Don Quixote
Miguel de Cervantes
Contributed by Jerrold Mcmenamin
1-Chapter V–X

Chapter V

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.

Chapter VI

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.

Chapter VII

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.

Chapter VIII

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.

Chapter IX

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.

Chapter X

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.


Sancho Panza is Don Quixote’s opposite in every way. He is simple and rustic in his manner, and he plays the part of a foil to the complex madness of his master. The author contrasts the two characters on some very fundamental levels. We see that Don Quixote is tall and gaunt in appearance, and that he goes without pleasures in pursuit of noble ideals. Sancho, on the other hand, is short and stout, and he has no problem finding all the happiness he needs in basic pleasures such as eating and drinking wine. Sancho is a simple laborer who prefers peace, and he leaves his family only because of Don Quixote’s promise that he would make him a governor. The violent idealism we see in Don Quixote puzzles Sancho, and the laborer constantly warns his master about the potential consequences of his actions. While Sancho accepts his master must fast as a knightly duty, he always eats when he’s hungry. Sancho doesn’t hesitate to complain when he’s hurt and he is amazed at Don Quixote’s ability to withstand suffering.  The reader’s perception of Don Quixote is informed by Sancho’s opinions of him, and we tend to sympathize with the confused Sancho as he reacts to his master in a manner that most of us would. It is through Sancho that we understand Don Quixote as a human being with a strangely admirable yet difficult view of life.

It is true, however, that it can be difficult to sympathize with Sancho because he allows himself to take part in his master’s imaginary world when it might benefit him to do so. For example, when they rob the monk, Sancho gives the impression he believes that he is only taking the spoils of war. He uses Don Quixote’s belief in a world of fantasy to benefit himself and his greed. This greed is incongruous with our idea of Sancho as a simple and harmless peasant.

While many of the book’s battle scenes seem rather mechanical and even tedious, there is genuine suspense in the battle between Don Quixote and the attendant. Different than the fight scene with the inn guests or the fight with windmills, there is graphic detail in this battle. While Don Quixote’s previous adversaries--which were only an innocent passerby, inanimate objects, and annoyed brutes—the attendant is enthusiastic in this attack of Don Quixote. This fact, along with his apparent skills, makes us concerned about how things will turn out.  The attendant is accepting of the myth Don Quixote sets up—that they are powerful enemies battling in the name of honor. This is why this conflict ends up having epic proportions for our main character, and the form of the fight emphasizes these proportions. We see the men spar verbally, select their weapons, and then engage. Once several blows have been struck, the battle ends when Don Quixote beats his opponent and compels him to submit and humiliate himself by presenting himself to Dulcinea.

The way Cervantes suddenly interrupts the narrative highlights the work’s deficiencies. By implication, this points to the weaknesses of other heroic tales. The author’s claim that he is telling a factual and historical story is undermines when he pauses the story because of a gap in what he claims is a true story. Cervantes appears to be demonstrating his scholarship by interrupting the story to credit its source; however, the source he sets out ends up being incomplete. One’s best interpretation could be that Don Quixote could be a translation, and not a translation by the author. This makes the novel have an even more mythical atmosphere. While myths certainly have a great deal of power for those who believe in them, they can easily be distorted when told by each individual storyteller. The author forces us to question the story’s validity in one of its most dramatic scenes, and this shows Cervantes’s implicit criticism of the authenticity and authorship of all heroic tales.

In Don Quixote’s famous attack of the windmills, we see evidence that he continues in living in a world of fantasy even when he is able to perceive reality for a moment. After Sancho states that the giants are just windmills, Don Quixote experiences a brief connection to reality. However, the gentleman immediately begins to make excuses, arguing that the enchanter has misled him. The extent to which Don Quixote has been deceived by his books of chivalry is seen in how he comes up with excuses even when reality stares him in the face. . All through the book, Cervantes examines the dangers involved in the over-enthusiastic pursuit of ideals. This is clear when we witness Don Quixote consistently making up stories to support a belief system that conflicts with reality.

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