Don Quixote Book summary

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Overview

About

Don Quixote consists of two volumes, the first volume was published by Cervantes in 1605 while the second volume was published a decade later in 1615, a year before the author’s death. In the duration between the two volumes, another author created a spurious sequel that caused Cervantes to bring out his own sequel. The author addresses the fake book in the second volume and invalidates it by having his characters dismiss its contents. Don Quixote was originally written with the intention of parodying the works of chivalry that had been extremely popular at the time, but rather than being the end of the trend of chivalry, Don Quixote started its own literary tradition. Scholars agree that Don Quixote is the first modern novel of the world, given the book's exploration of social norms, and the manner in which the characters in the book change and adapt due to their experiences.

BOOK COVER

Plot Summary

Alonso Quixana is a middle-aged Spanish gentleman who becomes obsessed with chivalry books that detail the adventures of knights-errant. He decides to set out as a knight-errant begins collecting the paraphernalia of a knight. He renames himself as Don Quixote de la Mancha and also renames a farmer’s daughter he had once loved as Lady Dulcinea Del Toboso since he believes that all knights need to commend their ladies before accomplishing feats of bravery. He sets out on his thin horse, Rocinante, and rides around in armor on the hottest day of the year. He begins to inhabit an imaginary world and sees a castle when he should see an inn, and highborn ladies when he should see prostitutes. Don Quixote has himself knighted by the innkeeper who realizes that the man is mad, as he injures several muleteers when they interrupt the ceremonies of knighthood. Don Quixote begins to return home with the intent of securing a squire for himself but finds himself thrashed quite soundly by a group of merchants after he accosts them with a ridiculous challenge.

Don Quixote is carried home by a neighbor and causes his loved ones a lot of worries. The priest and barber from his village, who are his close friends, decide to help him by burning his chivalry books hoping that this would alleviate his madness. Don Quixote recovers and secretly departs with his new squire, Sancho Panza, a farm laborer who agrees to work with the knight as he promises him that squires are often granted the governorships of islands. The knight and squire have several misadventures on their journey, and it begins with Don Quixote tilting at windmills, with the belief that they are giants that have been transformed by the same enchanters who had stolen his library. Don Quixote attempts to lead a life of chivalry, but his noble actions bring about disastrous results as the real world fails to keep up with the ideals of chivalry. Sancho and Don Quixote receive several thrashings in their journey; as the knight attacks friars thinking they are enchanters, attacks herds of sheep believing them to be armies, and sets free a group of convicts who thank the duo by pelting stones at them.

Don Quixote is inspired to do penance for his unrequited love by the hapless Cardenio, a noble youth who is betrayed by his close friend. Don Quixote despatches Sancho with a letter for lady Dulcinea but the squire forgets to carry it and encounters the priest and the barber on his way. They convince him to lie to his master and contrive a false quest to return him to the village. Don Quixote is taken by the ruse that the priest sets up with the help of Dorotea, the spurned wife of Cardenio’s friend, Don Fernando. Don Quixote sleeps off at the inn on their return journey as Cardenio is reunited with Luscinda, and Don Fernando takes Dorotea as his wife. Don Quixote is conducted to his village trapped in a cage under the pretense of being enchanted.

In the second part, Don Quixote learns that the history of his second sally has been set down by a Moorish historian called Cide Hamete Benengeli. He learns that his tale of adventure has been loved by readers of all kinds from Sanson Carrasco, a graduate of Salamanca university. Don Quixote recovers for a month and returns to the life of a knight errant with his worthy squire Sancho Panza. The knight turns his horse towards the village of Lady Dulcinea but fails to find her there. Sancho Panza convinces his master that the beautiful lady has been transformed into a rustic peasant woman by the enchanters. They then encounter the knight of spangles who challenges Don Quixote to a joust. Don Quixote defeats the knight of spangles, and the historian reveals that the knight of spangles was actually Sanson, the graduate, who had conspired with the priest and barber to defeat Don Quixote so as to make him give up the life of a knight.

Don Quixote and Sancho are welcomed into the palace of the Duke and Duchess, who have read of the knight’s through his books. The royal pair contrive several hoaxes for their guests' madness and even grant Sancho the temporary governorship of an ‘island’. Sancho is surprisingly competent at adjudicating disputes due to the knowledge he has gained from his master but decides to give up the position after a pretended invasion of his island. Sancho returns to his master’s side and discovers that the knight has been called to truly aid one of the duke’s employees. The knight and squire leave the hospitality of the castle once they believe they have aided the duenna, who had sought their help. The knight makes his way to Saragossa, but during his journey, he learns of a false history that has been written about his third sally. The knight decides to invalidate that book by making his way to Barcelona instead of Saragossa and is aided by the noble highway robber, Captain Roque.

In Barcelona, Don Quixote fights the knight of the moon, who defeats him and compels him to swear an oath of retirement from chivalry for a whole year. Sancho takes charge of his defeated master and escorts him back to the village, however, they are once more conducted to the duke and duchess upon their return journey. Don Quixote becomes despondent upon returning to his village and soon passes away after regaining his sanity. The historian concludes Don Quixote’s tales of adventures with the claim that he had written them down to display the tragedy of the individuals that led a life of chivalry.

  • Author(s)

    Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  • Publication date

    1605 & 1615

  • Language

    Spanish

  • Classification

    Comedy, Romance, Adventure

  • Pages

    1336

Keywords

Chivalry, Quixotic

Publisher

Francisco de Robles

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