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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The author’s “exemplary” works are 12 novellas which he believes have important moral lessons. In the Author’s Preface, Miguel de Cervantes offers his reasons for writing the such exemplary fictions. He intends them to be instructive, as they offer the reader many a “useful example” of proper conduct; he intends them to be provide “wholesome fruit.” At the same time, passing the time in harmless pursuits also has its uses, so he offers them to provide opportunities to enjoy suitable “hours of recreation.”

I have called them exemplary, because if you rightly consider them, there is not one of them from which you may not draw some useful example; and were I not afraid of being too prolix, I might show you what savoury and wholesome fruit might be extracted from them, collectively and severally . . . . One cannot be always at church, or always saying one's prayers, or always engaged in one's business, however important it may be; there are hours for recreation when the wearied mind should take repose.

In “The Two Damsels,” a young woman sets out to right a wrong that has been afflicted on her. Well aware of her vulnerability in traveling alone in female dress, she decides to assume a male disguise. However, when she speaks in her natural voice while staying at an inn, a fellow guest overhears her and guesses that this young man is not what he seems to be. She admits as much to him, and tells him her reason for disguising herself.

You must know, señor, that although I entered this inn, as they have doubtless told you, in the dress of a man, I am an unhappy maiden, or at least I was one not eight days ago, and ceased to be so, because I had the folly to believe the delusive words of a perjured man. My name is Teodosia . . . .

In “Rinconete and Cortadillo,” Cervantes offers a tale of two young men who join forces in becoming friends and accomplices—not for any laudable goals, but rather to fleece and trick credulous victims; they quickly devise how to ensnare them in card games. These teenage boys, one about 14 and the other 16 years old, meet while at an inn traveling north from Andalucia. Narrowly escaping a suspicious victim after cheating him at Twenty-One, they make their way to Seville. Their professional careers as crooks are much further developed after they meet Señor Monipodio, “the father, master, and protector of thieves.” Obliged to register with this master, they are somewhat relieved when he deems their knowledge of hustling sufficient to become advanced students rather than apprentices in his school for thieves. This status would entitle them to a cut of whatever earnings any other student brought into the enterprise. Monipodio tells the youths that they will

enter a school in which you can hardly fail to learn all that is requisite for your future welfare . . . . The words you have just uttered suffice to convince, oblige, persuade, and constrain me at once to admit you both to full brotherhood, and dispense with your passing through the year of novitiate.

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