The unseen, unknown inspiration for all of Don Quixote’s exploits, Dulcinea, we are told, is a simple peasant woman who has no knowledge of the valorous deeds that Don Quixote commits in her name. We never meet Dulcinea in the novel, and on the two occasions when it seems she might appear, some trickery keeps her away from the action. In the first case, the priest intercepts Sancho, who is on his way to deliver a letter to Dulcinea from Don Quixote. In the second instance, Sancho says that Dulcinea has been enchanted and that he thus cannot locate her.

Despite her absence from the novel, Dulcinea is an important force because she epitomizes Don Quixote’s chivalric conception of the perfect woman. In his mind, she is beautiful and virtuous, and she makes up for her lack of background and lineage with her good deeds. Don Quixote describes her chiefly in poetic terms that do little to specify her qualities. She is, therefore, important not for who she is but for what her character represents and for what she indicates about Don Quixote’s character.