Sancho Panza

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Statue of Sancho Panza in Madrid (L. Coullaut, 1930).
Statue of Sancho Panza in Madrid (L. Coullaut, 1930).

Sancho Panza is a character in the novel Don Quixote written by Spanish author Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1602. In the novel Sancho acts as squire to Don Quixote. Don Quixote is often considered the first true novel written. Sancho's character provides comments throughout the novel, known as sanchismos, that are a combination of broad humor, ironic Spanish proverbs, and earthy wit. "Panza" means 'belly,' and is alternately spelled pança.


  • 1 Don Quixote
  • 2 Don Quixote, Part Two
    • 2.1 Sancho's name
    • 2.2 The promised insula
    • 2.3 Ricote
  • 3 Other appearances of the character
  • 4 External links

Don Quixote

Sancho Panza offers interpolated narrative voice throughout the tale, a literary convention invented by Cervantes. Sancho Panza is precursor to "the sidekick," and is symbolic of practicality over idealism. Sancho is the everyman, who, though not sharing his master's delusional "enchantment" until late in the novel, remains his ever-faithful companion realist, and functions as the clever slave.

In the novel, Don Quixote comments on the historical state and condition of Aragón and Castilla, which are vying for power in Europe. Sancho Panza represents, among other things, the quintessentially Spanish brand of skepticism of the period.

Sancho, Don Quixote's actual manservant, obediently follows his master, despite being sometimes puzzled by Quixote's actions. Riding a mule, he helps Quixote get out of various conflicts while looking forward to rewards of aventura that Quixote tells him of.

Don Quixote, Part Two

Sancho's name

Sancho laments the fall of his master.
Sancho laments the fall of his master.

Cervantes variously names Sancho in the first book Sancho Zancas (legs), however in the second book he standardizes Sancho's name in reply to the "false" Avellaneda Quixote sequel. At one point, Sancho alludes to the "false" Avellaneda book by addressing his wife (standardized as Teresa Panza) using the wrong name. The Sancho name does not change, but he calls his wife various names throughout the first part of the volume, and her 'true' name is not revealed until almost the end of that portion of the novel.

The promised insula

Don Quixote promises Sancho the governance of an ínsula, or island. However, Sancho has never heard of this word before, and does not know its meaning. Sancho has long been expecting some vague but concrete reward for this adventure, and believes the word to signify the prize that will make the trouble he has been enduring worthwhile.

The two later encounter a pair of impostor dukes who pretend to make Sancho governor of a fictional fief, la ínsula Barataria (roughly "Isle Come-cheaply"; see Cockaigne). He eagerly accepts, and leaves his master. In a letter, Don Quixote gives Sancho nonsensical advice on governorship gleaned from the romances he has read, thought to have been inspired by the Diálogo de Mercurio y Carón attributed to Juan de Valdés, using the allegorical ínsula to satirize gullibility for philosopher-doctors' quackery and the current political quests for foreign riches of the Indies.

The Dukes' "servants" are instructed to play several pranks upon Sancho. Surprisingly, Sancho is able to rule justly, applying common sense and practical wisdom in spite of fantastical, foolish advices that Don Quixote read of. As Sancho triumphs in these staged parody battles he learns of how difficult it is to rule and "resigns" to rejoin Don Quixote and continue the adventure.


Sancho encounters Ricote ("fat cat"), his former Morisco neighbor, who has buried a small fortune. Ricote, like all Moriscos, was expelled from Spain and has returned in disguise to retrieve the treasure he left behind. He asks Sancho for his help. Sancho, while sympathetic, refuses to betray his king.

When Don Quixote takes to his deathbed, Sancho tries to cheer him. Sancho idealistically proposes they become pastoral shepherds and thus becomes 'Quixotized'.

Other appearances of the character

Main article: Man of La Mancha

In addition to stage and screen adaptations of the novel itself, Sancho Panza is a major character in the play within a play in the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha, and in the film of the same name. In Man of La Mancha, the newly-imprisoned Cervantes recruits his fellow prisoners to portray characters from his novel, with Cervantes himself playing Don Quixote. In the musical, Sancho sings in duet with Quixote, and solos in the song "A Little Gossip." Actors who have played Sancho in the play include Irving Jacobson (who also sang on the original cast album), Tony Martinez (1977 and 1992 revivals), and Ernie Sabella (2002 revival). James Coco played the character in the 1972 film.

A further layer of characters playing other characters can be found in the Quantum Leap episode "Catch a Falling Star", in which Ernie Sabella plays the actor "Manny", who in turn plays Cervantes' manservant, who plays Sancho. This appearance predates Sabella's 2002 Broadway portrayal of Sancho Panza.

He is mentioned in The Stranglers song No More Heroes.

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