Rucio, Sancho Panza & The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quijote De La ManchaWednesday, September 29, 2010
Cervantes is one of the few Spanish writers that I can imagine. I know, more or less, what a chat with him would be like. I know, for example, that he would beg for forgiveness for some of the things he has written and how he would not take himself seriously. I am sure of it as I would be in the cases of Samuel Butler or Wells; and for that, one of the reasons why I am attracted to Cervantes is that I not only think of him as writer, of the greatest of all novelists, but also as a man. And as Whitman says: “Friend, this is not a book, he who touches it touches a man.”
Jorge Luís Borges
I have read El Ingenioso Don Quijote de la Mancha three times in my life. In all three instances I read the novel in its original Castilian. Throughout my life my grandmother, who had been born in Seville in the 19th century never told me to not to do this or that. She was far more modern that met the eye. She would say stuff like, "Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo." She always seemed to have some sort of proverb that would predict terrible consequences if I persisted with my ill ways. I do not remember that she ever punished me or raised her voice. It was only years later that I finally realized that she knew most of Sancho Panza’s proverbs from Don Quijote de la Mancha.
One of the games we often played was the naming of historical horses. She would ask me the name of El Cid Campeador’s. That was easy, Babieca. I would counter asking her the name of Alexander’s horse. This she knew – Bucéfalo (in Spanish). From there we would go to Rocinante and in later years we knew of Ulysses S. Grant (Cincinnati), Robert E. Lee (Traveler) and the Duke of Wellington (Copenhagen). She never did ask me to name Sancho Panza’s donkey. This leads to my third reading of Don Quijote de la Mancha.
It was a few years ago before the advent of Google that people I knew would ask me for the name of Sancho’s donkey. I was always rendered speechless in not knowing.
When my neighbour, Clare Smith moved out of his house (he was in his late 90s) I inherited a 100 year-old Chickering baby grand, a first edition of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and a 1950 Editorial Juventud –Barcelona edition of Don Quijote de la Mancha with text and notes by Martín De Riquer.
My on line diccionario de la Real Academia Española defines rucio:
(Del lat. roscĭdus, de ros, rocío).
1. adj. Dicho de una bestia: De color pardo claro, blanquecino o canoso. U. t. c. s.
This translates as a beast of light “pardo” colour, whitish and gray as in the gray of gray hair. The word pardo is vague. The dictionary defines pardo as:
(Del lat. pardus, leopardo, por el color; cf. pardal).
1. adj. Del color de la tierra, o de la piel del oso común, intermedio entre blanco y negro, con tinte rojo amarillento, y más oscuro que el gris.
This means that pardo (as in leopard-like) is earth-coloured or the colour of a common bear.
In English translations Sancho Panza’s donkey has been rendered as the dappled one or simply as dappled in tonight’s Arts Club Theatre Company premiere (a co-production with Centaur Theatre Company, Montreal in association with Axis Theatre) of Don Quixote –An Epic Comedy of Love and Delusion at the Granville Island Stage.
The play, a world premiere, was written by Colin Heath (in future productions of this play we may hope he gets fat so that he would become the ultimate Sancho Panza) and Peter Anderson (who also plays the ingenious hidalgo) and adapted from the novel by Miguel Cervantes Saavedra.
I attended the opening night performance today with severe trepidation. Don Quijote (the Spaniards, particularly the contemporary ones insist on that j while Mexicans stick to their ancient x!) de La Mancha as a novel is as misunderstood by non Castilians as much as bullfighting is. In good Spanish newspapers, the corrida (bullfighting reviews) are in the arts section of the paper not in the sports, Equally, while Don Quijote (and I insist on that j) is funny in parts we of Castilian origins take the novel most seriously. For most their introduction to the novel has been the musical The Man of La Mancha or an excerpt here and there from the novel.
Few might suspect that the Spanish novel was one of the first to be translated into other languages and that Shakespeare’s lost play Cardenio was based on a character in Don Quijote. The play was performed in 1613 almost certifying that Shakespeare had read the novel. In short El Quijote (as we sometimes call the novel in brief) is not to be taken lightly.
I could not understand in tonight’s play the use of masks covering in many instances the lovely face of my ever favourite Sasa Brown or the cartooned voices of the actors. Perhaps they mimic the stage performances of that age. But there was no mask on Peter Anderson who was as Quixotic as anyone not Spanish could ever be. He was perfect as was his flatulent Sancho. Rucio was non-descript but Rocinante appeared in several wonderful manifestations ( a one wheeled and a three-wheeled).
A character in the play stated that first acts were often followed by not so good second acts. I though this was bang on until I watched (in that second act) the wonderfully choreographed (Karen Pitkethly with help from Fight Director David Bloom) joust between Don Quijote and the masked Samson Carrasco (Mike Wasko). This was beautiful and with the serious ending I felt that the farce that the play, sort of was, became more of a Quijote I could live with.
I think (but then I’m an amateur) that Director Roy Surette (picture seen here) has done a superb job. My only quibble (a most minor one!) is that the donkey’s name should not have been revealed so lightly and so soon. Seen here, too is a photograph I took sometime in summer in the mid 80s in La Mancha, Spain. the picture brings to mind the descripion of Dulcinea's hair in tonight's play, "Her hair was a halo of golden wheat."
I told my friend, the former arts critic of the Globe and Mail, Christopher Dafoe that if a few people went home with a commitment to read the novel then the play was a success. And if this was not the case it was a failure. Sleeping over it I will amend my final prediction to say that I will purchase two front seat tickets and take my 13 year-old-granddaughter to see it soon. After all I know what’s good. As Sancho would have told me via my grandmother, the devil knows, not because he is the devil, but because he is older.
While I have no English edition of the novel at hand I would like to place here my translation of Sancho Panza finding and retrieving his stolen rucio:
Sancho approached his rucio and hugging him said, “How have you been, my good one, rucio of my eyes, my companion?” And with this he kissed and caressed him as if he were a person. The donkey said nothing and allowed himself to be caressed by Sancho without responding one word.
Monsignor Quixote - That Ingenious Hidalgo
I took my granddaugther Rebecca to see the show on Saturday October 2 and , I as I thought, she liked it very much and did a lot of laughing. It was she who pointed out that the garlic-spitting dulcinea was that of Sasa Brown. It was sad to note that in the almost full house my Rebecca was probably the only person there under 18. When are parents going to stop taking children to children's plays and realize that some plays are for everyone?