198 pages, Xlibris Press

by Francis Carr

 

 

What evidence is there that Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote ? Little indeed. Not only do we know little of his life; the standard of his work, apart from Don Quixote, is low. Most of his books remain unpublished abroad. What do we know about Thomas Shelton, whose translation into English has won the praise of literary historians ever since it appeared in 1612? What do we know of Cid Hamet Benengeli,the Arab historian who, we are told, is the real author?

Until now no proper attempt has been made to place Don Quixote in the wider context of the great plays of this period. And no-one has paid attention to the Shelton version,which is seldom read today.

We start with an examination of the actual publication of Don Quixote in Madrid and London in 1605 and 1612. Then we move, in the story itself, from La Mancha to Sussex, from Madrid to London, to the court of Queen Elizabeth. Two characters in Quixote,who always appear together, are Queen Madasima and Master Elisabat. Other names which invite scrutiny include Thomas Cecial (almost Cecil), Friston, an odd name for the Devil, and Pyramus and Thisbe,which make us think of Shakespeare.

Don Quixote is full of pithy statements,epigrams and mock proverbs which can be found in the Shakespeare plays. 'I was born free,' 'The naked truth,' 'comparisons are odios,' 'Time out of mind' and many, many more. Seventy quotations are set out in table form in the book.

But why would anyone write a very long novel and use the name of a struggling Spanish author? Why the secrecy? The sixth rule of the Rosicrucians was that that members should remain anonymous for a hundred years. The first rule was that they should heal the sick. The leading member of this secret society in England at this time was Francis Bacon.

No attention has been paid to the date of Don Quixote's publication in Madrid in 1605, only six years after the fourth Armada of 1599. An important element in this work, seldom mentioned, is its surprising lack of animosity towards England. If it had appeared in Spain as an English book, everyone would have been understandably prejudiced against it. It took a long time to win the lasting admiration of the Spaniards. Allowing a Spanish author to present this book as his own work, Bacon gave this subtly pro-English novel the best possible chance of being accepted in Spain without prejudice.

Don Quixote should be regarded as an instrument of reconciliation between Spain and England,two great countries kept apart by war and the threat of war for five decades. Distrust and hatred of the foreigner had caused the death of innocent men in both countries. Now was the time for peace and good will, a policy that James I keenly pursued. In England Quixote acted as a healer of the wide gulf between the two countries.

When Don Quixote appeared in Madrid and London,the great Shakespeare plays were being acted on the London stage. When the English plays and the Spanish novel are looked at together,a clear picture emerges: the creation of a pan-European literary master-plan. The greatest play about Denmark is 'Hamlet'. The greatest plays about Italy are 'Romeo and Juliet', 'The Merchant of Venice' and 'Othello,the Moor of Venice'. The greatest play about Rome is 'Julius Caesar'. The greatest play about Egypt is 'Antony and Cleopatra'. The greatest plays about England are the Shakespeare history dramas. All these plays are the work of one man, written under a pen-name. There is no world-famous play about Spain which is on the same level of genius as the plays just mentioned. But there is one great novel about Spain which is just as famous throughout the world - Don Quixote. Like all the Shakespeare plays, this appeared under an alias. Bacon, casting his eye over the whole of Europe, found that this area lacked an appropriate masterpiece, an epic story to match those of Greece and Rome and Great Britain. A play would not have been the right format for a Spanish epic. Needing a larger canvas, he chose to write a work of fiction.

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See Chapter from the book:

Cervantes, England and Don Quixote