Quixote and Nuevo
Octavio Solis faithfully adapted Don Quixote for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2009 season. 10 years later, his new take on the Spanish Classic hits much closer to home. We’ve highlighted some key differences between classic Quixote and the Nuevo knight.
The Enemies in Combat
Quixote's most famous enemies are the windmills he mistakes for giants in the countryside of La Mancha. The scene is the origin for the phrase titling at windmills, which refers to undertaking futile tasks or fight imaginary foes.
Tilting at surveillance balloons will probably not take off as a new idiom, but it is a fitting replacement for the windmill: both are (relatively) new technologies, specific to the area, and a symbol for the destruction of the past and a new, uncertain future.
The Faithful Companion
Witty and practical, Sancho is a poor farmer that takes up with Don Quixote as a squire, on the promise that he'll be rewarded an island in return for his efforts. Although he is a little greedy, Sancho becomes a loyal friend to the frail and aging Quixote.
Witty and practical, Manny is a paletas vendor who shows real concern for his neighbor, Joe. Manny agrees to join hm as Sancho so he can keep an eye on him. Like the original Sancho, he becomes a loyal friend who admires the mad knight.
The Knight of the Woeful Countenance
Before riding out as the Spanish Knight of La Mancha, Don Quixote is simply Alonso Quijano, a nobleman who has read a few too many romance books of yore. He goes mad and believes he is a chivalrous knight-errant destined to serve his country.
Before riding out as the Latino Knight of La Plancha, Jose (Joe) Quijano is a retired Cervantes scholar and professor fighting a losing battle against regret and dimentia. His dimentia and desire to right wrongs create the delusion that he is Don Quixote.
Activity: Adapt it Yourself!
Watch the video summary to get a feel for the original Don Quixote. Heads up: This video contains some PG-rated language.
Identify an epic story that lives in the past. It can be mythical or a recount of an actual event. Adapt the epic story to fit in your modern world. What are the key differences?
Bonus challenge: create short scenes of the modern adaptation and act them out or write a script.
A World Inspired by Quixote
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes forever changed the way we experience fiction. It has been translated into over 60 different languages and adapted into practically every art form known to man. References to Don Quixote are found all over pop culture, from The Simpsons to Supernatural.
More than text: Click through the slide show to see other things inspired by Don Quixote
A Quixotic Quest on Film
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was a long-time passion project for director Terry Gilliam. The project languished away for twenty-five years in development hell. Several actors joined the project and dropped for various reasons, including Johnny Depp, John Hurt, and Ewan McGregor. Making the film became its own quixotic fantasy; Gilliam even created a documentary about the process called Lost in La Mancha. The documentary was filmed, edited, and released years before his actual Quixote film was completed. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was finally released in 2018, starring Adam Driver and Johnathan Pryce. It’s rated 63% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.
Did You Know...?
Fun Fact: A man going by the pseudonym of Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda released an unauthorized sequal to Don Quixote. This critically panned rip off angered Cervantes so much that he wrote his own part two. Don Quixote dies at the end, effectively putting a stop to any future copycats. No one knows for sure who Alonso was, but rumor has it that a group loyal to Lope de Vega wrote it. Lope de Vega was a playwright, poet, and literary rival to Cervantes.
Miguel de Cervantes (left) vs Lope de Vega (right)
The Life & Times of Cervantes
The life of Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) is an epic tale of its own. He fought in the Spanish army against the Ottoman Empire and lost the use of his left arm. He was captured by pirates while sailing back to Spain and spent five years as a slave in Algiers. He tried to escape four times before he was finally ransomed.
Life as a free man in Spain wasn’t easy for Cervantes. He had a troubled marriage, financial difficulties, and was jailed several times for fraud (and once as a murder suspect). Even though he is hailed as one of the greatest writers of all time, his writing never made him rich.
He died on April 23, 1616, the same date as William Shakespeare. They actually died 10 days apart, even though the date is the same. England and Spain had different calendars at the time (and we thought time zones were difficult).
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra