Cervantes, aging and an utter failure in his varied careers as
playwright, poet and tax collector for the government, has been thrown
into a dungeon in Seville to await trial by the Inquisition for an
offense against the Church. There he is hailed before a kangaroo court
of his fellow prisoners; thieves, cutthroats and trollops who propose to
confiscate his meager possessions one of which is the uncompleted
manuscript of a novel called "Don Quixote." Cervantes, seeking to save
it, proposes to offer a novel defense in the form of entertainment. The
"court" accedes and before their eyes, donning makeup and costume,
Cervantes and his faithful manservant transform themselves into Don
Quixote and Sancho Panza. They proceed to play out the story with the
participation of the prisoners as other characters.
Sancho take to the road, on "horses" which dance a lively flamenco,
singing Man of La Mancha in a campaign to restore the age of chivalry,
to battle evil and right all wrongs. The famous encounter with the
windmills follows, but Quixote ascribes his defeat to the machinations
of his enemy, the dark Enchanter, whom one day he will meet in mortal
In a roadside
inn-which Quixote, spying from a distance, insists to Sancho is really a
castle-Aldonza, the inn's serving girl and part-time trollop, is
propositioned by a gang of rough Muleteers. Quixote, arriving at the
inn, sees Aldonza as the dream-ideal whom he will serve evermore,
singing Dulcinea to her. Aldonza is confused and angered by Quixote's
refusal to see her as she really is.
The Padre and
Dr. Carrasco arrive at the inn but on questioning Quixote, are
frustrated by his lunatic logic. They are interrupted by the arrival of
an itinerant Barber singing The Barber's Song. Quixote confiscates the
Barber's shaving basin, convinced that it is really the "Golden Helmet"
of Mambrino, and is ceremoniously crowned with the aid of the Muleteers
and the incredulous Barber.
encounters Quixote in the courtyard where he is holding vigil, in
preparation for being dubbed a knight by the Innkeeper. She questions
him on his seemingly irrational ways, and is answered by Quixote in a
statement of his credo, The Impossible Dream.
caught the fever of Quixote's idealism but, attempting to put it into
practice, is cruelly beaten and ravaged by the Muleteers in The
Abduction and is carried off.
On the road
again, Quixote and Sancho encounter a thievish band of Moors and are
robbed of all their possessions in the The Moorish Dance. They return to
the inn, only to encounter the disillusioned Aldonza who sings her
denunciation of the Quixotic dream in the dramatic Aldonza. A fantastic
figure, the Enchanter disguised as the Knight of the Mirrors, enters;
challenging Quixote to combat, the Enchanter defeats him, forcing him to
see himself as a pathetic clown.
again, the old man who once called himself Don Quixote is dying. Aldonza,
having followed, forces her way into the room, pleading poignantly with
him to restore the vision of glory she held so briefly, in the song
Dulcinea. Quixote, remembering, rises from his bed to reaffirm the
stirring Man of La Mancha, but collapses, dying. Aldonza, having
glimpsed the vision once more, refuses to acknowledge death, saying, "My
name is Dulcinea."
Cervantes' dungeon the prisoners, dregs of humanity though they are,
have been deeply affected by his story and restore to him his precious
manuscript. Cervantes is summoned to his real trial by the Inquisition.
The prisoners unite to sing him on his way with The Impossible Dream.