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THE ORDER IN THE COURT: CERVANTES' ENTREMÉS DEL JUEZ DE LOS DIVORCIOS MARY GAYLORD RANDEL Cornell University Man, Aristotle tells us, learns and delights from imitation. He naturally takes pleasure in recognizing himself and others in the mirror which artistic fictions hold up to him.' Accordingly, the Poetics makes mimesis the essential organizing principle of literature and sets the poet the task of conjuring up a reality we recognize as ours. In this mirror game, literature aims finally to make itself transparent, to erase all consciousness of its artifice. The vogue of literary realism, celebrating works for the extreme faithfulness of their imitation of life, has ensured the popularity of Cervantes' entremeses in the middle of the twentieth century. One editor, Miguel Herrero Garcia, sees them along with the Quijote and the Novelas ejemplares as «obras plasmadas sobre el molde de la realidad»~and therefore masterpieces. The dramatic miniatures, he says, are remarkable neither for invention nor for creation of characters, but rather for the language the characters speak. Yet this language succeeds precisely to the extent that it disappears: «Es la mísera humanidad que se pinta a sí misma, prestándole Cervantes meramente los colores de su palabra cristalina.»2 Edwin Honig observes that, despite the «modesty of aim and slightness of incident» in these pieces, their characters are not«stock types going through their paces in a well-worn anecdote, but vital individuals with distinct voices.»5 These words make it clear, however, that if spectators and readers have managed to enjoy the entremeses' dialogue as a «slice of life,» they have also tended to move beyond amused recognition to a 83 84Bulletin ofthe Comediantes more serious encounter with their world as mirrored on its stage. «A dire vrai,» says Jean Canavaggio, «l'apparente légèreté du género chico n'est, à bien des égards, qu'un leurre.»¥ The Entremés del juez de los divorcios, which stands at the head of the collection, serves to illustrate the problems which have beset interpreters of these«transparent» pieces. Unable, like other readers/ to find a plot in this interlude, W. Rozenblat poses the question, «¿Por qué escribió Cervantes el Entremés del juez de los divorcios!» and answers it by attempting to reconstruct the author's views on marriage/ Cervantes, himself mismarried, here obliquely suggests the frailty, even the injustice of the holy sacrament. The impassive Judge embodies the insensitivity of society and its institutions to the «real» sufferings of individuals . Stanislav Zimic carries this position still further/The finale of El juez de los divorcios, which rejects the best divorce in favor of the worst peace-making, can only be read as supreme irony. Every aspect of the characterization, he alleges, illustrates beyond question that the spouses bear the full responsiblity for the sorry state of their marriages. Their short-sighted desires to profit from their matches have left them caught in the webs of their own deceptions. Cervantes could only comment ironically on a situation so far from the ideal Christian marriage. Both of these readings come to terms with the contradictions of the finale by appealing implicitly to Americo Castro's model of Cervantes, «hábil hipócrita,» «gran disimulador que recubrió de ironía y habilidad opiniones contrarias a las usuales.»' It is nonetheless difficult to locate a solid ground of meaning in the ironic movement of the text. Attempts to oblige this entremés to take a position for or against marriage, or to make a statement of any kind ultimately reach an impasse. If the Judge is insensitivity itself, the mismatched plaintiffs with their absurd quarrels scarcely justify our confidence. Most disturbing of all is the dramatic mismatch of squabbling with the final «pacification.» The piece ends not in resolution or dénouement, but instead returns without justification to its own beginnings/ At this stage the entremés loses its transparency, thwarting our desire to discover not only comprehensible actions but also to recognize in it familiar molds of thought. As it blocks our interpretive strategies, the play obliges us to see it as a commentary on the difficulties inherent in providing a faithful mirror of the world. " Another look...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0928
Print ISSN
0007-5108
Pages
pp. 83-95
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-08
Open Access
No
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