Essay Book and Reference Guide
By EMRE GURGEN

DON QUIXOTE EXPLAINED: THE STORY OF
AN UNCONVENTIONAL HERO

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DQ Dulcinea

Dulcinea is based on a good looking peasant girl from El Toboso named Aldonza Lorenzo whose father is Lorenzo Corchuelo and whose mother is Aldonza Nogales. Raised hale and healthy, Aldonza Lorenzo is as “strong as an ox” since she "pitches a bar as far as the strongest lad in the village." Described as a “lusty lass,” Aldonza Lorenzo is "a muscular woman with a voice that can be heard from miles away."  Not priggish she enjoys a joke with everyone and turns everything into a good laugh.

 
Despite seeing Aldonza Lorenzo "four times in twelve years" Don Quixote never declares his great love for her.  In the story Aldonza Lorenzo is never made aware of Don Quixote’s love for her. Instead she is worshiped from afar.  Though Aldonza Lorenzo never enters the story directly, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza comment on her lineage, parents, home town, even her physical person.

By depicting Aldonza Lorenzo in his imagination exactly as he wishes her to be, Don Quixote convinces himself that she is “the greatest princess in the world.”


Seeking a name with some affinity to his own Don Quixote renames Aldonza Lorenzo Dulcinea Del Toboso since this appellation “sounds musical to him.”  Don Quixote even invents a respectable pedigree for Dulcinea saying that she is both noble and well-born since she descends from the aristocratic families of Toboso, which, according to him, are “many, ancient and of the highest quality.”  To further embellish Dulcinea, Cervantes tells readers that "she has never seen a real Moor such is the reserve and seclusion of her upbringing." 


Although Dulcinea is largely a figure of fantasy who Don Quixote conceives and gives birth to in his mind, he needs a lady of whom he can be enamored; “for a knight errant without a lady-love is a tree without leaves or fruit, a body without a soul.”  For Don Quixote it is enough to be convinced that Dulcinea is beautiful and virtuous since he depicts her in his imagination as he wishes her to be, both in beauty and in rank.  At one point we are even told that Don Quixote hoped to be joined in “lawful matrimony” with Dulcinea “from whose womb will issue [his children].”  Most crucially, Don Quixote invents Dulcinea in his mind so that he can have someone to send tributes to so that conquered knights swear their allegiance to her in humble tones of submission.


Throughout his many adventures, Don Quixote supplicates his conquered foes to Dulcinea.  For example, when he defeats a truculent Basque he makes him promise to repair to the village of Toboso and present himself on Don Quixote’s behalf so that Dulcinea may dispose of him according to her pleasure.  Later, Don Quixote turns to the Basque’s employer insisting that she should requite the benefit she received from him by "informing Dulcinea what he has accomplished for her deliverance."  Next, Don Quixote demands that a group of outlaws set off without delay for the city of El Toboso to relate to Dulcinea, stage-by-stage, how he restored their liberty.


During his campaign Don Quixote repeatedly appeals to Dulcinea to infuse his arm with the strength that he needs to overcome many daunting foes. This is why he begs Dulcinea to:  favor him in his enterprises; succour him in his plight; strengthen his heart; enlighten his mind; and invest him with the courage he needs to defeat other knights.  Before all his battles, Don Quixote commends himself with all his heart to his lady Dulcinea so that she inspires him to perform brave acts of chivalry.


Anytime Dulcinea is insulted or disparaged or in any way denigrated, Don Quixote fights for her honor.  This is why he charges a group of silk merchants destined for Toledo and this is why he fights Sanson Carrasco when the latter disguises himself:  first, as the Knight of the Forest; then as the Knight of the White Moon. 


Similarly, when Dulcinea’s identity is questioned, Don Quixote insists that wicked enchanters have the power to transform Dulcinea into the figure of a peasant wench.  In fact to “disenchant” Dulcinea Don Quixote tries to force Sancho Panza to whip himself “3, 300 times on his bum.”  He even asks an enchanted bust about Dulcinea’s complete disenchantment.  This, in short, is how Don Quixote continues to believe in a nonexistent Dulcinea.