April 02, 2018
The Culture Behind The Story
Don Quixote is a Spanish originated story written by Miguel de Cervantes and follows the life of La Mancha Alonso Quijano. Although this story was written in 1605, it takes place in 16th century in the countryside of Spain. La Mancha Alonso Quijano is a Spanish man who loves reading, he loved reading so much that it became what he did all the time. And he began to live his life like the stories and books he read.
The main stories Quijano loved reading were the ones that were based on chivalry. “Chivalry is the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice and a readiness to the the weak of needy”. Being that chivalry books was all Quijano read, he began to mold his life around these books. So Quijano decided he going to ride all around Spain fixing all the world’s wrongs. Quijano threw on some old armour that been passed down by older family members, and called it his own armour. He looks at his malnourished horse and decides to rename it “Rocinante” because he thinks it is more intimidating. Quijano also changes his name to “Don Quixote de la Mancha”. And since every great knight has a beautiful companion, Quixote finds the most attractive woman he knows, Aldonza Lorenzo, and claims her as his companion. He still claims her even though she does not know him and he has never spoken a word to her. He even changes her name to “Dulcinea del Toboso”, because he finds that name more appealing. Now that Quixote has a ride, armour, and a companion, he feels like he is a complete knight and goes out riding all around Spain looking to help. While he is looking for help he is gaining a lot of negative attention and gets beat up by a group of salesman who do not like him. So Quixote goes back home to recover from his injuries and when he gets there, all of his books are being burnt by his housekeeper and his priest. They are specifically burning his chivalry books so that maybe he will lose interest in being a knight. But Quixote is not done yet. So he goes and finds a peasant by the name of Sancho Panza, and tells Panza that if he becomes Quixote’s squire, he will give Panza his own kingdom once he becomes rich. Panza agrees so now they ride around the Spanish countryside looking for evil to defeat. Eventually they reach a windmill farm and Quixote starts charging and attacking the windmills. Quixote is so delusional and brain washed by the chivalry code that he thinks the windmills are giants. After traveling all around Spain and getting beat up by many different people, Quixote and Panza go back home. When they return home a college graduate, Samson Carrasco, meets Quixote and is ecstatic because he had read all about Quixote and his adventures and Carrasco believes he can cure Quixote and save him from his chivalry dreams. Quixote and Panza decide to leave home one more time for one last ride to defeat evil, but the outcome never changes and they are not successful. Back home Carrasco devises a plan to get Quixote back home so he can cure him. Carrasco decides to dress up and pretend to be what he calls “The Knight of Mirrors”. This indeed catches Quixote’s attention and draws him back home to battle The Knight of Mirrors. Quixote arrives back home as planned but actually defeats The Knight of Mirrors. Quixote leaves once again. Carrasco now knows how Quixote fights and believes he can defeat Quixote if he fights him again. Carrasco now dresses up as “The Knight of the White Moon”. This again catches Quixotes attention and draws him back home. They battle once again, but this time Carrasco defeats Quixote. Quixote now realizes that he should just hang up the curtain and give up on this chivalry life. Quixote soon gets real sick and after days of sickness he begins to call himself Alonso again, and that the whole chivalry thing was just a phase. Days later Alonso dies a quiet death in bed.
Quixote wanted to be just like the Spanish knights, or caballeros, that came before him. When this story was written in 1605, almost all the caballeros had vanished. The reason for the numbers of caballeros dropping was because Christian Spain had taken their foot of the gas pedal on taking over muslim land. So instead of battling enemies in battles, the caballeros were put in charge of ruling the land that had been conquered by Spain. Also during the time this story was written Spain was in its “Golden Age”, or Siglo de Oro. Siglo de Oro came to a beginning when Isabella and Ferdinand, two Catholic rulers, got married in the late 1400s. This is a key part to why the story, Don Quixote, was written. Queen Isabella was in love with the arts. She loved plays, paintings and adored literature. At the time the Italian Renaissance was at its peak and that inspired Queen Isabella. Isabella had multiple fine arts universities built, and after that Spain saw a blossoming in literature and drama. Many accomplishments of Spanish writers can be found in the Siglo de Oro, including Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”. But literature is not the only thing that blossomed during the Siglo de Oro. Dramas and plays were extremely exceptional at the time too. Lope de Vega is one if Spain’s most famous playwrights and he basically reinvented the way plays were written at the time. His plays were a combination between comedic and tragic styles of playwright. This type of playwright was called “arte nuevo” and inspired a lot of other writers. Although Vega’s type of writing plays appealed to many people, what really drew people’s attention to his plays was that he created his characters around people in his society, and they were not just based off of the wealthy in the society, he included everyone, even the poor. The appeal of theatre grew exponentially and all around Spain theatres sprang up. “The Siglo de Oro plays were successful due to the presentation of stagecraft and storytelling within the context of cultural and social values of the time.” Although it was the Siglo de Oro during Cervantes’ lifetime does not mean life was easy.
Miguel de Cervantes was born on September 29, 1547. He was never in school until he was 21 and he attended a university. But just because he did not attend school until he was a grown man does not mean he was not an intellectual being. Before he attended the university he was an avid reader and loved to write poems. Cervantes soon got tired of school and left Spain for Italy to further his career. A year later Cervantes decided to enlist in the Spanish Infantry. The infantry he enlisted in was stationed in Naples. While he was a soldier, any chance he could familiarize himself with foreign literature, he took the opportunity every time it was offered. His favorite foreign literature to study was that of the Italians. He felt as if they were the most creative with their literature. On his voyage to Navarino his boat was attacked by pirates. Cervantes was held captive by the pirates for a couple of weeks and then was sold into slavery in Algiers. At the time Algiers was the main place to buy Christian slaves in the muslim world.