[F]or what I want of Dulcinea del Toboso she is as good as the greatest princess in the land. For not all those poets who praise ladies under names which they choose so freely, really have such mistresses. . . .I am quite satisfied. . . to imagine and believe that the good Aldonza Lorenzo is so lovely and virtuous. . . .
In this quotation from Chapter XXV of the First Part, Don Quixote explains to Sancho that the actual behavior of the farmer’s daughter, Aldonza Lorenzo, does not matter as long as he can imagine her perfectly as his princess, Dulcinea del Toboso. This idea of Dulcinea figures prominently in the novel, since we never actually meet Dulcinea, and she likely does not even know about Don Quixote’s patronage. Don Quixote’s imagination compensates for many holes in the novel’s narration, providing explanations for inexplicable phenomena and turning apparently mundane events into great adventures. Dulcinea gains renown through Don Quixote’s praise, and regardless of whether she is even real, she exists in fame and in the imaginations of all the characters who read about her. In this way, Don Quixote’s imaginings take on the force of reality and he becomes, effectively, the narrator of his own fate.
I shall never be fool enough to turn knight-errant. For I see quite well that it’s not the fashion now to do as they did in the olden days when they say those famous knights roamed the world.
In this passage from Chapter XXXII of the First Part, the innkeeper responds to the priest, who has been trying to convince him that books of chivalry are not true. Though the innkeeper defends the books, he says that he will never try to live like Don Quixote because he realizes that knight-errantry is outdated. The innkeeper’s remark is important for several reasons. First, it inspires Sancho, who overhears the remark, to resolve—as he does at so many points throughout the novel—to return to his wife and children because knight-errantry has fallen out of fashion. The fact that Sancho does not leave Don Quixote becomes even more poignant when juxtaposed with his temptations to leave.
Second, this quotation highlights the priest’s hypocritical nature. The innkeeper appreciates knight-errantry from a distance, but the priest, who plays the role of inquisitor against Don Quixote throughout much of the novel, cannot escape his fascination with knight-errantry. The priest furtively encourages Don Quixote’s madness so that he may live vicariously through him.
Sancho puts this question to Don Quixote in Chapter XLI of the Second Part, after Don Quixote suggests that Sancho whip himself to free Dulcinea from her alleged enchantment. With these words, which display his sarcastic wit, skepticism, and insubordinate nature, Sancho refuses to obey Don Quixote’s order. The tale of Dulcinea’s enchantment literally comes back to bite Sancho in the rear end—Sancho originally tells Don Quixote that Dulcinea is enchanted in an effort to hide the fact that he does not know where she lives and what she looks like. Sancho’s lie nearly catches up with him a number of times until the Duchess finally snares him completely, telling him that Dulcinea actually has been enchanted. Sancho gullibly believes her story and later agrees to whip himself 3,300 times in order to revoke Dulcinea’s enchantment. Nonetheless, Sancho is not happy with this course of action, and in the end he stands up to Don Quixote about it. This quotation not only fleshes out Sancho’s character but also exemplifies the bawdy humor that pervades Don Quixote. Deeply ironic and complex, the novel is also very funny.
Great hearts, my dear master, should be patient in misfortune as well as joyful in prosperity. And this I judge from myself. For if I was merry when I was Governor now that I’m a squire on foot I’m not sad, for I’ve heard tell that Fortune, as they call her, is a drunken and capricious woman and, worse still, blind; and so she doesn’t see what she’s doing, and doesn’t know whom she is casting down or raising up.
Sancho’s final words of wisdom to Don Quixote, which appear in Chapter LXVI of the Second Part, caution Don Quixote to be patient even in his retirement. Sancho’s statement marks the complete reversal of his and Don Quixote’s roles as servant and master. Throughout the novel, Don Quixote determines Sancho’s role as a squire while teaching Sancho the chivalric philosophy that drives him. Now, however, Sancho consoles Don Quixote with the simple wisdom he has gained from his own experiences. Interestingly, Sancho still calls Don Quixote “dear master,” even though he is no longer truly in Don Quixote’s service. Resigned to his humble station in life, he is not only simple and loyal but also wise and gentle.
These parting words of Cide Hamete Benengeli, in Chapter LXXIV of the Second Part, reflect Cervantes’s words at the novel’s beginning. At the start, Cervantes declares that Don Quixote is only his stepson—in other words, that he is not fully responsible for creating the character of Don Quixote. Don Quixote’s real father, according to Cervantes’s account, is Benengeli, the Moor from whose manuscript Cervantes claims to translate Don Quixote. Such remarks give the text a mythical, unreal tone that leaves us unsure whom to trust or to whom to attribute the story of Don Quixote. Additionally, the powerful sentiment that Benengeli expresses here contributes to the novel’s claim that Don Quixote was a real person. Benengeli de-emphasizes his role in bringing Don Quixote’s story to light by casting himself as a mere recorder of a great man’s life and deeds.