Don Quixote
Miguel de Cervantes
Contributed by Jerrold Mcmenamin

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1-Chapter XXXVIII–XLV
Summary

Chapter XXXVIII

Don Quixote’s lecture expressing the view the knights are superior to scholars continues. The audience is impressed with his articulateness, but no one agrees that chivalry is more admirable than scholarship. The captive starts to convey the story of his imprisonment, as well as his rescue in Moorish lands.

Chapter XXXIX

The captive informs the group that he left home several years earlier. He did so after his father broke up the family estate and told his three sons they must leave home and take up different occupations. One was told to be a soldier, while the other two were ordered to be a priest and sailor. He delivers a long account of the wars in which he has participated. The captive says that he fought alongside Ferdinand’s brother, Don Pedro de Aguilar.

Chapter XL

The captive talks about his capture as well as his imprisonment in Algiers. He explains that one day he was on the prison’s roof when Zoraida, who had become infatuated with him from afar, dropped some money from a window for him. In addition to the money, she included a note saying that she had converted to Christianity and that explained she will give him financial assistance in order to escape, free her, marry her, and bring her to Spain. The captive used the money Zoraida gave him to ransom himself as well as a number of his fellow prisoners. He also bought a boat and arranged to free Zoraida from her father’s house.

Chapter XLI

The captive explains that he made his way into Zoraida’s father’s garden, found her, informed her of his plan to escape Algiers, and ultimately kidnapped her. Zoraida’s father woke up while the captive was in the process of doing this, so they took the father with him. They brought him on the ship and dropped him off in a location several miles away from the city. The captive and the people with him rowed for a number of days until they were robbed by French pirates. All of Zoraida’s riches are stolen. After they got to Spain, they decided baptize Zoraida and get married.

Chapter XLII

After the captive is finished telling his story, a judge called Licentiate Juan Perez de Viedma get to the inn. With him is Clara, his beautiful daughter. The captive recognizes that the judge, in fact, is his brother. The priest tests the judge to find out whether he still loves his brother, and is successful. The priest reunites the two men. That night, while everyone sleeps, a youth is heard singing a love ballad outside the inn. Cardenio goes into the women’s room to say they should listen.

Chapter XLIII

Dorothea disturbs a sleeping Clara so she can enjoy the singing, explaining that it is the most beautiful she has ever heard. Clara says that the singing lord is really a young lord who once lived with his father in the house beside her and the judge. Clara explains that he has disguised himself and followed her because he loves her. While she and the young lord have never heard one another speak, she loves him and hopes to marry him. Dorothea says that she will try to make arrangements for Clara to speak to him.

In the meantime, Don Quixote stands outside the inn as a guard. The innkeeper’s daughter and Maritornes, her maid, trick him into passing his hand through a window. After tying his hand to a door, they abandon him. The man is left for the night on Rocicante’s back, standing in his stirrups. When four horsemen arrive at the inn, they mock Don Quixote as they try to enter the building.

Chapter XLIV

Don Quixote makes a terrible noise, causing the innkeeper to come to find out what is going on. The horsemen are servants of Don Louis’s father. Don Louis is the young lord who is in love with Clara. When the four horsemen find Don Louis, they order him to accompany them home. He refuses. The judges privately asks Don Louis why he refuses to go home. In the meantime, two guests try to depart from the inn without paying, and the innkeeper gets into a fight with them. Don Quixote refrains from assisting the innkeeper, as he has sworn he will not take part in any new adventures until he has killed the giant who seized Dorothea’s kingdom.

Cervantes goes back to the conversation between the judge and Don Louis. Don Louis informs the judge of his love for Clara. He begs to be allowed to marry her, and the judge declares that he will think about the proposal. In the meantime, Don Quixote has used his eloquence to successfully convince the two guests to cease in their attack on the innkeeper. A barber, the very same one from whom Don Quixote earlier took a basin that he believed to be Mambrino’s helmet, appears at the inn. The barber sees Don Quixote and Sancho and accuses them of theft, but Sancho claims that Don Quixote took the basin as spoils of war after vanquishing the barber.

Chapter XLV

Instead of challenging Don Quixote and Sancho, the people at the inn play along with the idea that the basin is Mambrino’s helmet. A huge fight begins, but Don Quixote is finally able to end the brawl by getting the priest and the judge to help restore a sense of calm. The judge decides he will bring Don Louis to Andalusia together with him and Clara, and he informs the servants of his plan. A member of the Holy Brotherhood has been attracted to the scene by all the fighting. He realizes he has in his possession a warrant for the arrest of Don Quixote, for the freeing of the galley slaves. Don Quixote responds with laughter, railing at the foolishness of attempting the arrest of a knight-errant.

Analysis

The captive’s tale and the story of Don Louis and Clara show that at least some of Don Quixote’s contemporaries also have one of his own most insane characteristics: the constant romantic idealization of women they have no acquaintance with. With the sole exception of Dorothea, the women in the First Part of the novel are subservient and weak-willed. They rely completely on their husbands as masters. In this novel, men worship women for their chastity and beauty, but women are still only objects over which men drive themselves insane or fight. Even Dorothea herself, though, does humiliate and ingratiate herself in order to gain back Ferdinand’s affections, even though his feelings appear to be little more than lust. If a woman wants to rebel, she is compelled to dress as men and flee their homes. Even these young women, however, are maidens caught up in situations generally beyond their control. Zoraida can be distinguished as the only one who is an exception to this model, as she has a strong enough will to steal from her father and  run away from her home with the captive. She is a Moor, and so she can venture outside the conventional bounds of roles that govern the lives of women in Cervantes’s novel. We see this also in the character of Anna Felix in the Second Part. Nevertheless, Zoraida is never heard speaking. This muteness is symbolic of her lack of power. Therefore, while her religious passion and ethnicity make her unique and indicate that she could be a model for a new type of woman in the narrative, she is still fundamentally an object. She is a marginalized figure. Through the story of the captive and Zoraida, Cervantes gives a generally autobiographical account of his own life in captivity. Cervantes attempted an escape from captivity in Algiers three times before he was ultimately ransomed. The imaginative escape of the captive could be representative of one of Cervantes’s fantasies. The details of the account of the war in which the captive took part is only a soldier’s story of significant historical events, and nothing more than that. It has no relation to the events or characters of the novel, and in this way it stands out as being related more to the author’s life than to the story he is telling at this moment. 

Class distinctions are especially noticeable at the inn. Zoraida and the captive, who are both nobles who are believed to have the loftiest of intentions, are successful in their mad scheme to make their way back to Spain. The characters in lower social strata, however, become involved in a number of skirmishes. The innkeeper is compelled to fight with two guests over payment for lodgings. The traveling barber and Sancho get into an altercation about a harness. The innkeeper’s daughter’s wickedness stands in contrast with Clara’s goodness. Clara is daughter of the noble judge. This highlights the distinction in social status. Don Quixote upholds the standards of his day, believing in the virtues of aristocrats and frowning on the insolence of the poor. Sancho’s impertinence is unbearable to him, especially when it appears to impinge on the belief of his own nobility.

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