The novel opens by briefly describing Don Quixote and his fascination with chivalric stories. With his “wits gone”, Don Quixote decides to become a knight and ream the country side righting wrong and rescuing damsels in distress. He outfits himself in some old armor and professes his love and service to Aldonsa Lorenzo whom he refers to as Dulcinea Del Toboso. After a long hot ride on his horse he comes upon an inn which he thinks is a castle and the innkeeper whom he believes to be the king.
That evening Don begs the innkeeper to knight him and the innkeeper agrees to do so as self amusement. He tells Don that he must return to his village for money, clean shirts and other provisions. Don agrees but before he is knighted, he beats up two carriers who were attempting water their mules at the trough where Don has stowed his armor. This was such a commotion at the inn, that the deeper quickly smacks Don on the neck and he is knighted and sent back to his village. On the way back he encounters two adventures; a farmer whipping his servant and the other six merchants, from Toledo who refuse to agrees that Dulcinea is the fairest maiden in the world. Don then attacks them and serves a beating for his troubles.
A peasant passing by recognizes Quixote and loads him across his donkey. They head back to their village as Don wildly describes his mishaps. Don Quixote returns to his village where his met by his niece and housekeeper. While he is sleeping, his chivalric romance books are burned and the room is sealed off by well intentional friends and family. They believe that Don’s nonsense is caused by the devil’s work. Throughout the rest of the book, Friston is blamed for all the misconceptions. Don Quixote will experience. A knight-errant must have a squire, so he convinces his neighbor, Sancho Panza, to accompany him by promising to conquer an island and make him the governor.
So after convincing him, they head out and come upon thirty or forty windmills which Don thinks are the Giants. Sancho is unable to convince him otherwise and quixote attacks them, experiencing a bad fall. He blames Friston for turning them into windmills. Continuing along the highway, Don Quixote frightens a couple of priests and then looses part of his ear in a fight when he attempts to rescue a lady from a stagecoach. Don tells Sancho that he has a special recipe for a magic balsam that will instantly mend broken bones and other injuries and Sancho believes him. They pass a group of goatherds which have no idea what Quixote talks about and attend a funeral of a goatherder who died of unrequited love.
Sancho and Don are resting by a brook and nearby is a herd of Galacian penies. Rocinante tries to mate and the Yanguesans’ see their horses being attacked and beat Rocinante off. The knight and his squire see this and immediately attack. They are beaten badly and limp off, when they come across an Inn(castle). When day comes, Don makes up some magic balsam. Taking a dose, he vomits, falls asleep and wakes up feeling better. Sancho takes a larger dose and almost dies. They finally leave and continue their journey, as Don comes across a herd of sheep which he thinks are waring armies.
He charges the sheep, killing seven of them before he is stoned and hurt badly by the shephards. Again Friston is blamed for turning the army into sheep. That night a group of robed figures approach with torches and Don knocks one of them off his mule. It was a priest with a funeral procession. The priest takes off and leaves the corpse on the mule with provisions which Sancho eagerly takes. During that night they are frightened by a loud noise. In the morning they learn that is was harmless and Sancho begins laughing. Quixote is not amuse and smacks Sancho and he quickly shuts up. It starts to rain and Don sees a man with a helmet coming down the road.
Thinking he is a rival knight, he attacks. He actually attacks the local barber who has put a basin on his head due to the rain. Quixote takes the basin as his own and wears it proudly. Farther down the road he meets a file of chained criminals on their way to the king’s galleys. The guards allow him to spead with the criminals who convince him they are innocent. He urges the guards to release them, but they refuse. He suddenly overpowers one of the guards and the prisoners finish the job.
Before they leave Quixote asks them to go to Toboso and present themselves to Dulcinea. They turn on him with rocks and sticks, leaving Quixote and Sancho badly beaten. Sancho is worried that the Brotherhood Crusade police will be after them for freeing the galley slaves, so they go into the mountains of Sierra Morena. There they meet Cardenio who tells them how his fiance, Lucinda, was stolen from him by Don Fernando. Before the story was finished, Cardenio flees leaving Quixote curious to hear the rest.
The next part of the novel deals primarily with the efforts of the curate and barber to get Don Quixote to return home. They pursuade Sancho to lead them to Don, without telling them of their intentions. The curate and barber disguise themselves and once in the mountains come across Cardenio who finishes his story of unrequited love. On the way, they meet Dorothea, the daughter of a wealthy farmer. She had been courted by Don Fernando, but before he kept his pledge to marry her, he fell in love with Lucinda and left. She is in search for Don Quixote and in exchange for her pretending to be a damsel in distress for Don, he will help find them. They find Don and convince him to go back to the Inn, where they witness a puppet show. Don takes this show literally and smashes the puppets on stage to bits.
After Don destroys a room full of wine skins during a nightmare, the landlord demands restitution. A party of masked people ride up to the Inn. The leader is Don Fernando, who Dorothea recognizes and persuades him to return Lucinda to Cardenio. After a long discussion, the right man and woman are paired off, Cardenio and Fernando reconcile their differences.
A cannon does his best to pursuade Don to abandon his knight-errant ways. While out of his cage for lunch, Don confirms his madness by attacking a religious procession. He is knocked off Rocinante by a peasant and ends up in his cage again, sadder but not wiser. They arrive at the village and Sancho and his wife are reunited, she is more concerned with the ass, than Sancho. Quixote is attended to by his niece and housekeeper who take him home. For the third and last time Quixote sets out where he supposedly has his most glorious and final battle. Details of his death are sketchy but his tale is passed on in Castilean verse which is detailed in his many achievements. The noble Rocinante is described along with the devoted Sancho Panza.
Don Quixote is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. I think all of us are familiar with Don Quixote attacking the windmills, but few of us have actually read the whole story. For some reason, I had no idea of how humorous this story actually was. I laughed out loud at situations that he got himself into. I particularly enjoyed when his well meaning family, sealed off his reading room. Poor Quixote, searching in vain for his beloved books. Sancho was always good for a laugh, especially when he would anger the so called knight-errant and get whacked in the head.
The story was easy to visualize, as I could just picture Don Quixote on Rocinante and Sancho following close behind on his mule. An outstanding literary masterpiece. It makes me wonder how Don Quixote lost his wits and decided to become a knight. Up until that point he seemed to lead a normal life of existence, with no signs of craziness. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Quixote. Throughout the story I was hoping he would accomplish his dreams of a chivalric lifestyle. I had to admire his convictions, when all around him people were calling him crazy.