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Timed Reading

(Intermediate ESL level)


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Don Quijote



Miguel de Cervantes (1550-1616) is considered  the most acclaimed  writer in Spanish.  Cervantes' masterpiece , El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (1605, 1615), is the most significant book of the Spanish letters.  What is this novel about?  At the very beginning of the first chapter we meet Alonso Quijano, a gentleman who has no productive activity to occupy his fertile mind.  He devotes his time to reading books of chivalry, most of them bad, and this hobby catapults him into the unreal world of those books, leaving him utterly confused about himself and about his perception of the world around him. 


The protagonist decides to become a knight-errant with the name don Quixote de la Mancha.  The protagonist of a romance of chivalry is always young, handsome, and strong.  Yet, don Quixote is middle age, rides a broken-down horse, and wears an old armor patched with cardboard.  He does not travel to exotic lands, but rather he tries to be a knight in Spain, in the desert-like and under-populated plain of La Mancha.


Knights perform useful deeds---helping kings repel invaders and eliminating menaces of the public order - whereas don Quixote sets prisoners free, and attacks windmills,  armies of sheep, and wineskins.  He is also a knight in love.  Don Quixote falls in love not with a beautiful noble woman, but with a peasant girl who, according to Sancho Panza, don Quixote's squire, has a strong voice and smells like a man.


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