Don Quixote

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Don Quixote "saves" a boy from his whipping (the story of Andrés). Illustration by Gustave Doré (1863).

Don Quixote is an early novel written by Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. It was originally published in 1605 (part 1) and 1615 (part 2).

Don Quixote is the most influential work of literature to emerge from the Spanish Golden Age and perhaps the entire Spanish literary canon. As a founding work of modern Western literature, it regularly appears at the top of lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published.

Plot summary

'Spoiler warning'


Alonso Quixano, a retired country gentleman in his fifties, lives in an unnamed section of La Mancha with his niece and a housekeeper. He has become obsessed with books of chivalry, and believes their every word to be true, despite the fact that many of the events in them are clearly impossible. Quixano eventually appears to other people to have lost his mind from little sleep and food and because of so much reading. He decides to go out as a knight-errant in search of adventure. He dons an old suit of armor, improvises a makeshift helmet, renames himself "Don Quixote de la Mancha," and names his skinny horse "Rocinante." He designates a neighboring farm girl, Aldonza Lorenzo, as his ladylove, renaming her Dulcinea del Toboso, while she knows nothing about this.

He sets out in the early morning and ends up at an inn, which he believes to be a castle. He asks the innkeeper, whom he takes to be the lord of the castle, to dub him knight. He spends the night holding vigil over his armor, during which he becomes involved in a fight with muleteers who try to remove his armor from the horse trough so that they can water their mules. The innkeeper then "dubs" him knight advising him that he needs a squire, and sends him on his way. Don Quixote battles with traders from Toledo, who "insult" the imaginary Dulcinea, and he also frees a young boy who is tied to a tree by his master because the boy had the audacity to ask his master for the wages the boy had earned but had not yet been paid. Don Quixote is returned to his home by a neighboring peasant, Pedro Crespo.

Back at home, Don Quixote plots an escape. Meanwhile, his niece, the housekeeper, the parish curate, and the local barber secretly burn most of the books of chivalry, and seal up his library pretending that a magician has carried it off. Don Quixote approaches another neighbour, Sancho Panza, and asks him to be his squire, promising him governorship of an island. The rather dull-witted Sancho agrees, and the pair sneak off in the early dawn. It is here that their series of famous adventures begin, starting with Don Quixote's attack on windmills that he believes to be ferocious giants.

Although the first half of the novel is almost completely farcical, the second half is serious and philosophical about the theme of deception. Don Quixote's imaginings are made the butt of outrageously cruel practical jokes. Even Sancho is unintentionally forced to deceive him at one point; trapped into finding Dulcinea, Sancho brings back three peasant girls and tells Quixote that they are Dulcinea and her ladies-in-waiting. When Don Quixote only sees three peasant girls, Sancho pretends that Quixote suffers from a cruel spell which does not permit him to see the truth. Sancho eventually gets his imaginary island governorship and unexpectedly proves to be wise and practical; though this too, ends in disaster. The novel ends with Don Quixote's complete disillusionment, with his melancholic return to sanity and renunciation of chivalry, and finally, his death.

The story of Andrés

Well mayest thou this day call thyself fortunate above all on earth, O Dulcinea del Toboso, fairest of the fair! since it has fallen to thy lot to hold subject and submissive to thy full will and pleasure a knight so renowned as is and will be Don Quixote of La Mancha, who, as all the world knows, yesterday received the order of knighthood, and hath to-day righted the greatest wrong and grievance that ever injustice conceived and cruelty perpetrated: who hath to-day plucked the rod from the hand of yonder ruthless oppressor so wantonly lashing that tender child.
  — Don Quixote, speaking to himself while riding off

This story relates how ineffective Don Quixote was even when he was acting in his best intentions.

In book 1, chapter 4, on the day after Don Quixote became a knight at the inn, he was riding on his horse Rocinante when out of a thicket on his right he suddenly heard feeble cries as of someone in distress. He followed the noise and stepped into the wood. There he saw a mare tied to an oak, and tied to another tree was a boy of about fifteen years of age, stripped half naked, who was being whipped by a man. The man scolded "Your mouth shut and your eyes open!" and the boy cried in pain and promised "I won't do it again, master mine; by God's passion, I won't do it again, and I'll take better care of the flock in future."

The boy's name was Andrés and the man who whipped him was a farmer named John Haldudo the Rich, but Quixote took him to be a knight because he had a horse. In an angry voice, he told the man to stop. Seeing Quixote in full armor and his lance, Haldudo meekly explained, "Sir Knight, this youth that I am chastising is my servant, employed by me to watch a flock of sheep that I have hard by, and he is so careless that I lose one every day, and when I punish him for his carelessness and knavery he says I do it out of niggardliness, to escape paying him the wages I owe him, and before God, and on my soul, he lies."

Don Quixote got furious and threatened to kill the man if he didn't pay the boy his wages and release him at once. Haludo untied the boy and promised to do what Quixote demanded of him. Quixote inquired about the exact amount the man owed the boy. Haldudo said he didn't have the money with him but would pay Andrés when they reached home. Quixote warned him once more that he would kill him if he failed to keep his promise, then he rode off. However as soon as Quixote had come out of sight, Haludo seized Andrés again, tied him up as before and resumed his flogging even harder, with each blow mocking Quixote. Then at last he untied the boy and gave him leave to go, laughing loud at him.

Later, in chapter 30, it is described how Andrés crossed paths with Don Quixote again, and Quixote asked him before a group of travelers to recount the story of how he had saved him from the beating. Andrés related the true outcome of Quixote's intervention. Quixote vows to kill Haldudo, but Andrés assures Quixote that he need not waste his time because he will only cause more harm than good. This enrages Quixote and he chases Andrés down the road, intending to chastise the boy for his insolence. However Andrés easily escapes and Quixote is sorely embarrassed because his reputation has been tarnished.

See also

More information on this topic is available at [ Wikipedia:Don_Quixote ]