In Don Quixote Cervantes unites Christians and Muslims in a number of ways. First, he establishes an intimate male-female relationship between a Muslim Women named Leila Zoriada and a Christian man named Captain Ruiz Viedma. Second, he begins a fictional conversation between Muslims and Christians
by creating a Muslim Philosopher, on the one hand, who he claims writes the novel in Arabic, while he creates a Christian translator, on the other hand,
who steps in-and-out of the tale to speculate about the primary intent of it’s hypothetical Moorish narrator. Finally, Cervantes gives Christians and Muslims similar clothing, congruent body postures, and like outward demeanors.
First, to foster a spirit of unity and understanding between Christians and Muslims, Cervantes has a Christian man marry a Muslim woman so that through intimate pair-bonding the two faiths draw closer together in concept not further apart in practice. If we examine The Captive Captain’s Tale, a Christian Spaniard named Ruy Perez de Viedma marries a Muslim Moorish princess named Lela Zoraida. Since Lela Zoraida likes the captive captain’s gentlemanly behavior and handsome appearence, she proposes that he “become her husband” once they are in “Christian lands” together because in Spain lovers of different faiths are free to marry by law (373). Stimulated by her generous spirit, great
beauty, and lavish wealth, the Spanish infantry captain agrees that she shall “become [his] wife” (374). So begins an epistolary letter exchange between Captain Viedma and Lela Zoraida where they discuss how they can be together. After much back-and-fort deliberation, consisting of exchanging letters, giving-and-receiving payments, and planning an exit strategy from Algiers they flee to Spain to formalize their affection for one another. Once in Spain, Captain Viedma and Lela Zoraida enlist the help of a
catholic priest who marries them in holy matromony irrespective of their religion. This textual self-evidency,
in turn, signals to readers that Christians and Muslims can come together through intimate, intellectual/emotional, spiritual/carnal, relationships.
Second, Cervantes brings Christians-and-Muslims together by moving his Christian translator’s opinion of the Moorish author from a pejorative and stereotypical conception of foreign others to a complementary and individualized one. For example, early in the story the
Christian translator says that Cide Hamete El Benengeli is a “liar and a dog” of an author (125). As the story progresses, the translators belief changes from “all Arabs [are] liars” to the idea that particular Arabs, like Cide Hamete El Benengeli, are “scrupulous historians” (243). In fact, as the Christian translator translates more-and-more of Don Quixote’s chronicle he comments that Mr. Benengeli is “a philosophic sage who chronicles” Don Quixote’s life accurately (30). In conclusion, from pejorative insults, at first, to genuine compliments, later on, Don Quixote’s Christian translator changes his opinion from causelessly distrusting all Muslims to learning to trust some Islamic philosophers, especially if they earn it. Or, in other words, Don Quixote’s Christian translator moves his cognition from a prejudiced view that all Muslims
are a collective force of evil to an enlightened view that some Muslims are good people.
Third, Cervantes synergizes Christians and Muslims
in Don Quixote by having them dress alike, move alike, and posture their bodies alike. For example, when a
landed aristocrat named Don Fernando enters a road-side inn he is accompanied by “four [of his Christian servants] riding on horseback [with] Arab-style
stirrups” (778). Likewise, when Sancho Panza introduces Don Quixote to a Christian peasant she “jumps onto [her] horse [like an] Arab in one leap” (549). In fact, when this simple farm girl mounts her steed she seats herself on a “great and tall Arab-style saddle” in Islamic style (551). Cervantes also links Christians and Muslims together in perceptual externalities by having them perform similar bodily
motions. For instance, Sancho Panza “bends over in the form of a Turkish bow” to express his respect for Don
Quixote (121). Also, when Don Quixote and
Sancho Panza meet Don Diego de Miranda, Sancho Panza wants to “kiss” his hands “because” to his “mind” the knight of the green topcoat is “the first saint
riding in Arab-style [he has] ever come across in all the days of [his] born life” (586). And when Sancho Panza travels to Barataria to govern his island “he rides a mule with Arab-style short stirrups” (778). By cross-dressing Spaniards and moors in Arabic outfits, and by giving his Christian characters body postures reminiscent of good Muslims, Cervantes relates Christianity and Islam into a constructive synergy of sorts where their common external appearance signals their mutual internal identities.
Fourth, Cervantes links Christians-and-Muslims together by showing them that they are human beings who share a certain fundamental kinship: like the desire to be free, for example. Since Cervantes beieves that the condition of being free is a universal desire of good Christians and pious Muslims he purposely has his characters free one another despite having different belief systems. This is why when Cervantes recounts the tale of “Melisendra being set free from the Moors in Spain” (663). Similarly, Cervantes has Christian soldiers grant Muslim shipmen their freedom like when a Spanish infantry captain “offers Moorish sailors [their] liberty by telling them that they weren’t being taken captive” (363). Since Christians and Muslims made slaves of their defeated foes in medieval times, a Moor is geniunely surprised “that [his Christian captors] are going to hand [him his] liberty [since they] took [great] risks to deprive [him] of it in the first place only to give it back so generously, [especially because they can make] so much money ransoming [his liberty to the highest bidder]” (637). To highlight the fact that it is not just Christians who free Muslims but Muslims who also free Christians, Cervantes has a Moorish woman named Lela Zoriada “break the chains [binding a group of Spanish prisoners together to] free [them] from captivity” (451).
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