Sharing the same death day is not the only thing Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare have in common. Though Cervantes and Shakespeare may or may not have crossed paths or chatted about their passion for written expression (which is unlikely since the two spoke different languages), both demonstrated a penchant for writing using comedy to address complicated relationships. Cervantes in Don Quixote and Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream incorporate a love rectangle in their plot.
Throughout chapters twenty-eight through thirty-seven of Don Quixote, there were mini- stories. The love rectangle between Fernando, Dorotea, Cardenio, and Luscinda add to the interactions that describe different human emotions in crazy circumstances. Cardenio is in love with Lucinda, but Fernando, the other lover proposes to Luscinda. Dorotea is in love with Fernando and jilted. Cardenio’s heart is broken when he returns home in time to see the wedding between the woman he loves and Fernando. After the wedding, he storms off and encounters Dorotea and she explains her tragic story. The situation is resolved when “Don Fernando also recognized Cardenio, and all three—Luscinda, Cardenio, and Dorotea—stood in silent amazement, almost not realizing what was happening to them. They gazed at each other without saying anything—Dorotea at don Fernando, don Fernando at Cardenio, Cardenio at Luscinda, and Luscinda at Cardenio” (Saavedra, Miguel de Cervantes. Don Quixote (Signet Classics) (p. 348).
In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the absurd love rectangle involved the four lovers: Lysander, Hermia, Helena, and Demetrius. Lysander is a handsome young man from Athens who is in love with Hermia, the daughter of Egeus. Hermia returns Lysander’s amorous feelings, but under her father’s rule she is to marry Demetrius, the other lover. Helena is the other lovestruck maiden. Helena continues to carry a torch for Demetrius, but he doesn’t return her love. Hermia refuses to marry Demetrius and plans an escape from Athens with Lysander. The lovers then make their plans known to Helena, who notifies Demetrius of their plan of elopement The four lovers end up in the woods where they are influenced by a potion that complicates everything. Due to the effect of the love potion, Lysander and Demetrius are now in love with Helena. Hermia then becomes jealous and challenges Helena to a fight. Eventually, the love potion dissipates. Lysander comes to his senses and is now is back in love with Hermia. Demetrius falls in love with Helena. The lovers are united and married. The issue is resolved resulting in a happily ever after for them.
While the love rectangle in the plot of Midsummer Night’s Dream is a bit more complex, which makes sense due to the fact that it is the basis for the story and not a side story, it parallels the mini-story told in Don Quixote describing the drama between young lovers. Both stories use comedy to describe the interactions between the flustered couples. Cervantes and Shakespeare may not have been hanging out at the bar or proof reading each other’s draft but are arguably masters of spinning tales.