Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra


Cervantes was born in Alcalá de Henares (Madrid) and settled in this capital. He studied from 1568 in López de Hoyo´s school, where he composed his first poems. Then he fought a duel with Antonio de Sigura and wounded his opponent, which he should have paid for by leaving Spain for ten years and losing his right hand, but he ran away.

At the time of Cardinal Acquaviva (1570), Cervantes was living in Rome between luxury and pleasures. Soon, he changed his life and he took part in a battle against the Turks, thus receiving a general pardon for his crime. In 1571 he took part, although ill, in the battle of Lepanto, where he lost the use of his left hand. In spite of this, he went on fighting against the Moors at sea.

When he decided to come back to Spain in 1575, keeping letters of reference from Juan de Austria, Berber pirates took his ship close to Barcelona. They captured Cervantes and his brother Rodrigo and shut them in their Algerian prisons. Either because of his letters of reference or because of his personal charm, he survived four attempts to escape -1576-77-78 and 79, each of them usually punishable by death.

After his sisters and the Trinity Friars rescued him in 1580, Miguel found himself confused in his own land from which he was gone almost twelve years. In 1584 his daughter Isabel was born to the actress Ana Franca, but he married Catalina Salazar. One year later, he published the successful pastoral novel, La Galatea, (1585). His plays were never successful.

In 1587, he was persuaded to confiscate wheat and carry out other tasks in Andalucia to help the Spanish armada. Late payment of his salary and misfortune in card games led him to prison in Seville in 1597, where he got to know the characters he was later to portray in his works.

In 1604 he lived in Valladolid, where he finished the first part of his greatest work. A sad incident that ended with Gaspar de Ezpeleta’s death, caused the imprisonment of his family. It was hinted that the women in Cervante’s house were too familiar with certain distinguished gentlemen. Once freed, they began steadily to settle in Madrid in 1607, where El Ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de La Mancha -first part of his masterpiece- was published in 1605. The book was a success and encouraged Cervantes to publish other writings: in 1613, Exemplary Novels (Novelas Ejemplares), the first Spanish work belonging to the genre novel. Immediately following that, his poem Travel to Parnaso and his Eight Comedies and Eight Hors d’oeuvres never performed before, both in 1614.

The issue in 1615 of the second part of El ingenioso Caballero don Quixote de La Mancha confirmed the success he got with the first one. Nevertheless, Cervantes economic situation was always precarious, but he never gave up the idea of traveling to Naples as the secretary to the viceroy, Comte of Lemos, to whom he devoted his posthumous book, The Labours of Persiles and Sigismunda (1617).

One year earlier, he died in Madrid on April, 22.

D.Miguel Pérez Rosado.
Ph. D. in Hispanic Philology.