Summary and Analysis
Part 2: Chapter XXVI
The puppet play, "Melisandra's Deliverance," is narrated by a young boy who interprets the action of the puppets and identifies the characters. At the point where the brave knight, Don Gayferos, gallops off with his wife, Melisandra, whom he has just freed from cruel imprisonment, and an angry horde of armed Moors chase him, Don Quixote decides he must aid the brave Christians. Swinging his sword, he hacks at all the Moorish puppets until they are completely dismembered. He cuts the strings and wires in his fury and barely misses slicing the head of the puppeteer himself. When Maestro Pedro laments his losses, Don Quixote slowly realizes his mistake and, cursing the necromancers for clouding his perspective, pays handsomely for each ruined puppet.
This suggestive incident of a puppet play underlines Cervantes' theme of relating truth and fantasy so that they are almost interchangeable. It is not difficult for Don Quixote to accept the adventure happening in the puppet play as a real incident, but he admits his mistake and offers to pay for the ruined puppets. Cervantes, creator of Don Quixote, also offers us a puppet play and intrudes the remarks of Cid Hamet Benengali's translator to enlarge the action of his stage, just as the boy narrates Maestro Pedro's little show. Like Don Quixote, the ideal reader of this history alternates moments of complete involvement with the novel to be then startled by an editorial chapter into a state of detachment. Cervantes, however, insists that his Quixote is a historic account, whereas Maestro Pedro admits that his characters are merely puppets. Thus Don Quixote's action can be interpreted as another incident where the intuitive knight hacks away at lies and deception, the very means of livelihood of rogues like Gines de Passamonte. However one interprets this incident of the puppets, the important point is to show the plastic relationship between reality and stagecraft. This is one of the outstanding themes of the novel and perhaps is one of the most important investigations in the entire Quixote.