Literature Study GuidesDon QuixotePart 1 Chapters 36 38 Summary

Don Quixote | Study Guide

Miguel de Cervantes

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Don Quixote | Part 1, Chapters 36–38 | Summary

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Summary

Part 1, Chapter 36

Four men wearing black traveling masks and a woman dressed all in white show up at the inn. It turns out to be Luscinda and Don Fernando. Don Fernando has a strong grip on a very unhappy Luscinda, and he doesn't recognize Dorotea until she identifies herself. She begs him to let go of Luscinda and take her instead, citing the vows he made and the damage that will be done to her reputation if he does not acknowledge her as his wife.

Don Fernando agrees but draws his sword when he sees Cardenio, who now has his arms around Luscinda. Pero Perez reminds Don Fernando just how beautiful Dorotea is, and "if he took pride in being a gentleman and a Christian" he had to fulfill the promise he made to her. Don Fernando thinks about this for a while, then acquiesces. Everybody cries tears of happiness.

Part 1, Chapter 37

Sancho Panza has figured out that Dorotea isn't actually a princess, and he tells Don Quixote that there's no princess and no giant. The Don insists that he has already killed the giant and that Sancho Panza is just confused by the enchantments on the inn.

A Christian man, Ruy Pérez de Viedma, and a Moorish woman, Zoraida, come to the inn looking for lodging. Ruy Pérez tells the group that Zoraida has come to Spain to become a Christian. The two newcomers dine with everyone else as Don Quixote gives a speech about knight-errantry, taking the position that arms are more important than "literature and learning."

Part 1, Chapter 38

Don Quixote asserts that even though academics start out badly in life, they eventually rise to a comfortable station. Being a soldier is much more difficult, for "the soldier must work harder, but he receives much less." A soldier's life is always at risk, but such risk is necessary for protecting kingdoms. As for himself, Don Quixote is not bothered by the idea of dying in battle because he "will have confronted far more serious perils than any knights-errant of ancient times."

Analysis

Don Quixote's epic speech has two purposes. On the surface, it positions Don Quixote as less of a lunatic than previously imagined. He speaks elegantly and logically, playing to the unconscious biases of the men in his audience, almost all of whom have borne arms at one time or another. He has clearly given this subject a lot of thought—these aren't the kinds of ideas picked up in fantasy stories. This speech can be considered a dissertation of sorts about why, after surveying his options, he consciously chose to become fixated on knight-errantry. He tells the group "the very best thing humans can desire in life" is peace, which is the ultimate goal of a soldier's career. As a knight-errant, he has appointed himself to be the guardian of peace. It's an unusual choice, but it doesn't mean that he is stark-raving mad. It's entirely possible that he was enamored with adventure stories and convinced himself that taking on the persona of a knight-errant would be a welcome relief from the monotony of daily life.

Don Quixote's speech also reflects several of Cervantes's personal opinions about the state of the world, and Spain in particular. Don Quixote points out that though scholars and soldiers both start out impoverished, scholars eventually climb the social ladder and end up ruling the world, "perched on a throne, ... hunger transformed into satiety ... the ... proper prize won by their virtue." The soldier, however, generally remains poverty stricken. He toils relentlessly in the pursuit of peace with nary a reward. Cervantes is pointing out that the people who run the world (1) become comfortable and soft after achieving their goals, and (2) those goals don't include peace. They are not fighting for the greater good, nor do they remember the poverty and despair of their early years. The soldier fights with his brains and his body, constantly chasing an elusive brass ring that can't be reached. The desire to establish and maintain peace makes the soldier a far better person than the scholar.

Cervantes most likely supports the soldier because he once was one himself. He served in the Spanish army for nearly a decade, and five of those years were spent as a prisoner of war. He sacrificed everything for his country, then was left to languish in a Moorish prison camp. His bias against political leaders comes through during Don Quixote's oration, but he makes sure to have Don Quixote say that divine scholars, the clergy, are exempt from question. Cervantes needed to keep the Church on his good side as the Catholic Church and the Inquisition were known to censor books that included any whisper of heresy.

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