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He is best known for being the author of Don Quixote , , a widely read literary classic.

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Miguel de Cervantes was the fourth of seven children in a family that originated in the minor gentry but had come down in the world. His father was a barber-surgeon who set bones, performed bloodlettings, and attended lesser medical needs.


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Miguel de Cervantes never made much money from his writing in his lifetime. As a young man, he was a soldier and was later held captive as a slave. After that he served as a royal messenger, a commissary of provisions for the Spanish Armada , and a tax collector.


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Cervantes was born some 20 miles 32 km from Madrid , probably on September 29 the day of San Miguel. He was certainly baptized on October 9. He was the fourth of seven children in a family whose origins were of the minor gentry but which had come down in the world.

3. Don Quixote, Part I: Chapters I-X (cont.)

The supposition, based on a passage in one of the Exemplary Stories , that he studied for a time under the Jesuits , though not unlikely, remains conjectural. Unlike most Spanish writers of his time, including some of humble origin, he apparently did not go to a university. What is certain is that at some stage he became an avid reader of books. That same year he left Spain for Italy. In any event, in going to Italy Cervantes was doing what many young Spaniards of the time did to further their careers in one way or another.

The quixotic don

It seems that for a time he served as chamberlain in the household of Cardinal Giulio Acquaviva in Rome. However, by he had enlisted as a soldier in a Spanish infantry regiment stationed in Naples , then a possession of the Spanish crown. He was there for about a year before he saw active service. He eventually settled in Madrid in , shortly after the first part of "Don Quijote" was published.

Although publication of the novel didn't make Cervantes rich, it eased his financial burden and gave him recognition and the ability to devote more time to writing. He published the second part of Don Quijote in and wrote dozens of other plays, short stories, novels, and poems although many critics have little good to say about his poetry. Cervantes' final novel was Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda "The Exploits of Persiles and Sigismunda" , published three days before his death on April 23, Coincidentally, Cervantes' date of death is the same as William Shakespeare's, although in reality Cervantes' death came 10 days sooner because Spain and England used different calendars at the time.

Since you're reading this page, you probably had little difficulty coming up with Don Quijote, the title character of Miguel de Cervantes' famous novel.

But how many others could you name? Except for characters developed by William Shakespeare, probably few or none. At least in Western cultures, Cervantes' pioneering novel, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha , is one of the few that has been popular for so long. It has been translated into nearly every major language, inspired some 40 motion pictures, and added words and phrases to our vocabulary. In the English-speaking world, Quijote is easily the most well-known literary figure who was the product of a non-English-speaking author in the past years.

Clearly, Quijote's character has endured, even if few people today read the entire novel except as a part of college coursework. Perhaps it is because there is something in most of us that, like Quijote, can't always distinguish totally between reality and the imagination. Perhaps it's because of our idealistic ambitions, and we like seeing someone continuing to strive despite the disappointments of reality.

Importance and influence

Perhaps it's simply because we can laugh at a part of ourselves in the numerous humorous incidents that happen during Quijote's life. Here is a brief overview of the novel that might give you some idea what to expect if you decide to tackle Cervantes' monumental work:. The title character, a middle-aged gentleman from the La Mancha region of Spain, becomes enchanted with the idea of chivalry and decides to seek adventure.

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LITERARY ARTIFACTS: the quixotic search for Cervantes’s bones - Electric Literature

But whether he had much in the way of formal education has been a subject of debate among scholars. Based on analyses of Cervantes's later work, some believe that he may have been taught by the Jesuits, however, others dispute this claim. Cervantes's first known published writing dates to , when he contributed some poetry to a memorial collection after the death of Elizabeth of Valois, the wife of Spain's King Philip II. But by the following year, Cervantes had put his pen aside and, instead, picked up a weapon, joining a Spanish military unit in Italy.

Known for his bravery, Cervantes took part in the Battle of Lepanto in Stationed on the ship La Marquesa , he fought against the Ottoman Empire and sustained serious injuries in the conflict, suffering two chest wounds and the complete maiming of his left hand. Despite his disability, however, Cervantes continued to serve as a soldier for several more years. In , Cervantes and his brother Rodrigo tried to return to Spain, but they were captured during their voyage by a group of Turkish ships. Cervantes subsequently spent five years as a prisoner and a slave, and made several failed attempts to escape during his imprisonment.

In he was finally able to return home after a ransom was paid for his release. Around the same time, Cervantes tried to make it the then-lucrative world of theater. Plays were an important form of entertainment in Spain during the era, and a successful playwright could earn a good living. Unfortunately, Cervantes achieved neither fortune nor fame with his plays, and only two have survived. In the late s, Cervantes began working for the Spanish Armada as a commissary.


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It was a thankless job, which involved collecting grain supplies from rural communities. When many did not want to provide the required goods, Cervantes was charged with mismanagement and ended up in prison.