Study Guide

Don Quixote Plot Analysis

By Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Plot Analysis

Exposition (Initial Situation)

Setting Out

When we first meet Don Quixote, he's a fairly wealthy older gentleman with a little too much time on his hands. His favorite thing to do with his free time is read adventure books that he takes to be historically accurate. One day, his mind snaps. He decides that he wants to be a knight from one of his books, so he saddles up his horse and goes out in quest of adventure.

His first foray into the world of knighthood goes badly. It's not long before he's totally laid up with injuries and carried back home. Soon after he recovers, though, he gets himself a sidekick named Sancho Panza and sets out again for adventure.

Rising Action (Conflict, Complication)

Steady Diet of Wackiness

The action in this book isn't so much "rising action" as it is a constant barrage of weird antics and crazy violence. But then again, you can't expect a constant build-up of tension from a book that's around a thousand pages in most editions. Don Quixote and Sancho get themselves into all kinds of trouble, but the overall feeling is more like watching episodes of a long-running TV series than watching a single two-hour movie.

Climax (Crisis, Turning Point)

The Bachelor's Revenge

After his first failed attempt to defeat Don Quixote in a duel, the university grad Sansón Carrasco gets himself a new alias (The Knight of the White Moon) and comes back looking for more. He meets Don Quixote on a beach one day and challenges him to a duel, saying that the loser will have to do whatever the winner says. When Sansón finally beats Don Quixote, he forces him to give up being a knight for a whole year. This effectively ends Don Quixote's career as a knight, and the Don is inconsolable afterward.

Falling Action

The Voyage Home

On his way home, Don Quixote runs into a few new adventures, like getting pulled back into the castle of a sadistic Duke and Duchess. But at this point, all of this stuff just seems like filler on the author's part. We all know Don Quixote's career as a knight is over, and that he now dreams of becoming a musical shepherd in his free time. Yeah, you read that right. Musical shepherd.

Resolution (Denouement)

I Got a Fever

Don Quixote isn't home for long before he falls deathly ill with a fever. And no, the only prescription is not more cowbell. It turns out that the only prescription is death, which Don Quixote faces with a ton of class. He regains his sanity and renounces his love for knight adventure books, claiming that his fantastic journeys have all been a colossal waste of time.

In the book's final lines, Cervantes makes sure to tell us that Don Quixote is dead and buried and that there won't be a sequel. Just in case we were wondering.