Summary and Analysis
Realizing that Don Quixote is preparing for a third sally, his niece Antonia pleads passionately for him to stay home and not engage in such extravagant activities. "You know so much," she cries, "and yet are so grossly blind of understanding as to fancy a man of your years and infirmity can be strong and valiant . . . and yet what's more odd, that you are a knight, and 'tis well known that poor gentlemen are none." Don Quixote refutes these commonplace, all-too-sensible arguments. "That a young baggage, who scarce knows her bobbins from a bodkin should presume to put in her oar," he begins angrily, and then explains, eloquently and kindly, the character and duties of those professing knight-errantry. It is not necessary to be highborn to have endowments of fine character, pleasant disposition, and bravery, he says. When Sancho arrives, he and Don Quixote closet themselves to make their plans privately.
The niece expresses the universal social realities: A man must stay home and keep his responsibilities confined to his domestic life. Narrow domestication is the basis, not only for family stability, but for mediocrity, and men who wish for glory and immortality creativity and freedom, that is must oppose themselves to these restrictions and profess some form of knight-errantry. Perhaps the niece's voice is an echo of Cervantes' personal troubles, for he tried for long, frustrated years to provide for his own household of women, who doubtless never understood his own quixotic temperament as he labored at unsuccessful manuscripts and never achieved reward for his brave sacrifices for Spain.