Follow TV Tropes


Theatre / Man of La Mancha

Go To

"I am I, Don Quixote, the Lord of La Mancha,
My destiny calls and I go.
And the wild winds of fortune will carry me onward,
Oh whithersoever they blow.
Whithersoever they blow, onward to glory I go!"
Miguel De Cervantes as Don Quixote in the opening number.

A 1965 musical based on Don Quixote, or more precisely, the man behind Don Quixote, author Miguel de Cervantes. One day, he and his faithful manservant are unexpectedly arrested by The Spanish Inquisition. As they await trial, their fellow prisoners put them on trial. With all of his possessions on the line, De Cervantes decides to put on a show as his defense. Care to guess which one?

With a little imagination, the dismal dungeon is transformed to rolling hills, as Cervantes and his servant — now none other than Don Quixote and Sancho Panza — set out in search of grand adventures and other derring-do. As they play at their routine, other prisoners take up roles suggested of them. In particular, the angry Aldonza, the Miss Yo-Yo Knickers of the "town," attracts Quixote's interest, and he rechristens her Dulcinea, his noble lady, upon the spot. She is less than amused, but can't help but be intrigued by his idealism... Meanwhile, back at the homestead, the relatives of Alonso Quijana fret about how to save their reputation from the mad fool who's running around the country trying to joust windmills.

Part of what makes the musical noticeable is the use of the Show Within a Show being the actual meat of the play.

There was also a 1972 film version directed by Arthur Hiller, starring Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren.

This show features examples of:

  • Abandoned War Child: Aldonza.
    And then there's my father. I'm told that young ladies
    Can point to their fathers with maidenly pride.
    Mine was a regiment, here for one hour,
    I can't even tell you which side.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Instead of an insane fool to be mocked as in the original novel, The Man of La Mancha's Quixote is a largely positive character whose adventurous spirit and idealism are a laudable thing in a harsh and cynical world. This reflects a popular Alternate Character Interpretation beyond a surface-reading of the novel. invoked
  • Artistic License – Religion: Although setting "I'm Only Thinking of Him" in a confessional, where Alonso Quijana's niece and housekeeper lament in harmony, apparently not aware of the other woman's presence, is a good bit of staging for a comic number, it's not accurate. Catholic priests aren't allowed to hear more than one confession at a time, and certainly not at the time the play is set in.
  • Ascended Extra: Aldonza has a far larger role in the musical than she ever did in the novel.
  • Badass Boast: The reprise of "Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)" provides possibly the best one in the entire show. It's bittersweet, as it soon turns into a Dying Moment of Awesome.
    Aldonza/Dulcinea: My Lord! You are not well...
    Quijana/Don Quixote: Not well? What is sickness to the body of a Knight-Errant? What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise again and WOE TO THE WICKED! Sancho!
    Sancho: Here, Your Grace!
    Quijana/Don Quixote: My armor! My sword!
  • Badass Creed: Come on! See the opening quote.
  • Bad Girl Song: "It's All the Same", and "Aldonza".
  • The Barber: He even has his own song about his job as a barber.
    If I slip when I am shaving you
    And cut you to the quick,
    You can use me as a doctor
    'Cause I also heal the sick.
  • Break the Cutie: The muleteers do this to Aldonza by gang-raping her. Then, she sings "Aldonza" to try and break Don Quixote as much as she has been broken. And then "The Knight of the Mirrors" just breaks him completely.
  • Broken Bird: Aldonza, though she hides it with all her might.
  • Celibate Hero: Don Quixote, sworn to "love, pure and chaste from afar."
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Don Quixote.
  • Crapsack World: Everyone in the world is angry and cynical.
  • Crowd Song: The mocking reprise of "Dulcinea" is all the men of the chorus singing together. "Knight of the Woeful Countenance" and the Epic reprise of "The Impossible Dream" also count.
  • Darkest Hour:
    • One is for Aldonza, after being gang-raped by the muleteers.
    • Then Don Quixote himself suffers this after the Knight of the Mirrors breaks his spirit.
  • Dark Reprise: "Little bird, Little bird" is first sung by a group of men as they flirt with Aldonza (Dulcinea), and is then sung again when they rape her.
  • Daughter Of A Whore: Aldonza
  • Does Not Like Men: Aldonza, with good reason, as explained in the song "It's All the Same".
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Aldonza's "I Am" Song:
    Don't you see what you gentle insanities do to me?
    Rob me of anger and give me despair
    Blows and abuse I can take and give back again!
    Tenderness I can not bear.
  • Doomed Moral Victor
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Derives from the Trope Namer. Gets its own song.
    • It can also summarize pretty well the relationship between the Don and Sancho too.
  • Ending by Ascending: The film ends with Cervantes climbing the staircase that leads out of the dungeon.
  • Epic Rocking: The finale, which brings the entire cast together in the united dream.
  • Evil Sorcerer: The Enchanter (who exists only in Don Quixote's mind).
  • Follow Your Heart: "The Impossible Dream"
  • For Great Justice: Don Quixote
  • Friendship Song: "I Really Like Him" in which Sancho explains to Aldonza that the reason why he sticks with Don Quixote through all his insane adventures is simply because he likes him.
  • From Dress to Dressing: Aldonza tears up her petticoat to make bandages for Don Quixote after their and Sancho's fight with the muleteers.
  • Hat of Power: Fictional even in-universe, the Golden Helmet of Mambrino. Although it looks like a mere barber's bowl, it is said to grant marvelous powers to the wearer.
  • Heroic BSoD: After being confronted with his True Self, Don Quixote regresses into a sick bedridden shell.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Aldonza's heart is more like a hunk of coal, that Don Quixote manages to crush into a diamond.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Don Quixote. Subverted/justified in that he sees others for what they could be rather than what they are.
  • Human Chess: Cervantes sets this up in the prison, but as a narrative device rather than a game.
  • I Am What I Am/"I Am" Song: The title song, "Man of La Mancha (I, Don Quixote)", proclaims Don Quixote's worldview.
    • And then done again in the darkest possible way with the character of Aldonza — first, "It's All the Same," and then "Aldonza," where she declares bitterly that she is nothing but a hateful, unwanted, absolutely unlovable whore and she deserves nothing better.
  • I Can Still Fight!: In the final scene:
    Quixote: Not well? What is sickness to the body of a knight-errant? What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he will rise again, and woe to the wicked! Sancho!
    Sancho: Here, Your Grace!
    Quixote: My armor! My sword!
  • Imaginary Enemy: As in the source material, Don Quixote fights a variety of non-existent foes. However, in the play, Dr. Carrasco takes advantage of Quixote's belief in the Knight of the Mirrors. He appears before him as the Knight and he and his attendants bear huge mirrored shields, and as they swing them at Quixote, the glare blinds him. The Knight taunts Quixote, forcing him to see himself as the world sees him: a fool and a madman. Don Quixote collapses, weeping.
  • Imaginary Friend: In one production, Aldonza is not acted out by a cellmate, but simply appears on stage when they start acting, and vanishes when their performance is interrupted — leading to a heartwarming symbolism when, in the finale, when the story is done, she still stays on stage and sings with the prisoners in their cell. As she is no longer a character in their script, but a person in their heart.
  • "I Want" Song: "The Impossible Dream".
  • Job Song: The Barber has a song about his job as a barber, but after a few verses, it gets taken over by Don Quixote under the misapprehension that the barber's washing basin is the legendary Golden Helmet of Mambrino.
  • Joker Jury: Cervantes is put on trial by his fellow prisoners.
  • Karma Houdini: The muleteers aren't punished for raping Aldonza. This is probably because the Knight of the Mirrors shows up to destroy Don Quixote’s dreams soon after Don Quixote learns about what happened to poor Aldonza.
  • Knighting: Played for laughs in the number, "Knight of the woeful countenance."
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Don Quixote might be this; he has a skewed perception of the world as a beautiful, marvelous place when it clearly isn't, but he indicates that, even when he knows the world is a dire mess that has little hope of elevation, he will fight on. When he converts Dulcinea to his cause, she becomes a full fledged Knight in Sour Armor.
  • Loving a Shadow: There is no Dulcinea. "She's made of flame and air". But how much better to fight for the honor of someone or something, even if it doesn't actually exist, than to sit there and wallow in self pity.
  • May–December Romance: Don Quixote instantly fell madly in love with Aldonza. But he is pure and chaste and innocent, and also is completely unaware of how old he is. His infatuation with her manages to be incredibly endearing rather than creepy.
  • MockGuffin: The Golden Helmet of Mambrino even gets own song.
  • Mood Whiplash: The greatest and most hilarious fight scene ever between Don Quixote, Sancho, Aldonza, and a bunch of drunkards! Followed immediately after with Aldonza getting beaten and raped by them offstage. Which is then immediately followed by a hilarious scene between Don Quixote and Sancho running into gypsies. Which is then followed by them running into Aldonza after what happened to her.
    • The film version, by depicting the play as Quixote would imagine them, invokes Mood Whiplash by having "reality" intrude in the form of cutting back to the prison every so often.
  • Multigenerational Household: Alonso lives with his adult niece, who is engaged to be married.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Part of Don Quixote's craziness but darn if the song for it doesn't make the barber's basin into the most epic hat ever.
  • Oddly Shaped Sword: Don Quixote's sword — it ends in an impressive spherical helix, though it is rather second-hand.
  • Our Acts Are Different: As written, this is a one-act show. However, it can be divided into two acts - the song "The Impossible Dream" provides a good high-pitch moment, and comes nicely in the middle, so it's a good place to cut off Act I — but some directors choose differently.
  • Peerless Love Interest: Dulcinea. Crosses with Hero's Muse and Loving a Shadow.
  • Prisoner Performance: The story follows Miguel de Cervantes staging a play based on Don Quixote as he and his manservant await their fates at the hands of The Spanish Inquisition. Cervantes and his manservant play Don Quixote and Sancho Panza while his fellow inmates perform the other roles.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Just before Aldonza is raped by the muleteers she is either carried offstage or the lights go out so the audience can't see what happens.
  • Really Gets Around: Aldonza is the town whore. She doesn't really like it, but she's good at it and it gives her some respect in the town.
  • Rule of Drama: In Real Life, Cervantes was imprisoned by the regular police because he put some public money in his pocket. Of course, throwing The Spanish Inquisition in the middle can only add real!drama.
  • Separate Scene Storytelling: The main story takes place in jail, while the Don Quixote stories are their own scenes.
  • Show Within a Show: In-Universe, the story of Don Quixote is being played by the prisoners in the jail where Cervantes is being held.
  • Sidekick Song: "I Like Him" and "A Little Gossip" neatly sum up (with a few interjections from Aldonza) Sancho Panza's personality.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: This is the attitude of the Duke, and of Dr. Carrasco; the character he plays in the Show Within a Show.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The musical is very much a plea for idealism. With a clear message of "It's better to be crazy and happy, than sane and miserable."
  • Streetwalker: Aldonza, who describes herself as a "kitchen slut" and "the most casual bride of the murdering scum of the earth".
  • Stylistic Suck: Since they're only able to use what Cervantes brings in his trunk, the costumes and effects for the Show Within a Show are intentionally crude.
  • That Man Is Dead: Both inverted and played straight by Aldonza in the final scene. After Alonso Quijana/Don Quixote dies, she says:
    Aldonza: A man died. He seemed a good man, but I did not know him.
    Sancho: But—
    Aldonza: Don Quixote is not dead. Believe, Sancho, believe.
    Sancho: (in confused hope) Aldonza?
    Aldonza: My name is Dulcinea.
  • Throwing Down the Gauntlet: Don Quixote challenges a knight who insulted his lady, Dulcinea.
    • In fact, his song "I, Don Quixote" addresses the depraved world with "a knight with his banners all bravely unfurled / now hurls down the gauntlet to thee!"
  • Uncommon Time: "What Does He Want Of Me?" is in 7/8 time.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having

Alternative Title(s): Man Of La Mancha