Don Quixote Book I

Don Quixote Book I Summary and Analysis of Book I, Chapters 11-15

Book I: Chapter 11-Chapter 15 Summaries

Chapter 11

Looking for a place to sleep, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza stumble upon a group of goatherds. The goatherds are immediately friendly‹and curious about Don Quixote. The goatherds invite Quixote and Panza to sit around the fire and eat with them. Sancho declines the offer because he thinks it is inappropriate to sit and eat alongside his master. After Quixote's insists, Panza agrees to join the group. While Sancho indulges in the wine, his master begins a very long lecture on the "jargon of squires and knights-errant." The goatherds do not understand Quixote's speech, but having sensed that the gentleman means well, they appreciate his good will. Quixote ends his speech by calling them his "brother goatherds."

Chapter 12

After the speech, the goatherds offer Don Quixote "some diversion and amusement" when Antonio arrives on scene. Antonio is a goatherd who composes ballads and love songs. Antonio sings a few of his songs to the group. After Antonio's song, another goatherd, Peter, arrives with sad news: A young shepherd named Chrysostom has died, heartbroken because of his unrequited love for Marcela. Marcela is a shepherdess who comes from a wealthy family. Despite her fortune, she has refused to marry or be courted. This is very frustrating for the men of the town because Marcela's beauty is unparalleled. Chrystostom's death outrages the goatherds against Marcela.

When Don Quixote expresses his sadness and sympathy for Chrysostom, the goatherds invite Quixote to attend the next day's burial service. Just as he did the previous night, Quixote spends the night wide-awake while others sleep. He spends these hours thinking about his lady, Dulcinea.

Chapters 13 and 14

Early the next morning, Don Quixote is full of alacrity: one would never guess that he had not had any sleep. On the road, the group encounters Señor Vivaldo, who is traveling in the same direction. When Vivaldo sees Don Quixote he asks him why he wears armor though he travels though a safe and peaceful country. Quixote explains the order of chivalry and refers to the English histories of King Arthur. Vivaldo seems impressed with the discipline and strictures of Quixote's service, likening the knight to a monk. Quixote argues that "we soldiers and knights really execute what [monks and priests] pray for, defending it with the strength of our arms and the edge of our swords." As the company nears the funeral site, Vivaldo and Quixote continue their discussion of the religious and spiritual aspects of knight-errantry. Chrysostom has given instructions to burn his writings after his burial; Vivaldo pleads for Chrysostom's friend Ambrosio not to do this. At Ambrosio's request, Vivaldo recites one of Chrysostom's poems, "The Song of Despair." The poet mourns that Marcela never loved him. He also writes, "No common language can express" his pain. The gathered mourners approve Chrysostom's song, disparaging Marcela as a cold cruel torturer. When Marcela appears on scene, she flatly rejects the mourners' argument. First, Marcela holds that not she, but God, is the accountable creator of her beauty. Second, though Marcela's beauty may win the love of others, the fact of being loved does not oblige Marcela to love her suitors, in return. Marcela says "I was born free" and she intentionally secludes herself "that [she] might live free." Marcela has never led any suitor to believe that she loved him and, for her chastity, Marcela offers no apology. Marcela leaves abruptly, and Don Quixote defends the shepherdess, promising to slay any man who follows her. Quixote then persists after Marcela, offering her the sturdy services of a knight-errant. (She declines.)

Chapter 15

Knight and squire retire to a grassy field to enjoy their lunch. Don Quixote's horse, Rocinante, sees a small herd of fillies and he trots towards them. The Yangüesian horse-breeders violently chase off Rocinante, and they attack Don Quixote and Sancho Panza as well. Don Quixote is seriously wounded and the knight asks Sancho to carry him to "some castle where [he] may be cured of [his] wounds." Sancho becomes disillusioned but Quixote reiterates his promises: the knight and squire will soon be "filling the sails of [their] desires" and Sancho will soon have the "islands" that Quixote has promised. Don Quixote reflects on his previous adventures and gains confidence by recalling the literary examples of valiant knights‹heroes who were similarly met with obstacles. Self-assured, Don Quixote decides that he and Sancho Panza will continue along their path. But Quixote cannot walk; indeed he can barely sit upon his horse. Rocinante has suffered such a beating; the horse can barely drag itself down the road, let alone support Quixote's weight. Quixote sits upon Sancho's donkey, and Rocinante, unable to lead, is tied (by the head) to the donkey's tail. Fortunately, Sancho does not have to struggle for long as there is lodging nearby. The two men arrive at an inn, which Don Quixote perceives as a castle. Sancho argues with his master and refuses to capitulate.


Pulling up to another inn, Don Quixote is convinced that the inn is a castle. In a sense, it is as if Don Quixote's character is not developing at all. His delusions run deep but there seems to be a logical structure. INN = CASTLE for Don Quixote and this equation does not change until much later in the novel. The foreshadowing is usually grim: there will be accidents, confusion, and violence. Don Quixote will cause some unintended damage. But these iterations become more and more hilarious. What follows for the remainder of the novel, is almost entirely farce.

Unlike the tales of chivalry and medieval romance, Don Quixote is a novel full of commoners and ordinary people. Within the narrative, we can attribute this to the fact that Don Quixote is traveling the road: he is more likely to meet itinerants and rustics than landed gentry. In literary terms, however, Cervantes contributions to the genre of the novel helped the form to evolve as an expression of the "middle-class" as opposed to the upper classes. Along these lines, we see the "pastoral" motif in this section of the novel. The "pastoral" refers to pastures, shepherds and goatherds, and the idea that utopia exists outside of the town or village (outside of society). True to tradition, these herders are a source of music and poetry, and they are devoted to love.

The goatherd named Chrysostom is named after a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

St. John the Chrysostom was a doctor who earned the moniker "Chrystostom," which means "golden mouthed," because he was an eloquent preacher. There is irony in Don Quixote's Chrysostom‹a love-struck poet who gives us the lyric: "For Ah! No common language can express/ the cruel pains that torture my sad heart." The saint was eloquent in spreading the gospel; the goatherd is inarticulate in expressing his pain, a pain that language is incapable of expressing.

Don Quixote long rant alludes to the "prelapsarian" idea of Eden. "Prelapsarian" means before (pre-) the fall (lapse), referring to the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. The idea, according to literary critics, is that language functioned in a perfect way before Sin. After Sin, language also lost its perfection and became corrupted. On one hand, the knight's ranting helps to confirm that Don Quixote truly believes that he is doing well, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary.

It is also interesting to note that practically all of Don Quixote's model knights are originally from Britain, France, or Italy. King Artús is simply a Spanish translation of King Arthur. The importance of a national literature is discussed in passages of Book II. Considering Cervantes' decision to write his novel in Spanish, as opposed to Latin or French, we can see Don Quixote as a Spanish alternative to the unrealistic and foreign literary creations that prefigured him.

In terms of characterization, knight and squire are continually described through contrasts, though there is frequently an irony involved. Sancho Panza likes to drink and he sleeps soundly. Don Quixote consistently abstains from food and drink, and during the night, he remains wide awake, as alert as a sentinel. But Sancho's drunkenness never gets in the way of his rational, clear-headed thinking. And Quixote, though he is sharp and alert, is no less delusional. Behavioral characteristics are in ironic contrast to character features that would suggest the opposite.

When Quixote does go to sleep, the next day, he decides to dream "in imitation of Marcela's lovers." Don Quixote inhabits the role of "knight-errant" by imitating his predecessors. When the knight finds contemporary love-sick medievalist fools, his foolhardy resolve is strengthened. The goatherds supply Quixote with more examples for imitation. As characters go, Marcela is very rational and prudent. She is a woman who is immune to the folly that seems contagious among the company of men. The motif of the "tyrannical" female who spurns romantic advances is not Cervantes' alone, having been established in the poetry of Petrarch, Shakespeare, and Edmund Spenser, among many others. Here, Cervantes critiques the "Tyrannesse" motif by allowing Marcela to respond with logic. This does not happen in the older works.

Finally, the motif of book burning recurs with the debate on whether or not to bury the dead man's poetry along with him. Just as earlier in the novel, the words are spared. This tempers Cervantes' claim of seeking to obliterate the books of chivalry. A dove-tailing takes place in Don Quixote, the books of chivalry are reiterated for a final time‹the modern novel provides the continuation. Books of chivalry do not need to be burned: modern novels need to be written.