Thursday, October 22, 2015

The original ending of Book III

A classic tragedy. 

Illustration from La Celestina by Fernando de Rojas, printed between 1518-1520 in Seville by Jacobo Cromberger, now at the Biblioteca Nacional de España. The Cromberger press also printed six editions of Amadis of Gaul.

The only version we have of Amadis of Gaul is by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo from 1508, and it has four “books” or divisions. Still, we know from comments in the 14th century that the original version had only three books. Montalvo himself says in the prologue to Book I that he added a fourth book.

Well, how did Book III originally end?

Again, we have comments from the 14th century and an allusion to the original ending in Montalvo’s Sergas de Esplandián (Exploits of Esplandian), which recounts the adventures of Amadis’s son, Esplandian.

The original ending was tragic:

Amadis rescues Oriana and takes her to Firm Island. King Lisuarte declares war on Amadis and comes to fight, accompanied by Amadis’s envious brother Galaor and by Esplandian. Only Oriana knows he is Amadis’s son.

After several battles, Galaor challenges Amadis, and Amadis kills him. Then Lisuarte challenges Amadis, and Amadis kills him. Finally Esplandian challenges Amadis, and Esplandian kills Amadis.

Oriana has been watching all this from a tower, and when she sees Amadis die, she jumps out to commit suicide. After that, the sorceress Urganda the Unrecognized appears and tells Esplandian the truth about his father.

Tragic endings were popular in the Middle Ages and Antiquity, but the Renaissance liked a bit more optimism. In addition, Montalvo wanted to start a series of books, and that would be hard to do if everyone were dead.

Book IV still includes the war between Lisuarte and Amadis. No spoilers, but it ends a little happier.


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