Don Quixote By Miguel de Cervantes Summary and Analysis Part 1: Chapter III-IV

Summary

Don Quixote's great problem is to get himself dubbed a knight, preferably by some powerful lord in a castle. He begs this boon of his landlord, a sharp man who has himself read many books of chivalry and who also knows that one must humor a madman's fantasies. The innkeeper agrees to perform the ceremony at dawn, and Don Quixote goes about the ritual of watching his arms and meditating throughout the night. He sets his weapons in a horse trough, and when a carrier approaches to water his mules, after laying aside the sacred armor, Don Quixote rushes to attack the poor man. As soon as the fancied enemy is dispatched, another carrier approaches to water his animals, and he too is laid low next to his companion. Don Quixote now fancies that the place is infested with his enemies, and he prepares to defend himself against anyone who approaches. The clever innkeeper wishes only to preserve the peace of his courtyard and begs the knight to make ready for the dubbing "two hours watch is all that is needed" which he accomplishes after the manner described in books of chivalry.

The newly dubbed knight leaves the inn at dawn in search of adventure. The first injustice he comes across concerns the plight of a young apprentice tied to a tree. The master is whipping the boy with great determination. Don Quixote thunders his chivalrous challenge, and the countryman, with great humility, explains himself to the knight. "This boy," he says, "Whom I hire to guard my flocks is so heedless that he loses some sheep every day. When I scold him he says I am angry because I do not want to pay his wages. He belies me."

"What! The lie in my presence!" the knight exclaims. "You scoundrel! Untie this tender youth and pay him all that you owe. Then let him go free. If you do not pay him fairly, I shall return to settle with you once and for all." The countryman promises, and the self-righteous knight continues proudly down the road, pleased to have redressed a serious grievance. As soon as Rosinante and his rider disappear from sight, the angry master lashes the boy to the tree once more, and again and again gives him "what he owes and more besides!" with a heavy strap.

As the brave knight rides in search of more adventure, he breathes a brief dedication to his mistress, the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso. In this mood Don Quixote stops a group of merchants. "No man continue further," he cries, lance couched threateningly, "unless he acknowledge that no lady is more perfect or more beautiful than the Empress of La Mancha, the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso." Naturally, the men perceive that he is mad, and one of them asks Don Quixote for a bit of portraiture of the lady so they can honestly assess her charms. Angered at the doubt, Don Quixote charges the man, but Rosinante stumbles, and his thrown rider rolls over and over on the ground. At this opportunity, one of the muleteers takes up the broken lance and begins to beat the hapless knight until he wearies his arm. Too bruised to get up, Don Quixote can only watch the caravan as it disappears down the road.

Analysis

The adventure with poor Andrew is one incident not the last where the Don's meddlesomeness results in the undoing of those he would wish to help. Critics infer from this adventure that Cervantes wishes to show the futility of impetuously intruding into people's lives without considering all facets of the situation. Don Quixote's intrusions stem from his will to impose his faith on everyday situations. As he is certain that the rich countryman will faithfully remunerate his servant because he has promised to do so, his job as a knight-errant is finished. This same faith impels Don Quixote to challenge the silk merchants in order to force them to acknowledge a pure abstraction, the perfection of his ideal mistress Dulcinea. Traders, however, used to bargaining and haggling, do so even in matters of faith. The spokesman asks for a bit of portraiture "though it were no bigger than a grain of wheat," a blasphemy which deserves instant punishment. Don Quixote gets beaten, however, not only by the unconvinced merchants, but by an ignorant muleteer. Here Cervantes shows that although the basic beliefs of common men are tenets of faith, yet their imaginations are so circumscribed that they cannot admit any other faith. Don Quixote, on the other hand, is prepared to defend not only his own faith and sense of truth, but that of others as well. This will be shown in future adventures.

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