The next morning the party sets out to attend the funeral. On their way they encounter a party of shepherds, horsemen, and servants, also on their way to the funeral. One of the travellers ask Don Quixote about his strange outfit, and when he responds that he’s a knight errant devoted to helping the helpless, they all conclude that he is insane. To humor him and to amuse himself, one of the horsemen compares Quixote’s profession to that of a monk, and Quixote replies that in some respects it is more necessary and more difficult. The horseman wonders why knights in danger commend themselves to ladies instead of to god, and Quixote replies that they commend themselves to both.
Knighthood and religion, knights and priests, are compared and connected in many ways throughout the book. Several scholars have called Quixote the first novel to describe a world in which man has been abandoned by god. In Quixote’s mission to help the helpless, he resembles the Good Samaritan (though nearly every person he meets mocks him for it). Christianity tells the weak to trust themselves to god, but Quixote makes them his own responsibility.
The horseman asks Don Quixote to describe his beloved, and the knight describes Dulcinea’s perfect beauty – a mixture of all the beauties described by poets. She is not of noble lineage, but she is not common.
Here we begin to see that Dulcinea, as she is in Quixote’s imagination, may not be real. She is the ideal of woman, rather than a woman of flesh and blood.
To the side, they see twenty shepherds dressed in black carrying a bier (a plank) weighted with a corpse covered in flowers. They set it down and begin digging a grave. Ambrosio, who is among the shepherds, tells the travellers that Grisóstomo was brilliant, polite, friendly, generous, and lovely in every way, but Marcela turned him cruelly away. Before his death, he asked Ambrosio to burn the verses he wrote in her honor. A horseman named Vivaldo objects to this plan and takes on the papers from Ambrosio’s hands. On it is a poem called “Song of Despair,” the last thing the dead man ever wrote. Vivaldo agrees to read it out loud to the others.
Unlike other characters in this story, who have complicated, sometimes contradictory personalities and earthly, material existences, the characters in their fairy tale exist only in absolutes: absolute goodness and amiability, absolute beauty, absolute coldness. Though Don Quixote himself, as we will see, deals in many wonderful contradictions, he often sees people as either utterly good or bad, utterly beautiful or wretched.