Don Quixote
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Don Quixote Book I Summary and Analysis

by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Book I, Chapters 16-22

Book I: Chapter 16-Chapter 22 Summaries

Chapter 16

The innkeeper sees Don Quixote's wounds and he asks Sancho what has happened. Sancho says that Quixote has fallen and injured his ribs. The innkeeper's wife, his beautiful daughter, and his half-blind servant girl, Maritornes, all tend to Quixote's wounds. They suspect the wounds are on account of a beating, as opposed to a mere "fall." Quixote is a marvel for the innkeeper and company: they have never heard of a knight-errant and they surely do not consider the inn to be an enchanted castle.

Chapter 17

Quixote imagines that the innkeeper's daughter has promised to come to his bed during the knight. Quixote is titillated by the prospect though, of course, he will not be disloyal to his Dulcinea. The innkeeper's daughter never enters the room where Quixote sleeps (along with Sancho, and a mule carrier). The mule carrier is Maritornes' lover but when Maritornes enters the room, looking for the carrier‹Quixote apprehends her, perceiving the servant to be the daughter. Maritornes is bewildered; her lover is enraged, especially when he realizes that Quixote's solicitude is unwelcome, indeed. The carrier attacks Quixote, crushes his jaw and trampling his ribs. Maritornes is tossed from the bed-pallet, landing on Sancho. These two then begin to fight with vigor. The innkeeper has heard the commotion and he enters the room, bearing a light. He immediately chastises Maritornes and they begin exchanging blows.

An officer of the Holy Brotherhood, lodging at the inn, enters the room on account of the violent noises. Quixote is an unconscious sprawl, the other four combatants doing well enough on their own. Thinking that Quixote is dead, the officer leaves the room to seek assistance, shouting: "Shut the inn door, see that nobody gets out; for they have killed a man here." This immediately ends the fight: the innkeeper leaves with his candle; the carrier and servant retreat to their separate sleeping spaces; Sancho retreats to his master's side.

Chapter 18

Revived, Quixote believes that he has suffered the evil of an "enchanted Moor." Sancho does not interpret their calamity as an enchantment, however. The officer returns, astonished to see that Quixote is alive. Quixote explains that he is in need of a healing tonic called "the true balsam of Fierabras." He prepares the balsam, according to recipe, drinks the solution and then vomits. Quixote then suffers convulsions, sleeps for three hours and then wakes up, feeling perfectly healthy.

When Quixote gives the balsam to Sancho, Sancho suffers so terribly that those present fear that the squire is going to die. Several hours later, Sancho has not fully recovered but Quixote insists on leaving. The innkeeper wants Quixote to pay for lodging, but Quixote is insulted that the lord of a castle (an enchanted one, no less) would ask a knight for compensation. Don Quixote and Sancho leave but the innkeeper sends a gang of rogues after them, to collect his payment. Quixote escapes but Sancho is captured, tied inside of a blanket, and tossed into the air repeatedly. The rogues also steal Sancho's bags‹though Sancho does not realize this, at first.

Chapter 19

Sancho is angry because he has suffered and yet, Don Quixote neither defended nor avenged him. The two travelers continue along their road and Sancho sees "two great flocks of sheep" in the distance. Quixote, on the other hand, sees two opposing armies preparing for battle‹and he aims to intervene and assist the weaker side. Sancho begs Don Quixote to abandon his plan and refrain from attacking the harmless sheep. The knight sees two armies and, in fact, he is able to name the various warriors who are marching into battle, Alifanfaron, "a furious pagan," chief among them. Sancho cannot help but marvel at Quixote's ability to provide such an extensive history of the knights, considering that the knights were sheep. Quixote intervenes and manages to slay about seven sheep with his lance before the shepherds and herdsmen pelt him with stones. His ribs are bruised and his teeth are knocked out.

The shepherds leave with their flocks and Sancho rushes to Quixote's side. Quixote says that his enemy has transformed the soldiers into sheep. Quixote tells Sancho to be courageous because they have many more adventures ahead. They continue riding, though Quixote is quite sore.

Chapter 20

Later in the night, the two travelers see a procession of "walking lights" heading towards them. It is a funeral procession of over twenty people in white robes, and six more in black mourning clothes. They are wearing funeral masks and they hum a sad plaintive song. Quixote is outraged, believing them to be devils. Quixote demands that one of them give an account of their business after he has already wounded one of the mourners. One of the mourners is named Alonso Lopez and he explains that the group is traveling to bury the bones of a man who has died of pestilential fever. Quixote allows them to continue without further harm.

In conversation with Sancho, Quixote expresses his concern that he has wounded a holy man and so, he might be excommunicated from the church. This does not prevent the knight and squire from enjoying the food that they stole from the holy travelers, upon apprehending the group. It is late in the night, but there is no inn close by. Knight and squire decide to settle in the grass and sleep outside, but their repose is disturbed by a loud sound, as if it were rushing water. Quixote insists upon investigating but Sancho urges him to wait until morning. Sancho offers to tell Quixote a story, but Quixote keeps interrupting Sancho‹who follows the storytelling custom of his town by repeating everything that he says twice. Sancho does not like the questions that Quixote asks, and he soon gives up.

Chapter 21

In the morning, Quixote stalks his new adventure, creeping closer and closer to the source of the noise only to discover that the noise emanates from a set of fulling-hammers (large mills that beat wool into a refined material). Sancho cannot suppress his laughter but he pays dearly when Quixote gives him two whacks with the lance. Quixote commands Sancho to show more respect.

It starts to rain and so Don Quixote and Sancho try to move quickly, though their destination is unclear. Quixote sees a man ahead who is wearing a gold and glittering helmet: the famed helmet of Mambrino. The "helmet" is simply a brass basin‹the man is a barber on his way to work. The barber is unprepared for Quixote's advance. He is knocked off his donkey but he soon scrambles to his feet and flees, leaving his basin behind. Quixote concludes that the helmet must have fallen into the hands of a man who clearly did not know its value. Sancho claims that the helmet is a barber's basin and Quixote does admit that the helmet does resemble a basin.

Chapter 22

Quixote only creates more trouble when he comes across a chain of galley-slaves, criminals who are chained together and are being led to their punishment. Sympathizing with the criminals as victims of love, Quixote attacks the armed guard and in the chaos that ensues, the criminals are able to escape. Sancho is worried that Don Quixote will surely be apprehended by the officers of the Holy Brotherhood and arrested. Quixote asks that freed men present themselves to Dulcinea and pay homage but the criminals refuse, fearing that they will be caught. They throw stones at Quixote, slightly injuring him, before they escape. The knight is baffled to find himself so mistreated by the very people he has assisted.


In these chapters, Don Quixote becomes a more complicated character. He is not entirely devoted and loyal. The scene in Chapter 22, when Don Quixote frees the enslaved prisoners is bizarre. Quixote does not merely challenge the law and cause harm to society, but is questionable whether the knight is truly defending his own values. In assessing the damages that Quixote causes, "imagination" is held to be the culprit.

Sancho Panza wants the enchanted treasure but he disbelieves in the enchanted violence. Sancho does not believe the inn to be a castle, and he perceives the criminals to be who they are‹but Sancho persists in believing that Quixote will make him a governor. Don Quixote has an "intrepid heart" and the "breast of Mars." Mars is the Roman name for the Greek god of war, Ares. Sancho Panza is a naturally fearful man who serves in a submissive role to Quixote; Panza was "born to sleep." Panza does not have heroic attributes but Panza does not cause trouble. Quixote has heroic potential but his energy is too chaotic. Postulating on good and evil, the knight unwittingly describes himself when he is in fact describing the devil as "the devil, who sleeps not, and troubles all things." Quixote looks at the troubles that surround him‹troubles of his own creation‹and he blames them on the devil.

The theme of delusion is demonstrated when Quixote mistakes the inn-keeper's daughter to be a beautiful princess Just as an inn equals a castle, a basin equals a helmet‹though it is a dunce cap for Quixote. The literal darkness of the room blinds Quixote to the fact that he embraces Maritornes, and not another woman. But his delusion overpowers his senses: he ought to vomit but instead he enjoys Maritornes despite her foul smells.

Don Quixote has not respected the law but the Holy Brotherhood appears on the scene just as Don Quixote is need of assistance. The lantern is an object-symbol of light, representing law and justice. We see human nature in action when the cry of 'murder' is sounded. The characters flee even though there has been no murder. Later, on the King's Highway in Chapter 19, Don Quixote expresses the idea that revenge is his law. Of course, this is not the sort of argument that can be justified if applied universally. Quixote is bent on revenge and honor. Quixote disregards the law in the hopes of achieving a sort of glory that justifies his adventurous breaches of the law. But in the course of these adventures, Quixote comes to need the law and its protection. "The Knight of the Sorrowful Figure" is merely an elder gentleman with his teeth knocked out. But give him a lance, and see Quixote give insanity, chance, and chaos equal rein. Attacking a procession of funeral mourners, Quixote risks excommunication from the Church and this would be sure damnation to Hell. Having attacked two flocks of sheep (killing seven members), perceiving them to be "pagan warriors" on horseback, Quixote has already committed a symbolic crime of the highest order. The fact of Quixote's delusion cannot atone for his rather merciless assault on persons and beings that represent peace, innocence, and the civil life. Quixote ultimately evades all forms of legal prosecution and punishment, but the knight will lose a few more teeth and a good deal more before the novel has ended.

It is difficult to empathize with Don Quixote when he commits blatant wrongs and then remains unapologetic. A pattern emerges in the plot: Don Quixote kills the sheep because he is following his delusion. Sancho Panza sees reality but Don Quixote discounts Sancho Panza's wise advice. Sancho Panza impeaches himself by willingly following Don Quixote into sure disaster, only to subsequently continue the argument.

Cervantes is being sarcastic when he describes the conversations between knight and squire as "sage discourse." Quixote misdirects his own intellect while Sancho betrays his own common sense. While traveling, Sancho Panza uses astronomy as his guide, whereas Don Quixote uses his stories as maps. In one discussion, the knight says to Sancho: "I know not what kingdom, for I believe it is not in the map." Sancho knows that the path of the knight is lined with "numberless hardships," for the very same reason that he, Sancho, relies upon astronomy and the fixed stars as his guide. Once Don Quixote has made up his own mind to plow ahead, Sancho can do little but follow the knight into disaster.

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