In the previous episode, the Duke schooled the proxy who was to fight Don Quixote in a duel, to ensure that he would defeat the knight without injuring him. On the agreed day, a platform was built for all the spectators, then the Master of Ceremonies took over and sent the two opponents to their places ready to start. When a trumpet blast signalled them to start their charges, Don Quixote started his, but the proxy told the Master of Ceremonies that he was defeated, as he’d fallen in love with the duenna’s daughter and wanted to marry her. This was agreed, and Don Quixote’s bloodless victory was acclaimed by all. The knight requested permission of his noble hosts to return to his journey to Saragossa, which they granted with sadness. When Don Quixote and Sancho Panza were departing, the maid Altisidora sang a lament in which she accused the knight of taking nightcaps and garters from her. Finally the pair got away.
When they had put some distance behind them, Don Quixote praised their freedom, prompting Sancho Panza to reveal that the Duke’s butler had given them two hundred gold escudos. They soon came across a group of farmers sat eating in a meadow, with several large objects draped in white sheets by them. One of them explained they were carved wooden images for an altarpiece being made for their village. The knight asked to see them, and saw first Saint George, then Saint Martin, Saint James the patron saint of Spain, and finally Saint Paul.
Don Quixote spoke about each as a knight, which baffled the farmers. As the latter had just finished their meal, they raised the carvings onto their shoulders and went on their way.
The knight and his squire then talked about Altisidora, in which Sancho accused his master of being cold and heartless in rejecting her advances. While the knight was responding to that they entered a wood, and he became tangled up in green nets hung between the trees. As he struggled to break through that netting, two beautiful young women dressed as shepherdesses emerged from the trees.
After a long silence, one of the women asked him to stay still. She told him that they were from a nearby village, and were camping there to create a new Arcadia for the rich people in that village to visit. The other woman revealed that they knew of the knight and his squire, paid them compliments, and invited them to stay. They were joined by the brother of one of the women, who took them to their marquees to sit and eat a lavish meal.
Once they had finished, Don Quixote stood and gave them long-winded thanks, to which Sancho asked why anyone would suggest his master was mad. That angered the knight, who ticked his squire off, and told them that they were just on their way. With that he rose, gathered his shield and lance, and mounted Rocinante. He then put himself in the middle of the road and announced his presence. Sancho joined him.
They next saw a group of men with lances riding fast towards them. One of that group rode ahead and warned them to get out of the way of the bulls that were approaching. The knight refused to budge, and he and Sancho were almost immediately engulfed by the herd of bulls being driven to a bullfight. Don Quixote, Sancho Panza and their mounts were knocked over and trampled.
When they eventually got up, the knight briefly ran after the animals demanding that they stop. The pair then turned their backs on Arcadia and continued on their way.
They soon found a spring to wash themselves in, and Sancho couldn’t resist eating some of their bread and cheese, despite Don Quixote abstaining. The knight asked his squire to be allowed to sleep, while Sancho went and lashed himself with Rocinante’s reins to get nearer to the total required to disenchant the lady Dulcinea. Sancho politely refused, both of them ate, then they fell asleep while their mounts grazed nearby.
When they awoke it was getting late, so they hurried on another three miles to reach an inn where they could stay the night. Once Rocinante and Sancho’s donkey had been fed and settled in the stable, Sancho asked the landlord what was on offer for supper, to which he was told whatever he might wish. But a request for two chickens couldn’t be met, neither could pullets, veal and kid proved unavailable, even eggs were out of stock. The landlord confessed that all he had to offer was cow-heel stew.
As Don Quixote was tucking into the stew, he overheard his name spoken in the next room, where two men were discussing whether to read the second part of the book Don Quixote de la Mancha. When one of the unseen men claimed that Don Quixote was there described as no longer being in love with the lady Dulcinea, he could restrain himself no more, and told them that couldn’t be true.
After Sancho had told the men in the next room that they were speaking to the real Don Quixote, the two of them went round to the knight’s room and embraced him with delight. The knight started to criticise the book’s contents, including its allegations that Sancho was a simple-minded glutton. The two men invited the knight and his squire to share their dinner, which was a feast compared to the meal provided by the landlord.
Don Quixote told the men of the lady Dulcinea and her enchantment, and Sancho’s penance of self-flagellation to attain her disenchantment. They continued to discuss the stories in the book, and asked the knight where he was going next. When he told them he was on his way to Saragossa for its jousting, they told him the book reported that the knight had ridden in the ring there instead. That put Don Quixote off Saragossa, so that he could deny the account given in that book. The men suggested that he would be better off going to Barcelona instead, which the knight agreed with before retiring for the night.
The following morning Don Quixote said farewell to the two men, while Sancho paid the landlord handsomely despite his abysmal meal.
That completes the fifty-ninth chapter of the second book of Don Quixote.
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.