Q.2 Wherein lies the comedy in part one of Don Quixote?
The story Don Quixote is a burlesque, mock epic of the romances of chivalry, in which Cervantes teaches the reader the truth by creating laughter that ridicules. Through the protagonist, he succeeds in satirizing Spain’s obsession with the noble knights as being absurdly old fashioned. The dynamics of the comedy in this story are simple, Don Quixote believes the romances he has read and strives to live them out, and it is his actions and the situations that he finds himself in during his adventures that make the reader laugh. We can define comedy as something that entertains the reader and that makes us want to laugh out loud and Cervantes succeeds in doing this through his use of parody and satire and burlesque, slapstick and simple self-reflexive comedy. To keep the reader entertained, he also uses the shock of the unexpected and creates intervals of lucidity interspersed with insanity in Don Quixote’s character. Cervantes places particular emphasis on the comedy of appearance, comedy of situation and the comedy of action during Don Quixote’s adventures and it is the use of these devices that makes the story so humorous from beginning to end.
The theme of appearance has a very important role from the onset of this story as Cervantes uses it to create a burlesque of chivalry, while also entertaining the reader. The physical appearances of Don Quixote and his horse Rocinante, along with Don Quixote’s outlook on the banal places he encounters during his adventures continuously create grounds for laughter. The description of Don Quixote’s armor makes us laugh - he has altered his helmet by using cardboard as a visor “de cartones hizo un modo de media celada”
This makeshift helmet, which is held together by green ribbons, is ridiculed by Cervantes when Don Quixote refuses to take it off all night at the inn in order to keep it intact “la más graciosa y estraña figura que se pudiera pensar” The companionship of Don Quixote tells us a great deal about the protagonist. Usually respectful admirers of chivalry accompany a knight-errant, however, Don Quixote has chosen a squire that is garrulous, ignorant, unhappily married and greedy. He rides a horse that is broken down and described not only as old, but also as “parecía de leño”. Don Quixote is foolish in trying to mirror the heroic figures from the novels he has read. The reader imagines these figures as young, strong and handsome with an air of chivalry about them, however, in contrast, Don Quixote is described as old and physically unattractive in appearance, and at times he appears indecently dressed which all culminates in a very comical persona. He continuously sees black as white, to him, the banal places and objects of the countryside always seem much more interesting and adventurous than they actually are. This is best exemplified when he mistakes the windmills for giants and on his arrival at the inn when he convinces himself that he has arrived at a castle “que era un Castillo con sus cuatro torres y…con todos aquellos adherentes que semejantes castillos se pintan.” The two prostitutes at the door appear to him as beautiful damsels, the innkeeper as a Chatelain, and when offered truchela for dinner by the innkeeper, Don Quixote, thinks he is receiving little trout –food only fit for a knight. The simple, dynamic comedy in this chapter is very entertaining as we realize how far removed the protagonist is from reality. His active self-delusion is directly linked to his desire to dodge any inconvenient evidence; we see this at the beginning when he convinces himself “sin querer hacer nueva experienca” that the second makeshift helmet he has made will be full and sufficient. It also gives us a split perspective of events, one sane and the other deluded and this serves to highlight his insanity, which in turn intensifies the comicality of his character. Also, in view of the...
Bibliography: John Jay Allen: Don Quijote de la Mancha I (Madrid:Catedra, 2004).
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