Book II: Chapter LXVII - Chapter LXXIV Summaries
On the road home, Quixote has many things to think about. He is angry that Sancho has yet to begin whipping himself. Passing a familiar spot in the road, Quixote thinks that he might become a shepherd for a year. He remains convinced that Tosilos was an enchantment, much as the Knight of the Looking-Glasses was transformed into Sampson Carrasco.
Sancho is able to sleep easy but Quixote is troubled. The knight wakes the squire in the middle of the night and tells him that squires are supposed to share the pain of their masters. He tells Sancho to give himself "three or four hundred lashes," but Sancho refuses. They are trampled by a pack of six hundred hogs, being led by some hog-sellers.
In the morning, Don Quixote and Sancho are kidnapped by armed horsemen and led to the duke's castle. They are taken to a theatre where Sancho is dressed in a black robe and a pointy cap, as if he were condemned by the Inquisition.
A corpse, presumably Altisidora's, lies on a tomb in the center of the room. The duke and duchess are surrounded by figures who resemble kings. Altisidora is not dead but dying, and she will be resurrected if Sancho's face is sealed with twenty-four stitches. Sancho resists but one of the kings warns him to be silent or die. Sancho is pricked and pinched by the duennas and when Altisidora shifts her weight, Sancho notices. The crowd proclaims that Altisidora lives and Sancho is congratulated.
Cid Hamet tells us that Sampson Carrasco has been to the castle, where he asked about Don Quixote's whereabouts. He also learned of the tricks that had been played on the knight and squire. After defeating Quixote, Sampson returned to the duke and gave him word of all that had happened, as he had promised. Altisidora tells Don Quixote and Sancho that she nearly died and was brought to the very gates of hell. She saw devils playing tennis but using books instead of balls. In particular, the devils enjoyed beating a book called the Second Part of the History of Don Quixote de la Mancha. One of the devils asks if the book is really so bad, for all of the other devils seem to abhor it. Another devil replies that the book is "so bad, that, had I myself undertaken to make it worse, it had been past my skill."
On the road home, Sancho and Panza discuss the lashes Sancho is to give himself. Quixote offers payment and Sancho agrees to begin whipping himself that very night. Quixote tells Sancho not to whip himself too hard, as the miracle requires that he live long enough to administer the three thousand odd lashes. Sancho actually whips a tree instead of whipping himself. But he groans with such misery that Don Quixote begs him not to whip himself any longer for Sancho has given himself so many lashes he must be close to death.
Closer to home, Quixote stops at an inn where he crosses paths with Señor Don Alvaro Tarfe - a name he recognizes from when he glanced at the Second Part. Don Alvaro introduces himself to Quixote and tells him that he is a "very great friend" of Quixote. Don Alvaro looks at Don Quixote and says that his Don Quixote does not resemble the man standing before him, nor does Sancho resemble the Sancho he knows. Sancho says that "any other Don Quixote whatever, and any other Sancho Panza, is all mockery, and a mere dream."
After a few minutes of conversation with the true Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Tarfe is convinced that those which he knew previously must have been impostors. A notary takes Tarfe's "deposition," attesting that Tarfe has never before met the true Don Quixote and Sancho Panza who are now present with him.
Entering his home town, Quixote becomes convinced that he will never again see Dulcinea in her transformed state. He tries to ease his mind by thinking about the pastoral life and a plan to live the shepherd's life.
As soon as Quixote returns home, he is greeted by his niece and housekeeper, and his friends: the priest, the barber, and Sampson Carrasco. Quixote suffers a fever and he is near death. Everyone worries that Quixote is dying of melancholy. God restores Quixote's sanity and the former knight now realizes his folly. As death approaches, Quixote is saddened that he has wasted time and endangered others. Still, he is thankful for being delivered from his illness before he dies. With a lucid mind, Quixote prepares his will, lives for three more days, and then dies.
The introduction of Don Alvaro Tarfe in Chapter LXXII is a humorous scene because Cervantes is now exploiting one of Avellaneda's characters - just as Avellaneda has exploited Cervantes' characters. Ironically, for almost all modern readers, Tarfe exists only as one of Cervantes' characters because Avellaneda's novel has fallen into obscurity. In a sense, Cervantes is seeing to Avellaneda: Even your own characters like my story and my Don Quixote more than they like yours. Tarfe is one of Quixote's best friends in Avellaneda's work and yet a few minutes with Cervantes' genuine characters is enough for Tarfe to renounce what he has previously known to be true. When Sancho speaks of the lashes which he must administer to himself, Sancho is continuing a long thread of argument that began in Chapter XXXIV. When Don Alvaro says "I understand not this business of lashes," he is speaking on behalf of Avellaneda and Avellaneda's imposter work. Much like Sampson Carrasco's undoing of Don Quixote, Sancho's "business of lashes" is a major part of Don Quixote's story - but Avellaneda could not alter this because it appeared in Book II (after Avellaneda's work was published).
The notary gives validation to the inherent truth of Cervantes' work. Cervantes does not let go of the motif of Cid Hamet, but the references to Avellaneda make it clear to the reader that Cervantes is perfectly aware of what he is doing. Cervantes, in a sense, is so confident of his book that he does not need to part with Cid Hamet. Through Cid Hamet's own voice, Cervantes is still able to claim: "For me alone was Don Quixote born, and I for him: he knew how to act, and I how to write: we were destined for each other." Don Quixote does indeed know how to act, and he prides himself on the prudent move to have Don Alvaro's "deposition" notarized. The notary does his work "in so authentic a form," and these formal and authentic documents and narratives give legitimacy to Cervantes and his characters. Late in Book I, the priest tried to appease a group of individuals who were bothered with Don Quixote, telling them that in matters of knight-errantry, Don Quixote is correct. His delusions may be false, but Don Quixote is the master of his own story. At the end of Book II, Cervantes wants this same authorial privilege: Don Quixote may be published fiction, but Cervantes is the sole and true author of the story.
That said, the conclusion of the novel has serious repercussions when we consider the arguments that have been made against unrestrained imagination and unsupervised reading. Cervantes claims that he simply wants to rid the world of knight-errantry, but Quixote's suffering seems to be linked to more than just knight-errantry. Couldn't Quixote's delusions have taken the form of almost any literary tradition? And in his travels through Spain, Quixote encountered more than a few individuals who were familiar with the works of chivalry, and yet the vast majority of them were not self-tailored knights. Quixote's crime is his excess imagination, his rather subversive way of countervailing reason and the natural order. On his death bed, Quixote's sane and lucid words are not contested because they are the words of a true gentleman. Finally, Quixote is behaving as he should: "so proper, so rational, and so Christian." The Christian-ness of Quixote's behavior at the hour of death, and the fact that his deliverance from his imagination is God-sent, leads us to the conclusion that if Quixote's death is not a punishment, it is at least a just end for a man whose imagination has caused such harm. Indeed, Quixote calls his transformation a "repentance."