Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Madrid. Capital of Spain whose secrets are stripped bare by the grateful Asmodeus, the demon of luxury, after Don Cleofas delivers him temporarily from captivity in a phial in an alchemist’s laboratory. While they look down upon the city Asmodeus makes the roofs and walls transparent so that Don Cleofas can see all the mean, lewd and ridiculous activities that people ordinarily conceal from their neighbors. Don Cleofas finds the demon while fleeing four men hired by his lover Donna Thomasa to force him to marry her, but he is somewhat surprised to learn that his own propensity for sin is not merely reflected but exaggerated in the great majority of his fellow citizens. Although Madrid is almost as grandiloquent a center of culture and civilization as Paris, its pretensions amount to little more than an architectural veneer overlaid upon barbarian motives and desires.


*Alcala. Town northeast of Madrid, famed for its university founded by Cardinal Ximenes. Don Cleofas is a student there, as is Don Pedro de Crespides, who is likewise engaged in a romantic excursion to the city.

Don Lewis de Crespides’s house

Don Lewis de Crespides’s house (krehs-PEE-dehs). Primary setting of the first interpolated tale, which offers the back-story of the wedding taking place there. It is one of many houses from which silken ladders are let down from high balconies to enable secret lovers to climb up to the bedrooms of young ladies.

La Chicona’s house


(The entire section is 644 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bjornson, Richard. “The Picaresque Hero Arrives.” The Picaresque Hero in European Fiction. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1977. Comments on Lesage’s adaptation of Vélez de Guevara’s story and notes the dramatic significance of changes, including the transformation of the devil into a spirit presiding over the foolish as well as the evil.

Green, Frederick C. French Novelists, Manners, and Ideas from the Renaissance to the Revolution. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1964. Describes The Devil upon Two Sticks as a preparatory work for Lesage’s greater novel, Gil Blas. Explains why the novel was popular with Lesage’s contemporaries.

Mylne, Vivienne. The Eighteenth Century French Novel: Techniques of Illusion. Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1965. A chapter on Lesage provides insight into the novelist’s creative process and principal themes. Notes his use of stock situations and local color to vivify the narrative of The Devil upon Two Sticks.

Showalter, English. The Evolution of the French Novel 1641-1782. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972. Comments on characterization, the role of the narrator, and influences that shaped Lesage’s novel; notes the author’s success in using this improbable story as a means of illuminating a “moral truth.”

Symons, Arthur. Introduction to The Devil on Two Sticks. London: Navarre Society, 1927. Discusses the literary background upon which Lesage draws for his story. Highlights the novelist’s use of his tale as a satire on the supposed progress of civilization.