Summary and Analysis
After traveling three days with Roque and his band, Don Quixote and Sancho take fond leave of the bandits right outside Barcelona. A tumultuous greeting by a group of horsemen welcomes the arrivals to the town. The gentleman who received Roque's letter shouts out, "Welcome valorous Don Quixote de La Mancha, not the counterfeit and apocryphal shown us lately by false histories, but the true, legitimate, and identick he, described by Cid Hamet, the flower of historiographers." Thus the knight and squire, surrounded by admiring townspeople, make a grand entry into Barcelona and are conducted to the house of their host, Don Antonio Moreno.
Don Antonio plans a jest at Don Quixote's expense. He draws the knight into a room containing only a table, set with a bronze bust. "This head," whispers Don Antonio, "Is manufactured by one of the greatest necromancers in the world. It has the ability to answer all questions put to it." He promises that Don Quixote shall see for himself the virtues of this head on the following day. Meanwhile, he takes his guest on a tour of Barcelona, pinning to his back a sign which says, "This is Don Quixote de La Mancha." Everyone they pass repeats the words of the sign, and the knight marvels that his fame is so widespread. That evening, Don Antonio's wife honors her guest with a ball. So many ladies dance with the valorous knight that he finally sinks with fatigue right in the middle of the dance floor and has to be carried to bed with Sancho's help. His dancing, as well as his peculiar exit, has afforded everyone at the ball immense entertainment. The next day, the magical head performs, answering all questions put to it, though providing minimal information each time. The author now discovers for the reader the source of the head's powers. Through a tin pipe connected to the room below, Cid Hamet explains, the voice of Don Antonio's nephew is piped through the hollow table legs and hollow breast and head of the bronze bust.
After this diversion, Don Quixote takes a walking tour through the city. Delighted to discover a printing house, he investigates the entire plant, receiving explanations from the workmen on its operation. This occasion, furthermore, gives Cervantes (through the words of Don Quixote) an opportunity to expound the ruthless practices of booksellers, publishers, and printers.
The torments endured by Don Quixote in Barcelona exceed those he suffered at the ducal castle. Paraded through the streets with a sign on his back so that passersby can gape at him, and then forced to dance for the idle amusement of spectators until utterly exhausted, represents the saddest ignominy that he has thus far suffered. Cervantes also shows in these incidents that city life is more of a source of decadence and mockery than country life.