conventions of early modern wills, which declared the piety of the testator through spiritual and material provisions. However, the treatises and wills do not always agree in their ideology, a tension Cervantes reflects in his literary treatment of death and dying. Cervantes's narrator at times seems close to humanist writers on death, but he also employs ironic distance in depicting death rituals. In this essay, I explore how both the ars moriendi tradition and the conventions for making wills and inventories of goods in early modern Spain impacted Don Quixote's death, ultimately rendering it ambivalent rather than "good."


Humanist writers made detailed recommendations for the spiritual and material preparation for death. Alonso de Valdes, who openly acknowledged his debt to Erasmus, was typical among early modern Spanish treatise writers in his call for the complete resignation of earthly life and confidence in the Christian afterlife. (1) Valdes's treatise, published one year before Erasmus's own De preparatione ad mortem, anticipated some of the Dutch humanist's remarks on the virtuous death. However, Valdes is less forgiving than Erasmus, who offers words of consolation to those who fear death. Unlike Valdes, whose allegorical speakers berate the lost souls for infractions both major and minor, Erasmus admits that he himself is "terrified" of death despite his strong faith (393). Marcel Bataillon refers to De preparatione ad mortem as Erasmus's "spiritual testament," which would perhaps account for the work's personal, nuanced tone (563).

Erasmus recommends a lifelong "meditation" as a remedy for the fear of death, during which "the spark of faith must be continually fanned so that it grows and gains strength" (397). To this emotional strategy, Erasmus adds practical recommendations. In order to avoid legal difficulties and feelings of rancor, he suggests that those who are still in good health should make a will, pay debts, forgive and ask for forgiveness, and give to charity (416). Those who have not anticipated the business of the end of life must struggle with "heirs, legatees and those seeking legacies [...] creditors and debtors [...] wives and children [...] stewards and servants [...] friends and enemies, [...] funeral rites and burial" at the very moment when they should turn their minds to questions of the spirit (414). For Erasmus, the proper time to leave the secular world behind occurs long before illness forces one to do so.

Erasmus's treatise on death was the subject of two 1535 translations in Spain, the first by an unknown protege of Don Juan de Zuniga y Avellaneda and the second by Bernardo Perez (Bataillon 564). According to Bataillon, Alejo Venegas's 1537 Agonia del transito de la muerte is a specific, though unacknowledged, response to Erasmus's Preparatione ad mortem (565). Venegas comes quite close to Erasmus in his description of the spiritual temptations that face the dying, which include fear, doubt, and the reluctance to leave behind the pleasures of life (98-99). Venegas expands upon Erasmus's comments on how to deal with the material business of death, with small differences that tended to neglect the financial future of heirs. While Erasmus writes that heirs should be provided for, Venegas urges readers to pay more attention to honoring their debts than providing for survivors. Debts are to be discharged in adherence to the principle of justice, but excessive worrying about dependents indicates resistance to death and is to be avoided (Venegas 37-38).

Cervantes invokes many of the topics covered in Valdes, Venegas, and Erasmus. Although by the time of Cervantes the CounterReformation had begun to cast suspicion on Erasmus, many critics have remarked on the similarity between the works of Cervantes and those of the Dutch humanist. (2) Though it is difficult to find a direct textual connection between Erasmus and Cervantes, it seems likely that Erasmian ideas influenced the author of Don Quixote. (3) While Cervantes may or may not have read Preparatione ad mortem directly, he certainly had access to the Spanish humanists who imitated it.


Wills from sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain, meanwhile, apply the spiritual and material concerns brought forth in Valdes, Erasmus, and Venegas to individual and therefore idiosyncratic circumstances. While Cervantes's own will has not survived, we have access to several wills in Cervantes's family, which contain clues to how early modern cultures of death were perceived in his milieu. Carlos Eire's study of sixteenth-century wills from Madrid observes that wills usually reflect at least some aspects of the ars moriendi tradition (78). For example, the will of Cervantes's father, Rodrigo de Cervantes, taken in 1585, conforms to almost every expectation of Valdes and Venegas. The first lines affirm that Cervantes's father, Rodrigo, approaches death with the proper mental state: "estando hechado en la cama de la enfermedad que Dios nuestro senor fue servido de me dar, creyendo como firmemente creo en la santissima Trinidad y en todo aquello que cree e confiesa la santa fee catolica, y deseando poner mi anima en carrera de salvacion" (Sliwa). Rodrigo de Cervantes accepts his illness, and therefore his death; the only emotional language in the will articulates the desire for salvation. The part of the will that deals with material things expresses no emotion, stating only that the testator has no debts and entrusting the funeral arrangements to the discretion of his wife (Sliwa).

Rodrigo de Cervantes's will is exemplary, as it finds a balance between too few and too many preparations for death. However, other surviving wills from Cervantes's family, including those of his sister Magdalena, his wife Catalina de Palacios, and his daughter Isabel, reflect the increased specificity of bequests and funeral arrangements and the fear of hell and purgatory that are typical of the seventeenth century (Eire 116). Wills, funeral preparations, charitable donations, and especially masses for the soul were thought to assist in the process of salvation by shortening the time one spent in purgatory; popular belief held that all were too imperfect to proceed directly to heaven (Eire 24).

Cervantes's sister Magdalena, who made her will in 1610, died without assets and left any funeral arrangements to the discretion of her brother. Her will includes an emotional clause not present in the other family wills: she declares herself to be "recelandome de la muerte que es cosa natural a toda criatura viviente" (Sliwa). The verb recelarse, meaning to be suspicious of, might be read as a statement of fear. Other indications in Magdalenas will that she fears death occur in her list of debts and bequests. Though Magdalena says she does not remember any debts, she releases a small amount of money to her executors to pay debts she has forgotten. She also makes a charitable donation to "la redencion de cautivos" (Sliwa). This gift is likely meant to provide benefits to her soul, perhaps even to substitute for the funeral arrangements she cannot afford.

The other Cervantes women have more assets, and both make bequests to servants, relatives, and friends. Cervantes's wife Catalina de Palacios made a will in 1610, and, uniquely among the family testators, she states that she was in good health at the time the document was notarized. Her fear of death might have been less because it was not a pressing concern, but her will is by no means free of emotion. Two of her bequests reflect emotional ties to the beneficiaries. First, she leaves a writing desk to her brother "por el mucho amor y buena compania que ambos hemos tenido" (Sliwa). Second, she leaves her used clothing to a servant. This bequest both commemorates her affection ("por el mucho amor que la tengo por el tiempo que me sirvio siendo nina") and issues a request, "ruegue a Dios por mi alma" (Sliwa). Catalina de Palacios combines a concern for the state of her soul with an emotional connection to human life, which she expresses through the desire that her servant mourn and pray for her.

Catalina de Palacios also made more conventional provisions for her soul, including the request that nine masses be said for her after death. This number is low for the turn of the seventeenth century, as Eire notices a gradual inflation in the number of masses for the soul, identifying a high point of two thousand in a seventeenth-century will (180). Some testators, according to Eire, "bequeathed their entire estate to their souls" (192). Cervantes's daughter Isabel was evidently sensitive to this trend. She made two wills, one in 1631 and one in 1652, and in the time that elapsed between them, the number of masses she requested for her soul increased from two hundred to one thousand. The funeral provisions likewise grew more specific. In 1631 Isabel requested that she be buried in a Franciscan habit. In 1652, she also asked for the participation of a confraternity, seven Franciscan friars, and "los Ninos Desamparados" in her funeral procession (Sliwa). The increase in funeral provision might merely reflect the testator's increased wealth, but it is worth noting that Cervantes's daughter bought into a financially motivated funeral industry that, according to Eire, took advantage of an increasing fear of purgatory (520-26).

In the Cervantes family wills, material and financial clauses rather than ritualized spiritual language allow readers to glimpse the testator's true emotional state. Likewise, in Don Quixote, anxieties about death tend to be expressed indirectly rather than directly and to connect emotion to economics. During the course of the novel, Don Quixote undergoes extensive preparations for death, some of which are deliberate, and others of which are forced upon him. Scholars have provided commentary on many of the death motifs in the novel, including the funeral of Grisostomo, the funeral procession for the gentleman from Segovia, Altisidora's mock funeral, the parodie epitaphs that conclude the first part, the carreta de la Muerte episode, the descent to the Cave of Montesinos, Don Quixote's will, and the impact of Avellanedas apocryphal sequel on Don Quixote's death. (4) In particular, scholars have identified Don Quixote's confession, will, and renaming of himself as Alonso Quijano el Bueno as motifs that echo the ars moriendi tradition. These final scenes may have a meaning beyond their seeming social conformity. As Rachel Schmidt points out, ars moriendi literature held death preparations to be a reflective process that could determine what meaning a person's earthly life had held ("La praxis y la parodia" 119). Don Quixote's death preparations, then, are key to understanding the novel as a whole.


A. G. Lo Re observes that Cervantes alludes to Don Quixote's death three times in the novel: in the epitaphs that conclude the first part, at the conclusion of the episode of the Cave of Montesinos, and, of course, at the end of the second part (24). I would add a fourth death, or rather pre-death, indicated by the inventory of Don Quixote's goods in Chapters 1 and 6. This inventory, I contend, subverts the conventions for death rituals and asks us to reassess the material as well as the spiritual components of Don Quixote's supposedly "good" death. Inventories of goods are essentially lists of possessions taken by a notary. Though inventories may be made for other purposes in early modern Spain, including the valuation of dowries or as part of a criminal proceeding, they are very often taken post mortem to assist in the execution of the will. These inventories proceed room by room through a dead person's belongings, cataloguing every item that holds value. The strange thing about Alonso Quijano's inventory is that it is recorded while he is still alive, before any will has been written and in the absence of the Christian resignation that makes the inventory a virtuous disposal of a life. Moreover, as the narrator and other characters, not the testator himself, trigger the taking of the inventories, they reveal the coercive potential of early modern death customs. A properly conducted inventory should assist in the execution of the material provisions in a will and reflect the recently deceased person's ordered state of mind. Don Quixote's inventories are not part of a conscious, personal death preparation and thus say nothing about his virtue; rather, they enable the greed and wastefulness of other characters.

The novel's opening takes stock of the as-yet-unnamed hidalgo's food, clothing, dependents, estate, and books. Except for the perishable food items, these might all be mentioned in an inventory, and most of them could be passed to Don Quixote's heiress, his niece Antonia Quijana. For me, the strangely specific listing of Alonso Quijano's possessions indicates that Cervantes had his protagonist's death in mind from the novel's outset. Though some readers have perceived Don Quixote's death in the end of the second part of the novel as sudden, there is in fact extensive foreshadowing in the first part. For instance, the exhaustion and extended stay in bed that concludes Don Quixote's first chivalric foray reads very much like the illness that ends his life. The first part of the novel also concludes with epitaphs, including one for Don Quixote. These death premonitions only intensify in the second part. Readers receive a clearly stated notice of the character's death in the prologue to the second part, and Don Quixote falls into a deathlike sleep at the Cave of Montesinos. Schmidt has also identified references to ars moriendi texts in the opening of the final chapter ("The Performance of Hermeneutics of Death" ioi). That the work concludes with Don Quixote's illness, testament, and death should not surprise any careful reader of either part of the novel.

The seeming exemplarity of Alonso Quijano's final days is worth questioning, as so little in Don Quixote is as it first appears. Schmidt argues that Don Quixote's "life only has meaning through an interpretation of his death, and so all readers must double back to reinterpret his life upon finishing the novel" ("The Performance of Hermeneutics of Death" 102). One way to take up Schmidt's challenge would be to conclude that despite the damage the hidalgo has done to windmills, innocent travelers, and sheep, his life has been on the whole virtuous because he died well. However, questions linger, because Don Quixote has died before--or, at least, he has had death customs attached to his story several times already. At these earlier moments, the character was less prepared, and assessing the manner of his death or seeming death might yield less favorable and less conformist conclusions about the meaning of his life.

The preparation of an inventory is a public ritual associated with death, if a less transparent one than wills, funerals, epitaphs, and masses for souls in purgatory. The widespread practice of taking postmortem inventories indicates that complete knowledge of a person's financial status and possessions was thought essential to making a death "good." In Chapter 1 of the first part, the items the narrator mentions in connection with the protagonist follow more or less what might be included in an inventory of goods, with only a few deviations from the usual order. Inventories tend to begin with a heading noting the name, occupation, and social status of the dead person, for example, caballero, canonigo, or viuda, and then proceed through the dwelling-place room by room. Both in the novel and in the inventories, markers for social class are clear. The headings also sometimes indicate that the executors of the will accompanied the notary in the making of the inventory. One of Alonso Quijano's two executors, the priest, plays a prominent role in chapters 1 and 6.

Don Quixote's possessions reveal a life that is in some ways privileged and in others ordinary. The narrator begins with four items, all of which could be inherited by survivors: "lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocin flaco y galgo corredor" (1.1:69). The fifSt mo items might be literal heirlooms, which is how I read them here, but it is also worth noting that they might be metaphorical. Either the character continues to possess relics of a warlike past, or what he possesses of his ancestors is the memory of their activity. The horse and greyhound, meanwhile, are quite real and would be useful to the hidalgo's heiress Antonia Quijana. Live animals are not commonly listed in early modern Spanish wills, but they feature here perhaps because they are among the hidalgo's most valuable possessions. In sixteenth-century inventories, houses or other exceptional property tend to be listed first.

The list of Don Quixote's food both does and does not conform to inventory conventions. Presented as a list, and represented as occupying "las tres partes de su hacienda," Don Quixote's diet seems to take up an important place among his possessions (1.1:69-70). However, food, as ephemera, does not tend to appear as a line item in early modern inventories, though tables and dining accoutrements frequently do. From the prominence of food in Don Quixote's expenditures, however, we know that he has relatively little liquidity; there will be no currency or valuable gold and jewels listed in this inventory.

The next item we learn about, clothing, features in all inventories of goods. Usually, the list of clothing appears at the end of the list of furniture, often after a description of the trunk in which the dead person kept it. To a twenty-first century reader, it might seem strange to itemize such intimate, personal items as clothing, but second-hand clothing held more value in the early modern period than it does today. For scholars, these lists carry a special interest, as they reveal information about a person's social status and, in some cases, personality. Don Quixote has fewer items in his clothing list than is typical of inventories, but, like the inventories, it omits interior garments like shirts. Only the valuable or reuseable items are listed: "sayo de velarte, calzas de velludo para las fiestas, [...] pantuflos de lo mesmo," and for ordinary weekdays, "vellori de lo mas fino" (1.1:70-71). These garments indicate a person of upper-class aspiration with shabby execution; compared to many inventories, the hidalgo has little variety in his clothing. The sayo de velarte is an exterior garment, probably black in color. The calzas de velludo, velvet breeches, and velvet slippers or pantuflos, were likely meant to give the hidalgos best outfit a hint of luxury. Vellori is a fine, lightweight wool that would be either brown or undyed. Alonso Quijano appears to have no truly fine clothing; nothing receives a long description as in some of the inventories. Alonso Quijano's furniture goes unmentioned, except that the reader might understand that the antique armor forgotten in a corner would have to have been housed in an armoire in order to remain in any useable state (1.1:75). Clothing, furniture, and books feature in almost every inventory, and for most of the recently deceased, clothing and furniture take up most of the space, reflecting their relative importance among most people's possessions. Clothing is also among the items most explicitly described in wills. In the Cervantes family documents, both Catalina de Palacios and Isabel Cervantes describe the materials and forms of the clothing items that are subject to specific bequests.


For Don Quixote, however, books are clearly more numerous and important than other worldly possessions. Chapter 6 bears a strong resemblance to library inventories from the early modern period. In post-mortem inventories, books appear in the list when the inventory-taker reaches the room in which they are stored, and if books are stored in different rooms, they may appear in multiple places. What inventories say about books varies widely, even in the same city and time period. Almost all count the number of books, but some stop there. Take, for example, the line item "Treze cuerpos de libros pequenos y grandes," in Ana de Fuentes's 1554 inventory from Valladolid (Catedra and Rojo Vega 249). Most inventories, however, identify at least some books by genre; for example, as a book of hours, or by title or author. Works in the moral or exemplary tradition, such as those by Erasmus or Antonio de Guevara, tend to be identified by author only, whereas works of fiction, most prominently romances of chivalry, show up only under their title. This leads to some confusion as to what book is meant--one might ask which Lancelot, which Boccaccio, or which translation of Ovid might be present in a library. Also likely to be noted is the language of a book, especially if it is in Latin, French, or Italian, or sometimes even if it is in Castilian. (5) The size of the book (large or small) or an ornate binding might be listed, and manuscripts are usually indicated as such, while print books are not. A less common feature is an approximate valuation of each book. For example, Isabel de Sansebastian's 1548 inventory from Valladolid contained a Decameron valued at 6 reales and a manuscript Amadis de Gaula valued at two reales (Catedra and Rojo Vega 226-36).

Though the inventories of goods, implicitly or explicitly, express that the books are items of value, they neglect the key feature of the scrutiny of books in Don Quixote: the judgment of literary quality. Georgina Dopico Black has explored the ways in which the scrutiny of the books resembles the inquisition proceeding of the auto da fe. She points out that the process was "largely predicated on genealogies" (Dopico Black 107). Dopico Black's "genealogies" are another way of describing literary genre. Indeed, the scrutiny of Don Quixote's books discriminates based on the prestige associated with various literary genres at the turn of the seventeenth century, reflecting such phenomena as a privileging of epic over chivalric romance. In this, the scrutiny does resemble inventories of books; genres are grouped, and the scrutiny proceeds from the more valuable items (the large, luxury folio volumes of romances of chivalry, which Alonso Quijano sold arable lands to purchase) to smaller items like books of poetry. In Don Quixote, however, the resale value hinted at in the inventories is replaced with judgments of literary quality. Many expensive items, including valuable early sixteenth-century romances of chivalry, are destroyed.

The loss that occurs during the scrutiny of the books, however, is not just financial. In a sense, when the priest allows the books to be condemned to the fire, he anticipates Don Quixote's death. Though Don Quixote is quite alive at the moment when the priest and barber go through the books, the taking of the inventory makes the books immediately available to the hidalgos dependents. As in the case of a post-mortem inventory, the books are catalogued just as they are about to lose their integrity as part of a library. The priest and barber both take possession of certain coveted books--though they are not Alonso Quijano's heirs--and the ama and sobrina direct the fate of the rest. The disposition of the books contradicts the provision in the will Alonso Quijano el Bueno makes later. The ama is to receive only her salary and a bequest of clothing, while the priest and barber receive nothing at all. Antonia Quijana should receive the rest of the estate, including the books, intact. However, that will not be possible, as long before that will is made, most of the valuable volumes are dumped unceremoniously in the patio and set afire. The lazy executor of Alonso Quijano's yet-unmade will does not even name all the books. Some, as in the real inventories, go into obscurity unexamined.

Meanwhile, Alonso Quijano's dependents, the ama and the sobrina, fail to show the gravity befitting the situation. They express fear and hatred for the books and happiness and joy upon taking possession of them and then destroying them. The ama curses the books when Quixote returns wounded, reflecting her hatred: "Malditos, digo, sean otra vez y otras ciento estos libros de caballerias" (1.5:108). This hatred is personal for the ama and sobrina, which Cervantes emphasizes by using humanizing language for the books. When the library is opened, they find inside "mas de cien cuerpos de libros," which echoes diction used in the inventories but, in this context, also invites a comparison between books and bodies (1.6:109). The sobrina further encourages this link, suggesting that the books be burned indiscriminately, without the opportunity of receiving pardon. Dopico Black rightly points out the connection to heretics burned as part of an auto dafe (95). Both the niece and the housekeeper take malicious delight in the upcoming destruction: "tal era la gana que las dos tenian de la muerte de aquellos inocentes" (1.6:109). The ama throws away Las sergas de Esplandian "con mucho contento," and the sobrina dispatches Florismarte "con mucha alegria"; the women's passion for destroying Don Quixote's library matches the zeal with which he read and imitated it (1.6:112-13).

Fear is a forbidden emotion in the death manuals, and happiness and joy might well read as greed if they are expressed about someone else's death. The scrutiny of the books is a strange undertaking, and one might wonder if the priest, the ama, and the sobrina are rushing Alonso Quijano to his grave. It would be possible, of course, to attribute virtuous intent to the two women. If indeed they believe that reading has caused Don Quixote's illness, removing the books might be a remedy. He has in fact come home wounded after his chivalric foray, so he might seem a danger to himself and others when in the grip of fantasy. However, the ama and sobrinas actions begin to look crueler when one considers how they describe the loss of the books to Don Quixote. When Don Quixote regains consciousness, the library has been walled up like a tomb. The sobrina, rather than confessing the truth, agitates Don Quixote by suggesting a chivalric explanation for the loss--an enchanter has stolen the books. Rather than encouraging Christian resignation of the books, the niece helps her uncle indulge in further chivalric fantasy, which brings with it an excess of emotion. The two women soon cease to speak to him on the subject: "No quisieron las dos replicarle mas, porque vieron que se le encendia la colera" (1.7:125).

By inducing both Don Quixote's wrath and further chivalric fantasy as a response to the loss of the books, the niece might be condemning her uncle, along with his books, to hell, or at least to purgatory. The early inventory, done in the absence of a will, robs Alonso Quijano of the power to practice the proper emotions of the moribund person. Perhaps part of the reason that so much attention is paid to Don Quixote's will and death preparations in the final chapter is that he has been cheated out of the resignation of the material. For Alejo Venegas, the material provisions of a will had a spiritual meaning. Done in sound mind and in a proper spirit of humility, the early modern will lets go of material things, and in doing so, renounces the emotions of a human life. A kind of rehearsal for death, the early modern will "ensaya a morir y hace liviana la muerte prevista" (Venegas 38). This rehearsal for death has material components, as Venegas states that a proper will prevents disputes among survivors, but the more important effects are spiritual; writing a will, especially early, "pone rienda a los vicios y da fin y quito a los malos afectos" (38). Even for the sick testator, however, a will could be a remedy against incorrect emotion.


The moderation of emotion is the will's most important benefit, as disordered emotions put the soul in peril. Venegas considered the dying to be particularly susceptible to strong feeling. He dedicates less space to the making of a will than to rationales against the diabolical "temptations" that present themselves to the dying person, which he describes as a turbacion of the five senses accompanied by fear (51-57). These temptations include the fear of death and a fear for one's family (65-66). As Carlos Eire's work on wills in late sixteenth-century Madrid shows, the ritual language of the early modern will expresses emotions that, sincerely felt or not, work as an antidote against fear and anxiety: resignation, hope, and acceptance. In the Cervantes family wills, this language appears in the opening paragraphs, above any bequests. Wills, moreover, do not itemize a person's possessions fully, concerning themselves only with a few important bequests. Itemization is important, however, and is usually done post-mortem, through the inventory.

While some wills indicate the sentimental value of material bequests, early modern inventories are nearly emotion-free. The rare exception might be when a piece of mourning jewelry or mourning clothing appears, indexing grief for a past death. The inventory, rather, is the execution of emotion: resignation produced in its material form, as a list of goods to be sold, scattered, and repossessed. In the chapters that sound like inventories, however, Cervantes includes a significant number of emotion words. In Chapter 1 the fantasies that fill the protagonist's head and dry out his brain are, at least in part, fantasies of emotion: "Llenosele la fantasia de todo aquello que leia en los libros, asi de encantamentos como de pendencias, batallas, desafios, heridas, requiebros, amores, tormentas y disparates imposibles" (1.1:73). Each of the items on that list of chivalric motifs can be associated with a moment of strong emotion. Chivalric duels result from excess pride, love scenes feature jealousy and anguish, and shipwrecks and encounters with enchanters evoke fear. (6) None of these chivalric motifs would prepare a virtuous early modern gentleman for a Christian death; their emotional climate is too volatile. These emotions, moreover, are not confined to the page, but are rather reflected in their reader; the word enamorado, applied to the hidalgo's feelings for Aldonza Lorenzo, indicates that the hidalgo is not yet ready to renounce human life (1.1:78). Chivalric emotions are contagious, and the death proceedings in the two inventory chapters do little to contain them.

The inventory chapters do suggest a fundamental contrast between emotions brought on by chivalry--Don Quixote's love and anger, and the ama and sobrinas fear and joy--and the virtuous Christian emotions necessary for a good death. Earthly love, for Venegas, is a temptation for the dying and should be tempered with more sober feeling; by expressing even a small degree of affection for Aldonza Lorenzo, the hidalgo indicates that he is not yet practicing for death. In Chapter 6, the joy of the pre-mourners contrasts sharply with the passionate grief Venegas imagined bereaved family members to feel. In fact, Venegas suggests that family members with their untoward emotions be replaced at the bedside of the dying person with more rational, less expressive friends: figures perhaps like the priest and the barber. However, nowhere does Venegas recommend that one should delight in the death of another; all the feelings he endorses are more moderate. The ama's joy at the destruction of the books might also be a joy at a "bad" death; the scrutiny has upended the proper order of things. Indeed, if Don Quixote had succumbed to illness after his first chivalric adventure, his death almost certainly would have been "bad," condemning him to purgatory or worse.

While the early inventory might be interpreted as a preparation for death, and thus in line with early modern Spanish practice, the inventory as it appears in Chapter i and 6 fails to involve the dying person and thus defeats the purpose of the proceeding. It also may represent an attempt by others to control Don Quixote's emotions; the ars moriendi texts, in contrast, make clear that the journey of death and its accompanying emotions are an individual concern. Each book that hits the pyre robs Alonso Quijano of an important trial at the end of a Christian life: can he renounce a beloved item? Will Alonso Quijano spend longer in purgatory because his books burned? Perhaps for this reason, he issues a codicil to his will to prohibit his niece, who would have inherited his library, from marrying anyone with knowledge of the books of chivalry (2.74:590). As O'Kuinghttons Rodriguez has pointed out, the codicil is an injunction against most potential marriage partners; a man ignorant of chivalry in an appropriate social class would be hard to find (110). If one reads the codicil as retribution for the burned library, the emotion that seems to be present here is not Christian resignation, but the desire for revenge.

Through the treatment of material items, the books of chivalry, Cervantes may mean to suggest that his character's emotional landscape does not conform as well to standards for behavior as it seems to. With this line of reasoning, I mean to suggest that Cervantes's novel represents death customs in a way that breaks with convention, drawing the efficacy of those rituals, at least for the life of the protagonist, into question. The bureaucratic traditions of the will and the inventory appear unable to combat the emotions attached to material items. What seems like a virtuous renunciation of both the emotions and the romances of chivalry at the moment of the hidalgos death may be only an illusion, rendering the sane Alonso Quijano el Bueno a more hollow fiction than the mad Don Quixote de la Mancha.


Stacey Triplette is Associate Professor of Spanish and French at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. Her book, Chivalry, Reading, and Women's Culture in Early Modern Spain (Amsterdam UP, 2018), examines the role of literate female characters in Iberian romances of chivalry and Don Quixote. Her articles on Cervantes and Amadis de Gaula have appeared in Bulletin of Spanish Studies, La coranica, and Cervantes. Her article on translations of Amadis de Gaula appears in Journal of Translation Studies.

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(1) Valdes's prologue includes Erasmus in his list of influences: "si la invencion y doctrina es buena, dense las gracias a Luciano, Pontano y Erasmo" (4).

(2) Erasmus's In Praise of Folly (Encomium moriae) is the text most often thought to have influenced Cervantes. See Vilanova (16).

(3) Antonio Vilanova discusses the influential scholars, including Menendez y Pelayo, Americo Castro, and Bataillon, who have identified Cervantes's Erasmianism. Critics vary on how direct they believe the connection between Cervantes and Erasmus to be; while Vilanova believes that Cervantes read Erasmian texts, others, including Bataillon, attribute the influence to intermediary sources See Vilanova (7-20).

(4) For a discussion of the circumstances surrounding Grisostomo's death and burial, see Avalle-Arce. On Altisidora's funeral, see Jehle. On the episode of la carretta de la Muerte, see Mata Indurain. On themes of death and purgatory in the Cave of Montesinos, see Sullivan (12, 101-112). On the parodie epitaphs, see Lo Re (25-26). On the will, see O'Kuinghttons Rodriguez; and Schmidt ("Performance"). On Avellaneda, see O'Kuinghttons Rodriguez (96).

(5) Works in various genres were described as being written en romance in wills from Valladolid. See Catedra and Rojo Vega (219, 223, 224, 225, 229, 232, and 271).

(6) For representative examples of pride, jealousy, and fear embedded in chivalric duels, love scenes, and enchantments, see Amadis de Gaula (1: 374, 676, and 432).
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Author:Triplette, Stacey
Publication:Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Mar 22, 2019
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