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Don Quixote by Cervantes: Ch. 8 (Windmill, Summary & Analysis)

Luis Ceniceros, Bryan Cowing
  • Author
    Luis Ceniceros

    Graduating with a 4.0 GPA, Luis Ceniceros earned a master’s degree in English and American Literature from the University of Texas, El Paso. Before his M.A., he earned a B.A. in English and American Literature and a B.A. in Philosophy. Luis Ceniceros has spent the last six years-plus as a General Education Instructor at Western Technical College, teaching English Composition, Research Analysis, Philosophy, Ethics, and Policy courses.

  • Instructor
    Bryan Cowing

    Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

Explore Chapter 8 of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. Learn the summary of the chapter, read its analysis, and examine the Don Quixote windmill scene and quote. Updated: 02/07/2022

Don Quixote Chapter 8: Overview

A true classic in Western literature, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes was originally published in two parts, with volume one in 1605 and volume two in 1615. Chapter 8 of Don Quixote involves one of the most noted and discussed scenes in the book, transcending literature and becoming a part of Western culture more generally: the scene where Don Quixote fights windmills. Before Chapter 8, the previous chapter sees Don Quixote persuading Sancho Panza to be his squire (a sidekick in adventure, really). Sancho Panza is described as honest and poor. With the promise of adventure, knighthood, and fortune, Sancho Panza leaves his wife and children to set forth as the squire for Don Quixote.

The Adventures Begin

If you've ever been friends with someone who was very different from you, you might recognize the beginning of the relationship between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Chapter 8 of Don Quixote. In this chapter, Don Quixote sets off with Sancho, and the pair could not be more different. Let's take a look at the adventures of this interesting duo.

In Chapter 8, we find Don Quixote heading out on another adventure. He's really itching for some combat ever since his friends and family tried to lock him up in his own house. Determined not to be foiled, in Chapter 7 he enlisted the help of his neighbor, Sancho, to serve as esquire by telling him all about the adventures to come. As they are riding off, Chapter 8 opens with Don Quixote spying a field full of giants. Sancho tells Don Quixote that they are actually windmills (which they are), but Quixote just tells Sancho that if he is scared, he can run back home.

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  • 0:04 The Adventures Begin
  • 1:03 The Giants
  • 1:57 Cliffhanger
  • 2:53 Analysis
  • 3:24 Sancho and Quixote
  • 4:43 Lesson Summary
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Summary of Don Quixote Chapter 8

At the end of Chapter 7, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza have set out on a knightly adventure. Don Quixote rides his steed Rocinante, and Sancho Panza rides a donkey (until Don Quixote can win a proper horse for Sancho after defeating an adversarial knight, so he says). As Chapter 8 begins, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza come upon the sight of windmills. Don Quixote sees giants for windmills and attacks them even after Sancho Panza warns Don Quixote not to mistake the windmills for anything but windmills. One windmill catches the wind and knocks down Don Quixote.


Illustration by Gustave Dore

illustration by Gustave Dore


After this encounter, Don Quixote and Sancho continue to ride, wounded in pride and body. The pair make camp, and Sancho drinks himself to sleep with alcohol. Soon thereafter, they take the road once more. Coming upon a traveling group, Don Quixote sees another opportunity for glory and fortune. However, again Don Quixote is mistaken, and he sees St. Benedict friars as evil magicians and the accompanying lady in the coach as the evil magicians' captive. Sancho Panza again warns Don Quixote of yet another mistake he is making. Still, Don Quixote engages once more until the friars flee away, and Sancho Panza ends up kicked and left beaten by the muleteers accompanying the friars and the lady in the coach.

Analysis of Chapter 8

Taken literally, what Don Quixote sees is not what is there in reality, but perception determines Don Quixote's action. Moreover, his actions were predetermined since he promised Sancho Panza adventure at a moment's notice and knightly glory and tribute when recruiting Sancho Panza in the previous chapter. Not only does Don Quixote not need much convincing when perceiving giants, but he also describes this chance encounter as fortune and an opportunity to rid evil while engaging in righteousness combat. For Don Quixote, there is no doubt that those windmills are giants, even going as far as to shout battle cries at the windmills not to flee since he is a single knight that attacks them. If anything, Don Quixote upholds the knightly tradition, however mistaken, by fighting in honor of Dulcinea, his lady.

On the other hand, Sancho Panza does not ever see giants despite Don Quixote's attempts to convince him otherwise. Still, Sancho Panza does accompany Don Quixote with hopes of being deemed a knight by Don Quixote and being promised the gift of an island by Don Quixote as well. Don Quixote even requests Sancho to refrain from battling alongside him because Sancho Panza is not yet a knight. Don Quixote only allows Sancho Panza to fight in self-defense or if those attacking are not knights; otherwise, Sancho would be violating knighthood laws by engaging in combat without having the honorable title of knight.

Don Quixote Windmill Scene

Chapter 8 begins with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza coming upon thirty or forty windmills at a distance away. However, Don Quixote does not see windmills but monstrous giants. Don Quixote exclaims that fortune presented them an opportunity for adventure, which supposedly they desired. Sancho Panza asks which giants since he only sees windmills. Where Don Quixote sees the giants' long arms, Sancho Panza only sees windmill arms and sails turned by the wind.

For Don Quixote to explain this difference in perception, he rationalizes that Sancho Panza does not see giants since he lacks experience in adventure, is afraid, and should step aside and pray as Don Quixote engages the giants in battle. Just as suddenly, Don Quixote spurs Rocinante (his horse) and charges the would-be giants while Sancho Panza shouts after him trying to convince Don Quixote that the windmills are not giants. Don Quixote, by then, is in full charge and draws inspiration from his lady Dulcinea to support him in knightly battle.


windmills / giants

windmills


The Giants

Don Quixote bravely charges the giants until he gets too close and one of the windmills knocks him and Rocinante, his horse, over. At this point, Don Quixote realizes that his foes are indeed windmills. Instead of admitting his mistake, he decides that some sort of magic changed the giants into windmills. Sancho and Don Quixote continue their trek. Sancho drinks heavily and sleeps deeply as the two men camp for the night.

As they travel along, Don Quixote reminds Sancho that he must not get involved in any of Quixote's battles. Since Sancho is not a knight, it is improper for him to ''put a hand to thy sword in my defence.'' In other words, if another knight is attacking Don Quixote, Sancho must not fight alongside him. Sancho is happy to follow that rule. He is not interested in putting his neck out.

Cliffhanger

The two men see a couple of friars traveling along the road, and since they are wearing all black, Don Quixote is convinced they are evil sorcerers. There is also a coach following the friars. Inside of the coach is a woman. Upon seeing this, Don Quixote proclaims that the woman is surely ''some stolen princess in that coach.'' He promises ''with all my might I must undo this wrong.''

When he attacks the friars, one runs away and the other lies on the ground in agony. Sancho rushes up and begins to strip the friar's gown, telling the others traveling with the coach that the gown is his spoil of war. Sancho gets beaten up and then everyone runs off except for a squire from Biscay, who promises ''unless thou quittest coach, slayest thee as art here a Biscayan.'' In other words, this man promises to slay Don Quixote, and they begin to duel just as the chapter ends.

Analysis

Once again, we find our protagonist in a dangerous situation, due to his delusions. Don Quixote believes the windmills are giants, and even when he comes face-to-face with the facts, he refuses to accept that he could be wrong. The absurdity of this encourages the reader to consider how ridiculous it is for others to ignore the truth, even when they are presented with undeniable facts. This could be a criticism from the author of religion, politics or even the personal lives of those who cannot admit they are wrong.

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Video Transcript

The Adventures Begin

If you've ever been friends with someone who was very different from you, you might recognize the beginning of the relationship between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Chapter 8 of Don Quixote. In this chapter, Don Quixote sets off with Sancho, and the pair could not be more different. Let's take a look at the adventures of this interesting duo.

In Chapter 8, we find Don Quixote heading out on another adventure. He's really itching for some combat ever since his friends and family tried to lock him up in his own house. Determined not to be foiled, in Chapter 7 he enlisted the help of his neighbor, Sancho, to serve as esquire by telling him all about the adventures to come. As they are riding off, Chapter 8 opens with Don Quixote spying a field full of giants. Sancho tells Don Quixote that they are actually windmills (which they are), but Quixote just tells Sancho that if he is scared, he can run back home.

The Giants

Don Quixote bravely charges the giants until he gets too close and one of the windmills knocks him and Rocinante, his horse, over. At this point, Don Quixote realizes that his foes are indeed windmills. Instead of admitting his mistake, he decides that some sort of magic changed the giants into windmills. Sancho and Don Quixote continue their trek. Sancho drinks heavily and sleeps deeply as the two men camp for the night.

As they travel along, Don Quixote reminds Sancho that he must not get involved in any of Quixote's battles. Since Sancho is not a knight, it is improper for him to ''put a hand to thy sword in my defence.'' In other words, if another knight is attacking Don Quixote, Sancho must not fight alongside him. Sancho is happy to follow that rule. He is not interested in putting his neck out.

Cliffhanger

The two men see a couple of friars traveling along the road, and since they are wearing all black, Don Quixote is convinced they are evil sorcerers. There is also a coach following the friars. Inside of the coach is a woman. Upon seeing this, Don Quixote proclaims that the woman is surely ''some stolen princess in that coach.'' He promises ''with all my might I must undo this wrong.''

When he attacks the friars, one runs away and the other lies on the ground in agony. Sancho rushes up and begins to strip the friar's gown, telling the others traveling with the coach that the gown is his spoil of war. Sancho gets beaten up and then everyone runs off except for a squire from Biscay, who promises ''unless thou quittest coach, slayest thee as art here a Biscayan.'' In other words, this man promises to slay Don Quixote, and they begin to duel just as the chapter ends.

Analysis

Once again, we find our protagonist in a dangerous situation, due to his delusions. Don Quixote believes the windmills are giants, and even when he comes face-to-face with the facts, he refuses to accept that he could be wrong. The absurdity of this encourages the reader to consider how ridiculous it is for others to ignore the truth, even when they are presented with undeniable facts. This could be a criticism from the author of religion, politics or even the personal lives of those who cannot admit they are wrong.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What happens in the windmill scene in Don Quixote?

Don Quixote sees giants when, in reality, there are only windmills. He proceeds to charge the windmills despite Sancho Panza's warnings. It is only after Don Quixote is knocked down that he sees a windmill; however, he claims that sorcery had changed the giants into windmills.

What does the windmill represent in Don Quixote?

The windmill represents imaginary enemies. More broadly, it represents our potential for misguided fights that we romanticize or idealize in our minds.

How does Don Quixote explain his defeat by the windmill?

After being knocked down and his lance broken by the windmill, Don Quixote states to Sancho Panza that Friston and his evil sorcery turned the giants into windmills to steal away Don Quixote's chance at glory. Don Quixote still claims that there were giants, but they only became windmills due to sorcery and not because he was mistaken.

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