“Knighthood lies above eternity; it doesn’t live off fame, but rather deeds.” -Dejan Stojanovic (goodreads.com). Don Quixote, written by Miguel De Cervantes, expresses what most of us envision as the opposite of a knight. He published part I in 1605, and during this time period, it was a popular success. The proclaimed purpose of the book was to satirize the romances of chivalry (many authors, 2356). The story is about a middle-aged man who is obsessed with becoming ordained as a knight. He goes on countless adventures, but constantly lets his mind overtake reality. Although his mind is the true reason for his adventures, there are many characters throughout the story that aide him in his fantasies. The three most important characters in the story are: Dulcinea Del Toboso, The Duke and Duchess, and Sancho Panza. Even though these characters helped Don Quixote throughout his journeys, not all of them had his best interests at heart.
Dulcinea Del Toboso is first mentioned in part one chapter one. Don Quixote insists that he must have a mistress to think about as he goes on his adventures.
“Oh, how our good knight reveled in this speech, and more than ever when he came to think of the name that he should give his lady! As the story goes, there was a very good-looking farm girl who lived nearby, with whom he had once been smitten, although it is generally believed that she never knew or suspected it. Her name was Aldonza Lorenzo, and it seemed to him that she was the one upon whom he should bestow the title of mistress of his thoughts” (Cervantes, 2366-2367). Quixote did not like the fact that her name was too harmonious with his, so he decided to change her name to Dulcinea Del Toboso. He felt that this conveyed the suggestion of a princess or a great lady. Quixote often falls asleep thinking of Dulcinea, and she fuels the continuation of his journey. Even though he has an infatuation with Dulcinea, she never makes a true appearance in the story. Only the thought of her is portrayed, but it was enough for Don Quixote to keep pushing forward in his journey towards knightlihood.
The Duke and Duchess, although they are not in this series of stories, are mentioned in the full version of Don Quixote. After doing additional research, they seem to aide in Don Quixote’s ridiculous behaviors many times. They make their appearance in part II, chapter 29. Quixote and Panza run into the two hunting in the woods, and they all travel back to their castle. Don Quixote, seeing that the Duke and Duchess are treating him according to traditions, feels certain that he is a true knight. The Duke and the Duchess indulge Don Quixote’s and Sancho’s fantasies, validating both Don Quixote’s belief that he is a grand knight and Sancho’s belief that he will gain a governorship by being a good right hand man (sparknotes.com). Through their trickery they exhibit their willingness to engage Don Quixote’s madness. Quixote’s imagination turns normal days into fantasies, and by playing along with Don Quixote and Sancho rather than mocking them outright, the Duke and Duchess gain Don Quixote’s and Sancho’s trust. This trust gives them power over Don Quixote and Sancho. So, the Duke and Duchess, although smaller characters in the book, help Quixote on his quest, but do not have his best intentions at heart.
Sancho Panza is by far the most important character in Don Quixote’s quest. He is first mentioned in part I, chapter 7. Don Quixote persuades him to leave his wife and children to be his sidekick on his adventures. “Don Quixote was bringing his powers of persuasion to bear upon a farmer who lived nearby, a good man- if this title may be applied to one who is poor- but with very few wits in his head. Don Quixote told him that he ought to be willing to go, because no telling what adventure might occur which could win them an island, and then the famer would be left to be the governor of it” (Cervantes, 2383). Quixote tells Sancho Panza that if he abandons his family to be his right hand man, he will be rewarded with an island that he will rule; so Panza agrees to go with him. As the two make their journey, Sancho gets a view of Quixote’s insanity: from thinking windmills are giants, to two monks and a carriage carrying a lady and her attendants which Quixote mistakes for enchanters who have captured a princess. Sancho Panza serves as an aide to his master’s madness.
Cervantes contrasts these two men even on the most simplest of levels: Don Quixote is tall, skinny, and deprives himself of many things in his pursuit of noble ideals, while Sancho is short and pudgy and finds happiness in the basic pleasures of food. Sancho is a peaceful laborer who easily leaves his family after Don Quixote promises to make him a governor. Don Quixote’s violent ways confuse Sancho, who consistently warns him of his errors. Sancho eats when he is hungry but accepts Don Quixote’s fasting as a knightly duty. He complains when he is hurt and marvels at his master’s capacity to withstand suffering. Sancho’s perception of Don Quixote aides in our own perception of him, and we identify and sympathize with Sancho because he reacts to Don Quixote the way most people would. Through Sancho, we see Don Quixote as a human being with an oddly admirable yet challenging outlook on life. Panza, although concerned with Quixote’s behavior, continues to follow him in his quest, which fuels Quixote into believing that he is doing his knightly duty.
Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes is an intriguing story with twists and turns in every direction. The plot is thickened by the interesting thoughts that course through Quixote’s brain. These thoughts turn normal situations into fictitious circumstances that Don feels he needs to solve in order to become the knight he truly wants to be. Although his bravery and imagination are admirable, his mannerisms and behaviors leave something to long for. But with the help of Dulcinea, The Duke and Duchess, and Sancho, Don Quixote slowly begins to realize that his misinterpretations do not result in him being a knight. By the end of the story, Don Quixote declares that these things that he saw as truths were the exact opposite.
Cervantes, Miguel. “Don Quixote.” The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. Ed. Martin Puchner, Suzanne Akbari, Wiebke Denecke, Barbara Fuchs, Carlone Levine, Pericles Lewis, and Emily Wilson. 9th ed. New York: W.W Norton & Company, 1984. 2353-2487. Print.
“Character List.” SparkNotes, SparkNotes, www.sparknotes.com/lit/donquixote/characters/.
“Knights Quotes (70 Quotes).” Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/knights.
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