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Narrative 10.3 (2002) 262-276
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Of Oaten Flutes and Magic Potions:
Montemayor's Diana as Pastoral Romance
The importance of Jorge de Montemayor's Siete Libros de la Diana for the development of novelistic writing in Western Europe has variously been pointed out; evidence to its instant popularity with readers and writers alike is furnished by the large number of editions that appeared in various languages in the decades following its first publication around 1559. 1 The reasons for its success were probably manifold and explanations have been attempted. Carroll B. Johnson, for example, traces the popularity of this early modern bestseller to its unique balancing of lyrical conventions of the traditional pastoral with narrative elements of the Greek romance. The presence of such devices as the in medias res beginning or the novella-like retrospective narratives of some characters "saves the work from becoming an endless eclogue" (26). Ruth El Saffar is one of the few critics who note that this symmetry does not extend far beyond the surface of the seven books; she finds it "more rewarding to find in the work's imperfections a reflection of the author's states of mind in a love situation the inherent dualism of which he was never able to transcend" (186). I agree with El Saffar about the general imbalance of the Diana. Her argument is, however, like that of Johnson and earlier critics, thematic rather than structural, and I contend that a close analysis of some of the narrative devices that Montemayor employed reveals not only a clear shift of the text's genre from pastoral to romance (and not a number of narrative parentheses within a pastoral frame, as Juan Bautista Avalle-Arce argues ), but also shows that this shift was the result of artistic intention rather than of a lack of poetic skill. The following article, then, aims to investigate the poet's particular manipulation of point of view and narrative voice, and, at the same time, to argue for a new approach to pinpointing the rather elusive pastoral as a genre instead of as a mode, as Paul Alpers has done. 2
For the uninitiated, it would probably be helpful to start with a synopsis of the [End Page 262] Diana. The seven books begin with the encounter of two shepherds, Sireno and Sylvano, and a beautiful shepherdess, Selvagia, who lament their amorous misfortunes together. On the second day, their songs are joined by those of three beautiful nymphs, but the pastoral idyll is rudely interrupted when three savages appear and try to rape the nymphs. At the last minute, the helpless nymphs and shepherds are rescued by the beautiful Amazon-shepherdess Felismena, who happens to be roaming the area in search ofher unfaithful lover. After their successful rescue, the nymphs invite Felismena and the shepherds to the palace of their mistress Felicia, the wise keeper of a temple devoted to the goddess Diana, who will, as they promise, cure all their miseries. On their way to this temple, which is in the nearby woods, the group picks up another beautiful but unhappy maiden, Belisa. When they arrive at the palace, the group is warmly welcomed and entertained for a couple of days. Following some hearty feasting and conversation, Felicia decants a magic potion for the three shepherds, whose miseries are, after a deep slumber, transformed into general happiness: Sylvano and Selvagia instantaneously fall in love with each other, while Sireno forgets about his unfaithful beloved, Diana. Fascinated, Felismena and Belisa wish to partake of the magic draught as well, but Felicia tells them that their problems will be solved by destiny itself. The shepherds then return home, and Belisa stays at the palace with Felicia while Felismena continues her search for the unfaithful Don Felix. Among the various people she meets on her way are Belisa's lost lover, Arsileo, whom she directs to Felicia's palace for their reunion, as well as an unknown knight, whom she rescues from a bloody combat. As it turns out, this knight is...