Quixote asks Sancho whether the lackey mentioned anything about Altisidora. He is grateful for her love, though he has nothing to give her in return, because he is loyal to Dulcinea and because “the treasures of knights errant are like fairy gold, false and illusory.” Now that Dulcinea is on his mind, he urges Sancho to lash himself and hurry along Dulcinea’s disenchantment. Sancho resists, finding it hard to believe that his lashes have anything to do with a woman’s enchantment.
Quixote’s description of knighthood as “fairy gold” is ambiguous. On the one hand, fairy gold resembles the possessions of actors, who delight everyone they meet. It is gold that can’t purchase food or drink, but it can give spiritual sustenance. On the other hand it is “false and illusory.” For the first time, he speaks with disappointment about his vocation.
Meanwhile, the two friends pass the meadow where they met the party of pretend shepherds and shepherdesses, and Quixote decides that he and Sancho will also become shepherds for their year at home. They’ll adjust their names and choose shepherdesses to love, though Sancho declines to choose any shepherdess other than his wife. Quixote is excited to spend a year playing various instruments and writing love poems. They spend the night out under the stars.
Quixote has firmly identified himself as an actor, a performer – a vast change from his former notion of himself as a modern-day saint, a righter of wrongs. People like Carrasco and the Duke and Duchess have enmeshed him in so many hoaxes and performances that he seems to have absorbed falseness by contact.