Study Guide

Don Quixote Gender

By Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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.