Don Quixote Book II

A Reasonable Idealist

During the late Middle Ages, the ideals of chivalry and honor emerged as the dominant themes in literature. Romantic tales of gallant knights and courtly love captured the imaginations of medieval readers, and this influence carried over into the Renaissance and early modern Europe. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, these romantic medieval values clashed with the new emphasis on reason. The influence of both sets of values is seen in the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes's novel, Don Quixote. In this work, Cervantes presents the idealistic character of Don Quixote, who is deluded by chivalric ideas of heroism and valor. Don Quixote sets out to reform the world along with his sensible companion Sancho Panza. After an ill-starred career as a knight-errant, Don Quixote renounces his ideals and is restored to excessive sensibility. At the same time, Sancho Panza champions the very ideas that Don Quixote comes to reject. Through his use of names and through the naÔve ideals of Don Quixote and his subsequent exchange of beliefs with Sancho Panza, Cervantes reveals the need for a proper balance between the extremes of idealism and rationalism.

The subject of names is a prevalent one in Cervantes's work. Cervantes...

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