16 characters to Marvel at and... Miguel de Cervantes 

Acción Cultural Española, AC/E

The aim of this commemorative exhibition marking the 4th centenary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes is to show some of his literary characters in images and words, as it is they who trace his career from his first work, the Galatea (1585), a pastoral novel, to the last: The Trials of Persiles and Sigismunda, a Byzantine romance published posthumously in 1617.

Video produced for the exhibition "Introducing 16 marvellous characters and... Miguel de Cervantes". It traces the life and literary career of the great Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616).

Alcalá de Henares, 1585.

La Galatea is Cervantes’s first book to be published.

On the banks of the Tagus, the beautiful shepherdess Galatea lives unencumbered by the passion that consumes her two hopeless suitors. Meanwhile, her father intends to marry her to a foreigner.

Galatea is indifferent to the passion that consumes nearly all the shepherds who, like her, tend their flocks on the banks of the Tagus. Her hopeless suitors are two inseparable friends, the cultured Elicio and the rustic Erastro. They praise her beauty, speak of the desire such loveliness provokes, and console each other by sharing their sorrows.

The shepherdess goes around with her equally loveless friend Florisa; and so the two of them, free of passion, can judge the beauty of the poetry competition on Love – in favour, against – that is sung.

Cervantes never published the sequel.

"La Galatea" was Miguel de Cervantes’ first book, published in 1585. Under the guise of pastoral characters, it is an examination of love and contains many allusions to contemporary literary figures.

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Madrid, 1605.

Centuries ago, in a village of La Mancha – it is not known which one – lived a gentleman so fond of chivalric novels that one day he decided to adopt the profession of the main characters of these works and become a knight-errant.

And so he took up his great-grandfathers’ arms – after giving them a good clean – and set off on his old horse with a new name, Rocinante, calling himself Don Quixote of La Mancha.

He finally accomplished the difficult task of finding a lady so that the defeated giants would bow to him: the memory of a peasant girl of whom he was enamoured for some time led him to imagine a beautiful princess, Dulcinea del Toboso.

Don Quixote was dubbed a knight by a crafty Andalusian innkeeper whom he believed to be a Castilian landlord of the castle where he was staying – which was actually an inn.

Sancho was a farm labourer from a village of La Mancha. He had a wife and children and one fine day decided to leave everything behind to embark on an adventure as a knight-errant’s squire.

Though the knight in question was a gentleman who was a neighbour of his and had promised him the governance of an island. And although the storyteller says that Sancho was a man with “very little wit in his pate”, he proved that quite the opposite was true.

At this point the unforgettable dialogue begins between two characters so different that, as their shared adventures unfold, they grow more alike and develop a bond of affection.

Man or woman? Lady or princess? A well-kept secret that is asking to be discovered. Dorotea uses her powers of persuasion to get Don Quixote home.

To the curate, the barber and Cardenio, Dorotea appears to be a good-looking labourer sitting on a rock washing his feet: how lovely and white they are! Then they see his long blonde tresses when he takes off his cap: he’s a beautiful woman!

Dorotea explains why she is disguised as a man. The handsome Don Fernando, a duke’s son, seduced her with the promise of marriage and then abandoned her to court another beauty, Luscinda.

Dressed as a labourer, Dorotea is seeking out Fernando to hold him to his word. She succeeds after endless adventures, as luckily the fickle gentleman ends up in the same inn where all Cervantes’s characters meet after leaving the Sierra Morena.

"The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha" is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Published in two volumes, in 1605 and 1615, Don Quixote is considered one of the most influential works of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon.

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Alcalá de Henares, 1613.

He was originally known as Thomas Rodaja, and then as the Licentiate Rueda.

An unfortunate encounter changes his life and his name: a grand lady – a high-class courtier – falls in love with him. As Thomas takes no notice of him, she resorts to an aphrodisiac made of quince, which takes him to death’s door. The poor student awakes with a madness never before written of: “The wretched man imagined himself to be entirely of glass”.

He didn’t want anyone to come near him lest he should break, for he was made of glass from head to foot! He dressed in drab clothes, a roomy shirt tied with a cotton rope. In the summer he slept out of doors; and in winter in a hayloft, up to his neck in straw. In his madness he roamed the streets, speaking his mind.

A couple of years later, a Hieronymite friar managed to cure him and Thomas, by then sane, became the Licentiate Rueda. He ended up enrolling in the army in Flanders, where he earned a reputation as a sensible and brave soldier.

Their whole life revolves around a deck of cards: using a thousand tricks to win “gold coins*”; frequenting taverns and “cups*”; using “swords*” if necessary, though they make do with simple knives; and being on the receiving end of “clubs*”.

*The suits of the traditional Spanish deck of cards.

At the Molinillo inn, one summer’s day, two youths – aged about fourteen – happen to meet and henceforward become inseparable: Rincón, who handles cards like a conjurer; and Cortado, a tailor’s son, whose speciality is “cutting” purses. They are two rogues who earn a haphazard living from fleecing people using marked cards, or practicing the art of purse-cutting.

They tell each other about their lives and so begins their literary tale: they are going to cheat a muleteer out of as much as they can; and when he tries to recover his lost money, they get out their half-sword and knife.

When Preciosa sings and dances in the street, people admire her and constantly toss her money: bystanders “showered [coins] down like stones on the highway”.

Her beauty, charm and magic captivate a young gentleman, who becomes a gypsy for a time out of love for her. And this takes us to the ending: her noble birth is revealed.

It’s night. They’re sitting on an old mat behind the bed of a soldier, second-lieutenant Campuzano, who is being treated for syphilis in Valladolid’s Resurrección hospital.

The dogs belong to the brothers of La Capacha and accompany them at night with a lantern, so that they can see the alms they are given, as well as guarding the hospital.

Unbeknown to Cipión and Berganza, Campuzano is listening to them and memorises everything he hears, as he then writes it in a dialogue, called that of the dogs.

Novelas ejemplares ("Exemplary Novels") is a series of twelve novellas that follow the model established in Italy,[1] written by Miguel de Cervantes between 1590 and 1612. The collection was printed in Madrid in 1613 by Juan de la Cuesta, and received well in the wake of the first part of Don Quixote.

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Madrid, 1615.

He was previously called the Knight of the Grove or of the Mirrors, but he is in fact the bachelor Samson Carrasco.
He is called the Knight of the Grove because he comes across Don Quixote in a wood, in the middle of the night, and also that of the Mirrors because over his armour he sports a glittering coat of small mirrors; however, another character is hidden beneath it.

One morning when Don Quixote, fully armed, is out strolling on the beach in Barcelona, a knight-errant with a gleaming moon painted on his shield approaches him.

“Illustrious knight, and never sufficiently extolled Don Quixote of La Mancha, I am the Knight of the White Moon… I come to do battle with thee and prove the might of thy arm, to the end that I make thee acknowledge and confess that my lady, let her be who she may, is incomparably fairer than thy Dulcinea del Toboso”.

And this time the Knight of the White Moon, formerly the Knight of the Mirrors, manages to defeat Don Quixote and drives us to despair, as he puts an end to the knight-errant’s adventures. Samson Carrasco, why did you do that?

As in many of Cervantes’s stories, nothing is what it seems. The Duke and Duchess shower Don Quixote and Sancho Panza with praise, but laugh at them behind their backs.

Nor is Clavileño what it seems at first sight. A simple wooden horse involves Don Quixote and Sancho in an unexpected adventure.

Clavileño the Swift is a flying wooden horse, and its flight is controlled by a peg in its forehead. It appears one night in the duke and duchess’s garden, carried by four savages dressed in ivy green. When they leave it on the ground, one of them says: “Let the knight who has heart for it mount this machine!”

It is mounted by Don Quixote and Sancho, the latter reluctantly as he is terrified.

The Second part of Don Quixote was a sequel published ten years after the original novel. While Part One was mostly farcical, the second one is more serious and philosophical about the theme of deception.

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Madrid, 1615.

Cañizares, the extremely jealous husband of Doña Lorenza, a young and beautiful woman, gives her everything she could wish for: jewellery, clothes, whims; but she is a poor rich woman because he is a rotten, jealous old man.

But their neighbour, Ortigosa, devises a plan. She promises to find Doña Lorenza a young lover who will keep the secret.

She assures Lorenza she will smuggle him into her bedroom and out again, despite the jealous old man’s thousand eyes and the seven locked doors.

Chanfalla is a cunning con artist who is going to create his Marvellous Puppet show out of nothing and treat his audience to the sight of an astonishing series of figures: people and animals. And heaven forbid if they can’t see them!

A captive like Cervantes and equally determined, Catalina, unyieldingly and with great effort, gets the Great Turk to agree to her terms for marrying him. A comfortable confinement among textiles and lattice windows.

Someone once predicted he would one day be a king, a friar and a pope… And he finally achieved this through his acting profession.

"Ocho Comedias y ocho entremeses nuevos, nunca antes representados" (Eight Comedies and Eight New Interludes, Never Before Performed) appeared in 1615. The dates and order of composition of Cervantes' entremeses are unknown. Faithful to the spirit of Lope de Rueda, Cervantes endowed them with novelistic elements, such as simplified plot, the type of descriptions normally associated with a novel, and character development. Cervantes included some of his dramas among the works he was most satisfied with.

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Madrid, 1617.

Cervantes’s posthumous novel. The young couple are in love, but roam the world pretending they are brother and sister; they travel from fantastic islands to known countries, their goal being to arrive in Rome. During this life of trials and tribulations they call themselves Periandro and Auristela, until recovering the happy silence – sileo, sigilum – embodied by their true names: Persiles and Sigismunda.

The love between the main characters achieves the impossible. They overcome a thousand adversities and traverse land and sea in order to arrive in Rome.

"The Works of Persiles and Sigismunda" is a romance or Byzantine novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, his last work and one that stands in opposition to the more famous novel Don Quixote by its embrace of the fantastic rather than the commonplace.[1] While Cervantes is known primarily for "Don Quixote", widely regarded as one of the foremost classic novels of all time, he himself believed the Persiles, as it is commonly called, to be his crowning achievement. He completed it only three days before his death, and it was posthumously published in 1617.

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Miguel de Cervantes.

In the preface to his Exemplary Novels, Cervantes states that it might have been written under Don Juan de Jáuregui’s portrait of him.

“The person whom you see here, with an oval visage, chestnut hair, smooth open forehead, lively eyes, a hooked but well-proportioned nose, and silvery beard that twenty years ago was golden, large moustaches, a small mouth, teeth not much to speak of, for he has but six, in bad condition and worse placed, no two of them corresponding to each other, a figure midway between the two extremes, neither tall nor short, a vivid complexion, rather fair than dark, somewhat stooped in the shoulders, and not very light-footed”.

Nor does he forget that he “was for many years a soldier, and for five years and a half in captivity, where he learned to have patience in adversity. He lost his left hand by a musket-shot in the battle of Lepanto”.

Acción Cultural Española
Credits: Story

Organized by
Acción Cultural Española (AC/E)

Rosa Navarro Durán

Pedro Moreno

Digital Set up and Programming
Raquel Mesa (AC/E)

Translations Spanish- English
Jenny F. Dodman

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Credits: All media
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