The capsized ship in P and S , with its echos of the Jonah story, thus is tied in tradition to Perseus via Andromeda as well as via Danae. Turning from action to theme it is instructive to see what the Medieval and Renaissance tradition had done to allegorize the Perseus myth for a Christian worldview.
In general, Perseus, son of Zeus by a virgin birth, came to be seen as foreshadowing Jesus Bonnefoy One can follow the evolution of the allegory inherited by Cervantes beginning with the thirteenth-century tradition found in the French writer Bernardus Silvestris, author of a Commentary on the First Six Books of the Aeneid. In it Bernardus reminds us that the Medusa was one of three sisters, together called the Gorgons, and that when Perseus killed Medusa the winged horse Pegasus was born from the blood shed. Probably the most influential fourteenth-century work of allegorical interpretation of the classical gods was Boccaccio's Genealogia deorum gentilium Moss As in Bernardus, Perseus represents the virtuous hero carried aloft by the desire for fame, Pegasus bk.
Pallas' wisdom here becomes more specifically prudence, especially in understanding and guarding against the schemes and weapons of one's enemies bk.
The primary difference between the two interpretations is that now the three monstrous sisters stand for the seductive power of bodily beauty, while Medusa's hair is equated with the snakelike worries that go with material possessions, 'mordentes sollicitudines curasque' bk. Christian mythological parallels, a typical feature of the work, are also introduced for both Perseus and his mother, who are equated to Christ and the Virgin. While the non-violent nature of Perseus stressed by Bernardus is not explicit, one might assume that to some degree it has been absorbed in the identification with Christ.
Through what specific channels Cervantes might have been acquainted with these French and Italian allegories of Perseus is not known. The latter's interpretation is, in general outline, very much like his predecessors'. Medusa is again the iniquity, especially sexual misconduct, that the hero overcomes. Pegasus is the fame that flies from our actions , while Pallas Athene, appearing under her Roman name of Minerva, is prudent , and holy wisdom.
One difference of note separates the Spanish version of the allegory from the earlier ones. Medusa has become more generically both sin and death, while Perseus is Christ. Like Christ and the self-controlled Perseus, he is anything but a senselessly violent hero, putting an end, with a willingness to sacrifice himself for his beloved in combination with an almost apocalyptic fire, to the bestial bloodshed of the Barbarous Isle.
A model of forbearance and forgiveness, he never violently attacks a rival. Similarly, his sexual self-mastery is remarkable.
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He defeats several erotic temptations, including both the primary one of spending months in the unchaperoned company of his beloved and the climactic one at Rome in the last book. Like the Greek mythological figure, he wins fame throughout all the nationalities represented in his audience when he recounts his Perseuslike exploits, including his ride through the air on King Cratilo's horse. What corresponds to the beheading of Medusa is his gaining of mastery over evil, both lust and anger. This is a transformed dragon slayer, either Christianized or tricksterized or feminized or, as I think Ruth El Saffar would say, all three at once The non-violent heroism of both Persiles and the allegorical Perseus is aided by the feminine.
Auristela, seemingly so passive, becomes an active principle by being equated with the feminine, the goddess on the Fishermen's Island and the Virgin. The latter's nurturing, forgiving love, antithetical to both lust and violence, is a fundamental theme in the book, especially prominent in the central episode of Feliciana de la Voz In fact, from several goddesses comes help that seems to shape his personality.
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In addition to his sister Athena, the old Grey Women are essential to his success by providing him with their tooth and eye, symbols of sexuality in psychoanalytic terms, while the young Nymphs give him clothing, traditional definer of identity. That trio in Cervantes' romance seems to be the three French young women seeking to marry the Duke of Nemurs, introduced to the pilgrims Book 3, ch. The stress on her brightness is reinforced when Book 4, ch. Feliz Flora's name is nearly identical to Thalia's. The sort of assistance that these three women give to Persiles is not hard to identify when one keeps in mind that their role is essentially to be nubile, marriageable, and that the Graces have a strong connotation of fruitfulness, their names originally corresponding to the three periods in the development of fruit.
In harmony with the image of the Virgin as a fruitful garden mentioned above, these three young women represent ideas about fertile relations between men and women, ideas reflected in the aphorisms they provide to Diego de Ratos. This carefree approach to finding happiness in marriage is certainly appropriate for a woman at leisure, concerned primarily with pleasure.
Belarminia's proverb, concerned with spotlessness, refers, of course, to the expectation that wives be pure and chaste. Of these three the most prominent is Feliz Flora, who, appropriately enough for a goddess of friendship and a happy life, is instrumental in showing Antonio Hijo, who incarnates one aspect of Persiles' still-growing character, that women can be friends with men, can mean more to them than a sexual temptation to be brusquely rejected.
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These graceful, feminine marriage specialists, then, do have helpful counsel for the hero. But what of Perseus killing the oppressor and his court by turning them to stone? Since the deaths shed no blood and no blow is struck, the victory achieved by the simple unveiling of wickedness undone, we may assume that it was understood as the non-violent triumph of virtue over vice.
With this background the strange death of Magsimino at the end of P and S seems less arbitrary. Paradoxically, Persiles has slain his rival not by force of violence but by virtue and gentleness. Throughout the two years of his journey and rivalry with his brother he has practiced generosity of spirit and self-restraint. We are led to the conclusion that, like Perseus exhibiting the slain head of evil and the triumph of virtue, Persiles' example has somehow, with a little help from Heavensent disease, slain the evil in his ferocious brother and transformed him, not into stone, but into a Christian capable of a final self-denying act.
When Persiles and Sigismunda return to their kingdom, they will transform it, too, into something very different, a purified Christian society.
ELIJAH CLARENCE HILLS, PH. D., LITT.D.
There is a well-developed sense of radical transformation in the death scene 33 that recalls the climactic transformation in the Perseus myth. The narrator, in fact, intervenes in the story here to comment that many sudden changes are taking place. Only two paragraphs after Cervantes has recorded Magsimino's still active imaginings of future marital bliss the reader encounters this striking turn of events involving the figure of death and a reference to St.
This personification of death is, in addition, not only practically instantaneous in striking but fea as well. What agent of death could be more repugnant than Medusa's head, as ugly as, and the symbol of, sin? Ruth El Saffar has argued that in each of the first three books of P and S there is a savior. First there is Antonio, the son, who appears in the midst of the conflagration on the Barbarous Isle and leads them to safety.
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