Love Makes You Crazy: A Review of the Classic “Don Quixote”
Not gonna lie, I am not overly fond of modern romance stories. They are horribly depressing in that, chances are, you will never end up having that. Frankly, I don’t want that kind of disgustingly mushy crap. Nope. I’m just not that kind of girl and most people know my disdain for all things mushy like that. I avoid the romance section of the book store and the library like it was a leper colony. That being said, old tales of chivalry are just fantastic to me. That is the kind of romance I like. I don’t know about you all, but I would rather have a Don Quixote than an Edward Cullen. Edward Cullen is just a creepy stalker and that’s not okay with me. Don Quixote on the other hand, he’s a bit crazy from reading all those books. He has a wild imagination and is a bit flaky, but he has the best intentions at heart. In the first chapter of Miguel de Cervantes’s book, we learn just how crazy Don Quixote is and the Gustave Doré print at the left shows that perfectly.
Before we get into the full review, let me give you a bit of background on this book. Miguel de Cervantes published the classic Don Quixote in two parts in 1605 and 1615 respectfully. Yes, this is a review of a novel that is 400 years old! It is hard to believe that this tale is that old! This novel has had such an influence on world literature, not just Spanish literature, that it is considered to be one of the founding novels of Western literature and one of the most influential pieces of work ever written. Quite an accomplishment for a man that had worked as an assistant to a cardinal in Rome, enlisted in the navy, captured, kept as a slave for five years, and then returned to Madrid after having his ransom paid for by his family and members of the Trinitarian Order. Though it was not his final work to be published, rather the first part was one of his early works, Don Quixote is considered to be his Magnum Opus. While I have read most of his other works, none quite compare to this tale. In part, this novel can be read as a satire to the chivalric literature of the time. On the other hand though, it can also be read as a great work of love and chivalry. Reading it as a satire makes for a pretty entertaining read. However, when you read it as something other than a satire it become quite the roller-coaster of emotion with a not-so-happy ending.
The novel follows the adventures and misadventures of the Hidalgo Alonso Quixano of La Mancha and his farmer servant Sancho Panza. Upon deciding to seek and prove his love to the beautiful princess Dulcinea del Toboso, Alonso becomes Don Quixote and recruits Sancho as squire. The two ride off into the countryside to perform acts that would gain Don Quixote the chivalry he needs to win Dulcinea’s heart. Along the way, Sancho is promised to be made the governor of an island and Don Quixote rescues and inspires many people despite his insanity.
Quite possibly the most famous scene in the whole book, and one of my favorite parts, is the tilting at windmills scene. This part comes from 8th chapter in “Part One”. Given that they are from the La Mancha region of Spain, it should be no surprise that windmills do come into play in this novel. However, their inclusion in this classic has made Campo de Criptana famous for the windmills surrounding the town. These windmills on the right are the same style that would have been seen around the time de Cervantes would have been writing. Don Quixote made the area so famous that when you walk around the town you can find numerous sculptures and statues depicting the characters and various scenes from the book. The same can be said about Madrid with the Monument to Miguel de Cervantes surrounded by the characters from his Magnum Opus in the Plaza de España. Spoliers for the next paragraph! If you don’t want to have the ending spoiled then skip the paragraph in purple!
In the end we learn that the beauty Dulcinea del Toboso is not the noble princess that Alonso believed her to be in his mad state. Rather, she is a simple farm girl from the neighbouring town of El Toboso. Her actual name is Aldonza Lorenzo and Sancho and his family know her well. Alonso returns home defeated from his last “battle” and plans to retire quietly to the countryside and become a header of sheep. After falling ill, he comes out of his madness and realizes that his actions were the cause of his insanity. He becomes depressed and tries to apologize for this actions that may have caused anyone harm. Sancho tries to bring him out of his depressed state and writes down Alonso’s will for him. The noble man eventually dies of his fever and, in the novel at least, the age of knights and chivalry with him. Though it seems quite odd, I actually cried at the end of Don Quixote. Not entirely because of the death of Don Quixote mind you. The saddest part to me is that in the end he decided that, despite coming to realize that Dulcinea wasn’t the princess he thought she was, he believed that all his chivalric actions were for naught!
In a world where true chivalry is pretty much dead, it makes reading the end of Don Quixote one of the saddest ending to an epic novel that I have ever read. If a man were to run off tilting at windmills to defend me I would be delighted! Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote is one of the few novels that has survived the ages. His beautiful storytelling and flowing language makes this beast of a novel a delight to read. Yes, I said beast of a novel. This piece of literature has, depending on the edition, close to a thousand pages! It is worth the read though! Read it! If you are a romantic at heart this is a novel for you to read. If you love reading satires, then read it. Want to read a classic novel? Read this one. Even if you don’t particularly care for reading you should read this book. I have actually learned quite a bit from this book despite the age of it. There are great truths hidden in the pages of this classic for everyone to find. I have found something new each time that I read it and I try to read though it at least once every couple of years.