Dom Casmurro

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Dom Casmurro, written by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, was first published in Brazil in 1899. Like The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas and Quincas Borba, both by Machado de Assis, it is a masterpiece of realist literature. It is written as a fictional memoir by a distrusting, jealous husband. The narrator, however, is not a reliable conveyor of the story as the story is a dark comedy. Dom Casmurro is considered by critic Afranio Coutinho "a true Brazilian masterpiece, and maybe Brazil's greatest representative piece of writing" and "one of the best books ever written in Portuguese Language, if not the best one to date." The author is considered a master of Latin American literature with a unique style of realism.[1]

Major themes[edit]

Machado de Assis was fascinated with the theme of jealousy, and many of his novels are built on this intrigue. One of his most popular ones, Dom Casmurro, is still widely read in Brazilian schools. The volume reflects Machado de Assis' life as a translator of Shakespeare, and also his influence from French realism, especially Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert and Émile Zola. In the novel, he also refers to Much Ado About Nothing, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and, most importantly, Othello.

Here, Machado de Assis shows a different version of the classical adultery: the story is told through the eyes of Bento (Bentinho), the betrayed husband. Throughout the story, the character narrates the supposed betrayal of his beloved Capitu (Capitolina, in allusion to the Roman emperor Capitolinus), a version of Desdemona, who, according to him, cheated on him with his best friend, giving birth to a son that only later he "found out" to be not his. However, the facts that he shows as proof are very flimsy, and could easily be interpreted as paranoia. It could be all in his imagination, though the narrator hardly considers this an option. It is a tale with an unreliable narrator, so the reader never has a direct answer to whether Capitu cheated on him, and the outcome is still one of the most discussed among Brazilian literature fans and critics. The Brazilian writer Dalton Trevisan once noted that Dom Casmurro is not to be read as the story of Capitu betraying Bentinho, but as a story of jealousy itself.

Another measure of the writer's literary achievement is given by the more profane conclusion that, were Capitu and Bento to go to court, neither would be able to win solely on the basis of details comprised in the novel.


A re-imagined Dom Casmurro was written by Lygia Fagundes Telles and her husband, Paulo Emílio Salles Gomes, in 1969. It is called Capitu (after the novel's female character), and is in film script format.

A television miniseries titled Capitu was released in 2008.


  1. ^ Jackson, K. David (February 22, 1998). "Madness in a Tropical Manner". The New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 

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