One of the most famous figures in Spanish literature, Miguel De Cervantes was a poet, playwright, novelist and the creator of Don Quixote from Don Quixote de la Mancha, an unforgettable character of Spanish literature. Published when Cervantes was 58 years old, the book became extremely successful and highly acclaimed, casting a profound influence on European literature. The theme of the book explores the universal nature of human beings. Sadly, the fame and success of Cervantes’ writing did little to improve his financial conditions and lifestyle.
The fourth child of surgeon Don Rodrigo de Cervantes and doña Leonor de Cortinas, Miguel De Cervantes was born near Madrid in the city of Alcalá de Henares, Spain. His life was full of hardships and adventures. While his father hunted for work, Miguel’s childhood was spent moving from one place to another. Miguel served as a soldier in a Spanish Regiment in Naples during 1570 after studying literature and philosophy in Italy. His left hand became useless when he encountered an injury on aboard ship Marquesa during the battle of Lepanto (1571). A few years later Cervantes was kidnapped from a ship on his way back home. He made several unsuccessful escape attempts but was released after five years of slavery when his mother had finally raised enough money to pay the ransom. Upon return to Madrid in 1580, Cervantes supported his expenses by undertaking several low paying jobs which did little to improve his financial crisis.
In Madrid, Cervantes had an affair with an actress named Ana de Villafranca. They had a daughter, Isabel de Saavedra. In 1584 he married Catalina de Palacios who was 18 years his junior and the daughter of a well to do peasant. It was after marriage that Cervantes began writing poetry and plays. His first published work was La Galatea (1585). When he was not able to generate enough income from writing to run the family, Cervantes obtained a job in the government as a tax collector. He was imprisoned several times on charges of bankruptcy and fiscal irregularities. Also imprisoned another time when a man died in front of his house and the authorities suspected he had something to do with the man’s death.
Cervantes lived in Seville during 1595 and 1600. Later he moved to Madrid, where he spent the rest of his life, after the publication of Don Quixote. In 1613, Cervantes published, The Exemplary Novels of Cervantes which comprises of short stories about gypsies and pirates. The book was largely inspired by Miguel’s own life and experiences. The second part of Don Quixote was published in 1615. It was followed by Persiles and Segismunda in 1616.
Miguel De Cervantes died in 1616. He is buried in the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians in Madrid, Spain. A much appreciated writer, Cervantes influence is evident in the works of many other famous writers such as Sir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, James Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges.