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Literature Study GuidesDon QuixotePart 1 Chapters 18 20 Summary

Don Quixote | Study Guide

Miguel de Cervantes

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Part 1, Chapters 18–20

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Part 1, Chapters 18–20 from Miguel de Cervantes's novel Don Quixote.

Don Quixote | Part 1, Chapters 18–20 | Summary



Part 1, Chapter 18

The Don mistakes herds of sheep for two battling armies and joins the fray. Angry shepherds throw rocks and candied almonds at him, the latter of which really hurt. He pulls out his cup of magical elixir, which is hit by another almond, knocking out a few of his teeth. He falls off Rocinante and the shepherds flee.

The potion takes full effect, and Don Quixote throws up on Sancho Panza's beard. Disgusted, Sancho throws up on Don Quixote before going to his saddlebags to find something with which to clean the mess. That's when he realizes the saddlebags are gone.

Part 1, Chapter 19

Don Quixote and Sancho come across a funeral party taking a man's bones back to his hometown. Don Quixote thinks they are carrying a badly wounded or dead knight. He stops the group, but they aren't interested in talking to him. He attacks and they run away, thinking that he's "a devil out of hell" coming to take away the corpse. Sancho is amazed at his master's strength and bravery and tells the one man left behind that "the brave knight ... who did all this" is "the Knight of the Sad Face." The moniker, Sancho Panza later explains, is due to Don Quixote's face, which "is just about the most awful I've ever seen," probably from exhaustion and lack of teeth. Alonzo López briefly returns to tell Don Quixote that he is excommunicated for "having laid hands, in violence, on a sanctified object." Don Quixote asserts that he only used a lance.

Part 1, Chapter 20

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are looking for water in the dark when they hear a loud clanking noise. Sancho Panza is terrified and doesn't want Don Quixote to search for the source of the noise, so he ties Rocinante's legs together when the Don isn't looking. He is so scared, in fact, that when he realizes he has to have a bowel movement, he won't move an inch away from his master, and does his business then and there.

Sancho Panza unties Rocinante just before dawn. It turns out the source of the noise was six hydraulic hammers beating cloth, a process used to felt wool fabric. Don Quixote is embarrassed at first, but then he sees the humor in the situation. Sancho Panza, who thinks this whole thing is hysterical, starts mocking his master. Don Quixote hits Sancho Panza and insists this episode merely shows his great courage. He then tells Sancho Panza to "check and restrain all this excessive conversation" because he's never heard a squire talk to his lord as much as Sancho Panza talks to him.


Chapters 18, 19, and 20 focus on the comedic aspect of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza's adventures. They deliver blisteringly funny one-liners with straight faces, such as when Don Quixote insists he can't be in trouble for laying a hand on a dead man because he actually used a lance. It's almost as if he is being purposefully obtuse just to get a laugh out of the reader. It works, as do the hilariously awkward situations the two men find themselves in time and time again.

Cervantes's frequent use of slapstick humor brings up the question of the intended audience for Don Quixote. Such base comedy—dueling vomit, secret defecation—would have more likely been enjoyed by the lower classes than scholars. Cervantes certainly wasn't the only author of his time to enjoy a good joke—Shakespeare was known to make his share—but unlike some of his contemporaries, Cervantes presented his work as a novel, not as a play, so it wouldn't have been performed onstage for a lower-class audience.

It's certainly possible that the upper class and scholars of 17th-century Spain enjoyed pratfalls just as much as an uneducated person, but it's far more likely that these comedic instances are a jab at the traditional chivalric romance. Knights in those stories were more divine than human, never eating or sleeping, and they certainly never heeded nature's call. Cervantes's characters, on the other hand, are completely human, and a lot of the time completely disgusting. He uses such moments to point out the unrealistic expectations set by the popular literature of the day.

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