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Don Quixote is a story about becoming enveloped in a preferred reality. Don Quixote of La Mancha is a man obsessed with knights and their way of chivalry, a system of moral and social code. Don Quixote vows to become a knight and devotes his life to acting chivalrous. The story actually shares a lot of ground with the morality play, Everyman, in that both include themes of ultimate disillusionment, but the loss of good sense between these two characters is quite different.

Both Don Quixote and Everyman feature main characters who believe they live good lives, though Everymanʼs situation is much more vague and general to keep the allegory widely applicable, which is part of what makes it comparable to Don Quixote. In Everyman, the main characterʼs plight is that God has sent death to collect Everyman so God can judge him prior to his death. God says, “Of ghostly sight the people be so blind / drowned in sin, they know me not for their God / In worldly riches is all their mind / They fear not my rightwiseness, the sharp rod.” God is frustrated with his peopleʼs ignorance towards God. “To get them life I suffered to be dead / I healed their feet with thorns hurt was my head / I could do no more than I did truly / And now I see the people do clean forsake me.” People follow their desires, which also frustrates God. “Everyman liveth so after his own pleasure,” he says.

Considering all this, God sends Death to tell Everyman that itʼs judgement time. The prospect of judgement scares Everyman because he wonders whether he will make it into heaven. At Everymanʼs request, Death gives Everyman a chance to find companions who can vouch of Everymanʼs good life. Itʼs during this period that Everyman begins to doubt his worthiness, worrying that his life was not spent as well as it could have been. It is a sort of disillusionment, the kind we experience when faced with the prospect of death as Everyman is. Deathʼs arrival isnʼt certain to us. “O Death, thou comest when I had thee least in mind,” says Everyman. That Everyman begins to question what aspects of his life will prove his worth is meant to show that death brings clarity.

This mirrors Don Quixoteʼs realization at the end of his life. Don Quixote, obsessed with chivalry, has spent his life trying to become a Knight, which has meant a lot of time galavanting around trying to help others, act courteously, and look knightly. At his deathbed, he realizes this was foolish. “Now I see through their absurdities and deceptions,” says Quixote, “and it only grieves me that this destruction of my illusions has come so late.”

This is a deathbed repentance at its finest. No one doubts Quixoteʼs clarity of mind, which is now focused on salient things. Similar to how God wishes his people would give less weight to lifeʼs pleasures, Don Quixote realizes that his chase after chivalry has made his life ridiculous. Quixote says, “Niece, I feel myself at the point of death, and I would fain meet it in such a way as to show that my life has not been so ill that I should leave behind me the name of a madman; for though I have been one, I would not that the fact should be made plainer at my death.” Despite all his friends and companions he had gained over his journey, Quixote regrets his delusions. This disillusionment at the end of life is common between Don Quixote and Everyman.

But Everyman is a morality play, an allegory more concerned with didactically worming its way into your conscience and showing Christians how to save their souls and less concerned with a realistic plot. Thatʼs why Everyman is so general, thus the not-so-subtly named main character Everyman. Don Quixote, while it includes elements of disillusionment, is more completely about Don Quixoteʼs comic character and his attempted exercise of chivalry. The eventual point of Everyman is that we really carry nothing more with us than our earthly knowledge weʼve gained into the afterlife, and all that can stand before the judgement of God is our good deeds. The eventual point of Don Quixoteʼs story is the demise of chivalry and the amusing tales of a bumbling hero, fighting windmills and unwittingly reuniting lovers.

The loss of good sense we see in Don Quixote is more comical and focuses on the harm Quixote does as he is unable to see the world for what it really is. “Look there,” says Quixote, referring to a field of windmills, “thirty or more monstrous giants present themselves, all of whom I mean to engage in battle and slay. . .” Itʼs curious as to whether Don Quixote actually believes in his imagined reality. Sancho, his squire, points out that those “monsters” are merely windmills, to which Quixote replies “Thou art not used to this business of adventures; those are giants!” That Quixote goes so far as to attack and joust with the swirling windmills suggests he really may be delusional, and it may be the most entertaining loss of good sense of the renaissance era.

In fact, as Don Quixote goes on, itʼs hard to make an argument that Don Quixote has any sense left, as most of his actions bring inadvertent harm to people, as well as the fact that most people display the good sense not to follow Don Quixote, despite his good intentions. “I shall never be fool enough to turn knight-errant,” says one Innkeeper. “I see quite well that itʼs not the fashion now to do as they did in the olden days when they say those famous knights roamed the world.” It really isnʼt until the end of the story when Quixote begins to recollect his senses, culminating in his deathbed repentance.

Everymanʼs loss of good sense is much more vague. Everyman searches for what in his life can vouch for his worthiness, and you could say the fact that he looks in all the wrong places - recruiting friends, family, and his wits to show his self-worth - is a sign of his loss of good sense.

But in the abstract, thereʼs an argument to be made that the two protagonists, Quixote and Everyman, are searching for what they personally believe is most important in life. Quixote believes that chivalry is his purpose, ignoring the fact that chivalry is outdated in his time and doesnʼt fit with the world he inhabits; Everyman that material goods, friends, strength, and beauty are the parts of life he can rely on in his judgement day.

Because of how nebulous the situation of Everyman is, itʼs possible to draw these parallels between it and a story like Don Quixote. Still, thatʼs not necessarily a bad thing. Part of the benefit of allegories like Everyman is that they help us understand other works better, and the character of Don Quixote is more clear for it.


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