(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Looking from the balcony of her Madrid home, María watches Juan de Medrano ride by, courting her from a distance as he did for two years, and she is moved to confess to her servant Beatriz that she much prefers him to the more aggressive Don Diego. Juan is at last tired of seeing María only at a distance. That afternoon he comes to call, with the excuse that next day he is leaving for the wars in Flanders. María postpones their farewells until that night, when Beatriz will bring Juan to her.

Don Diego, too, decides on direct action. He arrives with a highly rhetorical demand for her affections. Claiming that she is unable to understand his proposal, María turns him down in the same kind of jargon. Angered, Don Diego directs his servant Morón to try to learn from Beatriz how María might be approached. Though the gift of a gold chain does not open her mouth, Morón knows that Beatriz will in time tell him everything.

Juan wants his friend Don Carlos to spread the story of his departure for the army, while actually he plans to stay in lodgings in Madrid. As a first step, he sends his farewells to Doña Violante, an errand that Don Carlos performs gladly because, with Juan away, he thinks he can win the lady for himself.

The next morning, as she sneaks Juan out of María’s house, materialistic Beatriz reflects on how silly aristocratic ladies are. They will not be seen talking to a man on the street for fear of gossip, but they are prepared to entertain him secretly in their rooms. This time, however, the assignation does not remain a secret. Morón worms out of Beatriz all the details of Juan’s visit and runs with them to his master. Don Diego elaborates on the event as he passes it on to his friend Antonio, and the story grows further as Antonio tries to elicit the true facts. Exasperated and resentful, Don Diego decides to confront María.

When Don Diego mentions Juan’s nocturnal visit, María...

(The entire section is 798 words.)