Unlike other characters throughout the novel, Sancho Panza seems to genuinely care for and respect Don Quixote as a person rather than simply dismissing or mocking him because of his delusional behavior. Sancho consistently tries his best to protect Don Quixote from humiliation and violence without expecting anything in return. Other characters, however, such as the priest and the barber, claim to have don Quixote’s best interests at heart, yet continually ridicule and manipulate him. Thus, Sancho is Don Quixote’s only reliably selfless friend and supporter.
This can be seen when don Quixote gets in a brawl with the procession of penitents and “Sancho Panza…came up panting, trying to follow him, when he saw [don Quixote] on the ground, shouted to his assailant not to hit him anymore, because he was just a poor enchanted knight who had never done any harm to anybody in all the days of his life” (488). Whether or not he is getting anything in return, Sancho proves to be don Quixote’s loyal defendant and advocate in all his misadventures. At this point, Sancho has probably realized that he will not be the governor of an isle anytime soon, yet he persists in accompanying his master on his fantastical quests, demonstrating his genuine friendship and devotion.
The priest and the barber, like Sancho, go to great lengths to bring don Quixote home and keep him out of danger. However, unlike Sancho, they step back and sometimes even participate when don Quixote is being humiliated or attacked. Their sense of protection for don Quixote is more out of duty and less out of respect or friendship. Rather than prioritizing his well-being, they often allow others to mock and beat him for their own entertainment. In the same with the penitents, when the fight is just breaking out, “The canon and the priest were bursting with laughter, the officers were dancing with joy, and several people were urging them on, like they do with fighting dogs. Only Sancho Panza was despairing, because he was being held back by a servant of the canon, and this prevented him from helping his master” (486). Don Quixote is dehumanized and compared to a dog, showing how he serves as a source of entertainment to the priest and the canon, instead of causing concern or worry. This is not a singular instance, in that Sancho is the only one trying to defend and protect don Quixote. Whether don Quixote realizes it or not, Sancho acts a boundary between him and the rest of the world, trying to encourage and support him, exemplifying a true mark of friendship and respect, and a lack of self-interested motives.