The Altarpiece of the Wonders


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In El retablo de las maravillas (The Altarpiece of the Wonders) Miguel de Cervantes uses an argument from Calila e Dimna cited in the Libro de los ejemplos del conde Lucanor by Juan Manuel. In this work, some rogues (Chanfalla and his companion Chirinos) come to a town to do an unusual function. In the altarpiece, puppets tell a story that can not be seen by those who are bastard children or who do no have pureblood, that is, by those who were not old Christians, without Muslim or Jewish ancestry. The neighbors who attend the show belong to the upper classes of the town. At this point there is a hilarious scene, Chanfalla describes the wonders that appear in the altarpiece (Samson, a bull, mice, lions and even bears) and, in reality, nothing is happening. There is only an empty wooden box, an expectant audience and a narrator inventing a story. However, they pretend to be watching the great wonders that are told, for fear of being considered illegitimate children or Jewish converts. The Altarpiece of the Wonders ends with the arrival of a soldier who demands accommodation for his exhausted soldiers. Not knowing anything about the alleged power of the altarpiece does not matter to him that he sees nothing. Before this, the riff-raffs begin to mock him.

(Description has been translated into English, book edition is in Spanish)