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Free Barron's Booknotes-Don Quixote by Migel de Cervantes-Free Book Notes
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The Duke and the Duchess, though important to the action in Part II, are shallow, thinly drawn characters. Some readers find them basically kind, harmless types, who play jokes on the Don and Sancho but mean them no real harm. Others are struck by the underlying cruelty of the Duke and Duchess' little games. Some readers consider these characters to be Cervantes' comment on the folly and stupidity of wealthy nobles who pretended to act as artists' patrons-while, in fact, patronizing the artists in the negative sense of the word.


Sampson (whose name is spelled Samson or Sanson in some translations) is the arrogant student who sets out to "cure" Don Quixote of his madness by dressing as the Knight of the Mirrors and the Knight of the Full Moon. Some readers feel that Sampson personifies the emptiness of intellectual pursuits in the absence of faith. Sampson knows how to imitate a knight, but unlike Don Quixote he will never be more than a poor copy of one.


Maritornes, the deformed servant girl at the inn, plays only a minor role in the story, yet her characterization is memorable. Some readers feel that Cervantes' description of Maritornes' physical ugliness is cruel. Others are impressed by the fact that the author does not seem to condemn the servant girl for sleeping with so many of the male guests at the inn. Maritornes may be physically ugly, but as you see during the discussion of chivalry that she has with Dorothea, the innkeeper, and others, her head is full of beautiful romantic fantasies. Whether Cervantes sees this as pathetic, or as a triumph of imagination over physical limitations, is something you will have to decide for yourself.


Considering their importance to the plot, Don Quixote's friends the priest and Nicholas the barber are not very completely described. Both follow professions considered respectable for men of the hidalgo class. (Barbers in Cervantes' day performed minor surgery and had a higher status than haircutters do today.) Because the priest and Nicholas, unlike the Don, are realistic enough to work at useful professions, we are not surprised that they want to burn the Don's books and "rescue" him from his mad quest-by force if necessary. Nicholas is primarily a humorous character. However, the character of the priest is open to more than one interpretation. Readers disagree over whether Cervantes meant some of the priest's actions as a criticism of the church of his time. Notice, for example, in the section dealing with the adventures in the Sierra Moreno that some of the priest's views, including his comments on the escaped galley slaves, are not very charitable.


You meet Gines de Pasamonte twice: First, he is the meanest and cleverest of the galley slaves freed by the Don. Far from being ashamed of his crimes, Gines brags that he will write a book about his adventures and sell it for a high price. Once he is liberated, he immediately shows his ingratitude by stealing Sancho's donkey. In Part II, Gines comes back to haunt Don Quixote, disguised as the puppet master. The condemned slave has been transformed into a successful entertainer! Rogues such as Gines were well known to readers of Cervantes' time, who followed the adventures of such characters in a popular type of work known as the picaresque tale. Cervantes, however, uses Gines in a more interesting role-to point out that both thieves and artists practice forms of deception.


Of all the young people involved in the various romantic subplots of the novel, Dorothea has the most personality. Although she has been betrayed and deserted by her lover, Dorothea shows courage and determination to seek justice and restore her ruined reputation. She also enjoys playing the role of the Princess Micomicona. Notice, in considering Dorothea's part in the action, that while the men in this story all make themselves ridiculous to some extent when they turn to role-playing, Dorothea-the woman-takes role-playing for granted.


Don Diego, also called The Man in Green, is the very sensible traveler who meets Don Quixote in Part II of the novel and cannot quite decide whether the poor knight is mad or sane. Don Diego introduces himself to Quixote and Sancho by giving them a lengthy list of his many virtues-he says he is sober, sensible, and pious. One thing he cannot claim to be is modest. Perhaps Don Diego represents nothing but the ordinary, conventional gentleman-his role that of a straight man to the Don's clever speeches. Or maybe Don Diego is meant to satirize the ideal of the humanist philosophers who upheld the importance of rationality and moderation. Don Diego is so moderate, in fact, that he cannot even decide whether Don Quixote is mad or sane. Readers today may find themselves agreeing with Don Diego's conclusion that Don Quixote is half sane, half crazy; however, it is possible that Cervantes expected his readers to see this as an example of muddle-headed thinking.

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