Don Quixote De La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes (1547 - 1616)

Don Quixote De La

by Miguel de Cervantes
(1547 - 1616)

Type of Work:

Symbolic Spanish novel


Spain; seventeenth century

Principal Characters

Don Quixote (Alonso Quejana), a retired
country scholar turned knight-errant

Sancho Panza, a rustic farmer who becomes

Don Quixote's squire

Dulcinea del Toboso (Aldonza Lorenzo),
a village girl

Story Overveiw

Alonso Quejana was an ordinary Spanish
country gentleman, except in one particular: he was addicted to books of
chivalry. He spent every moment engrossed in thick, meandering tomes filled
with tales of knights and squires, magicians and giants, and beautiful

At last, he began to sell parts of his
estate in order to buy even more books. Devotin whole days to reading them,

Quejana allowed the estate to fall into neglect. Still he paid no notice,
and continued to immerse himself in his romantic stories "until, finally,
from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he
went completely out of his mind."

And so, the poor man who had read so much
about great knights of the past now came upon the idea of becoming a knight
himself. He poked around his house and found a moldering suit of armor
left by his great-grandfather, polished it up, and put it on. Other odd
knickknacks, including a helmet visor hastily made of cardboard, added
just the "right" touches to his armor; and though his attire looked ridiculous,

Quejana imaged it to be the finest in the world.

Since every good knight needed a horse,

Quejana went to his stables, where he found only his dilapidated old nag,
its hide blemished and its hooves full of cracks. But fancying it a healthy,
noble steed, he renamed it "Rocinante," for "superlative Nag."

A knight, as well as his mount, ought to
have a dignified, sonorous name. And so' Alonso Quejana determined henceforth
to be known as Don Quixote de la Mancha, after his native village.

Finally, before roaming the world to right
wrongs, Don Quixote chose his lady-love - a buxom country girl, Aldonza

Lorenzo, famous for her skill at salting pork; and upon her he bestowed
the title of Dulcinea del Toboso.

Decked out in his clattering armor and
dreaming of fame, the Don wasted no time in mounting Rocinante and setting
out in search of adventure. Early in his travels he happened upon an inn,
which he imagined to be an enchanted castle. During his stay there, he
persuaded the bewildered innkeeper to officially dub him a knight.

Meanwhile, back at Quixote's home, two
of the townsmen had learned of their friend's strange departure. Blaming
his foolishness on the books of chivalry, they conducted a rollicking inquisition,
ordering dozens of the books to be burned. Then these men decided that
they would pursue Quejana, bring him back to the village, and cure him
of his madness.

Quixote, by this time, had already run
into his first adventure: freeing a young boy from a flogging by his master.

Later, he challenged a party of puzzled travelers, engaging them in battle;
but Rocinante tripped, sending Don Quixote to the ground. The travelers
seized him and promptly beat him senseless. Quixote then returned home
long enough to cajole a rotund, peasant farmer, Sancho Panza, into accompanying
him as his squire.

With Sancho in tow on Dapple, a small ass,
the duo fell into outrageous undertakings, usually springing from Don Quixote's
hallucinations. On the plains of La Mancha the pair spotted a cluster of
huge windmills. Quixote instantly declared them to be giants, and, despite

Sancho's protests, charged on them with lowered lance. The great arms of
a windmill caught the knight and his steed and sent them both rolling.

Quixote blamed the disaster on the work of a magician, who must have changed
the giants into windmills "in order to deprive me of the glory of overcoming

Occasionally, though, the deluded Quixote
came off the victor, as when he heroically broke up a band of innocent

Biscayan travelers. He continually mistook the most common sights for exotic
vistas. Once he insisted that a far-off herd of sheep was, in reality,
an evil army, and launched an attack on the poor animals. This noble intervention
only brought a volley of rocks from the angry shepherds whose sheep had
been scattered. The knight also charged a funeral procession (claiming
that the pallbearers were devils carrying away a princess), forced himself
to undergo a solitary penance in the mountains, and mistook a common barber's
basin for the magical Helmet of Mambrino. Knight and squire crossed paths
with a variety of rural characters - goatherds, galley slaves, innkeepers,
and others - all of whom had rambling stories to tell. Meeting such people,