Essays in Literary Criticism of George Santayana

By Irving Singer; George Santayana | Go to book overview

CERVANTES

CERVANTES is known to the world as the author of Don Quixote, and although his other works are numerous and creditable, and his pathetic life is carefully recorded, yet it is as the author of Don Quixote alone that he deserves to be generally known or considered. Had his wit not come by chance on the idea of the Ingenious Hidalgo, Cervantes would never have attained his universal renown, even if his other works and the interest of his career should have sufficed to give him a place in the literary history of his country. Here, then, where our task is to present in miniature only what has the greatest and most universal value,* we may treat our author as playwrights are advised to treat their heroes, saying of him only what is necessary to the understanding of the single action with which we are concerned. This single action is the writing of Don Quixote; and what we shall try to understand is what there was in the life and environment of Cervantes that enabled him to compose that great book, and that remained imbedded in its characters, its episodes, and its moral.

There was in vogue in the Spain of the sixteenth century a species of romance called books of chivalry. They were developments of the legends dealing with King Arthur and the Knights of the Table Round, and their numerous descendants and emulators. These stories had appealed in the first place to what we should still think of as the spirit of chivalry: they were full of tourneys and single combats, desperate adventures and romantic loves. The setting was in the same vague and wonderful region as the Coast of Bohemia, where to the known mountains, seas, and cities that have poetic names, was added a prodigious number of caverns,

____________________
*
This essay originally appeared in Library of the World's Best Literature, Vol. VI, edited by Charles Dudley Warner, New York, R. S. Pearle and J. A. Hill, 1897.

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Essays in Literary Criticism of George Santayana
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • A Note About This Edition v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction: Santayana As A Literary Critic ix
  • Part I - Three Philosophical Poets 1
  • Part II - Critical Essays 75
  • The Homeric Hymns 77
  • Platonic Love In Some Italian Poets 94
  • Cervantes 112
  • Hamlet 120
  • The Absence of Religion In Shakespeare 137
  • The Poetry Of Barbarism 149
  • Hints of Egotism In Goethe 179
  • Shelley: or the Poetic Value Of Revolutionary Principles 186
  • Leopardi 208
  • Dickens 210
  • Emerson 224
  • Penitent Art 234
  • Proust On Essences 241
  • The Last Puritan 246
  • Preface 246
  • Tragic Philosophy 266
  • Part III - Critical Theory 279
  • The Elements And Function of Poetry 281
  • Speech And Signification 304
  • Poetry And Prose 317
  • Literary Form 336
  • Literary Psychology 394
  • Mythology 402
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