Don Quixote Book II

Don Quixote Book II Summary and Analysis of Book II, Chapters 1-4

Book II: Preface-Chapter IV Summaries


In the "Preface to the Reader," Cervantes mentions "the author of the second Don Quixote," a writer who published a false sequel to Cervantes' original work. Cervantes takes the high ground and stresses the fact that the imposter's "sin will be his punishment." Cervantes dedicates the book to the great Conde de Lemos (Count of Lemos), and Cervantes also has kind words for the Archbishop of Toledo, Bernardo de Sandoval.

Cervantes reminds us that Cid Hamet Ben Engeli is the original composer of the story.

Chapter I

For the month after Don Quixote has been returned to his home, the priest and barber avoid him because they do not want to remind Quixote of his unfortunate days as a knight-errant. When they see Don Quixote, it is clear to them that the gentleman intends to find another quest in the near future. Although Don Quixote's books have been removed, the ex-knight-errant still has a keen memory of the details of the chivalric tales.

Chapter II

Sancho Panza attempts to visit his former master. When the housekeeper blocks the entrance, Sancho Panza insists that Don Quixote has promised him an island - and Sancho Panza intends to have his island! This talk does not make any sense to the housekeeper, and she and Don Quixote's niece begin a fierce argument with Sancho.

Don Quixote hears the squabble and he commands the housekeeper to permit Sancho Panza entry. This is not so much because Don Quixote wants to see Sancho Panza; rather, Don Quixote is dismayed by Sancho's loose tongue: Don Quixote is afraid that Sancho may reveal some embarrassing details.

In their private conversation, Sancho Panza tells his master that he has learned of a book in which Don Quixote's own adventures are recounted. This book is called The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha. Sancho Panza is flattered that although he is a mere squire, the novel mentions him by name.

Quixote wants to learn more about this book and Sancho states that the "history" was written by a Moor named Cid Hamet Berengena. Sancho Panza has learned of the book from a scholarly young man named Sampson Carrasco. Sancho agrees to get Sampson so that Don Quixote can talk to him.

Chapter III

While he is waiting for Sampson Carrasco arrive, Don Quixote wonders how a book about his exploits could already be published. His conclusion is that the author is a Moorish sage. Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and Sampson Carrasco have a pleasant conversation and Sampson Carrasco greatly admires the knight. Sampson also corrects Sancho's mispronunciation, indicating that the author's name is Cid Hamet Ben Engeli. Sancho argues that the book is wrong because it refers to Dulcinea as Doña, even though she is a common woman.

Chapter III

For his part, Don Quixote thinks that the book - as Sampson has described it, has too many discursive ramblings and digressions that involve the minor characters. In particular, Sampson Carrasco discusses the discrepancy regarding the disappearance and reappearance of Dapple, Sancho's mule. Sancho gives an explanation for Dapple's "disappearance" but Sampson says that Sancho's account does not make any sense. Sampson mentions a jousting tournament in Zaragosa, and suggests that Don Quixote should attend the competition, in the hopes of gaining honor.


In terms of social commentary, Cervantes' critique of class relations and prejudices begins early. In his Preface, Cervantes writes that "the poor man may be honorable, but not the vicious: poverty may cloud nobility, but not wholly obscure itŠ" Money and class-consciousness receive far more treatment on Book Two than in Book One. What is particularly noteworthy here is the uncommon idea that poverty and nobility are not mutually exclusive. In Book Two, a number of poor and common people prove themselves to be virtuous, while some of their social superiors earn our contempt as vicious, perverse, and unnecessarily cruel.

Cervantes' reference to Conde de Lemos also reveals some information about the station of the writer in Cervantes' society. In Chapter VI, Don Quixote argues that there are only two ways for a man to enlarge his territory and gain fame and honor: either through "arms" or through "letters." Cervantes, a former soldier, illustrates the artist's reliance upon a patronage system in order to secure a living.

Writers also had fewer legal rights than what we are accustomed to today: Cervantes had no legal redress against Avellaneda, the man who published his own Don Quixote sequel in 1608.

Don Quixote has been quarantined because of his sickness, and his house functions as a metaphorical tomb. If Don Quixote's old sickness was his aggressively expansive imagination, his new sickness is a melancholy wanderlust. Being imprisoned and having his imagination curtailed (his books have been removed) is a metaphorical "death" for Don Quixote. This is reflected in Quixote's physical appearance. When the priest and barber visit their friend, he looks "so lean and shrivelled, that he seemed as if he was reduced to a mere mummy."

There is a note of irony in the "islands" discussed by Sancho Panza and Don Quixote's housekeeper and niece. The housekeeper asks Sancho Panza whether "islands are anything eatable," slighting Panza's overweight figure and equally famous love of food. Sancho Panza replies that "islands are not eaten but governed," though the housekeepers idea of "gluttonous" appetites serves as an unintended metaphor for Spain's imperial designs.

In Chapter II, the motif of "storytelling" becomes incredibly complicated ­ but this sets the tone for much of what we will read in Book Two. Most noteworthy is the fact that Sancho Panza and Don Quixote are aware of a published history of Don Quixote's adventures: a newly published novel entitled The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha. Throughout Book Two, the knight and squire will encounter commoners and nobles who have read this work - or are, at least, familiar with the book. To put it bluntly, Don Quixote is famous - he now seeks "honor" more than fame. Of course, he wouldn't mind if he was a little more famous, but Quixote's motives are fundamentally different than they were when he set out on his first two "sallies."

The fact that Don Quixote has not read the work will certainly become a liability: Don Quixote fails to understand how others truly perceive him. Further, in Book Two, the characters are more psychologically complex than their counterparts in Book One. In a sense, the published "history" and concomitant fame make Don Quixote and especially Sancho Panza more self-conscious in general and class-conscious in particular.

Later on, there are complications derived from "rumors" that rival the true published history of Don Quixote. Furthermore, the personalities of Cervantes, Cid Hamet Ben Engeli, Sancho Panza's "Cid Hamet Berengena," and the multiple "translators" of the work create a blur around a few related issues: authorship, authenticity, and objectivity. Just as it became difficult to distinguish between the work of Cervantes and Avellaneda, it becomes difficult to distinguish between the labors of writer, translator, and author.

In the instance of Sancho's mule, Dapple, there is tension between Sancho's memory of what has happened and the potential for error - either by the "author" or the "printer." The irony here is that Sancho's memory is entirely the product of the author: Sancho cannot do anything other than what is written into his character. And Sancho cannot remember anything that has occurred unless it has occurred - and if it has occurred, it was recorded in the novel. One of the novel's brilliant features is the way in which questions like these are explored: Surely we don't expect that the novel describes every single thing that has occurred in Sancho Panza's life. But Sancho has no life outside of the novel.

As we read Cervantes' novel, a novel that aims for "realism," Cervantes reminds us that the recorded "history" can never capture the entirety of what has actually occurred.