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Don Quixote

Don Quixote (or Don Quijote) de la Mancha is a novel by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes. It is generally considered to be the first novel and the best book in Spanish. Originally written in Spanish, the story has been translated to many languages, including English. The adjective "quixotic," meaning "idealistic and impractical," derives from his name, and the expression "tilting at windmills" comes from his story.

Don Quixote is knighted by an inn-keeper
The novel Don Quixote actually consists of two parts: the first was published in 1605 and the second in 1615 (a year before the author's death). In 1614, between the first and second parts, a fake Don Quixote sequel was published by somebody using the pen-name Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda[?]. For this reason, Part II contains several references to an imposter, and Part II ends with the death of Don Quixote (so no imposter could experiment with Cervantes' character).

Cervantes tells that the first chapters come from the "chronicles of La Mancha", and the rest was translated by a morisco from the original Arabic author Cide Hamete Benengeli ("Mr. Hamid Eggplant"). This and other narrative resources parody the knight genre.

The plot covers the journeys and adventures of Don Quixote and his squire, Sancho Panza. Don Quixote is an ordinary Spaniard (an Hidalgo, the lowest rank of the Spanish nobility) who is obsessed with stories of errant knights (libros de caballerías[?]). His friends and family think him crazy when he decides to become a knight errant himself, and to wander Spain on his thin horse Rocinante, righting wrongs and protecting the oppressed.

Don Quixote is visibly crazy to most people. He believes ordinary inns to be enchanted castles, and their peasant girls to be beautiful princesses. He mistakes windmills for oppressive giants sent by evil enchanters. He imagines a neighboring peasant to be Dulcinea del Toboso[?], the beautiful maiden to whom he has pledged love and fidelity.

Sancho Panza, his simple squire, believes his master to be a bit crazy, but both master and squire undergo complex change and development throughout the story, and each character takes on attributes of the other as the novel goes on. At the end of the second book, Quixote decides that his actions have been madness and returns home to die. Sancho begs him not to give up, suggesting that they take on the roles of pastors, who were commonly heroes of pastoral poems and stories.

Master and squire have numerous adventures, often causing more harm than good in spite of their noble intentions. They meet criminals sent to the galleys, and are victims of an ellaborate prank by a pair of Dukes.

Many Americans may be more familiar with the musical Man of la Mancha than with the book itself. If they read the book, they would be in for some surprises: for example Dulcinea, or Aldonza Lorenzo, one of the main characters of the play, is never seen in the book. In the novel, she is constantly invoked by Don Quixote as his lady, but never appears, allowing his hyperbolic statements of her beauty and virtue to go untested.

The autonomous community of Castile-La Mancha exploits the fame of Cervantes' novel to promote tourism in the region. A number of sites in La Mancha are linked to the novel, including windmills and an inn upon which events of the story are thought to have been based.

External Links

e-texts of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's

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