February 23, 2021

#08-050: Don Quixote

engraving of a portly man on a donkey riding along a cliff, alongside a gaunt man on a bony horse, lance raised high
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza

Note: "To dream the impossible dream": The quest of Don Quixote has been made popular in a  charming Broadway musical (and subsequent film), Man of La Mancha. But the rather long book itself, by Miguel de Cervantes (arguably Spain's greatest writer, comparable to Shakespeare) has much to offer.

Get Ready: If you were to undertake a "noble quest," what would it be?

Alonso Quixano, nicknamed "The Knight of the Sad Face" (sometimes rendered "the Woeful Countenance") is a fictional noble living in the 15th century--long after the days of chivalric culture--who reads so many novels about that romantic age that he loses his mind and fancies himself to be Don Quixote de la Mancha, a "knight-errant" who will wander the countryside with his trusty squire (actually a simple farmer), Sancho Panza--righting wrongs, freeing captive maidens, and slaying dragons.

The whimsical Part 1 of the book is by far the more popular, and was published in 1605, ten years before the second, more serious and philosophical part.

In Part 1, the nearly-50-year-old Quixano lives with his niece and his housekeeper, and believes every word of the romances he reads. He dons an old suit of armor and dubs his tired old horse "Rocinante," meaning, actually, a low-quality workhorse. He chooses a local farm girl, Aldonza Lorenzo, as his inspiration, his "lady love," and renames her "Dulcinea del Toboso." She is unaware of this.

After setting out, "Don Quixote" comes to an inn, which in his madness he takes for a castle. He insists that the innkeeper (the "Lord of the Castle") formally knight him. After he keeps his vigil, the innkeeper humors him by performing a mock ceremony and sends him on his way.

After a number of other adventures, he is severely beaten in an altercation and must return home. There, as he lies ill, his niece, the housekeeper, the local priest, and a barber (who in those days functioned as a kind of doctor) burn his library to prevent him from getting more crazy ideas, telling Quixano/Quixote that the books were destroyed by an evil wizard. This section contains commentary on many popular books of the day. 

Feigning good health, the old knight sets out again, this time with his sidekick Sancho Panza. He attacks some windmills, believing them to be giants. Even today, in English, "tilting at windmills" is used to mean "attacking imaginary enemies."

Many more adventures follow in the book's 850+ pages.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Quixote

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. altercation
  2. chivalric
  3. errant
  4. feigning
  5. humors
  6. rendered
  7. romances
  8. tilting
  9. vigil
  10. whimsical

  1. an angry disagreement, sometimes leading to violence
  2. charging on horseback at something holding a long spear
  3. lighthearted; humorous
  4. cooperates with someone to ease a disagreement
  5. a long period of watching, usually at night
  6. early novels
  7. wandering; roving
  8. pertaining to the medieval practice of knighthood
  9. translated; interpreted
  10. pretending; faking

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 23, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. a; 2. h; 3. g; 4. j; 5. d; 6. i; 7. f; 8. b; 9. e; 10. c