Don Quixote De La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes

Type of Work:

Symbolic Spanish Novel


Spain; Seventeenth Century

Don Quixote: Characters
Don Quixote Main Characters

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 ladies.

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 them.”

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, Don Quixote inevitably embarked on long-winded, fantastic dissertations, which his listeners found either hilarious or annoying. Amid these blunders and misadventures, poor Sancho tried in vain to deal out a little common sense to his headstrong master.

But alas, Quixote’s valiant exploits were soon to end. His two friends had located him and had enlisted the services of a young girl to pose as a damsel in distress to lure Don Quixote into their hands. The old knight, hungry and cold, was easily deceived; he was captured, placed in a cage, and hauled towards his village home. Along the way, his captors coaxed him to give up his preoccupation with chivalry, spelling out to him that the stories of knights were nothing but fanciful and vain fiction. “Do you mean to tell me they are but lies?” Quixote stormed in disbelief.

Arriving home, though welcomed by the villagers, Quejana could not be cured of his fantasies. He was, in fact, Don Quixote the knight. He remained tied up in bed most of the time, scheming his escape to resume his wanderings.

Sancho, for his part, found himself assailed by his enraged wife. How could he have spent so much time away and then come home not a penny richer than before? Following Don Quixote’s example, Sancho calmed her by insisting that he would one day, as a reward for his brave exploits, be made governor of an island and become immensely rich.

Don Quixote and Sancho one day learned from a student that a best-selling book had already been written about their deeds. Thus encouraged, the knight and his squire set out again, and encountered scores of new adventures as violent and as absurd as the first. Among the puppet-masters, apes, and other masquerading knights, they met a certain duke and duchess, who received the pair into their castle.

Amused by this buffoon, they pretended to believe Quixote was a real knight, while at the same time eagerly dispatching the credulous knight on a series of wild escapades.

With Don Quixote away on one such errand, the duke and duchess fulfilled Sancho’s dream of becoming a governor by granting him jurisdiction over a whole town. His governorship served the royalty with a good number of comic scenes.

Meanwhile, Don Quixote had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of a knight who had been so bold as to state that Dulcinea del Toboso was not the most beautiful of women. In consequence, the Don was forced to renounce his knighthood.

When he and faithful Sancho turned homeward a second time, the townspeople once more greeted them as returning heroes. But Don Quixote soon fell ill, and a physician’s visit revealed that he was dying.

Neighbors waited at his death-bed as Don Quixote slept for long stretches of time. When he finally awoke, however, all were surprised to find that his mind had somehow cleared; his insanity had vanished. In stirring language, Don Quixote renounced his books of chivalry, confessing “how foolish I was and the danger I courted in reading them; but I am in my right sense now and I abominate them.” Then, in a pathetic moment, he begged forgiveness of Sancho for the delusions he had inspired. Sancho beseeched his master not to die and encouraged him by reminding him of Dulcinea. But Don Quixote no longer believed in the fantasy, and insisted, “I was mad and now I am sane; I was Don Quixote de la Manclia, and now I am, as I have said, Alonso Quejana the Good.” After dictating a will, he died.

The novel’s closing lines sadly denounce the dreams of Don Quixote: “… Those false and nonsensical stories … are already tottering and without a doubt are doomed to fall.”


It is surprising that Don Quixote should have come to be regarded as one of the greatest novels of all time, since Cervantes originally intended it to be little more than a hasty parody of the sort of popular romantic book of chivalry of his time – and a quick money-maker. The book did make money, too: it became a best-seller throughout Europe.

Over the years, the general interpretation of the novel has almost reversed. It is now regarded, not as crude, slapstick humor, but rather, as a warm, human tale, depicting the conflict between noble idealism and brute, unfeeling practicality. The foolish knight, once seen as the butt of all the other characters’ jokes, is now perceived as a symbol of noble though impractical idealism, and has given the adjective”quixotic” to the English language.

In any case, it is hard not to sympathize with Don Quixote, despite his misconceptions. His devotion to high ideals in a world filled with scheming and base men is admirable. In fact, Quixote sometimes seems to be the only sane man in an insane society. Certainly lie wins the reader over with his sincerity.

Sancho, too, despite his coarseness, is endearingly innocent. Bit by bit he becomes more and more like his master, until, by the end of the novel, he has become almost an heir to Don Quixote’s purity and idealism.

The book is so full of events, meanderings, digressions, legends, conversations, and adventures, that a patient reader will never find his interest exhausted.

The Fantasies of Don Quixote

Don Quixote lived in a fantasy world of chivalry. Chivalry had negative and positive effects on the lives of the people. Don Quixote emphasizes a cross-section of Spanish life, thought, and feeling at the end of chivalry. Don Quixote has been called the best novel in the world, and it cannot be compared to any other novel. Don Quixote has been described as “that genial and just judge of imposture, folly, vanity, affectation, and insincerity; that tragic picture of the brave man born out of his time, too proud and too just to be of use in his age” (Putnam, 15).

The novel has been translated by different people, but it has been said that Shelton’s translation has a charm that no modern translation has because he belonged to the same generation as Cervantes the author of Don Quixote. He could see things as Cervantes saw them. Cervantes’ life had influence on Don Quixote. He could look back on his ancestry of genuine knights-errant. He had a strong feeling on the subject of the sham or false chivalry of the romances. Cervantes says, “any point of view affords only partial insights, even a man’s judgment of his own John Ormsby, in his translation, states that to speak of Don Quixote as it were just a humorous book would be a misdeception.

Cervantes at times makes it a kind of commonplace book for observations and reflections and gathered wisdom of a long and stirring life. According to Ormsby, it is a mine of shrewd observations 2 on mankind and human nature. “Perhaps,” Cervantes said, “more people would be better people if they were able to recognize the knights within them” (Church, 6). It has been said that the humor of Don Quixote is what distinguishes it from All other books of romance. This is what makes it “the best novel in the world.” It is Don Quixote was a Spanish knight about fifty years old. His real name was Alonso Quijano.

He lived in the village of La Mancha with his neice, his house- keeper, and a handy man. He gave up hunting and taking care of his estate to satisfy his passion of reading books of chivalry. He had a large collection of romances of chivalry and in the end they turned his brain. His mind became weak from his reading his many romances of chivalry (Samuel, 57). His mind became stuffed with fantasy accounts of tournaments, knightly quests, damsels or women in distress, and strange enchantments (Grossvogel, 89). His high spirit and his courage never failed him, but his illusions led him into trouble. Warddropper says, “Don Quixote’s madness is not the result of unrequited passion.

It is the result of reading too many books of chivalry. He is a knight gone mad from a platonic love” (Warddropper, One day he decided to imitate the heroes of the books he had read and to revive the ancient custom of knight-erranty. Don believed that he had been called to become a knight-errant (Putnam, 63). Nothing would satisfy him but that he must ride abroad on his old horse, armed with spear and helmet, a knight-errant, to encounter all adventures, and to redress the innumeral wrongs of the world. The 3 people laughed at Don Quixote and his insane ideals of knighthood. Don made preparation to put his plan into effect. “So many things were wrong that were to be righted, the grievances to be redressed, the abuses to be done away with, and the duties to be performed” (Church, 64).

He changed his name to Don Quixote de la Mancha and decided to roam the world righting wrongs (Church, He was determined to dress himself in rusty armor, a cardboard helmet and become a knight-errant (Putnam, 70). Knights were chivalrous and brave. No man could be a knight unless it was bestowed upon him. Knights were true and loyal to their countries, their ladies and to themselves. The morals of a knight were to be respected and noted. Knights were protectors and held in high acclaim.

Knights no longer existed, however, the adoration of knighthood was not unlikely. Don’s fascination and obsession with knighthood is not without merit. Don Quixote’s view of knighthood, realistic or not, of knighthood was based upon such reasoning. He rode a bony horse named Rosinante. He persuaded a neighbor of his, a poor and ignorant peasant called Sancho Panza to be his squire ( Jarvis, 82). He believed in Don’s fantasies. “Sancho is a symbol of the common man of the Renaissance who is discovering himself and his rights and has begun to assert himself but still continues to look to the nobility for protection” (Church, 15).

Sancho is not as intelligent as Don Quixote. Church states, “Through his suffering as a tortoise and in the pit, Sancho has learned his rightful identity, whereas Don Quixote has emerged from his cave even more deeply entangled in his fantasies of 4 Without informing any one of his intentions, Don rode out of town. He saw how easily he had made a beginning toward the fulfillment of his desire (Church, 64). Don saw in the mirror what the wanted to see based on the romances he loved. He mistook inns for enchanted castles, windmills for giants, and prostitutes for respectable women. Because of his fantasies, Don was ridiculed and beaten.

People laughed at him. He got into trouble when he showed a group of men he had met the picture of his fair lady Dulcinea of Toboso. They called Dulcinea ugly. Don became so angry that he fell from his horse. He could not get up because of the weight of his armor. What is sad about this is that Dulcinea, his lady love, did not want Don. She believed that he was insane. Sancho also thought that Don was not in control of himself. At times Sancho would try to help Don, but Don would not listen. Sancho stayed with Don because he wanted to govern his own island one day.

You While Don and Sancho were in Barcelona, a man came to Barcelona who was called a Knight of the White Moon, he was really a student they had met. “The white moon is a symbol of winter and death in contrast to a yellow harvest moon; the moon also symbolizes lunacy to which Don Quixote has fallen prey and which will at last defeat him” (Grossvogel, 295). The student was a part of the plan to get Don to go home. The student was claiming to be a knight, and he wanted to fight Don Quixote.

He and Don had already fought once and Don Quixote beat him. He challenged Don to a second duel and claimed victory over Don Quixote. The 5 knight did not want to kill Don Quixote, instead, he made a bargain with Don Quixote (Van Doren, 253). The bargain was that Don Quixote was sentenced to go home. The bargain included that Don would return home for a year without Don went home determined to follow a pastoral shepherd life. He became ill, and his health began to weaken. Before he died, he renounced as nonsense the idea of knight-errantry. Don Quixote died after he had regained his senses. “I was mad, but I am sane now” (Jarvis, 279). He did not realize that he had been a great man of Don Quixote is not a story about an insane man who had crazy, impossible dreams and followed them. He set out to conqueror his dreams, and he fulfilled his