Don Quixote

Don Quixote

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Don Quixote Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Miguel de Cervantes
Cervantes was born to a poor household in a small town near Madrid. His father was a surgeon and a barber, and his mother was descended from disgraced noblemen. Some scholars believe that he studied at university in Salamanca or Seville. As a young man he moved to Rome, where he immersed himself in Renaissance art and literature. In his early thirties, he enlisted in the Spanish navy; he spent five years as a soldier and then five more years as a captive and slave in Algiers. He returned to Spain, married a younger woman, and lived a roaming and impoverished life; he was often bankrupt and served several prison sentences. Cervantes began publishing fiction and plays in 1585, but he only found literary and financial success with the publication of Don Quixote in 1605. He died in Madrid a decade later, soon after the publication of the second part of the history.
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Historical Context of Don Quixote
In the second part of the novel, religious tensions come to play a significant role in the plot. After the 1492 conquest of Granada, Spain had become a Christian nation. Edicts passed in 1492 and 1501 forced Spanish Muslims and Jews either to leave the country or to convert to Christianity, and these conversions were brutally policed during the Spanish Inquisition. Muslims who converted to Christianity were known as Moriscos; they were often persecuted and repressed, and they revolted against the crown several times during the 16th century. In 1609, King Phillip the III decreed the Expulsion of the Moriscos, and hundreds of thousands of Moriscos were forced to flee the country.
Other Books Related to Don Quixote
Don Quixote looks backward to a tradition of chivalry romances, and it looks forward to the modern novel. Chivalry romances were a popular form of narrative in medieval and Renaissance culture. They usually follow heroic knights who embark on dangerous adventures in honor of the women they love. Cervantes both continues this tradition and satirizes it. He often references famous exemplary works like Amadis of Gaul and Orlando Furioso, both to emphasize their distortions of reality and to honor their romantic, noble values. Though Cervantes locates himself at the end of one tradition, others have located him as the beginning of another: many scholars consider Don Quixote to be the first modern novel. Several features earn the novel this title: its multiple perspectives, intertwining subplots, mixture of low and high styles, and self-commentary and self-awareness. Don Quixote has influenced a very wide range of writers – from comedic writers like Laurence Sterne, to philosophically-inclined writers like Fyodor Dostoevky, Franz Kafka, and Jorge Luis Borges.
Key Facts about Don Quixote
  • Full Title: The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha
  • When Written: The two parts were written during the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century.
  • Where Written: The first part was written in various locations in Spain; the second part was written in Madrid.
  • When Published: 1605; 1615
  • Literary Period: Spanish Golden Age
  • Genre: Novel
  • Setting: Spain, at the beginning of the 17th century.
  • Climax: Part I has an early climax: Quixote’s battle with the windmills. In Part II, the climax takes place either during Quixote’s real defeat at the hands of the Knight of the White Moon, or during his imaginative defeat, when he fails to see a castle in place of an inn.
  • Antagonist: The priest, the barber, and Sansón Carrasco.
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient, first person.
Extra Credit for Don Quixote

The real Don Quixote? Cervantes’ wife’s uncle was named Alonso de Quesada. Some consider him to be the inspiration for Don Quixote.

Just like Shakes. Cervantes died on April 23, 1616, the same calendar day as Shakespeare.