Most of the characters of Terra Nostra are historical in the sense that they have analogues either in the history of Hispanic civilization or in the fictional characters of Hispanic literature. In many cases, the fictional narrative alters the factual relationships of the historical and literary personages. Felipe the Fair and his wife, Joanna, the daughter of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand II and Isabella I, are portrayed in the novel as the parents of Philip II, though they were in fact the parents of Charles V, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, who was the father of Philip II. Although Philip II did try to marry Queen Elizabeth I of England after the death of his second wife, Mary Tudor, Elizabeth refused. In the novel, Isabel has spent her childhood in the Spanish court and, married to Felipe, exemplifies the lascivious alternative to Felipe’s frustrated attempts at enforcing an absolute asceticism in the world contained in the Escorial.
Celestina is the female procuress from the Renaissance play by Fernándo de Rojas, and the Chronicler who is engaged in writing the history of a gentleman of La Mancha is Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605, 1615; English translation, 1612-1620). The mysterious bastard pilgrim who washes up on the beach reflects the protagonist of Luis de Góngora y Argote’s Soledades (1613; The Solitudes), and the scribe Guzmán is reminiscent of the main...
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