January 28, 2023

Slap Stick Comedy in Don Quixote

Balsam of Fierbras

Quack Nostrum: The Balsam of Fierbras is a quack, miracle, potion that Don Quixote makes from some oil, wine, salt, and rosemary, which he mixes in a cooking pot and fills in an oil bottle. It is supposed to heal his wounds and make him invincible.

The Balsam of Fierbras Cause Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to Vomit and Defecate: After Don Quixote is pounded into the ground by a mob of men from Yanguas, he says that one drop of the Balsam of Fierbras imbibed from a flask will magically restore his health. According to Don Quixote, he carries the recipe for this balsam in his memory, which, according to chivalric legend, if ingested, relieves the fear of death, or the contemplation of dying from any wound. Thus, Don Quixote tells Sancho Panza that if he makes some balsam and gives it to him, all he has to do if he sees that Don Quixote is sliced in half at some battle, and, thus, cut, asunder, is to take that part of his body that has fallen to the ground and, before the blood congeals, neatly and carefully place it on top of the part remaining in the saddle, ensuring that the two components of his body fit exactly, so that his body magically forms into one piece. At this explanation, Sancho Panza says that he renounces being governor of his promised island of Barataria. Rather, all he wants in payment of his many good services is for Don Quixote to give him the recipe for that wonderful potion, because, to Sancho Panza’s mind, it will fetch more than two reals an ounce anywhere, providing him with all he needs to live an easy and honorable life. Here, Don Quixote adds that for less than three reals he can make twelve pints of it. After Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are beaten by twenty mule drivers from Yanguas, Sancho Panza tells our knight that “he’d like a couple of swigs of that Fairy Brass drink if [he has] got some handy, [in case] it is good for broken bones as well as for swore wounds.” Later, when a peace officer of the Holy Brotherhood of Toledo smashes a lantern over Don Quixote’s head our knight asks the innkeeper to summon the governor of the castle (innkeeper) and have some “oil, wine, salt and rosemary brought to [him so] that [he] can make the salutiferous balsam, [which he thinks he] stands in much need of because [he thinks he is] losing a great deal of blood from the wound the [enchanted moor] inflicted on him (i.e. the holy brother), when really Don Quixote’s head is saturated by sweat.” Anyway, to “test the virtues of that precious balsam, [Don Quixote] swallows a couple of pints of what remained in the cooking pot after filling the oil-bottle.” Such a noxious concoction causes Don Quixote to vomit with such force that he does not stop upchucking until his stomach is totally empty, dry heaving yellow liver bile, when all the food is gone. Such retching and writhing causes Don Quixote to sweat so profusely that his faces goes white, his body twitches in convulsive spasms, and, thus, he asks the assembled host to “to wrap him up and leave him alone.” Left to sleep and recover for more than three hours, Don Quixote awakes feeling so soothed in his body and so much better from his beating that he considers himself cured. Equipped with the belief that he finally hit upon the recipe for the Balsam of Fierbras, our knight thinks that he can now, without fear, undertake any fight or battle however perilous. Eager to try the nostrum himself, Sancho Panza asks Don Quixote for the pots leftovers. Then, he takes up the pot with both hands, and gulps down roughly amount of Balsam Don Quixote swallows. But since Sancho’s stomach is not as delicate as Don Quixote’s before he can vomit he retches, gags, sweats, and swoons, and, fully convinced that his last hour has come, he curses Don Quixote for giving him the wretched balsam in the first place. After talk of how Sancho Panza had an adverse reaction to the Balsam of Fierbras because he is not a knight, the balsam takes effect on our poor squire’s bowels so that he gushes at both ends at such a rate that neither the rush mat, on which he had lain down, nor the hessian blanket covering him could ever be used again. In fact Sancho Panza sweats and sweats with such seizures and spasms that not only he himself but all the others thought that his end had come. This calamitous tempest lasts almost two hours, at the end of which Sancho Panza is left, not like his master, but so weak and exhausted that he can’t stand. But Don Quixote feels so restored by the Balsam of Fierbras that he ventures onwards without a moment’s hesitation. Later, when Don Quixote tells a fable about how Amadis of Gaul, aka “The Knight of the Burning Sword,” possessed a sword that cuts like a razor, Sancho Panza says that if he was sliced by that sword in his funny adventures with Don Quixote, his luck would have it that only knights could benefit from it, while a poor squire like himself would only barff after ingesting it. Later, when Don Quixote attacks a group of sheep he thinks are two converging armies, the shepherds smash his oil bottle containing the Balsam of Fierbras, the very holy concoction that made Sancho Panza spew his guts up earlier. Later, when Sancho Panza finds two hundred golden escudos in Cardenio’s travelling bag in the brown hills he knows that all his wacky misadventures had been worth it: the blanket flying, the spewed-up balsam, the benedictions from the walking staff, etc. Later, when Don Quixote goes berserk in the Sierra Morena by doing naked somersaults and bashing his head, he tells Sancho Panza to leave him some lint to cure his wounds since fate has left them without the balsam of Fierbras. Later, Don Quixote discusses the fictional story upon which the balsam of Fierbras is based, which relates to the bridge of Fierbras where the good giant Fierbras was defended by the ferocious giant Galafre.

Sancho Panza Defecates When Talking to Don Quixote

One morning, when Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are talking, “either because of the cold of the morning, which was fast approaching, or because Sancho Panza had eaten something loosening for his supper, or because of natural processes (which seems most likely), he feels the urgent need to do the job of work that nobody could do for him.” Thus, for the “peace and concord, [of his bowels Sancho Panza] draws his right hand away from the back of Don Quixote’s saddle and uses it with great stealth to loosen the running knot that was all that held his breeches up, at which they slid down and encircle his ankles like fetters.” Then he lifts up his shirt as best he can, and thrusts “two ample buttocks into the night air.” Once he pulls his pants down to relieve the [gurgling, cramped, feeling in his stomach, Sancho Panza] defecates in silence. Thus, he begins to grit his teeth and hunch his shoulders and hold his breath for as long as he can. But “in spite of all these precautions he [is] unfortunate enough, in the end, to make a small noise, quite different from the noise causing him great fear.” Since Don Quixote’s sense of smell and hearing is acute, and since Sancho Panza clings to him, it is inevitable that some of the “fumes, rising almost in a straight line, would reach his nostrils, whereupon he squeezes [his nose] between [his] finger and thumb, and says in somewhat nasal tones” that Sancho Panza must be very frightened since he smells more now than at other times, and not of Ambergris either. Then Don Quixote tells him to “move three or four paces backwards and from now on to be more careful with [his] person and with what is due to him, since it is his familiarity that his given rise to [Sancho Panza’s] contempt.”

Don Quixote Throws Up In Sancho Panza’s Face and Sancho Panza Throws Up On Don Quixote

After Don Quixote’s teeth are knocked-out by a group of Shepherd’s, our knight drinks a quack potion, called the Balsam of Fierbras, to restore his health. Later, when Don Quixote asks Sancho Panza to inspect his mouth to see how many of his teeth are missing, Sancho Panza comes so close that “his eyes are nearly in [Don Quixote’s] mouth.” At this time, “the balsam had done its work [and just as Sancho Panza] peers in, he discharges all its contents with the violence of a shotgun and they explode in the face of the compassionate squire.” Judging from the “colour, taste and smell [of his throw-up, Sancho Panza learns that] it isn’t blood but the balsam he’d seen him drinking from the oil bottle.” This disgusting discovery so turns Sancho Panza’s stomach that “he vomits his guts all over his master, and both of them are left in the same fine mess.”

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’s Funny Stir-up Fall

Ever eager to make a good impression on the Duke and Duchess, Don Quixote is mortified when Sancho Panza tangles his foot in one of the ropes of his pack saddle, as he tries to hold Rocinante’s stirrup up. Said differently, as Sancho Panza hurries down from dapple’s saddle, he cannot pull his leg free. So he hangs suspended from his donkey’s body in an awkward position, with his mouth and his chest pressed against the ground, and his legs and torso suspended upside down. In the meantime, Don Quixote, who isn’t used to dismounting without Sancho Panza holding his stirrup up, swings himself off the saddle expecting his stirrup to be held firmly in place, so he can detach his leg from it and pivot to the ground. When Don Quixote finds that his stirrup is not held by Sancho Panza, he crashes to the ground in a state of great shame, muttering many curses.

Naked Flips In The Black Mountains

When doing penance in the Sierra Moreno, Don Quixote tells Sancho Panza that he wants his squire to “see [him] naked, performing a dozen or two dozen mad deeds, so that seeing them with [his] own eyes [he] can safely swear to” Dulcinea the penance Don Quixote does for her. In response to this statement, Sancho Panza begs Don Quixote to not make him see his master “naked, [since] he will feel so sorry for [him] he shan’t be able to help crying.” After a brief conversation, Don Quixote “pulls down his breeches, stands there in his shirt, and then [does] two leaps in the air followed by two somersaults, revealing his privates.” When Don Quixote finishes his somersaults and handsprings, “naked from the waist down, and clothed from the waist up—in imitation of Orlando Furioso in his outrageous madness, or Amadis of Gaul [in] his melancholy madness,”—Sancho Panza tries to calm him down.

Oxcart Peeing and Poohing Scene

When Sancho Panza asks Don Quixote about whether he felt the need, or urge, to do number one or number two, as some people put it, during the time he was encaged, Don Quixote says that because he was enchanted, he did not have to go to the bathroom. In reply, Sancho Panza tells him that “people who don’t eat or drink or sleep or answer the call of nature as [he] said before are enchanted, but not people who feel the urges [he is] feeling and who drink when they’re given a drink, and eat when there’s food to be had, and reply to everything that is asked.”


All of these amusing, even vulgar, episodes from the book, function as comic relief: They are meant to amuse the people behind the Inquisition’s Holy Censors, so they let “Don Quixote” see the light of day, as opposed to berating and censuring the novel because it criticizes the church. Therefore, Cervantes weaves a series of crude jokes into “Don Quixote,” to lighten the tense, rigid, and dogmatic atmosphere, of the Spanish Inquisition. This was necessary because Cervantes did not want to be burned at the stake, excommunicated, or hounded, for fictionalizing church reform. So he disguised a very serious message with a series of funny, light hearted jokes. To understand why this joke technique was necessary, one has to understand the overly rigid, authoritarian, climate of the Spanish inquisition, where books were burned, people would whip themselves, the Moriscos were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula, people were burned at the stake, people used religion to extort other people’s monetary assets, and the like. Without these jokes, too many people would be blinded by the unvarnished truth of Cervantes’s writing, and, therefore, they would block his book from being published, as opposed to accepting the half-light of his serious points, interspersed with a series of crude jokes. Most people, in Spain, back then, were miserable, especially powerless, poor people, who could not do anything about the crushing tyranny of the Spanish inquisition. So, they appreciated a book that made them laugh at, see the need to reform, an intolerant form of organized religion. Hence, in this joke disguised style, Cervantes appealed to the popular, physical, imagination, so that his ideas could reach areas where they could do the most good. These jokes also showed readers Don Quixote’s psychological interiority, induced from reading absurd books of knight errantry.

Originally posted 2015-12-31 00:20:45.

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Originally posted 2020-01-05 11:27:07.