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    Miguel de Cervantes

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    Miguel de Cervantes

    Spanish adventurer, author, & poet
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    Biography

    Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (September 29, 1547 – April 23, 1616) was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. His magnum opus, Don Quixote, considered the first modern novel by many, is a classic of Western literature and is regularly regarded among the best novels ever written. His work is considered among the most important in all of literature. His influence on the Spanish language has been so great, that Spanish is often called la lengua de Cervantes (The language of Cervantes). More ...

    Books by Miguel de Cervantes

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    Quotes by Miguel de Cervantes

    • A proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.
    • Among the attributes of God, although they are all equal, mercy shines with even more brilliancy than justice.
    • Be brief, for no discourse can please when too long.
    • Delay always breeds danger; and to protract a great design is often to ruin it.
    • Everyone is as God has made him, and oftentimes a great deal worse.
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    Biography of Miguel de Cervantes

    Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616) lived an unsettled life of hardship and adventure. He was born in AlcalA¡ de Henares, a small town near Madrid, into a family of the minor nobility. His mother was Leonor de Cortinas; she gave birth to seven children, Cervantes was the fourth. Rodrigo de Cervantes, his father, was an apothecary-surgeon. Much of his childhood Cervantes spent moving from town to town while his father sought work. After studying in Madrid (1568-69), where his teacher was the humanist Juan LA³pez de Hoyos, he went to Rome in the service of Guilio Acquavita, who became a cardinal in 1570. In the same year Cervantes joined a Spanish regiment in Naples. He took part in the sea battle at Lepanto (1571), during which he received a wound that permanently maimed his left hand. Cervantes was extremely proud of his role in the famous victory and of the nickname he earned, el manco de Lepanto (the cripple of Lepanto). After recuperation in Messina, Sicily, he continued his military career.

    In 1575 he set out with his brother Rodrigo on the galley El Sol for Spain. The ship was captured by pirates under Arnaute Mami and the brothers were taken to Algiers as slaves. Rodrigo was ransomed in 1577. The Moors though that Cervantes was more valuable captive because he had carried letters written by important persons. Cervantes spent five years as a slave until his family could raise enough money to pay his ransom. During this period he tried to escape several times without success. Cervantes was released in 1580, with the payment of 500 escudos raised by his family and the Trinitarian order.He returned to Madrid where he held several temporary, ill-paid administrative post. His first play, LOS TRATOS DE ARGEL (1580), was based on his experiences as a Moorish captive. In 1584 he married 18 years younger Catalina de Salazar y Palacios, the daughter of a well-to-do peasant. The marriage was childless. He had also a daughter, Isabel de Saavedra, from an affair he had with an actress, Ana Franca de Rojas (or Ana de Villafranca). Isabel worked as a servant in the family but her way of life caused him much worries. The other members of the household included his mother and two unmarried sisters.

    In the late 1580s Cervantes left his wife. During the next 20 years he led a nomadic existence, also working as a purchasing agent for the Spanish Armada and a tax collector. He suffered a bankruptcy and was imprisoned at least twice (1597 and 1602) because of fiscal irregularities. It is generally believedthat Cervantes was honest, but a victim of a thankless task. Between the years 1596 and 1600 he lived primarily in Seville, and by 1604 he had moved to Valladolid, where Philip III had established his court. In 1606 Cervantes settled permanently in Madrid, where he spent the rest of his life. His economic situation remained difficult. When a nobleman, Gaspar de Ezpeleta, was mortally wounded on the street in front of Cervantes' house, and died there, Cervantes and the women in his household were jailed on suspicion of having had something to do with his death. After one Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda published a poor sequel to Don Quixote, Cervantes answered to the challenge and produced the second part, which appeared in 1615. He died on April 23, 1616. Three days before he had finished his novel The Exploits of Persiles and Sigismunda, dedicated to the Count of Lemos.

    "The truth lies in a man's dreams... perhaps in this unhappy world of ours whose madness is better than a foolish sanity."

    Cervantes started his literary career in Andalusia in 1580. Accroding to Cervantes, he wrote 20-30 plays, but only two copies have survived. His first major work was the GALATEA (1585), a pastoral romance. It received little contemporary notice and Cervantes never wrote the continuation for it, which he repeatedly promised. He also mentions the book in Don Quixote, where the priest says to the barber: "His book exhibits some faculty of invention, but it proposes things and arrives at no conclusion. In the meanwhile let us wait for the continuation which he promises us; with better luck he may give us something that his wretched circumstances have hitherto denied him." In his play EL TRATO DE ARGEL, printed in 1784, Cervantes dealt with the life of Christian slaves in Algiers. Aside from his plays, his most ambitious work in verse was VIAJE DEL PARNASO (1614), an allegory which consists largely of a rather tedious though good-natured reviews of contemporary poets. Cervantes himself realized that he was deficient in poetic gifts. Later generations have considered him one of the world's worst poets. NOVELAS EJEMPLARES (1613, Exemplary Novels), a collection of tales, contained some of his best prose work about love, idealism, gypsy life, madmen, and talking dogs. At the time he wrote the work, the Spanish Moriscos (Muslims) were expelled from Spain.

    Tradition maintains, that he wrote Don Quixote in prison at Argamasilla in La Mancha. Cervantes' idea was to give a picture of real life and manners and to express himself in clear language, "in simple, honest, and well-measured words," as he stated in the prologue to Part I of Don Quixote. 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. According to a story King Philip III of Spain once saw a man reading beside the road and laughing so much that the tears were rolling down his cheeks. The King said: "That man is either crazy or he is reading Don Quixote." However, Lope de Vega, the most influential playwright at that time, slaughtered Cervantes as a poet and novelist in a letter.
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