A laborer discovers Don Quixote collapsed beside the road and brings him home on his mule. Don Quixote recites chivalric verse, drawing parallels between his troubles and those experienced by great knights in his favorite books. In an attempt to preserve the gentleman’s dignity, the laborer waits overnight before bringing Don Quixote into the town. However, Don Quixote’s friends, the priest and the barber, are at his residence. They have just decided to examine the gentleman’s books when the laborer arrives with Don Quixote. Don Quixote is received by the family, and he is fed and sent to bed.
Beginning an inquisition of sorts, the priest and the barber examine Don Quixote’s library, wishing to burn the books of chivalry. While the housekeeper thinks they should only exorcise the books of evil spirits with holy water, Don Quixote’s niece insists on destroying them with fire. The priest declares that he will examine the title of each book before resigning it to fire. He is familiar with many of the stories contained in them, and he decides to save numerous books out of admiration for their style or rarity. He thinks that they should save all of the poetry but Don Quixote’s niece refuses to allow this, explaining her fear that her uncle could decide to become a poet, which would be even more ridiculous than being a knight-errant.
A book by Cervantes is discovered by the priest. He says that the author is a friend of his, and that Cervantes’s books contain intriguing ideas but are never able to fulfill their potential. He opts to keep the novel, in the expectation that the sequel promised by the author will one day be published.
When Don Quixote wakes up, he is still delusional. When he interrupts the priest and barber, he finds that they have walled up the library’s entrance. They tell Don Quixote that all of his books and the library itself have been stolen by an enchanter. The housekeeper burns all the books that very night. Two days after this, when Don Quixote searches for his books, his niece explains that an enchanter and dragon arrived on a cloud, and that they took his books because they were angry with Don Quixote. She says they left the house full of smoke. Don Quixote does not question her assertions, and he explains that the enchanter must be his archrival. He declares that this archrival knows that Don Quixote has the ability to defeat his favorite knight.
Don Quixote’s niece pleads with him to call an end to his quest, but he stoutly refuses. He tells Sancho Panza, an illiterate laborer, that he will appoint him governor of an isle if Sancho will abandon his wife, Theresa, and his children to accompany him as his squire. Sancho undertakes to do this, and once he has acquired a donkey, he and Don Quixote depart from the village.
At the end of an eventful day, Don Quixote and Sancho find a field of windmills. Don Quixote thinks that the windmills are giants, and he fiercely charges at one of them. His lance gets stuck in the sail of the structure, causing him and his old horse, Rocinante, to be thrown to the ground. Don Quixote tells Sancho that it was the same enemy magician who took his library that transformed the giants into windmills at the last moment.
The two men continue on their journey, and Don Quixote declares to Sancho that knights-errant are forbidden from complaining of injury or hunger. He takes a tree branch to replace his lance, which was broken in his encounter with the windmill. When he and Sancho settle down to camp overnight, Don Quixote refuses to sleep. Instead, he stays awake all night, in honor of Dulcinea, his love.
The following day, Don Quixote and Sancho come across two monks as well as a carriage with a lady and her attendants. Don Quixote believes that the two religious men are enchanters who have kidnapped a princess. He attacks them, ignoring their many protests, as well as those of Sancho. One of the monks is knocked off his mule. Sancho believes that he is justified in taking spoils from his master’s battle, and he starts stealing the monk’s clothes. After Sancho is beaten off by the monks’ servants, the two monks depart.
Don Quixote instructs the lady to go to Toboso and find Dulcinea. He gets into a confrontation with one of her attendants, soon battling him. Cervantes’s description of his battle is very detailed. However, narration ends just before Don Quixote intends to deliver a mortal blow. Cervantes claims that the historical account that he is using for his story ends at this point.
Cervantes asserts that he was rather annoyed by this sudden break in the text of the history, as he believed that a knight such as Don Quixote deserves to have this story written by a great sage. He claims that he was attending a fair in Toledo, a Spanish city, when he saw a boy in the street, selling Arabic parchments. He engaged a Moor to read some of the stories to him. As the Moor started translating a line about Dulcinea, which said that she was “the best hand at salting pork of any woman in all La Mancha,” Cervantes brought the Moor to his home so that he could translate the entire parchment.
Cervantes conveys that the parchment presented the history of Don Quixote, which he says was written by someone called Cide Hamete Benengeli. From this point of the novel on, Cervantes posits that his work is a translation of this original story. The conclusion of the battle in the preceding chapter is where begins the second portion of the manuscript. Don Quixote’s ear is split by a powerful blow from the attendant, and he then knocks his attacker down and threatens to kill him. He decides to spare him when some ladies accompanying the man promise that the man will go to Dulcinea, to present himself.
After this, Sancho asks Don Quixote to appoint him governor of the island he thinks has been won in battle. Don Quixote tells him that he will be able to carry out his promise soon. Sancho then starts to fret that the authorities could pursue them for attacking the lady’s attendant. Don Quixote promise Sancho that knights are never sent to prison, as they are allowed to resort to violence in the name of justice.
Sancho offers to treat the gentleman’s bleeding ear. Don Quixote informs him about the Balsam of Fierbras, which he claims has the ability to cure any wound. He says that it is easy to make. Sancho comes up with the idea of making money for producing this balsam, but Don Quixote dislikes this suggestion. Don Quixote vows that he will have revenge when he sees the damage to his helmet, but Sancho points out that the attendant promised that he would present himself to Dulcinea. This makes Don Quixote take back his promise of revenge, and he swears that he will keep up a strict lifestyle until he is able to obtain a new helmet. The two men aren’t able to find any lodging, and they sleep under the sky. Don Quixote’s romantic sensibilities make him enjoy this experience, but Sancho doesn’t find it very pleasant.