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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
No sooner has the priest finished reading the story of Anselmo than a party of strangers arrives at the inn. The group consists of a lady in white, heavily veiled, and her escort of four men in black masks. It turns out that the lady is Lucinda, Cardenio's fiancee. And one of the masked men is Don Ferdinand. Lucinda, brokenhearted over Cardenio's disappearance, is on her way to enter a convent. Now she and Cardenio rush into each other's arms, happily reunited. Even Don Ferdinand, after being confronted by the rest of the company about his past behavior, has a change of heart. He is impressed by Dorothea's faithfulness to him and decides that he loves her and wants to marry her after all.
Sancho Panza is very disappointed to learn that Dorothea is not really the Princess Micomicona. However, when Sancho tries to break this news to Don Quixote, the Don simply refuses to believe that the "Princess" was not real.
NOTE: SANCHO'S CONTRADICTIONS
Sancho's behavior over the last several chapters has been very inconsistent.
At times he seems to believe that the wineskins are human attackers; at
other times he seems quite aware that they are not. He listened to Dorothea
and her friends at dinner discussing the fact that knight-errantry is
no longer in fashion and seemed to understand what they were saying. Yet
now he is back to believing that Dorothea was a real princess. Some readers
try to find logical explanations for Sancho's contradictory statements.
Some have even suggested that Sancho is only trying to humor Don Quixote
at this point. However, there is another possibility to consider. In real
life, people who are quite sane often subscribe to contradictory beliefs.
Some people do this quite consciously. For example, they may accept the
biblical story of creation on one level and at the same time accept the
scientific truth of evolution. If you read Don Quixote as a novel about
the quest for faith, then you may see Sancho's changing opinions as an
attempt to reconcile the mystical teachings of religion with everyday
reality. Of course, a less sympathetic view of Sancho is that he simply
believes the last thing he hears. According to this interpretation Sancho
is the eternal follower-ready to be led by any strong personality who
Soon another party of travelers arrives at the inn. They are a young man named Ruy Perez de Viedma and a Moorish (Arab) lady called Lela Zoraida. This young man, too, tells an amazing story: Twenty-two years ago, the young man's father decided to divide his estate among his three sons. Each brother chose a different profession. One became a merchant, one a scholar, and the young man himself decided to make his fortune as a soldier. Unfortunately, his luck was not good. He was captured and sold into slavery in the North African city of Algiers. The lady Zoraida happened to live in a house overlooking the young man's prison yard. One day she dropped from her window a package containing some money and a note. The note explained that she was the daughter of a wealthy family. She wished to become a Christian and would be willing to escape from Algiers with the young man if he would promise to marry her. After many complications, the pair managed to arrange their flight from the city. But on their way back to Spain, their ship was attacked by pirates who robbed Zoraida of her fortune.
This story, called "The Captive's Tale," draws to some extent on Cervantes' experiences as a captive in Algiers. At one point the young man even mentions a certain fellow prisoner called "something de Saavedra." You may find more evidence of the author's attitude toward this period of his life in Chapter 38, which is devoted to a long speech by Don Quixote, comparing the rewards and difficulties of a soldier's career and those of a life devoted to learning. The Don concludes that the soldier, while exposed to much hardship, has the nobler calling. Although Don Quixote is insane, his speech here is rational, even eloquent. You will have to decide for yourself whether you agree with his conclusion.
A third party arrives at the inn, which by now is becoming very crowded. These travelers are an influential judge and his lovely young daughter Clara. The judge eventually recognizes the young man (the captive) as his long lost brother. Another happy reunion follows.
Everyone except Don Quixote retires to bed for a well-earned night's rest. The Don decides that he had better stand guard all night in case the concentration of so many fair ladies in one place encourages a "giant" to attack the inn.
In the middle of the night, the sweet singing of a young mule driver awakens some of the guests.