On this Day:
1605 The first edition of “El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha” (Book One of Don Quixote) by Miguel de Cervantes is published in Madrid.
Don Quixote is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes. Its full title is The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha (Modern Spanish: El ingenioso hidalgo (in Part 2, caballero) don Quijote de la Mancha.
It was originally published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615. A founding work of Western literature, it is often labeled as the first modern novel and is considered one of the greatest works ever written. Don Quixote also holds the distinction of being one of the most-translated books in the world.
The plot revolves around the adventures of a member of the very lowest nobility or hidalgo (“Son of Someone”) from La Mancha named Alonso Quixano, who reads so many chivalric romances that he either loses or pretends to have lost his mind in order to become a knight-errant (caballero andante) to revive chivalry and serve his nation, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha. He recruits a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, as his squire, who often employs a unique, earthy wit in dealing with Don Quixote’s rhetorical monologues on knighthood, already considered old-fashioned at the time, and representing the most vivid realism in contrast to his master’s idealism. Don Quixote, in the first part of the book, does not see the world for what it is and prefers to imagine that he is living out a knightly story.
The book had a major influence on the literary community, as evidenced by direct references in Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (1844), Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac (1897), as well as the word quixotic and the epithet Lothario; the latter refers to a character in “El curioso impertinente” (“The Impertinently Curious Man”), an intercalated story that appears in Part One, chapters 33–35.
When first published, Don Quixote was usually interpreted as a comic novel. After the French Revolution, it was better known for its central ethic that individuals can be right while society is quite wrong and seen as disenchanting. In the 19th century, it was seen as a social commentary, but no one could easily tell “whose side Cervantes was on”. Many critics came to view the work as a tragedy in which Don Quixote’s idealism and nobility are viewed by the post-chivalric world as insane, and are defeated and rendered useless by common reality. By the 20th century, the novel had come to occupy a canonical space as one of the foundations of modern literature.
The novel’s structure is episodic in form. The full title is indicative of the tale’s object, as ingenioso (Spanish) means “quick with inventiveness”, marking the transition of modern literature from dramatic to thematic unity. The novel takes place over a long period of time, including many adventures united by common themes of the nature of reality, reading, and dialogue in general.
Although burlesque on the surface, the novel, especially in its second half, has served as an important thematic source not only in literature but also in much of art and music, inspiring works by Pablo Picasso and Richard Strauss. The contrasts between the tall, thin, fancy-struck and idealistic Quixote and the fat, squat, world-weary Panza is a motif echoed ever since the book’s publication, and Don Quixote’s imaginings are the butt of outrageous and cruel practical jokes in the novel.
Even faithful and simple Sancho is forced to deceive him at certain points. The novel is considered a satire of orthodoxy, veracity and even nationalism. In exploring the individualism of his characters, Cervantes helped move beyond the narrow literary conventions of the chivalric romance literature that he spoofed, which consists of straightforward retelling of a series of acts that redound to the knightly virtues of the hero. The character of Don Quixote became so well known in its time that the word quixotic was quickly adopted by many languages. Characters such as Sancho Panza and Don Quixote’s steed, Rocinante, are emblems of Western literary culture. The phrase “tilting at windmills” to describe an act of attacking imaginary enemies (or an act of extreme idealism), derives from an iconic scene in the book.
It stands in a unique position between medieval romance and the modern novel. The former consist of disconnected stories featuring the same characters and settings with little exploration of the inner life of even the main character. The latter are usually focused on the psychological evolution of their characters. In Part I, Quixote imposes himself on his environment. By Part II, people know about him through “having read his adventures”, and so, he needs to do less to maintain his image. By his deathbed, he has regained his sanity, and is once more “Alonso Quixano the Good” (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
I went to see Don Quixote at the theater yesterday and suddenly there was a short break in the middle of the play…
All attendees didn’t know it would happen; no one expected the Spanish intermission.
Second, a Song:
Man of La Mancha is a 1972 film adaptation of the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha by Dale Wasserman, with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion. The musical was suggested by the classic novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, but more directly based on Wasserman’s 1959 non-musical television play I, Don Quixote, which combines a semi-fictional episode from the life of Cervantes with scenes from his novel.
Though financed by Italian producer Alberto Grimaldi and shot in Rome, the film is in English, with all principal actors either British or American, excepting Loren. (Gino Conforti, the Barber, is an American of Italian descent.) The film was released by United Artists, and is known in Italy as L’Uomo della Mancha.
Produced and directed by Arthur Hiller, the film stars Peter O’Toole as both Miguel de Cervantes and Don Quixote, James Coco as both Cervantes’ manservant and Don Quixote’s “squire” Sancho Panza, and Sophia Loren as scullery maid and prostitute Aldonza, whom the delusional Don Quixote idolizes as Dulcinea. Gillian Lynne staged the choreography and fight scenes.
In the volatile days of the Spanish Inquisition, the writer Miguel de Cervantes (Peter O’Toole) and his manservant (James Coco) make livings as tax collectors but soon find themselves imprisoned after being accused of crimes against the church. Now facing the wrath of their fellow inmates, Cervantes must persuade the unruly bunch not to burn his prized manuscript — by performing it for them. With the help of a prostitute (Sophia Loren), they begin the tale of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (per Wikipedia).
Here is Peter O’Toole singing a song of inspiration and unwavering determination: “The Impossible Dream: Don Quixote” from the 1972 film Man of La Mancha. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he that loses his courage loses all.” – Miguel de Cervantes
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky