Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

First published 10/30/2018; last updated 7/5/2020.

Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes

First Publication: 1605 (Part 1), 1615 (Part 2)

Category: novel/satire/social commentary

Sales: 500 million


About the Book:

“Neither wholly tragedy nor wholly comedy,” LN Don Quixote has been called the first modern novel. LN It has been translated into English some 20 times” AZ since it first “appeared in two parts in 1605 and 1615.” AZ The book offers “a panoramic view of the 17th-century Spanish society” LN and “has been seen as a veiled attack on the Catholic Church or on the contemporary Spanish politics, or symbolizing the duality of the Spanish character.” LN It was “originally conceived as a comic satire against the chivalric romances. However, Cervantes did not destroy the chivalric ideal of the romances he rejected – he transfigured it.” LN

“Central characters are the elderly, idealistic knight, who sets out on his old horse Rosinante to seek adventure, and the materialistic squire Sancho Panza, who accompanies his master from failure to another. Their relationship, although they argue most fiercely, is ultimately founded upon mutual respect. In the debates they gradually take on some of each other's attributes.” LN

“During his travels, Don Quixote’s overexcited imagination blinds him to reality: he thinks windmills to be giants, flocks of sheep to be armies, and galley-slaves to be oppressed gentlemen. Sancho is named governor of the isle of Barataria, a mock title, and Don Quixote is bested in a duel with the Knight of the White Moon, in reality a student of his acquaintance in disguise. Don Quixote is passionately devoted to his own imaginative creation, the beautiful Dulcinea…The hero returns to La Mancha, and only at his deathbed Don Quixote confesses the folly of his past adventures.” LN

Check out a 2017 movie version here:

Resources and Related Links:

In July 2018, I became the organizer of the Classic Novels Book Club. Check out the Book Club tab here or Meetup for more information. This is our September/October 2018 book.
Questions About Don Quixote:
  1. Don Quixote is often called the first modern novel. Do you agree? Why or why not?

  2. Why do you think this is, according to most estimates, the best-selling novel of all-time?

  3. Lionel Trilling once claimed that “All prose fiction is a variation of the theme of Don Quixote: . . . the problem of appearance and reality.” Discuss.

  4. What was Miguel de Cervantes’s purpose for writing Don Quixote? Critics have debated the question of whether Cervantes’s intention in Don Quixote was to ridicule the chivalric romances…Do you think the book repudiates chivalry?

  5. What is the cause of Don Quixote’s possible madness? Is he even mad or, as Italian literary critic Giovanni Papini suggests, not mad at all, but merely pretending to be?

  6. How does Don Quixote’s perception of reality affect other characters’ perceptions of the world? Does his disregard for social convention change the rules of conduct for the other characters?

  7. Why do you think Sancho Panza sticks with Don Quixote throughout his adventures?

  8. Is there a moral center in Don Quixote? If so, which character occupies the center? If not, why would Cervantes leave this space absent?

  9. What attitude does the novel take toward social class? How is social class a factor in relationships between characters?

  10. What is the role of women as depicted in Part 1 of Don Quixote?
  11. Is Quixote a tragic figure, a comic figure, or both?

  12. Is Don Quixote insane or merely eccentric?

  13. Why does Sancho Panzo follow and remain loyal to such a bumbler as Don Quixote?

  14. Does Don Quixote need Sancho Panza?

  15. What is the function of the invention of Cide Hamet Benengali?

  16. What is the significance of Sancho's self-lashing?

  17. What is the significance of Dulcinea del Toboso?

  18. What is the relationship between the intercalated novel of "The Curious Impertinent" and the main body of Don Quixote?

  19. What qualities does Cervantes consider most important in literary art?

  20. Consider whether you prefer Part I or Part II and why.

  21. Discuss some differences in Cervantes' treatment of Part I and Part II.

  22. Was Don Quixote lying when he told what had happened in the Cave of Montesinos?

  23. How is the cave used as a symbolic device in Don Quixote?

  24. What kind of attitude does Cervantes (as a voice in the book) have towards the Moor?

  25. What is the relation between madness or foolishness and wisdom in Don Quixote and Sancho Panza?

  26. Is there any way in which they seem wise or virtuous because of their oddities?

  27. How do you react toward those who use Don Quixote as an object of amusement (the Duke and Duchess, Don Antonio Moreno, etc.)? Is this different from or similar to your reactions to characters who did the same in Part One?

  28. What view of chivalry emerges from Don Quixote as a whole?

  29. Consider Don Quixote’s final repentance. What reaction did you have to it?

  30. Is it a fitting ending?

Sources for Questions:

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