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The Enduring Power of Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes

Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes belongs in the same category as Johann Sebastian Bach and William Shakespeare. What Bach did for music, Shakespeare did for theater, and Cervantes, for the modern Western novel with his Don Quixote.

“Cervantes and Shakespeare, who died almost simultaneously, are the central western authors, at least since Dante, and no writer since has matched them, not Tolstoy or Goethe, Dickens, Proust, Joyce,” according to scholar Harold Bloom.

Don Quixote‘s influence is pervasive throughout our culture:

  • Film adaptations
  • Novels and stories by Flaubert, Kafka, Graham Greene and Salman Rushdie draw from Don Quixote
  • Scores of classical compositions and ballets, including Telemann’s Don Quixote Suite (which will be performed by BAS)
  • Popular music inspired by the novel range from folk, alternative rock, hip-hop to Broadway, Man of La Mancha is an enduring musical and The Impossible Dream is a standard.
Cervantes’ novel follows the adventures of a hidalgo named Mr. Alonso Quixano, who reads so many chivalric romances that he loses his sanity and decides to set out to revive chivalry, undo wrongs and bring justice to the world, under the name Don Quixote de la Mancha. He recruits a simple farmer, Sancho Panza, as his squire, who often employs a unique, earthy wit in dealing with Don Quixote’s rhetorical orations on antiquated knighthood.
“Part of its technical charm for writers is the way in which it is the ancestor both of realism and of very modern self-conscious metafictions,” says scholar A.S. Byatt. “Don Quixote and Sancho Panza grow more real as they suffer and discuss. They have real bodies in a real landscape and an almost-real society. Once you have met them you can never forget them.”
The Adventures of Don Quixote
7:30 p.m., Saturday, June 3
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Tickets: $35/adults, $17/students
Available at the door starting at 7 p.m.