Miguel de Cervantes, the First Comedic Novelist

Don Quixote was published over 400 years ago, yet is still studied today. How did Miguel de Cervantes use comedy to craft such an important novel?

Author's Corner Book Culture Classics Featured Authors On This Day

In 1604, the first novel was sent to publisher-bookseller Francisco de Robles. Don Quixote was published in 1605, and thus birthed a story about idealism, literature, death, and materialism, all wrapped in comedy. What made this story wildly popular? How did Miguel de Cervantes utilize comedy in such a groundbreaking novel?

The Use of Parody in Don Quixote


As a novel, Don Quixote satirizes the overly chivalric standards in seventeenth-century Spain. Cervantes handles the weight of insane disillusion and drastic circumstances and shrouds it all in parody and slapstick comedy. Additionally, he manages to make serious commentary about social class, societal pressures, acceptance of reality, and the pursuit of ideals despite the humorous twists.

Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.

Miguel de Cervantes

The character of Don Quixote is to be laughed at. He’s goofy and extremely unaware of his inappropriate nature. He literally can’t read the room. Cervantes uses the picaresque form to showcase Don Quixote’s adventure, an adventure from a low social standing. Resultantly, Cervantes parodies a heroic epic from the standpoint of a poor madman who loves literature.

Comedy as a Tool


Anyone can write. But comedy, you’ve got to do some writing. You get one comedy script to every twenty dramas.

Michael Caine

Comedy is essential to our world today. Not only are laughing and amusement important for our mental health, but comedy also helps us cope with difficult circumstances. It bonds us to characters, people, stories, and ideas. Because of this, it makes handling dark topics so much lighter. The first modern novel is a parody. It pokes fun at standards. We would’ve had a different relationship with Cervantes’ story if not for the humor embedded. Reading about a man misplaced by society and slowly falling into madness shouldn’t be funny. Consequently, Cervantes’ incredible framing inverts the tone and makes it enjoyable yet still meaningful.

I do not deny that what happened to us is a thing worth laughing at. But it is not worth telling, for not everyone is sufficiently intelligent to be able to see things from the right point of view.

Miguel de Cervantes

Overall, Don Quixote is celebrated worldwide and has been translated into over fifty languages. It is cited constantly. It inspired numerous works, including Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (1844),  and Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac (1897). Furthermore, Miguel de Cervantes’ legacy survives over time and he will always be known as the first modern novelist.

Read more articles about Miguel de Cervantes here.