In Don Quixote, verisimilitude is used in an intriguing way, as the truth is presented through the eyes of aging, senile dreamer Don Diego de Miranda as a fantastical adventure. Don Quixote himself takes on the responsibility of providing verisimilitude to the audience, as he asks them to suspend disbelief and go along with the transparently futile ride. Verisimilitude is also conveyed by the narrator of the piece (arguably Cervantes, the author, himself), as he never lets the audience take Quixote’s fantasies as truth – the events and people he encounters are always presented through the lens of truth.
On Don Quixote’s first adventure, he stays at an inn, but in his imagination, he interprets it to be a castle, and the innkeeper is its caretaker. There are two prostitutes loitering outside, but he imagines them as frail princesses. He even goes so far as to ask for the innskeeper to knight him, which he begrudgingly does. Later in the book, he encounters a young boy being whipped by a farmer; taking the farmer for a knight, he commands that he pay his ward for his work. At the same time, there is still a bit of suspension of disbelief, as the audience must be expected to believe that Cervantes is a scholar of this particular time period.
Quixote encounters many more fantastical stories which are never presented as anything but the truth, highlighting Quixote’s dementia and madness. There is, of course, the infamous windmill incident, where Don Quixote attacks the windmill, believing it to be a giant. Also, one of Quixote’s greatest delusions is that he is a knight errant, performing these good deeds for the love of the beautiful (and much younger than him) Dulcinea. The audience is never led to believe that he has a chance with her, nor that he is anything more than a sad, senile old man who is attempting to make up for a relatively uneventful life with these imaginary adventures.
The presence of the author in the work reaches greater heights of verisimilitude and metafiction when a priest in one early chapter of the book picks up a book by Cervantes, remarking on the dubious quality of the book’s writing. This is the author talking about himself, providing self-deprecating commentary to remind the audience that this is still a book, and that it is well aware of that fact. This brand of self-insertion is used to distance the audience even further from Quixote’s quests and mindset, as it perpetually reminds them that what he believes to be true is not.
The one real proponent against the verisimilitude of the book is Sancho, Quixote’s loyal squire. Joining him some ways into the book, Sancho provides a moderate voice of reason to Quixote, while still running with the notion that he is a noble knight. He is the one character to believe any of Quixote’s claims whatsoever, and in that way he provides accountability and justification for the man, even as he starts to doubt his own sense of reality.