The Portrayal Of Women In Don Quixote

In the epic poem Don Quixote, written by Miguel de Cervantes, women were portrayed a certain way. The roles of the women were decided by men in the story. Women were portrayed to be damsels in distress, having beauty to lust for, having to be wed, be married before having their chasity taken, returning the love of a man, and being property of men. Some of them demonstrated that they were intelligent and independent women. There were different type of women in Don Quixote, with each having their own unique traits and their own ideals. If a woman did not go by the standards that all the men had, then they were deemed a horrendous woman. 

One of the many women was Marcela. Marcela was a rich young woman who had amazing beauty, that most males lusted over. She did not want to follow the custom of matrimony that women were supposed to follow, through the beliefs of all the men. There were suitors that wanted her, only because they wanted to feel gallant from being with such a fair lady. She was courteous and friendly to her suitors but denied and push them all away, when they show their intentions of matrimony. She was portrayed to be a terrible person by the men, due to not wanting to marry anyone that ask for her had in marriage. She was blamed for the death of one of the suitors named Grisostomo, only because she didn’t return his love. Marcela was an independent and intelligent woman who didn’t need a man’s love or attention to make her happy. Marcela chose her freedom, over society’s standards. She did not become a prisoner to the standards that society set for her as being needy and requiring rescue by a man. 

Dorotea was another woman who was intelligent but followed the virtues of keeping her chastity before going through matrimony. Even though Dorotea was intelligent, she was tricked into losing her virginity through false promises of a sanctioned marriage by Don Fernando. She was viewed as tainted by other men, since she lost her virginity before marriage. After a long journey to seek Don Fernando, to reclaim her and her family’s honor by having a sanctioned marriage. The journey was a failed attempt, leading to too much embarrassment to show her face to her parents. Men judged Dorotea for trusting the wrong man and losing her virginity. All this has made her define herself a terrible woman, all from the loss of her chastity. In the end, she had to beg and subdue herself to be his slave to get social status and acceptance back. This shows how cruel society is when judging a woman. 

Zoraida is another woman, but of power. She is the daughter of a powerful man, through wealth, social status, and good reputation. She is only portrayed as a powerful woman, because of her connections with a powerful man. Even though she is not of power without connections to her father, she is still an intelligent woman. She does not wish for the relationship she has with her father to control her. Zoraida orchestrates a plan to run away to Spain and convert to Christianity. This is the path she chose, believing it was the route to righteousness and salvation. She didn’t want to live the life where a woman was not free to choose their own path and where their values as a woman was not recognized. She uses her intelligence to get a Spanish sailor to marry her by objectifying herself in the way men in society has taught her. She brags about her beauty, youth, and wealth to the man to persuade him to win him over. After finding out her plan, her father portrays her as evil for wanting to convert to Christianity. Even though she may be portrayed as evil for betraying her father, she was only trying to good for herself. Chained to a society where men see women as less of value than them, Zoraida had no other option of freedom. 

Another woman also portrayed in Don Quixote, is Ana Felix. She shows courage and determination. She did not have as much male domination in her life as the other women, but instead she has her roles reversed a few times. Once when she was accompanied by a man by the name of Don Gaspar Gregorio, and another time when she plans to protect him from the Turks who lusted him. The situation usually shows a woman overcome by her emotions, to follow a man anywhere he goes, but instead, Don Gregorio followed Ana Felix when she was exiled from Spain. Usually women are lusted after in Don Quixote, but the situation was not the same with Ana Felix. The Turks in Algiers wanted a handsome boy, more than a beautiful woman, no matter her beautiful she is. Knowing this, Ana Felix lied to the king of Algiersand by claiming Don Gregorio was a woman, in order to protect him. Ana Felix showed a lot of strength and brilliance, because she remained calm after her exile from her home, and when she put together a plan to save both herself and Don Gregorio. Ana played her role as a man in this story, while her male companion played a role as a woman. They both derived their powers through the gender that they played.

All of these women showed that they can be intelligent, independent, brave, and determined. Even though the era they lived in limited them to their true value as a woman, they still showed they were strong female characters. The women who did have power, through their connections with a man of power were still limited. Their unique traits and ideals are what made them strong female characters, that did not become imprisoned to the standards society has set for them. Even so, they still remain in a society of men that render them nearly powerless.

16 December 2021
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