Don Quixote is not happy, wounded as he is by the mishaps with the cats. He remains a week in bed, brooding on his misfortunes and Altisidora's passion for him.
When he hears the door open, he grabs the dagger, determined to ward off the lusty maiden's advances. However, it isn't Altisidora but the duenna. Don Quixote is frightened by the sight, believing her to be a phantom. He startles her.
She identifies herself as Dona Rodriguez, claiming she comes with a grievance that needs addressing. Don Quixote tells her his heart belongs to Dulcinea, and he will not submit to any passionate proposals. The duenna tells him she is beyond that. She wishes to tell him her sorrows.
The duenna leaves to get another candle, and Don Quixote plans to shut the door behind her and not allow her to enter. However, when she returns, he allows her back in.
The duenna tells him that her parents had been reduced to poverty and had gotten her a job as a seamstress under a lady. Her parents returned to their own country, where they died. An esquire fell in love with her, and the lady had them married. He died shortly after their daughter was born. He was killed by their mistress when he went to leave her and escort an alcalde, as his profession demanded. She had stabbed him with a hat pin, but the duenna believes he died when she dismissed him from service.
The present duchess offered employment to the duenna. Dona Rodriguez's daughter grew up to be an accomplished, beautiful girl. The son of a rich farmer promised to marry her when they got together, but he refuses to uphold his word. She has complained to the duke, but he refuses to do anything because the man loans him a considerable amount of money.
Just as the duenna is mentioning a health condition the duchess has, she is seized by two hands. Don Quixote is likewise seized and pinched.