October 10: Telenovela


Not to overlook Cervantes's irony and wit, which you hear so much about and which is probably completely lost in this translation, but he knows how to bring the cliche:

The youth took off his cap at last, and, shaking his head to the one and other part, did dishevel and discover such beautiful hairs as those of Phoebus might justly emulate them; and thereby they knew the supposed swain to be a delicate woman; yea, and the fairest that ever the first two had seen in their lives...
Good heavens, anonymous youth, you're beautiful! That cliche never goes out of style. It worked in "She Blinded Me With Science" and it worked here, in the 16th century.

There is also virtue ravaged:
‘All the reasons here rehearsed I said unto him, and many more which now are fallen out of mind, but yet proved of no efficacy to wean him from his obstinate purpose; even like unto one that goeth to buy, with intention never to pay for what he takes, and therefore never considers the price, worth, or defect of the stuff he takes to credit....All these demands and answers did I, in an instant, revolve in mine imagination, and found myself chiefly forced (how I cannot tell) to assent to his petition by the witnesses he invoked, the tears he shed, and finally by his sweet disposition and comely feature, which, accompanied with so many arguments of unfeigned affection, were able to conquer and enthrall any other heart, though it were as free and wary as mine own.
Which ends as you might think it would:
...for, after a man hath satisfied that which the appetite covets, the greatest delight it can take after is to apart itself from the place where the desire was accomplished. I say this, because Don Fernando did hasten his departure from me: by my maid’s industry, who was the very same that had brought him into my chamber, he was got in the street before dawning.
And it gets worse for our poor unfortunate Dorothea, when she goes on the lam:
...my good servant, until then faithful and trusty, rather incited by his villainy than my beauty... solicited me of love, with little shame and less fear of God, or respect of myself; and now seeing that I answered his impudences with severe and reprehensive words... he began to use his force; but Heaven, which seldom or never neglects the just man’s assistance, did so favour my proceedings, as with my weak forces, and very little labour, I threw him down a steep rock...
Mur...der! Or at least man...slaughter! It's pretty lurid all the way around. And Cervantes has (at least in these excerpts I've read) earned his luridness, because she's telling her story to the same idiots we saw bumbling around burning books three weeks ago. It's hard to lure in us sophisticates if you're all-telenovela-all-the-time. But Cervantes has used our sense of superiority to suck us in, and now we're very interested in this waxed-mustache melodrama, just like a normal person would be. (Naturally the excerpt ends on a cliffhanger, I had to google around to find out what happens next.)

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