Book I: Chapter 27-Chapter 29 Summaries
Sancho Panza gives the barber and the priest more information about Don Quixote's madness and the three men travel towards Sierra Morena. The priest and barber hope that they will not have to resort to trickery in order to bring Don Quixote back home. Sancho Panza is to lie to Don Quixote, claiming that he has delivered the letter to Dulcinea and as a result, Dulcinea demands that Quixote present himself to her. Sancho goes ahead of the barber and the priest, and the latter end up meeting Cardenio, the madman of Sierra Morena. Cardenio is singing a song that beings "What causes all my grief and pain?" referring, of course, to his failed relationship with Lucinda.
We now get the full story from Cardenio because Don Quixote is not present to interrupt the storytelling. When Cardenio served the Duke, he befriended the Duke's son, Don Fernando. On one occasion, Don Fernando visited Cardenio's house and within the leaves of Cardenio's copy of the book Amadis de Gaul (a classic tale of chivalry), Don Fernando found a letter that Lucinda had sent to Cardenio. The letter expressed Lucinda's love with such clarity and energy that Don Fernando found himself in love with Lucinda, and he resolved to have her. Don Fernando sends Cardenio back to the Duke's palace and, in Cardenio's absence, befriends Lucinda's parentsultimately forcing her hand in marriage. Cardenio has gone mad because he feels that both Don Fernando and Lucinda betrayed him.
In the next part of the story, Cardenio joins the barber and the priest and after walking a short distance, they encounter Doroteaa woman dressed up as a man. They ask Dorotea if she is in some sort of trouble, and her answer exceeds their expectations. Dorotea is the daughter of a farmer who has been hired to do work for a wealthier man. Complications arose when this manager's son became fond of Dorotea and ultimately coerced her into having sex with him. This debacle ruined Dorotea's reputation and she was run out of town in disgrace. The man had promised to marry Dorotea but in fact, he was already married and after having sex with Dorotea, he returned to the town where his wife lived.
As it turns out, Don Fernando is the man who has deceived Dorotea. When Cardenio and Dorotea compare stories, Cardenio learns that Lucinda continued to love him even when she was forced to marry Don Fernando. Cardenio and Dorotea join forces, hoping to punish Don Fernando and reunite the true lovers, Cardenio and Lucinda.
Sancho Panza hurries back to the scene, informing the (significantly larger) group that Don Quixote feels that he has been dishonored. Don Quixote requires of himself some arduous task in which he can redeem himself and regain his honor. Ultimately, Don Quixote refuses to present himself to Dulcinea until he has appropriately regained his honor. The group begins plotting a way to bring Don Quixote home, but Sancho Panza is kept in the dark because he is too loyal to Don Quixote to agree to deception. Hence, even Sancho Panza is fooled into believing that Dorotea is actually a Princess who goes by the name of Micomicona. Her official title is "the mighty Princess Micomicona, queen of the great kingdom of Micomicon in Ethiopia."
Coincidentally, Princess Micomicona is need of the services of just such a knight as Don Quixote, to "kill a great lubberly giant." The giant has chased the Princess away, but with Don Quixote's help, she might be restored to her kingdom. Two promises are extracted from the knight: first, that he will agree to assist the Princess and second, that he will decline to accept any other missions until he has fulfilled this one. Sancho Panza is worried that he will become governor of a territory in Micomicon and this displeases him because his subjects will be black Africans. After the Princess has won Don Quixote's assent, the priest approaches Don Quixote but Quixote does not seem recognize his good friend. The priest complains that he has been robbed by an escaped convict. This worries Sancho Panza because he is aware of Don Quixote's guilt in this matter.
Here we find females who resist idealization and the nonsense of chivalry. Lucinda, like Marcela (the shepherdess in Chapter 14) refuses to play a "Juliet" role. Though Lucinda is romantically involved, she is practical and decidedly non-suicidal. Dorotea is supposedly in need of rescue but in the end, she assists in the deception of Don Quixote. Dorotea helps rescue Don Quixote by pretending that she needs assistance.
As in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the characters' storytelling becomes part of the narrative structure. Here, the novel's plot is interrupted by Cardenio's story of his relationship with Lucinda. Aspects of the inner (Cardenio) and outer (Quixote) stories are similar. The refusal to come home, for example, is a motif that punctuates both Cardenio and Quixote's life.
In terms of narrative structure, we get a story within the story within a story, when Don Fernando and Lucinda begin plotting and story-telling. Coincidence plays an incredibly overbearing role in the story about Cardenio, contributing to parody and plot. Cervantes mocks this convention, but he uses it anyway. The plausibility of the narrative is tested by the storytelling process itself. One of the characters recounts a love letter that was exchanged, and he repeats the text verbatim: "He said he remembered it perfectly well." But how well do we trust a fictional character? Even the "author" is a character in this novel, with Cervantes constantly at odds with the Arab interpreter of the work, Cid Hamet Ben Engeli. Chapter 27 marks the end of Cid Hamet's 3rd part. Even if the characters are telling the truth, Cid Hamet Ben Engeli might be lying.
As characters of the modern novel, these men and women engage in strategy, cooperation, vengeance. As if a combination of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, Cervantes actually prefigured both writers in crossing the "novel of strategy" with the "comedy of errors." The logistics of romantic warfare (as in Austen) are derailed by the often comedic misfortunes of day-to-day life (as in Dickens). By chapter 29, there is clearly a hierarchy among the characters: we can divide them into the storytellers and the deceived. Storytelling and deceit become the strategy of the successful. The deceived and deluded characters stumble through life and love, providing comic entertainment for the reader. In Cardenio and Don Quixote's friends, we see the theme of deception in terms of abused trust. This foreshadows violations of trust that are still to come. Both in Cardenio's story and in Don Quixote's travails, we see masks, shields and transvestitism are the props and devices of dramatic comedy, modes of deception that are sturdy enough for 'strategy' but flimsy enough for 'comedy.'
In Book II, Don Quixote comments on Book I (which has already been published, though the knight has not read it) suggesting that the focus on minor characters was gratuitous and unnecessary. Plenty of literary critics have agreed. What remains significant is the fact that the novel's primary mode of characterization is the successive introduction of new characters. The main character, Don Quixote, is not developed in the latter half of Book I. In fact, Don Quixote is often off-stage, and while on stage he varies little. Don Quixote shocks us with his actions, but his character does not surprise us.
Delusion might be considered as a form of psychological escape from reality. In these chapters, nostalgia is treated as another theme representing "escape." For Cardenio, Memory is cursed as "mortal enemy of my repose" because the past is a personal tragedy. Cervantes juxtaposes grief-stricken Cardenio with Don Quixote, who poses in grief. Don Quixote does not truly suffer the memory of lost love. As a parallel to "memory," Don Quixote remembers his booksand this becomes nostalgia for the medieval era, an era that the knight has never seen. The medieval period was more welcoming of the chivalric ideals. Still, the reader should be clear on the fact that the knight-errant was a literary trope. This aspect of culture was celebrated by a very small group of people and was never the political reality of a society. Not knights-errant but rogue thieves roamed and prowled the unpaved highways and fringes of medieval European town life.