by Dr Max Lawson
The Adventures of Don Quixote was written in two parts: the first part published in December 1604 or January 1605 and the second part was not published till 1615 – not long before Cervantes’ death.
Not only is The Adventures of Don Quixote considered the first novel but is often considered the greatest comic novel. At the simple plot level it is a series of adventures and episodes involving the delusions of the madman Don Quixote and his so-called squire “The rustic” Sancho Panza. The second part of the
novel is more serious with Don Quixote becoming more lucid and Sancho Panza becoming as mad as his master.
Don Quixote became mad by reading himself into insanity immersing himself in his veritable library of books about chivalry and knight errantry. Part of the ironic drollery of the novel is that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are “absurdly unsuited for their roles(1) – in fact in the romances, books on chivalry, knights-errants were always rich young men of high birth and their squires of similar background were serving their apprenticeship before coming knights-errant themselves. Unlike the models in the romances, Don Quixote, with his broken down Rosinale, his horse, and his patch-work thread-bare armour and
the pot-bellied Sancho Panza riding on his ass are parodies of the chivalric tradition. The fun of the novel is all, the absurd situations the decrepit pair get into – the famous, indeed archtypal episode being that of tilting at windmills, thinking them enemies.
Dr Lawson discusses the relevance of this story to the modern world. The complete talk can be found here.