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.