Book I: Chapter 33-Chapter 35 Summaries
Chapters 33, 34, and 35 consist of the story that the priest reads to the group: "The Novel of the Curious Impertinent." The story takes place in Florence, Italy and largely involves two friends named Lothario and Anselmo. Anselmo is married to Camilla and, for no good reason, Anselmo decides to test Camilla's fidelity. When Anselmo insists that Lothario help him, Lothario says that "the enterprise itself is downright madness." Anselmo wants Lothario to attempt to seduce Camilla, to see whether or not she will succumb to the advances of another man. Lothario finally agrees, and he soon returns to Anselmo, telling him that Camilla has remained faithful.
Not much later, Anselmo finds out that Lothario has been lying: Lothario never attempted to seduce Camilla. Anselmo then makes Lothario pledge to make good on his promise to seduce Camilla. Anselmo leaves town to make the seduction easier, and Camilla soon writes letters urging him to return. Lothario has truly fallen in love with Camilla; in her letters, Camilla warns Anselmo that Lothario is trying to seduce her. Camilla does not realize that Anselmo is aware of Lothario's advances. Anselmo does not realize that Lothario is truly in love with Camilla.
Because Anselmo does not return, Camilla grows weary under pressure and she falls in love with Lothario. The two continue their affair when Anselmo returns home. In part, this is easier because Camilla's servant, Leonela, keeps Camilla's secret.
Complications arise because Leonela has a secret lover of her own. One day, Lothario sees Leonela's lover exiting Camilla's house just as he is arriving. Lothario concludes that Camilla has found yet another lover. Lothario then tells Camilla's husband, Anselmo, that he has finally seduced Camilla. Lothario gives Anselmo a time and place where Anselmo will see Lothario seduce Camilla; then, Anselmo can judge the situation on his own. Anselmo is now distraught.
Later in the day, when Lothario and Camilla meet, Camilla discloses Leonela's secret lover. Lothario then realizes his jealous error and he confesses everything to Camilla. Camilla and Lothario then create a plan to be rid of Anselmo, once and for all. When Camilla and Lothario meet, Camilla pretends that she does not know that Anselmo is watching. When the time comes for her to kiss Lothario, Camilla states that she would rather die than commit infidelity, though she does love Lothario.
Camilla eloquently states "since fortune denies a complete satisfaction to my just desires, it shall not, however, be in its power to defeat that satisfaction entirely." Camilla then struggles to keep her dagger away from Lothario and ultimately, she stabs herself in the chest and falls to the ground.
Lothario is immediately shocked because Camilla was only to pretend to stab herself, but when he looks closely he sees that Camilla has only wounded herself slightly. Lothario then begins to grieve loudly and with Leonela's help, he carries Camilla's body away. Anselmo is now convinced of Camilla's honesty. As a result, Camilla is able to continue her affair once she recovers from her minor stab wound.
Sancho Panza interrupts the story to announce that Don Quixote has just killed the giant. This is madness and the group fears the worst, when they enter Quixote's room. Quixote is thrashing in his sleep and what Sancho thought to be the giant's head is actually a set of valuable wineskins owned by the innkeeper. Don Quixote's has destroyed them while thrashing because of his violent dream. The characters return to the common room, where the priest concludes 'The Novel of the Curious Impertinent.' In the last section of the story, Anselmo suffers for his excessive curiosity.
Leonela's lover accidentally reveals himself and Anselmo confronts Leonela. Leonela fears that Anselmo is going to kill her and so she says that she has a valuable secret to disclose to him the next day. Anselmo recounts the incident to Camillaand Camilla fears that Leonela will disclose her (Camilla's) affair with Lothario. With few options before them, Lothario and Camilla run away that very night. Unsurprisingly, Leonela runs away the next day. Anselmo searches for all three of them in vain, and accidentally discovers (from a stranger) that Camilla and Lothario have been deceiving him for some time. Anselmo begins writing an account of his own sad story, but Anselmo's sadness is so profound that he actually dies before he finishes writing his account.
The 'Novel of the Curious Impertinent' starts a discussion on the merits of the story. The priest is very well read and everyone listens to his critique of the story. In the end, he decides that he likes "the manner" in which the story was written, though he sees Anselmo as an implausibly, unrealistically naïve and idiotic character.
The aesthetic argument made by the priest is that the manner in which the story is told is more important than the content's probability. Certainly, this is true for Don Quixote. Is Don Quixote a "more accurate" novel because the priest's narrated story includes the text of the letter? The Priest's narrated story starts in Chapter 33 and continues at the start of Chapter 34 without interruption. Ultimately, the narrative structure combines Don Quixote's story with Anselmo's. The "Conclusion of the Novel of the Curious Impertinent" is integrated with Don Quixote's "battle."
The battle is a critical moment but not the climax. If the characters of Don Quixote stray too far, the novel becomes discredited not realistic. The novel's characters can create the most far-fetched and outrageous characters for their storiesand so, they will seem more realistic by contrast. Don Quixote battles in his sleep not in his delusion. It is Sancho Panza who has misperceived, mistaking some wineskins to be a giant's head. It seems that Don Quixote has contaminated Sancho Panza and the very fact of Quixote's madness being contagious justified the book-burning in the early chapters.
Don Quixote expresses paternalism in his over-protection of women and his domination of Sancho Panza. The Priest's story alludes to Eve as "woman is an imperfect creature, and that one should not lay stumbling-blocks" before her. This story provides a foundation for paternalism. Ironically, Don Quixote is in no position to function in the paternalistic mode, as paternalism is reversed upon Quixote himself. Because Quixote is "an imperfect creature," his books have been removed and his friends now surround him. The weak need to be protectedand Don Quixote is weak.
In exchange for the common sense of common people, Sancho Panza is adopting "the absurdities of master and man." Sancho grieves "my earldom will melt away like salt in water" and the irony of logic recalls Dorotea's error and Quixote's correction "Friston." Sancho never had an earldom. His earldom is as secure as it never was. Because of Quixote's dream, Sancho's dream has become a less durable fictionbut it is still no less a fantasy.
Lothario resembles Don Quixote's friends and just as we read in the previous stories within the story, the theme of deception continues to loom. Don Quixote and Anselmo are both tempting fate and looking for trouble. Often, the distance between the story and the story-within is used to create a foil, a character whose contrasts to the main character offer more clarity and distinction to the main character. Here, Anselmo is not a foil for Quixote; he is a parallel, a co-definer. We realize that Quixote is also a "curious impertinent." Both men become rejected outsiders; Quixote will suffer sadness and confusion just as Anselmo has. Both men adhere to a strict and private ideology. Their ideas are different from the ideas held by their friends. As ideological purists, these men are too stubborn to enjoy positive, meaningful social interactions.