The young man tells the group his story. His name is Cardenio. When he was younger, he fell in love a beautiful girl named Luscinda, and they decided to marry. At that time, a famous man called Duke Ricardo asked Cardenio to stay with him in Andalusia as his older son’s companion, and Cardenio had no choice but to agree. He left in two days for the man’s estate.
Cardenio is one of a group of characters in the novel whose personalities and life stories happen to align very well with the style and substance of chivalric novels. From the very beginning, Cardenio’s story deals in extremes: the two lovers are beautiful, and their love is perfect.
There, he became close with the duke’s youngest son, Fernando. Fernando was in love with a beautiful peasant girl and wanted to take her virginity; to take his mind off this infatuation, Fernando decided to come live with Cardenio in his home village for a few months. By the time the two friends departed, Fernando had already seduced the girl and fallen out of love with her. Cardenio told Fernando of Luscinda’s charm and beauty at such length that after a single look Fernando fell in love with her too.
Yet though the story does have a classic fairy tale shape, it is also deeply imbued with social and class issues of sixteenth-century Spain. Cardenio and Luscinda are a good match both because they love each other and because they possess approximately equal wealth and social status.
Cardenio mentions that he had lent Luscinda Amadis of Gaul. This sends Quixote on a rant about books of chivalry, and the two men get into a strange dispute about some detail from a chivalry book involving a queen’s honor, which sends Cardenio into a fit of madness. He strikes Don Quixote and runs away.
Cardenio and Quixote quarrel because both have failed to distinguish between fiction and reality. But Cardenio probably thinks that the fictional queen must have been unfaithful because Luscinda was unfaithful; for him, life influences art, not the other way around.