The Novel as Romance: Cervantes’ Don Quixote

  • Ioan Williams


Historians of the novel tend to relate the appearance of the two separate volumes of Don Quixote (1605 and 1615) to the development in Spain and in Europe as a whole of the picaresque tale. Chronologically this is tempting. The anonymous Lazarillo de Tonnes appeared as early as 1554 but was followed by Mateo Alemán’s Guzmán de Alfarache (1599–1604) in the years immediately before the appearance of Don Quixote I and by Quevedo’s La Vida del Buscón in 1626. In so far as there was a picaresque movement, Cervantes must have been affected by it, and its influence is certainly clear in those of his Novelas Ejemplares (1613) which depict events in the lower levels of society. The relationship, however, is no closer than this. In the first place it is important to remember that Cervantes drew much of the inspiration for his own realism, in common with the picaresque authors, from medieval sources, and especially from works like the Tragicomedia de Calixto y Melibea (1499–1502). Secondly, it is important to remember that Cervantes became a novelist not because he shared the reductive realism of the picaresque writers or the medieval moralists, but because he was an idealist. In his case awareness of material reality and of the elements which reduce human aspirations and human dignity made up a secondary element in his sensibility.


Conceptual Element Secondary Element Literary Discussion Puppet Show Fictional Mode 
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  1. 1.
    ‘… le mouvement qui porte tout le fini vers Dieu.’ A. Adam, Histoire de la Littérature Française au xviie Siècle, I (1962), p. 7.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    See A. Castro, Hacia Cervantes, 3rd ed. (Madrid, 1967).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    R. Laufer, Le Sage ou le métier de romancier (1971), pp. 89–90.Google Scholar

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© Ioan Williams 1979

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  • Ioan Williams

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