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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
In the dedication to Part II of the novel, Cervantes takes a poke at the ungrateful patrons who have failed to reward him for his literary efforts. He jokes that the Emperor of China has offered to found a school that will use Don Quixote to teach Spanish to the Chinese. Yet the author still prefers to stay at home in Spain where his efforts have so far not brought him any great wealth.
In the prologue proper, Cervantes goes on to launch a bitter attack on the author who has dared to publish a counterfeit sequel to Part I of the adventures of Don Quixote. Not only has this author tried to capitalize on Cervantes' work, he has written insultingly about Cervantes himself.
From the tone of this prologue you may guess that Part II of Don Quixote will not be quite as light-hearted as Part I.
Don Quixote has been back home for a month, convalescing in bed from his adventures in Part I. His friends the priest and the barber pay him a visit to see how he is getting along. They are dismayed to find that the Don, though seemingly more rational, still believes that the knight-errant heroes of his favorite books really exist. He even suggests that the King of Spain would have no trouble defeating the Turks if only he summoned these great heroes to fight under his banner. The Don, his friends conclude, is as mad as ever.
Sancho Panza arrives at the house with very exciting news. A student named
Sampson Carrasco has returned home from the university with word that
Cide Hamete Benengeli's history of Don Quixote is already being read and
enjoyed all over Europe.
Here the author is introducing a new twist on the theme of reality vs. fantasy. The Don and Sancho Panza suddenly realize that they are characters in a book. They can't wait to hear what their readers have had to say about them.
The student, Sampson Carrasco, is delighted to come to Don Quixote's house for dinner and discuss the faults that some readers have found with Part I. In fact, the objections he raises reflect actual criticisms that were made of Cervantes' work by his contemporaries. You may have caught one of the mistakes that Carrasco complains about in the course of your own reading. At one point, after Gines de Pasamonte steals Sancho's donkey-and before it is returned-Cervantes describes Sancho as riding on it. If you have been finding the twists and turns of the plot of this novel a bit hard to follow, you may find it comforting to realize that even Cervantes occasionally lost track of what had happened in his own story.
Sampson Carrasco is described as a young man, excessively proud of his own cleverness, who enjoys making fun of others. (Later on, we are told that he longs to become a poet and is jealous of the success of the literary version of Don Quixote's adventures, Part I.) You may well be suspicious, then, when Sampson seems not to notice that Don Quixote is mad. He even mentions a jousting tournament that will be held in the town of Saragossa and suggests that Don Quixote attend.
Sancho Panza, meanwhile, is having trouble convincing his wife Teresa that he ought to continue as Don Quixote's squire. Sancho still believes that Don Quixote will eventually make him a rich man, the governor of his own island. Teresa Panza is not impressed. She is not even sure she wants to be rich. She is a plain person who feels that by putting on airs she would only be making a fool of herself. Sancho disagrees. The whole world, he argues, is impressed by ready money and fine clothes. Appearance is everything. No one cares what people are really like, as long as they can put up a good front.
In Part I, Sancho was a naive country bumpkin. Here, he is not only cynical but able to defend his opinion with a certain eloquence. Whom do you agree with-Sancho or Teresa?
You may recall that in Part I you read that Sancho's wife was named Juana. Once again, Cervantes seems to have gotten confused.
Back at Don Quixote's house, his niece Antonia is desperately trying to convince the Don to give up his plan to leave home once more in search of adventure. The Don refutes every one of his niece's practical arguments. No one is too old, too sick, or too poor to do brave deeds, he insists. Antonia turns to Sampson Carrasco, hoping that as an educated man he will have better luck in talking Don Quixote out of his folly. To her surprise, Sampson does nothing of the kind. On the contrary, he even encourages the Don.