5. "I Know Who I Am": Don Quixote de la Mancha, Don Diego de Miranda, and the Paradox of Self-Knowledge
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"I Know Who I Am" Don Quixote de Ia Mancha, Don Diego de Miranda, and the Paradox ofSelfKnowledge Know, Fashion, and Conquer Thyself In Cervantes' Don Quixote, the question of self-knowledge is far from an incidental issue. Indeed, it is hardly surprising that a work that repeatedly takes the measure of its own identity, artifice, and ontological status should include a cast of characters who are wrestling, or failing to wrestle, with the challenge expressed in the delphic and Socratic maxim Know thyself But in keeping with the practical orientation of such predecessors as Petrarch and Guevara, who address the same problem of psychological paradox, Cervantes' characters are wrestling with the imperative not only to know themselves, but also to act on that knowledge: to create and fashion a social, moral, or religious persona. Beginning with the protagonist and his squire, the problem of self-knowledge (or self-deception) and self-fashioning assumes a prominent place in virtually all the fiction's characters. 194 Inventing a Tale, Inventing a Self These characters embody what contemporary criticism often calls a host of differing "perspectives," in that they shape their "lives," with varying degrees of inventio, after an array of literary or quasi-literary "codes," models, and versions of poetic truth. Cervantes foregrounds the process of self-knowledge and self-fashioning in chapters 16-18 of Part II, in which he narrates Don Quixote's four-day encounter with Don Diego de Miranda, whom the protagonist reportedly calls the Knight of the Green Cloak (el Caballero del Verde Gahan).' In this chapter, I shall devote the bulk of my discussion to the encounter between the protagonist and Don Diego primarily because I believe that it encapsulates the governing, paradoxical logic of action in Don Quixote, especially in Part II. Indeed, Cervantes' characters act according to their knowledge or ignorance of who they are or how they appear to others and according to the relatively wise or foolish models and codes to which they give their allegiance. In illustrating this point, it will prove helpful to glance briefly at how the problem of self-knowledge develops in the fiction's two principal characters. At first, it seems that Sancho offers the most straightforward example in Don Quixote of a character's achieving and acting on his self-knowledge. In II, 53, this peasant turned squire decides to abandon his governorship, which was hitherto the object of his fantasies or delusions of grandeur, as well as the primary reason that he joined and often believed in the veracity and legitimacy of his master's enterprise. No doubt one detects a certain humility and a considerable degree of self-acceptance in remarks like the following: "I was not born to be a governor, nor to defend isles or cities from enemies who choose to besiege them" (Yo no nad para ser gobernador, ni para defender fnsulas ni ciudades de los enemigos que quisieren acometerlas) (DQ II: 53, 444). But it is doubtful that Sancho represents anything so simple as an exemplum of the Socratic ideal. As 1. It is worth noting that Don Quixote is never quoted as using this sobriquet for Don Diego. Rather, it is the narrator who claims, without direct quotation, that Don Quixote accorded Don Diego such a knightly epithet. At the start of their encounter, the protagonist addresses the rural hidalgo as "Gallant sir" (Senor galan). A loaded term in this context, ga!dn most often denotes a stock character in drama: a "gallant," young lover. Later, he addresses him as either "Don Diego" or, pejoratively, as "mister hidalgo" (sefior hidalgo). Furthermore, there is no mention of when, and in what circumstances, Don Quixote purportedly used this title to refer to Don Diego. Indeed, the narrator (apparently "speaking'' in the voice of Cide Harnete) seems wrongly to assume that Don Quixote must have incorporated Don Diego into his chivalric world and viewed that secondary character as a fellow "knight," whose home is called a "castle" (castillo o casa), again by the narrator, in the heading of chapter 18, Part II. As I shall discuss in this chapter, despite these false clues from the narrator, the passages about the encounter between the two hidalgos reveal that afrer scrutinizing Don Diego and listening attentively to his opening remarks, Don Quixote considers Don Diego to follow a very different "profession'' from his own, one that the protagonist fails to specifY-probably because the profession of a "more than moderately wealthy," rural hidalgo...