Later that evening, a boy comes by to say that a famous student and shepherd named Grisóstomo died of unhappy love for a shepherdess named Marcela this morning. His friend Ambrosio is insisting that he be buried just as he specified, out in the wild where he first saw the shepherdess, and the goatherds decide to go see the burial.
Quixote’s own village does not seem like a place where beautiful young men fall so deeply in love that they die of it. But Quixote stumbles on a situation, indeed a little world, that is as romantic and high-minded as the world of his books.
One of the goatherds tells Quixote that the dead man was a wealthy gentleman, a former student at Salamanca University, and a skilled poet. He had recently gotten a large inheritable and was handsome, kind, and well-liked. One day, a few months after he returned from Salamanca, he and his student friend Ambrosio dressed up as shepherds and went into the hills to follow around the shepherdess Marcela, with whom Grisóstomo had fallen in love.
The world he enters (which is probably not so unusual in the villages and pastures of sixteenth-century Spain) is one where people will abandon their lives for love - where people are willing to reinvent themselves entirely. The ideal of love is more important than status or possessions to Grisóstomo.
Marcela, the shepherd continues, is the beautiful daughter of a rich farmer. She became so beautiful that every man who saw her fell in love with her, but she didn’t want to marry just yet. One day she decided to become a shepherdess, and soon all sorts of poor and rich men became shepherds to be closer to her. But though she is universally adored, she does not love any man or give any man favors, which makes all the men rail against her cruelty and coldness. After the conversation ends, Quixote and Sancho sleep in a shepherd’s hut – Quixote thinking all night of Dulcinea, Sancho snoring peacefully.
Love is an overpowering force, in this world. This plotline is like a little fairytale set within the larger, harsher, cruder world of the novel – the sort of fairytale that Quixote loves. The only thing the fairytale is missing is a noble knight to defend the innocent, beautiful lady. Here Quixote steps in. Though the world around him often mocks and punishes Quixote for his ideals, sometimes it seems to transform in his likeness.