Research PaperSancho Panza: Sidekick and Skeptic
The character Sancho Panza in Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote de La Mancha is both a sidekick and a skeptic.
Don Quixote de La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra is acclaimed as one of the best novels ever written. Miguel de Unamuno once wrote “there scarcely exists a person of even average education who does not have some idea of Don Quixote and Sancho.” Contrary to what one might think, there is a character who is just as important to the success of this novel as is Don Quixote himself: Sancho Panza. Without him, Don Quixote would be a two-dimensional character with hardly any appeal. But with the aid of Sancho’s interactions, Quixote takes depth and form as a character. The reader is able to judge Quixote through the thoughts and actions of his companion because Sancho is both a supportive sidekick and a nagging skeptic. Sancho Panza’s duality shows both the good and bad in Don Quixote, which reveals many sides to Quixote that would not have been shown otherwise.
Despite being physically hurt on multiple occasions and faced with perpetual humiliation, Sancho Panza continues to follow Don Quixote on his insane adventures. Sancho does not share his master’s extreme belief in chivalrous virtues, however he “often lives in and adores [Quixote’s madness], sometimes getting caught up in [it] entirely”(Sparknotes). Sancho’s support of Don Quixote shows that Quixote is prominently good and lets the reader know that he is an admirable person with at least enough sanity to maintain a good friendship. Sancho Panza fulfills the role of a sidekick by being “absolutely faithful” (Dramatica) and having an “unswerving belief and support of the Protagonist” (Phillips).
Sancho demonstrates his loyalty even on his first day as aAs Don Quixote’s squire, Sancho follows his master into countless situations where the outcomes are unfavorable to say the least. On his first day as a squire, Sancho accompanies Quixote as hewhen he accompanies Quixote as they approaches a coach that the knight errant believes to contain an imprisoned princess. Don Quixote attacks one of the monks in front of the coach and knocks him off of his horse. Sancho scrambles to collect the monk’s garb as a battle spoil for his master, but the servants that are standing by see him and they “attacked Sancho and knocked him down…leaving no hair in his beard unscathed, they kicked him breathless and senseless and left him lying on the ground” (Cervantes 62, 63). Even after a brutal beating to start off his career, Sancho rides off with Quixote after the battle and is more worried about his master’s wounds than his own. The squire maintains his loyalty like a true sidekick, but more importantly, he allows the reader to feel pity for Quixote through his own concern for the man’s wellbeing.
Later on in the book, Sancho and Quixote stay at an inn to heal their wounds from a previous beating. The innkeeper expects to receive payment when the two try to leave, but Don Quixote refuses to pay him anything. Quixote then rides off a fair distance from the inn, not realizing that he has left his squire behind. The innkeeper turns to Sancho and demands payment. When Sancho does not pay, a few men throw him into a blanket and “[begin] to toss him and make merry with him as if he were a dog at a Carnival” (Cervantes 122).
Not only does this good squire show loyalty, but also support and belief in Don Quixote. Sancho is hesitant at first when Quixote wants to rescue his horse Rocinante from a group of angry Yanguesans. He exclaims, “What the devil kind of revenge are we supposed to take when there are more than twenty of them and only two of us, or maybe only one and a half?” Quixote replies that he himself is “worth a hundred” and charges the crowd of men. Sancho then becomes “incited and moved by his master’s example, [and so] he [does] the same” (Cervantes 103). Sancho’s faith in his master during times of imminent disaster shows that Don Quixote must have good leadership qualities as well as the ability to inspire and motivate through sheer confidence.
Despite being physically hurt on multiple occasions and faced with perpetual humiliation, Sancho Panza continues to follow Don Quixote on his insane adventures. Sancho does not share his master’s extreme belief in chivalrous virtues, however he “often lives in and adores [Quixote’s madness], sometimes getting caught up in [it] entirely”(Sparknotes). Sancho Panza therefore fulfills the requirements for being a sidekick by being “absolutely faithful” (Dramatica) and having an “unswerving belief and support of the Protagonist” (Phillips).
Sancho Panza also demonstrates the attributes of a skeptic and allows Quixote to be criticized as well as praised. A skeptic “doubts everything, thinks every plan is unworkable, and that success is unlikely” (Phillips). Sancho does not always agree with his master and often times “Quixote’s heightened, insane conception of the world is brought crashing to earth by Sancho’s sly pragmatism” (Thornton) and. hHe frequently “berates Don Quixote for his reliance on fantasy” (Sparknotes).
One such example of Sancho’s skepticism and probably one of the most famous events in the novel is when the two encounter a field of windmills. To Don Quixote, the windmills are giants that against which he must wage battle against. Sancho is skeptical of this notion, does not agree. He “warned [Quixote] that, beyond any doubt, those things he was about to attack were windmills and not giants.” But Quixote does not heed Sancho’s pleas and ends up being tossed off Rocinante when his lance gets stuck in one of the vanes. Sancho rushes to his master’s aid and says, “Didn’t I tell your grace to watch what you were doing, that these were nothing but windmills, and only somebody whose head was full of them wouldn’t know that?” (Cervantes 58-59). In instances such as these, Sancho shows that Quixote does not have the best judgement and is certainly not of sound mind.
Sancho Panza is a complex character that demonstrates the qualities of both a sidekick and a skeptic. These two opposite archetypes fused within one person allows for a perception of Don Quixote that gives him life. If Sancho was not present in the novel, the readers would not get as much enjoyment out of the book and Don Quixote would not be as popular as it has been for the past centuries.