TIPS FOR READERS
February 9, 2005
Here is a list of characters, terms and definitions from "Don Quixote." The definitions are from Howard Mancing's "The Cervantes Encyclopedia," published in 2004.
Don Quixote definitions
Briareos (Briareo) In Greek myth, one of three giants with 100 arms. The four-armed windmill-giants in Part I are compared to briareos.
Cardenio The madman doing penance in the Sierra Morena when Don Quixote and Sancho Panza meet him. The narrator refers to him as the Ragged Knight of the Disreputable Countenance. He becomes an important character in the novel, as well as in William Shakespeare's "Cardenio."
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra He published "Don Quixote" in two parts in 1605 and 1615. In the late 1500s, Cervantes was a member of the Spanish army, and he was taken prisoner by Barbary pirates in 1575 and held for ransom in Algiers. He makes four attempts to escape during his five-year captivity. In 1580, he is ransomed and returned to Spain. He then makes his living writing plays, poetry and works of fiction.
Don Quixote A hidalgo (see hidalgo definition) who lives in the village of La Mancha. He is nearing 50 years of age and spends most of his time reading romances of chivalry. As a result of too much reading and too little sleep, he loses his mind and conceives the idea of actually becoming a knight-errant himself. He is knighted by an innkeeper, who Don Quixote believes to be lord of a castle.
Dulcinea del Toboso Don Quixote decides he cannot be a knight-errant without a lady, so he invents one based on a peasant named Aldonza Lorenzo who lives nearby. Dulcinea del Toboso is perhaps the most significant absent character in all of literature. Dulcinea, or Aldonza Lorenzo, never appears in the novel, but she is constantly mentioned. Quixote believes that all knights-errant must have a ladylove who infuses them with strength by means of their virtue and beauty. Quixote's creation is responsible for many of the problems he faces in Part II of the novel.
Hidalgo In Spain, there was a higher percentage of the populationat least 10 percentwith some title of nobility than in any other European country during the Renaissance. Noble status symbolized hierarchical social superiority, and nobles were assumed to possess honor and virtue. The nobility structure had several hierarchical levels, including royalty, titled nobles, caballeros and hidalgos. A hidalgo was the lowest rank, and this noble actually had few privileges and was often impoverished. A hidalgo was not allowed to use the title Don with his name, and Don Quixote's use of the title is a bit of satire.
La Mancha A region in Spain that lies south of Madrid and north of Andalusia. Traditionally, it was made up of the provinces of Albacete and Ciudad Real. Today, it is part of the modern Castilla-La Mancha, the largest political subdivision in the country. The word "Mancha" is derived from the Arabic "mantxa" for dry land. Efforts have been made to trace on maps the precise route the Don Quixote takes on his three adventures, but neither the geography nor the chronology of his adventures follows a logical course.
Aldonza Lorenzo The name of the peasant woman whom Don Quixote loved or at least based his love on.
Señor Quijana Name by which the peasant Pedro Alonso refers to Don Quixote when he comes across him in Part I, chapter five.
Quijotiz The pastoral name Don Quixote chooses for himself late in the novel after he is defeated by another knight errant and forced to return home for at least a year.
Quixotic novel Any novel that bears some degree of intertextual relationship, such as a sequel or a story with namesakes, to "Don Quixote."
Quixotisms Vocabulary thanks to Cervantes. Terms that most frequently suggest the ideas of romantic chivalric idealism, romantic exaltation or an attempt to cope with the world according to literary models.
Reinaldos de Montalbán A French epic hero and one of Don Quixote's favorite heroes who inspired his adventures.
Rocinante Don Quixote's horse, which is really an old nag. The horse, like Don Quixote, is old, skinny and awkward.
Libro de caballerías (Romance of chivalry) Tales of chivalric heroism and gallantry were a staple of the Middle Ages throughout Europe. The romances of chivalry were banned in the Spanish colonies in America, but nevertheless these books were exported in large numbers to the New World. Their popular revival in Spain early in the 16th century made them Don Quixote's favorite reading.
Sancho Panza The peasant, who is a good man but with "little salt in his mill," who serves as Don Quixote's squire. Panza's role is largely to be reality instructor to Don Quixote, as well as to provide comic relief. One of the defining traits of this character is his use of proverbs, sometimes in lengthy strings, frequently with little or no relation to the subject at hand. For example in Part I, chapter 19, "Let the dead go to their grave, while the living go for bread."