For Quixote, gaps between intention and consequence mark the failures of the chivalric way of life. Quixote tries to help others by following the elaborate conventions outlined in chivalry novels, but his efforts often backfire – most obviously in the episode with the shepherd boy, who is beaten even more severely after Quixote intervenes. The first few times Quixote’s efforts backfire, he defends his actions by claiming, in effect, that intention is more important than consequence – that a knight’s duty is to react courageously, not to judge precisely.
But as negative consequences pile up, Quixote begins to alter his reasoning. When he observes that appearances can be deceitful, he acknowledges that a person has a responsibility to look past the traps and illusions of appearance to a more solid foundation of truth. If appearances can be deceitful, then a knight should not act impulsively because someone or something looks sinister – he must dig deeper to identify the most ethical course of action. This is a difficult task, and by the end of the novel it seems to overwhelm Quixote. He despairs to see that each event is a tangled ball of motives and desires, to realize that his chivalry rulebook is not an adequate guide to the world, after all.
Intention and Consequence ThemeTracker
Intention and Consequence Quotes in Don Quixote
And to what can my barren and ill-cultivated mind give birth except the history of a dry, shriveled child, whimsical and full of extravagant fancies that nobody else has ever imagined – a child born, after all, in prison, where every discomfort has its seat and every dismal sound its habitation?
There is no reason why someone with a plebeian name should not be a knight, for every man is the child of his own deeds.
The trouble, my dear Alonzo López BA, arose from your coming, as you did, by night, wearing those surplices, with your torches blazing, praying, and dressed in mourning, looking exactly like something evil from the other world; and so I could not fail to fulfill my obligation to attack you.
…whatever I have done, am doing, and shall do is totally reasonable and in conformity with the rules of chivalry.
It is not the responsibility of knights errant to discover whether the afflicted, the enchained, and the oppressed whom they encounter on the road are reduced to these circumstances and suffer their distress for the vices, or for their virtues: the knight’s sole responsibility is to succor them as people in need, having eyes only for their sufferings, not for their misdeeds.
This peace is the true goal of war.
O pride of your family, honour and glory of all La Mancha and all the world – now that you’ve gone from it, it’ll fill up with evil-doers who won’t be frightened of being punished for their wicked ways! ... O you who were humble to the haughty and haughty to the humble, tackler of dangers, taker of insults, in love without a cause, imitator of the good, scourge of the wicked, enemy of villains – in a word, knight errant, and that says it all!
On my faith as a knight errant… when I saw this cart I imagined that it heralded some great adventure, and now I do declare that appearances must be examined closely to discover the hidden truth.
Nothing that is directed at a virtuous end… can or should be called deception.
My intentions are always directed towards worthy ends, that is to say to do good to all and harm nobody; and whether the man who believes this, puts it into practice and devotes his life to it deserves to be called a fool is something for Your Graces, most excellent Duke and Duchess, to determine.
… and even if everything did turn out the opposite of how I believe it will, no amount of malice will be able to obscure the glory of having undertaken this exploit.
What I can tell you is that there’s no such thing as fortune, and whatever happens in this world, good and bad, does not occur by chance, but by special providence of heaven; and for this reason it is often said that every man is the architect of his own fortune. And I have been the architect of mine, but not with the necessary prudence, and so my presumption has led to disaster.