Don Quixote Summary

Overview

Don Quixote is one of the classics of world literature, the "great forefather of the novel" in critic Lionel Trilling's phrase, and...

(The entire section is 372 words.)

Don Quixote Summary

Part 1 Summary

Don Quixote opens with a prologue. Much of the prologue, however, is devoted to a discussion of what a prologue should include,...

(The entire section is 402 words.)

Part 2 Summary

Don Quixote's friends are unable to keep him at home for long. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza take off in search of adventure again, this time...

(The entire section is 331 words.)

Don Quixote Chapter Summaries

Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary

The Quality and Manner of Life of the Renowned Don Quixote de la Mancha

In the village of La Mancha lives a fifty-year-old man, an old-fashioned gentleman who always has with him a lance, an old target, a scrawny horse, and a greyhound. He eats more beef than mutton and three-fourths of his income is spent on food; he spends the rest on velvet robe and slippers for holidays and a suit of the very best homespun cloth for the rest of the year. His family includes a fortyish housekeeper, a teen-aged niece, and a serving man who works both inside and outside of the estate and can saddle a horse. The gentleman is fit and hearty, a lover of hunting, and according to tradition his surname is Quixana, though that is not a certainty.

When the gentleman has nothing to do with his days (which is often for this gentleman), he reads books about knight-errantry. He is so absorbed by his reading that he sells off good land in order to purchase more romances, books about knights, damsels, chivalry, and service. Soon he owns every book on the subject. Some of the writing he does not understand and some adventures he does not like as well as others; however, he so wholly devotes himself to his reading that he spends all of his days and nights doing it.

The lack of sleeping and eating causes the gentleman to lose his reason. Now his books have come to life in his mind, and his head is full only of enchantments, quarrels, battles, challenges, wounds, armor, and tournaments: an “abundance of…impossibilities, insomuch, that all the fables and fantastical tales which he read seem to him now as true as the most authentic histories.” He has his favorite knights, among them Bernardo del Carpio who killed Orlando; the giant Morgante is among his favorites because he was civil, though he came from a monstrous brood.

Of all the men in the world, though, the gentleman most of all admires Rinaldo of Montalvan for his...

(The entire section is 577 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary

Of Don Quixote’s First Sally

Don Quixote has made his preparations and, before dawn in the heat of July, he prepares to leave for adventures unknown. After he laces his helmet, straps on his target, grasps his lance, and mounts the noble Rozinante, he rides out the private door of his back yard. He is thrilled at how well his adventure is going so far, but he does not travel long before he has a terrible thought: because he has not yet been knighted, according to the rules of chivalry he cannot bear arms against any foe, should have no adornment on his shield, and should wear white armor until he performs an act of valor.

This realization nearly deters Quixote, but he decides to get knighted at the first opportunity and to scour his armor along the way until it shines white. He continues his journey, speaking in exaggerated poetry in the fashion of the romances he so loves. The sun is beating down so violently that “it would have been sufficient to have melted his brains had he had any left.”

Nearly the entire day passes uneventfully and Quixote is in despair, for his greatest desire is to meet someone on whom he can wield his weapon. Just when Rozinante is exhausted and famished, Quixote sees an inn which he reaches at dusk. In the romantic glow of near-darkness, the inn appears to him to be a castle, complete with towers, moats, and drawbridge. Because of that, he draws close and then waits for a dwarf to appear on the battlements and announce him with a horn. That, of course, does not happen.

Finally he arrives at the inn door, and all the serving wenches are frightened at the sight of this strange-looking man in battered armor and they immediately begin to run. Sensing their fear, Quixote lifts his visor and begs the young virgins not to flee. These wenches are no virgins, and they laugh at him; with grave concern, he admonishes the girls that laughter is unbecoming to the loftiness...

(The entire section is 595 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 3 Summary

An Account of the Pleasant Method Taken by Don Quixote to Be Dubbed a Knight

Don Quixote cuts his awkward meal short and begs the innkeeper to follow him to the stable where he promptly falls prostrate at the man’s feet and begs a favor of him. He tells the landlord that he intends to spend the night with his armor in the castle’s chapel and would be honored if the innkeeper would dub him a knight in the morning so he can continue his adventures.

By now the innkeeper is well aware of Quixote’s delusional mind and determines to have some fun with him. He tells Quixote that he, too, was once a knight-errant and traveled the world doing deeds of destruction and mayhem. He is sorry to...

(The entire section is 742 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary

What Befell the Knight After He Had Left the Inn

Don Quixote is thrilled to be riding forth as a true knight, and he is determined to equip himself as the innkeeper recommended; he is going back home to seek a squire and provision himself with the other things necessary for knights-errant. On the way, Quixote hears an “effeminate voice complaining in a thicket” on his right. Quixote knows this is his first opportunity to help someone in distress.

As fast as Rozinante can carry him, Quixote rides to the source of the sound and discovers a teenage boy, naked to the waist, being whipped by a large country man. The boy is crying out that he will never again steal anything from his master,...

(The entire section is 725 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 5 Summary

A Further Account of Our Knight’s Misfortunes

As he lies by the side of the road, sore and unable to move, Quixote recalls the romance story of Baldwin and the Marquis of Mantua and he immediately feels better. He recalls the lament of that tale and sings out the question: where, oh where, is the Marquis of Mantua? As fortune would have it, a ploughman who lives in the village near Quixote’s house happens to be walking by with a sack of wheat from the mill. When he sees and hears the strange man lying prostrate near the road, he asks the man who he is and why he is lamenting so sadly.

Quixote sees the man as his uncle, the Marquis, and immediately shares the imaginary woes of the romance...

(The entire section is 714 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary

Of the Pleasant and Curious Scrutiny With the Curate and the Barber Made of the Library of Our Ingenious Gentleman

The curate, the barber, and the housekeeper enter Quixote’s library and see more than a hundred large, neatly bound volumes in addition to many small ones. As soon as she sees them, the housekeeper runs to get a pot of holy water and sprinkler and brings it back to the library, begging the curate to purify them. She is convinced that these books contain nothing but evil and is afraid of them. The curate smiles at her simplicity before he and the barber look at the title page of each book to determine if any of them are worth saving.

There is disagreement over the first book,...

(The entire section is 415 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 7 Summary

Don Quixote’s Second Sally in Quest of Adventure

While others are sorting books in his library, Don Quixote has a “raving fit,” calling all able knights to arms. His outcry is loud enough to take the inquisitors away from the library. When the men leave, the housekeeper and the niece burn several more volumes which might have escaped if the men had been there to save them.

When the curate and barber reach Quixote’s room, they find him as mad as ever, standing on his bed and fighting an invisible enemy with all his strength. After they remove the raging man from his bed and calm him down, Quixote says they have caused him to dishonor the tournament by carrying him away. The curate...

(The entire section is 738 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary

Of the Good Success Which the Valorous Don Quixote Had in the Most Terrifying and Never-to-Be-Imagined Adventure of the Wind-Mills, With Other Transactions Worthy to Be Transmitted to Posterity

Quixote and Panza spy thirty or forty windmills across the plain, and Quixote immediately prepares to fight what he sees as courageous giants and capture their spoils. As he describes the giants with long arms, Panza tells his master that those are not arms but sails, and they are not giants but windmills. Quixote is undeterred and spurs Rozinante into battle. He calls on the name of his beloved lady, Dulcinea, and rushes the first windmill. When his lance runs into the sail, the wind is strong enough to shatter...

(The entire section is 785 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 9 Summary

The Event of the Most Stupendous Combat Between the Brave Biscainer and the Valorous Don Quixote

At the end of the last book, Don Quixote and a valiant lady’s squire were engaged in a battle in which each man is ready to “discharge on each other two furious and most terrible blows” which, if they fell uncontested, would have divided each man from “head to heel.” Unfortunately, though, the original author of this story did not provide the ending to this battle nor offer any place where one might discover it. This author cannot believe that the story of such a grand and valorous man as Quixote could have remained unfinished.

Because he refuses to accept that nothing more has been...

(The entire section is 750 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 10 Summary

What Farther Befell Don Quixote With the Biscainer; and the Danger He Ran Among a Parcel of Yanguesians

After the beating, Sancho Panza finally gets slowly up and, seeing his master in a fight, begins to pray. He prays Quixote will be victorious, win an island, and appoint Panza governor of it as he promised. When it is clear the battle is over, Panza runs to help his master; however, before the knight can speak, his squire begs him to grant him the governorship of the island he won in this bloody battle.

Patiently Quixote explains that there are few spoils to be had in these kinds of battles and to be patient. Panza thanks Quixote and helps him mount Rozinante before leaping on his own...

(The entire section is 724 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 11 Summary

What Passed Between Don Quixote and the Goatherd

The goatherds receive the knight graciously, and Panza makes his way to a kettle of boiling meat after he cares for the horses. The goatherds spread their rustic meal on some sheepskins on the ground and invite their guests to join them. Quixote sits on an upside-down trough and Panza stands behind his master to serve him as needed; however, the knight wants to demonstrate to Panza that even the lowest servant can be esteemed and honored by the world and asks Panza to sit next to him and eat from the same dishes as Quixote.

Panza is thankful for the offer but says he would enjoy his meal more if he were standing by himself rather than sitting...

(The entire section is 571 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 12 Summary

The Story Which a Young Goatherd Told to Those That Were With Don Quixote

The young fellow who brings the goatherds provisions from the next village brings the news that Chrysostom, a shepherd and scholar, died this morning. It is said he died from his love for a “devilish, untoward lass” named Marcella, who flaunts herself in shepherdess clothing. Even worse, Chrysostom’s will states that he should be buried in the field, on the exact spot, where he first saw Marcella. The other wishes of the dead man are so odd that they will not be allowed by the parish, but a scholar named Ambrose (who also dresses like a shepherd) intends to carry out his friend’s wishes.

The town is in an...

(The entire section is 651 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 13 Summary

A Continuation of the Story of Marcella

It is barely dawn and five goatherds, Don Quixote, and Sancho Panza, leave for the funeral service. In a short time they meet six shepherds wearing black skins, crowned with cypress-tree garlands, and carrying long staves made of holly. Behind them are two gentlemen on horseback accompanied by three servants on foot. After greeting one another, the strangers decide to travel together to the funeral.  

One of the men on horseback, Vivaldo, explains that the shepherds who are wearing black in mourning told them about “the dead shepherd and his murdering mistress” and he and his companion want to see the funeral for themselves. Quixote asks what his...

(The entire section is 806 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 14 Summary

The Unfortunate Shepherd’s Verses and Other Unexpected Matters

Vivaldo reads Chrysostom’s poem; it recounts Marcella’s great beauty but laments her cruelty before he asks the Greek gods to greet him warmly in the afterlife. It does mention his jealousies and fears regarding the shepherdess, but when Vivaldo asks about those things, Ambrose explains them away as a fault of his friend, not Marcella. Vivaldi is convinced and is prepared to read a second poem, but suddenly Marcella appears near the rock where the grave is being dug.

Those who have never seen her “gaze on her in wonder and delight,” and those who have seen her before are equally enraptured by her presence. As soon as...

(The entire section is 576 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 15 Summary

Giving an Account of Don Quixote’s Unfortunate Encounter With Certain Bloody-Minded and Wicked Yanguesian Carriers

After Don Quixote leaves Chrysostom’s funeral, he and his squire wander through the woods for two hours looking for Marcella. When they do not find her, they sit in a meadow and eat their lunch. Panza does not tie Rozinante, and normally the docile horse would not be tempted to leave his master. This afternoon, however, some Yanguesian carriers are resting in a nearby field and have left their mares free to eat and drink.

Rozinante is drawn to them; however, they are not enticed by his advances. In fact, they attack the poor steed with their hooves and teeth, disrobing him...

(The entire section is 797 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 16 Summary

What Happened to Don Quixote in the Inn Which He Took for a Castle

When the innkeeper sees Don Quixote “lying quite athwart” on the donkey, he is concerned. Panza says nothing at all is wrong with him except that he fell from the top of a rock top the bottom and has some bruises on his sides. The innkeeper’s wife is a compassionate woman who, along with her daughter, immediately begins caring for Quixote. They are assisted by a rather odd-looking servant from the inn, Maritornes, a woman only three feet tall and too heavy for her body.

The bed the women make for Quixote is in a sorry room, a loft, which used to contain straw. The carrier also lodges here, and his corner of the loft is...

(The entire section is 816 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 17 Summary

A Further Account of the Innumerable Hardships Which the brave Don Quixote, and His Worthy Squire Sancho, Underwent in the Inn

Don Quixote comes to and calls out pitifully to his squire. Panza is in a foul mood and says “all the imps of hell have been tormenting him” all night. Quixote claims this is an enchanted castle and makes Panza swear not to tell anyone what he is about to say, at least until Quixote is dead. The squire agrees and hopes that happens tomorrow, as he hates to keep things around too long.

Quixote explains that a great adventure happened to him last night. The daughter of the lord of this castle, a stunningly beautiful and charming woman, came to him. When they were...

(The entire section is 812 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 18 Summary

Of the Discourse Between the Knight and the Squire, With Other Matters Worth Relating

Sancho Panza finally catches up with his master but he is so “pale, so dead-hearted, and so mortified” that he can barely stay seated on his donkey. Don Quixote tells his squire that he is certain the castle, or inn, must have been enchanted because normal people would not have abused Panza so, for when Quixote tried to rescue Panza he could not surmount the wall or even dismount. The squire is equally certain there was no enchantment and they should go back home before they are unable to walk at all because of their misadventures.

Quixote says Panza clearly has no understanding of chivalry and how...

(The entire section is 792 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 19 Summary

Of the Wise Discourse between Sancho and his Master; as also of the Adventure of the Dead Corpse, and other Famous Occurrences

Sancho Panza believes the misfortunes he and his master have been experiencing are because Quixote has not kept every part of his sworn oath of knighthood. Quixote agrees that he has forgotten some things and says Panza has suffered abuse because he failed to remind his master of them. Panza, of course, does not believe it was his job to remind Quixote and warns the knight to do what he is supposed to do so Panza does not suffer any further harm or disgrace.

They do not find shelter before it gets dark and are starving since they have no money because the squire’s...

(The entire section is 808 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 20 Summary

Of a Wonderful Adventure Achieved by the Valorous Don Quixote de la Mancha; the Like Never Compassed With Less Danger by Any of the Most Famous Knights in the World

Don Quixote and his squire are desperately thirsty but it is dark when they begin searching for water. Soon they hear a waterfall and begin to rejoice—until they hear the sound of horrible blows along with the rattling of chains and irons. Panza, “naturally fearful and pusillanimous,” is terrified at the sound. Quixote is not deterred by the horrors of darkness or the terrifying sounds of such awful blows accompanied by the roaring water. He makes a lengthy speech in which he explains why, as a knight, he is not afraid to face such...

(The entire section is 745 words.)

Part 1, Chapter 21 Summary

Of the High Adventure and Conquest of Mambrino’s Helmet, With Other Events Relating to Our Invincible Knight

It is raining, but Quixote is ashamed and will not seek shelter; instead he starts riding and soon espies a horseman wearing something glittering with gold on his head. This, says Quixote, will be a true adventure, as the rider is obviously wearing Mambrino’s helmet. Panza sees only a rider wearing something shiny on his head, but he does not confront his master for fear of being beaten.

The stranger is a barber riding a grey donkey and wearing a brass bowl on his head, but Quixote sees a knight on a grey steed wearing the famous helmet. The knight-errant positions his lance and...

(The entire section is 506 words.)