Don Quixote
Miguel de Cervantes
Contributed by Jerrold Mcmenamin
2-Chapter XXXVI–XLI

Chapter XXXVI

Sancho lets Duchess see the letter he wrote to his wife to share the news about his governorship. The Duchess shows the Duke this letter at lunch. After lunch, when the sound of beating drums approaches, a man comes in. He announces himself to be Trifaldin of the White Beard, and asks that the Duke hear the maidservant’s plight. The Duke claims that he has heard of her misfortunes and urges her to come in.

Chapter XXXVII

Given the reality of his challenging history with maidservants, Sancho is worried that they will interfere with his governorship. Dona Rodriguez raises a defense of her profession, deriding squires such as Sancho. The Duke says that they should listen to Trifaldin’s maidservant, who after this is called the Countess.


Cervantes states that Cide Hamete Benengeli gives an explanation of the Countess Trifaldi’s name. Her name means “the countess with the three skirts.” This derives from her dress. Benengeli talks about how she arrives in the company of a dozen maids, all dressed in black opaque veils. The Countess begs for Don Quixote’s assistance, throwing herself down before him. He promises to help her. The Countess claims that she assisted a knight at her king’s court to get access to the princess, to whom she was a maid. As a result, the princess become pregnant and was compelled to marry the knight.

Chapter XXXIX

The Countess asserts that the princess’s indiscretion was so shocking to her mother, the queen, that the older woman died only three days later. As punishment to the princess and the knight, the giant Malambruno transformed the knight into a metal crocodile and the princess into a brass monkey standing on the queen’s grave. Malambruno also put a metal post between them, holding a note saying that only Don Quixote can save them from this fate. As a final punishment for the treachery of the Countess, Malambruno gave her and her maids beards that could never be removed.

Chapter XL

Don Quixote declares he will avenge the Countess and the princess. The Countess informs him that that giant will send Clavileno the Swift, a flying wooden horse. She says that Don Quixote must fly on this horse to travel to her country that evening to fight the giant. Sancho doesn’t like the idea of flying in this way, but the Duchess pushes him to believe he must accompany his master.

Chapter XLI

Now that I’ve to be sitting on a bare board, does your worship want me to flay my bum?

The group waits in the garden, savages appear. They have a large wooden horse, which they give to Don Quixote. They give him instructions, saying they must blindfold both himself and Sancho for the journey. After pulling Sancho aside, Don Quixote requests that he whip himself three hundred times to start on Dulcinea’s disenchantment. Sancho dislikes the idea of flying on the back of a wooden horse, and he refuses to whip himself.

Don Quixote and Sancho, both blindfolded, get on Clavileno the Swift and get ready to leave. Just before they set off, Don Quixote remembers the tale of the Trojan horse and wants to look at Clavileno’s belly. However, the Countess urges him not to do so. Don Quixote adjusts a peg in Clavileno’s forehead and they leave. The others cause wind to blow in Don Quixote’s and Sancho’s faces and place fire near their heads to make them believe that they are flying and getting to the region of fire. The group then sets off firecrackers in the wooden horse’s belly. The horse explodes, causing Don Quixote and Sancho to fall to the ground. When he wakes up, Don Quixote finds that he and Sancho are still in the garden. Everyone else has fainted. They discover a note written on parchment paper stating that merely through his attempt at this feat, Don Quixote has successfully accomplished it. The Countess has departed, and the Duke and Duchess inform them that she has left for him. She is now without a beard. Sancho informs the Duchess that he peeked outside of his blindfold during the adventure and that he witnessed the earth appearing the size of a mustard seed. He thinks that he spent time playing with the goats in heaven. Don Quixote declares that as they were unable to get through the region of fire without being burned and destroyed, Sancho must be lying or was dreaming. Afterwards, however, Don Quixote whispers to Sancho that he is willing to believe the tale of goats in haven if he will accept his story about Montesinos’s Cave.


In this part of the novel, the appealing simplicity of Sancho stands in contrast with the Duke and Duchess’s distasteful actions. The incident with the Countess calls attention to Sancho’s wish to be seen in a serious way. While overwhelmed by the opinions that deride him, by his wish for a governorship, and by his sense of loyalty to his master, Sancho decides that he will brave the heights of the sky on a wooden horse in order to free other people from enchantment. In spite of his being unwilling to whip himself, his courage renders him one of the most sympathetic characters in the novel. We are unable to discern whether Sancho is lying or dreaming when he relays his tale of the goats in heaven. However, his story shows his simple desire to reside within the fantasy and be a governor. It is not malicious greediness but simplicity that motivates him. This renders his attitude of resignation after failing to get a governorship more touching. The sarcasm in Cervantes’s praise of Benengeli is reflective of that seen in his praise of the novel. In exaltation over the detail provided by Benengeli, Cervantes makes use of melodramatic phrases such as “O most renowned author!”. In the sarcasm of these comments, we see implication of a critical tone. While acting as both author and critic, Cervantes helps to shape the reader’s experience of the work by adding editorial remarks and comments regarding the translation. He provides two lenses through which we can view the actions of the characters: the lens of the characters’ reactions and the lens of the author’s reactions. In doing this, he endows us with double vision—not only of the factual and fictional elements of the novel but also of its quality. Cervantes can praise Benengeli’s abilities of description at the times that we see his own talents at their best. Cervantes excuses his own flights of imagination, such as with the story of Montesinos’s Cave, by letting Benengli say that the manuscript that he has been working from is dubious. This kind of self-criticism is key to the novel’s ironic and self-referential tone. In spite of his occasional parodying of writers, in this part of the novel Cervantes finishes his transformation from a self-described historian into a talented storyteller. We witness his alteration of attitude in his decision of what he will emphasize and what he will downplay. In the novel’s First Part, Cervantes puts in chapter breaks whenever the characters rest, and each chapter is comprised of a single encounter or a series of encounters that are related. It is here in shorter chapters that the author puts in breaks in accordance with the emotions of the scene. While in the First Part he almost always concludes each section with a clear indication that some incident or speech will be completed in the next chapter, here he uses these kinds of guiding statements less frequently. Rather, he lets us hear more often what the characters, including both the main and incidental characters, think about the events of the story. In the Second Part, the main characters (especially Sancho) develop more clearly. However, even inconsequential characters such as Dona Rodriguez have well-developed personalities. Essentially, the Second Part reads similarly to a traditional novel rather than just a parody of chivalric stories.

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