Literature Study GuidesDon QuixotePart 1 Chapters 12 14 Summary

Don Quixote | Study Guide

Miguel de Cervantes

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Don Quixote | Part 1, Chapters 12–14 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 12

A young goatherd shares a story he heard about a "student-shepherd" named Grisóstomo who died of a broken heart that very morning. He was one of many men enamored with a wealthy shepherdess named Marcela. Don Quixote and the others decide to go to the young man's funeral the next day.

Part 1, Chapter 13

Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, and the goatherds join a party traveling to Grisóstomo's funeral. Everyone quickly realizes that the Don is mad, and they question him about knight-errantry for entertainment. Don Quixote expounds on the importance of his vocation, comparing his service to God to that of a monk, his being "hungrier, thirstier, meaner, wearier, and more louse-ridden." Vivaldo, one of the travelers, tries to poke holes in the Don's fervent beliefs.

The group arrives at the funeral site. Grisóstomo's good friend Ambrosio wishes to burn Grisóstomo's diary, but Vivaldo says it should be preserved as a warning "to those who live in future times, to shun and flee from such dangers" as loving a woman who does not reciprocate.

Part 1, Chapter 14

Vivaldo reads the last song Grisóstomo wrote aloud to the group. It is about "love's miserable war" and alludes to Grisóstomo's forthcoming death. The woman in question, Marcela, appears on the rock above his grave. She has come "to explain how ... unreasonable it is to blame [her] for everyone's pain and for Grisóstomo's death." She gives an impassioned speech about her desire to remain single. Don Quixote, noticing some of the men want to follow her back into the woods, vows to protect her.

Analysis

Cervantes's disdain for chivalric love is introduced during the journey to Grisóstomo's funeral. Don Quixote asserts that all knights are in love, yet his "love" for Dulcinea is nothing more than a fantasy. He doesn't even remember what she looks like; instead, he relies on images from the books he's read and inflates her status from peasant to princess to fit into his knight-errant narrative. Her existence serves only to make him seem more romantic and more devoted than any other knight.

Don Quixote's notions of an ideal love can be chalked up to his insanity, but Cervantes shows that even sane men are afflicted with preposterous expectations of romance. Marcela's matter-of-fact explanation of her actions and feelings contrasts sharply to the "cruel" woman the men in the funeral party think of her to be. Cervantes absolves her of any blame for Grisóstomo's death and points the finger at the "stubbornness" of men in general. Indeed, many of the men in the funeral party want to follow Marcela into the woods, "paying no attention to the plain truths they had heard."

Thus far in Don Quixote, the terms and conditions of relationships have always been dictated by men. Women, like Marcela, are shamed for not returning the affections of numerous suitors, yet to do so would be to tarnish one's virtue. Cervantes recognizes that such a double standard is patently unfair. Instead of positioning Marcela as the villain, he humanizes her by allowing her to tell her side of the story. This redirects the blame for Grisóstomo's death squarely on Grisóstomo himself, who would not take no for an answer. Women may drive men to madness in Cervantes's world, but they are not blamed for it.

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