The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quijote de La Mancha

By: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Translated by: Pranav Khambete

Chapter LXXIV (74): In which Don Quixote fell ill, made his final wishes, and his death.

No human matters are forever; they are always in decline from their beginnings to their ends. This is especially so in the case of a man’s life, and as Don Quixote enjoyed no special privilege to avoid heaven’s inevitable embrace, his end and final days came when he least imagined it. The cause of which remains uncertain, whether it may be the melancholy produced by the thought of his defeat, or because of heaven’s will that ordered it so, but a fever befell Don Quixote, and kept him in bed for six days, during which he was often visited by his friends the clerk, the bachelor and the barber, and all the while tended to by Sancho Panza, his good squire.

His friends, convinced that his illness was caused by the grief of finding himself defeated, his ultimate goal in liberating Dulcinea unaccomplished, strove by all measures of their power to cheer him up; the bachelor bid him to liven up and take to his feet, and set out to begin his pastoral life, for which he had already penned a poem, the likes of which would outshine all that Sannazaro had ever written; and that he had already purchased, with his own money no less, two famous dogs to guard their cattle, one of them named Barcino and the other Butrón, which had been sold to him by the herdsman of Quintanar.

Despite all their efforts, Don Quixote couldn’t shake his sadness. His friends requested the help of a doctor, who took his pulse and was not quite satisfied with it, and told them, for better or worse, that he should attend to the health of his soul, as the health of his body was in danger. Don Quixote took this news calmly, but this was not so with his housekeeper, niece and squire, who began crying profusely, as if he had already died before them. It was the doctor’s opinion that melancholy and depression were the cause of his illness. Don Quixote requested to be alone for a while, as he wished to sleep a little. They obliged, and he slept in one stretch, it is said, for over six hours, so much in fact that the housekeeper and niece believed he would sleep forever! But at the end of this time he woke up, and in a grand voice proclaimed:

“Blessed is the almighty God, who has been so kind to me! His mercies are boundless, and the sins of men cannot limit them or hold them back!”

His niece listened with attention, and she found that his words were more coherent than usual, at least more so than during his illness, so she asked, “What are you saying, sir? Has anything strange occurred? Of what mercies do you speak, or what sins of men?”

“These mercies, dear niece,” replied Don Quixote, “are those that God has shown me in this instant, and as I said, even my sins will not limit them. My reasoning is now free and clear, rid of the dark shadows of ignorance cast over me during my miserable study of those detestable tales of knighthood and chivalry. Now I see through their absurdities and deceptions, and it only grieves me that this exculpation from my misguided illusions has come too late, and that it leaves me no time to make amends by reading other books such that they may bring light to my soul. Niece, I feel myself at the point of death, and I shall not meet it in such a way that I should leave behind me the name of a madman; for though I have been one, I do not wish to confirm this truth by way of my death. Call to me, my dear, my good friends the clerk, the bachelor Samson Carrasco, and Master Nicolas the barber, for I wish to confess my sins and make my will.”

But his niece was excused from this task by the entrance of the three. The instant Don Quixote saw them he exclaimed, “Good tidings to you, good sirs, that I am no longer Don Quixote de La Mancha, but in fact I am Alonso Quixano, whose customs and virtuous deeds won for him the name of Good. I am now the enemy of Amadís of Gaul and his infinite lineage; odious to me now are all the profane stories of knight-errantry; for now I perceive my folly, and the peril into which reading them brought me; now, by God’s mercy brought into my right senses, I loathe them.”

When the three friends heard Don Quixote speak in this manner they thought, without a doubt, that this was some new madness that had overcome him; and Samson said, “What’s this, señor Don Quixote? We have just received news that your lady Dulcinea has been saved, and you mean to set on some new adventures? Now, just as we are on the precipice of taking up our new lives as shepherds, to pass the days singing and living like princes, you wish to become a hermit? Silence, now! For heaven’s sake be rational and let’s have no more of this nonsense!”

“All that nonsense,” replied Don Quixote, “has for so long been my painful reality; my death will – with Heaven’s permission – return my name to Good. My friends, I feel that I may die at any moment now; let us leave these jests, and bring me a holy man such that I may confess, and a notary to draw my Will, for in such extreme moments a man must not trifle with his soul. While my friend the clerk confesses me, I pray you to go for the notary.”

They looked at one another, curious about Don Quixote’s words; and although they had their doubts, they were inclined to believe him, and one of the clear signs that Don Quixote was dying was this sudden return to his senses after having been mad for so long, as in addition to the words already quoted, Don Quixote added many more, so eloquent and devout as to remove all doubt and convince them of his sanity.

The clerk asked his companions to leave, and confessed him in private. The bachelor went in search of the notary, and soon returned with him and also with Sancho Panza, who had already heard the news of his master’s condition from the bachelor, and finding the housekeeper and the niece in tears, began sobbing and shedding tears.

The confession over, the clerk emerged saying, “Alonso Quixano the Good is indeed dying, and I have found him to be of a sound mind. We may now join him such that he may prepare his Will.”

This news had a tremendous impact on the brimming eyes of the housekeeper, the niece and Sancho Panza, his good squire, causing tears to burst forth from their eyes and heavy sighs from their hearts; for in truth it did not matter if he had been named simply as Alonso Quixano the Good or Don Quixote de La Mancha, he had always been of a gentle disposition and pleasant in all his manners, and because of this he was loved not only by those present in his house, but by all who he had met.

The notary came in with the rest, and after having set the preamble of the Will, and after Don Quixote had commended his soul to God with all the Christian formalities that are customary, coming to the bequests, he began: “Item, it is my will that certain monies that Sancho Panza, who in all my madness I made my squire, should have, insofar as between me and him there have been certain accounts and debits and credits, so that no claim should be made against him, nor any account demanded of him in that respect; however after paying himself, if there should remain a balance – however small it may be – will be his, and should do him good; and if, as during my madness I gave him a share of the government of an island, so now that I am in my senses I could give him a Kingdom, it should be his, as the simplicity of his character and the fidelity of his conduct deserve it.” And then turning to Sancho he said, “Forgive me, friend, that I led you to seem as mad as I, making you fall into the same error as myself, believing that there were and still are knights-errant in this world.”

“Ah!” said Sancho, weeping, “don’t die, my master, take my advice and continue living for many more years, for it is the most foolish thing for a man to allow himself to die without rhyme or reason, without being killed by another hand, or any hands at all but those of melancholy. Come, don’t be lazy, but get up from your bed and let us go to the countryside dressed as shepherds, as we had earlier agreed. Perhaps behind some bush we shall encounter Dulcinea del Toboso disenchanted, fine as fine can be. If it is that you are dying due to having been defeated, place all the blame on me, and say you were brought down because I had girthed Rocinante poorly; besides, you must have seen in your books of chivalry that it is common for knights to defeat one another, that he who is conquered one day will be the conqueror tomorrow.”

“This is true,” added Samson, “and Sancho Panza’s view on these cases is quite correct.”

“Sirs,” said Don Quixote, “‘not so fast, for in last year’s nests there are no birds this year. I was mad, now I am in my senses; I was Don Quixote de La Mancha, I am now, as I said before, Alonso Quixano the Good; and may my repentance and sincerity restore me to the esteem you used to have for me; and now let the Master notary proceed.”

“Item, I leave all my property, in its entirety, to Antonia Quixano, my niece, here present, after all has been deducted from its most available portion in order to satisfy the bequests that I have made; and the first expense that should be paid is the salary of my housekeeper that has served me, with an additional twenty ducats for a new dress. I appoint the clerk and the bachelor Samson Carrasco, here present, as the executors of my Will.”

“Item, it is my wish that if Antonia Quixano, my niece, should decide to marry, she shall marry a man that, before all else, it is ascertained that he knows nothing of books of chivalry; and if it is discovered that he does know, and despite this my niece insists on marrying him, and they marry, then she must forfeit the entirety of her inheritance, which my executors shall give to works of charity as they see fit.”

“Item, I ask the aforementioned executors that if, by any luck, they should discover the author who is said to have written a story now titled “Second Part of the Deeds of Don Quixote de La Mancha”, that they should beg of him, on my behalf and as earnestly as possible, to forgive me for having been, without intending it, the cause of him writing such tales of nonsense, as I am leaving this world with compunction for having given a motive for him to write them.”

With this he closed his Will and, feeling faint, he stretched himself at full length on his bed. Everyone scurried to help him, and in the three days that he lived after he made his Will he fainted very often. The house was in confusion; but the niece ate, the housekeeper drank, and Sancho Panza relaxed, as they always had; for inheriting property softens in the heir the feeling of sadness the dying man might be expect to leave behind him.”

About the Author:

El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha, originally written by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra is considered to be one of the earliest traditional novels, and in any case is widely considered to be one of the greatest works of fiction ever written. The original text was written in Spanish, borrowing heavily from neighboring languages such as Old Castilian, the Basque languages, and Latin. 

About the Translator:

Pranav Khambete is a junior at the University of Michigan College of Engineering, where he studies Mechanical Engineering. He studied Spanish in high school and became interested in translation studies after taking a translational theory class in the Comparative Literature department at the University of Michigan.  In an attempt to recreate the syntax and mode of Don Quijote, great emphasis was placed on the flow of each sentence, emphasizing it’s narrative perspective with the appropriate pauses and inflection, while paying attention to the peculiarities that accompany the blend of languages.

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