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Essay: Thomas Shelton and Hamet Benengeli


by Francis Carr

If Don Quixote was not written by Miguel de Cervantes, who was the real author?

There is no evidence that it came from the pen of any of Cervantes’ contemporaries in Spain. None of his private letters have come down to us; there is no evidence that another Spanish author is involved.

It is in Don Quixote, in the work itself, that we may find an answer to the question of authorship. If someone wrote this novel using the name of Cervantes, it is possible that some clues have been deliberately placed in the text.

The author, whoever he was, speaks to us, his readers, in his Preface. In the very first page he takes the trouble to point out that there is some problem of authorship, or fatherhood. Of course, this may be merely a device, a pose but it may not be.

Though in shew a Father, yet in truth but a stepfather to Don Quixote.

If this were the only reference to another man as the author, the real father, this mention of stepfatherhood could be ignored. But another name is mentioned over and over again. In Chapter 1 of Book 2 of the First Part in Shelton’s translation (Chapter 9 of the modern Penguin translation by J. M. Cohen, P77) we read:

The historie of Don Quixote of the Mancha, written by Cyd Hamet Benengeli, an Arabicall Historiographer.

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Don Quixote resource list by A. Phoenix

A. Phoenix list of Don Quixote references