"Don Quixote" is a novel by a Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes. It is one of the most significant works by Spanish and the worldwide literature. It is important because it has the first characteristics of novels that we know today such as a long, complex story, characterized characters, a clear critic of society and art. Besides that Don Quixote is the second most translated and published work after the Bible. It set the foundation of the western European literature and it is considered to be one of the best fictional works ever.
The main character, Don Quixote, just like his sidekick Sancho Panza became icons of culture and the symbols of idealistic fighters - dreamers that have more love for heroic acts than victory. The motive of the windmills, the so-called "tilting at windmills" is a well-known symbol of a made up, needless fight and it was first brought to life in this novel. Every time we use that expression we are actually referring to the novel.
The novel was written and published in two parts. The first one was published in 1605 and ten years later came the second one. The first book was a huge success and across Spain and Portugal various fake editions were sold. The publisher soon bought the author’s rights for the book so Cervantes himself only got money for the editions made in Castile.
The novel is a parody of the novels about knights that were a big hit in Europe in the 16th and 17th century. The novel was first a plain story in a book of Cervantes’ novels and later he turned it into a novel. Some claim that he got his inspiration from a book by an anonymous author that tells a story of a man who was so crazy about knights that he left his wife and went on a search for adventures.
The novel is actually about that - a man crazy about chivalry that invents adventures and gives his best to survive. He called himself a knight, had a horse, found a servant and woman he decided to fight for. He even saw windmills as his enemies and fought them to honor his lady.
With this plot, the books clearly criticize the chivalry novels and even thought it’s a parody it contains a complex structure. The comic of the novel isn’t built on over exaggerating but putting an old fashioned them into new, modern frames of life. By doing that the theme becomes pointless and unrealistic. Don Quixote is described as a real character and he isn’t perfect as the knights from medieval novels. The humor and the moral of the story are founded in the attempts of the main character to be something he’s not. Also, the novel is a strong critic of society, Church and the inquisition.
The novel has many layers and contains elements of realism, parody and social critic which make him one of the most significant works of literature and it has its special place in the worldwide literature.
The plot is settled in the 16th century in a small town in Mancha, Spain. A 50 years old nobleman Alonso Quijano lives there. He is tall, skinny and a hunting enthusiast. His boring life made his search for fun and excitement in old chivalry novels where the knights fought against giants, dragons and other creatures to save the woman they loved.
He dived too deep into that invented world that he lost his mind and decided to renew chivalry. He found an old amour, a rusty sword, and a helmet. He took his horse Rocinante and went in search of an adventure. His horse didn’t share his enthusiasm because he was already old.
As the knights always had a lady they loved Quixote picked a woman from a nearby village and gave her many virtues in his head. Don Quixote de la Mancha went unnoticed out of his home and after a day of ridding his horse he came to an inn for which he believed was a castle.
Since he thought it was really a castle he asked the barmen to declare him a knight. The barmen was a witty man so he went along with it, declared him a knight and the adventures began on the knights was home.
First, he threatened a man who was harassing his servant which resulted badly for the servant because after Quixote left he beat him up even more. He also confronted a group of men who didn’t show respect for Dulcinea del Tobos, the queen of his heart. When the men saw he was crazy they beat him up and a peasant helped him get home. When he got home in that state a decision was made by the people close to him to burn the books.
They thought they were poisonous for Quixote and knew they had to get rid of them. In the end, they walled up the room with the books and lied to Quixote that an evil magician made it disappear. It looked as if Quixote was getting better because he hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary in the next 15 days.
The truth was the opposite. He was convincing his neighbor Sancho Panza to become his squire and in exchange, he promised him an island where he’ll become the governor. One day they sneaked out to search for some new adventures. They came across giant windmills. There were 30 of them. Quixote thought the windmills were actually giants and he went to confront him on his horse but his attempts were failures. Sancho had no success in convincing his that he was fighting windmills and not giants.
On another occasion, they encountered a flock of sheep. Don Quixote thought the flock to be an army he needed to conquer and he barely made it out alive when the shepherds attacked him. While Sancho and Quixote were wondering the world a priest and the village’s barber went to look for them. When they finally found them they placed Quixote into a cage and took him home.
Don Quixote got better again but not mentally so he and Sancho went on another hilarious trip. The journey got them to Toboso where Dulcinea lived and Quixote wanted to see her. Sancho was supposed to arrange their meeting but he decided to trick Quixote so he told him that the first peasant woman he found was his Dulcinea. He was surprised when Quixote claimed she can’t be his loved one because obviously some evil magician made sure to turn a beautiful girl into such an ugly creature.
In the meantime, Sanson Carrasco was thinking of ways to stop Quixote from going on his adventures so he dressed up like a knight and challenged him to a battle. The one who loses has to bow down to the winner’s will. Quixote was the winner and Sanson barely remained alive. After the magnificent victory, Quixote and Sancho found themselves on a duke’s property. The duke and the duchess knew about them so they decided to have a good time by telling everyone they should act as if Quixote was an actual knight.
Everyone had to respect him and the ladies had to fall madly in love with him. The culmination of their visit was supposed to be the arrival of Dulcinea that will be liberated only if Sancho agrees to be whipped 3300 times on his behind. The duke knew about the promise of an island Quixote made to Sancho so he decided to take advantage of that.
The island turned out to be a small village Barataria. The duke ordered the people of the village to accept their new governor seriously because he took his job seriously event thought he was illiterate and uneducated. He had to leave his new position after ten days because he didn’t know what to do and had no money.
Sanson Carrasco challenged Quixote to a new dual but this time, he managed to win. He ordered Quixote to stop being a knight for a year. While Quixote was coming back home he had a new idea. He decided to live like one of the shepherds described in the pastoral literature. When Quixote got home he got ill and decided to give up the adventures. Sancho tried to convince him to give it one more shot but he would agree. In the end, he died as Alonso Quijano.
Characters: Alonso Quijano (Don Quixote de la Mancha) Sancho Panza
Alonso Quijano/ Don Quixote - a 50 years old nobleman who was kind, good natured, gentile and smart. He lives in a village and out of boredom he starts to read chivalry novels and starts thinking he’s a knight. He decided to leave the life of an eternal wanderer. Quixote lost his connection with reality, gave himself the name Don Quixote de la Mancha and dedicated his life to fight for justice and to help the afflicted. He wanted to became glorious because of his good and noble deeds. He lived his life the way he wanted to. Even though he lost a few times he believes in his ideals to the very end. Quixote believed everyone had the right to freedom and that slavery wasn’t the life intended for people. He was persistent to acquire justice for all people. Even though he was a bit unreasonable and mad sometimes the author gave him back his sanity in the end and he died as a hero.
Sancho Panza - illiterate and uneducated with a high knowledge of reality, unlike Quixote. His relation with Quixote was filled with tolerance and they were bonded by a true friendship. They were completely opposite but they made each other complete. He warned Quixote about his madness many times but still he stood by him in each fight and he was loyal to him. At first, he seemed selfish and led by the promise of an island where he’ll govern but he turns out, to be honest, and good. In the end, he served Quixote with pride and helped him achieve justice.
Miguel de Cervantes Biography
Miguel de Cervantes was born in 1547 in Alcala de Henares, Spain. He was one of 7 children in the family. It is assumed that his childhood was affected by his family constantly moving around. He was schooled in Seville and Madrid where he started to write his first poems.
When he turned twenty he went on a trip to Italy where he was introduced to the magical world of Italian literature. He was amazed by Boccaccio and Dante and his life in Italy was troublous. He entered many battles and spent 5 years in captivity in Algeria.
He came back to Spain and started working on his writing more. Despite the quantity and quality of his work, he could never impose as a writer. His novels weren’t a success and since he had no money he lived on the verge of bankruptcy.
The failure of the banker in charge of his finances got him to jail where he started working on his short story "Don Quixote". A parody and a novel will emerge from that short story and will bring him the worldwide success he craved.
After the novel "Don Quixote" he published ten short stories and started writing poems. Cervantes also wrote a sequel to the story of Don Quixote and it was a success in Europe and wider.
He is remembered as one of the best storytellers in Spain and worldwide and as one of the most significant writers of all time. He died in Madrid in 1616.