"Everything he read in his books took possession of his imagination"



  Throughout the sixteenth century it was argued by many that the mass-distribution of cheap literature, chiefly the 'romances of chivalry' favoured by Quixote, were a potentially dangerous influence on the minds of their readers.  The emergence of printing and widespread literacy meant that previously protected portions of the populace, such as the working class and women, were able to read a wide variety of material for themselves, instead of being read to from a strict canon of 'improving' literature selected by their social superiors. 

  Learned scholars and respected churchmen such as Pedro de la Vega attacked the chivalrous tales of knights and damsels as encouraging violence and promiscuity among their impressionable readers.  The fictive insanity which overwhelms Don Quixote was not just a source of comedy, but represented (and, arguably, ridiculed) fears which were all too real for many of Cervantes' contemporaries and, indeed, continue to this day in ongoing debates over the potential effects of violent cinema or video-games.