Hernán Cortés Criticism - Essay

The North American Review (essay date 1843)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Despatches of Hernando Cortés" in The North American Review, Vol. LVII, No. 121, October, 1843, pp. 459–90.

[The following excerpt provides a detailed historical overview of Cortés's expedition to Mexico from 1518 to 1524, as well as extracts from Cortés 's letters to the Emperor.]

As the memoirs of a hero written by himself, the work before us possesses an interest of the same character with that of the Anabasis of Xenophon and the Commentaries of Cœsar; and though the Spanish leader may not claim the high literary rank which the Greek and Roman generals have attained as classical historians, we are not to conclude that Cortés has any occasion,...

(The entire section is 5844 words.)

J. Bayard Morris (essay date 1928)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: An introduction to Hernándo Cortés: Five Letters 1519-1526, translated by J. Bayard Morris, George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., 1928, pp. ix-xlvii.

[In the following excerpt, Morris attempts to counter the charges of barbarism that have frequently been levelled against Cortés and briefly reviews the style and contents of the five Cartas de relación.]

"Conquest" has always been held an ugly word: so much so that even conquerors themselves have been wary of it. The Norman William crossed the channel, as he announced, to assume a kingdom which was his by right of a rival's oath. Alaric the Goth led his barbarian mercenaries southward to the sack of Rome with...

(The entire section is 3446 words.)

Jonathan Loesberg (essay date 1983)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Narratives of Authority: Cortés, Gómara, Diaz," in Prose Studies, Vol. 6, No. 3, December, 1983, pp. 239-63.

[In the following excerpt, Loesberg examines the rhetorical means by which Cortés, in his Letters, seeks to consolidate his authority and to justify his actions.]

(The entire section is 3683 words.)

Carlos Fuentes (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "The Spanish Captain's Story," in The Guardian Weekly, Vol. 135, No. 26, December 28, 1986, p. 22.

[In the following essay, Fuentes examines what he sees as the "democratic essence of Machiavellianism " that prompted the actions and writings of men like Cortés.]

Hernan Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico, was seven years old when Columbus set foot in the New World. He came from a modest family in a modest town of barren Extremadura. At nineteen, he left home for the Indies. His Spanish inheritance was a vine and a beehive. In the New World, he conquered an empire nine times the size of Spain.

The letters sent by Cortes to Emperor Charles V...

(The entire section is 1229 words.)

Stephanie Merrim (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: "Ariadne's Thread: Auto-Biography, History, and Cortés' Secunda Carta-Relacion," in Dispositio, Vol. XI, Nos. 28-29, 1986, pp. 57-83.

[The following excerpt examines the importance of the intended audience in relation to the construction of the narrative "I" in Cortés's Second Letter.]

In his mandate to Cortés to undertake the exploration of Tierra Firme, Governor of Cuba Diego Velázquez encharged his former secretary to submit a "muy complida e entera relación" of all that he saw, discovered and learned. This relación was to be relayed to Velazquez so that he, in turn, could "facer entera y verdadera relación al Rey nuestro Señor,...

(The entire section is 8487 words.)

Inga Clendinnen (essay date 1991)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: '"Fierce and Unnatural Cruelty': Cortés and the Conquest of Mexico," in Representations, Vol. 33, Winter, 1991, pp. 65-100.

[In the following excerpt, Clendinnen exposes the miscommunications, arising from unbridgeable cultural differences between the Indians and the Spanish, that facilitated the conquest of Mexico.]

The conquest of Mexico matters to us because it poses a painful question: How was it that a motley bunch of Spanish adventurers, never numbering much more than four hundred or so, was able to defeat an Amerindian military power on its home ground in the space of two years? What was it about Spaniards, or about Indians, that made so awesomely...

(The entire section is 9250 words.)