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Don Quixote | Study Guide

Miguel de Cervantes

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Don Quixote | Part 1, Chapters 33–35 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 33

The Story of the Man Who Couldn't Keep from Prying is about two best friends, Anselmo and Lothario, and Anselmo's wife, Camila. Anselmo asks Lothario to seduce Camila to see if she's as virtuous as he hopes. Lothario doesn't want to do it; he thinks seducing his best friend's wife would strip them all of their honor. He pretends to go along with Anselmo's plans, and he is embarrassed when Anselmo discovers that no attempts at wooing have been made. Lothario then vows to fulfill his friend's request, no matter the cost. He spends so much time thinking about Camila that he starts falling in love with her, then woos her when Anselmo goes out of town for a few days. Camila refuses Lothario's advances and sends her husband a letter about what is going on.

Part 1, Chapter 34

Camila's letter asks Anselmo to come home, or at least allow her to go to her parents' house until his return. He writes back and tells her to stay where she is. Lothario finally wins Camila's heart, yet tells Anselmo "you have a wife worthy to be the model and crown of all good women."

Lothario and Camila's affair continues. The only person who knows about it is Camila's maid, Leonela, who uses her mistress's secret as leverage for sneaking her own lover into the house. A case of mistaken identity and jealousy results in Lothario telling Anselmo that Camila has taken a lover. Camila later explains to Lothario that he had seen Leonela's lover, not her own, leaving the house at dawn. They, along with Leonela, put on a small drama for Anselmo to convince him nothing is amiss. Anselmo is once more delighted by his wife's virtue, and Camila and Lothario continue their secret relationship.

Part 1, Chapter 35

Sancho Panza interrupts the story to tell everyone that Don Quixote has chopped off the head of the giant plaguing Princess Micomicona. It turns out the sleepwalking Don is slashing at the wineskins stored near his bed, creating a huge mess and a great flood of red wine. Sancho Panza keeps looking for the giant's head. The innkeeper and his wife are enraged, and Master Nicolas and Cardenio get Don Quixote back into bed.

They go back to reading The Story of the Man Who Couldn't Keep from Prying. Anselmo catches Leonela with her lover, and she promises to tell him an even better story later, when she's not so upset. Camila is convinced Leonela is going to tell Anselmo about her affair with Lothario. Camila runs to Lothario, who takes her to a convent to hide. Anselmo hears rumors about Camila and Lothario running away together, which causes him to die of misery. Camila stays at the convent, and Lothario is killed in battle.

Analysis

Honor and virtue are recurring themes in Don Quixote, and Cervantes includes The Story of the Man Who Couldn't Keep from Prying in his novel to show how perilous rigid dedication to both can be. Anselmo placed far too much importance on his wife's virtue. Had he accepted her and her already good reputation as they were, both would have lived a long and happy life. Instead, he pushes Camila to her breaking point. This is for his sake, not hers. He wants to prove that he "possess[es] the best woman on earth," which he believes will only enhance his reputation. Just as Dorotea's reputation reflects on her parents, Camila's reflects on her husband. Anselmo, in particular, seems to assume that Camila's virtue belongs to him and no one else, not even Camila herself. Anselmo's vanity ultimately leads to his own destruction, serving as a cautionary tale for those who equate a woman's value to her reputation.

The Story of the Man Who Couldn't Keep from Prying also addresses the danger of overlooking morals in favor of honor. Lothario initially wants to do the moral thing and stay far away from Luscinda, but Anselmo's insistence and subsequent harassment become too much to take. The narrator scolds "miserable, sorely mistaken Anselmo" for his misguided plan, but it is Lothario who decides to actually go through with it. He reasons that "Anselmo's madness and arrogance were worse than his own faithlessness"; seducing Camila wouldn't be nearly as bad of a sin. Yet he lies to maintain his honor with Anselmo and tears apart not only his best friend's marriage but also his best friend's life.

This story would have been a good lesson for Don Quixote, who was sleeping (and fighting giants) during its telling. He is obsessed with honor, both his own and that of others. In his case, choosing honor over morals and good sense always ends in disaster, usually for others.

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