Learn about Cervantes’ masterpiece Don Quixote De La Mancha in this new Immortal Books episode from English Plus Podcast.
Welcome to a new episode from English Plus Podcast, and today we have a very special episode form our immortal books series, and today’s choice is Don Quixote by Cervantes. A book and a story that stood the test of time and lived on as a precious part of world literature and not only Spanish literature.
Before we start, let me remind you that you will find the transcript of this episode in a link I will leave in the description of this episode. I will also leave a link to Patreon where you can support English Plus Podcast by becoming a patron of the show. When you do that, you will have our never-ending gratitude, of course, and you will also get exclusive PDF practice worksheets with every single episode we release.
And now without further ado, let’s start with our star book for today, our immortal book, Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes.
We’ll explore the comic novel of Don Quixote De La Mancha and its author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. This great novel is about Don Quixote, a poor country gentleman from La Mancha in central Spain, who has an obsession for reading tales of chivalry. This incessant reading makes him insane. He becomes in his fevered imagination, a noble knight and sets off in search of adventure, to right the wrongs of the world. To Don Quixote, everyday objects seem to pose irresistible heroic challenges. The result is a lengthy and comic series of absurd exploits, which also raise questions about fact and fiction, reality and illusion.
Miguel de Cervantes was born in 1547, near Madrid, Spain. He was the fourth of seven children of a poor surgeon. Since his father Rodrigo de Cervantes moved around a great deal. Little is known of Cervantes’ early education. However, in 1568, at the age of 21, he is known to have attended the city school of Madrid, where he was a student of Juan Lopez de Hoyos, a Spanish follower of Erasmus. Two years later, in 1570, Cervantes joined the Spanish Army in Naples and fought in the historic Battle of lepanto In 1571, where the Turkish fleet was defeated.
In the fighting, Cervantes lost his left hand. Later, after participating in a North African campaign, he and his brother Rodrigo were captured by pirates. While Rodrigo was ransomed after two years, Cervantes wasn’t freed for five. In 1584, at the age of 37, he married Catalina de Salazar y Palacios.
The next year he published his novel, La Galatea. He also wrote a number of plays during the 1580s but only two of them La Numantia and Pictures of Algiers have survived. For a number of years beginning with 1587, Cervantes worked for the government of Spain requisitioning supplies for the military. At the age of 58, in 1605, while living in Valladolid, Cervantes published the first part of Don Quixote. While the book was an immense success, he did not receive enough money from it to improve his meager financial condition. In 1613, he wrote exemplary novels, a collection of 12 short stories, and in 1614, he published The Journey to Parnassus. The second part of Don Quixote was published in 1615, partly because his first work had been continued unauthorized by another writer, to which Cervantes makes reference in his second Don Quixote book. Cervantes died on April 22 1616, at the age of 69, and his last novel, The Hardships of Persiles and Sigismunda, was published by his wife in 1617.
Born at the height of Spain’s success, Cervantes life was lived during its decline. After the Spanish Armada was destroyed by the English in 1588, pressures within and without Spain gradually began to reduce its influence in the world. Don Quixote was published during the early days of what is called the Baroque period, in which the dominant elements of Renaissance style were exaggeration, parody, intensity and extreme elaboration. Don Quixote has come to be regarded as one of the greatest novels of all time. It’s a work that’s achieved mythic status and is considered to have been the prototype of the modern novel. Cervantes originally intended Don Quixote to be a hasty parody of the romantic books of chivalry that were popular in his time and wrote the book to make quick money.
Over the years, however, the meaning of the book has evolved from one of crude slapstick, to a warm tale of noble through impractical idealism.
The real genius evident in the book, however, is not the issue of idealism, but rather the masterful and colorful development of the characters of Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho, the depth and complexity of their relationship as developed in their conversation, Don Quixote is in its final analysis, more of a novel about character than one of adventure. If you’ve seen the play or watch the movie, The Man of La Mancha, you will be surprised to learn these works significantly differ from the original text of the book. For example, in both the play and the movie, Don Quixote’s female ideal, Dulcinea, is developed fully as a character although she never appears in the novel, either as Dulcinea or as Aldonza, the peasant girl. In the novel, she exists only as an ideal in the mind of Don Quixote.
These adaptations also distort the novel’s ending. At the end of the book and the end of his life, Quixote renounces his adventures as being a figment of a distorted mind and denounces his idealism. In the adaptations Quixote, on his deathbed, rekindles his former ideals and aspirations, with a passion that inspires the audience to dream the impossible dream.
The novel consists of two parts, 126 chapters and over 1000 pages. There are dozens of characters who appear in the book and who are involved with Don Quixote and dozens of amusing incidents and adventures. As a result, the storyline is quite complicated. My intent in this episode is not to recreate precisely the detailed web of the story, but to leave you with the feel of the plot and the personality and spirit of the knight errant, Don Quixote, and the creative genius of his creator, Miguel de Cervantes.
The novel begins with a character study of one Alonso Quijano, a 50-year-old country gentleman from La Mancha. Quijano is obsessed with the reading of novels of chivalry, meandering tales of knights, squires, beautiful ladies, enchanters, and giants. To feed his passion for reading, he sells parts of his estate to buy more books. In short, writes Cervantes, he’s so bewildered himself in this kind of study, that he passed the nights reading from sunset to sunrise and the days from sunrise to sunset, and thus, with little sleep and much reading, his brain was dried up in such a manner that he came at last to lose his wits. His imagination was full of all that he read in his books, enchantments, battles, single combat challenges, wounds, courtships, amors, tempests and impossible absurdities, Cervantes continues, having quite lost his wits, he fell into one of the strangest conceits that ever entered the head of any madman. He thought it expedient and necessary that he should commence knight errant, and wander through the world with his horse and arms in quest of adventures, and to put in practice whatever he had read, redressing all kinds of grievances and exposing himself to danger on all occasions, that by accomplishing such enterprises, he might acquire eternal fame and renown. to complete his vision of knighthood, Quijano needs a suit of armor, a horse, a dignified name and a lady love. He finds in a corner of his house, a mouldering suit of armor left by his great great grandfather, and cleans and polishes it up as best he can. The armor is missing a helmet, so Quijano fabricates one of pasteboard, supported with small bars of iron within. Quijano then visits his horse, an old bony and haggard steed. Quijano thinks that a horse so good and appertaining to a knight so famous should have a name befitting his calling.
After four days of deliberation. Quijano dubs his horse Rocinante, a name Cervantes described as lofty and sonorous, and at the same time expressive of what he had been when he was a common steed, and before he had acquired his present superiority over all the steeds in the world. Having given his horse a name, he resolves to give himself one and after eight days of indecision, he decides to call himself Don Quixote de La Mancha. And now, Cervantes writes, his armor being furbished up, the more iron converted into a perfect helmet, and both his steed and himself named, he persuaded himself that he wanted nothing but to make a choice of some lady to be in love with, for a knight errant without a mistress was a tree without leaves or fruit, and a body without a soul. Near the place where he lived, there dwelled a very comely, country lass with whom he had formerly been in love. Her name was Aldonza Lorenzo and her he pitched upon to be the lady of his thoughts. Then casting about for a name of a great lady or Princess, he resolved to call her Dulcinea del Toboso, a name to his thinking harmonious, uncommon and significant, like the rest he had devised for himself, and for all that belonged to Him. Dressed in his clattering armor, and dreaming of fame and immortality, Quixote wastes no time, mounts Rocinante, and sets out on his quest for adventure.
Early in his travels, he happens upon an inn, which he believes is a castle. He greets the prostitutes at the gate, thinking they are virgins of high rank. They laugh at him for the incongruity of his thoughts and for the way he looks. Quixote begs the innkeeper to dub him a knight so that I may be duly qualified to wander the four quarters of the world in quest of adventures for the relief of the distressed as is the duty of chivalry and of knights errant, whose hearts like mine are strongly bent on such achievements. The innkeeper thinks Quixote is mad but agrees to dub him a knight. With the assistance of the two prostitutes, the innkeeper knights Don Quixote, and he leaves triumphantly to attend to nobler deeds.
On the road Don Quixote begins his adventures. In his first adventure, he hears the painful cries of a young boy and discovers the youngster tied to a tree being whipped by his master for carelessness in attending his flocks. He frees the boy and makes the farmer promise that he will quit flogging him and that he will pay him the back wages he owes the lad. The farmer agrees. Don Quixote is pleased with himself.
Later that day, Don Quixote meets a group of merchants. He demands they proclaim His lady Dulcinea the most beautiful girl in the world. When the merchants continue to want some proof of her beauty, Quixote gets irritated and attacks. Cervantes writes, he ran at him who had spoken with so much fury and rage, that Rocinante stumbled and fell, and his master lay rolling about the field a good while, and endeavoring to rise, but in vain. So encumbered was he with his lance, targets, spurs and helmets, and with the weight of his antique armor. One of the young men with the merchants answers the attack by breaking Quixote’s lance and beating him severely with the pieces. Although badly beaten and bruised the crazy knight thinks he has had a chivalrous experience, and would have prevailed save for the fault of his horse.
One of Don Quixote’s neighbors finds him lying on the ground talking to himself. The neighbor takes him home where a doctor tries to determine the reason for this sudden madness by going through the books in Quixote’s library. Deciding that the books on chivalry have caused his madness, his library is walled up, and Quixote is told that the magician Friston has carried off the entire collection. Don Quixote, however, is undaunted, he recruits his neighbor, a peasant named Sancho Panza as his squire and takes off on his second quest.
Sancho Panza is described by Cervantes as an honest man, but very shallow brained. Seeing windmills in the distance, the Mad Knight enters his most famous battle. “Look yonder friend Sancho Panza,” cries Quixote, “where you may discover something What more than 30 monstrous giants with whom I intend to fight, and take away all their lives. With those spoils we will begin to enrich ourselves for it is lawful war and doing God’s good service to take away so wicked a generation from the face of the earth.” Quixote attacks the windmills at full speed, and is violently thrown off his horse when he makes contact with the first windmill. Undaunted, he explains that “The sorcerer Friston who stole away my chamber and books, has metamorphosed those giants into windmills on purpose to deprive me of the glory of vanquishing them. So great is the enmity he bears me. Be when he has done his worst, his wicked arts will avail but little against the goodness of my sword.”
Later on the road, Quixote and Sancho meet two monks of the Order of Saint Benedict, a coach with a Biscayne lady and several servants, thinking that the lady is a captive princess being held against her will in the coach by enchanters. Quixote proclaims, I am obliged to redress this wrong to the utmost of my power. Quixote attacks, the clergyman flee, but when Sancho proceeds to loot the saddlebags of a mule they left behind, their servants beat him soundly and leave him lying bloody and battered on the road. Meanwhile, Quixote approaches the coach and proudly tells the ladies within they are free.
One of their Squires a Biscayne who is riding a mule alongside the coach tells Quixote to mind his own business and to be gone, Quixote attacks, but just at the point when the combatants are about to land, death blows to each other Cervantes stops describing the fight writing, “the author of this history, in this very crisis leaves the combat unfinished, excusing himself that he could find no more written of these exploits of Don Quixote than what he is already related.” When the story resumes, Cervantes tells of finding an Arabic manuscript in the market of Toledo, containing more of Don Quixote’s adventures. In it, he finds that Don Quixote has indeed defeated the Biscayne and again announced to the ladies in the coach that they’re free. Don Quixote then asked the ladies to present themselves before the Dulcinea del Toboso. Knowing he is mad, they fearfully agree but have no intention to do so.
Sancho pulls himself to his feet and asked Don Quixote to give him the governorship of the island Quixote as he promised him for taking part in this successful battle. Don Quixote, who had made such a promise when he recruited Sancho as his squire, explains that it will take a much more important conquest to create that kind of reward.
Quixote and Sancho engage in a myriad of illusionary adventures and cross paths with a variety of colorful rural characters. In one adventure, Don Quixote and Sancho see a great cloud of dust coming toward them on the road. “This is the day, Oh Sancho,” proclaims Quixote, “where it will be seen the good that fortune has in store for me, this is the day in which I shall perform such exploits. I shall be written in the book of fame to all succeeding ages, seest thou that cloud of dust Sancho? It is raised by a prodigious army of divers and innumerable nations who are on the march this way.” Now, the cloud of dust was raised by two great flocks of sheep, and the dust hindered them from being seen until they came near. Thinking each flock was an army that was about to engage in battle with the other. Quixote chooses the army on whose side he will fight.
He claps spurs to Rocinante, setting his lands and its rest and darted down the hillock, like lightning. Sancho cried to him “hold señor, Don Quixote, come back. They are lambs and sheep you’re going to encounter there is neither giants nor Knight nor caps nor arms nor shields quartered.” Quixote rushed into the midst of a squadron of the sheep, and began to attack them with his Lance as courageously and intrepidly as if in good earnest he was engaging his mortal enemies, the shepherds and the herdsmen who came with the flocks called out to him to desist, but seeing it was to no purpose. They unbuckle their slings and began to let drive about his ears with stones as big as one’s fist. Cervantes tells us that Don Quixote was severely injured by the shepherd slings, he fell off his horse and was left for dead by the shepherds. Watching the battle from a nearby hill, Sancho comes down to comfort his injured friend, “did I not desire you señor Don Quixote,” asked Sancho “to come back, for those you went to attack were a flock of sheep, but not an army of men.” “How easily,” replied Don Quixote “can that thief of an enchanter my enemy, make things appear or disappear? Do one thing Sancho, get up on your ass and follow them fair and softly, they will return to their first form, and ceasing to be sheep will become men proper and tall, but do not go now for I want your help and assistance.”
In the battle, Don Quixote lost several teeth, whose loss he greatly bemoans, “I had rather they had torn off an arm,” laments Quixote, “provided it were not the sword arm for a mouth without grinders is like a mill without a stone. And a diamond is not so precious as a tooth.”
Thus traveling on, on the night dark, they saw advancing towards them, a great number of lights. The lights were drawing toward them. And the nearer they came, the bigger they appeared. Both Quixote and Sancho were frightened. Quixote thinks this is the prelude to one of his most perilous adventures where it will be necessary to exert his whole might and valor. What they see is actually a funeral procession. Quixote thinks the pallbearers are devils carrying away a princess. Quixote attacks the procession scattering it, as Quixote is helping up one of the men who’s fallen, the light of a torch illuminates Quixote’s face, seeing him with his lost teeth, Sancho calls Don Quixote the “knight of the sorrowful figure.” Don Quixote accepts the new name, particularly since it comes from the man who will record his exploits. A modern-day translation might be “Knight of the disfigured face.”
In another adventure Quixote and Sancho encounter a barber riding on a mule. The barber wears on his head a basin to protect him from a light rain that’s falling. Quixote thinks the barber is a knight, the mule a steed and the basin a golden helmet. Quixote charges the barber and knocks him down from his mule. The barber runs for his life, leaving the basin behind. Quixote thinking the shiny barber’s basin to be the golden helmet of Mambrino, wears the helmet proudly atop his head, to protect him from harm.
Next, Don Quixote and Sancho run across a chain of galley slaves. Even though they are obviously criminals, Don Quixote demands their release. When the guards refuse, he attacks them, and with the help of the prisoners, the guards are overpowered, once free, Don Quixote orders them to carry their chains to El Toboso to present themselves to Dulcinea. Instead, the freed prisoners stoned Don Quixote and Sancho. Afraid that the guards will come after them after regrouping. Sancho, convinces Don Quixote that they should go deep into the wilderness. That same night Sancho’s donkey is stolen by the leader of the galley slaves. Don Quixote promises to replace the missing donkey with three donkeys. Then he writes flowery love letters to Dulcinea, tells Sancho that her real name is Aldonza Lorenzo and asked Sancho to deliver it to her while he does a knight’s penance in the mountains.
By the next day, Sancho has reached an inn in which he and Quixote had once stayed. There, he meets a priest and a barber from Don Quixote’s village, a duo who had set out to find Don Quixote and bring him home. Sancho realizes he’s forgotten the letters. The priest assures him he will take care of everything if sancho will take them to Don Quixote. Don Quixote’s valiant endeavors were soon to end. The pair devises an elaborate plot to bring Quixote home. The priest decides he will dress as a damsel in distress, and the barber will wear a false beard and try to look like a squire. They will ask Don Quixote for aid and then trick him into returning home. Sancho is unaware of their intentions. When they near where Don Quixote is doing penance, Sancho is sent ahead to announce their arrival. Then the two men switch disguises, since the priest decides it is not proper for him to dress like a woman. Before they reach Don Quixote, however, a young girl named Dorothea appears on the scene and tells a distressing story of an unhappy love affair. Assured that she will be helped to resolve her problems, Dorothea agrees to play the damsel in distress to trick Don Quixote. When they meet Don Quixote, Dorothea herself an avid reader of novels of chivalry, invents a tale of a giant who is keeping her from taking possession of her rightful throne. Don Quixote makes a commitment to help her reclaim her kingdom. As the party begins to travel, they meet Andreas, the boy who Don Quixote had saved from a flogging. Don Quixote brags about what he’s done for the boy. “To convince you of what importance it is that there should be nice errants in the world, to redress the wrongs and injuries committed in it by insolent and wicked men. You must know good people that a few days ago,” Quixote then proceeds to detail how he saved the boy. But Don Quixote is humiliated when the boy tells what happened to him after the night he’s left “by your worship’s abusing him so unmercifully,” Andreas says to Quixote “and calling him so many hard names, his wrath was kindled and not having it in his power to be revenge on you. No sooner had you left him, but he discharged The Tempest on me in such a sort, that I shall never be a man again while I live.” Not only had he been savagely beaten, the boy says they he has been in a hospital ever since recovering from the injuries received from the second lashing. Then he begs Don Quixote never to help him again, saying, “though you see they are beating me to pieces do not assist me, but leave me to my misfortune which cannot be so great, but a greater will follow from your worship’s aide, who made the curse of God light upon and upon all the knights errant that were ever born in the world.”
The next day the party reaches the same inn where Sancho had meet the priest and the barber. Don Quixote goes to bed. The priest tells the innkeeper that Quixote is going crazy from reading too many books on chivalry, and thus to be patient and kindly indulge his strange behavior. That evening, Don Quixote thinking the inn to be an enchanted castle, decides that he must stand watch outside the inn. The innkeeper’s daughter and her companion, Maritornes, the inn’s grossly ugly maidservant decided to play a trick on Quixote, calling him from a hayloft. Maritornes asked for his hand and ties it firmly to the stable door. To reach the loft, Don Quixote has to stand on Rocinante’s saddle, and when Rocinante is attracted by the mare’s in a party that had just reached the inn, he trots off leaving Don Quixote hanging by his wrist.
After much yelling and screaming by Quixote, Maritornes unties the rope and he falls to the ground. He thinks that his misfortune has been caused by a spell cast upon him by what he calls evil enchanters. After several more bizarre confrontations caused mostly by the mad Don Quixote, the priest devises a plan to get him home. He has an oxcart built with a cage on it. Then after Don Quixote is asleep, he is tied up and locked in the cage. Quixote believes those who have tied him up and put him in the cage are goblins enchanters who have put a spell on him in an attempt to stop his righteous work.
In actuality, they’re not goblins but the priest, the barber, the innkeeper and his staff who are dressed in disguise. The barber in a voice of disguise tells Quixote in the eloquent form of a prophecy that the spell will be broken when he marries Dulcinea. Quixote believes the prophecy. Later on the road back to La Mancha. Quixote’s captors urged him to give up his obsession with chivalry, explaining to him that the stories of knights were nothing but fanciful and vain fiction. Quixote refuses to believe that the stories of chivalry are lies, saying, “Do not utter such blasphemies.”
After a while Don Quixote is released from the cage to go to the bathroom. Soon he gets into a fight with a goat herd, who has joined the party. Quixote is provoked to fight after the goat herd tells him he’s crazy. The fight ends when the sound of a trumpet is heard. The residents of a nearby village are carrying the statue of a virgin as part of a ritual praying for rain. Don Quixote demands that they free the captive lady.
They laugh and Don Quixote attacks. As usual, he’s knocked senseless. Quixote is returned to his cage. Six days later, the party reaches his village and Don Quixote is taken to his home and put to bed. Cervantes writes, “The housekeeper and the niece received Don Quixote, and having pulled off his clothes, laid him in his old bed. He looked at them with eyes askew, not knowing perfectly where he was. The priest charged the niece to take great care and to keep a watchful eye over him lest he should once more give them the slip, telling her what difficulty they had to get him home to this house.
“Here the two women renewed their execration against all books of chivalry begin of heaven to confound to the center of the abyss, the authors of so many lies and absurdities. Lastly, they remain full of trouble and fear less they should lose their uncle and master as soon as ever he found himself a little better, and it fell out as they imagined.”
The first part of Don Quixote ends with a suggestion that Don Quixote’s adventures are not yet over, that perhaps he has more adventures ahead of him.
Part Two of Don Quixote begins with a visit from the priest and the barber approximately a month after they brought him home. They’ve heard that Don Quixote is now sane, but their visit indicates otherwise and Quixote still believes he’s a knight errant. Soon Sancho arrives and Don Quixote asks him what people are saying about him. He replies that some think he’s crazy. Others are impressed by his bravery and courtesy, and others find him amusing. Quixote responds by telling Sancho “Whenever a virtue is found in an eminent degree, it is always persecuted. Few or none of the famous men of times past escaped being calumniated by their malicious contemporaries.”
Sancho then tells Don Quixote he should talk to a man named Sampson Carrasco, who has told him of a book written about Don Quixote’s exploits. Don Quixote immediately sends Sancho to find Carrasco. Don Quixote is astounded that his exploits could have been published in such a short time, since the blood of his enemies he had slain was still reeking on his sword blade. Quixote thinks the book is the product of enchanters and begins to worry about the accuracy of the accounts of his exploits. Carrasco arrives and calls Don Quixote a great knight. The three men discuss the published account of Don Quixote’s exploits, questioning only the author’s inclusion of Don Quixote’s many beatings.
Sampson then tells Don Quixote, that the author has promised a second volume of Don Quixote’s exploits, which causes Sancho to say he would look forward to being on the road again. Thus encouraged, Quixote and his squire set out again in search of even greater adventure, adventure that will be more violent and crazier than the first.
Their first adventure finds them on the road to El Toboso to visit with Quixote’s ladylove Dulcinea. Since Sancho has made up an elaborate story of his first visit to Dulcinea, Don Quixote asks him to guide him to her house. Since Sancho hasn’t been there. He offers up a number of excuses, then tells Don Quixote to lead the way. Don Quixote admits he has never seen Dulcinea and has fallen in love with her only on what he has heard. Sancho convinces Don Quixote to wait in the woods nearby while he announces Don Quixote’s arrival.
Sancho decides that the first country girl he sees will be Dulcinea. He runs across three ugly peasant girls, “wenches” in Cervantes words, riding mules and brings Don Quixote to see them. Don Quixote isn’t impressed, saying they look like what they are, ugly peasant girls. But Sancho says that a spell has been cast over them and he sees them all in their regal beauty. He identifies one of the girls as Dulcinea. Convinced, Don Quixote kneels before his lady. Thinking they are made fun of, the girls flee, but the girl Sancho has designated as Dulcinea falls off her mount. When Don Quixote attempts to help her up, she leaps on her mule and gallops off. Don Quixote is deeply disturbed by the spell he believes has been cast over his lady, he exclaims, “How am I persecuted by enchanters, and take notice how far their malice and the grudge they bear me extends even to the depriving me of the pleasure I should have in seeing my mistress in her own proper form. Surely, I was born to be an example to the unhappy and the butt and mark at which all the arrows of ill fortune are aimed and leveled.”
It’s not long before Don Quixote comes across another knight. First called the knight of the wood, who is also accompanied by a squire. Quixote overhears the knight bragging that he has conquered Don Quixote in a joust, and made him swear that his lady, Casildea de Vandalia not Dulcinea was the most beautiful woman in the world.
Don Quixote insulted, challenges the night to combat and the two men prepare to fight at dawn. Meanwhile, Sancho has been challenged to a fight by the knight of the woods’ squire. As the two knights are about to joust on horseback, Sancho, who does not want to fight the squire distracts Don Quixote because he wants help climbing a tree. Meanwhile, the other knight, who has already begun his charge reigns in his horse when he sees Don Quixote is distracted by Sancho. Then when Don Quixote rushes to the attack, the other knight, now called the night of the mirrors, because of his shiny armor, cannot get his horse to move. Don Quixote easily knocks him to the ground. When Don Quixote removes the Knight’s helmet, He’s shocked to see the face of Samson Carrasco, the young bachelor who brought Quixote the book about Quixote’s adventures that inspired him and Sancho to begin their second set of adventures. His squire who was also disguised is Thomas Cecial, an acquaintance of Sancho’s.
It is later revealed that the battle was planned by Carrasco with the help of the priest and the barber to force Don Quixote to return home. Don Quixote decides that the knight of the mirrors and his squire are not really Samson and Thomas, they have just been magically made to look like them, much as his beloved Dulcinea was transformed into an ugly peasant girl. Sancho, knowing that the transformation of Dulcinea was his own plot, is beginning to have doubts about Don Quixote’s sanity.
Later, during a puppet show, Don Quixote goes mad, intervening to save the hero and heroine from a band of attacking Moors. Cervantes writes “Quixote unsheathed his sword and at one spring he planted himself close to the show, and with a violent and unheard of fury began to rain hacks and slashes upon the Moorish puppets, overthrowing some and beheading others, Laming this and demolishing that.” Many of the puppets are destroyed, and when Don Quixote comes to his senses, and realizes what he’s done, he offers to pay for the damages, blaming his madness on the work of enchanters.
The adventure continues when Don Quixote and Sancho meet a Duke and Duchess. Although Don Quixote embarrasses himself by falling off his horse when he attempts to greet them, the Duke and Duchess seemed pleased to meet him. Don Quixote and Sancho are invited to the couple’s castle, and for the first time, Don Quixote really believes he is a true Knight. Knowing full well that Don Quixote is crazy, and Sancho is gullible, the Duke and Duchess decide to have some fun with him. During the evening meal, the Duke announces that he’s giving Sancho the governorship of an island in his realm, and after dinner four young women are called to wash Don Quixote’s beard. To make it look like a custom of the castle, the Duke has his beard washed also. Sancho is also surprised by the strange practice, but the Duchess assures that he will receive the same treatment and sends him off with her attendance. Later, Don Quixote tells the Duke and Duchess about Dulcinea del Toboso, his imaginary lover. He admits that she may be a fanciful creation, but says he believes that she’s been transformed by sorcerers who cannot conquer him directly. During the conversation, Don Quixote admits being concerned about Sancho’s ability to govern the Duke’s island but says he will coach him before he takes office.
Soon in a conversation with Sancho, Sancho tells the Duchess that Dulcinea is not real. He tells her of the trick he played on Quixote with the ugly country girls, and he tells her that Quixote is a madman. Sancho says, “I should have left my master ere now, follow him I must. We are both of the same town I have eaten his bread; I love him, he returns my kindness, and above all, I am faithful, and therefore it’s impossible anything should part is but the sexton’s spade and shovel.”
The Duchess tells Sancho that Dulcinea really exists, and that she’s really under a spell as Don Quixote believes. The Duchess says, “And believe me, Sancho, the jumping wench was and is Dulcinea del Toboso who is enchanted, and when we least think of it, we shall see her in her own proper form and then Sancho will be convinced of the mistake he now lives in.”
Sancho now believes that Dulcinea is real, and has a new renewed faith and confidence in Don Quixote. The Duchess is only setting up Sancho and Quixote for a series of cruel jokes.
A few days later, the Duke and Duchess take Quixote and Sancho into the woods for a hunt as a setup for the first of the cruel ruses. After night has fallen, a large marching army composed of sinister looking figures arrives in the forest. One man who looked like the devil passed before the group, and the Duke asked who he was, where he’s going, and what soldiers are those who seem to be crossing the wood. Cervantes writes, “The courier answered in a hoarse and dreadful voice, I am the devil, and then going in quest of Don Quixote de la Mancha. The people you inquire about are six troops of enchanters, who are conducting the peerless Dulcinea Del Toboso a triumphal chariot, she comes enchanted with a gallant Frenchmen, Montesinos, to inform Don Quixote how the same lady is to be disenchanted.”
Finally, a cart carrying a veiled Dulcinea and the magician Merlin arrives, roles played by two of the Duke servants. Merlin says that for Dulcinea to return to her original state, Sancho must voluntarily give himself 3300 lashes. Sancho refuses, Dulcinea shows her face to be beautiful, but Sancho still refuses until the Duke threatens to take away his governorship and says he can take his own time and whipping himself. Finally, Sancho accepts, much to Don Quixote’s delight. Cervantes writes, “The Duke and Duchess being satisfied with the sport, and having executed their design, so ingeniously and happily returned to their castle, with an intention of seconding their jest since nothing real could have afforded them more pleasure.”
Next, the Duke and Duchess prey on Don Quixote’s desire to help those in need. A Countess named Trifaldi arrives and after a full-blown entrance ceremony, throws herself at Don Quixote’s feet and tells him a long, crazy story in which her daughter and son in law were transformed into metal objects and her servant girls were cursed into wearing beards by the magician Malambruno. Don Quixote vows to meet Malambruno and ask the Countess what he must do. She says that Malambruno will send a flying wooden horse that Don Quixote and his squire Sancho must ride to meet him. Over Sancho’s objections, Don Quixote agrees. The horse arrives carried by four men dressed as savages, Don Quixote and Sancho mount the wooden horse and allow themselves to be blindfolded, as Malambruno has requested. Once blindfolded, all sorts of fireworks go off and Don Quixote and Sancho are thrown to the ground. When they get up and remove the blindfolds. They see a lance with a sign on it that says Don Quixote has successfully completed his mission. Countess Trifaldi’s daughter and son in law have been restored to life, and the servant girls no longer have beards. Sancho makes up a long story about what he had seen while flying above the earth.
Soon, Sancho takes over his governorship, which is not on an island but in a small town called Barataria in the Duke’s domain. Although his appointment is meant as a joke, Sancho proves to be a fair and able administrator until he finally discovers his appointment is a hoax, and quits.
Meanwhile, the Duke and Duchess continue to play tricks on the gullible Don Quixote. First, a beautiful young girl named Altisidora sings her love for Don Quixote from outside his window. He slams the window shut and complains that all young girls love him, but that he is true to Dulcinea.
The next evening, he sings a song telling Altisidora that she should stick to her needlework and expressing his love for Dulcinea. His song is ended by a sack full of cats and bells, which are lowered onto his balcony by the Duke and Duchess in mock protests to his off key singing. However, one of the cats gets into his room and attacks him scratching his face. Altisidora binds his wounds complaining that he had rejected her.
Soon Don Quixote announces that he’s going to leave for Zaragoza to attend the jousts of the Knights. Don Quixote and Sancho leave the castle on their way to set to Zaragoza, but at an inn, Don Quixote discovers a copy of the unauthorized second part of his story. In it, the writer has Chronicled Don Quixote’s activities in Zaragoza. So Don Quixote decides not to go there at all to prove the book is a fraud.
After numerous adventures, the knight and his squire wind up in the beautiful port town of Barcelona. as guests of Don Antonio Moreno, a rich nobleman, Moreno makes sport of Don Quixote also. First the people cheer him as he goes through the streets, because someone has put his name on his back. However, one Castilian tells him he’s crazy and should go home. That night he’s shown a bust that Don Antonio says is an enchanted head. It has a hollow area, and when talked to, it provides answers from someone standing in the floor below. Don Quixote falls for the gimmick. He’s told that Dulcinea spell will end soon and he believes it.
One day when Don Quixote is riding on a beach in full armor, he’s challenged to a single combat by a knight calling himself the night of the white moon. He says that the loser will acknowledge the other’s lady as the most beautiful in the world, and that if Don Quixote loses, he must agree to retire to his village for a year. Don Quixote is thrown from Rocinante, and with the white knight’s lance at his throat, the white knight says, “Knight you are vanquished and a dead man if you do not confess the conditions of our challenge.” Don Quixote bruised and stunned without lifting up his visor, as if he was speaking from within a tomb in a feeble and low voice said, “Dulcinea Del Toboso is the most beautiful woman in the world, and I the most unfortunate knight on Earth, and it is not fit that my weakness should discredit this truth. Knight, push your lance and take away my life since you have spoiled me of my honor.”
The night refuses to kill Don Quixote but makes him agree to return to his village for a year, then frees him. The kight of the white moon is really Samson Carrasco.
After recovering from his fall Sancho and Don Quixote head home, but on the way, they’re surrounded by 15 armed men who take them to the Duke’s castle. There they find the beautiful Altisidora on a funeral pyre. The Duke and Duchess are on one side and seats are provided for Don Quixote and Sancho on the other. In the center are two imposing figures who are supposedly Rhadamanthus and Minos, the mythical judges of hell. They claim that to save Altisidora, Sancho must allow himself to be slapped, pricked and pinched by six servant girls. After a protest, the squire submits and Altisidora gets up as if from a faint and thanks him.
Of course, this was another one of the Duke’s games. Finally, Don Quixote and Sancho leave the castle for good. On the way home Sancho begins and completes the floggings that are supposed to release Dulcinea from her spell. Most of the blows hit trees, not Sancho as Don Quixote is counting the sound of the blows rather than watching them.
After returning home, Don Quixote depressed that he’s been vanquished, falls ill with a fever. After waking from a long sleep, Don Quixote thanks God for returning him to his senses. He confesses to his friends, the priest, the bachelor, Sampson Carrasco, and the barber. “Give me joy, good gentlemen, that I am no longer Don Quixote de la Mancha but Alonzo Quijano. Now all the histories of knight errantry are to me odious and profane. I was led by reading them and now Through the mercy of God and my own dear bought experience, I detest and abhor them. Soon afterward he dies.
His epitaph written by Samson Carrasco and another friend, Cede Hamete warns other writers not to continue the Don Quixote adventures, saying, “for me alone, Don Quixote was born and I for him, he knew how to act and I how to write, we were destined for each other. My only desire was to bring into public abhorrence the fabulous and absurd histories of night errantry, which by means of that of my true and genuine Don Quixote, begin already to totter, and will doubtless fall, never to rise again. Farewell.”
Thus ends the epic tale of Don Quixote, one of the greatest novels of all time, a comedy, a denouncement of chivalry, a story of idealism, service and love.
Such an interpretation like a good parable is based only on the experience and current state of the mind of the reader.