Don Quixote Book II

Don Quixote Book II Summary and Analysis of Book II, Chapters 16-18

Book II: Chapter XVI - Chapter XVIII Summaries

Chapter XVI

After the adventure with the Knight of the Looking-Glasses, Sancho Panza and Don Quixote have two very different emotional responses. Don Quixote continues with "pleasure, satisfaction, and self-conceit." Sancho Panza is very confused about Tom Cecial and his pasteboard nose. Don Quixote suggests that both Tom Cecial and Sampson Carrasco were enchantments. But Sancho recalls his conversation with the Squire, and the details that were discussed. How could the Squire have been an enchantment when, in retrospect, the details of the Squire's family life so resemble Tom Cecial's?

Don Quixote sees a man on the road who is dressed all in green and armed with "a Moorish scimitar." Quixote introduces himself as the Knight of the Sorrowful Figure. The traveler is named Don Diego de Miranda. Don Diego counts himself among those who believe that the stories of knights-errant are not "fictitious." In meeting Don Quixote, Don Diego is overjoyed on two counts: First, Don Diego is pleased to know that Spain has not abandoned the tradition of knight-errantry. The security that knights provide is all too necessary, in Don Diego's opinion. Second, Don Diego is pleased to hear Don Quixote's discussions of the newly published novel, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha. Don Diego has not yet read the book, but he suspects that the book will enlighten its audience about the finer points of chivalry.

Don Diego's son has decided to become a poet rather than a scientist. Don Diego seems somewhat displeased at this, but Don Quixote extols the virtues of poetry as a source of good and purity in the world. Quixote appears very learned in his discourse, mentioning the classical writers Homer, Virgil, and Horace. Don Quixote pauses in his commentary, as he perceives a carriage with royal banners. The carriage is advancing towards the same side-road that Quixote intends to take.

Chapter XVII

Meanwhile, Sancho Panza has found some shepherds nearby, from whom he purchases curds and milk. Don Quixote sees the royal cart and prepares for a new adventure. Quixote summons Sancho, telling him that "Preparation is half the battle, and nothing is lost by being upon one's guard." Sancho needs a container for his curds and milk, and he chooses Don Quixote's helmet. When Don Quixote dons the helmet, he fears that his skull is softening or else, his brain must be melting. Sancho gives his master a cloth to clean his head and face. Don Quixote then accuses Sancho Panza of being a "vile traitor" for placing the curds in his helmet. Sancho insists that this accident must be the work of an enchanter.

The royal cart contains "two fierce lions" which are a gift to the King, from the general of Oran. Don Quixote demands that the carter open the cages so that he (Quixote) can battle the lions. After significant objection, the carter obliges Quixote. The lions are lazy and sluggish, however, and they refuse to stir. Don Quixote gives up on the idea of battling the lions and Don Diego and Sancho Panza both praise Quixote for his bravery. In honor of this victory-by-default, Don Quixote renames himself "Knight of the Lions." After accepting Don Diego's invitation for a visit, Quixote renames Don Diego de Miranda as "The Knight of the Green Riding-Coat."

Chapter XVIII

Don Diego lives in a spacious country home and when he arrives at the house, Don Quixote perceives the building to be a castle. Don Diego introduces Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to his wife, Doña Christina, and his poet son, Don Lorenzo. Don Lorenzo spends much time considering whether or not Don Quixote is mad. At the end of Quixote's four day visit, Don Lorenzo does conclude that Don Quixote is insane.

While visiting with Don Diego's family, Quixote manages to be both insane and intelligent. Quixote enjoys Don Lorenzo's poetry and offers a valuable critique. For his part, Don Lorenzo tells his father that Quixote's insanity "is a medley full of lucid intervals." Much like Don Quixote's audience in Book One, Chapters XXXVII and XXXVIII, Don Lorenzo is floored by the knight's ability to shuttle back and forth between pure madness and sound reason.


Sancho's dissatisfaction with Don Quixote's explanation of the enchantment of Sampson Carrasco and Tom Cecial stems from several sources. First, Sancho remembers the numerous "enchantments" of Book One, beginning with the notorious windmills episode. History has taught Sancho that many of Don Quixote's enchantments are delusions. Second, an element of Sancho's life (his neighbor, not Don Quixote's) has been introduced into the enchantment. Sancho Panza may be willing to trust Don Quixote on the finer notes of sage magicians and knight-errantry, but Sancho is unwilling to ceded ground on the details of his own life. Sancho Panza is willing to believe Don Quixote's delusions so long as they remain within Don Quixote's contained sphere of influence. Finally, Sancho Panza knows that at least one of Don Quixote's "enchantments" is the product of deception. Sancho crossed a line when he claimed that the ugly peasant girl was Dulcinea in an "enchanted" form. This perversion of a vocabulary that Quixote holds sacred makes it difficult for Sancho Panza to ever believe in enchantments. Sancho Panza can be frightened into immediately concluding that he is seeing some form of magic, but the folly does not persist. Sancho Panza knows that some enchantments are more than Quixote's delusions - they are other people's tricks. Quixote's subsequent references to Dulcinea's transformation as "evidence" are self-defeating, as Sancho Panza knows that he himself invented this transformation. All Sancho Panza can say on the topic of transformations is a pitch-perfect understatement: "God knows the truth."

Sancho Panza and Don Quixote are beginning to fall within a traditional master-servant relationship. In Book One, Sancho Panza was a lackey who eagerly believed in Don Quixote's promises. By Chapter XVII of Book Two, Sancho has begun to resent his squire labors. He is more formidable in his ability to debate. He freely speaks to Don Quixote. He uses the rhetoric of "enchantment" to humiliate his master, a master who has not yet made good on his promise (Sancho's island).

Sancho Panza's assessment of the "enchantment" of Sampson Carrasco is the perfect contrast (contradistinction) to Don Diego's initial analysis of Don Quixote. Don Diego's faith in the reality of knights-errant is validated on two counts. First, Don Diego sees an actual knight, Quixote, standing before him. Second, this same knight's exploits have been documented in an accessible and recent account. Here, literature provides additional proof, a supplemental body of evidence. The "story" (historia) merges with "history" (Historia).

One of the underlying tensions in Cervantes' work is the uneasy and unsettling similarity between the postures of Don Quixote's mad delusions and the habits and structures of religious faith. In Book Two, Cervantes reins in much of the sacrilege of Don Quixote's actions. At the same time, the more important issues - the distinction between pitiable delusion and justifiable faith - is probed more deeply. To the extent that Don Quixote fashions himself as a secular militant, a literary crusader, his words early in Chapter XVII are intentionally similar to scriptural passages that surely resonated with Cervantes' audience. One of Don Quixote's more memorable quotes is, in fact, a collage (a "pastiche") of a few well-known verses from the New Testament. These verses treat the subject of the Christian warrior's need for faithful preparation, and Cervantes' readers would have detected the scriptural strains within Don Quixote's words: "Preparation is half the battle, and nothing is lost by being upon ones guard. I know by experience, that I have enemies both visible and invisible, and I know not when, nor from what quarter, nor at what time, nor in what shape, they will encounter me."

Another aspect of Cervantes' cultural context comes into view in Don Quixote's initial conversation with Don Diego. Don Diego's son has become a poet. In this era, the young poet faces the question of whether to write in the vernacular spoken language, Spanish, or Latin, the classical and more esteemed language. Working with all due respect to the classical works, writers like Cervantes deliberately focused upon establishing a literature written in their own language. The political unification of Spain mandated and enforced the imposition of Castilian as the Spanish language (as opposed to one of the four rival dialects). Don Quixote became the first major Castilian work of enduring literary quality, and Cervantes essentially did for Spanish language and literature what Dante had done for the Italian language a few centuries before.