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In Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's Don Quixote, Sancho Panza and Dulcinea can be seen to symbolize different aspects of the world of idealized love.
Sancho Panza is a common man who turns to the ideals of chivalry: he knows the way of knights and their code. He has admirable principles. Regarding Dulcinea, Panza might also be seen as the embodiment of man's unrealistic attitudes toward love. Sancho Panza does not have a true relationship with Dulcinea (she barely appears in the story), but she serves as a romanticized figure that motivates him to attempt great feats as a knight.
Unfortunately, Panza, who becomes Don Quixote, is not always grounded in reality—often times imagining things that to do not exist. His journey is not based upon truth, but upon a world that he envisions...and acts upon.
Dulcinea, in terms of "chivalry," seems to be, at least to Don Quixote, the "perfect" woman. From his viewpoint as a "knight," she becomes the focus of his attention—the woman in whose honor he is driven to achieve great things.
eNotes.com states that Dulcinea:
remains the ideal of womanhood in Don Quixote's mind
In light of this, Dulcinea can represent all that is idealized by a man in a woman, but she is not a real person. She is the result of unrealistic perceptions thrust upon her. She is lifted up and venerated—however, realistically, she could never achieve the levels of perfection that Don Quixote might imbue her with.
The concept of chivalry was a civilizing force: it guided the actions of knights, encouraging them to dedicate themselves to a woman through sacrifice, service and/or love (as well as religion).
With the moral strivings of a true knight, Don Quixote goes beyond improving himself—beyond striving to be a noble servant of a idealized lady. Although it seems at one point in the story that he might be able to re-establish a grip on reality, ultimately Panza's delusions, and those around him that take advantage of his precarious mental state, lead to his death. Dulcinea represents a mythological creature that exists only in Quixote's mind.
To place a religious reading on the text would enlighten the roles for these chracters in another way.
During the actual time period, as mentioned in the novel, their enemies were the Turks, who would not adapt Christianity, which was recently stamping out pagan beliefs and literature.
If teh novel were a rough blending of the Classical Romantic world being over-taken by the Christian one, then the hero would perhaps slip up in moments.
Don Quixote is caught up in the Christian world of worship, that will accept no other lifestyle, but to honor God and serve to right the wrongs of the world. Priests will pray, and DQ will act.
Dulcinea could represent the worship of the Virgin Mary, which is also in idealization, not physical. He will serve her faithfully, with no thought for reward, and seeks her strength to overcome.
Sancho could be a mortal part of his conscience that is fear, doubt, and a connection to worldly materials. When DQ would have no thought for food, shelter, safety, or money, Sancho was already in stress for those exact needs.
This would just be another way to interpret the reading. Of course it could delve much further, but it does open up some understandings.
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