Summary and Analysis
Darkness coming upon them, Sancho cannot see where he is going, and he and Dapple tumble into a deep pit. Discovering a narrow passageway, Sancho and his ass walk further into the cave. The squire remarks how delighted Don Quixote would be in this same situation: "He would look upon these caves and dungeons as lovely gardens, and glorious palaces, and hope to be led out of these dark narrow cells into some fine meadow." Meanwhile, Don Quixote, exercising Rosinante in preparation for the joust, almost falls in the same pit when the horse stumbles. Believing finally that the cries and brays of man and beast from the cave are not voices from purgatory, the knight returns to the castle for help. Restored to the upper ground, Sancho is delighted to be reunited with his master.
The use of a pit as a symbolic device, suggesting death and birth, end and beginning, deserves some discussion. That part of Sancho which is mercenary, power-hungry, and small-minded has died, while the uncovetous, contented, and faithful squire has emerged refreshed and reborn from the pit. Escaping from the cave the "dungeon" Sancho discovers his real freedom, which is not to rule an island but to serve Don Quixote. Only through his master can he glimpse idealistically, for Sancho can see no visions in a cave and can partake of imaginative words only if Don Quixote shows them to him. Cervantes furthermore uses this device of a pit to show the reader that the series of adventures with the duke and duchess is all but terminated, and that the knight and squire, firmly united, will go on to new encounters.