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Analysis: Chapters XLII–XLVI

In this section, Don Quixote and Sancho become intelligent and sensitive individuals when they are removed from situations involving chivalry. Don Quixote shows remarkable sense and compassion in his practical advice to Sancho about how to run his government, and Sancho demonstrates similar sense in his handling of the problems the townspeople send him. Despite his illiteracy, Sancho shows his remarkable ability to see through the Duke’s tricks. Now distanced from Don Quixote for the first time since the end of the First Part, he does not attribute anything to enchantment or knight-errantry. Don Quixote does much the same: in contrast to his misinformed behavior toward Altisidora, his advice to Sancho concerning political matters is sensible and would serve a governor well.

Don Quixote’s advice that Sancho not put on airs of good breeding—and Sancho’s acceptance of this advice—stands in stark contrast to Don Quixote’s need to play the role of the knight-errant. In effect, he tells Sancho to be himself—a message that, on its surface, conflicts with everything we know about Don Quixote. The fact that Don Quixote has not read the historical account of his adventures—the First Part of Don Quixote—indicates that he does not wish to observe his actions from anyone else’s perspective. Instead, he chooses to live a life of self-deception. At the same time, however, he never deceives others: unlike the Duke and Duchess and all those who exploit Don Quixote’s madness in a belittling and insulting way, Don Quixote simply presents himself sincerely. His intentions are so exaggeratedly noble that, when he fears (erroneously) that Altisidora has fallen in love with him, he tries to make it clear that he is devoted to another woman in order to prevent future heartbreak for her.

The incident with the cats is the first of several events in which the Duke’s and Duchess’s pursuit of self-amusement physically harms Don Quixote. What may appear at first to be a harmless prank becomes an insensitive and haughty act of cruelty. It is no longer possible to ignore the negative impact of the Duke and Duchess’s lack of concern for others. Just as Don Quixote’s inability to see the effect of his actions in the First Part nearly kills the farm boy, the Duke and Duchess here show no regard for Don Quixote’s welfare. However, unlike Don Quixote, who would probably put an end to any plan he knew to be harmful, the Duke and Duchess compel Altisidora to woo Don Quixote even as she tends to his wounds. In this way, the two, who seem so kindly and courteous when we first meet them, slowly become the villains in this section.