Don Quixote Part 1, Chapter 20 Summary
by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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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 unutterable circumstances; he is undaunted and unshaken. Then he makes Panza promise that, if he does not return within three days, the squire will go to the village of Toboso and tell the fair Dulcinea that Quixote died attempting valorous feats in her name.

Panza immediately erupts into tears, begging his master not to go forth into such danger. He reminds Quixote that he left his wife and children to come with him on this quest because of the promise of an island which he can govern. Instead, he has suffered great harm. He only asks that if Quixote will not be dissuaded from his plan, he will at least wait until it is light before he enters this battle and leaves Panza to fend for himself in the darkness. The knight-errant is not moved and says he is no knight at all if he is swayed from his duties by tears or entreaties.

Seeing that his master is resolved, Panza plays a trick on him. As he is preparing Rozinante for battle, Panza surreptitiously ties the horse’s hind legs with his donkey’s halter. When Quixote tries to ride off, all Rozinante does is leap up and will not move forward despite all of Quixote’s efforts to move forward. Panza has also clasped the pommel without notice, to help keep Rozinante from moving. Finally Quixote is resigned to wait until morning, and Panza passes the time by telling his master a story.

The story Panza tells is convoluted, repetitive, and ridiculous, and Quixote interrupts often to question or correct his squire. Finally the tale ends and Quixote tries to ride Rozinante again, but the horse is still fettered and will not budge. Now Panza is suffering the effects of something he ate and has to gently remove his hand from the pommel in order to drop his pants and relieve himself. He is suffering from diarrhea, but he does his best not to make any noise; as he is finishing, however, some unfortunate sounds escape his body and Quixote immediately assumes it is the sound of some new adventure. Soon he smells something and tells Panza that he smells even worse now than he usually...

(The entire section is 745 words.)