Don Quixote

Don Quixote

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Themes and Colors
Truth and Lies Theme Icon
Literature, Realism, and Idealism Theme Icon
Madness and Sanity Theme Icon
Intention and Consequence Theme Icon
Self-Invention, Class Identity, and Social Change Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Don Quixote, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Madness and Sanity Theme Icon

Quixote is considered insane because he “see[s] in his imagination what he didn’t see and what didn’t exist.” He has a set of chivalry-themed hallucinations. But then, they are not quite hallucinations, which by definition occur without any external stimulus. They are distorted perceptions of real objects and events. To see giants instead of windmills is, in a way, just a very peculiar interpretation of large, vaguely threatening objects in motion. And many other instances of Quixote’s madness – his rigid principles, his obsession with knighthood – are also peculiarities. The priest and the barber, who persecute Quixote in the guise of well-wishers trying to restore his sanity, are simply trying to stamp out his unsettling peculiarity. They are conducting a witch-hunt in the timeless manner of narrow-minded people threatened by strangeness.

Quixote’s madness is ambiguous and paradoxical, because he both and does not see; he sees the giants in his imagination, but he does not hallucinate giants in the world outside. His madness consists in his trusting his imagination over his perception, and his imagination is captivated by the values of chivalry books. His madness is a state of thrall to a coherent imagined world. But in the course of his adventures, that world loses its coherence: it is shaken by internal inconsistencies and by the world’s complications and contradictions. When Quixote declares on his deathbed that he is finally sane, he means that the imagined world has lost its grip on him, and he is left with a chilling blankness that cannot sustain him.

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Madness and Sanity ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Madness and Sanity appears in each chapter of Don Quixote. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Madness and Sanity Quotes in Don Quixote

Below you will find the important quotes in Don Quixote related to the theme of Madness and Sanity.
Part 1, Prologue Quotes

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?

Related Characters: Cervantes (speaker)
Part 1, Chapter 1 Quotes

In short, our hidalgo was soon so absorbed in these books that his nights were spent reading from dusk till dawn, and his days from dawn till dusk, until the lack of sleep the excess of reading withered his brain, and he went mad. … The idea that this whole fabric of famous fabrications was real so established itself in his mind that no history in the world was truer for him.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha
Part 1, Chapter 2 Quotes

And since whatever our adventurer thought, saw, or imagined seemed to him to be as it was in the books he’d read, as soon as he saw the inn he took it for a castle with its four towers and their spires of shining silver.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha
Related Symbols: Inns
Part 1, Chapter 8 Quotes

But Don Quixote was so convinced that they were giants that he neither heard his squire Sancho’s shouts nor saw what stood in front of him.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha, Sancho Panza

He didn’t sleep in all the night, thinking about his lady Dulcinea, to conform with what he’d read in his books.

Part 1, Chapter 10 Quotes

… for in those very many [histories] that I have read, I have not found any mention of knights errant eating, except when it happened that some sumptuous banquet was held for them, but otherwise they used to live on next to nothing.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker)
Part 1, Chapter 13 Quotes

…for in [Dulcinea] all the chimerical attributes of loveliness that poets ascribe to their ladies become reality.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker), Dulcinea del Toboso
Part 1, Chapter 25 Quotes

…whatever I have done, am doing, and shall do is totally reasonable and in conformity with the rules of chivalry.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker)

Is it possible that in all the time you have been with me you have failed to realize that all things appertaining to us knights errant seem like chimeras, follies, and nonsenses, because they have all been turned on their head? Not because that is their real state, but because we are always attended by a crew of enchanters.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker), Sancho Panza

…the poets themselves invent most of [their ladies], to have something to write their poetry about, and to make people think that they are in love and that they have it in them to be lovers.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker)

…I imagine that everything I say is precisely as I say it is, and I depict her in my imagination as I wish her to be, both in beauty and in rank.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker), Dulcinea del Toboso
Part 1, Chapter 31 Quotes

That’s the kind of love… that I’ve heard in sermons we’re supposed to feel for our Lord – for his own sake, without being moved by hopes of glory or fears of punishment. Though I must say I’d prefer to love him for what he can do for me.

Related Characters: Sancho Panza (speaker)
Part 1, Chapter 37 Quotes

Don Quixote was developing his arguments in such an orderly and lucid way that for the time being none of those listening could believe he was a madman.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha
Part 1, Chapter 40 Quotes

It is possible that, since you have not been knighted, as I have, the enchantments in this place do not affect you, and that your understanding is unclouded, and that you can form judgments about the affairs of the castle as they really and truly are, rather than as they appeared to me.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker), Don Fernando

But one man had been plunged into the deepest depths of despair, and that was the barber, whose basin, there before his very eyes, had turned into Mambrino’s helmet, and whose pack-saddle, he was very sure, was about to turn into the splendid caparisons of some handsome steed.

Related Characters: Barber 2
Part 1, Chapter 49 Quotes

… enchantment can take many different forms, and it could be that these have changed in the course of time, so that what happens nowadays is that the enchanted do all the things that I do, even though formerly they did not. So one cannot either argue against the customs of the times, or draw any conclusions from them.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker)
Part 1, Chapter 52 Quotes

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!

Related Characters: Sancho Panza (speaker), Don Quixote de la Mancha
Part 2, Chapter 2 Quotes

We shall soon see where this great fabric of absurdities leaves this knight and this squire – anyone would think they’d been made in the same mold, and that the madness of the master wouldn’t be worth a farthing without the foolishness of the man.

Related Characters: The priest (speaker), Don Quixote de la Mancha, Sancho Panza
Part 2, Chapter 8 Quotes

… the envy that some evil enchanter must feel for all my affairs transforms all things that can give me pleasure into shapes quite unlike their real ones; and so I fear that if perchance the author of the history of my exploits that is said to be in print is some hostile sage, he has no doubt altered everything, mingling a thousand lies with one truth.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker)
Part 2, Chapter 11 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker)
Part 2, Chapter 12 Quotes

With every day that passes by, dear Sancho, … you lose some foolishness and gain some sense.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker), Sancho Panza
Part 2, Chapter 17 Quotes

…he sometimes thought [Quixote] sane and sometimes mad, because what he said was coherent, elegant and well expressed, and what he did was absurd, foolhardy and stupid.

Part 2, Chapter 18 Quotes

All the doctors and fine clerks in the world couldn’t make a fair copy of that man by eliminating his blotches of insanity: he’s mad in streaks, complete with lucid intervals.

Related Characters: Don Lorenzo (speaker), Don Quixote de la Mancha
Part 2, Chapter 24 Quotes

I cannot bring myself to believe that everything recorded in this chapter happened to the brave Don Quixote exactly as described… Yet I can’t believe that Don Quixote was lying, because he was the most honest hidalgo and the noblest knight of his time: he couldn’t have told a lie to save himself from being executed. … so I merely record it, without affirming either that it is false or that it is true.

Related Characters: Cide Hamete Benengeli (speaker), Don Quixote de la Mancha
Part 2, Chapter 26 Quotes

…the ploy of these enchanters who pursue me is to place before my eyes things as they are, and then change them into what they want them to be.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker)
Part 2, Chapter 29 Quotes

Although they look like water-mils, that is not what they are: I have already told you that enchantments transfigure al things and deprive them of their natural forms. I don’t mean to say that they really convert them from one thing into another, but that it seems as if they do.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker)
Part 2, Chapter 34 Quotes

Sancho Panza’s proverbs … give me more pleasure than others that are more timely and appropriate.

Related Characters: The Duke and the Duchess (speaker), Sancho Panza
Part 2, Chapter 41 Quotes

Sancho, since you want people to believe what you saw in the sky, I want you to believe what I saw in the Cave of Montesinos.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker), Sancho Panza
Part 2, Chapter 44 Quotes

…the Dolorous Duenna’s face is indeed the butler’s, but this does not mean to say that the butler is the Dolorous Duenna; for if he were, this would imply a major contradiction, and now is not the time to make sure enquiries, which would take us into inextricable labyrinths.

Part 2, Chapter 59 Quotes

I say it was an inn because that’s what Don Quixote called it, contrary to his habit of calling all inns castles.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha
Part 2, Chapter 71 Quotes

They dismounted at an inn, which Don Quixote recognized as such and not as a castle with its deep moat, towers, portcullises and drawbridge; because now that he’d been defeated his judgment on all subjects was sounder, as will soon be shown.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha, Sancho Panza
Part 2, Chapter 74 Quotes

My mind has been restored to me, and it is now clear and free, without those gloomy shadows of ignorance cast over me by my wretched, obsessive reading of those detestable books of chivalry. Now I can recognize their absurdity and their deceitfulness, and my only regret is that this discovery has come so late that it leaves me no time to make amends by reading other books that might be a light for my soul.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker)

You must congratulate me, my good sirs, because I am no longer Don Quixote de la Mancha but Alonso Quixano, for whom my way of life earned me the nickname of “the Good”. I am now the enemy of Amadis of Gaul and the whole infinite horde or his descendants; now all those profane histories of knight-errantry are odious to me; now I acknowledge my folly and the peril in which I was placed by reading them; now, by God’s mercy, having at long last learned my lesson, I abominate them all.

Related Characters: Don Quixote de la Mancha (speaker)