Don Quixote and Sancho enter Barcelona with a great following as the guests of Roque Guinart’s friends. A boy in town places burrs in Rocinante’s and Dapple’s tails, causing the two animals to throw their masters, much to the amusement of everyone but Don Quixote and Sancho.
Don Quixote and Sancho’s host, Don Antonio Moreno, confides in Don Quixote that he owns an enchanted brass head that answers any questions asked of it. The next day, Don Quixote and Sancho parade around Barcelona with thousands of people following them. Don Antonio’s men place a sign on Don Quixote’s back that identifies him, and all the people of the town call to him. Don Quixote interprets their calls as proof of his fame. At a ball that evening, Don Quixote dances until he drops, and Sancho is embarrassed for him.
The next day, the brass head speaks to the guests via a hidden tube that allows a servant in the next room to hear and answer questions. Don Quixote asks the head whether the incident in Montesinos’s Cave was real, and the head says that the incident was partly true and partly false. Don Quixote then asks whether Sancho will be whipped in order to disenchant Dulcinea, and the head answers that though Sancho’s whipping will go slowly, Dulcinea’s disenchantment will eventually be accomplished. Don Quixote then goes to a publishing house, where he discusses the art of translation with a translator and expresses his preference for histories that can be proved to be authentic.
Don Quixote, Sancho, and Don Antonio visit the galleys. As a prank, the men hoist Sancho onto their shoulders and pass him around the ship. The ship amazes Sancho, who concludes that he must be either in hell or in purgatory. The galley captain spies a pirate ship in the distance, which they approach and stop. A skirmish ensues, and two of the galley soldiers die. Upon questioning, the captain of the Moorish pirate ship turns out to be a Christian woman, Anna Felix, who is an exiled Moor returning to Spain for a treasure her father buried before he left. Sancho’s friend Ricote, a tourist on the ship, recognizes Anna, his daughter, and they embrace. Together, they invent a plan to save Anna’s lover, Don Gregorio, who remains stranded in Moorish lands.
Riding around one morning, Don Quixote encounters the Knight of the White Moon, who challenges Don Quixote and makes him swear to go home and stay there for a year if he is defeated. Don Quixote agrees and the two fight. The Knight of the White Moon conquers Don Quixote but says that he will not defame Dulcinea’s beauty. Don Quixote accepts the condition that he return home for one year.
Don Antonio and others desperately want to know the true identity of the Knight of the White Moon, so they follow him to an inn and pester him until he admits that he is Sampson Carrasco. Don Antonio chides Sampson for trying to bring Don Quixote back to his senses when people are deriving so much pleasure from his madness. Meanwhile, Don Gregorio, rescued from Algiers, returns to Barcelona, where he is happily reunited with Anna Felix.
Great hearts, my dear master, should be patient in misfortune as well as joyful in prosperity.
A forlorn Don Quixote departs Barcelona with Sancho, who urges his master to cheer up, saying that a good man should be patient in all things. Sancho suggests that they hang Don Quixote’s armor in a tree, but he refuses, so Sancho places the armor on Dapple’s back and walks. On the road, they encounter a group caught up in an argument. The group seeks Don Quixote’s advice about a problem, but Sancho settles the problem with what the group considers a very wise decision.
Don Quixote and Sancho then encounter Tosilos. Tosilos says that just after they left the Duke’s castle, he was flogged for not fighting Don Quixote, the Duke sent Doña Rodriguez back to Castile, and Doña Rodriguez’s daughter became a nun. The news astonishes Don Quixote, who still believes that Tosilos is the farmer’s son under an enchantment.
Don Quixote’s fall from grace is complete when the Knight of the White Moon vanquishes him. This loss of glory is mirrored by Don Quixote’s physical decline. Later, when he dies, he has returned to sanity but has largely lost his chivalric strength, as though his defeat at the hands of the Knight of the White Moon sapped his will to live. Don Quixote’s psychological fall, however, truly intensifies at the ball the night before his defeat. Sancho’s embarrassment over Don Quixote’s collapse after dancing too much attests to the reversal of their roles of master and servant. The ball marks the last time that Don Quixote holds the upper hand over Sancho and the first time that Sancho acts paternally toward Don Quixote. Indeed, Don Quixote follows Sancho’s lead for the rest of the novel, as we see when Sancho steps forward to settle the group’s quarrel on the road home. Though the novel ends before we see how Sancho proceeds in life and what he does with his newfound identity, Cervantes does show that Sancho returns to his own home well-respected despite his humble social position.
The story of Anna Felix and Don Gregorio tempers Cervantes’s otherwise rampant racism. From the outset, Cervantes mocks the Moors as liars and thieves, portraying them as useless cheapskates who deserve their exile from Spain because they threaten the king’s rule. Even Cide Hamete Benengeli, the supposed author of the story, is a target of Cervantes’s racism, since Cervantes blames all textual inconsistencies on Benengeli’s lying Moorish nature. Much like Zoraida in the First Part, the character of Anna Felix challenges this stereotype of Moors, but only to a limited extent. Unlike her Spanish counterparts, Anna Felix is less scrutinized by Cervantes, presumably because he prejudicially considers her less than a true woman. Though Spanish society typically chastised women who dressed as men, Anna Felix, who is dressed as a young man, does not inspire such commentary from Cervantes. Despite the fact that Anna Felix is not the spitting image of a what Cervantes’s readership would have considered ideal, she comes off as a respectable and sympathetic character, mellowing Cervantes’s scathing attack on members of her race.
In general, however, determining whether the novel is prejudiced against the Moors is difficult. It is likely that Cervantes represents Spanish culture fairly—with the same amount of antagonism toward the Moors as toward others. But Cervantes explicitly claims that he is translating a Moorish manuscript, and when this manuscript is racist toward the Moors, we question why a Moor would be racist toward his own race. The various levels of narration and authorship depicted in the novel make it difficult to determine authorial intent.