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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES
During a visit to a ship docked in the harbor, Don Quixote and Sancho meet a young woman named Anna Felix, who has just escaped from Algeria. Anna Felix turns out to be the daughter of Sancho's Morisco neighbor, Ricote. Anna tells a complicated story about her lover, Don Gaspar, who is still a captive in Algiers. Everyone agrees that if Ricote cannot buy the young man's freedom, Don Quixote will have to rescue him.
Before this can happen, however, Don Quixote meets his last defeat. While he is enjoying a quiet walk on the beach, the Don sees a mounted knight in full armor riding out of the mist. It is the Knight of the Full Moon. The Don challenges him to acknowledge Dulcinea's beauty. In reply, the knight offers to fight one-on-one. If the Don wins, the knight will praise Dulcinea. If the Don loses, he must give up knight-errantry for a full year. Don Quixote accepts the challenge. He charges forward on Rozinante and is promptly knocked to the ground. Defeated, he must now give up his quest.
Does this knight's request sound familiar? This is the same trick that Sampson Carrasco tried to play as the Knight of the Mirrors. You soon learn that the "Knight of the Full Moon" is indeed the persistent Sampson. But this time his plan has worked.
You may find yourself wondering at this point why Sampson has been so persistent.
We learned one reason at the beginning of Part II when the author describes
Sampson as an arrogant young man out to prove himself cleverer than any
small-town hidalgo. It is tempting to suppose that in creating the character
of Sampson, Cervantes had in mind the imposter who was arrogant enough
to publish a counterfeit sequel to Part I of his novel. At the same time,
you may have encountered some real-life counterparts of Sampson. Sampson
brings to life the phrase "Too smart for his own good." He plays
along with behavior he considers crazy hoping that in the end his superiority
will be obvious to all. Instead, he often seems sillier than poor, mad
On his way home to keep his promise to the knight, Don Quixote encounters Tosilos, the young man he had almost fought at the Duke's castle. Tosilos tells the Don and Sancho that the Duke did not keep his promise to let him marry Dona Rodriguez' daughter after all. So another of Don Quixote's "successful" adventures has turned out to be a failure.
Arriving at the Duke's castle, Quixote and Sancho find a funeral in progress. Altisidora is lying stretched out on the funeral bier. Two black-robed figures appear, supposedly the judges of Hell personified. They announce that Altisidora has died of unrequited love for Don Quixote. Only Sancho can bring her back to life by allowing himself to be pinched, pricked, and slapped by the Duchess' ladies-in-waiting. The ladies fall upon the protesting Sancho. Just then Altisidora sits up, not dead at all.
Don Quixote never quite realizes that Altisidora's resurrection was an act, invented by the Duke and Sampson. Convinced of Sancho's powers of disenchantment, he offers to pay his squire if he will only give himself the lashes necessary to free Dulcinea from her magic spell. That night, Sancho finally agrees. But he only pretends to whip himself, yelling in pain while beating his lash on the tree trunks nearby.
Don Quixote believes that Sancho has kept his promise. Yet he still has not found Dulcinea. He looks for her everywhere, his depression turning to despair. Don Quixote overhears two young boys talking. One of them says to the other, "Thou shalt never see her while thou hast breath in thy body." The Don begins to think that this message is meant for him. He will see Dulcinea only after he dies.
Don Quixote arrives back at his own house. His niece and his friends are overjoyed to see him safe. But the Don knows that he will soon die. He tells his surprised friends that he is now cured of his madness. Don Quixote of La Mancha no longer exists. He is plain Alonso Quixano once again.
Sancho begs his master not to die. In tears, he reminds him that there are still brave deeds to be done, many wrongs that need to be set right. But Alonso Quixano, now sane, cannot see what this has to do with him. His last act is to write into his will the provision that his niece must promise to marry a man who has no interest in reading books about chivalry. After this, he dies.
Some years ago, Don Quixote was made into a musical play, Man of La Mancha. In this version of the Quixote story, you are led to believe that Sancho will continue the Don's mission after his master's death. Do you think this is what Cervantes had in mind when he wrote this final scene? Has Sancho been infected permanently with the Don's "madness"- with his idealism? Or, does Don Quixote's advice to his niece represent Cervantes' feelings? Is the author saying that the "quixotic" idealism of Don Quixote belongs only in books, and in rather silly, dangerous books at that? These are only two of a broad spectrum of conclusions that thoughtful readers have drawn from the ending of this novel. Deciding upon the meaning of all that has taken place is now your quest.