Study Guide

Don Quixote Quotes

  • Madness

    Having thus lost his understanding, he unluckily stumbled upon the oddest fancy that ever entered into a madman's brain; for now he thought it convenient and necessary, as well for the increase of his own honour, as the service of the public, to turn knight-errant. (1.1.1.8)

    Don Quixote's descent into madness is by no means gradual. In fact, Cervantes sums it up in this one sentence. An old dude read too many fantasy books and decided that he wanted to start living the fantasy himself. Now there's nothing wrong with living a fantasy if it doesn't put anyone in danger. The only problem is that Don Quixote's fantasy of being a knight involves randomly attacking people and helpless sheep.

    At those words they made a halt to view the unaccountable figure of their opponent; and easily conjecturing, both by his expression and disguise, that the poor gentleman had lost his senses, they were willing to understand the meaning of that strange confession which he would force on them. (1.1.4.4)

    When Don Quixote first hits the road, he soon comes across some strangers and decides what the heck, there must be some sort of adventure about to happen. The people, on the other hand, don't know what to make of Don Quixote and figure right away that he must be a crazy old man. You're going to have to get used to that, because that's the general response Don Quixote will get for the rest of the book.

    All the rest of the company gave great attention to this discourse; and even the very goatherds and shepherds were now fully convinced that Don Quixote's brains were turned topsy-turvy. But Sancho Panca believed every word that dropped from his master's mouth to be truth, as having known him from his cradle to be a man of sincerity. (1.2.5.7).

    On some level, Sancho Panza knows that his master is an eccentric, sometimes foolish man. But at the same time, he has known Don Quixote his whole life and believes him to be a good, rational man. Throughout this book, Sancho sees the Don do some crazy things. But he doesn't think of the Don himself as crazy. There's a difference.

    "Sir," quoth Sancho, "I dare say the knights who did these penances had some reason to be mad; but what need have you to be mad too?" (1.3.11.5)

    When Don Quixote decides to torture himself in the Sierra Morena mountains, Sancho asks him why he would do such a thing. But Don Quixote doesn't seem to need any reason other than the fact that the knights he's read about have done the same thing. As you can imagine, Sancho scratches his head and doesn't really get it. Still, do you think Don Quixote's suffering could be real? Is he just putting on an act, or is this stuff in the mountains a real—if weird—way to deal with unrequited love, even if that love is for someone who doesn't exist?

    There was none of the beholders but was ready to burst into laughter, having a sight of the master's madness and the servant's simplicity. (1.4.3.2)

    As you can imagine, a lot of people in this book have a good laugh at all of Don Quixote's crazy talk. The way he talks to people is kind of like someone today walking up to you and saying that he's Batman.

    The canon stood amazed at Don Quixote's methodical and orderly madness, in describing the adventure of the Knight of the Lake. (1.4.23.2)

    The main phrase to focus on here is "methodical and orderly," because that's what makes it so hard for people to argue with Don Quixote's madness. The guy has read so many adventure books and knows the rules so well that he's basically created an entire belief system that's impenetrable to rational argument.

    He is mad past recovery, but yet he has lucid intervals. (2.1.18.4)

    There are several people in this book who admire Don Quixote during his moments of sanity. And yes, there are more than a few of those moments. It's only when the topic of a conversation turns to adventure books that the Don seems to fall off the rails. What does that tell us about his madness?

    The Duchess was ready to die with laughing at Sancho, whom she thought a more pleasant fool, and a greater madman than his master; and she was not the only person at that time of this opinion. (2.1.32.4).

    The Duchess likes Don Quixote well enough, but she wants to keep Sancho around as if he were a cute dog. The funny thing about Sancho is that he thinks he's sane for seeing all of Don Quixote's faults. But if he can see Don Quixote's craziness, isn't Sancho doubly crazy for staying so loyal to the guy? Or is he unexpectedly wise for doing so?

    Presently a fit of despair seized him: he was stark mad to think on Sancho's remissness and want of charity; the squire having not given himself above five lashes. (2.1.60.1)

    At first, Don Quixote accepts Sancho's right to whip himself whenever he likes in order to break the curse on Dulcinea. But over time, Don Quixote starts to seethe at the fact that Sancho isn't getting around to the job. It's enough to drive a dude crazy.

    But I am apt to believe, Sir Bachelor, that his madness is too firmly fixed for your art to remove, and (Heaven forgive me) I cannot forbear wishing it may be so. (2.1.65.2)

    Don Antonio thinks that Don Quixote's mind is too far gone to be cured, and he's not the only one to hold this opinion. But as we go on to find out, Don Quixote recovers his sanity in the final pages of the book, calling himself a fool for ever thinking that adventure books were historically accurate. So is the point that adventure books are totally bad, or are they just bad if you take them to be truth?

  • Society and Class

    "Pray, sir," cried Vivaldo, "oblige us with an account of her parentage, and the place of her birth, to complete the description." (1.2.5.5)

    When Don Quixote starts telling the world about the beauty of his beloved Dulcinea, the first thing everyone wants to know is where she was born and who her parents are. Because seriously, this information would be more important to someone from 17th-century Spain than any information about whether Dulcinea were a nice or beautiful person.

    "Customs did not come up all at once, but rather started up and were improved by degrees; so thou mayest be the first earl that rode in state with his barber behind him." (1.3.7.8)

    In a private moment, Don Quixote tells Sancho that if he (Sancho) becomes an earl, he'll be free to make up whatever customs he wants, like having his barber travel around with him. After all, once you're rich and powerful, people will start doing whatever you do.

    "[For], as I said, he was a very fine comely young man, and by his speech and behavior we could guess him to be well-born, and a court-like sort of a body." (1.3.9.10)

    The shepherd says that he realized from Cardenio's appearance that Cardenio came from a fine family. He knows this in spite of the fact that Cardenio has been running around attacking shepherds at random. None of this really seems to matter because Cardenio comes from a noble, wealthy family. That in itself makes him respectable.

    "My name is Cardenio, the place of my birth one of the best cities in Andalusia; my descent noble, my parents wealthy." (1.3.10.3)

    As Cardenio introduces himself, he gives the most important information first. He comes from a good city and from noble, wealthy parents. People would no doubt recognize his family's last name if he'd bother to mention it. But what matters is that Cardenio comes from a long line of wealthy people, which automatically makes people respect him.

    Our observers were amazed at the discovery, rightly imagining that such tender feet were not used to trudge in rugged ways, or measure the steps of oxen at the plough, the common employments of people in such apparel. (1.4.1.1)

    When they first see the beautiful Dorotea washing her feet in a mountain spring, the men figure that there's no way that someone with such delicate feet could come from a working-class background. Whoever this is, she clearly hasn't ever plowed a field. And that's because Dorotea has spent her whole life shut up like a nun by her father, who is a wealthy man.

    "I am not the first, thought I to myself, whom marriage has raised to unhoped-for greatness, and whose beauty alone has supplied her want of birth and merit." (1.4.1.5)

    Dorotea tries to explain how her beauty is strong enough to make her think that she could marry a noble lord. After all, she realizes that class means a lot to people in Spain, but every now and then, a woman's sheer beauty can make a man reach beneath his class for the sake of marrying.

    "[But] a young lord, heir to a great estate, and has such a full possession of my heart, that if he does not slight it, it must be his for ever." (1.4.16.2)

    For the first time, Dorotea mentions the man who has broken her heart by rejecting her. This man is none other than Don Fernando, the same guy who betrayed Cardenio. But for all of his poor treatment of Dorotea, Dorotea is still devoted to him, and she no doubt makes excuses for him because of his high social class.

    "If young girls might always choose their own husbands, we should have the best families intermarry with coachmen and grooms; and young heiresses would throw themselves away upon the first young fellows, whose promising outsides and assurance make them set up for fortunes, though all their stock consists in impudence." (2.1.19.1)

    Don Quixote is willing to admit that sometimes people should choose their own spouses. But he doesn't want this to become a widespread thing, or else the upper classes and the lower classes will start mixing too much, which will leave the country with no more well-bred people, just a bunch of mutts. It's interesting, though, that what Don Quixote is worried about isn't so much interbreeding in itself but the lack of education and refinement he thinks this will cause.

    "[If] my government happens to last four days to an end, it shall go hard but I will clear the island of those swarms of Dons that must needs be as troublesome as so many flesh-flies." (2.1.45.4)

    Sancho Panza has no time for people running around with fancy titles like "Don" in front of their names. He says that if it were up to him, he'd do away with these kinds of titles and make it so that everyone was treated equally. To people from 17th-century Spain, though, this sounds like too radical of an idea.

    "The case then is, noble sir, that, though you see me sitting in this chair, in the middle of Arragon, in the habit of an insignificant, unhappy duenna, I am of Asturias de Oviedo, and one of the best families in that province" (2.1.48.3).

    When Doña Rodriguez sits next to Don Quixote's bed, she opens her speech by telling him that while she might work as a servant, she comes from a very noble family. Her ancestry is supposed to tell Don Quixote that she is descended from a noble family, regardless of what her current occupation might suggest. In this case and many others, people of noble descent always make sure that this is the first thing they mention about themselves. Here we see, also, that the relationship between nobility and money is complicated. Money in and of itself isn't enough to make a person noble or respected, but a nobleperson without money, like Doña Rodriguez, is still forced into servitude. Being a duenna is nothing like being a lowly rank-and-file servant, but it's still not that great.

  • Mortality

    Let death then quickly be my cure. / When thus we ills unknown endure, / 'Tis shortest to despair. (1.3.9.5)

    When Don Quixote and Sancho first encounter Cardenio's notebook, they find a poem in it in which Cardenio says he wants to die because he has lost the love of his life. The poem, though, doesn't make death sound like a noble decision as much as an easy decision. Basically, it says that death is a shortcut for dealing with pain.

    "Just such a comedy," said Don Quixote, "is acted on the great stage of the world, where some play the emperors, others the prelates, and, in short, all the parts can be brought into a dramatic piece; till death, which is the great catastrophe, and end of the action, strips the actors of all their marks of distinction, and levels their quality in the grave." (2.1.12.1)

    In a poetic moment, Don Quixote says that al of life is just one big stage where people perform their roles. (Sound familiar?) But when people die, he adds, these roles are forgotten, because everyone is equal in death. It's a bit different from some of our modern ideas, where we might think people are equal at birth. But yeah, for Don Quixote, people are equal in death.

    "He pays me very well, he has given me three colts, and I am so very true and trusty to him, that nothing but death can part us." (2.1.33.3)

    When it comes time for Sancho to profess his loyalty to Don Quixote, he says that only death will be able to separate him from his master. And these words are accurate, because in the end, it really is only Don Quixote's death that separates them.

    "Death, put on some kind disguise,/ And at once my heart surprise;/ For 'tis such a curse to live,/ And so great a bliss to die." (2.1.38.9)

    The Countess of Trifaldi tells a heart-wrenching story about a young man using music to convince a young lady to have sex with him. Now, when it comes to pledging your love, there's nothing better than saying you'd rather die than live without someone. In the world of love poetry, death is kind of like a trump card. If you have to live without the person you love, you can just say, "Well, I'd rather die," and poof, you've gone as far as anyone can go. In this novel, we often get these equations: love=life, not love=death.

    "[And] fearing more to live than to die, I am resolved almost to starve myself; though to die with hunger be the most cruel of all deaths" (2.1.59.1)

    After getting trampled by a bunch of bulls, Don Quixote starts to lose confidence in his abilities as a knight. He decides that the only way to save his honor is to starve himself to death, since killing yourself in the most painful possible way is the only way to make up for doing something shameful with your life… apparently.

    "There is only one thing, which somebody once put into my head, that I dislike in sleep; it is, that it resembles death." (2.1.68.2)

    Sancho loves to get himself a good night's sleep. Apart from food, in fact, there might not be anything he likes more. The only thing he doesn't really like about it is that being asleep is very similar to being dead. Hmm.

    "Thus life each moment makes me die, / And if death itself new life can give' / I hopeless and tormented lie, / And neither truly die nor live." (2.1.68.4)

    As the novel draws to a close, Don Quixote begins to worry that he'll never see the beautiful face of his fair Dulcinea. The only way he knows how to vent his bad feelings is to recite a poem he has written about love and death. But in this poem, instead of dying outright, he lives in a sort of zombie state between life and death: he can't bring himself to commit suicide, yet he can't live a full life without his lover.

    As all human things, especially the lives of men, are transitory, their very beginnings being but steps to their dissolution; so Don Quixote, who was no way exempted from the common fate, was snatched away by death. (2.1.74.1)

    Just like that, Don Quixote dies. It doesn't take all that long, either, and there isn't a whole lot of ceremony around it. But as the narrator tells us, all of our lives are transitory, and we're all going to die someday. There's no one who can escape this fate, which basically means that in the eyes of death, we're all the same.

    "The body of a knight lives here, / So brave, that to his latest breath/ Immortal glory was his care,/ And makes him triumph over death." (2.1.74.17)

    Don Quixote's epitaph (the message on his tombstone) makes it sound as if the guy has achieved a victory over death by living such a glorious life. And to be sure, we're still reading about him hundreds of years later. (On the other hand, Don Quixote was never a real guy, but maybe that isn't the point.) Don Quixote's tombstone raises some interesting questions about whether being remembered in history counts as beating death.

    I beseech thee advise him likewise to let the wearied, mouldering bones of Don Quixote rest quiet in the earth that covers them. (2.1.74.20)

    By the end of the book, Cervantes gives us one very good reason for killing off Don Quixote: he doesn't want a bunch of posers writing future stories about the Don. Cervantes already had to deal with a guy who wrote a phony sequel to Don Quixote, Part 1, which makes him very committed to making sure that everyone knows Don Quixote is dead, plain and simple. So, when you get right down to it, is Don Quixote dead because he got old or because Cervantes didn't want any Don Quixote fan fic?

  • Gender

    "[Her] courteousness and fair looks draw on everybody to love her; but then her dogged stubborn coyness breaks their hearts, and makes them ready to hang themselves." (1.2.4.6)

    The beautiful shepherdess Marcela has a way of making men love her. But she doesn't have a way of loving them back. According to men, this makes Marcela the cruelest person in the world, because they seem to think that if a man loves a woman, she should have to love him back. Most men in this novel do not seem very concerned about the opposite situation.

    "We are all mightily at a loss to know what will be the end of all this pride and coyness, who shall be the happy man that shall at last tame her and bring her to his lure." (1.2.4.6)

    The shepherds assume that Marcela is blowing smoke when she says that she never wants to marry anyone. In their minds, every woman needs and wants to get married and have babies. So for them, it's just a matter of when and whom Marcela will choose to marry.

    "By the Mass, she is a notable, strong-built, sizable, sturdy, manly lass, and one that will keep her chin out of the mire, I warrant her." (1.3.11.10)

    When Sancho finally figures out that Dulcinea is actually Aldonza Lorenzo, he can't understand how Don Quixote would talk about this girl as if she were a delicate princess. As far as Sancho knows, Aldonza is a robust young woman who is good at manual labor. For a poor guy like Sancho, though, having a wife who can do hard work is a good thing.

    "If she yields, I shall, at least, have the satisfaction of finding my opinion of women justified, and not be imposed on by a foolish confidence that abuses most men." (1.4.6.4)

    In the "Story of the Curious Impertinent," the dude named Anselmo decides that he wants to test how loyal his wife is to him. So he gets his handsome friend, Lothario, to hit on her. Of course, Anselmo assumes that only his wife could betray him. He never considers the possibility that his friend would snog his wife behind his back, because his friend is an honorable man. But by trusting men and not women, Anselmo seals his own fate, as Lothario starts seeing his wife behind his back.

    He began with the powerful battery of the praise of her beauty, which being directly pointed on the weakest part of woman, her vanity, with the greatest ease and facility in the world makes a breach as great as a lover would desire. (1.4.7.2)

    According to the author of "The Curious Impertinent," the weakest part of a woman is her pride, which means that any man can seduce a woman by complimenting her on her beauty. This, of course, neglects the fact that vanity might also be the easiest way to charm a man, too.

    "But the cause is plain; thou art a female, and therefore never canst be quiet: curse on thy freakish humours, and all theirs whom thou so much resembleth." (1.4.23.3)

    It might sound as if the speaker of this line is being mean to a woman, but he's actually talking to a female goat. The speaker, you see, is a goatherd whose girlfriend betrayed him once. So you know what that means: all women everywhere are bad, as far as he's concerned. Even lady goats. Like many characters in this book, the goatherd has a generalization problem.

    "I take another course, I think a better, I am sure an easier, which is to say all the ill things I can of women's levity, inconstancy, their broken vows and vain deceitful promises, their fondness of show and disregard of merit." (1.4.24.2)

    As the goatherd rambles on, he notes that the thing he dislikes most about women is how superficial they are, especially when it comes to choosing men. Again, though, he seems to ignore the fact that EVERY SINGLE TIME a man falls in love with a woman in this book, it's because of her physical beauty. Sure, physical beauty is often linked to refinement and good character in these people's eyes, but we're still calling a spade a spade here.

    "However, I tell you again, even follow your own inventions; you men will be masters, and we poor women are born to bear the clog of obedience, though our husbands have no more sense than a cuckoo." (2.1.5.3)

    Teresa Panza isn't some delicate little flower. She's totally willing to stand up to her husband and tell him he's acting like an idiot. This seems to be connected to the fact that the Panza family is lower class, and women in this context tend to help the men with all the manual work. They're on somewhat more equal footing with the men. But at the same time, Teresa curses her fate as a woman because she ultimately has to accept whatever Sancho decides to do.

    "If you take an unchaste partner to your bed, it is hard mending her; for the extremes of vice and virtue are so great in a woman, and their points so far asunder, that it is very improbable, I will not say impossible, they should ever be reconciled." (2.1.22.1)

    Here's some straight-up misogyny, courtesy of Don Quixote. The Don is giving advice to a guy who's just married a young lady, and he basically tells him to make sure that his wife is good and virtuous, because if she isn't, there's no way to change her. This is the whole you can't change a man speech, except it's directed at women.

    "If thou sendest for thy wife […] she ought to take of her husband's good-fortune, teach her, instruct her, polish her as best thou canst, till her native rusticity is refined to handsomer behavior; for often an ill-bred wife throws down all that a good and discreet husband can build up." (2.1.42.16)

    When Sancho finds out that he's actually going to be the governor of an island, Don Quixote advises him to send for his wife and "polish" her. In other words, try to get her to speak more properly and to respect her husband. The behavior Don Quixote expects from women changes drastically depending on whether the woman is in a poor or wealthy position.

  • Loyalty

    This chimera disturbed him, as if it had been a real truth; so that he began to be mightily perplexed, reflecting on the danger to which his honour was exposed. But at last his virtue overcame the powerful temptation. (1.3.1.4)

    While staying at an inn, Don Quixote thinks that a woman is sneaking into his bed to tempt him into having sex with her. But he is so loyal to his Dulcinea that he resists. The truth is that the woman is actually trying to sneak into someone else's bed, but you still have to give Don Quixote kudos for resisting.

    [Sancho] was very uneasy at hearing that knights-errant were out of fashion, and books of chivalry full of nothing but folly and fiction; he resolved, however (in spite of all their contempt of chivalry) still to stick by his master. (1.4.5.3)

    At several times in this book, Sancho suspects that his master might be eccentric. But nonetheless, Sancho has made a commitment to stand by Don Quixote through thick and thin, and it's a passage like this that reminds us of his loyalty.

    "[And] if, as I am confident she will, she be able to resist so agreeable a temptation, I shall think myself the most happy man in the world." (1.4.6.4)

    When Anselmo asks his buddy Lothario to try to seduce his wife, he thinks he'll be the happiest man in the world when his wife proves her loyalty to him. The problem, though, is that when his wife says no to Lothario, Anselmo thinks that Lothario just isn't trying hard enough. So there's basically no way Anselmo will ever be satisfied about his wife's loyalty. It could be that loyalty is something you just can't test. It proves itself naturally, on its own.

    "[A] child may persuade him it is night at noonday, and he is so simple, that I cannot help loving him with all my heart and soul, and cannot leave him in spite of all his follies." (2.1.13.2)

    In this comment, Sancho reveals that he knows full well that his master is half-crazy. But for all that, he swears that he will stand by him. Whether he swears this because he still thinks he can make money off the crazy old man is yet to be seen. The point here is that Sancho sticks with his master even after he's got evidence that the old Don isn't running on all four burners.

    "He pays me very well, he has given me three colts, and I am so very true and trusty to him, that nothing but death can part us." (2.1.33.3)

    Sancho again affirms his loyalty to Don Quixote. But in this case, he includes Don Quixote's gift of three horses as part of the reason behind his loyalty. Usually, you might not think of loyalty as something that can be bought. But Sancho thinks of it as something that can be both bought and earned through love.

    "The divine Tobosan, fair/ Dulcinea, claims me whole;/ Nothing can her image tear; 'Tis one substance with my soul." (2.1.46.2)

    Whenever he is tempted sexually, Don Quixote shows his loyalty to his beloved Dulcinea. It's an admirable way to behave, but especially admirable when you consider that Dulcinea doesn't even exist. Is it ever worthwhile to be loyal to an ideal, even if there's no hope for any kind of real reward? Would Don Quixote be better off or happier if he, ahem, got around a bit more?

    "Whoever says that Don Quixote de la Mancha has forgot, or can forget, Dulcinea del Toboso, I will make him know with equal arms that he departs wholly from the truth; for the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso cannot be forgotten." (2.1.59.5)

    Don Quixote is sickened to overhear two men talking about the fake sequel of Don Quixote, which claims that Don Quixote fell out of love with Dulcinea del Toboso. This angers the Don so much that he offers to fight anyone who would say such a terrible thing.

    "I am positively convinced […] nor shall any man in the world ever persuade me to the contrary; and he is a blockhead who says, that great villain Mr Elisabat never lay with Queen Madasima." (1.3.10.7)

    Cardenio has been betrayed by the woman he loves most—Lucinda. So you can see why the guy would be bitter toward classic stories that talk about women's virtue and loyalty toward their lovers. In this case, he cites a classic instance from an adventure story and says that the virtuous female character was definitely cheating on her husband. This would seem to show that fiction and reality don't match up—though we should keep in mind that Lucinda turns out to be faithful, after all, and she and Cardenio live, as far as we know, happily ever after.

    "Thou hast nothing to do with my poor beast [Dapple], without whom I cannot enjoy a moment's ease." (1.4.3.4)

    Loyalty doesn't only exist between humans in this book. Sancho feels a loyalty toward his donkey Dapple that may be stronger than his loyalty to Don Quixote. Whenever Dapple runs into danger, Sancho worries about him as though Dapple were Sancho's favorite child.

    "Now I can never so much esteem her, who owes her virtue merely to fear or want of opportunity for being false, as I would one who victoriously surmounts all the assaults of a vigorous and watchful lover." (1.4.6.4)

    Anselmo values his wife's sexual loyalty more than anything. But he feels that loyalty that has never been tested isn't really worth much. That's why he hatches a plan to tempt his wife as much as possible. It's only by proving her loyalty in the face of seduction that the woman will be able to satisfy Anselmo. This doesn't play out well for him. Why do you think that is? Do you think Anselmo's wife would have been loyal if her husband hadn't sent Lothario to seduce her?

  • Race

    "I must only acquaint the reader, that if any objection is to be made as to the veracity of this, it is only that the author is an Arabian, and those of that country are not a little addicted to lying." (1.2.1.2)

    Cervantes decides to make the narrator of Don Quixote a Moor named Cid Hamet Benengeli. It's an interesting choice because Cervantes claims on several occasions that Moors are liars by nature. Isn't it strange for him say racist things about Moors but then make his narrator a Moor? He might do this because he wants to introduce a little uncertainty into the story of Don Quixote by making the narrator a foreigner. Or is he undermining racist stereotypes by making his readers accept a story told by a Moor? After all, he is writing, theoretically, from a "Moorish" perspective here.

    "I say for her," replied the fellow, "and what is more, it is reported, he has ordered, by his will, they should bury him in the fields like any heathen Moor." (1.2.4.1)

    When a shepherd states in his will that he wants to be buried like a Moor, it causes quite a scandal. For starters, the Christian religious officials don't want to respect the guy's dying wish, because according to Christianity, you need to be buried a specific way if you want to get to heaven. For a Christian to ask for a Moorish burial might suggest that the dude was really, really upset when he died. Does it suggest anything else? Why include this detail at all?

    But yet it grieved him, to think his master's dominions were to be in the land of the negroes, and that, consequently, the people, over whom he was to be governor, were all to be black. (1.4.2.2)

    Sancho Panza is really pumped that Don Quixote will have a chance to make him the ruler of a kingdom. He's disappointed, though, by the thought that this kingdom is in Africa and that the people he'll rule over will be black. Is this racism, xenophobia, or both? Why would Sancho rather rule over white people?

    "[But] pray, sir, take care that you reserve some part near the seaside for me; that, if the air does not agree with me, I may transport my black slaves, make my profit of them, and go live somewhere else." (1.4.4.3)

    We like Sancho, but we've got to admit that no one in the novel talks as negatively about black people as he does. Not only that, but he figures that if he's going to be the governor of a country of black people, he'll make the most of it by selling many of them as slaves. Cervantes is almost certainly sending up this kind of uneducated, profit-oriented thinking about people of African origin. It's likely that many (or even most) Spanish peasants had this kind of attitude about African people. Does Sancho ever rise above this kind of thinking? Does this change the way you view him as a character?

    "A nation [the Moors] from whom no truth could be expected, they all being given to impose on others with lies and fabulous stories." (2.1.3.1)

    Once again, Cervantes wants to let us know that the African people are a bunch of liars and exaggerators. You can't expect any truth from them. It's possible that Cervantes is still feeling sore about the successful Moorish invasion of Spain back in 711. It's also possible that Cervantes is making fun of this kind of attitude, just as he makes fun of everything else. What do you think? How serious do you think Cervantes is? How does this change the way you read the novel?

    "I firmly believe whatever our holy Roman Catholic Church believes, and I hate the Jews mortally." (2.1.8.2)

    For some reason, Sancho thinks that saying he hates Jewish people makes him a better Christian. Believe it or not, he makes this comment in the middle of a speech in which he tries to argue that he's a good person. As you can imagine, anti-Semitism was pretty rampant in Spain back in 1605. Sancho's train of thought here is absurd, and Cervantes makes sure to make it even more absurd by placing it in a context where Sancho is trying to prove he's a good guy. Frankly, he's probably saying exactly the kinds of things he hears the village priest saying, but does that make it any better?

    "Thou art a very simple fellow, Sancho," answered Don Quixote. "Thou must know that Heaven gave to Spain this mighty champion of the Red-cross for its patron and protector, especially in the desperate engagements which the Spaniards had with the Moors." (2.1.58.4)

    Whenever Spanish people start feeling divided, all they have to do is mention the Moors, and suddenly they're all on the same side again. Part of you wants to say, "Get over it, guys. The Moors invaded you a thousand years ago." But the fact that Africa is just across the Strait of Gibraltar never seems to sit well with the Spanish, who are always on guard against their Moorish "enemies."

    "In vain I professed myself a Christian, being really one, and not such a secret Mahometan as too many of us were" (2.1.63.9).

    Ana Félix is of African, Moorish descent. But in order to make Spanish people comfortable, she promises she's a Christian and not a secret Muslim. She even goes so far as to say that "too many" of the Moors are secret Muslims. In other words, she's selling out her race for the sake of fitting in with the white Christians.

    "In my opinion, you are not unlike the Moors, who are incapable of being convinced of the error of their religion, by Scripture, speculative reasons, or those drawn immediately from the articles of our faith." (1.4.6.5)

    Those pesky Moors just won't convert to Christianity, no matter how much people try to convince them with perfectly rational arguments. (If you can't tell, we're being sarcastic here.) Back in the 1500s, and 1600s, the Spanish had some pretty brutal ways of dealing with people who spoke out against the Christian church. Ever heard of a charming little thing called the Spanish Inquisition?

    "The ladies, being all surprised at the oddness of the Moorish dress, had the curiosity to flock about the stranger." (1.4.10.5)

    On the bright side, not everyone in this book is a total racist. When a woman in Moorish clothing visits an inn, for example, the women at that inn are more curious about her clothing than they are suspicious of her race. In fact, a white guy known only as "the captain" plans on marrying this Moorish woman—which makes sense, considering how she saved him from a life of slavery by giving him the money to buy his freedom. Looks like things aren't so black-and-white (pun totally intended), after all.

  • Manipulation

    There was none of the beholders but was ready to burst into laughter, having a sight of the master's madness and the servant's simplicity. (1.4.3.2)

    When they meet Don Quixote, people can't believe how easy it is to trick the guy, as long as they stay within the boundaries of knight adventures stories. What's even more amazing, though, is that Don Quixote's madness is actually reinforced by Sancho Panza's gullibility.

    It happened that the management of this affair was committed to a steward of the Duke's, a man of facetious humour, and who had not only wit to start a pleasant design, but discretion to carry it on. (2.1.44.3)

    There is no one in this book who likes messing with Don Quixote more than the Duke. And when it comes to messing with Sancho Panza, the Duke actually assigns one of his most trusted servants to oversee the project. In other words, the Duke wants to manipulate both Don Quixote and Sancho, even though he can't be in two places at once. That's one efficient prankster. Why is he so into pranking? Is he just bored?

    These letters were admired, and caused a great deal of laughter and diversion. (2.1.52.15)

    The Duke and Duchess like to intercept the letters that Sancho Panza and his wife Teresa send back and forth to one another. They get a real kick out of seeing how two illiterate country bumpkins try to grapple with the fact that Sancho has now suddenly become the governor of an island. This, of course, is all a giant scheme orchestrated by the Duke and Duchess, and it's pretty mean for them to take such pleasure in the ignorance of others. What's even stranger about all of this, of course, is that Sancho is a pretty good governor. In a way, the joke's on the Duke and Duchess. Maybe Sancho and his wife seem funny to them, but there's way more to the Panzas than they realize.

    [The] Duke and Duchess were within a hair's breadth of being thought fools themselves, for taking so much pains to make sport with the weakness of two poor silly wretches. (2.1.70.3)

    At this point, even Cervantes seems to have had enough of the Duke and Duchess's pranks. He calls them out for being downright jerks and suggests that they might be just as crazy as Don Quixote is for taking so much pleasure in tricking others. But hey, Dukes and Duchesses don't have to work, so they probably get really bored sitting around all day. Hey, by the way: how much are we readers like the Duke and Duchess? How many hours have we spent laughing at Don Quixote and his misadventures? Is there a difference?

    "In that equipage […] we will go to Don Quixote, and feigning myself to be a distressed damsel, I will beg a boon of him, which he, as a valorous knight-errant, will not fail to promise me," (1.3.12.6)

    The curate and the barber from Don Quixote's village feel like the only way to help their friend is to get him home to bed, but they don't want to drag him forcefully. So they figure that the best way to get him home is to trick him with a phony quest. This kind of manipulation doesn't seem as mean as other types in the book because the curate and barber honestly want what's best for their friend.

    "'Tis Fate's decree that Sancho, thy good squire / On his bare brawny buttocks should bestow / Three thousand lashes, and eke three hundred more." (2.1.35.1)

    As the second half of the novel unfolds, it seems that every one of the Duke and Duchess's pranks involves Sancho Panza getting hurt in some way. The most hilarious of these pranks, though, has to be Merlin's command that Sancho Panza take 3,300 lashes on the bum to lift the curse on Don Quixote's beloved Dulcinea. Why do these people keep wanting to put Sancho in pain's way? Is it funny?

    He was about four-and-twenty years of age, round-visaged, flat-nosed, and wide-mouthed, all signs of a malicious disposition, and of one that would delight in nothing more than in making sport for himself, by ridiculing others. (2.1.3.2)

    This is our introduction to university grad Sansón Carrasco. We hear that based on his physical appearance, you can tell that he's a jerk who takes pleasure in ridiculing others. This description sets him up to be one of the meanest people in the text. But by the end of the book, the guy actually seems kind of nice. That doesn't change the fact, though, that it was on his instigation that Don Quixote ventured out on a second quest for adventures.

    [F]alling on his knees before him, "Admit me to kiss you honour's hand," cried he, "most noble Don Quixote; for, by the habit of St Peter […] you are certainly one of the most renowned knights-errant that ever was." (2.1.3.2)

    Sansón Carrasco can lay it on pretty thick when he's manipulating Don Quixote. Some of it even makes you want to cringe. Worse yet, he doesn't indulge Don Quixote's fantasies for good reasons, like the curate and barber do. He does it purely because he likes making fun of the old man.

    The voice answered in the same key, "Thou and they wife, two of thy friends, and two of hers, a famous knight called Don Quixote de la Mancha, and his squire, Sancho Panca by name." (2.1.62.8)

    The dude named Don Antonio has this weird metal head in his library that can apparently talk on its own and tell people all about themselves. The thing is, though, that it's just an illusion created by Don Antonio for his own amusement. What's up with all these pranks? Why is everyone trying to trick everyone else?

    The knight being mounted, they pinned to his back, without his knowledge, a piece of parchment, with these words written in large letters: "This is Don Quixote de la Mancha." (2.1.62.5)

    Don Antonio is nice to Don Quixote. But that doesn't change the fact that he's just as willing as anyone else to have a good laugh at Don Quixote's expense. When he trots Don Quixote through the streets of Barcelona, for example, he pins a message to Don Quixote's back without Don Quixote even knowing it. This, of course, makes Don Quixote a big joke to everyone he passes.

  • Violence

    Don Quixote […] once more dropped his target, lifted up his lance, and then let if fall so heavily on the fellow's pate, that, without damaging his lance, he broke the carrier's head in three or four places. (1.1.3.2)

    Let's not mince words here. Don Quixote just cracked a guy's skull in three or four places. That means that this dude is either going to die or suffer serious brain damage. And this is just one of the first people Don Quixote meets in this book. The book does a good job of telling us what the injury is. But it never follows up on how this poor guy fares after Don Quixote moves on. For all we know, he's dead. Now, this kind of violence happens all the time in stories of knight-errantry, and the consequences rarely matter there, since the stories are all about the heroes. Do you think Cervantes is making fun of that tradition?

    With that, he caught the youngster by the arm, and tied him again to the tree; where he handled him so unmercifully, that scarce any signs of life were left in him. (1.1.4.2)

    Maybe the Spanish were de-sensitized to violence because of all the wars and torture that were already going on in Spain when Cervantes wrote this book. But the book can still be gory, as we find in this passage, where a middle-aged man ties a young boy to a tree and whips him until the kid is nearly dead.

    "[He] so belaboured Don Quixote's sides with one of [the wooden pieces] that, in spite of his arms, he thrashed him like a wheat-sheaf." (1.1.4.5)

    One thing that makes it tough to get a read on violence in this book is that Cervantes often uses similes and other figures of speech to mask or make light of scenes of violence. In this case, he makes it easier to hear about Don Quixote's beating by comparing his body to a wheat sheaf.

    [And] therefore taking it in mighty dudgeon, he up with his fist, and hit the enamoured knight such a swinging blow on the jaws, that his face was all over blood in a moment." (1.3.1.5)

    This is one of the first times Don Quixote gets his face bloodied in this book, but it definitely isn't the last. In Part 1 especially, Don Quixote spends the majority of his career as a knight getting absolutely annihilated by the people he tries to fight.

    "Fear nothing, Sancho," said he, "there is no danger at all: for what thou feelest in the dark are certainly the feet and legs of some banditti and robbers, that have been hanged upon those trees." (2.1.60.2)

    We arrive at one of the most violent parts of the book when Sancho backs up into a tree and suddenly realizes that there are dozens of dead people hanging above him by the neck. Don Quixote doesn't think it's a big deal, which just goes to show you how death was something that people must have confronted on a daily basis in 16th- and 17th-century Spain. This kind of violence is also pretty common in stories of knight-errantry, so maybe Don Quixote ignores it for that reason, too.

    "I fired at him, not only with this piece, but with both my pistols, and, as I believe, shot him through the body, thus with his heart's blood washing away the stains of my honour." (2.1.60.6)

    The young lady Claudia feels that her lover Vicente has betrayed her by marrying another woman. So what does she do? She grabs two pistols and shoots the guy through the heart. We'll just go ahead and say that she overreacted on that one. Is this kind of violence different from the other kinds of violence we see in the novel?

    Claudia pressed his hand, and being pierced at once to the very heart, dropped on his bloody breast into a swoon, and Don Vincente fainted away into a deadly trance. (2.1.60.8)

    Uh oh. It turns out that Vicente didn't betray Claudia after all, and he never had any intention of marrying anyone but her. It's a shame that Claudia blew his heart out with a pistol before asking him to explain himself. But let that just be a lesson to everyone: ask questions first; shoot later. We'd also like to point out that this story shows how dangerous the pranks and manipulation we see in every chapter of the novel can really be. It's all fun and games until someone gets shot through the heart. Any of these stories could have ended in tragedy if people had reacted differently.

    One of the banditti overhearing him, cocked his gun, and would certainly have shot him through the head, had not the captain commanded him to hold. (2.1.60.11)

    The text of Don Quixote has some ups and downs when it comes to the subject of violence. The two most violent parts are definitely the first half of Part 1 and the second half of Part 2. In this scene, Don Quixote and Sancho run into some robbers, and one of the robbers cocks a pistol right at Sancho's head, ready to blow his brains out. These robbers are some truly nasty dudes.

    The wretch spoke so low, but he was overheard by Roque, who, whipping out his sword, with one stroke almost cleft his skull in two. (2.1.60.15)

    At first glance, Roque seems like a Robin Hood figure. He's a thief, for sure, but he's very generous with the money he steals. But don't let that fool you. The second that one of his men questions him, he buries his sword in the guy's skull.

    "'Tis Fate's decree that Sancho, thy good squire / On his bare brawny buttocks should bestow / Three thousand lashes, and eke three hundred more." (2.1.35.1)

    Even the pranks in this book are violent. The Duke and Duchess, for example, convince Don Quixote that the only way to lift a curse on his beloved Dulcinea is for Sancho to take 3,300 lashes on his bum. Mind you, if Sancho ever actually agreed to this, there'd be nothing left of his bum by the time he was finished. Ten lashes would be severe, but 3,300 would probably kill the guy.