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Don Quixote
Title page first edition Don Quijote.jpg
Don Quixote de la Mancha (first edition, 1605)
Author Miguel de Cervantes
Original title El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha
Country Habsburg Spain
Language Early Modern Spanish
Genre Novel
Publisher Francisco de Robles
Publication date
1605 (Part One)
1615 (Part Two)
Published in English
1612 (Part One)
1620 (Part Two)
Media type Print
LC Class PQ6323

Don Quixote is a novel by Miguel de Cervantes. The book, published in two parts (1605 and 1615) is considered to be the first modern novel. It was first written in Spanish, and soon afterwards was translated to English by Thomas Shelton. It is considered by many scholars to be the first modern novel. The main character, Don Quixote, is a paragon of chivalry, but in a deeply flawed and impractical way. Don Quixote is so influential as a character that the description of his behavior has entered the common vernacular as "quixotic."

As a brief synopsis, the story It is about Alonso Quixano, a rich middle-aged man. Quixano, having read many tales about chivalry and knights, goes crazy and believes that he is a knight named Don Quixote. He rides around the country with his squire, Sancho, having adventures. He believes his adventures are real, but everyone else laughs at him.

One of the most famous stories in the book is Don Quixote's fight with the windmills. He sees some windmills and thinks they are giants. When he rides to fight with them, he is knocked off his horse. Sancho tells him they are only windmills, but Don Quixote does not believe him. He is sure a magician changed windmills into the giants to hurt him.

At the end of the book, Alonso Quixano returns home, hurt badly. He becomes sane again, then dies.

For Cervantes and the readers of his day, Don Quixote was a one-volume book published in 1605, divided internally into four parts, not the first part of a two-part set. The mention in the 1605 book of further adventures yet to be told was totally conventional, did not indicate any authorial plans for a continuation, and was not taken seriously by the book's first readers.

Don Quixote, Part Two was a sequel published ten years after the original novel.



Sources for Don Quixote include the Castilian novel Amadis de Gaula, which had enjoyed great popularity throughout the 16th century. Another prominent source, which Cervantes evidently admires more, is Tirant lo Blanch, which the priest describes in Chapter VI of Quixote as "the best book in the world." (However, the sense in which it was "best" is much debated among scholars. Since the 19th century, the passage has been called "the most difficult passage of Don Quixote".) The scene of the book burning gives an excellent list of Cervantes's likes and dislikes about literature.

Cervantes makes a number of references to the Italian poem Orlando furioso. In chapter 10 of the first part of the novel, Don Quixote says he must take the magical helmet of Mambrino, an episode from Canto I of Orlando, and itself a reference to Matteo Maria Boiardo's Orlando innamorato. The interpolated story in chapter 33 of Part four of the First Part is a retelling of a tale from Canto 43 of Orlando, regarding a man who tests the fidelity of his wife.

Another important source appears to have been Apuleius's The Golden Ass, one of the earliest known novels, a picaresque from late classical antiquity. Many of both Sancho's adventures in Part II and proverbs throughout are taken from popular Spanish and Italian folklore.

Cervantes' experiences as a galley slave in Algiers also influenced Quixote.

Medical theories may have also influenced Cervantes' literary process. Cervantes had familial ties to the distinguished medical community. His father, Rodrigo de Cervantes, and his great-grandfather, Juan Díaz de Torreblanca, were surgeons. Additionally, his sister, Andrea de Cervantes, was a nurse. He also befriended many individuals involved in the medical field, in that he knew medical author Francisco Díaz, an expert in urology, and royal doctor Antonio Ponce de Santa Cruz who served as a personal doctor to both Philip III and Philip IV of Spain.

Apart from the personal relations Cervantes maintained within the medical field, Cervantes' personal life was defined by an interest in medicine. He frequently visited patients from the Hospital de Inocentes in Sevilla. Furthermore, Cervantes explored medicine in his personal library. His library contained more than 200 volumes and included books like Examen de Ingenios, by Juan Huarte and Practica y teórica de cirugía, by Dionisio Daza Chacón that defined medical literature and medical theories of his time.

Researchers Isabel Sanchez Duque and Francisco Javier Escudero have found that Cervantes was a friend of the family Villaseñor, which was involved in a combat with Francisco de Acuña. Both sides combated disguised as medieval knights in the road from El Toboso to Miguel Esteban in 1581. They also found a person called Rodrigo Quijada, who bought the title of nobility of "hidalgo", and created diverse conflicts with the help of a squire.

Spurious Second Part by Avellaneda

Don Quixote Illustration I
Illustration to The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, Volume II

It is not certain when Cervantes began writing Part Two of Don Quixote, but he had probably not proceeded much further than Chapter LIX by late July 1614. In about September, however, a spurious Part Two, entitled Second Volume of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha: by the Licenciado (doctorate) Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda, of Tordesillas, was published in Tarragona by an unidentified Aragonese who was an admirer of Lope de Vega, rival of Cervantes. It was translated into English by William Augustus Yardley, Esquire in two volumes in 1784.

Some modern scholars suggest that Don Quixote's fictional encounter with Avellaneda's book in Chapter 59 of Part II should not be taken as the date that Cervantes encountered it, which may have been much earlier.

Avellaneda's identity has been the subject of many theories, but there is no consensus as to who he was.

The second part of Cervantes' Don Quixote, finished as a direct result of the Avellaneda book, has come to be regarded by some literary critics as superior to the first part, because of its greater depth of characterization, its discussions, mostly between Quixote and Sancho, on diverse subjects, and its philosophical insights. In Cervantes's Segunda Parte, Don Quixote visits a printing-house in Barcelona and finds Avellaneda's Second Part being printed there, in an early example of metafiction. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza also meet one of the characters from Avellaneda's book, Don Alvaro Tarfe, and make him swear that the “other” Quixote and Sancho are impostors.



Bronze statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
Bronze statues of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, at the Plaza de España in Madrid

Cervantes' story takes place on the plains of La Mancha, specifically the comarca of Campo de Montiel.

En un lugar de La Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor.
(Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.)

—Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, Volume I, Chapter I (translated by Edith Grossman)

The location of the village to which Cervantes alludes in the opening sentence of Don Quixote has been the subject of debate since its publication over four centuries ago. Indeed, Cervantes deliberately omits the name of the village, giving an explanation in the final chapter:

Such was the end of the Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha, whose village Cide Hamete would not indicate precisely, in order to leave all the towns and villages of La Mancha to contend among themselves for the right to adopt him and claim him as a son, as the seven cities of Greece contended for Homer.

—Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, Volume II, Chapter 74

In 2004, a multidisciplinary team of academics from Complutense University, led by Francisco Parra Luna, Manuel Fernández Nieto, and Santiago Petschen Verdaguer, deduced that the village was that of Villanueva de los Infantes. Their findings were published in a paper titled "'El Quijote' como un sistema de distancias/tiempos: hacia la localización del lugar de la Mancha", which was later published as a book: El enigma resuelto del Quijote. The result was replicated in two subsequent investigations: "La determinación del lugar de la Mancha como problema estadístico" and "The Kinematics of the Quixote and the Identity of the 'Place in La Mancha'".

Translators of Don Quixote, such as John Ormsby, have commented that the region of La Mancha is one of the most desertlike, unremarkable regions of Spain, the least romantic and fanciful place that one would imagine as the home of a courageous knight.

On the other hand, as Borges points out:

I suspect that in Don Quixote, it does not rain a single time. The landscapes described by Cervantes have nothing in common with the landscapes of Castile: they are conventional landscapes, full of meadows, streams, and copses that belong in an Italian novel.

The story also takes place in El Toboso where Don Quixote goes to seek Dulcinea's blessings.

Historical context

Don Quixote is said to reflect the Spanish society in which Cervantes lived and wrote. Spain's status as a world power was declining, and the Spanish national treasury was bankrupt due to expensive foreign wars. Spanish cultural dominance was also waning as the Protestant Reformation had put the Spanish Roman Catholic Church on the defensive, which had led to the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition. Meanwhile, the hidalgo class was losing relevance because of changes in Spanish society which made the high ideals of chivalry obsolete.


Billete de 1 peseta del Banco de España, 1951 (Anverso)
Don Quixote on a 1 Peseta banknote from 1951

Influence on modern Spanish

Don Quixote continues to be the origin of replication for authors. In 2002 the Norwegian Nobel Institute conducted a study among writers from 55 countries, the majority voted Don Quixote "the greatest work of fiction ever written".

The opening sentence of the book created a classic Spanish cliché with the phrase de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme ("whose name I do not wish to recall"): En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no hace mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor. ("In a village of La Mancha, whose name I do not wish to recall, there lived, not very long ago, one of those gentlemen with a lance in the lance-rack, an ancient shield, a skinny old horse, and a fast greyhound.")

Influence on the English language

Don Quixote alongside its many translations, has also provided a number of idioms and expressions to the English language. Examples with their own articles include the phrase "the pot calling the kettle black" and the adjective "quixotic."

Tilting at windmills

Tilting at windmills is an English idiom that means "attacking imaginary enemies". The expression is derived from Don Quixote, and the word "tilt" in this context refers to jousting. This phrase is sometimes also expressed as "charging at windmills" or "fighting the windmills".

The phrase is sometimes used to describe either confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications. It may also connote an inopportune, unfounded, and vain effort against adversaries real or imagined.


Illustration to Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes
Illustration to Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes (the edition translated by Charles Jarvis)
Don Quixote attacking a puppet theatre
Don Quixote. Close-up of illustration
Don Quixote - Engravings by Gustave Doré
Collage of the engravings of The Adventures of Don Quixote by Gustave Doré

In July 1604, Cervantes sold the rights of El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha (known as Don Quixote, Part I) to the publisher-bookseller Francisco de Robles for an unknown sum. License to publish was granted in September, the printing was finished in December, and the book came out on 16 January 1605.

The novel was an immediate success. Most of the 400 copies of the first edition were sent to the New World, with the publisher hoping to get a better price in the Americas. Although most of them disappeared in a shipwreck near La Havana, approximately 70 copies reached Lima, from where they were sent to Cuzco, in the heart of the defunct Inca Empire.

No sooner was it in the hands of the public than preparations were made to issue derivative (pirated) editions. In 1614 a fake second part was published by a mysterious author under the pen name Avellaneda. This author was never satisfactorily identified. This rushed Cervantes into writing and publishing a genuine second part in 1615, which was a year before his own death. Don Quixote had been growing in favour, and its author's name was now known beyond the Pyrenees. By August 1605, there were two Madrid editions, two published in Lisbon, and one in Valencia. Publisher Francisco de Robles secured additional copyrights for Aragon and Portugal for a second edition.

Sale of these publishing rights deprived Cervantes of further financial profit on Part One. In 1607, an edition was printed in Brussels. Robles, the Madrid publisher, found it necessary to meet demand with a third edition, a seventh publication in all, in 1608. Popularity of the book in Italy was such that a Milan bookseller issued an Italian edition in 1610. Yet another Brussels edition was called for in 1611. Since then, numerous editions have been released and in total, the novel is believed to have sold more than 500 million copies worldwide. The work has been produced in numerous editions and languages, the Cervantes Collection, at the State Library of New South Wales includes over 1,100 editions. These were collected, by Ben Haneman, over a period of thirty years.

In 1613, Cervantes published the Novelas ejemplares, dedicated to the Maecenas of the day, the Conde de Lemos. Eight and a half years after Part One had appeared came the first hint of a forthcoming Segunda Parte (Part Two). "You shall see shortly", Cervantes says, "the further exploits of Don Quixote and humours of Sancho Panza." Don Quixote, Part Two, published by the same press as its predecessor, appeared late in 1615, and quickly reprinted in Brussels and Valencia (1616) and Lisbon (1617). Parts One and Two were published as one edition in Barcelona in 1617. Historically, Cervantes' work has been said to have "smiled Spain's chivalry away", suggesting that Don Quixote as a chivalric satire contributed to the demise of Spanish Chivalry.

English editions in translation

Don Quichote And Sancho Panza by Louis Aquetin - Louis Anquetin - ABDAG005120
Don Quichote And Sancho Panza by Louis Anquetin

There are many translations of the book, and it has been adapted many times in shortened versions. Many derivative editions were also written at the time, as was the custom of envious or unscrupulous writers. Seven years after the Parte Primera appeared, Don Quixote had been translated into French, German, Italian, and English, with the first French translation of 'Part II' appearing in 1618, and the first English translation in 1620. One abridged adaptation, authored by Agustín Sánchez, runs slightly over 150 pages, cutting away about 750 pages.

Thomas Shelton's English translation of the First Part appeared in 1612 while Cervantes was still alive, although there is no evidence that Shelton had met the author. Although Shelton's version is cherished by some, according to John Ormsby and Samuel Putnam, it was far from satisfactory as a carrying over of Cervantes' text. Shelton's translation of the novel's Second Part appeared in 1620.

Near the end of the 17th century, John Phillips, a nephew of poet John Milton, published what Putnam considered the worst English translation. The translation, as literary critics claim, was not based on Cervantes' text but mostly on a French work by Filleau de Saint-Martin and on notes which Thomas Shelton had written.

Around 1700, a version by Pierre Antoine Motteux appeared. Motteux's translation enjoyed lasting popularity; it was reprinted as the Modern Library Series edition of the novel until recent times.

The proverb "The proof of the pudding is in the eating" is widely attributed to Cervantes. The Spanish word for pudding (budín), however, does not appear in the original text but premieres in the Motteux translation. In Smollett's translation of 1755 he notes that the original text reads literally "you will see when the eggs are fried", meaning "time will tell".

A translation by Captain John Stevens, which revised Thomas Shelton's version, also appeared in 1700, but its publication was overshadowed by the simultaneous release of Motteux's translation.

In 1742, the Charles Jervas translation appeared, posthumously. Through a printer's error, it came to be known, and is still known, as "the Jarvis translation". It was the most scholarly and accurate English translation of the novel up to that time, but future translator John Ormsby points out in his own introduction to the novel that the Jarvis translation has been criticized as being too stiff. Nevertheless, it became the most frequently reprinted translation of the novel until about 1885. Another 18th-century translation into English was that of Tobias Smollett, himself a novelist, first published in 1755. Like the Jarvis translation, it continues to be reprinted today.

A translation by Alexander James Duffield appeared in 1881 and another by Henry Edward Watts in 1888. Most modern translators take as their model the 1885 translation by John Ormsby.

An expurgated children's version, under the title The Story of Don Quixote, was published in 1922 (available on Project Gutenberg). It leaves out the chapters that young readers might consider dull, and embellishes a great deal on Cervantes' original text. The title page actually gives credit to the two editors as if they were the authors, and omits any mention of Cervantes.

The most widely read English-language translations of the mid-20th century are by Samuel Putnam (1949), J. M. Cohen (1950; Penguin Classics), and Walter Starkie (1957). The last English translation of the novel in the 20th century was by Burton Raffel, published in 1996. The 21st century has already seen five new translations of the novel into English. The first is by John D. Rutherford and the second by Edith Grossman. Reviewing the novel in The New York Times, Carlos Fuentes called Grossman's translation a "major literary achievement" and another called it the "most transparent and least impeded among more than a dozen English translations going back to the 17th century."

In 2005, the year of the novel's 400th anniversary, Tom Lathrop published a new English translation of the novel, based on a lifetime of specialized study of the novel and its history. The fourth translation of the 21st century was released in 2006 by former university librarian James H. Montgomery, 26 years after he had begun it, in an attempt to "recreate the sense of the original as closely as possible, though not at the expense of Cervantes' literary style."

In 2011, another translation by Gerald J. Davis appeared. It is the latest and the fifth translation of the 21st century, though it is self published via

List of English translations

  1. Thomas Shelton (1612 & 1620)
  2. John Phillips (1687) – the nephew of John Milton
  3. Pierre Antoine Motteux (1700)
    • John Ozell (1719) (revision of Pierre Antoine Motteux)
    • George Kelly (1769) (considered as another revision of Pierre Antoine Motteux)
  4. Ned Ward (1700), (The) Life & Notable Adventures of Don Quixote merrily translated into Hudibrastic Verse
  5. Charles Jervas (1742)
  6. Charles Henry Wilmot (1774)
  7. Mary Smirke with engravings by Robert Smirke (1818)
  8. Alexander James Duffield (1881)
  9. John Ormsby (1885). The original version, available free on the Internet Archive, is to be preferred to the Wikisource and similar versions, which do not include Ormsby's careful notes and with his Introduction much abbreviated.
    • Joseph Ramon Jones and Kenneth Douglas (1981) (revision of Ormsby). (ISBN: 978-0393090185) - Norton Critical Edition
  10. Henry Edward Watts (1888)
  11. Robinson Smith (1910)
  12. Samuel Putnam (Modern Library, 1949)
  13. J. M. Cohen (Penguin, 1950)
  14. Walter Starkie (1964)
  15. Burton Raffel (Norton, 1996)
    • Diana de Armas Wilson (2020) (revision of Burton Raffel)
  16. John Rutherford (Penguin, 2000)
  17. Edith Grossman (2003)
  18. Thomas Lathrop (2005, Second Edition: 2007)
  19. James H. Montgomery (2006)
  20. Gerald J. Davis (2011)

Reviewing the English translations as a whole, Daniel Eisenberg stated that there is no one translation ideal for every purpose, but expressed a preference for those of Putnam and the revision of Ormsby's translation by Douglas and Jones.

English Translation of the Spurious Don Quixote

  1. Captain John Stevens (1705)
  2. William Augustus Yardley (1784)

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Don Quijote de la Mancha para niños

  • List of Don Quixote characters
  • List of works influenced by Don Quixote – including a gallery of paintings and illustrations
  • António José da Silva – writer of Vida do Grande Dom Quixote de la Mancha e do Gordo Sancho Pança (1733)
  • Coco – In the last chapter, the epitaph of Don Quijote identifies him as "el coco".
  • Man of La Mancha, a musical play based on the life of Cervantes, author of Don Quixote.
  • Monsignor Quixote, a novel by Graham Greene
  • Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, a short story by Jorge Luis Borges

Authors and works mentioned in Don Quixote

  • Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda – author of a spurious sequel to Don Quixote which, in turn, is referenced in the actual sequel
  • Amadís de Gaula – one of the chivalric novels found in Don Quixote's library
  • Belianís – one of the chivalric novels found in the library of Don Quixote
  • Tirant lo Blanch – one of the chivalric novels mentioned by Don Quixote


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