Don Quixote Book II

Don Quixote Book II Summary and Analysis of Book II, Chapters 45-50

Book II: Chapter XLV - Chapter L Summaries

Chapter XLV

Sancho and his attendants arrive at one of the Duke's towns, Barataria, and many of the town's one thousand residents are aware of the Duke's game. A series of villagers beseech the new Lord Governor to listen to their arguments and complaints. Sancho proves to be very wise and clever in the role of judge and this astonishes the people. A "historiographer" keeps notes of Sancho's performance to submit to the Duke.

Chapter XLVI

Meanwhile, Don Quixote is getting entangled in complications at the Duke's castle. The damsel, Altisidora, sings praises of the knight-errant and it appears that she is enamored with him. The damsel pretends to faint when she sees Quixote: Duchess has orchestrated this episode as a means of testing and probing the relationship between Quixote and his Dulcinea. The Duchess also arranges for the delivery of the letter and package that Sancho has left for his wife, Teresa. Late in the night, Quixote sings a ballad as a means of comforting Altisidora. A bucket of cats is conveyed by means of a rope and delivered to Quixote's window. The cats screech in and cause panic. Quixote perceives them to be devils and begins swinging his sword. The cats, fighting for their lives, terribly wound Quixote. "His face [is] like a sieve" and he is bed-ridden for five days.

Chapter XLVII

Sancho receives a letter from the Duke indicating that the island will be attacked by enemies. The Duke suggests that spies plan to assassinate Sancho because they fear his abilities. Sancho is also warned not to eat anything presented to him (as he may be poisoned). A man arrives from the country and tries to swindle Sancho into granting him six hundred ducats, but this is a failed bid.

Chapter XLVIII

Meanwhile, Quixote remains bed-ridden and on one of these nights he perceives someone entering his room. Fearing that it is Altisidora, Quixote loudly reaffirms his love for Dulcinea and begs to be left alone. A woman in a white floor-length veil enters the room, bearing a candle, advancing towards Quixote, spooking him with her witch-like demeanor. Doña Rodriguez reveals herself and begs Quixote for his assistance. Quixote suggests that he is not interested in assistance if it is even slightly amatory. The duenna has dropped her candle and she beseeches Quixote to wait for her to return with light because she can explain herself. Left alone, Quixote is the prey of "a thousand thoughts crowd[ing] into his mind" - chief among them, the suspicion that the duenna is the devil's own temptation. After making sufficient promises and oaths, the duenna gains Quixote's trust. The old knight returns to bed, the duenna pulls a chair up to Quixote's bedside, and she begins her story. A young girl from a high-born family struck with recent poverty, Rodriguez was sent to the court of Madrid. She returned home to find herself an orphan and soon after, an orphan working for low wages. She worked for a family, and in this service, the duenna met the gentleman who became her husband. The joy of giving birth to a daughter is cut short when her husband dies soon after. The duenna worked sewing garments to raise money to support her daughter. The daughter was beautiful and she unfortunately attracted the attention of the son of a very rich farmer The young man promised to marry Doña Rodriguez's daughter, but having fooled her, he now refuses. The duenna has pleaded that the Duke force the young man's hand but the Duke and the rich farmer are friendly partners in business. The duenna hopes that Quixote will help her. Just as the duenna is about to comment on the duchess' untrustworthiness, she is interrupted by "phantoms." "Silent executioners" - likely castle staff - rush into the room and begin beating the duenna. In the darkness, Quixote cannot see who these figures are, though they give him a few pinches as well.

Chapter XLIX

Sancho is displeased by the late hours and meager meals of his Governor post. Moreover, there are plots on his life. He disregards the advice of the physician and demands a hearty meal. Sancho goes on rounds, investigating the town for himself. He finds gamblers sword-fighting in the street, a smart-aleck kid, a teenaged girl who is dressed like a man and armed with a dagger. She has been imprisoned by her father for the last ten years and has escaped so that she might see the world. She has escaped with her brother's assistance but when he saw the round coming, he urged her to run home. Falling, she was apprehended by the authorities. Sancho and his men escort the young people home.

Chapter L

Returning to the castle scene, Cid Hamet postulates that one of the other duennas heard Doña Rodriguez walking towards Quixote's room, and so she followed her. A gossip, the duenna then told the duchess who told the duke. The duchess and Altisidora went to investigate and, upon hearing Doña Rodriguez's words, they flogged her. The castle page delivers Teresa Panza's letter and reads it aloud. Teresa is happy to hear that her husband has become a Governor. The Priest and Sampson Carrasco arrive and they hear the news as well. Both men can detect that the page is mocking in his tone; still, the gifts of the string of coral and Sancho's hunting suit are hard to dismiss. Sancho's daughter, Sanchica, is proudest of her father. Sampson intervenes and suggests that the page is lying. The page asserts that he is a true messenger and the duke and duchess have given Sancho a government. The priest and page leave together, as the priest wants more information. Sampson offers to write letters for Teresa but she does not trust him. Instead, she finds a young friar who will record her letters, replying to the duchess and to Sancho.


As a judge, Sancho is able to draw upon reserves that he has not hitherto drawn upon. Perhaps, his character has been augmented unnaturally - or perhaps, Sancho has always harbored these skills and this intellect but he has never been given an opportunity to demonstrate them. Sancho cannot read or write but he is able to make reference to Solomon and Hercules; his concept of justice is in line with traditional depictions of dispute resolution. Most important, Sancho reveals a strength that is sorely lacking in Don Quixote: discernment. Sancho's role as judge is not to figure out who is right and who is wrong, what is right and what is wrong. Notice that each dispute involves a liar - separate from the nature of the harm (whether money has been borrowed, whether chastity has been taken) there is the looming specter of deceit and falsehood. The old man's word games are exposed when his staff is broken - revealing money inside. This is the sort of exposure that Sancho might have enacted in the scene with Clavileño, the wooden horse. Without a formal education in logic, Sancho is able to use spiritual insight from God and the common sense of his upbringing to sound out justice. Finally, in terms of the "narrative" of justice and the courtroom, we find testimony, verdict, and precedent. Just as Sancho is called "a second Solomon," the verdict reflects earlier precedents (previous stories). Sancho admits that it was easier in part to disentangle the dispute over the ten crowns because Sancho "had heard the priest of the parish tell a like case.

Sancho is an incredible parallel to the Duke and Duchess, but primarily the Duchess. To be more precise, the Duchess, a relatively minor character, is a foil of Sancho. To be sure, the Duchess does have independent functions within the plot. However, the Duchess' actions serve to contrast Sancho's governance. Ultimately, the Duchess is a vibrant character - but what we come away with is how the chafing perversity of her castle is far more ignoble and far baser, than the grade of justice meted out by the low-born governor. Indeed, Sancho solves the problems that come before him (whether they are genuine or dramatized). Simultaneously (though in Chapter XLVI), the Duchess is creating a situation between Altisidora and Quixote. This instigation is the opposite of dispute resolution. The Duchess is not unlike the "devil" decried by the young man who ended up "yoked" to the "hussy." The incident with the cats is interesting because the Duke and Duchess are genuinely concerned; they did not intend for Quixote to be wounded - or at least, not as badly as he was. In the end, the duke and duchess' conditional sympathy does not merit or provoke ours.

In Chapter XLIX, Sancho explains his surprisingly comprehensive political agenda; the philosophy expressed indicates that Cervantes uses Sancho as a mouthpiece here: "My design is to protect the peasants, preserve to the gentry their privileges, reward ingenious artists, and above all, to have regard to religion, and to the honour of the religious." Sancho gets the opportunity to enact this agenda and later on, it is made clear, that genuine laws are created from the Duke's comic hoax. The townspeople keep these laws well after Sancho has moved on.

The narrative form alternates scenes, but the narrative content is repetitious. The motif of the young man who beguiles a young virgin with promises of marriage is from Book I (Dorotea and Don Fernando). It appears in Sancho's court and also in Doña Rodriguez's story.

As the story veers back and forth from Sancho to Quixote, Cervantes applauds his own innovative narrative technique, chalking it up to Cid Hamet. Cid Hamet was a deceitful infidel in Book I; in Book II, Cid Hamet's narrative skills are praised, and with Avellaneda making war in the margins, there isn't room for Cervantes to create an unstable narrator. Cid Hamet is praised for the "punctuality and truth with which he relates everything belonging to the history, be it never so minute." This accounts for the narrative detail. The alternation from Sancho to Quixote, chapter-to-chapter, is done because "Sancho Panza calls upon us" or Quixote "calls in haste for us." The chapters end in the middle of their final scenes - the drama has not been concluded, and so there is suspense. Of what remains, we are told that it "shall be told in its proper placeŠ and the method of the history requires it." The justification is aesthetic and perhaps moral as well. In aesthetic terms, it is argued that the story will be better if it is told this way (i.e. told with suspense). The focus on historical methodology (historiography) suggests that the truth will be illuminated if the story is told this way. If details are rearranged, the telling of the story is different but so is the content. The telling (form) and the message (content) both require this narrative style. The narrative point-of-view has focused on Quixote or Sancho. In Chapter L, Cervantes accounts what Cid Hamet was recorded - thus removing the reader from these scenes. Cervantes does not want to press the question of how the narrator knows and witnesses what he records. Hence, the details of the page's trip to the Panza household, or the gossip and secret discussions of the duke, duchess and Altisidora are presented as part of Cid Hamet's story.