Don Quixote continually exhibits traits of both a hero and a fool. He shows he is a hero by being willing to go and fight for the “princess”, however, he is a fool because he believes in princesses and castles in the first place. Although one trait may be more prominent at a certain time, don Quixote is not completely a hero nor a fool, he is both all the time.
The innkeeper is being beaten by people who refuse to pay, when don Quixote is asked to help him he shows his hero side by going to help. As he approaches he hesitates and decides against helping. This cowardice shows his fool side because he uses the excuse that princess Micomicona must give him permission first. Don Quixote’s foolishness is further seen after being given permission by the princess when he only talks the people into paying instead of actually fighting for the innkeeper.
When don Quixote has been put in a cage by his friends to get him home, he says the reason they were able to get him is because the cage is enchanted. While inside the cage don Quixote seems heroic because he shows his brave side by just sitting calmly and knowing that he will get out of it and have his revenge. On the opposite side, his foolishness is shown in the fact that he believes the cage to be enchanted and that he doesn’t realize it is his friends who have put him in the cage.
Fantasy and Reality
Don Quixote’s continual slips between fact and fiction shows his foolish side and makes others laugh at him. Generally, when don Quixote goes up to people he begins by telling them why he is there, which usually has something to do with him having to save someone, being that he’s a knight and that is his job. Most of the time people understand that he is crazy and laugh at him because he is a source of entertainment.
The canon recognizes that don Quixote is an intelligent man but is blinded by his foolishness because he has blurred the lines between reality and fantasy. Don Quixote’s foolishness from his fantasy causes him to have his possible brave and heroic moments, unfortunately, they usually don’t end up the way a hero would expect.
“Don Quixote saw the strange garb of the penitents, without remembering he had to have seen them many times before, and imagined that it was going to be an adventure destined for him only—as a knight-errant—to undertake, and this thought was further confirmed when he saw a statue covered in mourning that they were carrying, and that he thought was some lady of rank being abducted by those rogues and insolent brigands” (Chapter LII). After confronting them and being laughed at don Quixote is beaten up. His combined bravery and foolishness puts him in the position where Sancho believes he may have died. Because of his bad luck he agrees that it is best to return home (which can be seen as another act of cowardice/foolishness). His return home is probably best for everyone because they no longer have to worry about him and he doesn’t have the opportunity to harm anyone with his bravery and ignorance.
His continual need to protect and save others along with his never ending confidence in what he believes allows for don Quixote to be considered part hero. The fact that he has a fantasy world, the trouble it has gotten him in, and his cowardice all show that he is part fool. Therefore, no matter what don Quixote seems to do, he cannot act on one part of himself without the other part being present.