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Free Barron's Booknotes-Don Quixote by Migel de Cervantes-Free Book Notes
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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES

PART II

CHAPTERS 16-18

Another traveler happens along. This well-to-do, sensible gentleman is at first known only as "the man in green" because he is wearing a green suit of clothes. At first, the traveler takes Don Quixote for a madman. But when they start to discuss poetry, the Don expresses some very sensible opinions. Amazed, the gentleman concludes that Quixote is only half-mad.

Next, a wagon appears carrying two caged lions, gifts to the King of Spain from the Sultan of Oran. Don Quixote insists that the wagon driver open the cage so that he can fight one of the lions. The terrified driver opens the cage and stands aside. Don Quixote confronts the lion bravely. However, the lion takes one look at Don Quixote and lies down inside its cage, totally uninterested in attacking him.

Don Quixote considers this a great victory. From now on he will call himself Knight of the Lions. Do you think he has proved his courage or just given another example of his foolishness?

NOTE:

Readers in seventeenth-century Spain would have surely recognized this scene as a parody of a famous confrontation between a lion and El Cid, Spain's great epic hero. In that story, the lion refuses to fight because it is abashed in the presence of El Cid's courage.


CHAPTERS 19-21

Two students whom the Don and Sancho meet on the road invite them to attend a wedding. The bride and groom are the beautiful Quiteria and Camacho the Rich, a wealthy farmer. Their wedding festivities are interrupted by the arrival of Basilio, a young man who loves Quiteria but has been rejected by her family because he is poor. Basilio announces that he is going to kill himself in grief. He falls on his dagger in front of the horrified wedding guests. Apparently dying, he begs to be granted one last wish. He asks that Quiteria marry him. Since he will be dead in a few minutes anyway, she will be free to marry Camacho as planned. The guests decide to humor him.

Of course, it's all a trick. As soon as Quiteria says "I do," Basilio revives. He had only pretended to stab himself. Quiteria, however, is not sorry, for she had wanted to marry Basilio all along and has been in on the plan. Naturally, though, Camacho and his family are furious. For once, Don Quixote plays peacemaker, He points out that in a way Basilio has done Camacho a good turn. Since Quiteria loves Basilio, her marriage to Camacho would have brought misery to all concerned.

CHAPTERS 22-23

Don Quixote now decides to explore the famous Cave of Montesinos, which is supposed to be enchanted. He has Sancho let him down into the cave on a rope to a ledge about sixty feet below ground. There he falls asleep and has a dream.

In his dream the Don sees himself in a castle where he meets the knight Sir Montesinos himself. Montesinos shows the Don the body of Durandarte, one of the greatest knights-errant in history. Durandarte had been "killed" in combat centuries ago. According to legend, his last wish was that his heart be cut out and given to his beloved, Belerma. In the dream, Don Quixote learns that because of the curse of a wicked enchanter, Durandarte cannot really die. He lies on his mortuary slab, weeping and moaning and begging to be released from the burden of life. Belerma, too, is cursed with immortality. She has turned into a yellow-complexioned old crone who wanders around carrying her knight's heart.

NOTE:

Durandarte and Belerma were famous characters of medieval legend, celebrated in poems and ballads. The story of Durandarte's last wish, to have his heart cut out and taken to his beloved, was considered exquisitely romantic. Cervantes may be saying that this rather gory example of the chivalric romance has outlived its usefulness and deserves to be killed off.

At the end of his dream, Don Quixote sees the three peasant girls that Sancho told him were Dulcinea and her two ladies-in-waiting. One of the "ladies" approaches the Don and asks him to lend Dulcinea some money. The Don is stunned by this request. Cadging money from a stranger is totally out of character for the Dulcinea of his imagination. Nevertheless, he hands over what little he has. Shortly after this, Sancho hauls Don Quixote out of the cave and he wakes up.

This episode differs from any of Don Quixote's previous adventures. Even the Don is confused by his dream, since it seems to mock the values of chivalry. Also, for the first time you cannot be sure what is real. Is the dream just another of the Don's delusions? Or is it a "real" dream-one which may shock the Don back in the direction of sanity? How might a psychiatrist interpret it?

The uniqueness of the dream is emphasized in the succeeding chapter when the author tells you that even Cide Hamete Benengeli found this dream hard to believe. If the Don were not so truthful, Cide Hamete would have suspected him of lying, of making the whole story up. For this reason, the dream episode is sometimes called "Don Quixote's lie." A few readers, those who think that the Don is only pretending to be mad, take this suggestion literally. The Don concocts this "dream," they say, to repay Sancho for inventing the story of Dulcinea's enchantment. Another view is that it is Alonso Quixano, Don Quixote's sane alter ego, who dreams this dream. Alonso knows that the real Dulcinea is a peasant girl who would be interested in an old man like himself only for his money. If you had to vote for one of the choices, which would it be? Why? Could you suggest another possibility?

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