Sancho points out to the company that it was Don Quixote who had freed the prisoners, and that he had warned his master against it. Quixote irately explains that it is his job to help people in need, not to determine their moral fiber. Dorotea asks him to calm down and remember his vow to her, and tells him the princess’s story in greater detail. When the princess became an orphan, the evil giant invaded her kingdom, so she set out for Spain to seek the help of the famous Don Quixote. Dorotea tells Quixote that he must journey back to her kingdom, defeat the giant, and then make her his wife.
We saw in the previous chapter that Quixote felt guilty and embarrassed to learn that the chain-gang prisoners attacked his friends – mainly through his blush and his silence. But here he denies any feeling of responsibility. He is determined to view his actions and his responsibilities simply. Quixote is the opposite of a moral relativist.
Sancho is delighted to learn that his master will soon be emperor of a kingdom, but Don Quixote declines the princess’s offer of marriage. When Sancho angrily exclaims that the princess is much better than Dulcinea, Quixote pummels him and explains that he does everything only for Dulcinea’s sake, and all his strength comes from her image. Sancho apologizes for speaking rashly and the two become friends again.
Here, we learn another aspect of Quixote’s idealism. In his worldview, even his physical strength has its source in an idea – the idea of Dulcinea. It also displaces moral authority on this imagined figure, who therefore takes the place traditionally occupied by the Christian god.
Don Quixote asks Sancho about his visit to Dulcinea. But suddenly they see Ginés de Pasamonte riding toward them on Sancho’s donkey; Sancho yells at him angrily and he hops off the donkey and runs away. Sancho kisses and hugs his long-lost donkey with joy. Meanwhile, the rest of the company discusses Quixote’s strange gullibility on matters of chivalry and his incongruous good sense.
This chapter contains one of the famous errors of the original edition of the book. Sancho’s donkey reappears, even though originally there was no account of its theft. One could argue that Cervantes is making a point about the necessary incompleteness of stories, the gaps inherent in every perspective.