Sancho, who, with the help of a scribe, has just written to his wife, shows the letter to the duchess. In the style of Sancho himself, the letter tells Teresa that her husband is a governor and that he is obliged to disenchant Dulcinea by lashing himself three thousand three hundred times. The duchess inquires if Sancho has begun the task. Yes, he says, for I've slapped myself with my hand five times this morning. After dinner is over, Sancho having dominated the entire conversation, the company hears sounds of fife and muffled drums. A huge man in black livery, with pages attending him, steps into the courtyard and introduces himself as the squire to the Countess Trifaldi, known as the Disconsolate Matron. His mistress has traveled a great distance to seek Don Quixote. The knight steps forward and declares that the lady shall be redressed by "the force of my arm, the intrepid resolution of my soul."
Sancho is not pleased about this new adventure, for he fears that serving an old waiting-woman is a source of bad luck. The duchess reassures him that Countess Trifaldi is waiting-woman to a sovereign. At this, the duchess's own waiting-woman, Donna Rodriguez, speaks up in defense of her colleagues, and she and Sancho debate until the duchess begs them to continue at a fitter time.
The lady Trifaldi stands before Don Quixote, her face covered with a heavy veil; twelve heavily-veiled waiting-women attend her. Her native land, she says, is the kingdom of Candaya, and her personal charge has been the care and education of the heiress to the crown, Princess Antonomasia. At the age of fourteen, the beautiful girl was courted by many foreign princes, but she favored a young knight, Don Clavijo. Melting the heart of the guardian Trifaldi, the handsome lover gained access to the princess' chambers, and when it was found that Antonomasia was pregnant, the happy couple were married at once.
When she heard of the unequal match, the poor queen mother died, and the daughter and Don Clavijo accompanied the body to its grave. Suddenly Malambruno the giant, cousin to the queen, appeared at the grave, mounted on a wooden horse. In revenge, he changed the princess and her lover into statues, placing a plaque between them which said that these presumptuous lovers would remain enchanted until Don Quixote de La Mancha engaged in single combat with the giant. Inflicting a lasting mortification on Trifaldi, the giant planted a beard on her face and on the faces of all her women. At this, the countess and all her attendants tear off their veils, shocking Sancho and Don Quixote by the sight of their bearded visages.
Don Quixote repeats his vow to aid the distressed ladies. Trifaldi says that Malambruno will send his wooden horse, Clavileno, which flies in the air and is guided by a wooden peg in its forehead. Sancho swears that he will not suffer the discomfort of straddling a wooden steed, nor engage in such a dangerous expedition. Trifaldi begs him with tears.