Madrigal in Miguel de Cervantes's la gran sultana: An animal studies approach

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La gran sultana Doña Catalina de Oviedo (1615) is one of Miguel de Cervantes´s most stimulating short plays. The following article examines Madrigal, the gracioso character in La gran sultana, from an animal studies perspective. It examines how the character Madrigal shares points of contact with Juan Bautista Jamarro's Conocimiento de las diez aves menores de jaula, su canto, enfermedad, cura y cría (1604). Madrigal as court captive in the play inspires a consideration of birds as Habsburg court captives. When making jokes, Madrigal also refers to themes found in Cristóbal Acosta's “Tractado del elefante y sus cualidades” (1578). Cervantes uses Madrigal, a meta-theatrical playwright, to consider the possibility of elephant communication. La gran sultana evokes themes from other works by Cervantes. Like El coloquio de los perros (1613), it questions the assumption that language exclusively belongs to humans. Finally, by naming the character Madrigal after the musical genre of the madrigal, Cervantes introduces a consideration of the aesthetics of actual birdsong versus songs as artifice that imitate nature, a similar tact found from the references to the madrigal in Don Quijote, Part II (1615).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-449
Number of pages13
JournalRomance Notes
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020


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