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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 387

Miguel de Cervantes established his reputation as a writer primarily through the success of Don Quixote, a long, complicated novel. Cervantes also wrote a considerable amount of short fiction, which he published as a group of novels (or novellas) that he claimed would be “exemplary”: they would be examples of good moral character, if not of good literature. Some of them he clearly intended to expand or follow upon, while others were self-contained. Cervantes told his readers in a preface that he had issues with the immorality in much popular fiction, especially the kinds of romances produced in Italy. While his condemnations are at least partly tongue-in-cheek, he was surely making a point about the public’s taste for foreign, as opposed to Spanish, authors. Some of the works included in the collection of twelve novellas are satirical treatments of the same themes that the Italian writers routinely employed.

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Complicated plots full of romantic entanglements are one area where the similarities with the Italian models emerge strongly. Jilted lovers, illegitimate children, cross-dressed heroines, abducted damsels, and reunions of long-separated siblings are among the commonplace tropes that emerge in some of the stories. Features of the plot of “The Two Damsels,” in which Theodosia disguises herself as a man so she can travel freely and unravel a mystery, likewise occur in other European stories, such as Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night . Whimsical fantasy also appears, especially through the use of canine...

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