Monday, December 23, 2013

Dedication & Prologue - Parody with Bite

Having neglected to note Cervantes dedication & prologue, it's time to correct this omission.

DEDICATORIA AL DUQUE DE BÉJAR marqués de Gibraleón, conde de Benalcázar y Bañares. vizconde de La Puebla de Alcocer, señor de las villas de Capilla, Curiel y Burguillo.
TO THE DUKE OF BEJAR, Marquis of Gibraleón, Count of Benalcazar and Bañares, Viscount of La Puebla de Alcocer, Master of the towns of Capilla, Curiel y Burguillo.

The dedication as well as the prologue are laid down as parody but with bite.

The dedication to the Duke of Bejar, giving his string of titles, like tin cans tied to a bumper, are to be taken seriously as titles but not as conferring any degree of actual authority.

DQ was published in 1605, a century after Ferdinand y Isabel had deprived the regional aristocracy of Castile of any formal power in the government of the kingdom. (See the Cortes de Toledo of 1480 which restructured the Consejo Real - the Council of Castile.)

True, the still-titled potentates of Castile were of immediate, local importance, but primarily expressed in formalities and not actual in control over anything. The former serfs had been freed to leave or even sell the lands they worked and the towns had been invested by Isabel with their own enforceable administrative powers, thus transforming the ancient titles into hollow reminders of the actual powers that had been conveyed with the titles in the centuries prior to the late 1400s, when the two monarchs, had united Castile and the Kingdom of Aragon under their personal rule.

Cervantes uses the dedication to take a shot at publishing houses, with a slap at their "knowing" what kinds of books ought to be published - and certainly nothing like DQ which arrives, newborn:
. . . desnudo de aquel precioso ornamento de elegancia y erudición de que suelen andar vestidas las obras que se componen en las casas de los hombres que saben . . .  continiéndose en los límites de su ignorancia, suelen condenar con más rigor y menos justicia los trabajos ajenos.
. . . naked of elegance, that precious ornament, as well as erudition, which often adorn those works that are walking around, having been composed in the houses of men who know better . . . passing the limits of their own ignorance, frequently condemning with more rigor and less justice the efforts of others.

With total politeness, Cervantes pokes at the pretended influence of the Duke, 
. . . poniendo los ojos la prudencia de Vuestra Excelencia en mi buen deseo, fío que no desdeñará la cortedad de tan humilde servicio.
. . . attending with the eyes of prudence, your Excellency, my highest desire, believing that you will not disdain the brevity of my humble offering.
So the sweeping Spanish / universal parody begins.

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