Don Quixote retracts his request that Sancho keep quiet. Sancho asks why he had made such a fuss about a fictional queen with a man he knew to be somewhat insane, and Quixote explains that it’s a knight’s duty to defend all honorable women against all kinds of people. He tells Sancho not to string together so many absurd proverbs; he also explains that everything he does is sensible because it accords with the laws of chivalry.
In the beginning, Sancho is quite respectful and submissive with Quixote, who is more noble and more learned. But gradually Sancho has learned to argue with Quixote, to hold his own in debates. Although he is illiterate, he can recite an apparently infinite list of proverbs. These proverbs are a form of shared, oral wisdom – wisdom available to people of all classes.
As in many other arts and professions, explains Quixote, greatness in knight-errantry is achieved by imitation. For this reason, he will imitate Amadis of Gaul in secluding himself and acting insane in honor of his beloved. It’s even more impressive, he says, to go mad without any particular reason. In the meantime, Sancho must deliver Dulcinea a letter in verse. Sancho complains that sometimes knight-errantry seems like a bunch of lies, but Quixote angrily explains that enchanters are making everything related to knight-errantry look like mirage and folly out of spite.
Here Cervantes engages ideas of authenticity and originality. Quixote believes in a chivalrous world of clear, essential values, solid first principles. But Cervantes’ novel abounds in imitations - copies of some authentic, original principle. This chain of copies recedes backward in time, but the farther you follow the chain, the more copies you find. The original, the authentic, is not there.
By chance, the murderer Ginés de Pasamonte happens to pass by the spot in the wild sierras where Sancho and Quixote have chosen to spend the night, and he quietly steals Sancho’s donkey. Sancho is so grief-stricken in the morning that Quixote promises to give him three of his five donkeys when they return to the village. They keep walking and soon Don Quixote picks a mountain, where he strips and begins lamenting to the skies about Dulcinea; Sancho watches closely to report in detail to Dulcinea.
Quixote, who is actually insane, is also imitating insanity. His real madness can be described as a habit of imitating chivalry stories. So Quixote, a person who is insane because he imitates stories, is pretending to be insane by imitating a story. His real insanity and his pretend insanity are mirror images.
Don Quixote rips some paper from Cardenio’s notebook to write a letter to Dulcinea and a warrant for three donkeys for Sancho; he asks Sancho to have the letter copied out on fine paper and to sign it himself, and it won’t matter that the handwritings are different because Dulcinea can’t read – she was brought up in seclusion by her parents Lorenzo Corchuelo and Aldonza Nogales. Sancho realizes that Dulcinea is a peasant girl named Aldonza Lorenzo. Sancho says she is strong, loud, and merry, not at all a princess; but Quixote explains that for his purposes she’s just as good as a princess. Most poets invent their beloveds to have something to write about; so Quixote just imagines Dulcinea is as he wishes her to be, and therefore she is magnificent and unequalled. Sancho takes the letter and the warrant and leaves to find Dulcinea.
Throughout the novel, it is often unclear whether or not Dulcinea is real, and her reality seems to change as the book progresses. Here, Dulcinea is both real and imaginary – she is both the windmill and the giant. That is to say, she is half Aldonza Lorenzo, a rowdy peasant girl from a neighboring village, and half Dulcinea, a composite of imaginary qualities. She exists both in the world of the novel and in Quixote’s imagination. For Quixote, the true Dulcinea is as she should be or might be - as he wishes her to be.