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Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra[2†]

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (September 29, 1547 - April 22, 1616) was a Spanish novelist, playwright, and poet[1†][2†]. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language and one of the world’s pre-eminent novelists[3†]. His most significant work, “Don Quixote,” has been translated, in full or in part, into more than 60 languages[1†]. Cervantes is celebrated as a major figure in literature for his contribution to the literary form of the novel[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born on September 29, 1547, in Alcalá de Henares, a town in Spain[3†]. He was the fourth of seven children in a family that originated in the minor gentry but had come down in the world[1†]. His father, Rodrigo de Cervantes, was a poor and obscure surgeon[4†].

There is no evidence that Miguel attended the university of his native town or of any other of the towns in which he spent his youth— Valladolid, Seville, and Madrid[4†]. By the end of 1569, when he was 22, Cervantes was in Rome[3†][4†]. Despite the lack of formal education, Cervantes began writing poems when he was just a child and read everything he could get his hands on[5†]. He became his own teacher as his family didn’t have much money[3†][5†].

Following a brief period of study in Madrid, where he published a few short works of poetry, and a short-lived sojourn to Rome, he enlisted in the army of the Holy league, established by the Catholic kingdoms of Europe in response to the expansion of the Ottoman Empire[6†].

Career Development and Achievements

Miguel de Cervantes’ career was marked by a series of diverse occupations, beginning with his service as a soldier[3†]. In 1570, he enlisted in a Spanish Navy infantry regiment[3†]. He was badly wounded at the Battle of Lepanto in October 1571, which resulted in the loss of use of his left arm and hand[3†]. Despite his injury, he continued to serve until 1575, when he was captured by Barbary pirates[3†]. After five years in captivity, he was ransomed and returned to Madrid[3†].

His literary career began with the publication of his first significant novel, “La Galatea,” in 1585[7†]. However, he continued to work in various roles, including as a purchasing agent and later as a government tax collector[3†]. Despite these occupations, Cervantes continued to write, producing plays, poetry, and short stories, though these early works did not bring him much success[7†].

His breakthrough came with the publication of “Don Quixote.” The first part was published in 1605, and the second part in 1615[3†]. This work, often cited as both the first modern novel[3†] and "the first great novel of world literature,"[3†] brought him immediate success and literary eminence, if not riches[7†]. Six editions of “Don Quixote” were printed in the first year after the publication of the first part[4†]. Translations into foreign languages were begun almost immediately[4†].

Despite spending much of his life in poverty and obscurity, which led to many of his early works being lost, Cervantes’ influence and literary contribution are reflected by the fact that Spanish is often referred to as "the language of Cervantes"[3†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Miguel de Cervantes’ literary career spanned several decades, during which he published a number of significant works[3†]. Here are some of his main works along with the information on their first year of publication:

Each of these works represents a significant contribution to Spanish literature and has helped to cement Cervantes’ reputation as one of the greatest writers in the Spanish language[1†][3†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Miguel de Cervantes’ work, particularly “Don Quixote,” has had a profound influence on literature[9†][10†]. His novel, originally conceived as a parody of the chivalric romances that were popular at the time, is considered a prototype of the modern novel[10†]. It realistically describes what befalls an aging knight who, his head bemused by reading such romances, sets out on his old horse Rocinante, with his pragmatic squire, Sancho Panza, to seek adventure[10†].

Cervantes’ avowed purpose was to ridicule the books of chivalry that enjoyed popularity even in his day, but he soared beyond this satirical purpose in his wealth of fancy and in his irrepressible high spirits as he pokes fun at social and literary conventions of many kinds[11†]. He made a lasting contribution to the development of narrative form and created two of the most memorable of all imaginary characters, the immortal knight-errant and his squire, Sancho Panza[9†].

Cervantes also played an important role in developing the short story as a genre[9†]. However, his impact on the drama of the Spanish Golden Age was relatively minor, and he does not rank as a playwright with the greatest names of the period, such as Lope de Vega Carpio, Tirso de Molina, and Pedro Calderón de la Barca[9†].

Personal Life

Miguel de Cervantes led a life full of hardships and adventures[3†]. After his return from captivity, he struggled to earn a living through his writing and took up various jobs[3†]. He married Catalina de Salazar y Palacios, a woman much younger than him, in 1584[3†]. They did not have any children together, but Cervantes had an illegitimate daughter named Isabel from an earlier relationship[3†].

Despite the success of “Don Quixote,” Cervantes did not gain substantial wealth from his writing and lived in relative poverty for most of his life[3†]. He died in Madrid on April 22, 1616[3†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Miguel de Cervantes’ legacy is vast and enduring[10†][2†][12†][13†][14†]. His most famous work, “Don Quixote,” is considered a prototype of the modern novel[10†][2†][14†]. It has been translated into more than 60 languages and is one of the most widely read classics of Western literature[10†]. The novel emerged resilient from every sort of analytical -ism, remaining a good, if troubling, story—funny, affecting, wayward, with paroxysms of violence and suffering that still shock[14†].

Cervantes’ brutal satirical treatment of the nostalgic nationalists and blind idealism of the ruling elite set the chattering classes aflame, and he was able to enjoy minor celebrity before his death in 1616[12†]. Despite his death, his influence on literature continues to this day[10†][2†][12†][13†][14†]. The Spanish language is often referred to as “the language of Cervantes,” reflecting his significant contribution to literature[2†][13†].

Cervantes’ work continues to be studied and analyzed, and his stories are still being told and retold in various forms and adaptations[10†][2†][12†][13†][14†]. His life and works continue to inspire writers and readers alike, cementing his place as one of the greatest writers in history[10†][2†][12†][13†][14†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Miguel de Cervantes [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (Spanish) - Miguel de Cervantes [website] - link
  3. Wikipedia (English) - Miguel de Cervantes [website] [website] - link
  4. Britannica Kids - Miguel de Cervantes [website] - link
  5. LAE Kids - The story of Miguel de Cervantes for kids [website] - link
  6. Columbia Collegue - Miguel de Cervantes [website] - link
  7. Britannica - Miguel de Cervantes summary [website] - link
  8. Wikisource (English) - Author:Miguel de Cervantes [website] - link
  9. eNotes - Miguel de Cervantes [website] - link
  10. Britannica - Don Quixote [website] - link
  11. eNotes - Don Quixote de la Mancha [website] - link
  12. The Geek Initiative - The Enduring Legacy of Miguel de Cervantes [website] - link
  13. La Información - Cómo fue la vida de Miguel de Cervantes: 7 momentos clave [website] - link
  14. Britannica - The Afterlife of Miguel de Cervantes [website] - link
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