Book II: Chapter XXXI - Chapter XXXIII Summaries
Sancho Panza is pleased with the sudden turn of events, as the castle of the duke and duchess proves more than hospitable. Don Quixote is sprinkled with sweet-scented waters and celebrated to such an extent that "this was the first day that he was thoroughly convinced of his being a true knight-errant, and not an imaginary one, finding himself treated just as he had read knights-errant were in former times."
Sancho approaches one of the duchess' attendants, Doña Rodriguez de Grijalva, and asks her to attend to Dapple and see that he is properly cared for in the stable. Doña Rodriguez is humiliated by the request and she and Sancho sling a number of foul insults at each other. Much like an embarrassed parent, Don Quixote chides Sancho Panza, asking the squire whether he might behave more appropriately and hold his request. But the duke and duchess are eager to please Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and they happily direct the attendants to take care of Dapple.
At lunch ("dinner"), Don Quixote and Sancho Panza accompany the duke, duchess, and an ecclesiastic who is a guest of the castle. This guest is unaware of the duchess' tricks. Don Quixote gives an account of his life as a knight, but the priest sees knight-errantry as a pernicious hold-over from heathen days. When Sancho mentions that Don Quixote still owes him an island, the Duke announces that he happens to have an island "of no inconsiderable value" that Sancho can rule as governor. The priest believes the duke and he leaves the castle, enraged. Sancho continues telling stories of Quixote's exploits and these tales (namely of Don Quixote's failings) amuse the duchess to no end. After dinner, Don Quixote has his head washed by the servants - but they desert him with most of the soap residue deliberately left soaking on his head. The duke and duchess re-affirm their order and warn the servants not to ruin the rues with impertinence.
Don Quixote talks about the many invisible enchanters that persecute him. Uninterested in this, the duchess changes the topic to Dulcinea. Specifically, the duchess recalls reading that Don Quixote "never saw the lady Dulcinea, and there is no such lady in the world, she being only an imaginary lady, begotten and born of your own [Quixote's] brain." Don Quixote admits that only God knows whether or not Dulcinea is real. However, Don Quixote feels that he can vouch for Dulcinea's noble lineage, all the same.
After lunch, Sancho Panza spends the afternoon with the Duchess and Sancho Panza is eager to please her. The duchess makes sure that she is alone with Sancho Panza and then she says that she has "some doubts arising from the printed history of the great Don Quixote." The duchess hopes that Sancho Panza will clarify some of her questions and explain a few of the discrepancies in the recorded ale. Particularly, the duchess is concerned about the story of Dulcinea - which he believes to be a sham.
Of course, this places Sancho Panza in an awkward position as he has been dishonest. Sancho told Don Quixote that he delivered a letter to Dulcinea, though he did not. Sancho Panza prefaces his remarks by telling the duchess: "I am firmly persuaded he [Don Quixote] is mad." The duchess then asks Sancho how it is that he can dutifully serve a man he believes to be mad. Sancho admits that he loves Don Quixote and serves him out of loyalty. Moreover, Sancho has already given up on winning an island from Don Quixote - though he still expects that the duke will make good on his promise. On this subject, Sancho Panza assures the duchess that he will govern the island well, though he admits that he does not have very much of the relevant experience.
Sancho Panza mentions Montesinos' cave - a new story for the duchess, for this episode was not included in Book I. On the subject of Dulcinea, Sancho Panza explains that he disbelieves Don Quixote because he (Sancho) knows that the "enchanted" Dulcinea is really just a common girl that Sancho claimed to be Dulcinea. The duchess then argues, rather persuasively, that the enchantment is true and that it is Sancho who has been deceived. Sancho Panza eventually comes to believe the duchess when she says that she "knows from a good authority" that the country wench who jumped onto the donkey "was and is Dulcinea."
Sancho Panza's interactions with the duchess and her attendants become a farcical comedy of manners. The dominating social theme of Chapters XXX through LVII (for it is only then that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are finally able to escape the duke and duchess, albeit temporarily) is that of class-consciousness. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are already self-conscious characters in Book II. Their egos are unduly complicated by the knowledge that an account of their recent activities has been widely published and read. The duchess complicates self-consciousness with class-consciousness. Her false entreaties for Don Quixote and Sancho Panza to relax are designed to encourage the opposite behavior: the knight and squire feel uncomfortable. Neither the knight nor squire knows precisely how to behave, though both believe that the duke and duchess are their superiors.
Perhaps socially, the duke and duchess are superior, but they are morally reprehensible. In biding their servants to cater to Don Quixote (a gentleman) and Sancho Panza (a peasant), the duke and duchess stir animosity between the members of the lower social set. Literary critics easily point to the cruelty of the duchess and duke's psychological game, a cruelty chiefly inflicted upon Don Quixote. But the reader should also note the wasted labor and stresses endured by the castles' servants. When Quixote's friends deceived him (as with the ox-cart) the players were willing participants, and they were roughly equal in social standing. In this scenario, the duke and duchess are abusing their hired help and enjoying this game nearly as much as they enjoy Don Quixote, who remains, after all, the principle amusement.
Chapter XXXI creates the dramatic irony that lasts through the next twenty-six chapters. Dramatic irony is a suspense device, indicating a scene in which the audience (the readers, in this case) is made aware of some crucial detail that a principal or main character on stage (Don Quixote) fails to grasp. For readers who sympathize with the knight, it will become painful to see Quixote's painfully extended humiliation.
Earlier, Don Quixote explained that Dulcinea's virtue and nobility derive from her beauty - a beauty with which Quixote himself has invested her. Under the pressure of the duchess' interrogation, Quixote doesn't change his argument. His notion "that virtue ennobles blood" truly exposes the fact that "blood" neither ennobles a person nor gives them virtue. Don Quixote argues that "Dulcinea has endowments, which may raise her to be a queenshe has in herself greater advantages in store." This is Don Quixote's most lucid articulation of the argument that a person should be judged by their deeds and intentions, and not by their bloodlines.
Don Quixote and the duchess are two very active readers who like to take literature into their own hands. The duchess has read a book concerning a knight (The Ingenious Gentleman) and begun enacting "enchantments." Her outcomes are utterly different from Don Quixote's scenarios. Battling a world full of invisible enchanters, it never occurs to Don Quixote to represent himself falsely, hide his true intentions, or compose a strategy or scheme. Quixote is plainly honest, and his idea of honesty is commingled with virtue and honor (as we see at the end of the novel). Don Quixote is virtuous but ignorant; Dulcinea is virtuous but imaginary. Later on, when Sancho Panza serves as governor, his combination of virtue and demonstrable compassion will serve as the ultimate critique of the duke and duchess' leadership style.
We have already learned much about Sancho Panza's character from his conversation with the duchess in Chapter XXXIII. Sancho Panza is not taken in by Don Quixote's delusions. Instead, Sancho follows and serves the knight because he cares for him. Sancho is justifiably worried about Don Quixote's welfare. When Sancho Panza tells the duchess that he does not blindly seek the title of "governor," he reminds her that "All is not gold that glitters." We can expect that when the time comes, Sancho Panza will voluntarily distance himself from the duke, the duchess and all their glittering offers. Sancho Panza initially believes the duchess' lie about Dulcinea, but this is a risky gamble on the duchess' part. When Sancho Panza regains his common sense, he will conclude that the duchess is dishonest and manipulative purely of her own volition.