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 prepares to be dubbed a knight. Lacking a powerful lord in a castle, Don Quixote asks his landlord to dub him. The landlord agrees to do it at dawn’s first light. Don Quixote prepares by meditating all night long, after first stowing his weapons safely away in a nearby watering trough. Alas, Don Quixote’s meditative vigil is interrupted by someone coming to use the trough to water his mules; Don Quixote is forced to dispatch his enemy—and all those enemies who follow. Fortunately, the landlord appears and is able to return peace to his courtyard by dubbing Don Quixote immediately, freeing him to begin protecting maidens and aiding widows and orphans.