Don Quixote, Book 2, Chapter XII
Regarding the strange adventure that befell the valiant Don Quixote and the courageous Knight of the Mirrors
Upon their chance meeting in the woods, Don Quixote and the Knight of the Mirrors share autobiographies and tales of heroism. Then, surprisingly, the Knight proclaims his victory over a Don Quixote that he has already encountered, in a battle that has already taken place. In this, he assumes title of conqueror of all knights—Don Quixote’s glory, fame, and honor having already transferred onto his person. Another Don Quixote, therefore, supposedly roams the land, claiming to be the real Man of La Mancha. But how can this be?:
DQ: You should know that this Don Quixote whom you have mentioned is the dearest friend I have in the world: I could even say that I value him as I do my own person, and by the description you have given me, which is detailed and accurate, I can only think that he is indeed the one you have conquered. On the other hand, I see with my eyes and touch with my hands the impossibility of his being the one…
Stunned and enraged by the tale, our hero challenges the Knight of the Mirrors to a battle – one in which vanquishing the Knight proves his proclamation false and restores the true, unblemished history of Don Quixote of La Mancha. But in facing the Knight of the Mirrors, does Don Quixote defend himself against a valiant challenger or this projection of a lie? Maybe what Don Quixote sees in his opponent’s suit of mirrors is not an image of himself, but the deception that he must reckon with—one that he must obliterate. If another knight who claims to be Don Quixote exists, then in this mirrored knight is an opportunity for Don Quixote to defeat his reflected self; to prove himself alive.
Imagine your history told, but without your voice… outside your own body – your very existence questioned. I ask myself how I would confront this narrative? Must I chase this story down… defeat it? How can it be so easy for you to make me into a lie? Is this image you display for me, of me, in this mirror, there so that I may see myself as a lie? I should mirror back to you this deceit—assist in portraying this false world, but slow it down, pause it so you have to look at the lie more intently. I should echo your belief in me as deranged, but amplify it so loud it becomes distorted. I should tilt the way you see my surroundings, and refract the floor, walls, and ceiling so your own environment is thrown out of balance.
In your mirrored armor, there is always, only a lie. Rather than reveal its surroundings, thus expressing some truth, its surface simply reflects your own desires and fears, ambitions and failures. It really is your own seeing, your self-image, that fills the mirror. In your mirror, the one you’ve held onto so tightly, you’ve attempted to show me an image of myself that is not quite my own. Mirrors are strange in that way… detailed, accurate, and convincing as Don Quixote explains, but deceptive in its origin.
Nevertheless, I am still left with the questions: if you have constructed a false me who roams the streets, then who is it that I am meant to see in your mirrored armor. More importantly, how do I bring myself to meeting this other me? Is it my responsibility to don the armor and challenge him? Where, when, in which battle do I restore my image?
DQ: “Well the same things happens in the drama and business of this world, where some play emperors, other pontiffs, in short, all the figures that can be presented in a play, but at the end, which is when life is over, death removes all the clothing that differentiated them, and all are equal in the grave.