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Confidence and Identity in "Don Quixote" by Miguel Cervantes

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In his story “Don Quixote”, Miguel Cervantes narrates a story of a man who gets lost in a fantasy world that he created from believe he was something he wasn’t. Cervantes introduces us to a character that seeks chivalrous adventures to fulfill his delusions of being a knight. Compared to Geoffrey Chancer’s introduction to the Wife of Bath in “The Canterbury Tales”, as a “loathsome old hag” who is traveling through with the pardoners, she comes across as very confident and proud. She describes herself as an expert on marriage. Both stories emphasis on these characters is that they believe they are more than what they really are and have the confidence in themselves but show that they are also very proud and over-confident which can either be good or bad traits. The identities of the character, Don Quixote and the Wife of Bath are made known to us as possibly being overly self-confident and slightly delusional.

Identity can be described as behavioral or personal characteristics that make them who they are. The author uses individual qualities to make the characters in the story relatable to the readers to captivate them and make the story significant.

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In Don Quixote, he is a middle-aged man, who becomes engrossed in books on chivalry and stories of bravery, courage, and valor. He gets so consumed by these stories that he begins to believe to be a part of them. Before he sets out on a journey, he cleans a suit of armor, makes a visor, renames his old horse and creates a love interest from a farmer girl that he had a previous infatuation with. He would get into disagreements with people in the town that disputed his claims of who he thought that he was. “Once his wits were gone, he conceived the strangest notion any madman had ever conceived, namely, he deemed it necessary and proper, not only for the increase of his own honor but as a service to his country, to become a knight-errant and travel throughout the world”. This imagination of Don Quixote creates a madman, who believes that he is something that he is not and has made up his own truths.

Overconfidence plays a huge role in Don Quixote because he has the faith in himself to set off in his quests. The author of the book portrays Don Quixote as someone who is not only doing this for himself but for the fame as well. The passion he has of living out this fantasy gives him the reassurance that he is destined to be a legendary knight. “In quest of adventures, performing all those deeds he had seen knights in his book perform…righting all manner of wrongs and exposing himself to battles and dangers so that by resolving them he would win for himself everlasting fame and renown”. He at one point after setting out does have a moment of clarity but it is still in a delusional state of mind and he then convinces or reasons with himself that he must continue to be the chivalrous knight that he identifies himself to be. “Thoughts caused him to vacillate in his resolve, but his madness being more persuasive than his arguments”.

Don Quixote lives within his own mind and when seeking out what he believes to be true that he takes on an identity that people either mock him or play along with his thoughts of what is make believe because he thought these stories to be true and he is determined to get others to believe in him to prove himself and become the celebrated knight. “Fortunate the age and fortunate the epoch in which these famous deeds of mine shall come to light worthy of being cast in bronze sculpted in marble and painted on canvas as a future memorial”. There was no one or no thing that could convince him to stop the nonsense of his fantasy thinking. Cervantes wants the readers to feel that if they have enough faith in themselves that it is stronger than strength.

In “The Canterbury Tales” the Wife of Bath prologue Chaucer introduces the readers to a character whose is revealed in an almost outrageous stunning way. She speaks of virginity and sex and using sex to manipulate to get what she wants. She believes herself to be the expert on all manners of marriage and being a wife. She establishes this theory of herself because of her experience and throughout her speaking she uses words from scripture or her own view on scriptures and their meanings to create an image of herself of an authority. “My life gives me authority, enough and more, it seems to me, to speak of all the woe in marriage”. During the conversation, she has some feminist qualities but she then she tells the pardoners that she gains the ultimate power through her verbal and sexual power. She speaks of how if biblical men could have many wives at one time why couldn’t she, why can’t she use sex as a power to have the control. She had 5 husbands that three were good and two were bad but the last one to be the most rewarding of them all because he did not give all his attention to her and when she stood up for herself he struck her making him feel guilty that she then had the rule of him.

One of the pardoners reveals that he is afraid of his upcoming nuptials because of what she has disclosed of a woman who is manipulative and uses the sex to get what she wants but she then reassures him to listen to her story before making any decisions. As she begins her story, she again claims to be the authority on marriage “Five husbands have perfected me”. Her identity is shown through her character and the qualities that she is forceful and dominating over men. She will not acknowledge any defeat. “I live my life in open trust and use my wifely instrument without restraint as it was sent”.

As she continues with her proclamation trying to reassure the pardoners that she is justified in her actions she describes that for the understanding of wives on how to treat their husbands, that “her gift is to swear and lie” and that she should make sure her husband can trust her. Essentially, she was youthful and takes joy in the manipulation.

That because of being able to lie, use her body to torment them, refusing them until they made promises to her she felt she held the upper hand. She validates that this was acceptable. “I swear by God omnipotent, I’ll say in my last testament, I gave back every word I owed. I made my tongue so sharp a goad. They had to yield-I’d never cease or give up any hope of peace. They snapped and snarled, you understand, but knew I had the upper hand. …A good man should be mild and meek, wrapped in patience like a robe. I’ve heard you say you honor Job”. She speaks this to the pardoners as almost a word of advice that they must be patient and giving to their wives should they accept that in return, when she states “No doubt you understand this tale. Prepare to pay; it’s all for sale. No empty hand can lure a hawk; for money, though, I’d never balk”. Chaucer in this section of the book is showing us a character that is sure of herself, her knowledge, her experience and it has shaped who she is and how she has lived throughout her life that she is superior to the men that she surrounds herself with.

Both stories give the readers an impression that the characters show confidence in themselves. That they are certain of themselves and their abilities but show us that they are strong-willed and determined as well and show a degree of arrogance. They both feel the need to be strong, the need to prove themselves to others. Don Quixote shows us that since he believed himself to be a courageous knight-errant and he needed to show doubters that he is destined to be just that. In “The Canterbury Tales”, the Wife of Bath needs to assert her authority over the pardoners that she is the expert of marriages and how wives need to act. She is very conceited and has an uncompromising attitude towards men. Each character shows us likeable and unlikeable character traits that make us as readers be able to relate.

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