January 28, 2023

Gossip Theme in Don Quixote

Another major theme of Don Quixote is the meaning and significance of small town gossip, especially in reference to malicious conversations about the details of other people’s lives. In regard to the affairs and reputations of others, Don Quixote instructs readers to not retail sensational stories about others since false speculation mistakenly influences the conclusions of many people.

Gossip Theme in Don Quixote
Don Quixote Novel

Gossip Tracking Theme in Don Quixote

The first mention of gossip surfaces in a poem in the prologue of part one, by Urganda the Unknowable, which instructs readers to not poke their noses into the lives of others. The next mention of gossip is in reference to Marcela’s uncle when a goatherd tells Don Quixote that in small town’s everything is discussed and everything is gossiped about and a priest, like Marcela’s uncle, has to be a saint to make his flock speak well of him. Gossiping resurfaces, 66 pages later, when Sancho Panza tells Don Quixote that, according to local gossip, the love a herdsman feels for a Shepherdess named Torralba turned into deadly hatred because of jealousy pangs she unwittingly gives him. Later in the narrative, when a Duke’s younger son, named Don Fernando, wants to be a close friend of a gentleman named Cardenio, everyone in the province gossips about it out of envy. Afterwards, when Sancho Panza tells a tale about how the ignorant, malicious rabble think that an honourable and noble lady named Queen Madasima takes a sawbones to her bed named Master Elisbat, he says he is not fond of prying into other people’s lives as gossips are. Fifty pages later, when Don Fernando marries a noblewoman named Luscinda, the wedding is such an event of notoriety in the city that groups of gossips, discuss its’ details. In fact, since everybody in the city knows all about it, and everyone in the city talks all about it, their tongues wag even faster when it becomes know that Luscinda had gone missing from her parent’s house. To not provide grist for gossip, especially in the place where she lives, Luscinda looks for a secluded spot in the forest where she can organize her thoughts. Sometime later, when a nobleman named Lotario pares down his visits to a beautiful married woman’s house, he does so, so the idle vulgar herd do not gossip about his visits there. Likewise, when Camila writes a letter to her husband about wanting to visit her parents so that she does not have to rebuff Lotario’s advances, she regrets having written food for gossip. Thus, she decides to stay at home to keep people from assuming that some levity in her conduct had encouraged Lotario to abandon the respect he owes her. Later, when an affluent farmer’s daughter beseeches the son of a grandee of Spain to not abandon her for the gossips to huddle together in their little groups to destroy her honour, he repents, and decides to follow through with his marriage to her.

One hundred and twenty one pages later, when Vicente de la Rosa, the son of a poor farmer, serenades Leandra, the daughter of a wealthy herdsman, readers are told that local townsmen gossip that he only owned three suits of clothes. In fact, readers learn that since village people are naturally malicious they count, one-by-one, all of his baubles and gewgaws one by one, since they have so much idle-time on their hands. Thirty eight pages later, when Don Quixote delivers a rhetorical set piece about how virtue is persecuted to a high degree wherever it is found, he says that few, if any of the famous heroes of history have escaped the slander of malicious tongues. By way of evidence he says that Julius Caesar, a most spirited, wise, and courageous leader, was criticized for being over-ambitious and not as clean as he might have been, either in his dress or in his personal appearance, while Alexander, whose exploits won him the name of “the Great,” is said to have been something of a drunkard. Then he recalls that Hercules, the hero of so many labors, is rumored to be over-fond of his pleasures and creature comforts, while gossips declare that Don Galor, a Spanish hero, was more lecherous than he had any need to be. Since all heroes, according to Don Quixote, are subject to calumnies and rumors, gossip directed at him, if they are no worse than those he mentioned, can well be tolerated. Gossip resurfaces six pages later when Sancho Panza says that everyone should watch out how he talks or writes about the next man and not shove down the first thing that comes to mind. And when Teresa Panza learns that Sancho Panza is to be made governor of Barataria she says that as a governor’s wife people will say: ‘Look what airs the slut’s giving herself now! Only yesterday she was busy spinning her tow from morning to night and she had to pull her skirt over her head when she went to mass for want of a veil, and there she goes today in her farthingale and her brooches and her fine air. In fact she declares that people hardly even glance at a poor man, but they have a good look at anyone who’s rich, and if he was once poor that sets off the gossiping and the nit-picking, and what’s worst of all is that it goes on and on and on, because there are gossips everywhere in the streets like swarms of bees. She further says that she neither likes gossip nor allows others to gossip in her presence, since she makes no scrutiny of other people’s lives, nor does she spy on their deeds.

Twenty-four pages later, when discussion arises about a rich farmer named Camacho who falls madly in love with a fair damsel named Quiteria, the narrator tells us that although some busybodies know everybody’s pedigrees by heart, nobody worries that the lovely Quiteria’s lineage is more distinguished than Camacho’s for gold is a good solder of all sorts of cracks. One hundred and eight pages later, when the Duchess of Aragon sits Sancho Panza down in a garden, he sarcastically says that he will let gossip mongers go on with their title-tattle, saying “Sancho said this, Sancho did that, Sancho went back and Sancho returned as if Sancho was some nobody, and not the same Sancho Panza that’s going all over the world in a book’. Later on in the novel, in a letter from Sancho Panza to Teresa Panza, Sancho Panza asks his wife to imagine what the backbiting is going to be like since she is going to be a Governoress. Then he tells her to not tell anyone about Montesinos Cave and the disenchantment of Dulcinea, since, according to him, if you give gossip an hour’s start you will never be able to overtake it. A bit later in the narrative, Don Quixote wishes that the Grave Churchmen in the Duke and Duchess’s castle realized that people in the extremities of distress and despair do not go to the house of the indolent courtier for succour since he is more concerned to find news to repeat and chatter about than to perform deeds for others to talk and write about.

On the next page Donna Rodriguez de Grijalba, the Duchess’s Doyenna, says that squires have always been the natural enemies of Duenna’s since they always gossip about them and dig the skeletons out of their cupboards to bury their good names and tarnish their reputations. Later on, when Don Quixote gives Sancho Panza advice about being a good governor he tells him that governors who are not of noble extraction should temper the solemnity appropriate to their position with a gentle mildness exercised with prudence to deliver them from slanderous gossip from which no station in life is exempt. The theme of gossip is continued six pages later when Don Quixote tells Sancho Panza that it does not surprise him that he is poor since he is all gossip, gossip, and more gossip. A few chapters later, readers learn that to prevent tittle-tattle the Duchess of Aragon has her Doyenne and squire marry according to the rules and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church. Four pages later, when Sancho Panza talks about the burdens of a judge he says that if a poor old judge does not listen to people and deal with them because he cannot they soon start cursing him and gossiping about him and backbiting him and even go into all sorts of details about his family. Later, Cide Hamete El Benengeli describes all duennas as fond of knowing about everything, finding out about everything, and sniffing into everything, only to gossip about what they find later. Then, 7 pages later, Sanchica Panza, Sancho Panza’s 16 year old daughter, imagines that people will backbite her as a governor’s daughter by calling her the offspring of a garlic-stuffed peasant, lolling about in a carriage, as if she were the Pope Himself! By way of berating people who do not keep to themselves and mind their own business, Sanchica wishes a thousand plagues on all the gossips of this world, unconcerned if they all laugh and mock. The last comment about gossip comes when Don Quixote tells Sancho Panza not to be worried or annoyed about any comments he hears as governor because as long as he keeps his conscience safe he should let people say whatever they like since trying to still gossips tongues is like putting up doors in open fields.

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Originally posted 2020-01-01 20:54:59.