In Miquel Cervantes’ 1605 novel The Ingenious Low-Born Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, the great romantic Alanso Quixano decides to become a knight errant to revive chivalry. He adopts the name Don Quixote de la Mancha, recruits a farmer named Sancho Manza to be his squire, and embarks on great adventures, living what he envisions to be the life of a knight. The book was initially accepted as a comic novel, but it was in fact meant to be the opposite of what it seems to portray. Is Don Quixote living in an imaginary world, tilting at windmills, or is it the world that is actually upside down?
This 1843 etching by the great master Adolf Schrödter illustrates the scene in which Don Quixote rests with the goat herders. In a moment of what might pass as egalitarianism, Quixote invites Pancho to sit down next to him to join him in a meal, unironically telling Pancho, “you should sit next to me, your master, because all things are equal”. Probably no surprise that Pancho demurs, saying that he would rather eat alone than eat beside an emperor. But Quixote refuses to accept Pancho’s refusal, violently pulling Pancho down to sit beside him. Quixote then gives his famous “Golden Age” speech, describing the antediluvian world in which no one knew the words “yours” and “mine”.