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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
At the beginning of Chapter 8, Don Quixote and Sancho take to the road once again. The Don decides that he will first go to Toboso to see the lovely Dulcinea and renew his vows of loyalty to her. Sancho is panic-stricken. He knows very well that Dulcinea is not a princess and does not live in a magnificent castle. Moreover, he only pretended to deliver the letter to Dulcinea that Don Quixote entrusted to him in Part I. Now he is sure to be found out.
Sancho decides to humor his master. He tells the Don that the wicked enchanter has cast a spell over Dulcinea. The Don will not be able to see her as she really is. Instead, she will look like an ordinary country girl. So too, her fine steed will seem to be a humble she-donkey. Just then, three very ordinary girls riding on donkeys come into sight. Look! says Sancho, here come Dulcinea and her attendants now.
Don Quixote is terribly disappointed. All he sees are three peasant girls. The one who is supposed to be Dulcinea even has garlic on her breath. Tearful and confused, the Don begs Sancho to describe the beautiful Dulcinea that he, the Don, has been tricked out of seeing.
You may have noticed that in this scene the Don's and Sancho's roles have been reversed. It is Sancho who claims to be seeing a vision. Don Quixote, for once, sees reality all too clearly. He only believes that the peasant girl is Dulcinea because he trusts Sancho.
You might wonder why suddenly the Don's vivid imagination has failed him.
Some readers think it is because he truly loves Dulcinea-or at least the
image of her he has created in his mind. The Don might mistake windmills
for giants, but he would never wrong his imaginary love by mistaking a
rough country girl for her. Suddenly, he is plain old Alonso Quixano again,
heartbroken at being deprived of a glimpse of the girl he longs for. Other
readers think that it is Sancho's betrayal that has destroyed Quixote's
confidence in his own mad delusions. A few readers have another answer.
They suggest that the Don has been acting all along. He only pretends
to be insane to teach Sancho and the world a moral lesson. Since the Don
knows very well that Sancho is trying to trick him, he gets even by refusing
to go along with the ruse. How do you assess this situation?
At the end of this section, a wagon comes into view. The passengers are a strange crew, indeed. The wagon driver is the Devil. With him are Death, an angel, and a jester. In reality these creatures are a band of traveling actors, still wearing the costumes from their last performance. Nevertheless, their appearance would seem to be a perfect occasion for Don Quixote to get involved in another of the knock-down battles you saw so often in Part I. This time, with a little prompting from Sancho, Don Quixote sees that the actors are not worth fighting.
Don Quixote and Sancho next meet up with another knight-errant, The Knight of the Wood, and his squire. This knight boasts of the beauty of his true love, Casildea. He even claims to have bested the great Don Quixote himself in single combat. Naturally, the Don is outraged by this lie. "I am Don Quixote," he announces. And he challenges the other knight to fight.
The next morning, at the appointed time, the knight arrives in a glittering suit of armor, covered with mirrors. He tells the Don that his real name is The Knight of the Mirrors. He makes the Don promise that if he is defeated, he will give up knight-errantry for two years. By pure luck, Don Quixote wins the fight. Sancho, meanwhile, has discovered that the other squire, under his false nose, is really Thomas Cecial, Sancho's neighbor. And the Knight of the Mirrors is Sampson Carrasco! The disguises are a trick invented by Sampson, the priest, and the barber to get Don Quixote to come home.
When the knight changes his costume, you might guess that the new costume and name are meant to symbolize something. In this case, it isn't very difficult to figure out the symbolism of the mirror suit. Sampson has made himself the mirror image of Don Quixote. Some readers have called him the "false Quixote." Like the Don, Sampson is an ordinary man dressing up as a knight for what is supposedly a good cause-getting the Don safely back home. The difference is that Sampson is sane and the Don is crazy. Or is it the other way around? Since Don Quixote really believes in fair ladies and evil enchanters, you might say that his behavior is logical. Perhaps Sampson, who knows better, is the foolish one. It all depends on your point of view.