Sancho arrives at a flourishing town of five thousand people called Baratario, which the Duke tells him is the Island of Barataria (Hankypanky Island). The townspeople come out to salute him, he receives the keys to the city in a formal ceremony, and then he is escorted into the courtroom. Immediately, two men burst in: a farmer and a tailor. The farmer brought the tailor some cloth and asked him whether it was enough material for a hood. The tailor said it was enough; the farmer asked whether it was enough for two, then three, then five hoods, and the tailor said yes each time. When the farmer came for his hoods, the tailor gave him five tiny ones – one for each finger. Sancho said that the farmer will lose his cloth, the tailor will lose his fee, and the hoods will go to the prisoners.
The novel has grown increasingly political. It emphasizes various kinds of social prejudices and inequalities during Sancho’s brief reign as governor of Barataria. Such positions were only open to members of the ruling class, because it was assumed that only wealthy and refined people could be capable leaders. Here, Cervantes makes a governor of an illiterate peasant: he turns everything upside down. And, of course, Sancho governs excellently and fairly. In this episode, he punishes both men for their deceit.
Next, two old men come in. One claims that he lent the other ten escudos (gold coins), but when he asked the other to pay him back, he claimed that he already returned the debt. The man offers to swear an oath that he repaid the other, but asks him to hold his cane as he swears. Sancho is satisfied by the oath and lets them go, but calls them back at the last minute. He opens the cane, finds the ten coins inside, and returns them to the lender. Everyone is amazed by his wisdom.
The second case also concerns deceit. Technically, the borrower does not lie in court: just before he swears his oath, he hands the lender the cane containing the debt. But this version of truth and falsehood is too minute, too contingent on context. Sancho (perhaps following Quixote’s example) cares more about intention, about a more abstract kind of justice.
A woman bursts in dragging a man. She cries that he raped her in the fields and demands justice. The man explains that he was walking home after a bad sale, slept with the woman, and paid her, but she decided to drag him to court. He swears he did not rape her. Sancho takes all the money in the herdsman’s wallet and gives it to the woman, who counts it and hurries out. Then Sancho tells the man to run and get his money back. They stumble back in, clutching one another – the woman has the money tightly bound in the fold of her skirt and the man is trying to wrestle it away from her, but without much luck. Sancho takes the purse from the woman and gives it back to the man. She is clearly much stronger than the man, he says, so the man could not have raped her. Once again, the court is in awe of his good sense.
In the course of his travels, Sancho has learned to use deceit as a tool. He learned from the priest and the barber who caged Quixote, he learned from the student Carrasco, and perhaps he even learned from the disgraced borrower. The priest, the barber, and Carrasco thought they used deceit for good (though it seems to have only caused harm); the borrower used it for selfish reasons; and Sancho uses deceit to serve justice. Deceit can have so many purposes that is seems morally neutral. A lie, on the other hand, is something with a constant negative value.