Miguel De Cervantes was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. His major work, Don Quixote, considered to be the first modern European novel, is a classic of Western literature, and is regarded amongst the best works of fiction ever written.
Miguel De Cervantes short biography
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born in Alcalá de Henares, a Castilian city about 35 kilometres (22 mi) northeast from Madrid, probably on 29 September 1547.
His family was large; he was only the fourth son out of what was to become seven children in total. Not much is known about his educational background. It is supposed that he studied under the Jesuits as a child and in his late teens and very early twenties, under the tutelage of the principal of a municipal school in Madrid named Juan Lopez de Hoyos. Unlike most writers of his time, he apparently did not go to university.
In 1570, he left Spain for Italy, a move usually done by the Spaniards of his time to further their careers. Once there he joined the Spanish infantry in Naples. Around this time, the relations between the Ottoman Empire and the countries in the Mediterranean were very much strained. This was due to the fact that the Ottoman Empire was quickly expanding its power over these countries. In 1571, a Turkish fleet invaded Cyprus, an island country near Greece. This move made the confrontation between the Turks and the Spanish infantries located in nearby Italy inevitable. Cervantes valiantly fought in the Gulf of Lepanto, an area near Greece. He was badly wounded in his left hand and thus earned the nickname “Manco de Lepanto” (Maimed of Lepanto). After that, he continued fighting in the Mediterranean.
Something incredible happened when he tried to come back home to Spain in 1575. His ship was captured by pirates and he was taken as a slave to Algiers, a country in northern Africa. It is believed that his life as a slave from 1575 to 1580 became the source of inspiration for some episodes in Don Quixote. In 1580, his family, with the help of the friars of a Trinitarian monastery, was finally able to raise the ransom money necessary to free him.
Spain had changed drastically during Cervantes’s absence. Prices had increased dramatically and the standard of living for people like his middle-class family had fallen. As a sad consequence, Cervantes would spend the rest of his life employment-hopping and being continually short of money. But it was his return to Spain which began his career as a major literary figure. In 1585, he published his first long work, La Galatea, a prose pastoral romance. Its publication brought him success with the reading public. After this pastoral romance, Cervantes decided to try his luck as a dramatist. His plays were average in comparison to the Don Quixote which he was to write in 1604.
In late 1580s, de Cervantes began working for Spanish Armada as a commissary. It was a thankless task, collecting grain supplies from rural communities. Many did not want to provide the goods, and de Cervantes ended up in prison on two occasions because of charges of mismanagement. During this trying time, he began writing some of literature’s greatest masterpieces.
When the First Part of Don Quixote came out in 1605, it was an immediate success. I In 1615, a year before his death, the Second Part came out and was just as successful. It is believed that the Second Part is richer and more profound than the First.
Don Quixote did not make de Cervantes wealthy; at the time, authors did not receive royalties for their works. De Cervantes continued to write after the success of Don Quixote, but he failed to finish The Labors of Persiles and Segismunda before his death. De Cervantes died on April 23, 1616, in Madrid. He was buried on the grounds of a convent there, in an unmarked grave.
De Cervantes married Catalina de Salazar y Palacios in 1584. The couple remained married until de Cervantes’s death. They never had any children, but de Cervantes did have a daughter from a prior relationship, Isabel de Saavedra.