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Throughout Cervantes’s Don Quijote, dress and language play an important role in establishing a character’s identity for both other characters and the reader. Beginning with the very first page of the novel, the narrator’s description of Alonso Quijano’s wardrobe, along with other amusing quotidian behaviors, establishes the protagonist’s status as an impoverished, Old Christian, rural hidalgo. Furthermore, Quijano’s performance as Don Quijote hinges on his sartorial trappings, and his first transformative act is to clean up the ancestral armor and, quite literally, “suit up” for his new role. Once astride Rocinante, the reader is treated to Quijote’s fanciful musings in archaic Spanish on the description of his first sally, which some wise chronicler most surely will record. Of course, the studied care with which he changes from his “true” identity to an anachronistic other is a cause for laughter on the part of everyone from the narrator, to the characters who encounter the knight-errant, to the reader. However, as even a brief review of early modern Spanish sumptuary laws or the edicts prohibiting the Moriscos’s use of Arabic and Moorish cultural expressions suggest, embodied signs such as speech and dress were considered legitimate albeit problematic markers of one’s essential identity within the context of Inquisitorial Spain.
eHumanista: Journal of Iberian Studies
Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of California Santa Barbara
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Garst-Santos, Christi, "Dorotea, Ruy Pérez, and Zoraida: Modeling the Art of Paradoxy in a Binary World" (2016). School of American and Global Studies Faculty Publications with a Focus on Modern Languages and Global Studies. 2.