"Cervantes Smiled Spain's Chivalry Away"

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Last Updated on June 3, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 152

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Context: In Canto XIII, Byron's fictitious hero, Juan, has settled in London as ambassador of Catherine the Great of Russia, but, as usual, the plot of the poem is secondary to the digressions (See "All comedies are ended by a marriage"). In Stanza 11, Byron alludes to Cervantes' destruction of the chivalry of Spain as a distinct "harm" which has "led to his land's perdition." Cervantes (1547-1616) was the author of Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605, 1615), a novel which burlesqued the romances of chivalry in vogue in the sixteenth century. The comic adventures of Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho Panza, made the medieval cult of chivalry so ridiculous that it was practically annihilated, not only in Spain, but in other countries of the civilized world. In context, Byron's lines read:

Cervantes smil'd Spain's chivalry away;
A single laugh demolish'd the right arm
Of his own country;–seldom since that day
Has Spain had heroes.

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