Don Quixote | Study Guide

Miguel de Cervantes

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Don Quixote | Part 1, Chapter 1 | Summary

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Summary

Alonso Quixano, a Spanish gentleman nearing the age of 50, has too much time and too many books. He delights in romantic tales of chivalry and spends so much time reading them that "he dried out his brain and lost his sanity," resulting in his decision to become a knight-errant, or a knight who wanders around in search of adventure. He cleans an old suit of armor and crafts his own helmet out of cardboard, then renames his elderly horse Rocinante and dubs himself Don Quixote. Because all knights must serve a "ladylove," he decides to dedicate his adventures to a peasant with whom he has never spoken, Aldonza Lorenzo. He rechristens her Dulcinea del Toboso.

Analysis

Cervantes has very little use for the chivalric romances with which the story's hero is so obsessed. Their nonsensical phrasing ("ability to reason the un-reason which has afflicted my reason saps my ability to reason") is part of what drives Alonso Quixano to the brink of insanity. Cervantes ridicules these stories further with the names Alonso Quixano selects for himself and his horse. Rocinante means "before an old horse"; Quixote can be translated as "thigh-armor." The novel quickly becomes a parody of Renaissance chivalry.

Love is secondary to adventure in the newly minted Don Quixote's mind. He has never spoken to Aldonza, but he needs someone to receive his gifts of defeated giants. Cervantes is pointing out that the romances depicted in the popular chivalric tales of the time aren't representative of actual love, but they are simply excuses for literary knights to enter battle.

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