this sagacious knight at the inn Friday, Jun 8 2007 

Once again we meet with other characters who have illusions. Though DQ is regarded as having lost his wits for his, so many other characters accept their own illusions for reality.

In explaining to the landlady of the inn what has befallen them, Sancho says

“…I was so infected, by seeing my master tumble, that my whole body akes as much as if I had been cudgelled without mercy.”

That a squire might suffer with his knight such sympathetic wounds is not questioned by anyone. Indeed, the landlady’s daughter confirms the illusion:

“That may very easily happen, cried the daughter! I myself have often dreamed that I was falling from a high tower, without ever coming to the ground; and upon waking, have felt myself bruised and battered, as if I had actually got a great fall.”

There is nothing in the text to suggest the daughter might be suffer from sleepwalking. She and the others at the inn believe that dreams are reality, in that one may receive actual physical wounds from them.

DQ has encountered several other characters, all of whom have their own illusions, but see them as reality, and are accepted by others as reality. DQ is the only one who is laughed at and thought to have lost his wits. Why? The point may be that everyone has their own version of reality which is as valid as anyone else’s. Still, why is DQ signled out as mad? Is this meant to suggest that a mad character in a mad world is the only sane one? All the other characters seem to suffer for their illusions, and though DQ suffers as well, he has not yet characterised his sufferings as such, or felt himself a victim. Is there a message that one should always have a positive outlook on life?

We are eager to read the “sequel of those incredible grievances”.


I tried that once in college, but I only lasted a couple hours Thursday, Jun 7 2007 

From Chapter 8 of the Edith Grossman translation:

Don Quixote did not wish to eat breakfast because, as has been stated, he meant to live on sweet memories.

Yup: I laughed out loud.

certain unmerciful Yanguesians Wednesday, Jun 6 2007 

We find in this chapter several interesting passages which in no way together form a central thesis of this post.

One: DQ and SP ride into the woods and find respite in a verdant oasis. In this same valley, a drove of Gallician fillies are feeding not far from our hero’s convenient spot. Rozinante

seized with an inclination to solace himself with some of those skittish females, no sooner had them in the wind, than deviating from his natural disposition and accustomed deliberation, without asking leave of his lord and master, he went off at a small trot, to communicate his occasions to the objects of his desire.

So it seems that the emotions of love and desire which grip the shepherds are the same as those suffered by DQ’s horse. And the same misperception of reality which characterizes DQ also characterizes his horse.

Two: When DQ suggests that SP fight against anyone who is not a knight, Sancho replies,

“Sir, I am a quiet, meek, peaceable man, and can digest any injury, be it never so hard; for, I have a wife and small children to maintain and bring up: wherefore, let me also apprize, (tho’ I cannot lay my commands upon your worship) that I will in no shape whatever, use my sword against either knight or knave; and that henceforward, in the fight of God, I forgive all injuries, past, present, or to come, which I have already received, at this present time suffer, or may hereafter undergo, from any person whatsoever, high or low, rich or poor, gentle or simple, without exception to rank or circumstance.”

Liberally sprinkling his speech with qualifying clauses, Sancho sounds just like a lawyer.

Three: After they have been thrashed by the unmerciful Yanguesian carriers, DQ decides they must seek out a castle where they can rest and recuperate. Rozinante, however, has been equally thrashed, and so DQ finds in the tale of Silenus entering Thebes upon an ass the legitamacy for his riding Sancho’s ass. This gives Sancho his first opportunity to display his sparkling and biting wit:

“It may be very true, that he rode upon an ass, replied Sancho, but, there is some difference, I apprehend, between riding and lying across the beast like a bag of dirt.”

fierce basilisk of these mountains Wednesday, Jun 6 2007 

When we finished reading Marcella’s defense, a magnificent speech on beauty and love, we had to return to the beginning of Vol.I, 2:4 and reread in full the story of Marcella. It is told quite thoroughly by the goatherd, with all necessary background, and then later the specifics are addressed individually and in detail by Marcella herself with almost no difference from the goatherd’s account. She makes plain Chrysostom’s folly.

We enjoyed the description of the dead shepherd’s malady:

“Chrysostom was woundily in love.”

What is Marcella’s crime?

“for, her affability and beauty allures all the hearts of those that converse with her to serve and love her; but, her coyness and plain-dealing drives them even to the borders of despair; therefore, they know not what to say, but, upbraid her with cruelty and ingratitude….”

Chrysostom goes into voluntary exile to forget about Marcella, but instead he writes a song of despair, and finds himself

harassed by groundless jealousy and imaginary fears, which tormented him as much as if they had been real….

He is lionized by his fellow shepherds for all this; yet when DQ describes his vision of chivalry and mission of knight-errantry, these same shepherds think he has lost his wits. Clearly Chrysostom’s and all the shepherds’ confusion of reality and imagination are no different than DQ’s.

Finally, to address an earlier comment in which Sylvia wrote that in DQ’s pursuit of Marcella,

I have no doubt that his intentions were no more honourable than those of the “shepherds.”

We do not find any evidence that DQ’s devotion to Dulcinea has lapsed, either when told about Marcella, or when she appears. After he hears about her, and before the funeral of Chrysostom, DQ

spent the greatest part of the night in thinking of his lady Dulcinea, in imitation of Marcella’s lovers.

He then spends some time expounding on every knight’s requirement of a mistress. In the midst of this episode, when asked to identify his mistress, DQ states that her name is Dulcinea. At the end of the chapter, DQ goes in pursuit of Marcella, not because he has been beguiled by her beauty and fallen woundily in love, forgotful of Dulcinea, but because he

thought this a proper occasion for exercizing his chivalry, in defence of distressed damsels….

This is entirely consistent with his normal mindset, and does not seem at all to suggest that he has been allured to serve and love her like the shepherds.

The democracy of Don Quixote Tuesday, Jun 5 2007 

Here is an interesting article about Don Quixote and the state of the novel. Spoiler Alert: Don’t read the article until you’ve finished DQ. (But you can read my excerpts…)

The article by Jonathan Ree begins:

In or around 1605, European literature changed. No one realised it at the time, but when Don Quixote set off to save the world, a new kind of writing was born. The old forms of storytelling—the epic, the romance, the oral tale—would from now on be pitted against a boisterous young rival. Before long it would be universally acknowledged that a reader hoping to enjoy a good story must be in search of a novel.

Ree provides a pithy overview of the cultural relevance of the novel — and essay — (vis a vis politics), quoting several recent books, among them, Milan Kundera’s The Curtain, which refers to Cervantes and Don Quixote:

By inventing a narrator through whose consciousness such dumb events could be worked up into an affecting “scene,” Cervantes created a form of literature that could do justice to “modest sentiments”; and so a new kind of beauty—Kundera calls it “prosaic beauty”—was born. Henry Fielding took the technique further when he created a narrator who could charm his readers with benign loquacity, and Laurence Sterne completed the development by blithely allowing the story of Tristram Shandy to be ruined by the character trying to recount it.

The article concludes:

The novel, (Mario Vargas Llosa) thinks, articulates a basic human desire—the desire to be “many people, as many as it would take to assuage the burning desires that possess us.” Alternatively, it stands for a basic human right—the right not to be the same as oneself, let alone the same as other people. And the defiant history of democracy began not in politics but in literature, when Cervantes first tackled “the problem of the narrator,” or the question of who gets to tell the story. No doubt about it: Don Quixote is “a 21st-century novel.”End of the article

Introducing Myself Thursday, May 31 2007 

So I thought that I’d just introduce myself to this particular blog group. I’m in my fourth year of English Literature Studies. My gf who is also an English major recently chastised me for not having read this particular part of the English Literary Canon so I am rectifying that and I stumbled upon this particular blog via relation to Work in Progress.  I have as yet only read the introduction and I am currently on my way to finishing the first two chapters. I shall start posting my thoughts and any related questions soon enough. Hope to have some nice conversations with you all, cheers.

the sun and mirrour of Manchegan chivalry Tuesday, May 29 2007 

The author/narrator doesn’t seem to believe that Don Quixote is mad. In Chapter One of Book Two he explains how the conclusion to the combat between Don Quixote and the gallant Biscayan was missing from his source material, and he states,

…it seemed impossible, and contrary to every laudable custom, that such an excellent knight should be unprovided with some sage to undertake the history of his unheard-of exploits….

He goes further in his praise, while expressing his desire to know the complete history of Don Quixote,

the first who in this our age, and these degenerate times, undertook the toil and exercise of errantry and arms, to redress grievances, support the widow, and protect those damsels who stroll about with whip and palfrey, from hill to hill, and from dale to dale, on the strength of their virginity alone; …that for these and many other considerations, our gallant Don Quixote merits incessant and immortal praise….

So who exactly is this narrator, perhaps three times removed from the actual events? Is he meant to be Cervantes himself? And is he being facetious, or does he know a truth about Don Quixote which all the other characters in the book fail to recognise or understand?

After Don Quixote fells the gallant Biscayan, and the ladies of the coach beg for mercy, he demands that the Biscayan

“…go strait to Toboso, and present himself, in my behalf, before the unparalelled Donna Dulcinea, that she may use him according to her good pleasure.”

I will be interested to find out, first, if any of those he vanquishes actually do go to present themselves before Dulcinea, and, second, what happens when all these folks are running around looking for some Dulcinea del Toboso who doesn’t exist.

the dreadful and inconceivable adventure of the wind-mills Tuesday, May 29 2007 

The first adventure Don Quixote meets with after enlisting Sancho Panza is with the wind-mills on the plain. The knight recognises them as outrageous giants. The squire politely tries to explain that what is before them are innocent wind-mills, not giants.

“It seems very plain, said the knight, that you are but a novice in adventures….”

Adventures require imagination. Sancho would seem to lack such qualities, though he can easily imagine himself as the governor of an island. So is Don Quixote gripped by madness here? He is certainly possessed, but besides discounting Sancho’s opinion that his intended opponents were wind-mills, he also would not

use the intelligence of his own eyes, tho’ he was very near them….

What other adventures are there to be had if one does not use one’s imagination? Don Quixote attacks, and the first miscreant breaks his lance and overthrows him. Sancho tries to say “I told you so.” But for Don Quixote there is always a logical explanation:

“the affairs of war, are more than anything, subject to change. How much more so, as I believe, nay, am certain, that the sage Freston, who stole my closet and books, has converted those giants into mills, in order to rob me of the honour of their overthrow;”

and always a reason to be positive:

“but, in the end, all his treacherous arts will but little avail against the vigour of my sword.”

The chapter ends oddly, in self-reference, in the middle of another adventure. It is continued in the next chapter of the second book. Does anyone know how this was originally published, all together or in installments? Installments would explain the cliffhanger ending of Book One. Otherwise, why break one adventure into two chapters? Why not end one chapter with the adventure of the wind-mills, and begin a new chapter with the next adventure complete?

The Shepherdess and her Sheep Monday, May 28 2007 

“I was born free, and in order to live free I chose the solitude of the countryside.”

I loved the chapters in Don Quixote about Marcela the “shepherdess” and all the heart-broken “shepherds” who chased her in vain. Then, as now, people couldn’t believe that a woman, especially a beautiful woman, would choose a life of her own instead of marriage. Judging by the fools who wooed her, I’m not in the least surprised at her choice! These well-to-do, supposedly intelligent men, students at university at Salamanca, traded their academic’s robes for shepherd’s clothes as soon as they caught sight of Marcela tending her flock. Were they were attracted more by her beauty or her wealth? Certainly they felt entitled to a shot at both, and were deeply offended (apparently to the point of death for one of them) when she refused them all. If she is such a prize, she must be won by someone, right? No, she insisted on belonging only to herself, and this threw the social order into disorder and madness, bringing much opprobrium upon herself as a result.

If you read my last post on mimetic desire you probably picked up on that dynamic here. First Grisóstomo imitates Marcela by dressing as a shepherd. But what sets him off? He begins to desire after inheriting the second-largest estate in the vicinity—Marcela’s is the only one larger. He must marry her if he wants to be top dog, so he gives chase. All the other bachelors no doubt see that by wooing Marcela they can overleap Grisóstomo in status, so they imitate him with enthusiasm. The chances that any of them really care or desire Marcela for herself are minute, and she seems to know it.  She has no intention of becoming a trophy wife and greatly prefers “the solitude of the countryside” and “the honest conversation of the shepherdesses” to the finery and flattery of society. The fact that the spurned “shepherds” malign her completes the mimetic triangle—the struggle between rivals often ends in the destruction of the object of desire, which reveals the false nature of that desire. Though the shepherds don’t threaten Marcela physically, they do their best to destroy her reputation and go so far as to accuse her of murder.

The comic finale to the section is when Don Quixote threatens anyone who would dare to follow her, and then proceeds to follow her himself, supposedly to offer his assistance to that damsel in distress. As I read in later chapters, his devotion to Dulcinea can lapse at convenient moments, so I have no doubt that his intentions were no more honourable than those of the “shepherds.” (There is much that could be said on the topic of virtue in this book.) Luckily Marcela manages to give him the slip, and Don Quixote’s “adventures” continue, as before, with another bruising.

we who are called the twelve peers of France Sunday, May 27 2007 

Chapter Seven furthers the plans of the curate and barber to “cure” Don Quixote:

Another remedy which the curate and barber prescribed for the distemper of their friend, was to alter and block up the closet where his books had been kept; that, upon his getting up, he should not find them, and the cause being taken away, the effect might cease….

After his first sally, Don Quixote was in great need of rest. He remains in bed for two days, and of course the first thing he does when he gets up is go to visit his books. He can not find the room, and asks his house-keeper, who was instructed by the curate and barber to reply:

“There are neither books nor closet in this house; for the devil himself has run away with both.” “It was not the devil, cried the neice, but, an inchanter that conveyed himself hither in a cloud, one night after your worship’s departure, and alighting from a dragon on which he was mounted, entered the closet, where I know not what he did, but having staid a very little while, he came flying thro’ the roof, leaving the whole house full of smoke.”

Perhaps some dear reader will be able to explain to me how they intend to cure Don Quixote of his delusions by feeding them? The plan backfires, as Don Quixote responds in the manner that he will conduct himself through the rest of the novel:

“The case then is plain, said the knight, that same sage inchanter is one of my greatest enemies, who bears me a grudge… and for this reason, he endeavours to give me every mortification in his power….”

Nothing will stand in his way, and no defeat or setback will be viewed as such.

As further part of their attempt to bring Don Quixote to reason, the curate and barber converse with him for several days, as a result of which

he observed that the world was in want of nothing so much as of knights-errant, and that in him this honourable order was revived.

In every way, both spiritual and secular, the world is wanting. Who, then, is mad: those who are content, or those who would remedy the situation? Is it madness to want to help others, to do good, even to win glory for the woman one loves? After Don Quixote enlists Sancho Panza as his squire, the chapter ends with his advice to the poor simpleton peasant that wonderfully captures the knight’s bright outlook and high expectations:

“…let not thy soul be so far debased, as to content itself with any thing less than a vice-royalty.”

He is saying one should follow one’s dreams, never compromise one’s principles, and never be satisfied with second-best. Isn’t this the same advice the self-help experts dole out, the same advice, in a hopeful moment when the future appears infinite with possibilities, we give our children today?

« Previous PageNext Page »