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Hence, the idea of metafiction comes into play. Traditionally, scholars hail the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes as the inventor of literary metafiction. His novel Don Quixote de la Mancha features a protagonist who learns that he is a literary figure. His wild and absurd adventures then take on a new meaning as the reader wonders what is real, what is fiction, and what is simply Don Quixote's crazed imagination. The book was published in 1605.
Cervantes and Shakespeare were contemporary one to another. In fact, they died within the same week. Shakespeare debuted many plays before the publication of Don Quixote, so I would like to investigate just how many plays of his feature elements of metafiction. Both authors are well known and studied often, so I am not worried about a lack of information. Additionally, BYU is holding a lecture on the similarities between Cervantes' work and Shakespeare's plays this week, as it is the anniversary of both of their deaths.
Ultimately, I am unsure just how much influence Cervantes had outside of Spain directly after the publication of Don Quixote. Research concerning the reach of each author would enlighten me as to who truly introduced the idea of self-aware characters to the world.