The canon mentions that he himself began writing a book of chivalry, but he never finished it; he was discouraged to observe that the masses seem to only to like bad and messy plays, and good literature never makes any money. Or rather the directors of the theaters assume that the masses only like bad plays and so generally avoid good literature. The priest interrupts to say that books of chivalry should mirror life by depicting customs and truth, but instead they show “absurdity,” “folly,” and “lewdness.”
This respectable canon begins to seem a little absurd. Did he really stop writing his book because it was too good? He dislikes chivalry books for being too amusing to be instructive, so when he says that the book was too good, he probably means that it was too boring. Along with many other characters, he is prudishly suspicious of any kind of fun.
To support his point, the priest describes foolish plays that ignore conventions of youth and age, poverty and wealth, folly and seriousness; they also ignore geographical and historical continuity and present miracles that are almost sacrilegious. These plays may be entertaining to the masses, says the priest, but good plays are both entertaining and beneficial to the viewer – especially to his intelligence and moral sense. The canon and the priest agree that some authority needs to censor and regulate Spanish literature.
When the priest says that popular plays ignore conventions, he means that they disrupt stereotypes – that they try to show the world differently than he sees it. When he says that good plays should be beneficial to the viewer’s moral sense, he means that plays should instruct viewers in his morality, which he believes to be objectively true.
At this point, the canon joins the priest and company for a meal in a pretty valley. Sancho comes over to Quixote’s cage and whispers to him that his captors are merely the priest and the barber, who envy his great adventures. Quixote replies that only enchanters would be able to trap him in a cage so easily, and therefore the people that look the like the priest and the barber must be enchanters. Sancho tells him that he will put to him a question that will disprove this idea of enchantment. After some hesitation and embarrassment, he asks whether Quixote has needed to go to the bathroom while in the cage. Quixote answers in the affirmative.
Even though Quixote is beginning to have some doubts, he still chooses his beliefs over his observations. He expects his observations to adhere to his beliefs, not the other way around. His beliefs are the most unchanging part of his experience, while “all that is solid melts into air” – the material world around him is fluid and changeable. Nevertheless, with Sancho’s help, he is learning to take it into account.