Category Archives: The Metafictionality of Don Quixote

What is the Role of Poetry in Don Quixote?

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“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?

Don Quixote’s Metafictionality

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Don Quixote is a unique novel because it discusses itself within the pages of itself.  For example, when an old notebook of the history of Don Quixote is found at a bazaar in Toledo a Catholic Cannon reminds us that chivalry books do not follow the rules of Aristotelian writing.  Also, when Cide Hamete El Benengeli, the book’s fictitious narrator, analyzes Don Quixote’s artistic genres he shows a concern for literature and language that signals Don Quixote’s Metafictionality.  Given Don Quixote’s self-reflexive nature the book’s author becomes a character in the story who steps in-and-out of the tale.  More largely, by referring to the author throughout the story, Cervantes does not let readers forget they are reading a fictional work.  For instance, during the Captive Captain’s tale, we are told that Miguel Cervantes was the only man who emerged unscathed from his slavery. Another feature that defines Don Quixote as a work of Metafiction is that it mentions several works of fiction. For example, during the inquisition of Don Quixote’s library, Cervantes’s Galatea is retained for its original style.  Later, when the innkeeper produces Rinconete and Cortadillo, another story by Cervantes, a local priest decides to read The Tale of Inappropriate Curiosity instead.  Finally, since Don Quixote tends to call attention to itself as a literary artifact characters within the story are acutely aware that they are in a work of fiction.  In brief, since Don Quixote self-consciously evaluates itself throughout its’ story-telling it is fiction about fiction, or Metafictional in nature.