Summary and Analysis
Part 1: Chapter XXXV
At this point in the curate's reading, Sancho rushes in. "Help, help!" he yells, "My master is fighting with the giant, that foe of Princess Micomicona." The innkeeper and the rest discover Don Quixote in his room, wearing only a shirt and nightcap. Fast asleep, he has hacked the wineskins to pieces, considering them in his fevered dreams to be parts of a conquered giant. Don Quixote is put back to bed while the landlord rages over his spilled wine. The curate reads on.
Eventually the indiscretion of Leonela shatters the paradise in which illusive state Anselmo and Camilla and Lothario frolic. Anselmo goes one night to investigate a noise coming from the maid's room. At his entry, a strange man leaps from the window and runs off. Leonela promises her angry master that she will explain everything if he waits until morning, and Anselmo complies. Camilla, hearing of the incident and fearing that the maid will disclose everything, hastens to Lothario and begs him to find a haven for her. After conveying Camilla to a nunnery, Lothario enlists in the army. Meanwhile, Anselmo, rising at dawn, discovers that Leonela has fled. After finding his wife and best friend gone as well, he unhappily leaves his home, and from the gossip of a passing townsman learns the whole truth of his cuckolding. So melancholy does he become that Anselmo prepares himself for death. His last words are in writing: "a foolish and ill-advised curiosity has robbed me of my life." Lothario is slain in battle soon afterward, and Camilla dies a few months later.
The novella of the "Man too Curious for His Own Good" (entitled according to Putnam's translation of Don Quixote) has been a controversial subject among critics. Many argue that the story has no place in the novel as a whole; many consider it integral. Cervantes himself writes in Part Two of Don Quixote that he has been criticized for inserting many extraneous stories in his history of the renowned knight, and he does not repeat this device when he writes the second part.
The story of the Curious Impertinent tells of a man who depends entirely on tested experience as a way to determine truth. Anselmo is so persistent in demanding proof of his wife's virtue that he succeeds, despite his deepest desires, in making her unfaithful. Don Quixote, on the other hand, would never submit his ideals to a test of the senses. He knows that an attitude of "seeing is believing" uncovers, not truths, but lies, and the experience of Anselmo illustrates this point. Once blessed with a virtuous wife and loyal friend, the unfortunate cuckold dies, a victim to a faith that could not free itself from depending on tangible proofs.
Besides posing and solving an interesting problem, the story also serves as a point of comparison between the flesh-and-blood creations of the knight and squire and these cardboard figures in the curate's manuscript. When Sancho interrupts the reading, we are made to feel that reality has now intruded upon a fictional situation even though we discover Don Quixote in the middle of a fantastic and ridiculous battle against some wineskins. Thus after the formal, stylized narrative of the lives of Lothario, Camilla, and Anselmo is completed, the reader can, with refreshed understanding, follow the more complex, unpredictable adventures of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.