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  • A Possible Reference to the Jewish Sabbath in the Numbering of Chapters Six and Seven in Part II of Don Quijote1
  • Emily G. Foss

The original manuscript of Don Quijote, Part II, was missing a chapter seven. Perhaps better said, it had two consecutive chapters numbered "six." This numbering, 6-6-8, was quickly corrected to 6-7-8, which most editions use today. It has been suggested that these types of "errors" are not really errors, but rather Cervantes's way of parodying the incongruences that characterize the chivalric genre (Lathrop xvii). In this study, I similarly propose that we not be too quick to dismiss the extra chapter six and absence of chapter seven as a mistake. Working within the framework of research on the converso legacy in Early Modern Spain and the novel's multicultural context, I examine a possible reference to the Jewish Sabbath in its original chapter numbering.

A familiar aspect of Jewish practice, the Sabbath formed an integral part of life for this community in Spain's history prior to 1492, and likewise contributed to the converso reality of Cervantes's day. Its Biblical source and associated practices both help to inform our understanding. Briefly, the seventh day, identified as Saturday in Jewish tradition (Shabbat in Hebrew, Sabbath in English), is a day of rest and abstaining from work. Perhaps best known as one of the Ten Commandments, it is also referenced elsewhere in the Bible. For the present study, I will focus on the episode of the manna, or bread that fell from heaven to sustain the Israelites in the desert after they left Egypt. A double portion fell on Friday, the sixth day, and none fell on the Sabbath. Customs and practices developed to keep and honor the Sabbath, such as cooking extra food on Friday to allow for abstention of work on Saturday. The inquisitional documents (specifically edicts and testimonies concerning [End Page 357] the conversos) of Cervantes's time reflect these practices. In the remainder of this study, I propose that the preparation on the sixth day to allow for rest on the seventh in Jewish tradition (with attention to both the Biblical source and associated customs) is mirrored in Cervantes's original numbering of the chapters, namely an extra chapter six and the absence of a chapter seven.

Converso heritage of Cervantes and Portrayal of don Quijote

Over the past decades, Spanish literary criticism has sought to discover new levels of meaning in literary works attributable to the known or hypothesized converso identity of their authors.2 In the case of Cervantes, Jean Canavaggio details a multi-generational pattern typical of the life circumstances of this socio-cultural group on the author's paternal side:

First Juan, the great instigator of law suits, related on his wife's side to a family of Andalusian physicians, then Rodrigo, the itinerant surgeon . . . and finally Miguel, whose war services no one will recompense and who, having become an agent of the royal Treasury, will have to travel through towns and villages in pursuit of recalcitrant debtors. Three professions, three wanderings, three destinies that, in view of the positions of new Christians in Spain of the sixteenth century, all appear to suggest secret membership in converso society.

(24-25)

It was likely his converso status that prevented Cervantes from immigrating to America (Lokos 117). In an effort to broaden his prospects, he procured a document attesting to his Old Christian origins, which "tries to give the appearance of an expediente de limpieza without actually constituting one" (Lokos 119). His marriage to Catalina de Salazar in 1584 marked a union with one of the many families in Esquivias of "hidalgos who counted conversos among their ancestors" (Canavaggio 139).

Among scholars who suggest a reflection of Cervantes's own converso status in his portrayal of Don Quijote, Samuel G. Armistead affirms, "there can be little doubt at all that Cervantes thought of his protagonist as a New Christian," and sees the struggles of Don Quijote's life as paralleling those of his creator, describing "an intimate relationship to the limitations, the frustrations, the undeserved failures of his [Cervantes's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2165-7599
Print ISSN
0035-7995
Pages
pp. 357-368
Launched on MUSE
2019-02-22
Open Access
No
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