Miguel d Cervantes. Spanish. 1605/15. Novel. Don Quixote. His mind crazed by reading romances of chivalry, Don Quixote believes himself called upon to redress the wrongs of the world. Alonso Quijano takes the name of Don Quixote whose bony nag is Rocinante. Aldonza Lorenzo, a peasant girl, he names Dulcinea. He is joined by Sancho Panza and his ass Dapple.
Is it an ironic story of an idealist frustrated and mocked in a materialistic world? Is it a veiled attack on the Catholic church? Whatever it is, it’s a panoramic view of 17th-century Spanish society. Does the contrast between Don Quixote, visionary idealist, and Sancho Panza, practical realist, illustrate the duality of Spanish character?
Ben Jonson. British. 1606. Play. Volpone, or The Fox. Childless, avaricious Venetian nobleman pretends to be dying to pique the expectations of those who aspire to inherit his fortune. Characters have names meaning birds and animals. When the word comes that he is dying, they rush to him with rich gifts to assure their inheritance. About to be outwitted by his servant, Volpone reveals the whole plot in court.
Shakespeare. British. 1606. Play. Macbeth. Shakespeare’s shortest play. A study in fear. Prophecy kindles Macbeth’s ambition to be king. He kills King Duncan. He tries to avoid the second part of the prophecy by murdering Banquo, Lady Macduff and her children.
Lady Macbeth commits suicide. Macduff kills Macbeth. Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene in Act 5 is one of the most famous in Shakespeare. The real Macbeth (d.1058) killed Duncan, seized the throne, and was overthrown by Malcolm, Duncan’s son 17 years later.
Thomas Middleton. British. 1606. Play. A Trick to Catch the Old One. A penniless rake borrows money to further his suit of a wealthy widow who is really only a courtesan in disguise.
Shakespeare. British. 1607. Play. Timon of Athens. Timon, deserted by friends in time of trouble, turns against Athens. He finds gold in a cave. He plots against the Athenians with Alcibiades, who negotiates with the Athenians on his behalf. But Timon dies without hearing about this, still inveighing against mankind. Shakespeare wrote probably only part of this play.