Marcela is the daughter of a rich farmer named Guillermo whose mother (an honorable woman) dies giving birth to her, and whose father,
dies of a broken heart because he misses his wife. Due to the untimely death of her parents, Marcela is left in care of her guardian uncle—a village priest don quixote – quixotism who tries to “shield his niece from prying eyes and wandering hearts” by keeping her secluded at home. Despite this precaution, however, Marcela’s virtue and beauty attracts the advances of rich youths, noble hidalgos, and modest farmers, who all want to marry her. Though Marcela’s uncle would like her to marry her to a suitable bachelor, he is unwilling to force her to marry without first gaining her consent, especially since he is “not interested in the money he can make from delaying her marriage or the influence he can gain by controlling her property.” Though Marcela’s uncle describes the qualities of her suitors in great detail, Marcela does not want to marry yet because she does not want to bear the responsibility of marrying at sixteen. Marcela is so adamant to stay single, in fact, that she appears, one day, converted into a shepherdess travelling to the fields don quixote – quixotic novels to mind her flock, even though her uncle urges her not to do so. Despite taking refuge in the wilds of the countryside, Marcela’s suitors are prepared to follow her “to the ends of the earth,” if need be, by dressing up as shepherds. Despite being courted by a variety of hopeful bachelors who press their affections, Marcela does not fulfill the object of their desires nor does she give them false hopes of a love that can never be. In fact, when any hopeful young shepherd reveals his true intentions to marry her, Marcela “hurls them from her like a boulder from a catapult.” Evidently, her beauty, wealth, and virtue is such a draw to many young men in the region that she drives uxorious doters to the depths of despair, or to the very brink of suicide. Though her beauty and affability encourages those who know Marcela to serve her and love her for all the days of their lives, she prefers the trees and mountains as company. Wounded by Marcela’s aloofness, several young men defend their egos by saying that she is cruel or an ingrate or hardhearted even though such an account of her character and actions belies her reputation for honesty and virtue. To express their woe at being so rebuffed, a variety of brokenhearted lads sing dirges of lament in the mountains, and echo sorrowful sighs of love, throughout the valleys of the Sierra, carving her name on the smooth bark of birch trees affirming that she wears and deserves the “crown of all human beauty.” Despite all of these attentions, however, Marcela reigns “foot-loose and fancy free” with a spirit of inexorable independence.
At Grisostomo’s funeral, Marcela appears on top of the crags over which Grisostomo’s grave is being dug, to deliver a defensive monologue. In her speech Marcela denies the accusation that she is there to gloat over the destruction she unknowingly wrought over Grisostomo, insisting, instead, that she is there to defend herself by demonstrating how wrong all those who blame her for Grisostomo’s death are. Then Marcela launches into a four page oration in which she insists that though God made her beautiful, and therefore attractive to other men, she cannot conceive why for this reason alone a woman who is loved for her beauty is obliged to love those who love her. Why, Marcela wonders, if her admirers are ugly do they have the right to say: “I love you because you are beautiful you must love me because I am ugly.” And even if one of her suitors is as handsome as Marcela is beautiful, Marcela thinks that “not all beauty inspires love for some beauties may captivate the eye but do not inspire the heart” since affection, implies Marcela, is not just a response to a person’s body but is also a response to their heart. Since, according to Marcela, honour and virtue are “ornaments that adorn the soul,” without them the body, even if beautiful, should not seem beautiful. Here, Marcela implies that what should attract men to her is not only her physical beaut but her inner character, as well, like her intellect and emotions, for example. For this reason, Marcela suggests that since a fitting relationship matches a person’s good looks with their inner soul-stuff, true love must not, and indeed, cannot be forced or compelled but must be given voluntarily. To emphasize her point, Marcela asks a series of rhetorical questions like: if nature made her ugly, instead of beautiful, would people love her so much? And, if, indeed, she were unattractive, would she be justified in complaining, as her suitors do, that her beloved does not love her back? Her beauty, says Marcela, and anyone’s undoing because of it, is not her own doing since nature gave her good looks without consulting her first. Then Marcela draws an analogy between a pit viper and her beauty by saying that “just as a snake’s poison [is inborn] so too is her beauty.” Therefore, Marcela suggests, that just like a snake does not deserve to be blamed for striking a deathblow with its poison, she, too, does not deserve to be blamed for Grisostomo’s suicide. Later, Marcela says that if her beauty attracts people who cannot temper their sexual lust, it is best that they do not get near her because “beauty in a virtuous woman is like a distant fire or a sharp sword which doesn’t burn, or cut, anyone if he does not get too close to it.” One last reason Marcela gives to justify her chastity is her great youth, which impels her to not have sexual relations with men yet. According to Marcela, “chastity is a virtue, which should not be lost to a man who, merely for his own pleasure, employs all his strength and all his cunning” to make a woman give up her flower. Later, Marcela claims that since she never gave any man the slightest hope that his love suit would be reciprocated, men who loved her for her looks Don Quixote were soon disabused by her words. Since, according to Marcela, she did not sustain Grisostomo’s suit by giving him false hopes of a love that could never be—nor did she fulfill Grisostomo’s sexual desires by making love to him—what killed him was not her amorous encouragement but his own stubborn obstinacy. And even if, Marcela concedes, Grisostomo intentions were honourable towards her (which she is not so sure of) should not her own honourable intentions, she asks, be respected as well? Should not her own desire to “live free in the solitude of the countryside,” Marcela wonders, not be held in as high esteem as Grisostomo’s wish to marry and cherish and honour her for the rest of his days? In short, Marcela imputes Grisostomo’s death not to her cruelty, or hard heartedness, or scorn, but rather to his own rashness and folly since she did not encourage or gratify or deceive or entice or accept him in any way whatsoever. After dismantling Grisostomo’s false accusations with robust rhetoric of her own, Marcela delivers a general warning to her suitors that if any man dies out of love of her he is not dying because of her mistreatment rather he is dying because he “rushed headlong down the path of his own delirious love.” Furthermore, Marcela says that disabuse must not be confused with disdain, since, being honest and truthful is different than being mean and insensitive. Later in her speech, Marcela rejects the notion that she has the power to make men jealous of other men’s success with her, since a woman, like her, who does not love any man, cannot make any man jealous. If others, continues Marcela, regard her as “fierce, or a basilisk, or an ingrate, then they can keep their distance, as something evil and dangerous, and can stop courting her.” Later, Marcela insists that she neither loves nor hates any of her suitors, nor does she “deceive this man or run after that man, or toy with one, or amuse herself with another.” Therefore, Marcela thinks that accusations of her hard heartedness are quite unjust. At the end of her speech, Marcela insists that because she has her own wealth she does not covet anyone else’s riches, nor is she beholden to any man’s material control. Finally, before retreating into a nearby forest Marcela Don Quixote Narrative says that if she wants to preserve her purity in the company of the trees with the innocent company of the village shepherdesses, “with only the care of her goats to keep her happy,” then she should be free to do so, without anyone bothering her.
Originally posted 2019-12-27 13:45:07.