Hamlet & Quixote and Quixote & Hamlet

Instructor: Carmen Boullosa
Time: Wednesdays, 5 – 740 PM
Course Code: MHC 385
Modality: In Person

In the sixteenth century, two literary characters, Prince Hamlet and Don Quixote, were created, all but simultaneously, by two authors, Shakespeare and Cervantes, in two different languages and two different kingdoms. We will be studying their interactions.

This is not a novel enterprise: check out Google and you’ll see that Hamlet and Quixote have been dancing together almost since their date of conception (Borges, Turgenev, and others have written on this theme).

But why? At first blush the characters have nothing in common.

Hamlet – Shakespeare’s creation – is a university student, a Wittenberg scholar no less, while Quixote, Cervantes’ man, studies nothing, but instead consumes mountains of pop (chivalric) romances.Quixote is an old man with no accomplishments and no prospects. Hamlet is Prince of Denmark, and would be the King. Hamlet is a thinker and Quixote is a man of action. But the thinker causes multiple murders (and his beloved’s suicide). And the man of action goes from adventure to adventure, without leaving a single corpse.

In some mysterious ways, Hamlet/Quixote and Quixote/Hamlet – though differently sized – mesh perfectly. What’s going on here?

We’re going to take another crack at this puzzle. We’ll read Shakespeare and Cervantes as well as history, linguistics, politics, psychology and literary criticism. Then we ourselves will wade into the murky waters, armed with our bevy of tools, and collectively come up with our own coherent Macaulay class interpretation of the roots of these two of the world’s most interesting literary characters.

Course Syllabus