Don Quixote Book II Summary and Analysis
Book II, Chapters 22-24
Book II: Chapter XXII - Chapter XXIV Summaries
As a knight-errant, Don Quixote is pleased that he was able to advocate for Basilius and Quiteria. He sees the wedding as a triumph of love over baser interests. Sancho is disgusted at this foolishness, and he begins muttering that Don Quixote should take the pulpit. When Don Quixote challenges Sancho, the squire reminds Don Quixote that just as a knight knows more about knight-errantry, a husband knows more about marriage. When Don Quixote asks Sancho about his wife, Sancho replies that "She is not very bad, but she is not very good neither, at least not quite so good as I would have her." Don Quixote thinks that is a dishonorable thing for a man to say about his own wife.
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza stay with Basilius and Quiteria for three days, at which point they travel to the Cave of Montesinos with Basilio's cousin. Basilio's cousin (whose name we never learn) is a famous scholar, "much addicted to reading books of chivalry."
At Montesinos' Cave, Sancho and Basilio's cousin tie a rope around Don Quixote's waist and lower him into the cave, which is a deep hole. Quixote's task is to explore what is below, but after an half-hour, it is clear that Quixote has fallen asleep "in the deep cave of Montesinos." Don Quixote is pulled out of the cave.
When asked about what he has seen, Quixote replies with a lucid description of a dream-vision. Quixote claims that he was transported to a crystal palace, wherein an old man greeted him by name. The old man was Montesinos. Montesinos told Quixote a grisly story about the death of his "great friend," Durandarte. When Durandarte died, Montesinos made good on a promise to cut out Durandarte's heart and deliver it to Belerma, Durandarte's wife.
Don Quixote learns that Merlin, the magician of King Arthur's court, has cast a spell that prevents Montesinos from leaving. However, Merlin foresaw that Don Quixote would undo this curse and free Montesinos and his company.
Because Sancho Panza constructed the "enchantment" of Dulcinea, Sancho does not believe Sancho' claim to have seen Dulcinea in her transformed state. Indeed, this leads Sancho Panza to discount the entire episode. Don Quixote does not get angry, however. After some consideration, Don Quixote calmly concludes: "It is your love of me, Sancho, that makes you talk at this rate but the time will come when I shall tell you some other of the things I have seen below, which will make you give credit to what I have now told you."
Cervantes interrupts the narrative thread to tell us that the translator of Cid Hamet Ben Engeli's work found a note in Engeli's handwriting, recorded in the margins of the original text. Engeli does not believe that Don Quixote tells the truth, arguing that Quixote actually recounted the story on his deathbed. Cid Hamet Ben Engeli also added that because Sancho Panza was so impertinent and disrespectful to Don Quixote, the account seems all the more likely to be apocryphal.
Continuing, the story, Cervantes tells us that Basilio's cousin loves Don Quixote's account of his time in the cave. The scholar vows to record the story and Quixote is clearly pleased with this.
Quixote and company then encounter a man who is heavily armed. Quixote decides to follow the man to a nearby inn, so that he can hear the man's story.
Cervantes continues the literary debate of the vernacular vs. the classical language in a humorous way. Among the Basilio's cousin's parodies is a "burlesque" entitled "The Metamorphoses, or Spanish Ovid." Here, the real "metamorphosis" is the translation from Latin to Spanish. Basilio's cousin has also written a "Supplement to Polydore Virgil" and this work ironically recalls Cervantes' own dilemma with his imposter's supplement. In Chapter LXX, we will hear Don Quixote's attack on the imposter novel.
Montesinos' cave parallels Hades, the Greek underworld. At the very least, Quixote's dream is a sort of living-death and Montesinos makes reference to "the world above," While buried alive in a cave, DW dreams of the underworld. Just as Basilio's cousin revises the classics, Cervantes' story revises and "riffs" off of at least four well-established literary works.
The dominant allusion regards Aeneas, the warrior-king of Virgil's Aeneid. Aeneas leaves a lover behind (Queen Dido) as he continues his quest. Despondent, Dido commits suicide and later haunts Aeneas from the afterlife, and Aeneas is grieved by her hideous countenance. Don Quixote similarly views his love, Dulcinea, as a negatively transformed figure.
The story of Montesinos' Cave also bears reference to Plato's Allegory of the Cave. In this major philosophical essay, Plato describes the relative perception and cognitive capabilities of mankind in metaphorical terms. A race of men are chained in a cave, restrained so that their glimpse of life above is limited to a fixed set of shadows. The man who exits the cave sees the world and returns with shocking stories of "reality," stories that are met with distrust and perhaps even pity or contempt. In Chapter XXIII, Don Quixote plays the converse role: a prophet who leaves the real world and goes down into a cave to find "reality." The Cave experience is noteworthy in that it is uniquely Quixote's. He is able to use the vision as a way to set himself apart form the others. It becomes a piece evidence that Sancho cannot refute with his own first-hand knowledge.
A third major allusion is the burial and resurrection of Christ. Don Quixote claims to have been inside of the cave for three days and Cervantes' allusion cleverly eludes sacrilege in stressing that Quixote claims to have been "buried" for three full days and knights. At any rate, Don Quixote emerges as a transformed being and Basilio's cousin assumes an apostolic role, vowing to write and publish Quixote's story. As such, Basilio's cousin - who happens to be a Christian - provides a contrast to Cid Hamet Ben Engeli - who happens to be a Muslim. Cid Hamet Ben Engeli's strenuous denial of Don Quixote's episode is immediately followed by Basilio's cousin's equally strenuous confession of belief. Cid Hamet Ben Engeli's lack of faith here is consistent with Cervantes' consistently hostile depiction of the Muslim "infidel."
Finally, Quixote's love for Dulcinea is so intense that is persists into his dreams and interrupts the task at hand: the investigation of Montesinos' story. Quixote's underworld sojourn recalls Orpheus, who sought his beloved Eurydice in Hades. When Eurydice dies, Orpheus' grief is so intense that the gods permit Orpheus to journey into the underworld and retrieve Eurydice. However, once Orpheus has found Eurydice and begins leading her to the world above, he is forbidden to turn his head and look back - if he does, Eurydice is doomed to remain in Hades. As Orpheus is leading Eurydice out of Hades, Eurydice catches her toe on a stone. She falls. Orpheus turn to brace his lover's fall and instantly, a wall goes up between the two lovers. Both Don Quixote and Orpheus are so devoted to their loves that they are willing to travel to the underworld to retrieve them.
Yet, an essential and impassable distance remains between the lover and the beloved. Orpheus sees Eurydice as she is, but the couple is physically separated. In his underworld, Quixote is physically united with Dulcinea, but he is unable to see her as she truly is. Dulcinea's transformation is so hideous, Quixote later admits that the transformation obliterates his memory of her beauty. By locating Dulcinea in Don Quixote's underworld dream, Cervantes underscores the impossibility of Quixote's longing. This is the essence of the "quixotic," and this persistent and unyielding striving towards an impossible ideal makes Don Quixote a hero, albeit a fool.
Don Quixote's fantasy exposes his pride and unabated hunger for fame. He imagines that Merlin that has prophesied his future exploits. Just as Don Quixote's friends realized at the end of Book One, when they carted him home in a cage, a prophesy convinces Don Quixote that he is a true knight-errant. Prophecy confirms future success with rather incipient and convenient timing.
Don Quixote exposes a character flaw that will cause him a good amount of pain for much of Book Two. Later, a malicious duke and duchess will amuse themselves by convincing Don Quixote that he is the fulfillment of a whole host of outlandish and rather humiliating prophesies. In responding to Sancho Panza's disbelief in the cave dream, Don Quixote uses prophecy as his own strategy. To convince Sancho to believe him, Don Quixote states that Sancho will one day believe. The idea that Don Quixote has omitted some details also adds a level of excitement and suspense for the reader. Sadly, Don Quixote's prophecies can do nothing, if they are not true. Don Quixote cannot stop the inevitable: the emergence of an increasingly rational, money-minded, and modern "real" world that Sancho Panza - in serious opposition to his master - comes to represent.
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