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Persiles y Sigismunda
Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda was Cervantes’s last work, finished four days before his death and published posthumously in 1617. Although it has been overshadowed
by Don Quijote, Cervantes himself regarded Persiles y Sigismunda as his masterpiece: in his introduction to the Novelas ejemplares he describes Persiles as the book with which he would rival the great Greek writer Heliodorus. In 1618 Persiles was translated into French, and this translation was the basis of a further translation, into English, that was published
in London in 1619.
Barry Ife and Trudi Darby have prepared an electronic text of this English version, The Travels of Persiles and Sigismunda. A Northern History. We do not know who made this translation, which has never before been reprinted or edited. The ‘M.L.’ who signed the Dedication
to Philip Stanhope was Matthew Lownes, the bookseller who published the work: Matthew’s brother Humphrey was the printer.
A consideration of the printing of Persiles and Sigismunda is given in Trudi Darby’s conference paper, A Northern Mystery.
The Persiles was quickly taken up as source material by the English playwright John Fletcher (1579-1625) who used some of the incidents
in his play The Custom of the Country. For a detailed comparison of the play and the Persiles, see T.L. Darby, ‘Resistance to rape in Persiles y Sigismunda and The Custom of the Country’, Modern Language Review 90 (1995), 273-284. A more general survey of the influence of Cervantes on Jacobean drama is given in ‘Cervantes in England: the influence of Golden-Age prose fiction on Jacobean drama, c.1615-1625’, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies [Liverpool series] LXXIV (1997), 425-441.