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From Darkness Into Light: The Baptism of Zoraida and the Council of Trent.

Romance Notes 2005, Fall, 46, 1

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THE Captive's Tale of the 1605 Quixote tells the story of a Moorish woman, Zoraida, who helps a Spanish captain, Rui Perez de Viedma, escape from his imprisonment in Algeria and, in doing so, liberates herself to be free for her true desire, to become a Christian. Once in Spain, her desire is to be baptized and to renounce her religion and family. The Captive's Tale is unique for this focus on religion (Hathaway 40) and the relationship between the two faiths is an undercurrent of this intercalated novel. This paper will undertake to show that Cervantes is operating under the strict doctrine and dogma formulated at the Council of Trent, the Catholic response to Luther's Reformation that led to a solidification of the teachings of the Church and the consolidation of power in the hands of the Church hierarchy. Due to the close relationship between the Castilian Monarchy and the Church, Cervantes had to be sure to restrict himself to write within the bounds established by the ecclesiastical authorities. Paul Descouzis attempts to bring to light the strong parallels between Cervantes' writing and Church documents by uncovering the "plagiarism" of Tridentine ideas in Don Quixote, yet he does not fully treat the conversion of Zoraida (19). Her conversion and eventual baptism merit careful consideration because of the perfect congruence that their symbols and events form with the sacramental theology formulated at the Council of Trent. This perspective can help to shed light on the frequently questioned motives of Zoraida. Many critics have denounced this character for the coldness of her personality (Marquez Villanueva 117) that led her to abandon her father (Spitzer 261-2) only to live an imperfect Christianity which can be reduced to Mariolatry (Hathaway 55). Reading this story in light of the documents of Trent, however, reveals a character whose progression through the narrative reflects the ideals and teachings of the Church regarding conversion and adult baptism, and shows Cervantes' acquaintance with these recently disseminated teachings. As an added twist to the plot, Cervantes thrusts his reader into the story of the Captive towards its end, as Rui Perez and Zoraida arrive at the inn where Don Quixote and Sancho are lodged. As they enter, the comedy comes to an abrupt silence during which the scrupulous historian Cide Hamete begins his description of the couple, noting that the captive's cassock, shoes and hat are blue (I, 37). Joaquin Casalduero observes that this color symbolizes purity and infiniteness (164). This representation doubtless owes to its aquatic connotations and in this resides the first mention of the salient theme of this novel because the water here prefigures and underscores the desired baptism of the captive's companion and the purity and eternal life she will inherit as a result. As the captive and his companion enter the inn, Zoraida stays mute with what E. Michael Gerli calls a "Pauline silence" but Zoraida's silence more appropriately reflects her status as an outsider to the Christian community (Gerli 51, cf. 1 Tim. 2: 11-12). It stems not from the fact that she is a woman, but instead because she is not Christian; as we are told, "no sabia hablar cristiano" (I, 37, emphasis added). Although the term cristiano in Spanish has varied meanings, and functions even today as a synonym for castellano, the choice Cervantes makes to use the term in this context hints at the theological undercurrent of this episode (Gerli 43), and the belief of those present at the inn that language, religion, family and homeland are one. The strong sense that Zoraida remains "outside the fold" echoes the Ordo Baptismi in the Tri-dentine ceremony, which begins outside of the church building. Only after two exorcisms and various blessings do the participants enter into the templum Dei, and therefore into the community of the faithful.

From Darkness Into Light: The Baptism of Zoraida and the Council of Trent.
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  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: 22 September 2005
  • Publisher: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of Romance Languages
  • Print Length: 15 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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