Don Quixote Book I

Don Quixote Book I Summary and Analysis of Book I, Chapters 36-41

Book I: Chapter 36-Chapter 41 Summaries

Chapter 36

It is late at night, but the inn is still receiving more guests. Old friends and lovers are reunited in the process. Lucinda and her husband, Don Fernando, are disguised when they arrive on scene. They have traveled with men wearing black masks on their faces. This provokes Dorotea to veil her face. Cardenio and Lucinda are reunited and Don Fernando apologizes to Dorotea for deserting her. Don Fernando promises to marry Dorotea and she is satisfied with his promise. Sancho is upset because he has just realized that Dorotea is not the Princess Micomicona‹and so he will not become a governor of her territory.

Chapter 37

Sancho awakens Don Quixote and confronts him with this news, but Quixote does not believe Sancho. Don Quixote argues that Sancho has been deluded by one of the castle's enchantments. Sancho's words backfire because Dorotea continues with the plan to bring Don Quixote home. When Dorotea confirms to Don Quixote that she is, in fact, the Princess Micomicona, Quixote becomes angry with Sancho.

Chapters 38-39

Another set of travelers arrives at the inn, including a man referred to as "the captive" and a beautiful Moorish noblewoman named Lela Zoraida. She wants to become baptized into the Catholic faith with the name Maria. After Don Quixote gives a speech praising the glories of knighthood, the captive tells his story. The captive grew up "in the mountains of Leon," one of several sons born to a gentleman with a penchant for squandering his money. Worried that he would leave his sons penniless, the father summoned the young men and told them that he would soon give them their inheritance, lest he spend it and leave them with nothing. He advises them to pursue a career in one of three fields: "the church, the sea, or the court." The captive chose the latter of these three options, serving in the king's army.

The captive fought in a number of wars that took him to Genoa, Milan, Flanders, Algiers, Malta, and Constantinople. In Constantinople, one of the captive's comrades, a man named Don Pedro de Aguilar, escaped from prison and presumably "recovered his liberty." Indeed, Don Fernando explains that he is Don Pedro de Aguilar's brother.

Chapters 40-41

The captive was imprisoned in Algiers, which is where Lela Zoraida fell in love with him. She had never met the captive, but she saw him and fell in love with him nonetheless. One day, Zoraida goes to the prison window and slips a small bundled package to the captive. She has given him money to escape and a letter. She professes her love for him, her conversion to Christianity, and her desire for him to marry her and help her escape to Spain.

The captive frees himself and also frees some of his fellow captives. After the captive makes preparations for the passage to Spain, he "kidnaps" Lela Zoraida. Unfortunately, Lela's father wakes up in the middle of the kidnapping and the captive and his friends have no alternative but to carry Lela's father onto the ship. Realizing the extent of his daughter's willing betrayal (conversion, escape) Zoraida tries to jump off the ship and drown himself. The Spaniards on deck are Christians and they will not allow Zoraida to commit suicide. Instead, the Spaniards deposit Zoraida on shore once their ship is a safe distance away from Algiers.

Safely in Spain, the captive hopes for Lela to be baptized so that they can be wed. The captive also says that he would like to find his father.


The narrative structure of these chapters relies upon "uncommon accidents" much like those of the stories told by the characters themselves: the likelihood of Don Quixote's giants, Sancho Panza's island, the numerous lovers joined, the "Curious Impertinent." The reunion motif is exploited to excess‹not only with lovers, but with Don Pedro de Aguilar and Don Fernando, as well. The novel of Strategy wins out over the comedy of Errors, so long as Quixote is kept at bay. The characters work out their problems and entanglements without Don Quixote's active assistance‹indeed, the plot accelerates when Quixote is not present to "interrupt." When Dorotea tells Don Quixote that she "never would have found this happiness except for you," she refers more to chance occurrences and not to a chivalrous act that the knight-errant might have performed. It is not often that a titular and central character (Don Quixote, in this case) is excluded from the novel's drama, as a means of bringing about the denouement (climax and conclusion) of the plot.

Don Quixote is deluded but his delusions are consistent. Just as INN = CASTLE, BEAUTIFUL WOMAN = NOBLE LADY. Sancho Panza should have recognized the parallel between Dorotea and Dulcinea. Quixote contended that Dulcinea was a noble lady, simply because he imagined her to be one, and Dorotea is similarly commended. When Sancho argues against Dorotea's nobility, Don Quixote accuses Sancho Panza of being a base, low-class "liar." Sancho, alone, expects Quixote to distinguish between true and false. Quixote is not capable of this task. True to character, Don Quixote believes the lie and punishes the truth-teller.

Zoraida is a rather empowered woman, though she does not tell her own story. She has rejected both her father and her religion. She is considered as an "ideal" woman and she has a suitor. Zoraida and the captive were once like Dulcinea and Quixote, in that there was no actual contact or communication between them. But unlike Dulcinea, Zoraida has actually performed on the captive's behalf. And unlike Quixote, the captive has now enjoyed contact with his beloved. Zoraida had the money to release the captive from prison, but she did not have the freedom to free herself. The baptism symbolizes a new life after the alteration and transformation that religious conversion brings. Lela Zoraida wants to change her name to Maria. This parallels Don Quixote's own self-renaming when he donned a basin and pursued a new calling.

In Chapter 37, Don Quixote begins a lucid discussion, and these scenes are in high relief‹such a contrast from Quixote's mania. This recalls Don Quixote's early philosophical reflections and gives us hope that Don Quixote is salvageable. At one point, Don Quixote argues that "what costs most attaining is, and ought to be, most esteemed." Sadly, this is not true in reality. At the conclusion of Book I, Quixote is not kindly rewarded for his expensive attempt at grandeur. In Book II, he fares little better. Quixote's words foreshadow the conclusion. In discussing the balance of fame, fortune, and glory, Quixote seems to invite his incipient judgment.

Finally, Don Quixote argues that a warrior is superior to a man of letters. We should keep Cervantes' autobiographical details in mind. Cervantes was a soldier before he began writing. Cervantes was also held captive as a prisoner of war and this adds to the autobiographical detail of this section. The wars that the "captive" describes are not actual wars, however; they do not correspond with the historical or political context of the novel.