Don Quixote of la Mancha (Parts I and II)

Página de El ingenioso Hidalgo Don Qvixote de la Mancha. Compuesto por Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Em Lisboa. Impreso com lisença do Santo Officio por Iorge Rodriguez Anno de 1605

The first part of the Miguel de Cervantes’ masterpiece, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote, came to life as a manuscript one year before it was published in 1605 at the printing house owned by Juan de la Cuesta in Calle Antocha, Madrid. It is possible that he began writing it at the end of the 16th century during one of the periods he spent in prison.

Like his father, Blas de Robles, who published La Galatea, the bookseller Francisco Robles, believed in Miguel de Cervantes’ literary gift and wanted to take advantage of the popularity of picaresque novels of the time to sell Don Quixote, a book that was destined to be read by squires, lords, travellers and gentlemen.

The themes, events and characters of the book have acquired the fame that the author didn’t have during his lifetime. This book, full of adventures and a masterpiece of Spanish literature, reflects on the human condition and helps one to understand the reality of a Spanish society supressed by religious and political power.

The book’s protagonist, the ingenious Alonso Quixana, a man who has very little, is too old to be a knight-errant and who is incredibly noble, has read so many chivalrous novels that he has gone mad. This is the starting point of a text that, from a comic perspective, masterfully analyses the fears, strengths and weaknesses of its characters. Don Quixote proclaims himself to be the saviour of the unfortunate while he tries to win the heart of Dulcinea of Toboso, who is really the peasant girl, Aldonza Lorenzo.

Don Quixote soon enjoyed such great success both in Spain and abroad that other editions followed. That literary victory gave the writer more than one headache, and in 1614 he had to see the apparition of the apocryphal continuation of the book in Tarragona, written by someone under the pseudonym Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda.

After the first part of the Alonso Quixana stories, consisting of 52 chapters, in which his first two adventures are told, a second part followed. In 1615 the Second Part of Don Quixote of la Mancha came out, once again though the bookseller Francisco de Robles and the printing house belonging to Juan de la Cuesta. In its 74 chapters the third adventure and death of Don Quixote are told.

Don Quixote and Sancho acquire greater richness in their actions and personalities, especially in the case of the protagonist who gradually stops being a comic character in order to realise, lucidly, his suffering in the face of the deception that surrounds him. With this disillusionment, insanity returns and with it, death. The figure of Sancho also suffers profound transformations in the face of the changes his master goes through.

The criticism that the writer intersperses throughout the second book Quixote of Avellaneda results in this: that the book will not be republished in Spain until the 19th century. In contrast to this, Cervantes’ Quixote has become a universal literary classic throughout history.

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