The Diabolical Adventures of Don Quixote and the Possession of Shakespeare's Protagonists: Religious Climates and Models of Madness in Late Renaissance Spain and England
MetadataShow full item record
Madness and irrationality appear as recurrent motifs in Renaissance literature, not only in England but also on the Continent. Shakespeare incorporates the terminology and imagery of the Elizabethan exorcist to paint a convincing portrait of a young prince suffering from attacks of madness. Don Quixote, Cervantes' mad protagonist, speaks to Sancho about the power of demons: porque te hago saber que los diablos saben mucho . .. Y la raz6n es que como ellos, dondequiera que estan, traen el infierno consigo, y no pueden recebir qenero de alivio alguno de sus tormentos ....(I, 558) Just as Don Quixote is the victim of attacks of diabolical mania over which he has no control, so too Hamlet suffers from a spiritual madness which Shakespeare could only describe adequately through the terminology of an exorcist of his time. For both of these works, the audience's or reader's culturally-conditioned response would have been to associate the protagonist's state of mind with demonic possession.' The public may have considered possession to be a supernatural or a theatrical phenomenon, but in either case, as Stephen Greenblatt observes, they would have recognized "the types of cries appropriate to the occasion, the expected violent contortions, the 'decorum' .. of the trance state" (Shakespearean Negotiations 111). I have investigated how two writers, Cervantes and Shakespeare -- exact contemporaries who became, for many, the greatest authors in their respective national literatures - appropriated the language of Spanish Golden Age exorcists and Elizabethan writers on demonology to depict varying states of madness in their crazed protagonists. The terminology surrounding these characters suggests that the authors found the model of demonic possession useful in creating credible indicators of irrationality. These indicators would have been recognizable to audiences and readers familiar with exorcism as it was conceptualized within the religious climates of late Renaissance Spain and England.
DescriptionProgram year: 1994/1995
Digitized from print original stored in HDR
SubjectMiguel de Cervantes
Spanish Golden Age
Kallendorf, Hilaire (1995). The Diabolical Adventures of Don Quixote and the Possession of Shakespeare's Protagonists: Religious Climates and Models of Madness in Late Renaissance Spain and England. University Undergraduate Research Fellow. Available electronically from