Soon after this conversation, the friends see twelve men all shackled together, followed by four armed guards. Don Quixote decides he must help the men, since they are being forced to act against their free will. He asks each convict about his crime, and each describes his crime obliquely, so as to inspire sympathy. The first two say they are imprisoned for being in love and singing, though they are both thieves; others are pimps, pedophiles, and murderers. But Don Quixote takes pity on them and asks the guards to let them go free. Naturally the guards refuse; Quixote attacks, and the prisoners run free.
Just as knights in chivalry books don’t often stop to unravel the histories of victims and enemies, Quixote does not try very hard to understand the root causes of the events that he witnesses. His idea of justice is very simple: if someone is being mistreated, he is a victim. The past and the future don’t matter very much to the knight: there are only present injustices.
Quixote asks the prisoners to present themselves to Dulcinea, but the murderer Ginés de Pasamonte explains rudely that they must go into hiding. Quixote becomes angry, so the prisoners shower him with stones and strip the friends of some of their clothing. The mean leave them lying helplessly on the ground.
The cruelty of the prisoners does not fit well into Quixote’s worldview. He knows that knights are beloved because they protect good people from bad people. The people whom he helped were suffering, so they must have been good: so why did they act so heartlessly?