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C H A P T E R VI Periandro's Narration THE HERO AS POET THE LONG NARRATION of Periandro to his fellow wanderers and his hosts, assembled in the palace of King Policarpo (Persiles, II, x-xx), is Cervantes' most significant use of the dramatic situation of the narrating author vs. the critical audience to examine the literary problems which preoccupied him throughout his career as a creative artist. It is important to recognize at the outset the function of the account in relation to various aesthetic demands of the genre to which the Persiles belongs: its structural necessity in the inmedias -res scheme of disposition,1 its exaltation of the protagonist in accordance with the Renaissance conception of the ideal hero, its introduction of marvelous episodes for the arousal of admiratio, and its wealth of literary reminiscences from the tradition of heroic literature. The extremely literary quality of Periandro's narration serves as a convenient point of departure for a consideration of the account in its peculiar, nongeneric dimension, for the series of conscious evocations of themes from the tradition of epic and romance literature has a broader function than simply adding marvelous subject matter to the Persiles and associating the epic in prose and its hero with illustrious literary models. Unlike his literary forbears—Odysseus, Aeneas, and Calasiris—Periandro is not only an epic hero but also an epic poet as he relates the story of his wanderings and sufferings. Similarly his audience is not the anonymous group at the courts of Alcinous and Dido, which we can assume listens to the recitation of the hero in sympathy and wonderment. Periandro faces an audience which includes both those who are willing to listen passively and enjoy his account and those who are preoccupied by literary concerns and do not hesitate to reflect critically on the 1 It is the method by which the poet reveals what lies behind the in-medias-res beginning. In Chapter II I pointed out how El Pinciano frequently praises the disposition of the Odyssey, the Aeneid, and the Aethiopica, underscoring the structural importance of the narrations of Odysseus, Aeneas, and Calasiris. El Pinciano refers to Calasiris' account as a delayed prologue. In its structural necessity in the Persiles Periandro's narration is analogous to those of these ancient figures. 187 Cervantes & the Classical Aesthetic literary qualities of his narration.2 Once again we observe the dramatic situation which we have followed through the Quixote, as the narration of the creating artist is punctuated by the interruptions of his critical audience. Periandro's use of the terminology of formal rhetoric reveals immediately his consciousness of the literary quality of his narration : "Since you desire, sirs, that I relate to you my history, I wish that its preamble and beginning be this: that you contemplate my sister and me... ."3 Moreover, these opening words recall specifically two methods employed by Cervantes' other surrogate poets. There is the same use of incantatory anaphora and rhythm which marks Don Quixote's conjurative description of the underworld in his rejoinder to the canon (the eight words beginning with qu or c and the pairing of the synonymous esdrujulos—preambulo and principio).4 Periandro will occasionally return to these incantatory linguistic patterns in the course of his narration. Moreover, Periandro asks the ladies and gentlemen of his audience to see as real the subjects which he describes (que nos contempleys). Throughout his account the hero will repeat the exhortation: "Veys me aqui, senores que me estays escuchando hecho pescador" (I, 251). "Contemplad, senores, a mis marineros" (I, 265); "Volued, senores, 2 It should be pointed out that throughout Book I various characters are called on to narrate their historias, and Cervantes is concerned to describe the reaction of their audience to their tales and style of presentation (see I, 84, 88, 91, 108). Moreover , both the storytellers and their audience usually reveal a rhetorical consciousness and occasionally allude to the fundamental aesthetic criteria which come under examination in Periandro's narration. Thus the audience reminds Antonio of the dangers in narrating too much (I, 45). Rutilio recognizes both the problem of verisimilitude (I, 54) and that of unity (I, 57, 62). Although there is no critical examination of literary theory in these scenes and the classical principles are implicitly accepted by audience and narrator, we observe in them the germs for the development that occurs in Periandro's narration in Book II and in the episode of the counterfeit...


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