In the previous episode, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza had arrived in the courtyard of the Duke and Duchess’s castle to find it brightly lit by torches. In the middle was the body of Altisidora on a catafalque. Servants dressed Sancho in a black cloak with flames, and a conical hat decorated with devils. A youth sang the maid’s praise, then one of two kings present told Sancho that he had to be punished in order to resurrect the dead woman. Despite his protests, six duennas struck him on the nose, he was pinched, and pricked with pins. Altisidora revived miraculously, and Don Quixote and his squire retired to their bedroom. When Sancho was asleep, the maid walked in and threw Don Quixote into confusion. She described seeing a dozen devils playing pelota with books at the gates of hell, before revealing that her death had been faked. After the Duke and Duchess entered, Don Quixote begged his leave. Once they had dined with their hosts, the pair left.
As they rode away, Don Quixote was still sad at his defeat, but happy for his squire’s new-found powers. Sancho was disappointed that Altisidora hadn’t fulfilled her promise to give him six of her shifts for turning into shirts. He also voiced his disappointment that, unlike a doctor, he hadn’t been paid for his resurrection of the dead maid. When his master offered him a share of their money if he lashed himself to disenchant his lady Dulcinea, Sancho did a quick calculation and worked out he would become rich as a result.
Soon after night fell they pulled off the road to rest. No sooner were they out of their saddles than Sancho had taken his donkey’s halter and headstall to some beech trees, stripped to the waist, and started to lash himself.
After half a dozen, the squire told his master that the reward was inadequate, so Don Quixote doubled the stakes. When Sancho redoubled his efforts, though, he was lashing the trees rather than himself, which fooled Don Quixote, who so impressed that as the count passed a thousand, he encouraged Sancho to pause.
A little later, when Don Quixote heard a vicious lash and his squire’s plaintive cry, he rushed over and took the halter from him and implored him to stop. After wrapping himself up, Sancho soon fell asleep, and didn’t wake until the sun was already up. The pair then rode on to the next village, where they stopped at the inn, which Don Quixote didn’t claim was an enchanted castle.
After a short discourse about a crude painting of the rape of Helen that was hung in their ground-floor room, Don Quixote asked Sancho where he intended to flog himself that evening. When his squire said that he needed to be among trees, the knight said he should wait until they reached their village in the next couple of days.
While they were waiting for nightfall, a man on horseback arrived with his servants. Don Quixote overheard his name, Don Álvaro Tarfè, which he recognised from the published second book of Don Quixote. That traveller was given the room opposite Don Quixote’s. When they bumped into one another in the porch of the inn, Don Quixote confirmed the man’s identity, and learned that he was riding to Granada.
Don Álvaro said he was the same man that appeared in the book, claimed to be a very close friend of Don Quixote, and had been the person responsible for sending the knight to the jousts in Saragossa. Don Quixote asked Don Álvaro whether he looked like Don Quixote, but the man said no. Sancho introduced himself to Don Álvaro, and revealed his identity and that of his master.
Don Quixote confirmed that, and denied ever having been to Saragossa, as he had gone to Barcelona instead. He asked Don Álvaro to make a declaration before the mayor of the village that neither he nor Sancho Panza were the characters that Don Álvaro knew from the book. They also realised that the traveller didn’t know about Sancho’s penance either.
As they were talking, the mayor and a notary walked into the inn, and Don Quixote had the deposition drawn up immediately, bringing a satisfying end to the confusion between the two Don Quixotes and two Sancho Panzas.
That evening the three rode away, and parted company where the road divided to Don Quixote’s village. The knight and his squire soon got off that road and found some trees where Sancho could continue with his lashing. As before, the squire whipped the trees rather than his body, and by the morning had reached the grand total of three thousand and twenty-nine strokes.
The pair rode on, and the following night Sancho completed his penance. This encouraged them to keep looking for the disenchanted lady Dulcinea along the way, until they reached the top of a hill from where they could see their home village. Sancho immediately fell on his knees and welcomed the sight of home. They then made their way down the hill into the village.
That completes the seventy-second 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.