Cervantes y Saavedra, Don Miguel de
1547 – April 22, 1616
Famous for writing ‘Don Quixote’by Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Don Miguel Cervantes y Saavedra is best known today for writing ‘Don Quixote.’ However, in his day, he was also known as the author of numerous other books, plays, and poems. He appears to have led a varied life – from being an attendant to a cardinal to collecting taxes to finally entering a brotherhood where he led a very simple life. Whatever else his life may have been, it certainly was not monotonous.
Don Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra was born in 1547, probably in the late summer/early fall, and christened October 9, 1547 in Alcala de Hernares. His father was a surgeon. Cervantes’ childhood was spent in various Andalusian cities before his family finally settled in Madrid. Otherwise, very little is known of his early life.
In 1569, Lopez de Hoyos, Cervantes’ teacher, published four of Cervantes’ poems. Also in 1569, Cervantes left Madrid for Rome, where he became an attendant of the Cardinal Acquaviva. He stayed there for several months. He next appears in 1571, where he fought and was wounded in the left hand at the battle of Lepanto. He then participated in the campaigns of Juan of Austria in Navarino, Tunis, and Corfu. Cervantes, on his way back to Spain by sea, was attacked, captured, and made prisoner of, by Algerian corsairs. Cervantes spent the next five years as a slave, despite four attempts to escape. He was finally ransomed by the Trinitarians.
Cervantes returned to his family in Madrid. There he began to write again.
In 1585, Cervantes, at the age of 38, married Catalina de Salazar, then 16.
A few months later he published ‘La Galatea,’ a pastoral novel.
Meanwhile, a few of his plays were playing on the stages of Madrid.
Two years later, in 1587, Cervantes left Madrid for Andulasia. There he collected supplies for the Invincible (Spanish) Armada and later taxes for ten years. In 1597, Cervantes, because of pecuniary problems with the government, was arrested and put in jail in Seville. He spent a few months there, but it seems that the case against him was too complex and he was released.
Cervantes next settled in Valladolid in 1604. From this point on, he appears to have concentrated soley on his writing. In Valladolid, Cervantes obtained the right to publish the first part of ‘Don Quixote,’ which came out a year later in Madrid. It was a huge success. By 1608, Cervantes and his family were once again settled in Madrid. Cervantes continued to write and publish books: in 1613, the ‘Novelas ejemplares,’ the ‘Viaje del Parnaso’ in 1614, and in 1615, the ‘Ocho comedias y ocho entremesses,’ as well as the second part of ‘Don Quixote.’ Throughout this period, Cervantes was also working on ‘Los trabojos de Persiles y Sigismunda,’ which he finished three days before he died and which was published posthumously in January of 1617.
Towards the end of his life, Cervantes entered a pious brotherhood. He devoted himself to his work, which was famous inside and outside his country. Nonetheless, he led a humble, simple life. Cervantes died on April 22, 1616, three days after finishing his last book, ‘Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda’.
Very few facts are known about Cervantes’ character. He was not, apparently, a particularly social person. There are, in fact, no authentic portraits of him, only different artists’ interpretations of descriptions. Practically nothing is known of his personality. Thus, this biography does not try to interpret his character, only to tell what is known of his life.
Urbina, Dr. Eduardo. The Cervantes Project. Texas A & M University. October
cyberspain.com. CyberSpain. October 11, 2003.