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The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet Reader’s Guide

By Arturo Pérez-Reverte

The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet by Arturo Pérez-Reverte


Questions and Topics for Discussion


In 17th–century Madrid, Captain Diego Alatriste and his apprentice, Íñigo Balboa, are attempting to enjoy the tenuous peacetime Spain has gained after the Hundred Years War. They occupy themselves with literature and theatre, spending time with their old friend and celebrated poet Francisco de Quevedo. Instead of exchanging gunfire with the French, they exchange witty repartee about the latest plays and the authors who wrote them. The most popular dramas of the day, however, reflect the lives its citizens, and all of their romance, scandals and violence, and so it isn’t long before the Captain and Íñigo find themselves entangled in another intrigue—this time a plot against King Philip himself.

Their romantic lives have much to do with the mess they find themselves in. The Captain has entered into a dalliance with Madrid’s most famous, and famously beautiful, actress—Maria de Castro, and both her actor husband and several members of the king’s court have reason to object to their love affair. Meanwhile, Íñigo finds himself led right into harm’s way by the angelic–looking and dangerously seductive Angelica de Alquézar, the niece of Captain Alatriste’s powerful enemy, Luis de Alquézar, and a member of the queen’s court. Soon, Alatriste and his loyal apprentice are in more danger of losing their liberty, and even their lives, on their home soil than they ever were in foreign lands during times of war.

The latest in the Arturo Pérez–Reverte’s series of novels about the adventures of Captain Alatriste, The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet continues the tale of this captivating swashbuckler.

Filled with suspense and action, as well as minute historical detail, The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet depicts 17th–century Spain and all of the corruption, deception and betrayal that ran through its royal court at the height of its wealth and opulence.


Arturo Pérez–Reverte lives near Madrid. Originally a war correspondent, he now writes fiction full–time. His novels include The Flanders Panel, The Club Dumas, The Fencing Master, The Seville Communion, The Nautical Chart, and The Queen of the South. In 2002, he was elected to the Spanish Royal Academy.


  • This novel is told alternately from the third–person point of view of Captain Alatriste and from the first–person point of view of Alatriste’s apprentice, Íñigo Balboa, as if written down in his memoirs. Whose point of view did you prefer, and why? What were the benefits and the drawbacks of receiving the story in this way? Would you have preferred to have the entire story delivered in the same voice all the way through?

  • Compare this novel to other works of historical fiction that you may have read. How well does Pérez–Reverte depict 17th–century Spain, and its political and social atmosphere? Also, if you have read other novels in this series about Captain Alatriste, discuss how this installment compares to the others. (And if you haven’t—was it easy to follow the story without being familiar with the previous adventures of this particular group of characters?)

  • Also, discuss the effect of the sonnets and lines of poetry that are woven into the book. How did they (or did they not) lend authenticity to the book? How did they contribute to the tone of the novel, and support the novel’s development of setting and character? In particular, consider that the most respected playwrights and poets of the time were often engaged in their writing and at least one other career or vocation, such as that of priest or soldier. How is this significant? What does it tell us about the culture of Spain at this time?

  • Balboa, the primary narrator of the story, tells us that the Spain he depicts was a Spain on the brink of decline and destruction—and that even the most prominent and respected men of church and state were often guilty of ethical and moral transgressions. Discuss the effect, then, of following characters that are clearly honorable and loyal, like Íñigo Balboa and Francisco de Quevedo. Would you include (or did you include) Captain Alatriste in this group as you read the book? What makes him a slightly less trustworthy, but perhaps more interesting, character than the rest?

  • What did you think of Angelica de Alquézar? When she professed to love Íñigo at the beginning of the novel, did you believe her? When she began to spy on the “king” with Íñigo at her side, what did you suspect? When she literally stabbed him in the back, were you surprised? Do you think she felt anything for Íñigo at all? Why didn’t she kill him immediately, when she had the chance?

  • Similarly, how did you feel about Captain Alatriste’s relationship with Maria de Castro, and his refusal to give her up when he knew of the king’s intentions? What did you think of her character? Compare her to Angelica de Alquézar, and to Caridad la Lebrijana—who did you find more interesting, and why? Do you think these women are fully–developed characters, or archetypes? Who would you have preferred to see developed further in the story?

  • Compare the political and social intrigues of this court to 21st–century politics and social networking. What do you find are the most striking similarities? What do these characters reveal about the nature of men, and particularly the way men and women use their fellow men and women for physical and social fulfillment and political and economic gain? Do you find the same is true today?

  • Íñigo tells us early in the story that Alatriste will die several years later, not at this particular time in their lives. This happens at several points in the novel, with regards to several characters. Discuss the effect this has on the suspense in the book. For instance, were you ever truly in fear for Captain Alatriste’s life? Describe the moments in the book that you found to be most suspenseful, and why.

  • Twice Captain Alatriste engages in swordfights, bests his opponents, and then goes to the trouble of finding the men help and/or medical attention. What did these two duels—one at the novel’s opening moments, the other at the end of the book—reveal about his character?

  • What did you think when Rafael Cózar joined Íñigo in his attempt to save Captain Alatriste and King Philip? Why was the comedy he provided during this climax in the story particularly fitting? Discuss, too, where Cózar fits: with the men of honor in this novel, or with the men of muddled morals? Is this battle on the king’s behalf enough to redeem him?

  • Similarly, discuss King Philip’s gesture at the end of the novel, when he gives Guadalmedina’s hat to Captain Alatriste, coupled with his final words. Does this redeem him in anyway, despite his penchant for chasing women, obsessively hunting, and ignoring affairs of state?
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