Sancho’s trickery in the incident with the peasant women and Sampson’s deception about his identity emphasize the willingness of Don Quixote’s peers to engage him in his world of deception and fantasy. Sancho is motivated by self-interest, whereas other characters play along due either to a desire to help Don Quixote or a need for a diversion. In all cases, Don Quixote’s imagination shapes the novel’s plot. Don Quixote’s dreams direct the actions of other characters, just as they do when Dorothea pretends to be a princess in the First Part. This playfulness influences the characters’ interactions with Don Quixote throughout the remainder of the novel.
The costumes worn by the actors on the wagon and by the Knight of the Mirrors show that the physical world has begun to imitate Don Quixote’s fantasies. Previously, Don Quixote misperceives everything around him, seeing windmills as giants and prostitutes as princesses. Now, however, the physical world has become difficult for anyone to define clearly. Rocinante, mistaking the costumed actor for an apparition, is terrified. Moreover, the Knight of the Wood becomes known as the Knight of the Mirrors in the middle of the chapter due to his change in appearance. Cervantes now mixes reality with elements of deception, which validates Don Quixote’s misperceptions and makes him seem more sane. Whereas earlier it is easy to perceive Don Quixote as insane, it now seems that the world around him is illogical. As a result, Don Quixote becomes more of a driving force in the novel, almost as though his fantasies have begun to dictate the course of the physical world around him.
Cervantes brings up religion by mentioning Benengeli’s praise of Allah and Sancho’s suggestion that he and Don Quixote try to become saints. The novel repeatedly touches on the importance of being a Christian in Cervantes’s Spain. Cervantes often brings up religion in reference to Sancho, who Cervantes says is an old Christian and whose wise aphorisms often stem from Christian sources. The captive’s earlier tale about the Moor Zoraida’s passionate longing to convert to Christiantity and subsequent baptism makes Zoraida appear to be a good and beautiful woman. This depiction of the essential goodness within Zoraida despite her Moorish heritage contrasts with Cervantes’s and his characters’ dismissal of her Moorish countrymen as liars and cheats. Moreover, in the discussion on the way to Chrysostom’s funeral, in Chapter XIII, Don Quixote compromises his extreme faith in chivalric traditions in order to allow knights-errant to praise God. Christianity, then, unlike most of the social customs of the times, receives a positive and somber treatment in the novel and stands alone as the one major subject Cervantes does not treat with a mordant, ironic tone. Here, at the beginning of the third expedition, Cervantes treats Christianity with more reverence than at any other point in the novel.