Here is Petruchio:
And shrew Kate:
I went with a basic frog-Caliban in forest green.
Othello and Iago are both green-eyed monsters, but Iago (left) is sporting a devil's tail and horns.
What, beyond their importance to all later Western (and much non-Western) literature and drama, do Shakespeare and Cervantes have in common? True, from their differing northern and southern vantage points, they bore witness to historical events that profoundly shaped the late-sixteenth-century European world. Shakespeare might have been in London to witness the wild celebration of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, while the older Cervantes was himself a soldier in the Battle of Lepanto, in 1571, when the Christian League narrowly defeated the Ottoman Turks -- an event of importance to Shakespeare's Othello. Yet, did their work exert a mutual influence? Hmm. Cervantes never visited England and would have known of its playwrights only by reputation. Some allege that a lost play, Cardenio, is Shakespeare's version of a story told in Cervantes' capacious Quixote (which was published in 1605, and quickly famous, though not translated into English at that time). However, most scholars are skeptical about the Cardenio story. When they look for Cervantes' influence on Renaissance drama, they find it in the plays of Ben Jonson, who clearly read Cervantes, and who based a hilarious scene in his 1614 Bartholomew Fair on Quixote's windmill-fighting episode. (Jonson's windmill is a puppet show and his deluded knight a Puritan pastor puffed up with holy zeal.)
Yet, what about Shakespeare, who read bits and pieces of everything? Who picked up rags and patches of literary information like a magpie? Even if he knew no Spanish, how could he have avoided knowing about Cervantes' deluded knight and comic companion?
James Walton, my superlative "history of the novel" professor in graduate school, had a brilliant theory. He spoke of Cervantes' ironic pairing of the idealistic, heavenward-striving Quixote and the practical, earth-bound Sancho Panza, then delivered his conclusion with a flourish. How could any of us fail to see a parallel of this complementary pair in Prince Hal and Falstaff, in Shakespeare's Henry IV, part 1, first produced in 1597? Oh, Professor Walton was so close! He was almost right! He was, in any case, on the right track. Henry IV, part 1, is indeed Shakespeare's Cervantes play, but his Quixote is not Prince Hal, but Hotspur, the impossibly idealistic knight striving to maintain his outdated chivalric code in an early modern world, where men wield pistols on the battlefield and deal strategically for political advantage. Quixotic Hotspur longs to "pluck bright honor from the pale-faced moon" while Falstaff and his London colleagues are picking pockets. Talk about an impossible dream! Prince Hal is the man in the middle between Hotspur and Hal's own Sancho, who is, of course, Falstaff, who cares about food, wine, and self-preservation. (Metaphors of food pepper Falstaff's conversation -- "pepper" is, in fact, one -- and as for Sancho Panza, his very surname means something like "gut.")
Of course, Sancho is a lot nicer than Falstaff, and a lot braver. He follows Quixote out of loyalty and love, and he never leads a bunch of poor, unprepared paupers into battle having persuaded the healthier, fitter men to buy out of their service. That's why this Shakespeare birthday blog is dedicated to Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Sancho. In fact, I've decided my Falstaff cookie is in fact Sancho Panza. Happy Birthday, Will S.!