On Marcela in Don Quixote

Fuego soy apartado y espada puesta lejos.”–Don Quixote, Chap XIV, Ed. Murillo, 186-87
“I am distant fire and far-off sword.”–Trans. Edith Grossman 99.

Ah, Marcela, the beautiful shepherdess who refuses Grisóstomo and rebukes Ambrosio, who wrongly blames her for his friend’s death. One of my favorite lines of the chapter is Marcela’s exposition of the consequences should beauty, upon being loved by the ugly, submit: “[C]ae muy mal el decir: `Quiérote por hermosa; hasme de amar aunque sea feo'” / “[I]t is absurd for anyone to say: ‘I love you because you are beautiful; you must love me even though I am ugly.'” And the other is the exposition of a danger more grave, that two beautiful subjects are presumed to love equally, an assumption that must be rejected for its fearful consequences:

Pero, puesto caso que corran igualmente las hermosuras, no por eso han de correr iguales los deseos, que no todas hermosuras enamoran; que algunas alegran la vista y no rinden la voluntad; que, si todas las bellezas enamorasen y rindiesen, sería un andar las voluntades confusas y descaminadas, sin saber en cuál habían de parar; porque, siendo infinitos los sujetos hermosos, infinitos habían de ser los deseos (186)

But in the event the two are equally beautiful, it does not mean that their desires are necessarily equal, for not all beauties fall in love; some are a pleasure to the eye but do not surrender their will, because if all beauties loved and surrendered, there would be a whirl of confused and misled wills not knowing where they should stop, for since beautiful subjects are infinite, desires would have to be infinite too (99)

Desire, were it equal to beauty, has cosmic consequence of unmanageable desire. In Don Quixote, the shepherdesses’ appeal to unequal desire promises to release us from the pastoral and into the quotidian, the modern.

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One Response to On Marcela in Don Quixote

  1. Marcela is one of my favorite characters in Don Quixote. I love how something that was written so many centuries ago still rings so true today. Or, considering the theme, I should feel a bit saddened by it.


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