Category Archives: Poetry

What is the Role of Poetry in Don Quixote?

“Don Quixote” has 78 poems in the book―17 couplets, 15 sonnets, 15 epitaphs, 5 ballads, 5 singlets, 3 tercets, 1 madrigal, 3 pastoral poems, and 14 miscellaneous
―which either introduce certain segments of the book (i.e. the prologue) or are woven into the text itself.  

Take, for example, the below verses by Urganda the Unknowable to Don Quixote De La Mancha  

If you O book, are duly hee

To seek the company of du―,

You won’t be told by some prize du―

That you are but a fumbling gree―.

But if you are not on pins and nee―

You go off into fools posse―,

You’ll no doubt see, when least expect―,

It is the wrong horse that they’re ba―,

Although they will be so fra―

To show that they’re extremely cle―.

This verse form, which enjoyed popularity in Spain during the 17th century, consists of an abbaaccddc rhyme scheme with the last unstressed syllable of each line omitted.  What, in your view, does this type of “fill-in-the-blank” poem encourage its readers to do?

One function of the above verse form is to bring readers into “Don Quixote” by making them active participants in the process of literary creation.  Readers, as noted before, now had to use their imaginations to complete the full meaning of this type of verse line. Hence, they become active participants in the act of creating a poem.

Why, in your view, does Cervantes incorporate so many poems in his books?  What does he accomplish by relying on his readers’s active efforts to extract meaning from his poems?