Sancho Panza is a very complex character. At first, I envisioned him as a manifestation of the fool archetype. He reminded me a lot of the fool in King Lear, cloaking wise perspective amid jokes, puns, and antics. But as I read on, the image of Sancho broadened and he appeared more and more as a saint. It could even be argued that he is a symbol of Christ himself.
First, consider that Sancho rides an ass and not a horse. When we remember that Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, we have an initial parallel between the two.
Sancho describes himself as a man of peace, embodying saintly and Christ-like attributes. He also emphasizes his capacity to forgive others unconditionally, just as Christ was able to forgive.
“Senor, I am a man of peace, meek and quiet, and I can put up with any affront because I have a wife and children to support and bring up; so let it be likewise a hint to your worship, as it cannot be a mandate, that on no account will I draw sword either against clown or against knight, and that here before God I forgive the insults that have been offered me, whether they have been, are, or shall be offered me by high or low, rich or poor, noble or commoner, not excepting any rank or condition whatsoever.”
Shortly afterwards, Sancho describes to Don Quixote how he was given the sign of the cross on his back, and how he endured the suffering with the same acceptance as Christ and other saintly martyrs.
“They gave me no time to see that much,” answered Sancho, “for hardly had I laid hand on my tizona when they signed the cross on my shoulders with their sticks in such a style that they took the sight out of my eyes and the strength out of my feet, stretching me where I now lie, and where thinking of whether all those stake-strokes were an indignity or not gives me no uneasiness, which the pain of the blow does, for they will remain as deeply impressed on my memory as on my shoulders.”
At the wedding in Cana, Christ famously turned water into wine. In this text, Sancho Panza also exchanges water for wine, strengthening the correlation between him and Christ.
… but as at the first sup he perceived it was water he did not care to go with it, and begged Maritornes to fetch him some wine, which she did with right good will, and paid for it with her own money; for indeed they say of her that, though she was in that line of life, there was some faint and distant resemblance to a Christian about her.
It is also worth noting the similarity here between Maritornes and Mary Magdalene. Both were women of “ill repute” who exhibited true spiritual values of compassion and caring.
So far, I find Sancho Panza a much more interesting and multifaceted character that Don Quixote, but I still have a way to go in the book. Thanks for stopping by, and as always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.