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Free Barron's Booknotes-Don Quixote by Migel de Cervantes-Free Book Notes
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THE STORY - SUMMARY AND NOTES

PART II

CHAPTER 42-53

The Duke keeps his promise and makes Sancho the governor of the town of Baratario. Sancho is so gullible that he even believes Baratario is on an island, although it is actually landlocked.

NOTE:

Barato means cheap in Spanish. Sancho has become the ruler of "Cheapsville."

Sancho has achieved his impossible dream. Much to the surprise of the Duke and his steward, Sancho turns out to be an excellent governor. Presented with a series of tricky legal cases to judge, he bases his decisions on common sense and does very well, indeed.

You, however, may feel that a few of Sancho's decisions are sexist, at least by modern standards. For example, he tells a young girl who longs for more freedom that an honest maid should stay at home "as if she had one leg broken." This advice probably represented the majority male opinion of the time.

On a lighter note, Sancho has problems dealing with an overenthusiastic doctor who is so aware of the health dangers of different types of food that he won't let Sancho eat anything at all. The character of the doctor shows that health food fanatics are not just a modern phenomenon.

The Duchess has written a letter to Teresa Panza, who is amazed and delighted to find that her husband has succeeded after all. However, the Duke has no intention of allowing Sancho to keep his island. When Sancho's governorship starts to turn out too well, the Duke is not pleased; he does not enjoy the thought that a mere peasant can rule as wisely as a lord. So he stages a mock invasion that ends Sancho's brief reign.


Don Quixote, meanwhile, has remained at the Duke's castle where he is having problems with women. One young lady of the court, fourteen-year-old Altisidora, has fallen madly in love with him. When the Don tells Altisidora that he is going to remain faithful to Dulcinea, Altisidora takes the rejection angrily. She begins to scheme for revenge.

Another lady, the middle-aged Dona Rodriguez, presents Don Quixote with a different type of problem. She comes to the Don's bedroom late at night and begs him to help her save her daughter's honor. A young man has seduced the daughter but refuses to marry her. The Don will have to fight the young man to force him to do the right thing.

CHAPTERS 54-57

On his way back to meet Don Quixote at the Duke's castle, Sancho runs into a Moor named Ricote, a shopkeeper from his own village. Ricote has been forced to leave the country; however, he has returned in disguise to recover a buried treasure of gold that he left behind. Sancho does not have time to help Ricote recover the treasure, but he promises not to betray his former neighbor to the authorities.

NOTE:

The Moors, descendants of Arabs who had once ruled much of Spain, were a despised minority. Between 1609 and 1613, Moriscos-Moors like Ricote who had adopted Christianity-were expelled from the country.

Cervantes is obviously sympathetic to the Moors. He has Ricote note, ironically, that it is easier for a Moor to live as a good Christian in Algeria than in Europe. On the other hand, Cervantes seems to defend the reasoning behind the expulsion of the Moriscos. Passages like this one lead some readers to believe that Cervantes was basically a conservative-he sympathized with downtrodden individuals but did not challenge the system. Other readers think Cervantes merely outwitted the censors by using irony and humor to soften the impact of his social criticisms. You will have to decide for yourself which view is right.

Back at the castle, the Duke has arranged a tournament so that Don Quixote can defend the honor of Dona Rodriguez's daughter. Unfortunately, the young man the Don was supposed to fight has fled the country. (You are told, in passing, that he wanted to escape having Dona Rodriguez for a mother-in-law.) The Duke gets his servant Tosilos to take the young man's place. Tosilos is coached on how to put up a good show without actually hurting the Don, since the Duke wants only to have some fun at Don Quixote's expense. However, when Tosilos sees Dona Rodriguez' daughter, he calls off the fight at the last minute. He has fallen in love with the girl and wants to marry her. Even though Dona Rodriguez and her daughter know that Tosilos is the wrong young man, they are delighted by this turn of events. In the seventeenth century, a young lady who was no longer a virgin considered herself lucky to find a loving husband.

NOTE:

In spite of all the tricks the Duke and Duchess have played on them, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza have fared rather well. Sancho Panza was a good governor. He has even overcome the greedy side of his nature in refusing to betray the Moor Ricote. A letter written by Sancho's wife Teresa has revealed her inner dignity and her touching pride in her husband's success. Don Quixote, meanwhile, really has been able to help Dona Rodriguez, though in a roundabout way. He also shows some restraint in refusing to take advantage of the lovesick Altisidora. The Duke and the Duchess, who think they are so smart and sophisticated, have been exposed as petty, rather foolish people. What are these reversals telling you about Cervantes' philosophy?

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