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The opening scene of Miguel de Cervantes’ novel, Don Quixote, invokes the generic conventions of the mock-epic by replicating traditional epic openings, albeit figured parodically. The prologue emphasizes for us that one important focus of the novel is on the epic genre itself, and that much of the novel will not just be an entertaining story, but a commentary on such works as the Chanson de Roland. Just as a conventional epic opens with the hero donning armour and mounting a horse, so too does Don Quixote, renaming himself and his horse to move completely into his dream of life as it is lived in the epics. Also, as is traditional of epics, he devotes himself to a mistress and sets out to do good deeds in her name. The reader, of course, is informed of how reality at every turn, differs from what Don Quixote believes, and the constant comparison of reality (e. G. the windmills) against the ideals of epic provide both the comedy of the book and the more important theme of the unrealistic nature of heroic epic. Thus the significance of the opening lies in its critique of epic conventions.
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