Study Guide

Dorotea in Don Quixote

Dorotea

If Cardenio was our mountain man, then Dorotea is our mountain woman. She's also living in the mountains as a result of love trouble: she's been deceived by the dastardly Don Fernando, who has not only cheated her out of her virginity but has also cheated Cardenio out of a wife.

Dorotea claims that throughout her younger years she "lived the life of a nun" (1.4.1.3). That basically means that she was totally sheltered and didn't have any beaux trying to steal a kiss. In fact, no one ever saw her except servants. But word got out about how beautiful she was, and this eventually got the attention of Don Fernando, he being one of the richest and most powerful young men in the area.

Like Cardenio, all Dorotea wants to do is find "some place where I may pass the rest of my life, secure from the search and inquiry of my parents" (1.4.2.1). Dorotea still loves Don Fernando, despite all of the crummy treatment she has received at his hands. But she won't return to her parents without restoring her honor and marrying the man she's had sex with. But that leads to other problems.

Like Cardenio, she also puts a lot of stake in a person's class, and although she comes from a lower class, her father has made himself very wealthy. She is not from a good enough family to marry Don Fernando, and she "verily believe[s], my not being of noble blood is the chief occasion of my ruin" (1.4.1.3). Again, the class ideas of 17th-century Spain are coming out here. People didn't care how much money or education you had. If you came from a noble family, you were quality; if you didn't, you weren't.

Dorotea shows herself to be a sexually modest and conservative woman. The only reason she had sex with Don Fernando was because one of her servants took a bribe and let Don Fernando into her bedroom. She only consented because she truly believed his promise of marriage. But his betrayal basically spelled her ruin, since sex without marriage in those days was a big no-no, particularly for women.

Ultimately, Dorotea's pledges of love change Don Fernando's mind. She says, "I make my last appeal to your conscience, whose sting will always represent my wrongs fresh to your thoughts, and disturb your joys amidst your greatest pleasures" (1.4.9.1). Her words are so moving and her devotion so unwavering that Don Fernando can't help but love her back. She ends up with him, and Cardenio gets Lucinda, and everything is as it should be, thanks to the undying loyalty of Dorotea.

Now, whether Dorotea and Don Fernando will be happy is another question, and one Cervantes isn't going to answer. Do you think Dorotea's devotion to the guy who seduced her is admirable, or is it kind of problematic? Both? We're reminded a bit of Shakespeare's problem plays from around the same time (for example, Measure for Measure, All's Well That Ends Well, and Troilus and Cressida), where complex problems are tied up in what seem like deliberately artificial or sketchy ways, leaving the issues unresolved.

Do you think Dorotea's story is like this? Are you convinced by the happy ending here? Are there other happy endings in the novel that seem awkward or strange to you?

(Note: Dorotea's name appears in some editions as "Dorothea." Don Fernando's name appears in some editions as "Don Ferdinand.")