The priest finishes reading the story contained in the manuscript. Anselmo discovers Leonela’s affair. To prevent Anselmo from killing her, Leonela promises to tell him something very important the next morning. When Anselmo tells Camilla about his discovery, she runs away to Lothario’s, afraid that Leonela will reveal their affair to Anselmo. Camilla and Lothario flee. When Anselmo wakes the next morning, Leonela has run away. Not finding Camilla either, Anselmo goes to Lothario’s for help and discovers that Lothario too has left. On the way to another friend’s house, he learns of Lothario and Camilla’s treachery from a traveler. Reaching his friend’s house, Anselmo dies of grief from the loss of his honor. The priest announces that he likes the manuscript but finds it impossible to believe that a husband could be so stupid.
Ferdinand and Lucinda arrive at the inn in disguise. After a tearful scene, Ferdinand reunites with Dorothea, and Cardenio reunites with Lucinda. Ferdinand tells the company that he and his friends kidnapped Lucinda from the convent where she stayed after running away from the wedding. He now swears his love for Dorothea. Everyone weeps with joy except Sancho, who weeps for the loss of his kingdom now that he and Don Quixote know that Dorothea is not a princess.
In distress, Sancho wakes Don Quixote to tell him that Dorothea is not really a princess and that the giant he fought in his dreams was really just a wineskin. Don Quixote dismisses Sancho’s news merely as further evidence of the inn’s enchantment. He reassures Dorothea that he has sworn to be her protector and that it was unnecessary for her father to turn her into an ordinary maiden to protect her from the enchantment. He then tells her about his fight with the giant, but he stops mid-story, remarking that “time, which unveils all mysteries, will reveal this one when we least expect it.”
Dorothea tells Don Quixote that she is still the Princess Micomicona and still needs his assistance. While Don Quixote berates Sancho for his apparent lie, a traveler dressed like a Moor—hereafter referred to as the captive—and his beautiful companion, Zoraida, arrive at the inn in search of a place to stay. The captive tells the company that Zoraida is a Moorish lady of rank who wants to be baptized. Over dinner, Don Quixote gives a speech about the relative merits of scholars and knights. He is so articulate that at that moment no one thinks he is crazy.
The section containing the reunification of the lovers provides the dramatic climax of the novel’s First Part, and the fact that Don Quixote misses the action of this scene demonstrates how much his madness has alienated him from the rest of the characters. Coming as it does on the heels of the tragic ending of Anselmo’s story, the reunification scene appears especially sweet, though unlikely. The capture and return of Don Quixote to the inn is almost inconsequential in comparison, since Don Quixote continues to live on in his fantasy life. Lost in his madness, he completely misses the reunion, which represents the climax of his madness and alienation and raises doubts about his position in the novel overall. Here, Don Quixote appears to exist almost outside of the events of the novel itself, as though he were nothing more than a guide. The circumstances related to his return bring the necessary parties together, but the crux of the action in this section takes place with him outside the picture.
Just as every climax is followed by a falling action, Don Quixote’s climax of madness dissipates as he gradually begins to see things for what they really are. In the incident with the wineskins, he wakes to the realization that others do not believe him. He refrains from telling Dorothea about slaying the giant out of an awareness that she will not believe him. He then shocks the crowd with the clarity and sanity of his speech, which lauds the virtues of knights over those of scholars. His understanding that others think he is crazy continues to grow throughout the novel, although at any given moment this awareness ebbs and flows. At this point in the novel, his awareness keeps his madness in check, since his madness has grown to such an extent that he is in danger of falling out of his own story.