Literature Study GuidesDon QuixotePart 1 Prologue Summary

Don Quixote | Study Guide

Miguel de Cervantes

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Part 1, Prologue

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 1, Prologue from Miguel de Cervantes's novel Don Quixote.

Don Quixote | Part 1, Prologue | Summary



Cervantes introduces Don Quixote with a prologue about how difficult it is to write prologues. Unlike other authors of the era, he has no sonnets, epigrams, or elegies with which to introduce his story. A friend advises Cervantes about shortcuts he can take to get the same effect with none of the effort. Above all, his friend cautions, "Let your ideas be understood without making them complicated or obscure."


Don Quixote's prologue introduces the companionable and often amusing voice of the narrator, which establishes the lighthearted tone of the story. Though Don Quixote himself is "the purest, chastest lover and the bravest knight-errant seen ... in many years," this is not the typical chivalric romance that was so popular during the 16th century. Instead, Cervantes wrote Don Quixote as "an attack on romantic tales of chivalry."

Through the voice of the narrator, Cervantes uses the prologue to make fun of his contemporaries who fill their introductions, endnotes, and margins with impressive references and notable quotations. Those things do nothing to enhance an already good book. Writers should instead focus on using "meaningful words, ... and ... explaining what you're up to ... as powerfully as you can."

The prologue also serves as a warning to readers that this book is quite unlike the popular literature of the time. It is not a scholarly effort, nor is it meant to inform. Its purpose is to simply entertain. This is a necessary caveat. In the 17th century, readers were accustomed to fiction being written in verse. Only factual texts used prose. Cervantes wanted to try a new form for fiction, and Don Quixote is one of the very first novels published in the prose format. Because the message of the book is about not believing everything in print, it is imperative for the narrator to establish the story as fiction from the very beginning.

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