The song rails again Marcela’s cruelty and indifference, describes the man’s profound despair, and declares his imminent death. Suddenly the beautiful Marcela herself appears on top of a hill nearby; she has come to defend herself against the many people who blame her for Grisóstomo’s death. She explains (very elegantly and beautifully) that she is not obligated to love the men who love her, because true love is rare and unpredictable, and that therefore she is not to blame for anyone’s lovesick suffering. She chooses to live freely in nature. After she finishes her speech and disappears back into the forest, some men rise up and follow her; but Don Quixote rises with his sword to prevent anyone from intruding on this honorable woman. Finally they bury Grisóstomo and scatter flowers on his grave.
Though the tradition of courtly love idolizes women who are beautiful, gentle, and weak, many characters in the novel admire women who are not only beautiful but also strong, willful, and intelligent, like the shepherdess Marcela. But she is unreal in a different way, because she is a collection of ideas. In a way, the men who vie to marry her want to transform her from an idea to a wife, someone who plucks chickens, wipes up dirt, births children, and in general becomes earthly and impure. Quixote wants to defend this girl made of ideas from the men who want to make her real.