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Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (September 29, 1547April 23, 1616), was a Spanish author, best known for his novel Don Quixote de la Mancha.



Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born in 1547 and christened on October 9 of that year in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. His father was Rodrigo de Cervantes , a surgeon - in those days an ill-paid profession of low repute which eventually led him to debtor's prison. His mother, Leonor de Cortinas , may have been a descendant of Jewish converts to Christianity.

Little is known of his early life. He studied at the "Estudio de la Villa" whose teacher, Juan López de Hoyos, referred to him as "our dear and beloved pupil," a common form of address in those days. In 1569 he left Madrid for Rome, the reasons for which are unclear. According to some sources a warrant was issued for the arrest of one Miguel de Cervantes for having dueled and wounded the master builder Antonio de Sigura .

In Rome, Cervantes became an attendant of the Cardinal Julio Acquaviva and he published some elegies. He also joined a Spanish regiment there and was wounded while fighting in the Battle of Lepanto against the Turks in 1571; as a consequence, he lost the use of his left hand. From then on he was called 'el manco de Lepanto' (the one-handed man of Lepanto). As a highly paid soldier, Cervantes received letters of recommendation from important persons such as Don John of Austria and the Duke of Sessa .

In 1575, while returning to Spain, he and his brother Rodrigo were captured by Barbary pirates based in Algiers. There he became the slave of the renegade Dalí Mamí and later the bey Hassan Pasha . The bey, considering the letters of recommendation, set a ransom of 500 gold ducats as ransom. Cervantes' family was poverty-stricken and, according to some, his sisters had to resort to unorthodox procedures to be able to collect the required sum. He was held captive in Algiers, tried several times to escape until he was freed in 1580 when his ransom was paid. The experience of 5 years in captivity inspired numerous passages in his work, such as the history of the Captive in the first part of Don Quixote de la Mancha and the drama Los baños de Argel (The Baths of Algiers).

Upon returning to Spain he found that no posts were available in the kingdom in spite of his letters of recommendation. Penniless, he married Catalina de Palacios Salazar y Vozmediano of Esquivias in 1584 and lived in the town of Esquivias , Toledo. He published La Galatea a year later; he was a supplier of provisions to the Spanish Armada and a tax collector for a while.

Cervantes began writing Don Quixote in 1597 while imprisoned in Sevilla for debt. In 1605 he published Part I of his major work, formally known as El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha). Part II did not appear until 1615. Between Part I and Part II of Don Quixote he published Novelas Ejemplares (The Exemplary Novels), a collection of twelve short stories. In 1615, he published Ocho Comedias y Ocho Entremeses Nuevos Nunca Representias although his most famous play today, La Numancia , stayed unedited until the 18th century.

His novel Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda was published posthumously one year after his death in 1616 (in Madrid). Interestingly enough, he considered it to be his best work and far superior to Don Quixote.

His influence was such that in French and Spanish, the Spanish language is referred to proverbially as la langue/la lengua de Cervantes.

Did Cervantes and Shakespeare die on the same day?

It is often stated that Cervantes died on the same day as his English counterpart William Shakespeare, namely April 23, 1616. This is not correct. They did die on the same date, but not on the same day.

Spain adopted the Gregorian calendar (or New Style) immediately in 1582. But England stayed with the Julian calendar (Old Style) until 1752. In the 16th and 17th centuries the Gregorian calendar was 10 days ahead of the Julian calendar. So Cervantes died on April 23, 1616 in the Gregorian calendar, but Shakespeare died ten days later on April 23, 1616 in the Julian calendar, which is the same day as May 3, 1616 in the Gregorian calendar.


  • Pieces on the death of the queen (1569)
  • El cerco de Numancia (play) (1581)
  • Los tratos de Argel (play) (1581)
  • La Galatea (1585)
  • El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (Don Quixote. Part 1) (1605)
  • Novelas Ejemplares (The Exemplary Novels) (1613)
  • Viaje del Parnaso (poem) (1614)
  • Segunda parte del ingenioso caballero don Quijote de la Mancha (Don Quixote. Part 2) (1615)
  • Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses (plays) (1615)
  • Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda (1617)

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Last updated: 08-17-2005 14:51:00
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