The curate borrows a dress from the innkeeper’s wife. The landlady asks what they are doing. They tell her about Quixote. She recognizes her former guests and tells them the details.
The curate has problems playing the part of a woman later and asks the barber to switch roles. Sancho laughs at them. He then tells them about the madman they met in the mountains, though he doesn’t mention the portmanteau.
Sancho brings them to the place where he left Quixote. They warn him not to reveal their identities. He is to say he delivered the letter to Dulcinea, who commanded Quixote to return on a matter of great importance. They tell Sancho that if Quixote returns, he can become an emperor. Sancho suggests he should go ahead and prepare Quixote for their arrival, and they agree.
The barber and the curate hear someone singing while they are waiting for Sancho. They go search for the person, who begins crying. They find Cardenio. The curate tells him he should leave this life before he dies out here.
Cardenio is sane, but he is aware of his bouts of madness. He believes his present life is best for him. He repeats his story, but he tells them the ending. He asked Luscinda to marry him. Fernando had decided to ruin him. He had told Fernando that he didn’t want to tell his father of his desire to marry Luscinda because his father did not want Cardenio to marry so soon. He wanted to see what Duke Ricardo’s plans for his son’s future would be.
Fernando offers to speak to Cardenio’s father, then sends him away on an errand to get money from his elder brother to pay for some horses he bought. Fernando’s brother detains Cardenio for a week. A messenger comes to him, saying that Luscinda had sent him. She had give him a handkerchief with money.
The letter she sends tells him that Fernando has asked Luscinda’s father for her to be his bride, and the father accepted—impressed with Fernando’s family.
Cardenio arrives on Luscinda’s wedding day. She tells him she has a dagger, and everyone will see her death before they see her wed. Cardenio sneaks in to witness the marriage. However, instead of committing suicide, Luscinda goes through with the vows. She faints. Fernando sees a letter in her bosom. Cardenio leaves and comes to the mountains. He waits to die, for he can’t live without Luscinda.