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This novel has been called by Harry Sieber the apex of the picaresque in Spain 3, and it is, according to Nicholas Spadacinni, a work that "either sums up or consciously elaborates most of the structural, thematic, and socio-ethical problems of the picaresque novel… 4".
When we observe this paragraph with greater depth we can see that the narrator announces several crucial facts to us- 1. While this remains a subject of debate most scholars regard this novel as a work of fiction. Houghton Mifflin Company, When seen from this angle the novel is the literary form which arose as a result of this expansion and diversity.
Therefore the words written in the following novel are his words, and his alone. While Estebanillo claims to be a Mongrel, his surname signifies respectable Spanish origins, and his pure blood renders him an "Old Christian14" in a society obsessed with purity of descent.
It is important to note that when seen trough the social and literary aspects, Estebanillo is indeed a mongrel between two vastly different cultures. See: Elliott , pp. More importantly for our enquiry as to the treatment of honor, we can see that Estebanillo himself by way of his pure blood and respectable origins was once suitable for a honor that befitted his middle class descent 19, and that due to his actions he has wasted that honorable potential. It seems that the claim made in the first paragraph has been both refuted and enhanced, refuted by way of negating the stated fact that "I can tell you no more of Family", and enhanced once we see that for Estebanillo it is not "My Family" but only "Family" and that in this regard Estebanillo is truly a self made or unmade man.
Estebanillo refers to two qualities when he considers his own descent- pride and vanity, both of which he embraces whole heartedly. These "national" characteristics are 15 Anonymous , pp. Estebanillo by his own words is a man of the world, a chameleon like mercurial man that has a trump like quality, that is, he has the attributes of a joker, a trait that is enhanced by his transformation into a Buffoon later on, as such his embrace of pride and vanity do not only signify his sinful nature, but also signal the possibility of another interpretation.
Estebanillo is a man who tries to make the most out of a given situation and his choices are, at least partly, motivated by instrumental considerations. In order to simplify the discussion of honor I shall borrow the terminology used by C.
F Liepmann, a late 19th century German Jurist who developed a simple categorical conception of honor According to Liepmann this type of honor, i. For Estebanillo there is no correlation between his "Subjectified" and "Objectified" honor, his own sense of self worth is extremely negative, prompting his perception of himself as a "Vile Insect23" when in the company of honorable persons. Only when he is surrounded by persons who have no honor, his "Subjectified" and "Objectified" honor are up to par with each other.
That is to say, Estebanillo is a man who truly internalizes his estate, his sense of self-worth is governed by the same mechanism of property and entitlement that govern the nobility, but with one significant difference, while for the noble man, whether a hidalgo or grandee, the sense of entitlement is based on a pedigree which that asserts his substantive worth in the eyes of others and an estate that represents his actual material worth, Estebanillo has nothing, he is a man of mundane origins, not a nobleman, and as such has no honor, this is what Estebanillo internalizes, a feeling of belonging to the bottom of society, both in the economic as well as in the moral sense, a feeling that puts Estebanillo in disparity with the world.
F Liepmann is expounded in length in Stewart , p. In this phase Estebanillo is transformed from a wanderer- child of thirteen year of age to a young sharper in his early-twenties. Yet this first phase is not delivered to the reader as a tragic story, it is in a sense an age of carefree innocence, a period in which Estebanillo knows freedom and liberty, and a time when he can live a life without possessing honor and yet without feeling dishonored: "..
Here begins the second phase of the narrative- Estebanillo transformation into a Buffoon. In this phase Estebanillo relation to the world, as well as to honor, undergo a profound change, he becomes a man marked by death, this is followed by a sense of mortal fear that entails a need for protection that he receives from noblemen in exchange for becoming a buffoon, who 24 The Spanish edition of the novel mentions in the prologue eighty-three distinct roles and vocations Estebanillo "played" throughout his life.
Furthermore, by being forced into a series of exchanges that strip him of his natural honor and by which he receives protection and the privileges of a buffoon, he losses the freedom and the liberty of the rake and becomes a person who has to contend with the melancholy of a lonesome life in a world where death and dishonor are ever present, and who, by and by, has to play the "Ingenious" role of the clown These qualities are presented by Estebanillo as stemming from his moral character, raking life and love of liquor, and do not seem to point in the direction of Buffoonery.
Indeed it takes a major event to shift the plot from its seemingly natural course of picaresque adventures and usher in the process that transforms Estebanillo into a Buffoon. This process is likened to dying by an interwoven motif that substitute death with mortal fear and execution with performance Although Estebanillo portrays this development as an accident, it is quite clear that in fact what seems to have occurred was a duel.
Yet instead of perceiving his victory as an act that bestows honor upon him, Estebanillo runs, thus in effect asserting that the duel was in fact a murder. The clown has another, more human face beneath his mask of "good humor," and it is profoundly marked by the anguish and loneliness of his pathetic existence. The substitute is offered deliberately, with an awareness of its lesser value and reduced efficacy.
But it serves as a challenge to the intrinsic worth of that which it replaces, a challenge to the status of the status quo. I was Prosecuted as a Deserter and Raiser of Mutinies in the Fleet32…" the verdict in his trail is death by hanging, and suddenly for the first time in the novel Estebanillo is possessed by mortal fear: "It was impossible to avoid making some wry Faces when I heard it [the verdict], some Sighs broke loose in spite of all my manhood, and the Salt tears trickled down my Cheeks….
Their physical blows are humiliating actions, by not being able to respond to these blows, that is, by being put in the position of the Buffoon- a man who is physically abused for the amusement of others, Estebanillo is degraded and robbed of his Honor. At this point Estebanillo becomes aware of honor as an external social force which surrounds him, an awareness that demolishes his "Subjectified" honor, and which results with his quick retreat from the notion of becoming a Buffoon.
Otto explains many stories about the recruitment of buffoons show that noblemen and their servants were always on the lookout for potentials, often persons of bizarre and awkward behavior who were encountered in adequately unusual circumstances. For a detailed description on the recruitment of Buffoons and the attitude of the nobility towards them in European history see: Otto , pp.
Thus Estebanillo has internalized the commercial logic of the buffoon- honor is a commodity that can be sold for money and protection. And so by becoming a pimp Estebanillo is applying the very same commercial logic elsewhere, instead of selling his own honor he attempts to sell the honor of others, in this case of women, persons who are more vulnerable then himself.
His degrading experience was injurious to his psychological wellbeing, by becoming a Pimp Estebanillo seeks to recuperate from this injury by doing onto others what was done to him, that is, by degrading others. Thus Estebanillo undergoes a second "death", this time the death of the coward. In this manner 40 From: pimp. Random House, Inc. While this reading is suggested by the text, it is external to the plot, thus underneath the surface Estebanillo wishes he was a man of reputation and worth, and the damage to his self esteem is almost beyond repair.
As a result Estebanillo sets out to amend the situation by gaining the reputation of bravery and valor in a "traditional" manner: "I took so much courage as to get down into the Plain, to gain the Reputation of Bravery, and fish in Troubled Waters…. Now it seems logical that if Estebanillo concluded that he was a good man and it was the world that was wrong, he might have dealt with his cowardice differently, but since his treatment of the dead was so "cruel", it becomes an imperative that he is after all a coward.
Yet when we look closer at this excerpt we can see that things are not as straight forward as they are presented by Estebanillo, his show of bravery is actually a parody of the ideal of valor itself, and as such it forms a direct attack on the orthodox concept of honor by negating one of its main elements. When seen through this concept the Buffoon as a mythic trope exemplifies 44 Ibid, pp. As will become clear my reading of this text is based on an understanding of the buffoon as a being that exemplifies the principle of inversion.
Here I would like to assert that unlike the whore which is a normal being that has been stripped of honor, the buffoon with its special pariah status is not without honor, but is possessive of a quality of inverted-honor, that stems from mockery, infamy and ridicule and by which debasement becomes an act of giving.
When seen in this regard, Estebanillo act of mock-valor actually endows him with the properties of honor that mark a buffoon- that is inverted honor, and another solution to the previous scene is presented, an inverted man in an inverted world is akin to good man with right on his side.
The following excerpt is from a duel scene between Estebanillo and an extremely obese coward that occurs shortly after the battle: "In short we were a long while dismembering our Shadows, and wounding the air. Till the weight of our Blows, and the heaviness of our heads, made us both fall, and rendered us incapable of rising. The duel is stopped by the seconds who do not expect from the contenders to show anything other than cowardice. We can also see that instead of perceiving cowardice as a quality that destroys his self worth, Estebanillo has internalized cowardice and incorporated it into his identity, thus equalizing his "Subjectified" and "Objectified" honor and by so doing solving his disparity with the world.
With this newly equalized honor Estebanillo is now ready to truly become a buffoon, a transformation that occurs when he again finds himself in peril, this time by being held for 46 Anonymous , p. By making himself known as a Buffoon Estebanillo demands his right for protection, he is granted his freedom, his transgression- an insult to the Protestants and their cause is forgiven as stemming from his natural role in society and he is even given some money for his jests.
This exchange is the moment of transformation- Estebanillo performs jests for pay and is recognized as eligible for the privileges of a buffoon by a grandee. Yet while Estebanillo has now become a Buffoon, he is still tied to his old identity as a rake and as such lacks understanding of what it means to be a Buffoon. I thought I could not in conscience play at that game, because it was like an Unlawful way of Partnership, to be a share in Gain, and not in Loss….
My Trade is Sharping, and my talent playing the Buffoon; accord to the privileges and prerogatives of which Noble Science, I am as free as the Air. Picolomini came from one of the strongest Italian families of the period; he began as a count and ended his illustrious military career as a prince. The Life of Estevanillo Gonzales is dedicated to the than Duke Octavio Picolomini, who might have possibly provided for its printing.
One of the main theories regarding the origins of the book sees it as an internal publication of Picolomini court with the author being one of Picolomini right hand men.
The relations he is to have with the nobility are inverted, he will play them at a game of fortune, seemingly from a fair and equal position, but while his adversaries risk their money he risks physical degradation.
This is completely up to par with the principles of self interest Estebanillo acquired in his raking life, he accepts this state of affairs, but finds an ingenious solution to his humiliating predicament- instead of feeling dishonored as he felt on the first occasion when he was physically abused by the nobility, he hijacks honor itself and reformulates it as a form of self interest that equates him with good living, which is after all the greatest advantage for a rake.
With this reformulated honor Estebanillo is impervious to laughter, those who mock him, become mocked by him, and as such the winners become the losers. The whole senate, and the Wisest, and most Learned Persons alledgeing, That they [Buffoons] were useful to tell the Emperors their Faults freely, to acquaint them with the Grievances and Complaints of their Subjects, and to Divert them in their Uneasie and Melancholy Hours….
He attempts to convince himself, and the reader, that being a buffoon is in fact an important and honorable vocation that is up to par with the liberal arts. If that was the case his benefector would not be his master and instead become a benevolent patron.
But this is in fact not the case, Estebanillo clearly sees that while he will gain the freedom to cross the boundries of estate and protocol as a buffoon, he will subjugate himself to the will of another. This state of subjugation is diamtrically opposed to the freedom of the rake that Estebanillo enjoyed before, this freedom is defined by the capacity to disobey authority, disregard conventions, and to be self-defining, albeit in a very limited fashion.
Estebanillos problem then is a problem of becoming, he must make a choice, either to yield his will or renounce his new profession. Yet Estebanillo finds an awkward solution, he wears the livery of a buffoon but does not acknowledge the full power of the transaction.
When he goes on a hunting expedition with Prince Thomas, cousin of Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand, he becomes bored and wants to leave, the prince prohibits it and threatens Estebanillo with serious consequences. When he is presented to 51 Anonymous , p. By so doing the noblemen break his spirit, turning him into a domesticated animal that has been robbed of its future, that is, of its capacity to progenerate.
The threat of becoming a gelding puts Estebanillo in mortal fear once again; he laments the foreseen loss of his manhood and regrets his choice to become a buffoon. After being held in a dungeon for several days, Estebanillo is marched: "… into a great Hall, the Theatre for acting my Tragedy, where I found a Surgeon with his Searing-Irons ready heated, Brandy, Flax, and Yolks of Eggs, and a Passionate Alguazile, or Officer, who very hastily bid him do his office, as he was directed by his Excellency.
Four strapping Soldiers of the Garrison took hold of me, and letting down my Breeches, laid me on a great Table, binding my Hands and Feet, fastening a Ligature about the place where the dreadful Separation was to be made. The Surgeon took up his Incision Knife, and holding it up, began to draw near to the place of Execution. When suddenly, through a dues ex machina in the form of the entering page, the tragic outcome is averted.
Yet this is only the surface of this tragedy, by showing his power over the life and death of Estebanillo, the Cardinal-Infante asserts his absolute mastery. As such the scene functions as Estebanillo third "Death".
In the third and final phase of the narrative Estebanillo establishes himself as a famous Buffoon, he is employed throughout continental Europe, from Austria through the low- counties to Poland and than in the Spanish peninsula itself.
He develops a series of relationships with high nobility and even royalty, and becomes an ambassadorial envoy between the different courts of continental Europe.
In this phase Estebanillo consolidates his relation to the world, and as a narrator changes his tone and relation to the reader. Estebanillo again finds himself in a war zone; he is frightened and opts to "retreat" on his own, while running away he meets another deserter who takes him to the little hamlet of tipple, a place that is in the process of being looted by Spanish forces.
He is dismally hungry and finds no food; this prompts him to - "Curse all War, and look upon him as a Mad Man, who, having enough to Live at Home in Peace runs Abroad upon such Sleeveless Errands, and hunts about to meet with Death amidst so many Toils and Inconveniences.
The military forces were ill supplied and as such had to live from the country-side by hunting, growing or stealing their food. This incident takes place in the Palatinate, an area of Germany that was ravished by the war with a large portion of its population dying from hunger.
Thus while the war scenes are narrated in the same comic tone as previous scenes it becomes clear that Estebanillo is increasingly becoming perturbed by guilt and fear This motif of battle and looting repeats in another battle scene, this time in the year outside of Leipzig.
After the Spanish forces lose the field the fleeing Estebanillo is discovered by a group of defeated soldiers that are lost in the foreign terrain. In these two scenes we see a transformation occurring in Estebanillo when he becomes an active force beyond major events within the story world. My only Concern, seeing his Highness Melancholy, was to Divert and make him Merry; sometimes telling him Passages of my own Life, and sometimes of other people.
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