Discover Don Quixote During Its 400th Anniversary Year

Remember Donkey Hodie, the toothy character from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood who wanted to build a windmill behind King Friday’s castle? It wasn’t until library school when I realized that his name was a play on words based on the name of the famous Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes.

Donkey Hodie came Don Quixote exhibit, University of Dayton to mind recently, when I discovered that 2015 marks the 400th anniversary of the publishing of the second volume of Don Quixote. “On Display: Editions of Don Quixote,” an exhibition at the University of Dayton’s Roesch Library, is one of many commemorative events occurring around the world this year.

Don Quixote is the story of Alonso Quixano, a well-read, but eccentric, man who lives in La Mancha, Spain. He is so taken with romantic novels about chivalrous knights that he puts on an old suit of armour, renames himself “Don Quixote,” saddles his skinny old horse Rocinante, and goes out in search of adventure. He and his faithful sidekick, Sancho Panza, attack windmills that they think are ferocious giants, free a group of slaves and battle with knights before returning to the countryside to retire. It was published in two best-selling volumes: the first volume in 1605 and the second volume in 1615.

The exhibit features a selection of editions of this influential novel, including a number of rare and illustrated editions.

It also reveals how inspirational Don Quixote has been to authors and artists alike. Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Gustave Doré, whose drawings from the 1863 edition are among the works in the exhibit, all created visual representations of Don Quixote.

In 1742, Henry Fielding wrote TheFrontispiece, Henry Field's The History of Adventures of Joseph Andrews, Don Quixote exhibit, University of Dayton History of Adventures of Joseph Andrews and of His Friend Mr. Abraham Adams in the manner of Cervantes. It is the story of a good-natured footman’s adventures on the way home from London with his friend, an absent-minded parson. Charlotte Lennox wrote a parody of Don Quixote in 1752 called The Female Quixote or the Adventures of Arabella, in which a young woman with a passion for reading romances causes many comical misunderstandings among her relatives and admirers. The book also inspired Gustave Flaubert to write Madame Bovary, his first successful novel, in 1857. In it, the heroine, like Don Quixote, tries to escape from her monotonous life through books.

References to Don Quixote can also be found in The Three Musketeers, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Cyrano de Bergerac. “Camino Real,” a play by Tennessee Williams, includes Don Quixote and Sancho Panza among its cast of characters. George Balanchine choreographed a Don Quixote ballet.

Don Quixote exhibit, University of Dayton Don Quixote has been adapted for film, musical theater, opera, ballet and children’s stories. “Man of La Mancha,” a 1965 Broadway musical and a 1972 film starring Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren, featured the song “The Impossible Dream” as it combined episodes from the novel with a story about Cervantes. The exhibit includes programs from “Man of La Mancha” performances by the Kenley Players, a traveling theater company in Dayton.

The exhibit also features a miniature score of Don Quixote, an 1898 tone poem by Richard Strauss that makes references to several episodes in the novel. On September 16, University of Dayton English Professor Alan Kimbrough will discuss the tone poem and Strauss’s take on Cervantes. Other professors will lead discussions on September 23 and 24 about what accounts for the widespread, enduring appeal of Don Quixote.

Don Kikhot, a 1957 Soviet film, was the first adaptation of Don Quixote to be filmed in widescreen and in color. The University of Dayton will screen it with commentary on September 17. A production of Don Quixote blending classical Indian dance with original music, projections, costumes and poetry will be staged on September 24.

On Display: Editions of Don Quixote” is on view at the University of Dayton’s Roesch Library Gallery through September 27. For more information about the exhibit and its related events, click here

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