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15 July 2018
The Chivalrous Theme of Don Quixote
In this reality imitates fantasy novel, Miquel De Cervantes portrays his main character as the ipidamy of chivalry boasting his name in the title of Don Quixote. Cervantes takes the reader on an adventurous journey of Quixote’s realistic transformation into the knight in shining armor of which he perceives himself to be. Quixote’s fictional world of literary tales leads him to bring to life the knightly chivalry of which he admires to the modern world in which he lives. It is through the actions and theories of Quixote’s character that a theme emerges of chivalrous behavior and realistic knighthood. The essence of romance, bravery and errantry that encompass a true knight embrace the essence of Miguel De Cervantes’ chivalrous theme in the adventures of Don Quixote.
The very concept of a Knight conjures images of romance and chivalrous behavior toward women in general. Cervantes characterization of Don Quixote is no exception as he seeks the affection and loyalty of a farm girl by the name of Dulcinea del Tobosa of whom he has previously had an infatuation with. He seeks her as the lady to which he is sworn to in his knightly errantry. Miguel De Cervantes so denotes the importance of romantic love as an aspect of knighthood by way of Quixote’s words, “I can assert there can be no knight-errant without a lady; for it is as natural and proper for them to be in love as it is for the heavens to have stars” (437). It is in Dulcinea that Quixote sees the romantic love of which he desires and pledges his devotion to her. In true fashion of a knight, Quixote has nothing but amorous consideration of Dulcinea and when questioned about her rank he responds in the most respectable manner referencing her by stating, “As to her rank, she should be at the very least a princess, seeing that she is my lady and my queen” (Cervantes 438). As to her beauty and radiance Quixote is quick to convey in words his admiration of such, “Her beauty is superhuman, for in it are realized all the impossible and chimerical attributes that poets are accustomed to give their fair ones” (Cervantes 438). Cervantes clearly denotes Quixote’s characterization as a chivalrous knight by his romantic endeavors toward the woman of his affection not only through his affectionate references but through his bravery as well.
Another classic trait of a true knight is that of bravery and errantry, a characteristic of which Don Quixote aims to live up to. In an article based on the characterization of Quixote, Jordan Wirfs-Brock points out that though many believe Quixote to be insane due to his belief in the chivalry of literary fictitious knights, “He possesses the ability to distinguish fact from fiction, but merely chooses to believe in fiction because he respects the moral principles of chivalry” (4). By way of adventurous tales, his acts of bravery are prevalent. One such example is his defense of Dulcinea when Quixote demands that some fellow travelers validate her beauty. As they refuse to acknowledge this request, Quixote physically attacks the men in defense of Dulcinea only to be brutally beaten in return. Along his journey he continues to come upon situations in which he exhibits knighthood errantry through acts of brave intervention. He happens upon some prisoners who have been sentenced to “forced labor” and “…taken there by force and not of their own free will”, and subsequently questions the authority as to their crimes and pending punishments. Disagreeing with the severity of their punishment, Quixote bravely petitions the guards on their behalf by reiterating that ultimately God is in control of the judgment of man and no man has need to carry out punishment over one who has not injured them. In his desire to free the prisoners he extends an ultimatum:
And so, I ask this of you, gently and quietly, in order that, If you comply with my request, I shall have reason to thank you; and if you do not do so of your own accord, then this lance and this sword and the valor of my arm shall compel you to do it by force (Cervantes 457).
It is this bravery that gives way to Quixote’s self-proclaimed perception that his calling in life is set for the for the purpose of knight hood errantry.
Don Quixote believes himself to be the very knight of whom he professes and to uphold the errand of a true knight. Wirfs-Brock relates that, “Don Quixote bases his life purpose on upholding the truth he perceives in literature, but at the same time he acknowledges that the truth is based on certain false assumptions” (4). False as these assumptions may be, Don Quixote nonetheless believes that knight hood is his duty in life. Cervantes relays this conceptual belief in the words of Quixote:
…I am at this moment engaged in trying to persuade and even force myself to show you what the purpose was for which Heaven sent me into this world, why it was it led me to adopt the calling of knighthood which I profess and take the knightly vow to favor the needy and aid those who are oppressed by the powerful (456).
With each new adventure, Quixote is more convinced that chivalry is not only his duty but his reality of his existence. Wirfs-Brock implies this by stating, “He admits to himself that he is creating an idealistic world based on upholding chivalric principles, yet this manufactured world
Becomes reality within his own mind” (7). .
As it is with great fairy tales, all good things must come to an end. So it is with Don Quixote when upon his return from his many adventures, he returns home somewhat down trodden only to renounce his self-proclaimed knight hood and shortly thereafter slip into eternal rest. The adventures of Don Quixote portray the essence of romance, bravery and errantry true to that of a knight. While the reality of Don Quixote’s knightly portrayal is fictionally based, the fact is that Quixote truly believed chivalry need not be fictional but rather lives in the heart and mind of all who might believe and act on it, in other words, chivalry is not dead.
Cervantes, Miguel De. “Don Quioxote.” Ed. Martin Puchner. Trans. F.J. Sheed. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Vol. Books I-IX. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 386-515. Print.
Wirfs-Brock, Jordan. “The Duality of Don Quixote’s Character as Shown through His Attitude towards Dulcinea of El Toboso.” MIT OpenCourseWare. Foundations of Western Culture: The Making of the Modern World, 5 May 2004. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/literature>.