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Miguel de Cervantes

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Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (not authentic; no authenticated image exists)[1]
Born Miguel de Cervantes Cortinas
(1547-09-29)29 September 1547 (assumed)
Alcalá de Henares, Spain
Died 22 April 1616(1616-04-22) (aged 68)
Madrid, Spain
Occupation Novelist, poet, playwright, soldier
Language Spanish
Nationality Spanish
Notable works Don Quixote
Novelas ejemplares


Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra[b] (Spanish: ; 29 September 1547 (assumed) – 22 April 1616),[2] often known mononymously as Cervantes, was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright.

His magnum opus, Don Quixote, considered to be the first modern European novel,[3] is a classic of Western literature, and is regarded amongst the best works of fiction ever written.[4] His influence on the Spanish language has been so great that the language is often called la lengua de Cervantes ("the language of Cervantes").[5] He was dubbed El Príncipe de los Ingenios ("The Prince of Wits").[6]

In 1569, Cervantes moved to Rome where he worked as chamber assistant of a cardinal. Cervantes then enlisted as a soldier in a Spanish Navy infantry regiment and continued his military life until 1575, when he was captured by Algerian corsairs. After 5 years of captivity he was released by his captors on ransom from his parents and the Trinitarians, a Catholic religious order and he subsequently returned to his family in Madrid.

In 1585, Cervantes published a pastoral novel named La Galatea. He worked as a purchasing agent for the Spanish Armada, and later as a tax collector. In 1597, discrepancies in his accounts of three years previous landed him in the Crown Jail of Seville. In 1605, he was in Valladolid when the immediate success of the first part of his Don Quixote, published in Madrid, signaled his return to the literary world. In 1607, he settled in Madrid, where he lived and worked until his death. During the last 9 years of his life, Cervantes solidified his reputation as a writer; he published the Novelas ejemplares (Exemplary Novels) in 1613, the Journey to Parnassus (Viaje al Parnaso) in 1614, and in 1615, the Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses and the second part of Don Quixote. Carlos Fuentes noted that, "Cervantes leaves the page open where the reader knows himself read and the author written."[7][8]

Birth and early life

It is assumed that Cervantes was born in Alcalá de Henares, a Castilian city about 35 kilometres (22 mi) from Madrid, probably on 29 September (the feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel) 1547. The probable date of his birth was determined from records in the church register and given the tradition to name a child with the name of the feast day of his birth. He was baptized in Alcalá de Henares on 9 October 1547[9] at the parish church of Santa María la Mayor. The register of baptisms records the following:

On Sunday, the ninth day of the month of October, the year of our Lord one thousand five hundred forty and seven, Miguel, son of Rodrigo Cervantes and his wife Leonor, was baptised; his godfathers were Juan Pardo; he was baptised by the Reverend Bachelor Bartolomé Serrano, Priest of Our Lady. Witnesses, Baltasar Vázquez, Sexton, and I, who baptised him and signed this in my name. Bachelor Serrano.[10]

Note that Miguel at birth was not surnamed Cervantes Saavedra. He adopted the "Saavedra" name as an adult. By Spanish naming conventions his second surname was that of his mother, Cortinas.

Miguel's father, Rodrigo, was a barber-surgeon from Córdoba, who set bones, performed bloodlettings, and attended "lesser medical needs";[11] at that time, it was common for barbers to do surgery, as well. His paternal grandfather, Juan de Cervantes, was an influential lawyer who held several administrative positions. His uncle was mayor of Cabra for many years.

His mother, Leonor de Cortinas, was a native of Arganda del Rey and the third daughter of a nobleman, who lost his fortune and had to sell his daughter into matrimony in 1543. This led to a very awkward marriage and several affairs by Rodrigo.[12] Leonor died on 19 October 1593.

Little is known of Cervantes' early years. It seems he spent much of his childhood moving from town to town with his family. During this time, he met a young barmaid named Josefina Catalina de Parez. The couple fell madly in love and plotted to run away together. Her father discovered their plans and forbade Josefina from ever seeing Cervantes again, perhaps because of the young man's poor prospects of ever rising from poverty—Miguel's own father was embargoed for debt. The court records of the proceedings show a very poor household. While some of his biographers argue that he studied at the University of Salamanca, there is no solid evidence for supposing that he did so.[c] There has been speculation also that Cervantes studied with the Jesuits in Córdoba or Seville.[13]

His siblings were Andrés (1543), Andrea (1544), Luisa (1546), Rodrigo (1550), Magdalena (1554) and Juan—known solely because he is mentioned in his father's will.

Military service and captivity

The Battle of Lepanto by Paolo Veronese (c. 1572, oil on canvas, 169 x 137 cm, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice).

The reasons that forced Cervantes to leave Spain remain uncertain. Whether he was a "student" of the same name, a "sword-wielding fugitive from justice", or fleeing from a royal warrant of arrest, for having wounded a certain Antonio de Sigura in a duel, is unclear.[14] Like many young Spanish men who wanted to further their careers, Cervantes left for Italy: in Rome he focussed his attention on Renaissance art, architecture, and poetry – knowledge of Italian literature is discernible in his work. He found "a powerful impetus to revive the contemporary world in light of its accomplishments".[15][16] Thus, Cervantes' stay in Italy, as revealed in his later works, might be in part a desire for a return to an earlier period of the Renaissance.[17]

By 1570, Cervantes had enlisted as a soldier in a regiment of the Spanish Navy Marines, Infantería de Marina, stationed in Naples, then a possession of the Spanish crown. He was there for about a year before he saw active service. In September 1571 Cervantes sailed on board the Marquesa, part of the galley fleet of the Holy League (a coalition of Pope Pius V, Spain, the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Knights Hospitaller based in Malta, and others, under the command of Philip II of Spain's illegitimate half brother, John of Austria) that defeated the Ottoman fleet on October 7 in the Battle of Lepanto, in the Gulf of Patras. Though taken down with fever, Cervantes refused to stay below, and asked to be allowed to take part in the battle, saying he would rather die for his God and his king than keep under cover. He fought on board a vessel, and received 3 gunshot wounds – 2 in the chest, and one which rendered his left arm useless. In Journey to Parnassus he was to say that he "had lost the movement of the left hand for the glory of the right" (he was thinking of the success of the first part of Don Quixote). Cervantes looked back on his conduct in the battle with pride: he believed he had taken part in an event that would shape the course of European history.

After the Battle of Lepanto, Cervantes remained in hospital in Mesina, Italy, for about 6 months, before his wounds were sufficiently healed to allow his joining the colors again.[18] From 1572-75, based mainly in Naples, he continued his soldier's life: he participated in expeditions to Corfu and Navarino, and saw the fall of Tunis and La Goulette to the Turks in 1574.[19]:220

On 6 or 7 September 1575 Cervantes set sail on the galley Sol from Naples to Barcelona, with letters of commendation to the king from the Duke of Sessa.[20] On the morning of September 26, as the Sol approached the Catalan coast, it was attacked by Algerian corsairs under the command of Arnaut Mami, an Albanian renegade and terror of the narrow seas.[21] After significant resistance, in which the captain and many crew members were killed, the surviving passengers were taken to Algiers as captives.[19]:236 After 5 years spent as a slave in Algiers, and 4 unsuccessful escape attempts, he was ransomed by his parents and the Trinitarians and returned to his family in Madrid. Not surprisingly, this period of Cervantes' life supplied subject matter for several of his literary works, notably the Captive's tale in Don Quixote and the two plays set in Algiers – El Trato de Argel (The Treaty of Algiers) and Los Baños de Argel (The Baths of Algiers) – as well as episodes in a number of other writings, although never in straight autobiographical form.[9]

Life after his return to Spain

Cervantes led a middle-class life after his return to Spain. Like almost all authors of his day, he was unable to support himself through his writings. Two periods of his life that are very well documented are his years of work in Andalucía as a purchasing agent for the Spanish navy (i.e., the King). This led to his imprisonment for a few months in Seville after a banker where he had deposited Crown funds went bankrupt. (Since Cervantes says that Don Quixote was "engendered" in a prison, that is presumably a reference to this episode.) Also he worked as a tax collector, travelling from town to town collecting back taxes due the crown. He applied unsuccessfully for "one of four vacant positions in the New World", one of them as as accountant for the port of Cartagena. At the time he was living in Valladolid, then briefly the capital (1601–1606), and finishing Don Quixote Part One, he was presumably working in the banking industry, or a related occupation where his accounting skills could be put to use. He was turned down for a position as secretary to Pedro Fernández de Castro y Andrade, the Count of Lemos, although he did receive some type of pension from him, which permitted him to write full-time during his final years (about 1610 to 1616). His last known written words – the dedication to Persiles y Sigismunda – were written, he tells us, after having received Extreme Unction. He died in 1616 of type II diabetes.[22] His burial place is unknown, and his unpublished manuscripts were mostly lost.

Literary pursuits

"The pen is the language of the soul; as the concepts that in it are generated, such will be its writings." – Miguel de Cervantes at the Biblioteca Nacional de España (National Library of Spain).

In Esquivias, Toledo, on 12 December 1584, he married the much younger Catalina de Salazar y Palacios (born Esquivias – d. 31 October 1626), daughter of Fernando de Salazar y Vozmediano and Catalina de Palacios. Her uncle Alonso de Quesada y Salazar is said to have inspired the character of Don Quixote. Over the next 20 years, Cervantes led a nomadic existence, working as a purchasing agent for the Spanish Armada and as a tax collector. He suffered bankruptcy and was imprisoned at least twice (1597 and 1602) for irregularities in his accounts. Between 1596 and 1600, he lived primarily in Seville. In 1606, Cervantes settled in Madrid, where he remained for the rest of his life.

In 1585, Cervantes published his first major work, La Galatea, a pastoral romance, at the same time that some of his plays, now lost – except for El Trato de Argel (where he dealt with the life of Christian slaves in Algiers) and El Cerco de Numancia – were playing on the stages of Madrid. La Galatea received little contemporary notice; and Cervantes never wrote the continuation for it, which he repeatedly promised to do. Cervantes next turned his attention to drama, hoping to derive an income from that source, but his plays failed to achieve their purpose. Aside from his plays, his most ambitious work in verse was Viaje del Parnaso (1614) – an allegory which consisted largely of a rather tedious though good-natured review of contemporary poets. Cervantes himself realized that he was deficient in poetic talent.

If a remark which Cervantes himself makes in the prologue of Don Quixote is to be taken literally, the idea of the work (though hardly the writing of its First Part, as some have maintained) occurred to him in prison at Argamasilla de Alba in La Mancha. Cervantes' idea was to give a picture of real life and manners, and to express himself in clear language. The intrusion of everyday speech into a literary context was acclaimed by the reading public. The author stayed poor until 1605, when the first part of Don Quixote appeared. Although it did not make Cervantes rich, it brought him international appreciation as a man of letters.

The statue of Miguel de Cervantes at the harbor of Naupactus (Lèpanto).

The popularity of Don Quixote led to the publication of an unauthorized continuation of it by an unknown writer, who masqueraded under the name of Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda. Cervantes produced his own continuation, or Second Part, of Don Quixote, which made its appearance in 1615. He had promised the publication of a second part in 1613 in the foreword to the Novelas ejemplares (Exemplary Novels), a year before the publication of Avellanda's book. Don Quixote has been regarded chiefly as a novel of purpose. It is stated again and again that he wrote it in order to satirize the chivalric romance and to challenge the popularity of a form of literature that had been a favorite of the general public for more than a century.

Don Quixote certainly reveals much narrative power, considerable humor, a mastery of dialogue, and a forceful style. Of the two parts written by Cervantes, perhaps the first is the more popular with the general public – containing the famous episodes of the tilting at windmills, the attack on the flock of sheep, the vigil in the courtyard of the inn, and the episode with the barber and the shaving basin. The second part shows more constructive insight, better delineation of character, improved style, and more realism and probability in its action.

In 1613, he published a collection of tales, the Exemplary Novels, some of which had been written earlier. The picaroon strain, already made familiar in Spain through the Picaresque novels of Lazarillo de Tormes and his successors, appears in one or another of them, especially in the Rinconete y Cortadillo. In 1614, he published the Viaje del Parnaso and in 1615, the Eight Comedies and Eight New Interludes. At the same time, Cervantes continued working on Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda, a novel of adventurous travel, completed just before his death, and appearing posthumously in January 1617.


While 23 April 1616 was recorded as his date of death in some references, and the date on which his death was widely celebrated, he in fact died in Madrid the previous day, 22 April.[23] He was buried on 23 April.[24] The cause of his death, according to Antonio López Alonso, a modern physician who has examined the surviving documentation, was Diabetes 2, a result of a cirrhosis of the liver. This the best explanation for the intense thirst he complained of. The cirrhosis was not caused by alcoholism; Cervantes was too productive, especially in his final years, to have been an alcoholic.[25]

William Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616. To honor this, UNESCO established 23 April as the International Day of the Book.[26] However, these dates refer to different days: Spain had adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1582, but England was still using the Julian calendar. Shakespeare's death on 23 April 1616 (Julian) was equivalent to 3 May 1616 (Gregorian). This was 10 days after Cervantes was buried and 11 days after he died.

In accordance with Cervantes' will, he was buried in the neighboring convent of Trinitarian nuns, in central Madrid.[27] According to the English newspaper The Guardian, his "bones went missing in 1673 when building work was done at the convent. They are known to have been taken to a different convent and were returned later." There is a project to rediscover his remains.[28]


Cervantes' La Galatea (1585), original title page.
  • El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605): First volume of Don Quixote.
  • Novelas ejemplares (1613): a collection of 12 short stories of varied types about the social, political, and historical problems of Cervantes' Spain:
    • "La gitanilla" ("The Gypsy Girl")
    • "El amante liberal" ("The Generous Lover")
    • "Rinconete y Cortadillo" ("Rinconete & Cortadillo")
    • "La española inglesa" ("The English Spanish Lady")
    • "El licenciado Vidriera" ("The Lawyer of Glass")
    • "La fuerza de la sangre" ("The Power of Blood")
    • "El celoso extremeño" ("The Jealous Man From Extremadura")
    • "La ilustre fregona" ("The Illustrious Kitchen-Maid")
    • "Novela de las dos doncellas" ("The Novel of the Two Damsels")
    • "Novela de la señora Cornelia" ("The Novel of Lady Cornelia")
    • "Novela del casamiento engañoso" ("The Novel of the Deceitful Marriage")
    • "El coloquio de los perros" ("The Dialogue of the Dogs")
  • Segunda Parte del Ingenioso Cavallero [sic] Don Quixote de la Mancha (1615): Second volume of Don Quixote.
  • Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda (1617). Persiles, as it is commonly known, is the best evidence not only of the survival of Byzantine novel themes but also of the survival of forms and ideas of the Spanish novel of the second Renaissance. In this work, published after the author's death, Cervantes relates the ideal love and unbelievable vicissitudes of a couple, who, starting from the Arctic regions, arrive in Rome, where they find a happy ending to their complicated adventure.
  • Gil Polo's continuation of that romance. Next to Don Quixote and the Novelas ejemplares, it is particularly worthy of attention, as it manifests the poetic direction in which Cervantes moved at an early period of life.

Don Quixote

Gustave Doré's first (of about 370) illustrations for Don Quixote.

Don Quixote (spelled "Quijote" in modern Spanish) is two separate volumes, now nearly always published as one, that cover the adventures of Don Quixote, also known as the knight or man of La Mancha, a hero who carries his enthusiasm and self-deception to unintentional and comic ends. On one level, Don Quixote works as a satire of the romances of chivalry, which, though still popular in Cervantes' time, had become an object of ridicule among more demanding critics. The choice of a madman as hero also served a critical purpose, for it was "the impression of ill-being or 'in-sanity,' rather than a finding of dementia or psychosis in clinical terms, that defined the madman for Cervantes and his contemporaries." Indeed, the concept of madness was "associated with physical or moral displacement, as may be seen in the literal and figurative sense of the adjectives eccentric, extravagant, deviant, aberrant, etc."[29] The novel allows Cervantes to illuminate various aspects of human nature. Because the novel, particularly the first part, was written in individually published sections, the composition includes several incongruities. Cervantes pointed out some of these errors in the preface to the second part; but he disdained to correct them, because he conceived that they had been too severely condemned by his critics. Cervantes felt a passion for the vivid painting of character. Don Quixote is noble-minded, an enthusiastic admirer of everything good and great, yet having all these fine qualities accidentally blended with a relative kind of madness. He is paired with a character of opposite qualities, Sancho Panza, a man of low self-esteem, who is a compound of grossness and simplicity.

Statuettes of Don Quixote (left) and Sancho Panza (right).

Don Quixote is cited as the first classic model of the modern romance or novel, and it has served as the prototype of the comic novel. The humorous situations are mostly burlesque, and it includes satire. Don Quixote is one of the Encyclopædia Britannica's Great Books of the Western World, while the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky called it "the ultimate and most sublime work of human thinking".[30] It is in Don Quixote that Cervantes coined the popular phrase "the proof of the pudding is in the eating" (por la muestra se conoce el paño), which still sees heavy use in the shortened form of "the proof is in the pudding", and "who walks much and reads much, knows much and sees much" (quien anda mucho y lee mucho, sabe mucho y ve mucho).

Novelas Ejemplares (Exemplary Novels)

Cervantes intended they should be to Spanish nearly what the novellas of Boccaccio were to Italians.[31] Some are anecdotes, some are romances in miniature, some are serious, some comic; they are written in a light, smooth, conversational style.

Four novelas, though favorites in Cervantes' day, are perhaps of less interest today than the rest: El amante liberal, La señora Cornelia, Las dos doncellas, and La española inglesa. The theme common to these is pairs of lovers (couples) separated by lamentable and complicated events; they are finally reunited and find the happiness they have longed for. The heroines are all beautiful and of perfect behavior; they and their lovers are capable of the highest sacrifices; and they try to elevate themselves to the ideal of moral and aristocratic distinction which illuminates their lives. In El amante liberal, the beautiful Leonisa and her lover Ricardo are carried off by Turkish pirates. Both fight against serious material and moral dangers. Ricardo conquers all obstacles, returns to his homeland with Leonisa, and is ready to renounce his passion and to hand her over to her former lover in an outburst of generosity; but Leonisa's preference naturally settles on Ricardo in the end.

Another group of "exemplary" novels is formed by La fuerza de la sangre, La ilustre fregona, La gitanilla, and El celoso extremeño. The first three offer examples of love and adventure happily resolved, while the last unravels itself tragically. Its plot deals with the old Felipe Carrizales, who, after traveling widely and becoming rich in America, decides to marry, taking all the precautions necessary to forestall being deceived. He weds a very young girl – and isolates her from the world, by having her live in a house with no windows facing the street. But in spite of his defensive measures, a bold youth succeeds in penetrating the fortress of conjugal honour; and one day Carrizales surprises his wife in the arms of her seducer. Surprisingly, he pardons the adulterers, recognizing that he is more to blame than they, and dies of sorrow over the grievous error he has committed. Cervantes here deviated from literary tradition, which demanded the death of the adulterers; but he transformed the punishment inspired, or rather required, by the social ideal of honour into a statement on the responsibility of the individual. Rinconete y Cortadillo, El casamiento engañoso, El licenciado Vidriera, and the untitled novella known today as El coloquio de los perros, four works of art which are concerned more with the personalities of the characters than with the subject matter, form the final group of these stories. The protagonists are, respectively, two young vagabonds, Rincón and Cortado, Lieutenant Campuzano, a student – Tomás Rodaja (who goes mad and believes he has become glass, and who makes many remarks on society and customs of the time) and finally two dogs, Cipión and Berganza, whose wandering existence serves to mirror the most varied aspects of Spanish life. El coloquio de los perros features even more sardonic observations on the Spanish society of the time.

Rinconete y Cortadillo is today considered one of the most delightful of Cervantes' works. Its two young vagabonds come to Seville, attracted by the riches and disorder that the 16th-century commerce with the Americas had brought to that metropolis. There they come into contact with a brotherhood of thieves, the Thieves' Guild, led by Monipodio, whose house is the headquarters of the Sevillian underworld. The solemn ritual of this band of ruffians is all the more comic for being presented in Cervantes' drily humorous style.

Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda (The Labors of Persiles and Sigismunda)

Title page of Persiles and Segismunda.

Cervantes finished the romance of Persiles and Sigismunda, shortly before his death. The idea of this romance was not new and Cervantes appears to imitate Heliodorus.[32] The work is a romantic description of travels, both by sea and land. Real and fabulous geography and history are mixed together; and in the second half of the romance the scene is transferred to Spain and Italy.


Some of his poems are found in La Galatea. He also wrote Dos Canciones à la Armada Invencible. His best work however is found in the sonnets, particularly Al Túmulo del Rey Felipe en Sevilla. Among his most important poems, Canto de Calíope, Epístola a Mateo Vázquez, and the Viaje del Parnaso (Journey to Parnassus – 1614) stand out. The latter is his most ambitious work in verse, an allegory which consists largely of reviews of contemporary poets. Compared to his ability as a novelist, Cervantes is often considered a mediocre poet.

Viaje del Parnaso

Frontispiece of the Viaje (1614).

The prose of the Galatea, which is in other respects so beautiful, is occasionally overloaded with epithet. Cervantes displays a totally different kind of poetic talent in the Viaje del Parnaso, an extended commentary on the Spanish authors of his time.


Comparisons have diminished the reputation of his plays; but two of them (El Trato de Argel and La Numancia – 1582) made an impact. El Trato de Argel, is written in 5 acts; based on his experiences as a captive of the Moors, the play deals with the life of Christian slaves in Algiers. La Numancia is a description of the siege of Numantia by the Romans. It details the horrors of the siege, and has been described as devoid of the requisites of dramatic art. Cervantes's output published in his lifetime consists of 16 dramatic works including 8 full-length plays:

  • El gallardo español,
  • Los baños de Argel,
  • La Gran Sultana, Doña Catalina de Oviedo,
  • La casa de los celos,
  • El laberinto de amor,
  • La entretenida,
  • El rufián dichoso,
  • Pedro de Urdemalas, a sensitive play about a picaro, who joins a group of Gypsies for love of a girl.

He also wrote 8 short farces (entremeses):

  • El juez de los divorcios,
  • El rufián viudo llamado Trampagos,
  • La elección de los Alcaldes de Daganzo,
  • La guarda cuidadosa (The Vigilant Sentinel),
  • El vizcaíno fingido,
  • El retablo de las maravillas,
  • La cueva de Salamanca, and El viejo celoso (The Jealous Old Man).

These plays and entremeses made up Ocho Comedias y Ocho Entremeses Nuevos, Nunca Representados (Eight Comedies and Eight New Interludes, Never Before Acted) which appeared in 1615. The dates and order of composition of Cervantes' entremeses are unknown. Faithful to the spirit of Lope de Rueda, Cervantes endowed them with novelistic elements, such as simplified plot, the type of descriptions normally associated with a novel, and character development. Cervantes included some of his dramas among the works he was most satisfied with.

La Numancia

Miguel de Cervantes in a late and idealized portrait of the 18th century (Retratos de Españoles Ilustres-Portraits of Illustrious Spanish, 1791).
Cervantes: Image from a 19th-century German book on the history of literature.

This play is a dramatization of the long and brutal siege of the Celtiberian town Numantia, Hispania, by the Roman forces of Scipio Africanus. Cervantes invented, along with the subject of his piece, a peculiar style of tragic composition; and, in doing so, he did not pay much regard to the theory of Aristotle. His object was to produce a piece full of tragic situations, combined with the charm of the marvellous. In order to accomplish this goal, Cervantes relied heavily on allegory and on mythological elements. The tragedy is written in conformity with no rules, save those which the author prescribed for himself, for he felt no inclination to imitate the Greek forms. The play is divided into four acts, jornadas; and no chorus is introduced. The dialogue is sometimes in tercets, and sometimes in redondillas, and for the most part in octaves – without any regard to rule.


During his life Cervantes was primarily known as a writer of a funny book, which was how Don Quixote Part I was viewed in his day. His Exemplary Novels were better received than was Don Quixote, and allowed him to publish his plays and entremeses, Viaje del Parnaso, Part II of Don Quixote, and (by his widow) Persiles y Sigismunda. He then faded into semi-obscurity. The revival of interest in him was born in England in the eighteenth century, first by the deluxe edition of Tonson, for which the first biographical sketch was written (1738), and then by the scholarly editor John Bowle (writer), who was the first to call Cervantes a "classic" author. His influence on other novelists began in eighteenth-century England, and was followed by an intense interest by the German romantics in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In 1805 (centenary of the publication of Don Quixote Part I), and 1816 (centenary of his death), nothing happened. The next centenary, 1905, saw a great wave of celebrations in Spain.

Cervantes' novel Don Quixote has had a tremendous influence on the development of prose fiction. It has been translated into all major languages and has appeared in 700 editions. The first translation was in English, made by Thomas Shelton in 1608 (Part I only [33]), but not published until 1612. Shelton renders some Spanish idioms into English so literally that they sound nonsensical when translated — as an example he always translates the word dedos as fingers, not realizing that dedos can also mean inches. (In the original Spanish, for instance, a phrase such as una altura de quince dedos, which makes perfect sense in Spanish, would mean fifteen inches high in English, but a translator who renders it too literally would translate it as fifteen fingers high.)

Honoré Daumier and Gustave Doré.

Sigmund Freud was greatly influenced by "El coloquio de los perros," which has been called the origin of psychoanalisis. In it only one character tells his story; the other listens, occasionally making comments. At the center of the dog's story is a sexual event. Freud stated that he learned Spanish so as to read Cervantes in the original, and he signed 55 letters with the name of the character (dog) Cipión.[37][38][39]

The Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, the largest digital archive of Spanish-language historical and literary works in the world, is named after the author.

Ethnic and religious heritage

There is ongoing debate over Cervantes' family origins. While it was long assumed that Cervantes was an Old Christian, many modern scholars have suggested that he may have descended from a New Christian (or converso) background, i.e., that his ancestors, prior to 1492, had been Jews.[40]

Advocates of the New Christian theory, first set forth by Américo Castro, often suggest Cervantes' mother was a converso as well. The theory rests almost exclusively on circumstantial evidence, but would explain some mysteries of Cervantes' life.[41] It has been supported by authors such as Anthony Cascardi[42] and Eisenberg.[43] Others, such as Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz (or Francisco Olmos Garcia, who considers it a "tired issue" and only supported by Américo Castro, which is not true) reject the theory strongly.[44]


Bust of Cervantes erected in 1905, Burgos.

Although the portrait of Cervantes attributed to Juan de Jáuregui is the one most associated with the author, the fact is that there is no known portrait that is a true likeness.[45][46]

The oil painting, Retrato de un caballero desconocido, painted by El Greco in Toledo between 1600 and 1605, and on display at the Museo del Prado, has also been cited as a possible portrait of Cervantes, based on the fact that he was living near Toledo in 1604 and that he knew people within El Greco's circle of friends.[47]

The 1859 portrait by Luis de Madrazo, which the painter himself stated is based on his own imagination, is currently at the Biblioteca Nacional de España.[48]

The Spanish euro coins of €0.10, €0.20, and €0.50 bear a bust of Cervantes.[49]

See also


a. ^ The most reliable and accurate portrait of the writer is that provided by Cervantes himself in the prologue of the Exemplary Novels, complaining that the lost portrait by Juan Martínez de Jáuregui y Aguilar was not used as a frontispiece. (translated by Walter K. Kelly):[50]

This person whom you see here, with an oval visage, chestnut hair, smooth open forehead, lively eyes, a hooked but well-proportioned nose, and silvery beard that twenty years ago was golden, large moustaches, a small mouth, teeth not much to speak of, for he has but six, in bad condition and worse placed, no two of them corresponding to each other, a figure midway between the two extremes, neither tall nor short, a vivid complexion, rather fair than dark, somewhat stooped in the shoulders, and not very lightfooted: this, I say, is the author of Galatea, Don Quixote de la Mancha, The Journey to Parnassus, which he wrote in imitation of Cesare Caporali Perusino, and other works which are current among the public, and perhaps without the author's name. He is commonly called MIGUEL DE CERVANTES SAAVEDRA.
Exemplary Novels (Author's Preface)

b. ^ His signature spells Cerbantes with a b; but he is now known after the spelling Cervantes, used by the printers of his works. The patronymic of his mother was Cortinas. Saavedra was the surname of a distant relative. He adopted it as his second surname after his return from the Barbary Coast.[19]:191–192* C. Slade, Introduction, xxiv The earliest documents signed with Cervantes' two names, Cervantes Saavedra, appear several years after his repatriation. He began adding the second surname (Saavedra, a name that did not correspond to his immediate family) to his patronymic in 1586–1587 in official documents related to his marriage to Catalina de Salazar.[19]:191–192

c. ^ The only evidence is a statement by Professor Tomas González, that he once saw an old entry of the matriculation of a Miguel de Cervantes.[18][51] No subsequent scholar has been successful in verifying this statement. In any case, there were at least two other Miguels born about the middle of the century.

d. ^ "He" refers to the writer of a spurious Part II of Don Quixote (Second Volume of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha) known under the pseudonym Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda. Avellaneda had referred to Cervantes as an "old and one-handed" man.


  1. ^ José María Chacón y Calvo, "Retratos de Cervantes," Anales de la Academia Nacional de Artes y Letras 27, 1947–48, 5–17; Enrique Lafuente Ferrari, La novela ejemplar de los retratos de Cervantes, Madrid, 1948.
  2. ^ Canavaggio, Jean (2011). "Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra – Autor Biografía". (in Spanish). Retrieved 7 April 2011. 
  3. ^ "Harold Bloom on Don Quixote, the first modern novel". The Guardian (London). 12 December 2003. Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  4. ^ "Don Quixote gets authors' votes". BBC News. 7 May 2002. Retrieved 3 January 2010. 
  5. ^ "La lengua de Cervantes" (PDF) (in Spanish). Ministerio de la Presidencia de España. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  6. ^ "La Epístola a Mateo Vázquez: historia de una polémica literaria en torno a Cervantes". Centro de Estudios Cervantinos. Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  7. ^ Fuentes, Carlos. Myself with Others: Selected Essays? (1988).
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b "Cervantes, Miguel de". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2002. 
  10. ^ (Spanish) "En domingo, nueve días del mes de octubre de mil e quinientos e cuarenta e siete años, fue bautizado Miguel, hijo de Rodrigo de Cervantes e su mujer doña Leonor; fueron sus compadres Juan Pardo; baptizole el Reverendo Señor Bachiller Serrano Cura de nuestra Señora, testigos Baltasar Vázquez, Sacristán e yo que lo bapticé y firmé de mi nombre. Bachiller Serrano". City Council of Alcalá de Henares. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  11. ^ Byron, William. Cervantes: A Biography, Doubleday & Company: Garden City, NY, 1978, pp. 23–32.
  12. ^ Moorcock p 386
  13. ^ "Cervantes, Miguel de". The Encyclopedia Americana. 1994. 
  14. ^ 'The Enigma of Cervantine Genealogy, 118
  15. ^ F.A. de Armas, Cervantes and the Italian Renaissance, 32
  16. ^ Frederick A. de Armas, Quixotic Frescoes: Cervantes and Italian Renaissance Art, 5
  17. ^ F.A. de Armas, Cervantes and the Italian Renaissance, 33
  18. ^ a b J. Fitzmaurice-Kelly, The Life of Cervantes, 9
  19. ^ a b c d M.A. Garcés, Cervantes in Algiers.
  20. ^ J. Fitzmaurice-Kelly, The Life of Cervantes, 41
  21. ^  
  22. ^ Antonio López Alonso, Enfermedad y muerte de Cervantes, Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, 1999.
  23. ^ Miguel de Cervantes – Barbara Keevil Parker, Duane F. Parker. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  24. ^ C. Calvo, Shakespeare and Cervantes in 1916, 78.
  25. ^*/
  26. ^ "World Book and Copyright Day". United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Retrieved 2013-04-09. 
  27. ^ "Miguel de Cervantes Biography – life, family, children, name, story, death, history, wife, son, book". Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  28. ^ Giles Tremlett in Madrid. "Madrid begins search for bones of Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes | Books". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-03-18. 
  29. ^ David A. Boruchoff, "On the Place of Madness, Deviance, and Eccentricity in Don Quijote," Hispanic Review 70.1 (2002): 1-23; quotations on 2-3.
  30. ^ A Writer's Diary (1873–1876)
  31. ^ . The Spanish title of novelas is misleading. In modern Spanish it means novels, but Cervantes used it to mean the shorter Italian novella. See the Novel article for the terminological problem.
  32. ^ Sacchetti, Maria (2001). Cervantes' Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda: A Study of Genre. Tamesis Books. ISBN 978-1-85566-077-9.
  33. ^
  34. ^ Fuentes, 69-70.
  35. ^ "Mozart and Constanze (9780719540912): Francis Carr: Books". Retrieved 2012-02-03. 
  36. ^ Francis Carr, Who Wrote Don Quixote? (London: Xlibris Corporation, 2004).
  37. ^ "Síntoma, chiste y cinismo en el Coloquio de los perros
  38. ^ "Cervantes y el psicoanálisis",
  39. ^ E. C. Riley, "“Cipión” Writes to “Berganza” in the Freudian Academia Española"*/
  40. ^ See for example, Rosa Rossi. Tras las huellas de Cervantes. Perfil inédito del autor del Quijote. Trans. Juan Ramón Capella. Madrid: Trotta, 2002 and Howard Mancing, The Cervantes Encyclopedia. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2004 (2 vols).
  41. ^ Byron, William. Cervantes: A Biography, p. 32
  42. ^ Cascardi, Anthony J. (2002) , p. 4. Cambridge University Press.The Cambridge Companion to Cervantes At Google Books. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
  43. ^ "La actitud de Cervantes hacia sus antepasados judaicos", Cervantes y las religiones, 2005,*/
  44. ^ Cervantes and His Postmodern Constituencies by Anne J. Cruz, Carroll B. Johnson, p. 116
  45. ^ Byron, William. Cervantes. A Biography, Cassell: London, 1978, p. 131.
  46. ^ (Spanish) Rojas Martínez, Ángel "Cervantes. Una identidad sin rostro." pp. 169-178 Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  47. ^ On-line gallery Museo del Prado. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  48. ^ (Spanish) Programa Europa Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  49. ^ Euro notes and coins: national sides European Commission. Retrieved 25 June 2013.
  50. ^ Cervantes Saavedra, Miguel de. "E-book of The Exemplary Novels of Cervantes (Translated by Walter K. Kelly)". The Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 2007-01-01. 
  51. ^ Ormsby, John. "Don Quixote – Translator's Preface – About Cervantes And Don Quixote". The University of Adelaide Library. London: Smith, Elder. Retrieved 2007-01-02. 

Further reading

  • Cervantes's Don Quixote (Modern Critical Interpretations), ed. Harold Bloom, 2001
  • Miguel de Cervantes (Modern Critical Views), ed. Harold Bloom, 2005
  • Cervantes' Don Quixote: a casebook, ed. Roberto González Echevarría, 2005
  • The Cambridge companion to Cervantes, ed. Anthony J Cascardi, 2002
  • Critical essays on Cervantes / ed. Ruth S. El Saffar, 1986
  • Cervantes; a collection of critical essays, ed. Lowry Nelson, 1969
  • Cinco personajes fugaces en el camino de Don Quijote, Giannina Braschi; Cuadernos hispanoamericanos, ISSN 0011-250X, Nº 328, 1977, pp. 101–115.

External links

  • Works by Miguel de Cervantes at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by Miguel de Cervantes at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Works by or about Miguel de Cervantes in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes Spanish web site with multiple Cervantes links and audio of whole of Don Quixote
  • Famous Hispanics
  • The Cervantes Project with biographies and chronology
  • Information about Miguel de Cervantes
  • Cervantine Collection of the Biblioteca de Catalunya
  • Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616): Life and Portrait The Cervantes Project. Canavaggio, Jean.
  • Miguel de Cervantes Collection: Rare editions of Cervantes in eight different languages, the gift of Leonard Kebler, (400 volumes dispersed in the division's collection). From the Rare Book and Special Collections Division

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