As Hernan Cortes died in Seville, in the countryside around Alcala de Henares, on Oct. 9, 1547 in the converse quartger of Alcala (a university town 20 m. northeast of Madrid) was born Miguel de Cervantes--his father a barber-surgeon by trade. In his life, Cervantes would be poor, mostly self-educated, physically mutilated, a slave, a jailbird, a social outcast, throughout most of his life an obscure failure. From this life of hardship-enriched soil would come, late in life, books that would bring him fame.
Miguel de Cervantes was not famous when, in late 1604, Don Quixote, was published. He was old, poverty-stricken, maimed in his left hand and from other wounds incurred in the battle of Lepanto. He had written poems, plays, pastoral romances for 25 years without any real success. Yet he worked hard at his new trade that he acquired in his mid-thirties.
Cervantes had been refused a coveted post in the Indies, he had been appointed a tax-gatherer for the Crown, only to be thrown in jail for a shortage in his accounts.
In the 16th century romances of chivalry had enjoyed a tremendous vogue. He wrote a humorous parody of these high-flown chronicles. His original intent was to write a book for wide popular appeal, addressed not to the few of...
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...ests: Don Quixote is a man possessed, not a madman. He is fully aware of the true character of his halluncinations. He knows that enchanters do not actually transform shapes but merely the appearance. DQ defends the rights of the imagination--the poet in action. As one observer said: "Pity the man who has not had some of DQ's ideas. (Surrealism without Freud might have found something here--as Dali did.) The clash of reality and appearance--Unamuno's "Tragic Sense of Life"
Sancho Panza is not just the personification of common sense, he too has the problem of reality, only from a different angle. The knight's final overthrow is one of the saddest episodes in literature. Should we surrender our illusions to reality.
Duty calls--if we all accept our duty and fulfill it, then civilization exists.
After all is said and done, is there a more genial work??
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