Don Quixote and Sancho make their way to the river Ebro, where they discover a fishing boat. Don Quixote sees the empty boat as a sign that he is meant to use it to help an imperiled knight. Sancho is dismayed as they tether Dapple and Rocinante to a tree and go off in the boat. They have not gotten very far when Don Quixote believes they have traveled two thousand miles. The boat gets to some mills, where the two men nearly die. Several of the millers save them in spite of Don Quixote’s curses. He thinks that the millers have a knight-errant trapped in their mill, which he refers to as a castle. The owner of the boat, a fisherman, arrives. Don Quixote gives him money.
While in the woods, Sancho and Don Quixote come across a Duchess hunting alongside a Duke. Don Quixote has Sancho go to speak with the Duchess. The lady receives him favorably, as she has already read the First Part of the novel. She and the Duke decide to give Don Quixote treatment in accordance with the customs of chivalric books. After they have first fallen off their mounts, Don Quixote and Sancho ride on with the Duchess and her husband to their castle.
Don Quixote feels sure that he is a real knight-errant when he sees that the Duke and Duchess are giving him treatment in accordance with the traditions of chivalry. Sancho is also happy about their reception, but when he requests that one of the maidservants, Dona Rodriguez, take care of Dapple, she says no and they argue. At dinner, the Duke has Don Quixote sit at the head of the able. Don Quixote and Sancho give their hosts a great deal of amusement with their frivolity. The Duchess especially likes Sancho, who often embarrasses Don Quixote with his simplicity.
Don Quixote defends the calling of knight-errantry to a clergyman who says it is frivolous. The Duke tells Sancho that he will give him the position of governor of an isle, and the clergyman leaves angrily. The servants play a joke on Don Quixote. They wash his head in a basin and then pretend to run out of water in the midst of the bath so that he is obliged to go to the table with suds all over his head. The Duke makes them wash his own head in the same manner to carry on the trick. The Duchess requests that Don Quixote describe Dulcinea. He explains he cannot remember Dulcinea’s appearance, as her memory was stolen from his mind when he witnessed her transformed into an unattractive peasant by way of enchantment. The Duchess asks Don Quixote a few questions on the finer points of his affection for Dulcinea and inquires how he is able to compare Dulcinea to other princesses when he is unable to show that she is of noble birth. Don Quixote says that Dulcinea’s virtue renders her above the concerns of noble heritage. In the meantime, Sancho goes off somewhere with the servants but returns running back in with a number of them who wish him to clean using dirty dishwater. Sancho begs the Duchess to intercede, and she obliges.
Once dinner is over, the Duchess asks Sancho to come with her to a cool spot. Sancho ascends, and after ensuring that there are no eavesdroppers in the room, he tells her about his adventures with Don Quixote. He says that he is aware Don Quixote is mad but that he is compelled to stay with him out of loyalty. Sancho informs her how he tricked his master into believing in the enchantment of Dulcinea. The Duchess, however, convinces him that he was the person who was really deceived. She claims that Dulcinea was in reality made into a peasant girl. Sancho describes his argument with Dona Rodriguez, her maidservant, and the Duchess says she will ensure Dapple is cared for well.
The Duke and Duchess bring Don Quixote and Sancho on a boar hunt. On the hunt, Sancho becomes fearful and tries to climb a tree. The Duke informs Sancho that the practice of hunting helps to improve a governor’s skills in warfare, but Sancho continues to show his dislike of the sport. The woods suddenly become full of the sound of drumbeats and the battle cries of Moors. The devil seems to appear, announcing the arrival of Montesinos, who will provide instructions to Don Quixote about how Dulcinea may be disenchanted. The noise continues and the group sees three wagons pass. These wagons, which are said to carry demons, are drawn by oxen with torches adorning their horns. Each wagon is carrying an enchanter who first announces himself before continuing on.
A huge wagon appears. It carries penitents adorned with white linen, as well as a beautiful maiden wearing a golden veil. Merlin, who bears the face of death’s hand, is also on the wagon. He uses verse in addressing Don Quixote, claiming that to disenchant Dulcinea, Sancho is obliged to whip himself 3,300 times. This must be on the bare buttocks, and it must be done willingly. Sancho is distressed by these instructions. He says that Dulcinea’s enchantment is not his concern. The maiden who is on the wagon pretends to be Dulcinea. She upbraids Sancho for his reluctant attitude. The Duke says that he will take away Sancho’s governorship if he fails to comply. Sancho ultimately agrees to whip himself but declares that he will do it only when he want to. The Duke and Duchess are pleased by the scene. We find that they have arranged for this elaborate trick.