The famous Spanish novel, Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote is a parody for epic. It mimics traditional epic in a funny way so as to destroy the conventional expectation behind this serious genre. Therefore, its plot structure can be compared with Chretien de Troyes’ Erec and Enide ,a classic romance epic in Late Middle Ages. In Erec and Enide, the value of chivalry, courtly love and guest and host relationship may be found in this work. Speaking of chivalry, it starts from Erec’s adequate qualities of knighthood: handsome, valiant, noble, young and wealthy.
He is qualified as a knight perfectly in appearance, social position and personality. Thereafter, Erec goes through two adventures. In the first one, he experiences a dishonored event, humiliated by a dwarf, the knight named Yder’s servant, and he fights and gains his honor back. In this combat, the dwarf’s physical imperfect may suggest his mental shortage, since he didn’t go hunting as other knights do, but he chose to accompany the queen with casual dress. This behavior and his lack of equipment may indicate that he may not fulfill his obligation of chivalry well.
Therefore, the retribution means not only for the return for his honor but for the correction for his uncourtly behavior. After that, Erec becomes so attached to his wife , Enide, that he quits hunting with other knights. Afterwards, he goes on to the second journey. In the second one, he encountered a giant, Guivret, who symbolizes his overacting of courtesy. Guivret is also defeated, showing that Erec has corrected his behavior of overdoing. These two adventures tell that chivalry should be followed neither lacking nor exceeding.
When it comes to courtly love, it may be shown from the relationship between Erec and the queen. At the beginning of the story, Erec’s undressing and his accompany with the queen may suppose his unusual relationship with her. When he triumphs over Yder, he commands Yder to go back to the queen to honor her. Since Erec can’t make this love toward her be revealed for the difference of social status, he puts this love into his heart and reveals it in this way. As for the relationship between guest and host, Erec meets the father of Enide and he shows his hospitality to Erec, and he in the end was rewarded for honor and wealth.
Although Don Quixote has similar structure, its context reverses audience’s expectation of traditional epic and makes fun of it. First, speaking of chivalry, Don Quixote’s appearance may not be adequate: he is an old and lean person with a meager face. Besides, he is praised by getting up early; apparently it is not a description for a good knight. Cervantes makes Don Quixote funny by these portrayals. Later, he has several adventures, and in one of them he encounters the Biscayan, a servant of the ladies.
Don Quixote’s fight with him mimics the combat between knights, and that it ends with Don Quixote’s victory and his request for the Biscayan to beg for mercy in front of his beloved lady, Dulcinea del Toboso. Second, as to courtly love, Don Quixote imagined a farm girl, Aldonza Lorenzo, to be the Princess Dulcinea del Toboso. Even though every time Don Quixote calls her name before he is going to fight, he never talks to her, nor did her know his name. Besides, unlike the noble ladies in traditional chivalry work, Dulcinea is described as “the best hand of any woman in all La Mancha for salting pigs”.
Third, when it comes to the relationship of guest and host, in Don Quixote’s first journey he breaks the law of guest and host. He enters the inn and troubles the landlord to the degree that the landlord wants him to leave without charging him. In conclusion, Cervantes doesn’t only mimic the romantic epic badly for mocking it. He also wants to criticize it by putting a knight to the 17th century. The value of chivalry may differ from the value in 17th century society so much that the originally normal behavior of knights seems ridiculous in people’s eyes from different time.