In the first book of Don Quixote, Cervantes explains how this hidalgo became addicted to tales of chivalry, which brought a madness in which he believed that he too was a knight. In his first brief sally, he got himself dubbed a knight by the landlord of an inn. When he returned to his home, he engaged Sancho Panza as his squire, but most of his books were burned by his friend the village priest in an unsuccessful attempt to cure Don Quixote’s madness.
In his second sally, with Sancho Panza at his side, he had many (mis)adventures, culminating in his freeing a chaingang of convicts. When that turned sour, the pair fled to the mountains. Eventually they were found there by the village priest and his friend the barber, who managed to trick Don Quixote to return to the village for treatment of his madness.
You can read fuller summaries, with links to detailed and illustrated accounts, here and here.
Cervantes opens the second book with a witty justification to the reader, following which he resumes the story. After their return to the village, the priest and barber kept away from Don Quixote for a month, to let everything settle down. His housekeeper and niece pampered him, and thought that he was on the way to recovering his mind, so at that point the priest and barber paid him a visit.
Don Quixote was sat in bed looking decidedly wizened, and conversed with them quite normally until they came to discuss affairs of state. Although evasive at first, Don Quixote then revealed that he was still stuck in the world of chivalry, considering himself to be a knight errant. The barber told a story about a madman who persuaded himself that he’d recovered, but that only angered Don Quixote, who burst into a long speech about the merits of true chivalry.
The priest then suggested that Don Quixote was still in an imaginary world of chivalric fiction. That prompted the knight to reassure him of the reality of knights errant. The priest next egged him on by getting him to describe the appearance of the knights that he had met, which then moved on to descriptions of Angelica.
Just then they heard the housekeeper and Don Quixote’s niece outside, yelling at Sancho Panza, in a bid to prevent the squire from entering to see his master.
When Don Quixote heard this, he directed them to let Sancho Panza enter. With that, the priest and barber left, in the knowledge that their friend was still in the grip of madness.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza discussed their previous adventures, the knight insisting how he had felt for the suffering of his squire. Sancho Panza revealed that ordinary people thought they were both mad, and that their story had been published in a book. Don Quixote therefore asked his squire to fetch the young graduate of Salamanca University who claimed to have seen a copy.
Sancho Panza returned shortly with Sansón Carrasco, the graduate. Don Quixote had by this time decided that, if it were true that his story had been published, the author must have done so by means of enchantment. The youth confirmed that twelve thousand copies of the book were then in print, and that Don Quixote had become famous. The account given seemed complete in every respect, and portrayed Sancho Panza second in fame only to his master.
Their conversation turned to the matter of the squire’s promised governorship of islands, before the graduate criticised the inclusion of the whole of the tale of Inappropriate Curiosity as being out of place in the book. Don Quixote tried repeatedly to find fault with the book, but was reassured that it was faultless.
Sancho Panza excused himself to go home for a drink and a meal, while Don Quixote invited the young graduate to stay and eat with him, which he did.
That completes the third chapter of the second book of Don Quixote.
List of characters
English translation by John Ormsby (1885)
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.