This is the second of two articles which provide a table of contents, summary and selected paintings for the first book of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote.
The group escorting Don Quixote from the mountains had been steadily descending as the knight and his squire repeatedly argued. Dorotea, pretending to be the Princess Micomicona, had restored peace only for the pair to break into bickering again. Sancho Panza’s donkey was recovered from its thief, and he invented an elaborate account of his meeting with the Lady Dulcinea which had never taken place. When they stopped for water and a rest they met a young man whom Don Quixote had previously tried to help, but learned that the knight’s intervention had made his life worse. To Don Quixote’s embarrassment, the man told him never to come to his aid again.
They then reached the inn where Sancho Panza had been tossed high in the air. Don Quixote went straight to bed, and while he was asleep the others ate and discussed books about the adventures of knights. The priest started reading one out loud, The Tale of Inappropriate Curiosity, and Cervantes then tells that story in full.
Two good friends, Anselmo and Lotario, lived in Florence. Anselmo married a fine and virtuous woman, Camila. He came up with a plan to put her virtue to the ultimate test, in which his friend would tempt her to be unfaithful. Despite Lotario’s resistance, they went ahead. At first Lotario deceived his friend by not trying to woo Camila at all, but Anselmo discovered this, and left his wife in the care of his friend when he went away for a whole week. Over that time, Lotario became attracted to Camila and made his first pass at her; she was so confused that she went to her room and immediately sent a letter to her husband.
Camila’s letter pleaded for her husband’s immediate return, warning that if he didn’t come back soon, she’d have to go and stay with her parents, leaving their house unguarded. When Anselmo read this, he realised that his friend had started his campaign to seduce his wife, and sent a message back telling Camila not to leave the house but to await his return “soon”. When she heard this, Camila was more confused than ever, but followed his instructions and didn’t avoid Lotario. The following day her resistance to him weakened, only encouraging his ardour all the more, and when he started praising her beauty, she finally succumbed. Only her maid Leonela knew of her seduction, and Lotario couldn’t bring himself to explain to her how it was just a test devised by her husband.
In a series of misunderstandings, Lotario told Anselmo, who was stunned by his wife’s behaviour. Camila came up with a deception to convince her husband of her virtue, which involved her first threatening to kill Lotario, then apparently killing herself with a dagger. In reality all she did was cut herself slightly in the armpit. That took place in front of her husband, who was watching from her garderobe, and convinced him completely of her virtue.
At that point in the story, Don Quixote, still fast asleep, dreamed that he was attacking Princess Micomicona’s giant, when all he was doing was slashing open the innkeeper’s wineskins and flooding the bedroom with red wine. Order was eventually restored, and the priest finished the reading with the tragic ending to the story. Camila’s maid was compromised, and her mistress thought all was to be revealed, so she fled to Lotario, who put her in a convent and fled himself, only to die later in battle. When he discovered his wife and his friend had disappeared, Anselmo struggled to reach another friend, in whose house he died that night.
Four masked horsemen escorting a woman, her face also covered, then arrived at the inn. It transpired that the woman was Luscinda and one of the horsemen Fernando. After a tense reconciliation, Fernando agreed to return to his original wife Dorotea, and to allow Luscinda to go back to Cardenio. That shattered Sancho’s illusions of Dorotea being a princess, but Don Quixote coped better with the sudden end to his quest for the fictional princess. Then a man arrived from Algiers with a Moorish woman, who wanted to convert to Christianity. Over dinner, Don Quixote argued surprisingly rationally for the pre-eminence of arms over learning, before they all listened to the man from Algiers tell his story.
The life story of the man from Algiers began when he was given his inheritance, became a soldier and rose to the rank of captain. He was captured by the King of Algiers, a former Calabrian, in whose galley he rowed. But that king died, and his successor proved brutal and cruel. When he was confined to a bagnio in Algiers, the opportunity arose to escape back to Spain. He conspired with a wealthy and beautiful young Moorish woman named Zoraida to buy a boat, pay off his ransom, and meet her at her father’s villa on the coast. She wanted to escape with him so she could become a Christian in Spain.
The former captive in Algiers concluded his account of his escape with the beautiful young Moorish woman Zoraida. Once he’d explained how he still knew nothing of the fates of his father and two brothers, a judge and his young daughter arrived at the inn in a coach. He turned out to be the former captive’s younger brother, who was on his way to take up a senior judicial appointment in Mexico. The youngest brother had become very rich through trade, and their father had prospered as a result. The brothers agreed to travel to Seville, for Zoraida to be baptised and married to her rescuer. After a short night’s rest, they were awakened by the fine voice of one of the judge’s footmen, singing an enchanting song.
The person singing was Luis, who was in love with the judge’s young daughter Clara. The innkeeper’s daughter and her servant played a trick on Don Quixote which left him hanging by one of his arms until he was released. By then, four horsemen had arrived to take the footman back to his noble parents, who lived near the judge. Amid general chaos, Cardenio and the judge tried to find a solution to the problem of Luis and Clara. Guests then arrived, one of whom was the barber from whom Don Quixote had acquired a brass basin which the knight insisted was Mambrino’s helmet, and a pack-saddle for Sancho Panza’s donkey. The barber demanded their theft was restored.
The chaos in the inn only worsened with the arrival of three Officers of the Holy Brotherhood, who initially intervened in the dispute over the barber’s brass basin. It had been the knight himself who had brought that brawl to a halt, but one of the officers realised he had a warrant for Don Quixote’s arrest, resulting from the past incident in which he had freed a chaingang of convicts. When they tried to arrest Don Quixote, he resisted fiercely, and his madness had to be explained to them. Compromises were reached in the matter of Mambrino’s helmet, and in the return of Luis to his parents. The remaining problem of how to take the knight back to his village for treatment of his madness was solved by placing the sleeping Don Quixote in a cage on the back of an oxcart.
To maintain the deception of enchantment which had enabled Don Quixote to be carried away, the priest and his friend the barber wore masks. They met the canon of Toledo on the road, who turned out to be a fan of tales of chivalry. The priest explained the knight’s situation to the canon, and they discussed the vices and virtues of popular fiction. The group reached a beautiful valley where they stopped to rest and feed. This gave Sancho Panza the chance to speak to his master alone, and to try to explain the deception under which the knight had been carried away. At the end of this, Don Quixote admitted that he needed to be relieved in a hurry.
As the group were eating, a nanny goat appeared from a thicket, and its goatherd came to join them. With his errant goat lying beside him, and Sancho Panza gorging himself down by the stream, the goatherd started telling them a story.
Eugenio the goatherd told of a rich farmer’s beautiful daughter who had attracted many deserving suitors, including himself. However, she ran off one day with a former soldier who wore gaudy clothes and tawdry jewellery. She was found three days later in a cave, the man having robbed her of all her jewellery and clothes. For that, her father put her in a convent, and Eugenio and her other suitors lived on locally in sorrow. He came to blows with Don Quixote, and the others laughed as they fought, before a large group of penitents appeared. They were part of a procession praying for rain to end the local drought, but Don Quixote thought they were abducting a woman instead of carrying a holy statue.
He then mounted Rocinante and charged at those carrying the statue, who retaliated and knocked him to the ground. At first they thought he was dead, but he recovered, peace was restored, and Don Quixote meekly got back onto the oxcart. They arrived in the village at noon on Sunday, and Don Quixote was put to bed to rest from his adventures, while Sancho Panza told his wife of the virtues of his life as a squire.
Cervantes concludes by promising to write again of Don Quixote’s third sally.
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, trans John Rutherford (1604, 2000) Don Quixote, Penguin, ISBN 978 0 140 44909 9.
Roberto González Echevarría (2015) Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Yale UP, ISBN 978 0 300 19864 5.
Roberto González Echevarría (ed) (2005) Cervantes’ Don Quixote, A Casebook, Oxford UP, ISBN 978 0 19 516938 6.