four weeks. To reduce allotted time, consider assigning just Part
1 of the text.
10-12 (some excerpts could be used in grades 8-9)
Arts, Performing Arts, Foreign Language, Social Studies, Visual
Geography, History, Literature, Music, Painting, Opera, Sculpture,
Intrapersonal Intelligence, Musical/Rhythmic Intelligence, Verbal/Linguistic
and integration of knowledge,
Extension and refinement of knowledge,
use of knowledge
unit is designed to immerse students in Cervantes's novel, Don
Quixote, from several different perspectives. The primary
goal is to help students understand what aspects of the novel
have contributed to its standing as one of the most valued and
enduring literary sources in the western literary tradition. Students
will also discuss how, over many decades, the novel has been a
seminal inspiration for several genres of art expression.
to computers; VCR; tape/CD player
Cervantes's Don Quixote (the abridged Signet Classic is
a good English translation, one very accessible to secondary students),
Cervantes's Don Quixote in Spanish
world history text (suggestion: McKay, Hill, and Bucklin's History
of Western Society)
The Man Of La Mancha; ballet and opera versions of Don
or CD: recordings of music from derivatives of the text, for
instance, "The Impossible Dream"
of Spanish art, particularly landscape Spanish artifacts,
if possible, depicting "The Knight of the Rueful Figure"
for students who want to do related special projects in visual arts
and Extension-Specific Resources:
Cervantes Project 2001, a site in both English and Spanish, contains
a wealth of information related to the life, work, and times of
This is a very comprehensive site related to both Cervantes and
Don Quixote. You will find the on-line text of Don Quixote
along with favorite quotes. The Cervantes society of America,
The Don Quixote Exhibit from the Peabody Library, world literature
and criticism, and biography of Cervantes.
General Internet Resources:
The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs developed this site in
an effort to provide information on Spanish current affairs and
its historical, linguistic and cultural development.
Standards for Arts Education:
9-12, Standards 6, 7, 8, 9
9-12, Standards 1, 8
enable students to achieve the following:
the novel as a mirror of the dynamic changes occurring in the
philosophical, social, political, and cultural outlook of the
late Medieval-Renaissance time period
examine the structure of the narrative as an archetypal pattern
and as an important factor in the shaping of its impact
the richness of Cervantes's diversity of characterization
the complexities and "lessons" inherent in the basic
nature of each of the two major players in the novel, including
their adventures and interrelationship
the comic-tragic extension of these complexities and specific
ways the form of the novel (plot structure, structural pattern,
and texture, i.e., tone, diction, rhythm, and images) builds
specific ways the novel has been transferred into other genres
(ballets, opera, a Broadway musical), and explore students'
vision of how they would make this transfer
precepts of philosophical "Truths" that seem to emerge
as a third-dimensional aspect of the novel
on the novel as a source for exercising and strengthening process
skills (discussion skills; oral presentation; writing process;
collaborative participation; research skills; computer literacy;
visual literacy; visual and performing arts skills)
the impact of language translation
vocabulary of critical analysis; appreciate the fact that Cervantes'
Spanish heritage, his compelling use of his native language,
and his life experiences, particularly as a soldier, were vital
forces in shaping the beauty and magnetic power of the novel.
will engage in a variety of assignments and activities that provide
background material and encourage close textual study:
and print media research in historical and critical sources
formal explication of the text
viewing of film, text, and Don Quixote derivatives, including
ballets, the opera, and the musical
listening to recordings of music scores from derivative sources
of critical analysis
and expository writing assignments
opportunities (dramatic vignettes; dance; instrumental music;
singing; visual displays)
of brief passages of the Spanish text with the English translation
Preparation: Encourage students to start reading the text a few
weeks before the actual classroom study begins. Ask them to "map"
the plot structure as it unfolds, identifying the basic exposition
(background) of the story, summing up the complication (the basic
conflict), assessing what they consider to be the climax (high
point) of the story, and delineating their perception of the resolution
of the complication. Advise them to formally annotate their "mapping"
in their notes so it can be used when formal classroom analysis
I: The Text as a Mirror of the Late Medieval /Renaissance Era
Great works of classical literature can be read and appreciated
on many levels. Don Quixote certainly falls in that category.
It is compelling as an adventure story and a romance. It is rich
in humor. It is forceful in characterization, imagery, and situational
irony. It teaches many "lessons." One level that certainly
evokes that "ah, yes!" response in the reader is Cervantes's
ability to capture the human spirit in struggle during dramatic
changes in the social, political, historical and cultural landscapes
of the 16th century. It is through this level, forged from the
synthesis of other levels of the text, that we are particularly
impelled to see ourselves struggling with the changes of our lives
and our world. The following suggestions are aimed at helping
to equip students to grasp this reflector level of the text.
- develop an individual list of what they already know about the
general outlook and the events of the late fifteenth and the sixteenth
- share the information in large group discussion
- gather additional information through research of Web and print
work in small collaborative groups to construct brief written
profiles of topics related to the time period that will help illuminate
various aspects of the text
chivalry and the chivalric code
the quest for the Holy Grail
demise of feudalism and the growth of towns
advent of printing in 1485, and the ensuing distribution of
rise of the universities
erosion of the Medieval Church and the growth of secularism
developments in science and technology
the geography and conquests of Spain in this time period
the Spanish Inquisition
political tensions between Church and State, articulated in
"wars" between Popes and Kings
growth of Nationalism
relationships between Spain and the Moors
the "Utopian" vision (Sir Thomas More)
Humanism as a catalyst feeding the Renaissance spirit
The Black Plague
the "Knight-errant" and the adventures in the New
the Spanish Armada
gather data about Cervantes'
life, particularly his life as a soldier
probe, in discussion, the implications of the fact that Cervantes
and Shakespeare were contemporaries (noting that they died on
the same calendar day, April 23, 1616) as one way to highlight
key aspects of the age
Part II: Structure, Characterization, and
Texture of the Novel
structural unity of Don Quixote emerges from several "binding"
elements of theme and form (craftsmanship). The following activities
are designed to help students unravel the complexity of these
Ask students to:
work in small groups to identify and record as many aspects of
the text as they can find that contribute to interrelating the
parts of the novel into a unified whole
share the groups' "discoveries" in the large group,
rounding out the list to include such aspects as:
legends and texts about knights and chivalry (the embedded past)
juxtaposed views of books as agents of the devil vs. catalysts
of divine inspiration
the "sidekick" relationship of Don Quixote and Sancho
relationship of Rozinante and Dapple
series of encounters
mock-heroic tone quality
geography of Spain
images; for instance, the various "conditions" of
Don Quixote's armor
review any previous experience they have had with the journey
and "quest" patterns of structure, defining specific
ways the narratives of such selections are moved forward (for
instance, in The Odyssey; Gulliver's Travels; Moby Dick; Heart
the most compelling aspect of the novel is Cervantes' brilliant
characterization, not only his creation of the "lanky, scarecrow"
Knight and his rotund, down-to-earth "Squire", but also
his creation of a wide range of personalities who catch the imagination
and evoke reflective associations. The following activities are
designed to help students probe and appreciate some of the techniques
Cervantes uses to build this unforgettable array.
a brief written sketch of the physical characteristics of a
"him" or a "her" they know - (a person who
is not a member of the class); try to describe the individual
in as much accurate detail as possible, "recording"
objectively, such properties as color of eyes, hair, size, etc.
another layer to the description, this time defining the personality
of the individual as they perceive it. Encourage students to
highlight special mannerisms, linguistic patterns, tastes in
clothes, general behavioral patterns; for instance, is the person
quiet, introverted, loud, or extroverted? Is the person reflective,
driven to succeed, "laid back", practical or idealistic?
the term "caricature", drawing from students' past
reading and viewing experience (Dr. Seuss; cartoons, for instance)
to examine specific ways ludicrous exaggeration is achieved.
the profiles they have created of the "him" or "her"
into a caricature of the individual, exaggerating, in comic
flavor, some of the physical and personality properties they
the caricatures in the large group. Encourage students to present
their sketch in different genres, for instance, to make a drawing,
develop a mime, or project the caricature in dance idiom.
in large group discussion, techniques they have used to project
ludicrous exaggerations with techniques used by Cervantes.
in small groups, to craft in written form (and if time allows
to present), brief "encounters" between and among
the characters they have created. Encourage students to infuse
dialogue into their description of the encounters or to build
the encounter as a dramatic script.
The texture of the novel, as the term is used here, emerges from
the synthesis of the diction (word choice), imagery, tone quality,
internal structural patterns, and rhythm. The following activities
encourage students to engage in close analysis of these aspects
of the text.
in large group discussion, in what specific ways the word choice
and/or idiomatic expression of the text project the hyperbolic
(exaggerated) aspects of the characterization
in small group problem-solving format, in what specific ways
the diction and/or idiomatic expression contribute to Cervantes's
building of differentiation in the psychological profiles and
philosophical outlooks of Don Quixote and Sancho. Share the
findings in large group discussion.
if they are native speakers of Spanish language or enrolled
in Spanish classes, the diction in vignettes of translation
with that of the original source and share analysis with the
clarify, in what specific ways sustained and recurring images
contribute to the building of the narrative and add artistic
power to characterization and the building of theme in the novel.
Suggestion: Give students a list of images to analyze, for instance,
helmets, windmills, fulling mills, corpses, etc.; as follow-up,
assign a brief in-class writing in which they have to explicate
their findings of one or two of the images. Share some of the
papers in class discussion.
a special project, make a drawing or painting of one of the
the word "tone". Ask them to make a list of "tone"
words (for instance, respectful, satirical, formal, humorous,
ebullient, melancholy, irreverent, etc.) and to define what
aspects of communication, in their perception, build "tone".
the term "mock-heroic", and negotiate a conclusion
about whether or not the prevailing tone of Don Quixote is "mock-heroic",
backing up their conclusions with specific evidence from the
text. (Students arguing "mock-heroic" should include
comments on the role of the narrator in building the tone.)
up in pairs, with each pair exploring a separate "encounter",
mapping the pattern of narrative development within the encounter.
the "maps", and to consider whether or not there is
a recurring narrative pattern (for instance, a sighting; explanation
of the "reality" of the situation; Don Quixote's illusion;
Sancho's reaction; the resolution and impact on the two figures).
the following guidelines for explicating the encounters:
Clarify what happens in the encounter.
What new figures are introduced?
Are there elements of hyperbole in the encounter? What builds
How does the encounter affect Don Quixote? (For instance, does
it intensify his determination or discourage him in his pursuit
of his goal?) What is his "goal" in undertaking the
How does the encounter affect Sancho? Is he discouraged or energized?
What is Sancho's "goal" in undertaking the journey?
Is Don Quixote and Sancho's relationship affected by the encounter?
If so, how?
the encounter teach a "lesson"? If so, what is it?
the above analysis in large group discussion, encouraging students
to negotiate holistic conclusions about how the encounters help
shape the internal structure of the novel (a cyclic effect of
"ups" and "downs", for instance), and how
the encounters contribute to the rhythm/cadence of the novel and
the building of what they consider to be the primary theme.
III. The Novel as Seminal Source
Over many generations, Don Quixote has sustained as an enduring
source of inspiration for recasting in other forms of art expression.
Numerous "clones" in other genres have been developed
through the centuries since Cervantes "begot" his "dry,
shrivelled, whimsical offspring" in prison, and Part I of
the text was published in 1605. Numerous ballets, an opera, Hollywood
films, a hit Broadway musical, visual arts, and a recent TV mini-series
give testimony to the lasting draw of the text. The following
activities are designed to highlight this enduring magic of the
text for students, and to generate creative discussion about ways
the dynamic qualities of the text have been and can be transferred.
background material on the following ballet productions of Don
Petipa's 1869 choreography (Bolshoi), music score by Ludwig
Gorsky's choreography (turn of the century)
Balanchine's choreography 1965
Fadeyechev's choreography (Bolshoi) 2000
to teacher: A tension
has long existed in classical ballet concerning whether or not
narrative (plot) dramatized in self-conscious display of classical
technique should dominate the choreography of a ballet or serve
mainly as a springboard for choreographic design and interpretation
of technique. The choreographic styles in the above renditions
of Don Quixote reflect these seemingly dichotomous outlooks. The
Petipa style seems to reflect the Romantic idiom of weighting
narrative and display, developing a dramatic rendition that highlights
portions of the text. Balanchine's work seems more abstract, the
movement less self-conscious, weighting design and phraseology.
The new Bolshoi Don Quixote seems to be a combination of the traditional
classicism and modern interpretive modes.
interested in dance history and performance could be encouraged
to develop special projects on the Don Quixote ballets, for instance,
studies of the ways the mode of expression of the above choreographies
align with the development of theme and form in other art genres
of the time periods. Background on the artists who portrayed the
leading characters could be another rich area of study to pursue.
Suzanne Farrell, for instance, danced the role of Dulcinea in
selections from film sources (including TV mini-series) of Don
Quixote, critiquing ways the exposition, characterization, and
narrative of the text are articulated.
to music tapes from The Man of La Mancha and the Don
Quixote opera; discuss what specific aspects of the text
are highlighted in the music scores and through what techniques
of musical composition and performance.
and share a dramatic script, a storyboard for film production,
a musical vignette, a brief choreography, a drawing, painting,
or sculpture based on the novel.
Part IV: A Holistic Assessment of the Text
following questions are designed to encourage students to sum
up the large view of the novel that has emerged from class discussions
and the specific problem-solving activities in which they have
been engaged. The questions could be used for further class discussion,
formal oral presentations, or as topics for in-class and/or outside-of-class
essay writing assignments.
students to consider:
profile of the social, political, economic, and cultural fabric
of the time period is projected in the series of encounters
and the novel in general?
view of the Spanish landscape emerges? In what specific way(s)
does the landscape contribute to the development of the text?
seems to be the author's philosophical outlook on human nature
and human interaction?
archetypes are embedded in the characterization? (If students
have read Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, ask them to
draw comparisons with the figures in Chaucer's Prologue to The
attitude of mind or general outlook on life is metaphorically
developed through the characters of Don Quixote? Sancho?
term "comic spirit" is often used to describe aspects
of the novel. We have discussed hyperbole and caricature as
two ways the text builds this "spirit." What other
aspects contribute to the "comic" aspect? Consider:
is the nature of "comic" and "comedy" built
only on what is perceived to be "funny"?
was your favorite encounter or aspect of the text?
you were developing a film, TV production, music score, dance
choreography, or visual arts projection of the novel, what aspect
of the novel would be your starting point? (for instance, the
Spanish landscape, the mindset of Don Quixote, or a key image)
What aspect of the text would you emphasize the most? What are
some elements that could be subordinated in order to build your
choice of emphasis? Develop a written overview of your plan
for creating one of the above projections ("take-offs")
of the novel.
do you think the novel has continued to be so valued through
the ages and has sustained as an inspiration for creativity?
Clarify your position with specifics.
should assess the
contribution to class discussion and collaborative projects
in oral presentations: such aspects as relevance to topic, substance,
good organization, rhetorical effectiveness, poise in delivery,
in writing assignments: essays of critical analysis should demonstrate
relevance to topic, substance, logical organization, rhetorical
effectiveness, and evidence of linguistic growth; creative manuscripts
should reflect serious investment in assignments and sensitive
response to the novel
engagement in special arts projects
peer and self evaluation of oral and writing performance
(Saavedra), Miguel de. Don Quixote, trans. Walter Starkie.
New York: Penguin (Mentor), 1957.
Deborah. Time and the Dancing Image. Berkley and Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1989.
Anna. "The Stories vs. the Steps." The New York Times (Weekend),
June 9, 2000.
Sara. "Impossibly Dreamy." The Washington Post (Style),
June 3, 2000.
The Key School