How does Don Quixote compare to the stereotypical knight?   

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ecofan74 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In terms of how Don Quixote views the world, he exemplifies everything a stereotypical knight should be. He upholds the tenets of chivalry -- courageous, honorable, loyal, and courteous – as fully as he possibly can. He must have a trusty steed and shining armor to serve as a reminder for everyone that he is a knight, a desire for acknowledgement often associated with knights. Fueled by his strict adherence to the chivalric tales on which he bases his behavior, Don Quixote also demonstrates aspects of knighthood that are not necessarily true of the stereotype. True to the stories, Don Quixote does not eat unless asked to do so and he sleeps little, because the knights in the tales he reads are not depicted doing so.

In his actions, however, Don Quixote does not demonstrate other characteristics assumed of a knight. He is somewhat feeble and elderly and his strength seems incompatible with that associated with knights. In addition, he does not perceive the world through the lens of the sixteenth century, the world of which he is physically a part; he sees his world as a medieval world reflected in the novels in which he immerses himself. He jousts with windmills, believing them to be giants; he fights Benedictine monks, believing them to be dark warriors. At every turn, Cervantes confronts Don Quixote with the reality that the world of the chivalric novel has no place in the world in which he finds himself. This is what makes Don Quixote stray farthest from the stereotype. He is not living in a world that can sustain a “stereotypical knight.” The “stereotypical” knight belongs to a knightly world where courtesy and chivalry are not met with the cynicism Don Quixote must face.