Don Quixote

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Don Quixote was written by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saaavedra. The novel was published in 1605. The protagonist’s of the novels, Don Quixote, comes from the adjective quixotic which now means idealistic and impractical. Many Americans may be familiar with the musical Man of La Mancha than with the book.

Contents

Background

The novel consists of two parts. The first part was titled El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha was published in 1605. It was printed by Juan de la Cuesta’s printing press in Madrid on December 20, 1604 and made available to the public on January 16, 1605. The second part, Sequnda parte del ingenioso caballero Don Quixote de la Mancha was published in 1615. In addition, a fake Don Quixote sequel was published in 1614. The author who published the fake book used the pen name of Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda. A French specialist named Dominique Aubier suspected the author Lope de Vega of the literary jest. Consequently, part two of the actual Don Quixote contains several references about an imposter which Quixote rails against.

Plot

  • The story covers the adventures and travels of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
  • Alonso Quijano is a hidalgo, the lowest rank of the Spanish nobility. He is obsessed with stories of knight errant, especially those written by Feliciano De Silva.
  • Alonso Quijano decided to take the name Don Quixote de la Mancha and becomes a knight errant himself. Don is the title of a higher nobility while Quixote in Spanish means a piece of armor.
  • Don Quixote is considered crazy to most people. He imagines thing to be different then they are, he thinks windmills are giant beasts.
  • Sancho Panza is Don Quixote squire who thinks his master is crazy but follows him on his adventures hoping to get rich.
  • Don Quixote tries to disenchant Dulcinea even though she is not what he believes. Sancho Panza knows Don Quixote is deceiving himself about Dulcinea but keeps quiet.
  • By the end of the second book Don Quixote decides on his death bed that his actions have been insane.
  • Don Quixote and Sancho Panza undergo complex changes. When Don Quixote wants to stop his actions because he realizes how wrong he has been Sancho Panzo tries to persuade him to continue.
  • To prove that he has given up on his quest, Don Quixote decides to burn all his books on knight-errantry except Amadis of Gaul, who was the originator of chivalry romance genre.

Themes

The novel Don Quixote is unique because it stands in position between medieval chivalric romance and the modern novel. Medieval chivalric romances consisted of disconnected stories that shed little insight into the inner life of the main character. However, the modern novel focused on the psychological evolution of the characters. The reasons that Don Quixote is considered to stand in position between medieval chivalric romance and modern novel are:

  • In part one of the novel Quixote is imposing himself on his environment. In part two, Quixote has to do less to maintain his image because now people know about him because they have read about his adventures.
  • The novel is subtle when it comes to showing the perspective of its' characters.
  • Quixote adventures involve situations where he attempts to solve complex situations by using a knight's simple morality.

Interpretations of the novel

When it was first published Don Quixote was considered to be a comic novel. Yet, the popularity of Don Quixote after the French Revolution was due to its’ idea that individuals can be right while society can be wrong and disenchanting. Consequently, in the nineteenth century Don Quixote was seen as social commentary, and in the twentieth century it was considered to be the first true modern novel.