Don Quixote Book II

Don Quixote Book II Summary and Analysis of Book II, Chapters 34-39

Book II: Chapter XXXIV - Chapter XXXIX Summaries

Chapter XXXIV

The duke and duchess enjoy the stories that Don Quixote and Sancho Panza share with them. The two nobles decide to go on a boar hunt and the knight and squire come along. Sancho is terribly frightened by the boards and he climbs into a tree. The duke makes the argument that Sancho will be a better governor if he learns how to hunt and use weapons. As the duke explains: "Hunting is an image of war."

The boar-hunt is interrupted by the loud sounds of drum-beats, trumpets and Arabic battle cries. The duke pretends to be astonished and the duchess pretends to b frightened. A "post-boy" dressed up like the devil rides up to the group, announces that he is the devil and claims to be looking for Don Quixote. Montesinos has sent the devil to Don Quixote, so that the devil can tell Don Quixote how Dulcinea might be disenchanted.

Chapter XXXV

A number of wagons continue behind the devil, amidst the din of Moorish war cries (called Lelilies). The performance is as follows: each wagon passes before Don Quixote, then pauses. A "sage" exists, introduces himself by name, gets back into the cart, then leaves. The sages are "Lirgandeo," "Alquife, the great friend to Urganda the Unknown;" and "Arcalaus the Enchanter, mortal enemy of Amadis de Gaul and all his kindred."

A large carriage follows the enchanters. A woman is wearing many veils and next to her is an old man wearing a death mask. This man is Merlin and he gives a speech addressed to Don Quixote. The speech consists of 38 lines of verse in which Merlin announces that the woman inside the carriage is the enchanted Dulcinea in her "metamorphos'd form." In order for Dulcinea to be enchanted, Sancho has to be whipped upon his bare buttocks 3300 times. Hearing this, Sancho says that Dulcinea will die in her ugly and enchanted form, because he will not be whipped. Don Quixote then says that he will tie Sancho Panza to a tree and whip Sancho himself. At this, Merlin interjects that the 3300 lashes must be voluntarily self-inflicted. Sancho Panza reiterates his refusal, at which point, Dulcinea herself pleads for Sancho's mercy. Sancho Panza ultimately capitulates but he says that he will dot he whipping a little bit at a time and only when he feels like it. Both the duke and duchess commend Sancho Panza for his brave self-sacrifice.

Chapter XXXVI

Later in the day, the duchess speaks with Sancho to see whether he has begun his lashes. Instead, Sancho has spent the time writing a letter to his wife, Teresa. (Sancho is illiterate and so, the letter has been transcribed by someone else). In the letter, Sancho explains the nature of the injuries he is to suffer and Sancho also announces to his wife that he is being made Governor of an isle. The letter is dated the 20th of July, 1614, which is the first instance in which Cervantes tells us "when" the story takes place.

Sancho's letter is surprisingly lyrical and Don Quixote is particularly enthralled by the letter's "confused, martial, and doleful harmony." While Sancho is not particularly excited about governing, he is heartened by the knowledge that government service will make him "rich and happy."

The castle receives a visitor named Trifaldin of the White Beard, the squire to the Countess Trifaldi (who is known in more recent times as The Afflicted Matron). The Countess Trifaldi has heard that "the valorous and invincible Don Quixote de la Mancha" is at the duke's castle. Accordingly, the Countess has sent Trifaldin because she is in desperate need of the knight-errant's assistance.

Chapter XXXVII

Sancho Panza is concerned at the sudden change of events. Particularly, he has had poor luck and tense relations with matrons and duennas. Sancho Panza fears that somehow, Don Quixote's involvement with the Countess Trifaldi will cause Sancho to lose his governor's seat. Don Quixote disregards Sancho's comments on Trifaldi and encourages the squire not to meddle in knight's affairs.

Trifaldi is a name that means "3 skirts" (faldas) referring to the Countess' habit of dress. The Afflicted Matron arrives at the duke's castle escorted by twelve of her own duennas. She immediately finds Don Quixote and pays him homage by falling to her knees. Only when Don Quixote pledges to assist her does she get up from the floor. The Countess Trifaldi makes sure to procure Don Quixote's promise of assistance before she actually tells him the nature of her misfortune.


The Countess' story rambles: She served as a duenna for a princess. The princess loved a knight and the Countess facilitated their relationship - a relationship that culminated in pregnancy and a hasty wedding to the knight, Don Clavijo.

Chapter XXXIX

The princess' mother was mortified by the course of events and she went to court to oppose the marriage. When this failed, she went home, mourned, and died of grief within three days. The mother's cousin is the evil enchanter-giant named Malambruno. Malumbruno avenged his cousin's death by turning the princess and knight into statuesque ornaments to decorate the mother's sepulcher. The princess is now a brass monkey and the knight is now a crocodile made of "an unknown metal." The giant has left a metal plate at the grave site indicating that the monkey and crocodile will remain as they are until the brave hero of La Mancha battles the giant. The countess and her duennas have also been cursed with hideous and permanent beards, to punish them for assisting the princess.


The hunt motif illustrates the relationship that the duke and duchess share with the people around them. The boar-hunt is a leisure activity that truly parallels the game that the duke and duchess play with Don Quixote. Traps are deliberately set; the animal is tortured and wounded - but not killed. Indeed, Don Quixote has been locked in a cage before. Here, the cage is the castle of the duke.

Of course, Don Quixote is so easy to hunt and cage because he has been caged and imprisoned by his own delusions. Don Quixote's delusions compose a system of images and symbols that have true meaning for him (for example: INN = CASTLE; Stranger-on-the-road = Next adventure; Distressed lover = comrade; WINDMILL = GIANT; SHEEP = WARRIORS). The logical system of Don Quixote's delusions is made so evident here in Book II by the fact that the duke and duchess know precisely how to deceive Quixote. The carts that roll by are full of demons, much as Don Quixote has come to expect. And the duke and duchess, though they have just learned of Montesinos, do not hesitate to incorporate Montesinos and his "prophecies" into their story.

An irony in this section, then, is the fact that Quixote is both deluded and deceived. We would expect that if delusion is a form of self-deception, one cannot be deluded and deceived at the same time and by the same details. As it turns out, Don Quixote remains within his own "enchantment" and from within this enchantment, he works to "disenchant" Dulcinea: a woman who neither suffers enchantment nor even exists.

These devils and sages are merely costumed actors, like the other cart-wagon of devils that Quixote encountered earlier. The performance is full of signifiers that are intended to explain the identity of the actors. The devil is dressed as himself ( as we know what he looks like) and when the page-boy's Catholicism accidentally peeks through (in phrases like "Before God, and upon my conscience), Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are no less convinced that this devil isn't a devil at all. Likewise, the sages need merely announce their terrible names and say no more, allowing the drama of the scene to convince the audience of their (the actors') authenticity. Of course, Don Quixote isn't the toughest audience: recall his episode at Master Peter's puppet show in Book II, Chapter XXVI.

Don Quixote's purported "valor" is constructed as a parallel to the service that a saint or holy healer might perform. Trifaldi has already commenced a pilgrimage "on foot" to see Don Quixote from whom she seeks a miracle.

Foreshadowing Sancho Panza's incipient rule as governor, the story of the Countess Trifaldi continues the themes of nobility, natural rule and social hierarchy. Apparently, Trifaldi is both a countess and a duenna, which is essentially a maid-servant. Don Quixote argues that a Countess is a Countess, even if she serves as a duenna, for then she serves as a duenna to a social superior like a queen or empress. Moreover, the Countess surely has duennas in her own house.

There is a note of tragedy in the words of Doña Rodriguez, the duchess' servant. Commenting on the rigid social order and the lack of social mobility, Doña Rodriguez quietly says: "My lady duchess has duennas in her service, who might have been countesses, if fortune had pleased." The tragedy here is that the duchess, a wicked ruler, has been blessed by fortune. Besides this, Doña Rodriguez has no prospects of her own. Fortune and the entitlements of birth are certainly part of a society's idea of justice. The discussion of duennas is part of the prelude to Sancho's governorship - which will not be endangered by the Afflicted Matron.

The themes of translation and textual accuracy return when we learn that Malumbruno has placed a metal plate at the grave site. The plate was engraved in Syrian, translated first into the Candayan language, and then into Castilian.

As a parallel to his advocacy for Quiteria and Basilius, Don Quixote here again defends the rights of lovers. Don Quixote's adventures now center on the idea of undoing the unnatural reversals committed by evil, fate, and enchanters. The Countess, though debased as a duenna, may be elevated to higher honor. The brass monkey and crocodile can be "disenchanted" into their natural forms (princess, knight). At the same time, Don Quixote is unperturbed by his sudden transformation into a recognizable knight of renown or Sancho's transformation into a governor.