Critical Context

Since Cervantes published part 1 of Don Quixote de la Mancha in 1605, the work has been immensely popular. The immediate critical reception of the book was so great that it inspired a spurious sequel by Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda in 1614. Cervantes reacted to this counterfeit sequel by rushing to finish and publish part 2 in 1615, which he concluded with the death of the protagonist so that no other author might ride Cervantes’ coattails to fame. Part 2 begins with a dialogue between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in which they recognize that they are literary characters in part 1. They talk about which of their adventures are the favorites of the readers of Don Quixote de la Mancha. They even discuss how many copies of the novel’s first part have been published and the number of languages into which it has been translated.

The work’s popularity has never waned, and the character of Don Quixote has transcended literature to become a cultural icon, not only in Spain but around the world as well. In La Mancha and other regions of Spain, apocryphal stories of Don Quixote complement the published text. In addition to being the protagonist of the masterpiece of the Spanish literary canon, Don Quixote is the subject of and inspiration for much Spanish folklore.

Because of Cervantes’ masterful combination of subtle characterization and straightforward adventure, Don Quixote de la Mancha appeals to a broad spectrum of audiences. The work continues to be the subject of the most scholarly research, while it also has been adapted to children’s books, animated comics, feature films in several countries, and a Broadway musical.