Suddenly they hear the clanging replaced by pleasant music, and they see a large chariot filled with penitents in white, carrying at the center a beautiful girl dressed in silver. A veiled figure in black stands next to her. The chariot stops, the music falls silent, and the figure in black removes his veil to show a frightening, death-like face. He calls himself Merlin and recites verses that describe Dulcinea’s enchantment and explain that she will be disenchanted if Sancho lashes himself three thousand and three hundred times. Sancho is outraged and refuses to lash himself at all. Quixote and the Dulcinea stand-in scold him for his cowardice and laziness, and the Duke tells him that he must lash himself to get his island. Finally Sancho consents, and the strange army disappears back into the forest.
This scene echoes several adventures: the encounter with the penitents carrying a holy image, and the encounter with the Knight of the Spangles, who was dressed in glittery silver like Dulcinea. Everything about the scene seems a warning to Quixote to be skeptical, to disbelieve: the girl among the penitents is not the holy Dulcinea – she is like the impostor knight, distracting with shine and false gold. The Duke and Duchess’s amusement is not very kind, because it hinges on the friends’ humiliation.