I did it! I finally finished! After almost exactly a month to the day that I started the infamous Don Quixote I finished it. I recapped Part 1 last week because I knew I would struggle to remember everything in it due to how long it took to just read that part but now I’m ready to recap Part 2!
I thoroughly enjoyed Part 2 of Don Quixote. I didn’t enjoy it for the same reasons as I enjoyed Part 1, but it was as great. I think the biggest difference is Cervantes, if possible, was even MORE aware of his works impact on culture and literature. He took the jibes and teasing in Part 1 and turned them into full-blown sarcasm and satire in Part 2. I think a lot of this is in direct response to the “fake Don Quixote,” published before he could release Part 2 and I talk about that in my Reading Spain, AKA an Homage to Miguel de Cervantes post (about half way through under the Biblioteca Nacional Museo section).
First, his impact on the culture. Cervantes knew he was making an impact, if he didn’t know when he wrote it, he knew by time he wrote Part 2. Maybe this comes from the fake one, more on that later, or maybe it comes from his own self-awareness:
“O celebrated author! O happy Don Quixote! O famous Dulcinea! O funny Sancho Panza! May all of you together and each of you in your own right live on for ever, for the pleasure and entertainment of everyone in the world!” (750)
“‘I bet,’ said Sancho, ‘that before long there won’t be a single eating-house or roadside inn or hostelry or barber’s shop where there isn’t a painting of the story of our deeds. But I’d like it to be done by a better artist than the one who painted these.’” (965)
SERIOUSLY! How prescient was Cervantes? I was just in Spain nearly 500 years after this was written (almost exactly) and I just wrote an ENTIRE post about my trip to Spain basically being an homage to Cervantes. The man was clearly smart and knew what he was doing. On top of that he had, again, the foresight about the need for knowledge and culture in the native language:
“In short, all the ancient poets wrote in the languages that they were suckled on, and they did not go in search of foreign languages in which to express their noble concepts. This being so, it would be reasonable for this custom to be extended among all nations, and for the German poet not to be held in low esteem because he writes in his own language, nor the Castilian, nor even the Basque writing in his.” (588)
Cervantes knew that language was important. He knew that the language one writes in is INCREDIBLY important and should be preserved.
Now on to the second topic. There were times when Cervantes picking fun at the fake Don Quixote went a bit overboard, especially the ending, but it was all legitimate critiques and I think ultimately gave the reader a better novel. Cervantes, due in large part to the poorly written fake Don Quixote, was able to go back and make amends for the relatively few continuity errors and was able to pick fun at all of the work’s critiques:
- You want a response about the fake Don Quixote here is a direct response:
“Goodness me, how you must be longing to read this prologue, illustrious or perhaps plebeian reader, expecting to find retaliations, rebukes and railings against the author of the second Don Quixote, the one said to have been conceived in Tordesillas and born in Tarragona!1 But the fact is that I’m not going to give you that pleasure, because although insults awake anger in the humblest breasts, mine is going to be an exception to the rule. You’d like me to call him an ass, a numskull and an impudent monkey, but it has never occurred to me to do so: let his sin be his punishment, it’s his own lookout – absolutely his own affair.” (482)
- The random stories were too tangential, he had a response:
“And so in this second part he decided not to include any disconnected or even tagged-on tales, but rather some similar-looking episodes developing, however, out of the events of the true history…” (776)
- You want a random reason for Quixote’s madness, here:
“My mind has been restored to me, and it is now clear and free, without those gloomy shadows of ignorance cast over me by my wretched, obsessive reading of those detestable books of chivalry. Now I can recognize their absurdity and their deceitfulness, and my only regret is that this discovery has come so late that it leaves me no time to make amends by reading other books that might be a light for my soul.” (976)
Sure Cervantes left a lot to be desired in many of his responses, but he took those responses and made them a part of the books comedy. He took things to an even more meta/ridiculous place in this book including what was in essence a “kick me” sign:
“They robed him and, taking care that he didn’t notice, stitched a parchment on his back, on which they had written in large letters: ‘This is Don Quixote de la Mancha.’ As they began their ride the placard caught the eyes of all who came to look at him, and when they read out aloud, ‘This is Don Quixote de la Mancha,’ he was astonished to find that everyone who saw him knew him and kept repeating his name…” (908)
Even more ridiculous situations of Sancho’s simple mindedness:
“And now Don Quixote reached them with his visor raised and, as he made to dismount, Sancho went to hold his stirrup, but was unlucky enough to tangle his foot in one of the ropes on his pack-saddle as he hurried down from his dun, and he couldn’t pull it free, but hung there with his mouth and his chest pressed to the ground. Don Quixote, who wasn’t used to dismounting without somebody holding the stirrup, thought that Sancho must by now be there doing so, and swung himself off the saddle, which must have been insecurely girthed because he dragged it after him and both he and it ended up on the ground, to his shame and with many a muttered curse on the unfortunate Sancho, whose foot was still fettered. The Duke ordered his huntsmen to go to the rescue of the knight and his squire, and they picked Don Quixote up, much the worse for his fall, and he limped as best he could to kneel before the lord and lady…” (690)
And ultimately, he provided social commentary on all those who decided to make fun of Don Quixote and Sancho by encouraging him and providing them the means of pursuing their farcical quests:
“…the Duke and Duchess [and many, many others], going to such lengths to make fun of two fools, were within a hairsbreadth of looking like fools themselves.” (956)
One thing that did catch me off guard, mostly due to the amount of time between now and then was Cervantes’ references to cross-dressing and homosexuality. I don’t mean homosexuality as in modern gay identity, but there were numerous occasions where men dressed as women and women dressed as men for myriad reasons. It was a part of life apparently, even if in this case it was mostly farcical. Again, however Cervantes’ dropping a line like,
“This threw me into confusion as I considered the danger that Don Gregorio was facing, because among those barbaric Turks a handsome boy or youth is much more highly prized than any woman, however beautiful she may be.” (922)
Although yes, problematic in that it’s used to debase the Turks, it was used in a non-plussed, non-“OMG what were you thinking” sort of way. It was just a fact of life.
The last thing that I thoroughly enjoyed about the book was knowing so much more about Spain and Barcelona in particular. When Cervantes wrote,
“And coming to his feet he left his food and went to take the cover off the first image, which turned out to be St George on horseback, with his lance thrust into the mouth of a coiled serpent at the horse’s feet, all depicted with the usual ferocity.” (874)
Recommendation: READ IT. It may take forever, it took me a month, but it was well worth it. The book reminded me of this quote that Cervantes uses to describe Barcelona:
“Barcelona, the storehouse of courtesy, the refuge of strangers, the hospital of the poor, the homeland of the brave, the avenger of the affronted and the appreciative returner of firm friendship, unique in its setting and its beauty.” (968)
Don Quixote overwhelmingly is a charming comedy which offers self-reflection to any society of any time at how quickly we can devolve into ridiculousness and immaturity if we are led or pushed forward by someone with an agenda (hidden, madness-induced or otherwise).
Opening Line: “Cide Hamete Benengeli recounts in the second part of this history, which concerns Don Quixote’s third sally, that the priest and the barber went almost a month without seeing him, so as not to revive past events and bring them back into his memory.”
Closing Line: “And so you will have carried out your Christian mission, giving good advice to one who wishes you ill, and I shall feel proud and satisfied to have been the first author to enjoy the full fruit of his writings, as I desired, because my only desire has been to make men hate those false, absurd histories in books of chivalry, which thanks to the exploits of my real Don Quixote are even now tottering, and without any doubt will soon tumble to the ground. Farewell.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers.)
Additional Qutoes from Don Quixote Part 2
“…remember that this second part of Don Quixote that I’m offering you is cut by the same craftsman and from the same cloth as the first one, and that in it I give you Don Quixote prolonged and finally dead and buried, so that nobody can presume to produce any more evidence against him, because what has already been produced is quite enough, and it is also enough that an honourable man has provided information about these clever follies and doesn’t want to go into them ever again: too much of something, even of a good thing, causes it to be valued less, and a scarcity, even of bad things, confers a certain value of its own.” (486)
“Some have found fault with the author’s memory and accused him of deception because he forgets to tell us who was the thief that stole Sancho’s dun — the incident isn’t narrated and we just have to infer that somebody has stolen it, and a little later we find Sancho riding the very same donkey without having recovered it. They also say that the author forgot to state what Sancho did with the hundred escudos he found in the travelling bag in the Sierra Morena, which are never mentioned again; and there are many people who would like to know what happened to them, or what he spent them on, which is one of the essential points omitted from the book.’” (508)
“‘On the other hand, there’s a remedy for all things but death, under whose yoke we must all pass, like it or not, at the end of our lives. I’ve seen a thousand signs that this master of mine is a raving lunatic, and I’m not much better myself, because I’m even stupider than he is, following him and serving him as I do, if there’s any truth in the proverb that says a man is known by the company he keeps, and that other one about birds of a feather flocking together. So him being as he is mad, and with a madness that usually makes him take one thing for another and think that white is black and black is white, as anyone could see when he said that those windmills were giants, and those friars’ mules were dromedaries, and those flocks of sheep were enemy armies, and all sorts of other stuff like that, it won’t be all that difficult to make him believe that some peasant girl, the very first one I come across, is lady Dulcinea – and if he doesn’t believe it I’ll swear she is, and if he swears she isn’t I’ll swear she is again, and if he insists I’ll insist even more, and so I’ll make sure I always have the last word, come what may. Maybe by insisting like this I’ll make him stop sending me off on all these errands, seeing what a mess I make of them – or on the other hand maybe he’ll think, as I expect he will, that one of those evil enchanters that he says hate him so much has changed her looks to spite him and do him harm.’” (545)
“…art does not surpass nature but merely perfects it; so if nature and art, art and nature, are combined, the result will be a perfect poet.” (589)
“‘Stop, sirs, stop: it is not right to take revenge for the wrongs done us by love; and remember that love and war are one and the same, and just as in war it is lawful and customary to use tricks and stratagems to defeat the enemy, so also in amorous conflict and rivalry it is considered permissible to resort to ruses and contrivances to attain the desired end, so long as they do not discredit or dishonour the loved one.” (629)
“When the brave man flees, it’s because he’s spotted foul play; and the prudent man ensures that he lives to fight another.” (677)
“…love knows no respect and does not proceed according to sound reason, and its behaviour is like that of death: it attacks both the lofty palaces of kings and the humble huts of shepherds, and once it has taken possession of a soul the first thing it does is to strip it of all fear and shame…” (877)