Sancho goes to dinner hungry on the first day on his alleged isle, only to discover that a physician there will not let him eat anything for fear that it might be bad for him. In a fury, Sancho threatens the physician and sends him out of the room. A courier then arrives with a letter from the Duke telling Sancho that he has learned about a plan to attack the isle and to kill Sancho. Sancho becomes convinced that the physician is one of the men threatening his life. A businessman arrives to ask Sancho for a letter of recommendation for his “bewitched” son (who likely suffers from autism) to marry the maimed, hunchbacked daughter of his neighbor. When the businessman also asks Sancho for six hundred ducats, Sancho flies into a rage and threatens to kill him.
In the middle of the night, Doña Rodriguez creeps into Don Quixote’s room to ask him a favor. She tells Don Quixote the story of her daughter, who was wooed by a farmer’s son who now refuses to marry her. The Duke refuses to force the farmer’s son to marry Doña Rodriguez’s daughter, since the farmer is wealthy and the Duke does not want to risk losing the money he collects from the farmer. Don Quixote agrees to help Doña Rodriguez. She tells him that the Duchess has such a nice complexion because a physician drains the evil humors out of her legs. Doña Rodriguez’s announcement shocks Don Quixote because he considers the Duchess an upright woman, but he admits that if Doña Rodriguez says it is true it must be so. At this point, someone rushes in and slaps and pinches both Doña Rodriguez and Don Quixote.
Sancho encounters two criminal incidents on his rounds and then comes across a young girl dressed as a boy. The girl begins to cry, telling Sancho that her father, a widower, keeps her locked up day and night and never lets her see the world. She has switched clothes with her brother, she says, and snuck out to see the town because she is curious. As she tells her story, a guard catches her brother. Sancho takes them both home and tells them to be more careful next time.
The Duchess and Altisidora, Cervantes tells us, were listening outside Don Quixote’s door to Doña Rodriguez’s story about the Duchess’s legs. It was the Duchess and Altisidora who ran in and pinched the two. The Duchess then sent a page to Teresa Panza to deliver Sancho’s letter, along with a letter and a necklace of coral from the Duchess. Teresa receives the page and is thrilled by the news that her husband has been made a governor. She runs off to tell Sampson and the priest, who do not believe her until they speak with the page. Sampson offers to take dictation for Teresa’s letter back to Sancho, but she does not trust him and goes to a friar to have him write it for her.
The morning after his rounds, Sancho hears the petition of some judges who cannot decide whether to hang a man. The judges sit by a bridge whose owner demands that anyone wishing to cross must disclose his or her destination. If the person crossing tells the truth, he or she may pass, but if the person lies, he or she must be hanged on the gallows on the other side. A man has come to the bridge saying that he is going to be hanged on the gallows, which has confused the judges. If they set him free, then the man will be condemned by law to hang on the gallows, but if they hang him, then they must subsequently free him. Sancho sets the man free on the grounds that it is better to be too lenient than too strict.
Sancho receives a letter from Don Quixote that includes more advice about governing, along with the news that Don Quixote plans to do something that will anger the Duke and Duchess. Sancho replies with a long letter full of news, asking Don Quixote not to provoke the Duke and Duchess, since he does not want to lose his governorship. Sancho then makes the only laws he imposes during his governorship: a declaration that wine may be imported from anywhere as long as it clearly states its place of origin, along with a decree that he will lower the price of footwear, fix the wages of servants, and forbid the blind from singing about miracles unless the miracles are true. These laws please the populace so much, Cervantes says, that they still remain in effect and people call them “The Constitutions of the great Governor Sancho Panza.”
His wounds from his fight with the cats are now healed, and Don Quixote resolves to leave for the jousting tournament at Saragossa. Before he can ask the Duke’s permission to leave, however, Doña Rodriguez and her daughter enter the great hall and throw themselves at Don Quixote’s feet, begging him to avenge the wrong the farmer’s son has done to them. Don Quixote promises to do so, and the Duke agrees to facilitate a duel.
The page returns from Teresa Panza with a letter for the Duchess and one for Sancho. The group reads both letters. The letter to the Duchess tells of Teresa’s desire to go to court in a coach in order to do honor to her husband’s name. Teresa also includes some acorns that she has harvested at the Duchess’s request. Teresa’s letter to Sancho rejoices in his success and tells some news about the village. The group applauds, laughs, and marvels at the letters.
In the middle of the night after his seventh day in office, Sancho hears cries of an attack on his isle. Playing a joke on him, his people urge him, against his will, to fight off the supposed enemies. They wrap him tightly between two shields and force him to begin marching, but he cannot march and falls to the ground, where they trample him. They then tell Sancho that they have prevailed against the enemy and praise him. But Sancho says that he must now abdicate his governorship, since he was never meant to lead. He says he will go tell the Duke of his decision, and he leaves on the back of his faithful Dapple.
The incident with Doña Rodriguez and the conspiracy against Sancho further highlight the snobbery of the Duke and Duchess and, by contrast, exalt Don Quixote and Sancho for their magnanimity in the face of difficulty. While the Duke refuses to help the despairing Doña Rodriguez, even though she is his employee, Don Quixote gladly takes up her quest, making no distinction between her and the noble ladies he serves. The Duchess exhibits her nastiness by opening Sancho’s mail with no concern for his privacy and not even delivering the letter to him until he leaves the castle for good, later in the Second Part. Sancho’s mercy toward the man heading to the gallows contrasts with the Duke’s contrived, pitiless assault on Sancho’s “isle.” The Duke and Duchess treat Don Quixote and Sancho as pawns—as characters in a play performed for their entertainment. The honorable and humble actions of Don Quixote and Sancho increase our distaste for those who treat them poorly.
The Panzas, for all their simplicity, turn out to be two of the wisest characters in the novel. Teresa warns Sancho not to wander too far from his God-given sphere—advice Sancho puts into action when he relinquishes his governorship. When the burden of office proves too much for him, Sancho gives it up without bitterness, longing to return to a better life as plain-old Sancho. Teresa also shows sense and intuition in her distrust of Sampson, who does show himself to be untrustworthy. Sancho’s laws—though they largely reflect the simplistic concerns of a peasant—prove so effective that they remain, according to Cervantes, codified in the town as “constitutions.” Indeed, despite the Panzas’ denseness and inscrutability, their proverbs are often more intelligent than the lofty but insincere words of Don Quixote. More important, the Panzas’ wisdom sharply contrasts with the conniving actions of the Duke and the Duchess. Though the Duke and Duchess continue to mistreat the Panzas, the commoners rise above the pettiness of the nobles in their acts of sacrifice, discipline, and humility.
The puzzling situations of the townspeople create a diversion in the narration, much as the captive’s tale and Anselmo’s story do in the First Part. Like the stories in the First Part of the novel, these situations, such as the girl who dresses up as a boy in order to see the city and the indecisive judges at the bridge, are independent from the main story. But unlike in the First Part, Sancho now takes an active role in the situations he confronts. The situation of the indecisive judges at the bridge, for example, requires Sancho to identify and enact a solution. Nonetheless, these episodes feel strangely disconnected and fantastic, since they are very different from the issues a real governor would likely have to resolve. It is interesting to note that when faced with these more fantastical trials of governorship, Sancho performs very well and pleases his constituents. When faced with a more realistic trial, however, such as the attack on his governorship, Sancho is completely overwhelmed and unable to cope.