Themes and Characters
The two most important characters in Cervantes's novel are Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho Panza. The combination of a hero and a sidekick, or two complementary comic or semi-comic figures, recurs frequently in literature and drama. Laurel and Hardy exemplify a more modern version of this tradition. Yet, Cervantes individualizes his two main characters, making them both immediately recognizable and many-sided. Many scholars consider Don Quixote to be the first in-depth character study typical of the modern novel.
The basic relationship between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza is that of master to servant, landowner to peasant. Because of his wealth and education, Don Quixote should play the dominant role in the relationship, but the quick-witted Sancho often demonstrates superior intelligence. Perhaps this explains their stormy relationship. Don Quixote frequently becomes so angry with Sancho that he shouts at him and treats him badly; sometimes Sancho embarrasses his master; and once Don Quixote actually deserts his squire in a dangerous situation. Sancho, for his part, at first accompanies Don Quixote because he expects to make a good deal of money from the venture and because, despite all its hardships, he prefers the life of a wanderer to the monotony of life at home. Before long, he realizes that something must be wrong with Don Quixote's mind, and then he deceives and ridicules him. At times Sancho grows so disillusioned that he almost leaves Don Quixote. In this way, Cervantes shows the variable nature of even the closest human relationships.
At the beginning of the novel, Cervantes depicts Don Quixote as a madman who has brief intervals of lucidity. During those intervals, Don Quixote displays the values typical of an early seventeenth-century Spanish gentleman. But the rest of the time, he fosters ridiculous delusions. For instance, when he...
(The entire section is 767 words.)
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Alonso Quixano is a fifty-year-old man who reads of chivalric tales until he begins to neglect his domestic affairs. Eventually he decides that for his own honor and that of the state, he must revive the profession of the knight-errant. He therefore dons his armor and becomes Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha and Knight of the Rueful Figure. Not happy with the modern world, he takes it upon himself to bring back the golden age of heroism and chivalry.
In the first part of the novel, Don Quixote suffers physical humiliation. In several instances, he is aggressive and rather dangerous. On numerous occasions, he charges into the fray of an adventure, only to come crashing down to earth with his lance in splinters and his body bruised. He is wise in the ways of knight-errantry and his speech on the importance of the scholar is a good example of this.
Resurrected in the second part of the novel, he becomes the gaunt figure towering above the Spanish landscape. Due to the publication of the first part, he had become famous. Unlike his earlier adventures, however, he is gradually regaining his reason. This becomes more obvious as he begins to call an Inn an Inn; in addition, he admits to interpreting reality. "God knows whether Dulcinea exists on earth or not. I contemplate her in her ideal." Don Quixote becomes wiser and less likely to lash out in the fury that surrounded him in part one.
As Don Quixote strives to return to sanity, however,...
(The entire section is 291 words.)
See Master Nicholas
The Captive Captain
See Perez de Viedma
Cardenio is in love with Luscinda, but Don Fernando tricks him into giving her up. After seeing them wed, he hides in a desolate region of mountains. Found by the Curate and Barber, they find the woman wronged by Don Fernando. Together they fetch Don Quixote and return to the Inn, where Cardenio and Luscinda are reunited.
Carrasco is a scholar and historian who informs Don Quixote and Sancho Panza about the book that had been written of their adventures. Carrasco seems to encourage Don Quixote to ride again, but then he becomes the Knight of the Mirrors to convince Don Quixote to return home. When Carrasco is vanquished instead, he tries again as the Knight of the White Moon. This time he is successful and commands Don Quixote to return home for one year. Carrasco, unlike the Barber and Curate, really respects and loves Don Quixote, and worries about the old man's safety. Don Quixote thanks him by making him the executor of his will—a position of trust. Carrasco also writes Don Quixote's epitaph.
See Pedro Perez
Dulcinea del Toboso
See Aldonza Lorenzo
Don Diego de Miranda
Don Diego is a wise gentleman from La Mancha. He is concerned by Don Quixote's madness and is witness to his conquest of the lion. As a man of sense, he represents what Don Quixote would be if he hadn't become obsessed with chivalric tales.
Gines de Pasamonte
Pasamonte is a notorious criminal freed by Don Quixote. He gives Don Quixote no thanks and even knocks his teeth out with a stone. Later, he steals Sancho's ass.
Perez de Viedma
Maria's companion, Perez de Viedma, the Captive Captain, relates the experience of his slavery in Algeria to Don Quixote. His tale is based somewhat on Cervantes's own captivity experience in Algeria.
Dorotea flees to a convent rather than marry Don Fernando. He retrieves her and is escorting her home when they meet Cardenio and Luscinda.
The Duchess is based on Maria Luisa de Aragon, Duchess of Villahermosa. Sancho is her favorite character in the story and she pays much attention to him. At her...
(The entire section is 980 words.)