Rinconete y Cortadillo is narrated using various techniques that add interest, movement and variety to the story as a whole.
At the beginning of the story all of the information about Rinconete and Cortadillo is given to us by the third-person narrator who is omniscient and descriptive. The boys are described in detail without us yet knowing who they are. They then start a conversation with each other and the next section is made up almost entirely of dialogue in which the narrator steps back and only adds occasional remarks to let us know who is speaking, for example: respondiÃÂ³ el preguntado; dijo el mayor; respondiÃÂ³ el mediano; preguntÃÂ³ el grande. The narrator does not release the boyÃÂs names until they introduce themselves through their own direct discourse with one another. Rather than more conventional forms of address they are referred to as el mayor, el menor, el preguntado, el pequeÃÂ±o and el mediano, which are based on the observations made by the narrator as an onlooker of the conversation.
Of course the all-knowing narrator knows their names, but he chooses to withhold this information so that it can be given in the first person. The speech is used here to narrate facts essential to the story in a realistic way. This technique is often used by Cervantes in this story and combines the objectivity of a third-person narrative voice with the subjectivity and involvement of a first-person character. The narrator intervenes in the middle of one of RincÃÂ³nÃÂs speeches:ÃÂÃÂÃÂ y entre ellos saquÃÂ© estos naipes (y a este tiempo descubriÃÂ³ los que se han dicho, que en el cuello traÃÂa), con los cuales he ganado mi vida por los mesones y ventas que hay desde Madrid aquÃÂ, jugando a la veintiunaÃÂÃÂ p.196.
The narrator interrupts this long speech to inform us of RincÃÂ³nÃÂs actions. RincÃÂ³n had been telling us about his past and this intervention brings us back to the present moment, adds action to his words and also reminds us of the presence of a narrative voice other than that of the character. It is as though the narrator is involved in the story and creates an interplay between a live character and himself. After the exchanges and introductions of the boys, which provide us with background and character information, the narrator picks up the thread again and continues with the story in his role as the direct narrator. We are told that the boys embrace and start to play cards. These are silent actions that can no longer be portrayed through direct speech and so Cervantes has to bring back his third-person narrator to relate them to us. The narrative voice also has to pick up to prevent the autobiographical discourse from just suddenly ending or losing interest.
In the story there are also long passages of descriptive narrative, for example when RincÃÂ³n and Cortado meet the Asturian ÃÂbasket-boyÃÂ in Seville. Here no direct speech is involved. The narrator changes to an information-giving voice that indirectly relates the exact details that the Asturian boy gives about this trade. This is different to the involved narrator we experienced earlier:ÃÂY preguntÃÂ¡ndole al asturiano quÃÂ© habÃÂan de comprar, les respondiÃÂ³ que sendos costales pequeÃÂ±os, limpios o nuevos, y cada uno tres espuertas de palma, dos grandes y una pequeÃÂ±a, en las cuales se repartÃÂa la carne, pescado y fruta, y en el costal, el panÃÂ p.201.
We are given fact after fact in an unadorned and static manner.
The story soon livens up again as the boys encounter their first customers - the soldier and the student - and we are moved back to direct speech again. The entrance of these new characters into the story creates more possibilities in the narrative and prevents the story from becoming stagnant. The discourse between the student and Cortado is an entertaining episode that adds nothing to the plot and development of the story but is an opportunity for Cervantes to develop a comical conversation that enriches the general atmosphere. After two pages of direct speech the narrator picks up again and summarises the rest of the encounter indirectly:ÃÂY habiÃÂ©ndose ido el sacristÃÂ¡n, Cortado le siguiÃÂ³ y le alcanzÃÂ³ en las Gradas, donde le llamÃÂ³ y le retirÃÂ³ a una parte, y allÃÂ le comenzÃÂ³ a decir tantos disparates, al modo de lo que llaman bernardinas, cerca del hurto y hallazgo de su bolsa, dÃÂ¡ndole buenas esperanzas, sin concluir jamÃÂ¡s razÃÂ³n que comenzaseÃÂ p. 205.
The narrator seems to follow the boys as an interested spectator who then continues to relate to us what he sees and hears.
The next section of the story is a transition between the boyÃÂs world, which is portrayed outside, and the inside world of MonopodioÃÂs cofradÃÂa of thieves. The character of Ganchuelo is introduced to achieve this transition, although we do not know that this is his name until Monopodio calls him by it later. He is simply referred to for now as el mozo. Cervantes again uses his characters to introduce themselves and others rather than relating this information to us via his narrator. He goes up to the boys after watching the episode with the student and initiates a conversation with a surprising opening line:ÃÂÃÂDÃÂganme, seÃÂ±ores galanes: ÃÂ¿voacedes son de mala entrada, o no?ÃÂÃÂp.206.
In the dialogue that follows, the narrator again steps back and lets the characters tell the story. He just intervenes to tell us who is speaking and to sum up a part of the conversation:ÃÂY asÃÂ, les fue diciendo y declarando otros nombres de los que ellos llaman germanescos o de la germanÃÂa, en el discurso de su plÃÂ¡tica, que no fue corta, porque el camino era largo.ÃÂ P.207.
This intervention tells us what the characters are doing ÃÂ walking. They are not just statically standing still and talking. It also adds an element of time and space to the journey to MonopodioÃÂs house. The conversation then continues and we get an introduction to the cofradÃÂa by an eye-witness, which will later be developed in the main narrative. The boys question Ganchuelo at first, but as the dialogue continues, they take up the roles of observers, which they keep in the next section of the story inside MonopodioÃÂs house. They listen to GanchueloÃÂs explanation of germanÃÂa: ÃÂÃÂY porque sÃÂ© que me han de preguntar algunos vocablos de los que he dicho, quiero curarme en salud y decÃÂrselo antes que me lo preguntenÃÂÃÂ p.208, discover the religious devotion of the thieves: ÃÂÃÂlo que sÃÂ© es que cada uno en su oficio puede alabar a DiosÃÂÃÂ p.207, and also hear the first examples of malapropisms: ÃÂÃÂSeÃÂ±or, yo no me meto en tologÃÂasÃÂÃÂ p.207. These are all things that are reflected and repeated in the next section of the book. Ganchuelo not only takes the boys to the cofradÃÂa, he also gives us a taste of what is to come.
As the boys enter MonopodioÃÂ´s house, the narrative voice becomes descriptive again. The house is described as well as the group of thieves who enter, and then finally Monopodio himself, who then takes over the narrative. He attempts to speak using a high register but ends up using malapropisms:ÃÂÃÂPues de aquÃÂ adelanteÃÂ respondiÃÂ³ Monopodio ÃÂquiero y es mi voluntad que vos, RincÃÂ³n, os llamÃÂ©is Rinconete, y vos, Cortado, Cortadillo, que son nombres que asientan como de molde a vuestra edad y a nuestras ordenanzasÃÂÃÂ p.212.
Letting the characters continue the narration of the story gives us a taste of the new world in the fraternity of thieves. The characterÃÂs indulgence in germanÃÂa and malapropisms are humorous and give some variety and change of pace to the narratorÃÂs descriptions. At one point in this section the narrator again makes us aware of his presence, dropping his role as an objective observer:ÃÂOlvidÃÂ¡baseme de decir que asÃÂ como Monopodio bajÃÂ³, al punto todos los que aguardÃÂ¡ndole estaban le hicieron una profunda y larga reverenciaÃÂ p.212.
Here the narrator is also using language of high register that would normally be found in the Romances. This seems ironic as it is being used to talk about ugly members of the low-life and not the normal beautiful subjects it is associated with.
In MonopodioÃÂs house we are introduced to some new characters that come in and add their own story to the main narrative. The first example of one of these secondary narratives is La PipotaÃÂs intervention:ÃÂÃÂA lo que he venido es que anoche el Renegado y CentopiÃÂ©s llevaron a mi casa una canasta de colar, algo mayor que la presente, llena de ropa blanca, y en Dios y en mi ÃÂ¡nima que venÃÂa con su cernada y todo, que los pobretes no debieron de tener lugar de quitilla, y venÃÂan sudando la gota tan gorda, que era una compasiÃÂ³n verlos entrar ijadeando y corriendo agua de sus rostros, que parecÃÂan angÃÂ©licos.ÃÂÃÂ P.220.
La CarihartaÃÂs approach is much more dramatic as she bursts in and tells of how Repolido has beaten her because of a misunderstanding over six reales. Then there is the gentleman who comes to complain about his request for a man to be knifed that had not been carried out correctly. This conversation is reported to us by the narrator but as though it is Cortadillo and Rinconete who hear it and relate it to us:ÃÂComo se habÃÂan quedado en el patio Rinconete y Cortadillo, pudieron oÃÂr toda la plÃÂ¡tica que pasÃÂ³ Monopodio con el caballero reciÃÂ©n venido, el cual dijo a Monopodio que por quÃÂ© se habÃÂa hecho tan mal lo que le habÃÂa encomendado.ÃÂ P.233.
The rest of the conversation is in direct speech as Chiquiznaque justifies his actions humorously using malapropisms:ÃÂÃÂÃÂ y hallÃÂ¡ndome imposibilitado de poder cumplir lo prometido y de hacer lo que llevaba en mi destrucciÃÂ³nÃÂ ÃÂÃÂInstrucciÃÂ³n querrÃÂ¡ decir vuesa merced,ÃÂ dijo el caballero, ÃÂque no destrucciÃÂ³nÃÂÃÂ. P233.
These tales spice up the story with inner-stories. They are also all set in another place and at another time, which adds depth and variety the story, exceeding the limits of the straight narration with its essential descriptive matter.
The next episode in MonopodioÃÂs den is the reading of the memoria. Here the narrative changes and we are presented with the words as they appear in the book from which Rinconete is reading. In between the reading of each section there are brief observations made by characters on matters of the fraternity of thieves. This presentation of facts adds interest to the narrative and enlivens the presentation of the information that gives us further insight into this criminal world.
In the closing section of the story the narratorÃÂs tone changes. Throughout the book the picaresque life has been described in a light-hearted and charming way. Here it is suddenly seen as ÃÂaquella vida tan perdida y tan mala, tan inquieta, y tan libre y disoluta.ÃÂ P.240. The narrator is no longer an observer ÃÂ he has become a moralist:ÃÂFinalmente, exageraba cuÃÂ¡n descuidada justicia habÃÂa en aquella tan famosa ciudad de Sevilla, pues casi al descubierto vivÃÂa en ella gente tan perniciosa y tan contraria a la misma naturaleza, y propuso en sÃÂ de aconsejar a su compaÃÂ±ero no durasen mucho en aquella vida tan perdidaÃÂ ÃÂ p.240.
The narratorÃÂs statements here are quite ironic because the boys are thieves themselves and they therefore belong to the low-life of the cofradÃÂa of thieves. The story ends leaving us to speculate what actually happens to Rinconete and Cortadillo as Cervantes chooses not to let his omniscient narrator tie up the story neatly for us. It is as though this episode of the story ends and we will find out the rest in the next episode, which just does not follow.
Rinconete y Cortadillo is narrated by a mixture of third-person observations made by a direct narrator and the characters themselves in first-person direct discourse. This mixture achieves different effects: firstly, we are given sufficient descriptive material to be able to imagine the characters and their setting, and secondly we find out about characterÃÂs pasts and tales that add to the adventure as a whole. The lack of action within the fraternity of thieves lends itself to these secondary narratives. Without them we would be presented with much description by the narrative voice but the story would lack depth and movement if we did not have the constant entrances of new characters who tell their own tales. Rinconete y Cortadillo was written to entertain and was probably read aloud to its contemporary audiences who would be entertained by the humorous episodes and less concerned about a specific story-line and ending. I therefore think that CervantesÃÂs use of a shifting narrator contributes to the entertainment of the work and provides opportunities for a story-teller to perform it to his listeners in more than just one tone of voice.
BibliographyMiguel de Cervantes, Novelas ejemplares I, ed. Harry SieberRonald G. Keightly, ÃÂThe narrative structure of Rinconete y CortadilloÃÂ, Essays on narrative fiction in the Iberian Peninsula in honour of Frank Pierce, ed. R.B. TateJoseph Ricapito, Formalistic Aspects of CervantesÃÂs Novelas ejemplares