CERVANTES: Don Quixote [Part I]

Written by Miguel de Cervantes, Part One of Don Quixote was published in 1605. The character Don Quixote is obsessed with chivalric novels. He reads so many novels of this genre that he loses his senses and decides to become a knight-errant himself. To aid him in his adventures, he enlists the aid of a peasant named Sancho Panza, who becomes Don Quixote’s faithful squire.

The adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are absurd and comical. For example, Don Quixote imagines that a windmill is an evil giant that must be killed. Don Quixote attacks the windmill and suffers many injuries as a result.

Whereas Don Quixote is idealistic – adhering to the code of chivalry – Sancho Panza is practical – concerning himself with physical pleasures and worldly ambitions. The contrast between the extreme personalities of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza illustrate the faults of being either too practical or too idealistic. Cervantes recommends a balance between the two.

Don Quixote is an example of a man who tries to impose a moral code that is vastly different than the prevailing moral code. The “sane” men who meet Don Quixote consider him “insane” for wishing to “right wrongs, succor the miserable, etc.”

Don Quixote, like Captain Ahab of Melville’s Moby Dick, illustrates the dangers of a monomaniacal obsession.

“’Scarce had the rubicund Apollo spread o’er the face of the broad spacious earth the golden threads of his bright hair, scarce had the little birds of painted plumage attuned their notes to hail with dulcet and mellifluous harmony the coming of the rosy Dawn, that, deserting the soft couch of her jealous spouse, was appearing to mortals at the gates and balconies of the Manchegan horizon, when the renowned knight Don Quixote of La Mancha, quitting the lazy down, mounted his celebrated steed Rocinante and began to traverse the ancient and famous Campo de Montiel.”

“O Princess Dulcinea, lady of this captive heart, a grievous wrong hast thou done me to drive me forth with scorn, and with inexorable obduracy banish me from the presence of thy beauty. O lady, deign to hold in remembrance this heart, thy vassal, that thus in anguish pines for love of thee.”

“So he went on stringing together these and other absurdities, all in the style of those his books had taught him, imitating their language as well as he could; and all the while he rode so slowly and the sun mounted so rapidly and with such fervour that it was enough to melt his brains if he had any.”

“If every sort of beauty excited love and won the heart, the will would wander vaguely to and fro unable to make choice of any; for as there is an infinity of beautiful objects there must be an infinity of inclination.”

“Wounded by the irresistible shafts launched by her bright eyes.”

“There is no recollection which time does not put an end to, and no pain which death does not remove.”

“Fortune always leaves a door open in adversity in order to bring relief to it.”

“All these tempests that fall upon us are signs that fair weather is coming shortly, and that things will go well with us, for it is impossible for good or evil to last for ever; and hence it follows that the evil having lasted long, the good must be now nigh at hand.”

“It happened, then, that as with young men love is for the most part nothing more than appetite, which, as its final object is enjoyment, comes to an end on obtaining it, and that which seemed to be love takes to flight, as it cannot pass the limit fixed by nature, which fixes no limit to true love—what I mean is that after Don Fernando had enjoyed this peasant girl his passion subsided and his eagerness cooled, and if at first he feigned a wish to absent himself in order to cure his love, he was now in reality anxious to go to avoid keeping his promise.”

“The desire which harasses me is that of knowing whether my wife Camilla is as good and as perfect as I think her to be; and I cannot satisfy myself of the truth on this point except by testing her in such a way that the trial may prove the purity of her virtue as the fire proves that of gold; because I am persuaded, my friend, that a woman is virtuous only in proportion as she is or is not tempted; and that she alone is strong who does not yield to the promises, gifts, tears, and importunities of earnest lovers; for what thanks does a woman deserve for being good if no one urges her to be bad, and what wonder is it that she is reserved and circumspect to whom no opportunity is given of going wrong and who knows she has a husband that will take her life the first time he detects her in an impropriety? I do not therefore hold her who is virtuous through fear or want of opportunity in the same estimation as her who comes out of temptation and trial with a crown of victory.”

“Happy the blest ages that knew not the dread fury of those devilish engines of artillery, whose inventor I am persuaded is in hell receiving the reward of his diabolical invention, by which he made it easy for a base and cowardly arm to take the life of a gallant gentleman; and that, when he knows not how or whence, in the height of the ardour and enthusiasm that fire and animate brave hearts, there should come some random bullet, discharged perhaps by one who fled in terror at the flash when he fired off his accursed machine, which in an instant puts an end to the projects and cuts off the life of one who deserved to live for ages to come.”

“There is no happiness on earth to compare with recovering lost liberty.”

“Let him suffer and hold his tongue who attempts more than his strength allows him to do.”

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