This novel, “Rinconete y Cortadillo” was written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, a Spanish writer who also wrote the magnificent novel “El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha”. Cervantes was born in 1547 in Alcala de Henares (Madrid). He participated in the battle of Lepanto, where he hurt his left hand. After that he came back to Madrid and in 1585 he wrote “La galatea”, without success. Then he moved to Valladolid where he wrote the first part of “El Quijote”. In his last years he wrote “Novelas ejemplares” (1963) and the second part of “El Quijote” and also many others. And finally he died in Madrid, the 22nd of April, 1616.
“Rinconete y Cortadillo” begins the meeting of two boys that have run away of their homes. These two boys are Pedro del Rincon and Diego Cortado, later called Rinconete and Cortadillo. These two boys of 15 and 17 years old, had to run away from home because their families mistreated them, and they had to rob and cheat while playing cards for being able to survive. These two boys began to speak to each other, as they were young aristocrats, very politely, as they were from the noble class. They begin to realize that they are from the same background but they never tell each other who they are, or even which are their real names, we never know who they are. In this part of the book the two boys talk about their “origins”, both of them have a picaresque origin, as for example the mistreat of their families, as Cortado describes when he says “el desamorado trato de mi madrastra” By this way Cervantes is presenting these characters us two “pícaros” , following the prototype of “pícaros” of the century.
These boys, in their trip to Sevilla, stole a carrier all his money playing cards (cheating, of course). After that they arrive to Sevilla where they began to work as merchandise carriers, then they steal a sacristan his money's bag, but in that moment a young boy called Ganchuelo told them that if they wanted to go on robbing they had to go to the brotherhood of Monipodio and take part of it. This brotherhood was full of young robbers obeying Monipodio, who was the boss. This brotherhood is presented in the novel as a school of organized crime, where there are rules that must be obeyed. Monipodio leads a sort of organization full of young robbers and prostitutes, and he gives them the stuff they need to make their functions, while he protects the members of his organization. This brotherhood in perfectly hierarchized and it's the ironical representation of a society; all the robbers have to be registered, you have to pass a previous exam, and it has their own codes and security.
Monipodio is the one who changed the names to the two young boys: Rinconete and Cortadillo. With a big part of the money Monipodio gets thanks to robbing, he made them pay candles for the virgin and saints. He thought that by doing this he was a good believer and he fulfilled his obligations as a good Christian (actually, a prostitute said in the book that with her impure work she was gaining her place in the heaven).
The brotherhood had a sort of “memoria” which contained all the misdeeds against people that must be done by the members of the brotherhood. It's specified everything on it, both the crime and the payment, and also how must it be done and who would do it. Also the people of the town contract the services of the brotherhood to take revenge of another person.
In this novel Cervantes is only describing a reality, he is not evaluating what he is writing. Cervantes is trying to denounce the Spain, or maybe the Sevilla of XVI century, the superficial religiosity of the people, the artificial status of the society, the absurd rules (it is seen in the rule of the brotherhood “don't talk with women called Maria on Saturdays”), the hierarchies, etc.
The general structure of the book is lineal because it narrates the events as they are happening. Nevertheless, the structure turns a bit rhetorical because the protagonists tell us events of the past that could be considered as flashbacks. The external structure of “Rinconete y Cortadillo” presents us a text without parts, without chapters. However, along the novel, we can see that it's organized in three parts that correspond to the three stages in the life of Rinconete and Cortadillo. The first part begin with the meeting of the two boys and finishes with their first job as merchandise carriers; the second part it's from the meeting of Ganchuelo to nearly the end of the novel; and finally the third part is very short and introduces only the thoughts and reflections of Rinconete.
The story of Rinconete and Cortadillo has a moral representation of the life more that a moral teaching. We can see that most of the things these boys have done are not correct, are bad things; nevertheless, these things were reflected everyday in the Spanish society of the XVI century. The brotherhood it's an exaggerated representation of the Sevilla of that time. All the characters are amusing and sympathetic in many cases; nevertheless they are acting in a way that it's not correct. And the reason is because these characters inspire us compassion, pity… sometimes we laugh at them. They seem to be stupid, and because of that they are charismatic. They are not teaching us a moral, they are representing a society in a way that we can see that our society is corrupted, and this is the moral to learn.
When we begin to read the novella, we see these two boys as the protagonist of the story, they are robbers, but they seem to be two young gentlemen. Nevertheless, when they arrived to the brotherhood of Monipodio, this vision changes; and the reason from my point of view is because now, Rinconete and Cortadillo have changed, without wanting it, their social status, now they are not the ones who control the story, there is another one, Monipodio, the one who decides what must be done and who must do it. Rinconete and Cortadillo are the leaders nomore.
The narrator is curious, because he let the protagonists present themselves, he doesn't introduce them. Nevertheless it's not a narrator in first person, it's a narrator in third person, and omniscient. He knows everything about the characters; nevertheless he does not evaluate their behavior, what makes the reader evaluate the character's actions.
Rinconete and Cortadillo is a novella full of irony, that criticize a society; our society. It opens our eyes in a way we can see how is the reality of our lives, what is going on with the people, with the leaders of the nations, with the religion, with everything around us. It's not a moral what is behind the novel, it helps us to think about the world, and about the reality of the novel, we realize that the novel is not fiction, it's reality, a touchable reality but dressed with robbers and “picaros”. Is it a fantastic world? Or is it a representation of our world? That's what this story asks us.