Miguel de Cervantes
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Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes is known throughout Spain and the world for his contribution to the Spanish language through his writing. In fact, many refer to Spanish as "la lengua de Cervantes" (the language of Cervantes). A poet, writer and playwright, Cervantes had a host of skills that were evident amongst his work. Of course he is most famous for his epic Don Quixote, but he also wrote a number of other great works including some poetry and theatrical works too.

Biography of Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes was born in 1547, however his actual birthday is unknown. Many believe that he was born on September 29th as this is Saint Michael's day and Spanish mothers would often name their children after the saint on whose day they were born. Hence Miguel de Cervantes, which is the Spanish version of the name Michael.

In 1569 he moved to Castille where he then spent some of his early years being a valet for a priest. The priest later got promoted and became a Cardinal, but not before Cervantes had enrolled in a Spanish Navy infantry regiment, the Infantería de Marina, which was stationed in the Italian city of Naples. He stayed in the city until 1571, when he finally saw military service on board the Marquesa. During the Battle of Lepanto, Cervantes was shot in the left arm, which was later amputated, leading him to be called the 'Cripple of Lepanto'.

He continued to serve with the army up until 1575. In this year, he was captured by some Algerian corsairs while on the voyage back to Spain and held to ransom. He was taken to Algiers where he was enslaved for 5 years, unable to escape despite his numerous attempts. Fortunately, his parents with the help of a Catholic order named the Trinitarians, managed to find enough money to pay the ransom and have him released. On his release, Miguel de Cervantes then returned to Madrid and his family where he began traveling and working, trying to help his family pay off the debts that they had incurred trying to free him.

His first significant piece of work was in the form of a pastoral novel entitled La Galatea, published in 1585. Miguel de Cervantes then settled in Seville where he worked for a number of different people including a bank as a collector of owed taxes. However, the bank later accused him of stealing some money and he was sent to jail in 1597. While in prison, Cervantes began work on Don Quixote, the first part of which was published in 1605 and became a huge hit in Madrid. The second part of the epic tale was published late in 1615.

Miguel de Cervantes died just a few months after the publication of the second part of the Don Quixote saga, in April 1616. He would never get to see how his work became one of the most important works in Spanish literary history. He was buried as requested in the local convent of some Trinitarian nuns. However, after the nuns relocated, the actual location of Cervantes' remains remains unknown.

Don Quixote

Don Quixote, also known as Don Quijote, tells the story of a slightly mad man from La Mancha, who is convinced that he is a knight and goes around the country battling various enemies with his slightly simple partner, Sancho Panza. Today the two parts of the work are often printed together, so the development of the story and Quixote's madness flow better. The work is often considered to be a great satire of the chivalry that was chief in literature at his time. But it is also a story that deals with the human condition in a sensitive manner.

Miguel de Cervantes was somewhat of a perfectionist in regards to his masterpiece, Don Quijote, as he designed over three hundred images for his main character. However there were a number of incongruities between the two books, which he acknowledged but never corrected. Today, this literary work is considered to be the forerunner to the romance narrative or novel, as well as the basis for many comedic novels.

Cervantes' Best works

  • Don Quixote
  • La Galatea
  • Novelas ejemplares
  • Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda
  • El Amante Liberal
  • Rinconete y Cortadillo
  • La Española Inglesa
  • El Licenciado Vidriera