Sick of waiting for Dulcinea’s disenchantment, Don Quixote tells Sancho he has decided to whip Sancho himself. The two argue. Sancho knocks Don Quixote down and, before letting him up again, makes Don Quixote swear he will not whip him. Don Quixote and Sancho then meet a band of thieves who robs them, although the thieves return the money at the command of their leader, Roque Guinart. Roque recognizes Don Quixote from the stories about him and says he never believed him to be real before now.
After a brief encounter with a distressed young woman who has killed her lover out of mistaken jealousy, Roque allows a group of wealthy individuals to keep most of their money, even giving some to two poor pilgrims traveling with them. Roque then kills one of his thieves for grumbling about his generosity. Roque sends a letter to a friend in Barcelona to alert him to Don Quixote’s imminent arrival.
Don Quixote’s encounter with the two men who have read the sequel to the First Part of the novel further blurs the line between fiction and reality. By this point, Don Quixote has begun to accept reality: he finally sees an inn as merely an inn and accepts that he must pay for his accommodations. Yet his return to reality comes just after the bulls crush him for standing his ground, an act that raises questions about his sanity. Still, he displays an ability to distinguish between the accurate First Part and the counterfeit sequel, refusing to read the sequel and disparaging its falsehood. Adding to the confusion is Don Quixote’s refusal, in Chapter LIX, to go to Saragossa. At the end of the First Part, Cervantes tells us that the history indicates that Don Quixote goes to Saragossa on his next expedition. Now, however, it seems that Cervantes was either wrong or lying, since Don Quixote disobeys the very text in which his exploits are recounted.
As the novel draws toward its close, the status of the knight-errant declines, replaced by the virtue and strength of the peasant. When Sancho overpowers Don Quixote, Don Quixote’s defeat and Sancho’s evolution are nearly complete. Sancho the squire, who at the beginning of the novel would never even consider challenging his master’s word, now physically knocks Don Quixote down without even apologizing, and even forces Don Quixote to swear an oath to him. Sancho’s power and importance in the novel eclipse Don Quixote’s literally trampled stature. At the same time, the chivalric qualities to which Don Quixote adheres so fiercely for so long have begun to lose their hold on him as he becomes a more practical and realistic—and compassionate and caring—human being.
The story of Tosilos, the lackey whom the Duke forces to fight Don Quixote for the Duke’s amusement, is a glaring example of the Duke’s and Duchess’s cruelty. The two combatants fight exclusively for the entertainment of two wealthy people who in their boredom are amused by the travails of the Countess and her dishonored daughter. Though the Duke takes steps to ensure that neither Tosilos nor Don Quixote will get hurt during the battle, he does not tell them that he has done so, because he wants to them to sweat and suffer as though they were in a real battle. Later, when we learn that Tosilos has been locked up for his refusal to fight and that Doña Rodriguez’s daughter has been sent to a convent, the despicable nature of the Duke and Duchess becomes even clearer. Moreover, while the Duke and Duchess outwardly express grief for Sancho’s troubled governorship, Cervantes writes about this grief with irony and doubts its sincerity. Though the Duke and Duchess claim to be upset at Sancho’s “signs of having been badly bruised and worse treated,” it is clear that Sancho does not merely have “signs” of bruises but that he is bruised. The Duke and Duchess meddle with their servants’ lives merely for the sake of meddling, showing a clear enjoyment of power and a lack of compassion for others.