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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
The troopers finally decide that Don Quixote is too crazy to be worth arresting. The other guests prepare to leave the inn in a very happy mood. All their troubles have been resolved, and the various pairs of lovers are happily reunited.
The priest decides that he had better think of a way to get Don Quixote back home before he gets into any more trouble. He builds a crude wooden cage and hires an oxcart and driver to transport it. Don Quixote, still asleep after his hard night's vigil, is locked inside. When he awakens, Nicholas the barber tricks him into believing that he is under a magic spell. The cage is not really a cage at all, he tells Quixote. It is an enchanted vehicle, a final test of the Don's faith. If the Don behaves with courage he will be transported to a triumphant wedding with the "dove of Toboso," the beautiful Dulcinea.
On the road, the priest meets a canon (a learned churchman) and falls into an earnest conversation about the theater. Sancho, meanwhile, is just beginning to sort out his reactions to the crazy goings-on. He finally decides that the cage really is a cage after all. But his attempts to make his master believe this end in total frustration. Finally, Sancho convinces the priest that it isn't sanitary to keep Don Quixote penned up day and night. The priest agrees to open the door of the cage so the Don can relieve himself in the woods.
While Don Quixote is free, a young goatherd joins the group. He tells another sad, romantic tale. This story concerns Leandra, the most beautiful girl in his village. Leandra could have had her pick of young men. The goatherd, Eugenio, was in love with her himself. But she fell in love with a newcomer in town, a handsome but worthless fellow who did nothing but brag about his past deeds. Leandra agreed to elope with this fellow, only to learn too late that he was interested only in stealing her jewelry. Abandoned and disgraced, she was placed in a convent by her father.
Don Quixote is always alert for stories about damsels in distress. He declares
that he's going to find the convent and rescue Leandra. Eugenio the goatherd
thinks this is ridiculous. In his opinion, Leandra got exactly what she
deserved. He is no longer in love with her himself now that he knows how
foolish she is. Soon Eugenio and the Don are involved in a scuffle.
As they are fighting, a religious procession appears. Some of the marchers, or penitents, are carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary on their shoulders. Quixote mistakes the statue for a noble lady and the penitents for kidnappers. He charges into the group, hoping to spear one of the kidnappers on the point of his lance. Instead, one of the penitents knocks the Don senseless.
NOTE: THE DON AND THE VIRGIN MARY
This attack on the sacred image of the Virgin Mary is the Don's most outrageous escapade yet. Some readers feel that Cervantes uses this incident to ridicule the Roman Catholic church's adulation of Mary. Others argue with equal conviction that Quixote, the pure Christian, is moved by Mary's suffering. In any case, these readers say, Cervantes' humor is directed only against the superstitious excesses of the cult of Mary. Which view you agree with will depend to some extent on your view of the Don's character: Is he the champion of religious ideals in an unworthy world? Or is he merely an impractical fool-one who is unable to tell the difference between ordinary lies and the kind of lies sanctioned by the church and society?
For a while, everyone thinks that Don Quixote is dead. Sancho even delivers a tearful eulogy over his master's body. Finally, however, the Don comes to. He is so ashamed of himself that he agrees that he had better get back into his cage and be taken straight home.
As you read these last chapters of Part I, pay special attention to the changing attitude of Sancho Panza. In the beginning of this section, Sancho is completely disillusioned. Then he hears a conversation between Don Quixote and the learned canon. Quixote argues forcefully in defense of chivalric romances. However unrealistic these tales may be, he says, books containing them have been published with the approval of the king and the church. They have not been censored. Therefore, if you attack the books, you undermine religion itself. Quixote also defends Sancho's worthiness to become a nobleman. Although Sancho comes from the lower classes, he has done his best to show courage and loyalty. Doesn't the Bible teach that God rewards the good intentions of the humble? Even the canon has to admit that this is so. By the time he returns to his own house, Sancho is more convinced than ever that his master is a true knight-errant. He tells his amazed and skeptical wife that there is nothing more pleasant than to be a knight's loyal squire.
Do you agree with Don Quixote that Sancho has behaved nobly? Remember that Sancho has shown courage time and again by staying and fighting at his master's side-even though, unlike the Don, he sees that they are hopelessly outnumbered. What is the true test of nobility? To be truly noble, must we be winners at everything we do? Or is nobility a matter of style, of doing whatever we do gracefully? Or, as the Don suggests, do good intentions count?