Don Quixote Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary
by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

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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, and Quixote demands that the older man desist in the beating and challenges him to take up his lance (for Quixote sees something lance-like resting against a nearby tree), get on his horse, and fight a fair fight.

The boy is a shepherd for the rich farmer and pleads with Quixote to save him; the farmer appears to be impressed by the knight and explains that he loses sheep every day the boy works. Quixote insists that the master pay the boy what he owes him and release him. After they figure the amount the boy is owed, Quixote says the master must pay the boy’s wages immediately. When the master finally agrees to do so, Quixote rides off, satisfied that he has successfully completed his first act of valor. Once the knight is gone, however, the master ties the boy back up and continues to beat him. He finally releases his servant boy and tells him to go seek justice if he that is what he wants. The boy is determined to find the valorous knight whom he is sure will redress this great wrong on his behalf.

Pleased with himself for such a successful encounter, Quixote continues riding until he arrives at a four-way intersection. This is just the kind of decision-making which knights love, and after much thinking Quixote decides to let his trusty steed make the choice. Of course, Rozinante chooses the path which leads closest to his own stable. Before long, horse and rider see an entourage approaching them on the road. Six silk merchants from Toledo are riding on mules and are covered by umbrellas; they are accompanied by four servants and several muleteers.

Quixote decides to fight this battle the same way as one of the favorite exploits he read about, so he stands firmly in the middle of the road, lance poised, and demands that the men all swear that the noble Lady Dulcinea is the most beautiful woman in the world. The merchants can see that the odd-looking old man in front of them has lost his senses, so they decide to...

(The entire section is 725 words.)