The Ironic Knight in Don Quixote, a Novel by Miguel de Cervantes
“The Ironic Hero: Some Reflections on Don Quixote”
The author speaks upon the different roles of a “hero or heroine”. According to W.H Auden, the expectations of a hero or heroine are known as one who is an “interesting character, unique and completely public. Some types of heros we see either fall into the category of an epic, tragic or comic heros. One specific character he points out is Don Quixote, but he assures us that Quixote does not fall into either of the three categories of a hero. Auden explains his viewpoints of the actions of Quixote and how the decisions he makes, characterizes him as a type of comedic or ironic knight.
Auden talks about three different kinds of heroes and they are epic, tragic, and comic heroes. He defines an epic hero as someone who possesses exceptional skills. An epic hero has a characteristic called “arete” and this defines them as being born with abilities such as athletic, brave, handsome, and etc. Next, a tragic hero is described as being born with arete but then transitioned from glory to misery. Finally, Auden defines a comic hero as an average man born with less arete than a jealous old husband. He suffers just like a tragic hero would but the suffering is just temporary. As a result, the suffering that the comic hero endures is just purely educational.
Auden brings up an interesting character Don Quixote, a poor man who tries his hardest to be knight, but his expectations become a more comedic attempt. He is inspired by his readings and one specific main character he admires is “The Knight Errant”. Knight Errant was portrayed as a man with heroic arete, good birth, good looks, strength, etc. He had three inspirational missions one being the desire for glory, another being the love of justice and lastly the love for a
woman who judges and rewards. At the beginning of his adventures, he had failed the three tasks. But at the end he eventually succeeds in his three mission.
We then begin to see how Quixote attempts to accomplish these missions that Errant has set. Although he is the complete opposite character of the hero he is idolized by. Quixote lacks one main feature of being a hero and that being the arete of birth. Quixote has a great dedication to the readings, which lead him to selling his land just to purchase more books. Which we readers would consider as something foolish leading him to be a comedic character. Through a religiously view we would consider him as a man not of his words. In other words, he says things but never really acts on it, which makes him a desperate man.
Quixote is very determined to become a knight, we see this when he says “The world,
that which needs my existence to save it at whatever cost at myself” In his perspective, he believes that the world needs him to survive and he is willing to go through anything just to help, even if it costs him his life. He later becomes a hopeless Knight of the Doleful. We see this when he is trying to save a boy from being beat by a farmer. He has the farmer swear by an oath that he would not hurt the boy, which later after he had left the scene the boy had just been beaten even more harsh.
Auden then compares Quixote to Hamlet, stating that Hamlet had lacked faith in both God and himself. As a result it lead him to understand himself through people around him. By doing this, he tries to become a “Greek tragic hero”. Auden states that Quixote has a similar character where he is also unable to understand himself. He is known to be delusional and looks
at things differently. He does not expect people to look after him and makes sure he is responsible for his actions. Although, he is constantly fails to replicate his heros, he is very persistent to work for the thing that he wants. Knight Errant is a major part of Quixotes beliefs,
as we see towards the end of the passage, he attempts to change the world but fails too.
Throughout this passage we see how Quixote’s actions are the opposite character of the ideal characters he looks up too. When he is first introduced we meet a character who loves reading and is a strong believer in the heroic characters he reads about. For instance, we also see when he becomes a knight he begins to complete good deeds around town thinking that he is helping others. But unfortunately on the other hand, he is actually making things worse. Also,
how his character begins to attack innocent clerics and destroy people’s property. Which are not
actions or an ideal hero.