Miguel de Cervantes

John Florens | May 5, 2023

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Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (Alcalá de Henares, September 29, 1547-Madrid, April 22, 1616) was a Spanish novelist, poet, playwright and soldier.

He is widely considered one of the greatest figures of Spanish literature. He was the author of El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, a novel commonly known as Don Quixote, which made him world famous and which many critics have described as the first modern novel, as well as one of the best works of universal literature, whose number of editions and translations is only surpassed by the Bible. Cervantes has been called the "Prince of Wits".

Children and youth

Since the 18th century it has been accepted that the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes was Alcalá de Henares, given that he was baptized there, according to his baptismal certificate, and that he said he was born there in the so-called Information of Algiers (1580). The exact day of his birth is less certain, although it is normal that he was born on September 29, the date on which the feast of the archangel Saint Michael is celebrated, given the tradition of receiving the name of the saint on the day of his birth. Miguel de Cervantes was baptized on October 9, 1547 in the parish of Santa María la Mayor. The baptismal certificate reads:

The writer's father was Rodrigo de Cervantes (1509-1585), married to Leonor de Cortinas, of whom hardly anything is known, except that he was a native of Arganda del Rey. Cervantes' siblings were Andrés (Rodrigo (Magdalena (1554) and Juan, only known because his father mentions him in his will.

The surname Saavedra, in the opinion of historian Luce López-Baralt, and which the author began to use after his captivity, comes from "shaibedraa", which in the Maghrebi Arabic dialect is pronounced almost like in Spanish and means "crippled or spoiled arm", so that Cervantes in Algiers could have been called "shaibedraa", that is, "one-armed". It is also a common surname in Algeria for centuries. On the contrary, the Hispanist María Antonia Garcés attributes the adoption of the Galician surname Saavedra to the reinvention that Cervantes makes of himself on his return from slavery; it is the name that he himself gives to the hero of his drama El trato de Argel, and to the protagonists of his El gallardo español and La historia del cautivo (Gonzalo Cervantes Saavedra was a distant relative, also a veteran of Lepanto and a writer, and whose life had singular parallels with his own); Moreover, the prominent Saavedra (or Sayavedra) family of Seville, who fought against the Moors for hundreds of years on the frontier, may have been emblematic to Cervantes, who may have seen himself as the moral descendant of Juan de Sayavedra, a medieval hero celebrated in romances de gesta and also captured by the Moors. ...

According to Américo Castro, Daniel Eisenberg and other Cervantists, Cervantes possessed converse ancestry through both family lines; his father was a surgeon, his grandfather, a lawyer, and his great-grandfather, a ragpicker. On the contrary, his last biographer, Jean Canavaggio, affirms that this ancestry is not proven, in comparison with the documents that support this ancestry without a doubt for Mateo Alemán; in any case, the Cervantes family was very well considered in Córdoba and held important positions there and nearby.

His paternal grandparents were the law graduate Juan de Cervantes and Doña Leonor de Torreblanca, daughter of Juan Luis de Torreblanca, a doctor from Cordoba; his father, Rodrigo de Cervantes, was born in Alcalá de Henares by chance: his father had his work there at the time. He was educated to be a surgeon, a profession more similar to the old title of practitioner than to our idea of physician. Don Rodrigo was unable to continue his studies not only because of his deafness, but also because of the restless and itinerant nature of his family, who moved between Cordoba, Seville, Toledo, Cuenca, Alcalá de Henares, Guadalajara and Valladolid, as far as is known; however, he learned surgery from his maternal grandfather from Cordoba and from his stepfather, also a physician, who succeeded him, although he never obtained an official degree. Around 1551, Rodrigo de Cervantes moved with his family to Valladolid. Due to debts, he was imprisoned for several months and his goods were seized. In 1556 he went to Cordoba to collect the inheritance of Juan de Cervantes, the writer's grandfather, and flee from creditors.

There is no precise information about Miguel de Cervantes' first studies, which undoubtedly did not reach university level. It seems that he may have studied in Valladolid, Cordoba or Seville.

In 1566 he settled in Madrid. He attended the Estudio de la Villa, run by the professor of grammar and philoerasmist Juan López de Hoyos (who in 1569 published a book on the illness and death of Queen Isabella of Valois, third wife of Philip II). Lopez de Hoyos includes in that book two poems of Cervantes, whom he calls "our dear and beloved disciple", considered by some Cervantists his first literary manifestations. In those youthful years his fondness for theater is documented: he attended the performances of Lope de Rueda, as he states in the prologue to his Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses (1615):

And, as he declares in the second part of Don Quixote through the mouth of his main character, in his youth "his eyes went after show business" (Don Quixote, II, 12).

Trip to Italy and the Battle of Lepanto

An order of Philip II dating from 1569 has been preserved, in which he orders the arrest of Miguel de Cervantes, accused of wounding a certain Antonio Sigura, a master builder, in a duel. If it was really Cervantes and not a homonym, this could be the reason that made him go to Italy. He arrived in Rome in December of the same year. There he read the chivalric poems of Ludovico Ariosto, which, according to Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo, would have such an influence on Don Quixote, and the Love Dialogues of the Sephardic Jew Leon Hebreo (Yehuda Abrabanel), of neoplatonic inspiration, which would determine his idea of love. Cervantes is imbued with the style and art of Italy, and will always keep such a pleasant memory of those states, that at the beginning of El licenciado Vidriera, one of his Novelas ejemplares, he does little less than a tourist guide of it:

He entered the service of Giulio Acquaviva, who became cardinal in 1570 and whom he probably met in Madrid. He followed him to Palermo, Milan, Florence, Venice, Parma and Ferrara, an itinerary that is also admiringly commented in El licenciado Vidriera. He soon left to take up a position as a soldier in the company of Captain Diego de Urbina, of Miguel de Moncada's third. He embarked on the galley Marquesa. On October 7, 1571 he participated in the battle of Lepanto, "the highest occasion that past centuries have seen, the present ones, nor hope to see the future ones", being part of the Christian armada, led by Don Juan de Austria, "son of the lightning of war Charles V, of happy memory", and half-brother of the king, and where one of the most famous sailors of the time, the Marquis of Santa Cruz, who resided in La Mancha, in Viso del Marqués, was taking part. In a legal information elaborated eight years later it is said:

This is the origin of the nickname Manco de Lepanto, given that his left hand became ankylosed when a piece of lead severed a nerve. Those injuries must not have been too serious because, after six months in a hospital in Messina, Cervantes resumed his military life in 1572. He took part in the naval expeditions of Navarino (1572), Corfu, Bizerte and Tunis (1573). In all of them under the command of Captain Manuel Ponce de León and in the battle-hardened tercio of Lope de Figueroa, a character that appears in Pedro Calderón de la Barca's El alcalde de Zalamea.

He then toured the main cities of Sicily, Sardinia, Genoa and Lombardy. And finally he stayed two years in Naples, until 1575. Cervantes was always very proud of having fought in the battle of Lepanto, which for him was, as he wrote in the prologue to the second part of Don Quixote, "the highest occasion that past centuries, present centuries, and those to come have seen or hope to see".

Captivity in Algiers

During their return from Naples to Spain aboard the galley Sol, a Turkish flotilla commanded by Mami Arnaute took Miguel and his brother Rodrigo prisoner on September 26, 1575. They were captured off Cadaqués de Rosas or Palamós, in an area now known as the Costa Brava, and taken to Algiers. Cervantes was assigned as a slave to the Greek renegade Dali Mamí. The fact that he had found in his possession letters of recommendation from Don John of Austria and the Duke of Sessa made his captors think that Cervantes was a very important person for whom they could get a good ransom. They asked for five hundred escudos of gold for his freedom.

The years in Algiers constitute what Alonso Zamora Vicente called "a primordial event in Cervantes' life", which divides it "into two halves". According to Juan Goytisolo, they are "at the central core of the great literary invention".

In the almost five years of imprisonment, Cervantes, a man with a strong spirit and motivation, tried to escape on four occasions, organizing the four attempts himself. To avoid reprisals against his fellow prisoners, he made himself responsible for everything to his enemies and preferred torture to informing on them. Thanks to the official information and the book of Fray Diego de Haedo Topografía e historia general de Argel (1612), we have important news about the captivity. Such notes are complemented by his comedies El trato de Argel, Los baños de Argel and the story known as "Historia del cautivo" inserted in the first part of Don Quixote, between chapters 39 and 41.

However, it has long been known that the work published by Haedo was not his, something he himself acknowledges. According to Emilio Sola, its author was Antonio de Sosa, a Benedictine fellow captive of Cervantes and dialoguist of the same work. Daniel Eisenberg has proposed that the work is not by Sosa, who was not a writer, but by the great writer captive in Algiers, with whose writings Haedo's work shows very extensive similarities. If true, Haedo's work ceases to be an independent confirmation of Cervantes' conduct in Algiers, and is but one more of Cervantes' own writings extolling his heroism.

The first escape attempt failed, because the Moor who was to lead Cervantes and his companions to Oran abandoned them on the first day. The prisoners had to return to Algiers, where they were chained and guarded more than before. In the meantime, Cervantes' mother had managed to raise a certain amount of ducats in the hope of being able to rescue her two sons. In 1577 deals were arranged, but the amount was not enough to rescue both of them. Miguel preferred that his brother Rodrigo, who returned to Spain, be released. Rodrigo carried a plan drawn up by his brother to free him and his fourteen or fifteen other companions. Cervantes met with the other prisoners in a hidden cave, awaiting a Spanish galley that would come to pick them up. The galley did indeed arrive and tried twice to approach the beach, but was finally captured. The Christians hiding in the cave were also discovered, due to the denunciation of a traitorous accomplice, nicknamed El Dorador. Cervantes declared himself solely responsible for organizing the escape and inducing his companions. The bey (Turkish governor) of Algiers, Azán Bajá, locked him in his "bath" or prison, loaded with chains, where he remained for five months. Cervantes' third attempt was to reach Oran by land. There he sent a faithful Moor with letters to Martin de Cordoba, general of that city, explaining the plan and asking for guides. However, the messenger was imprisoned and the letters were discovered. They showed that it was Miguel de Cervantes himself who had plotted the whole thing. He was condemned to receive two thousand sticks, a sentence that was not carried out because many were those who interceded for him. The last attempt to escape was made thanks to a large sum of money given to him by a Valencian merchant who was in Algiers. Cervantes acquired a frigate capable of transporting sixty Christian captives. When everything was about to be settled, one of those to be freed, the former Dominican doctor Juan Blanco de Paz, revealed the whole plan to Azán Bajá. As a reward the traitor received a shield and a jar of butter. Azán Bajá transferred Cervantes to a safer prison, in his own palace. He then decided to take him to Constantinople, where escape would prove to be an almost impossible undertaking. Again, Cervantes took full responsibility.

In May 1580, Mercedarian and Trinitarian fathers (religious orders that tried to free captives, even exchanging themselves for them if necessary) arrived in Algiers. Fray Antonio left with an expedition of ransomed people. Friar Juan Gil, who only had three hundred escudos at his disposal, tried to rescue Cervantes, for whom five hundred escudos were demanded. The friar took it upon himself to collect the missing amount from the Christian merchants. He collected it when Cervantes was already in one of the galleys in which Azán Bajá would sail to Constantinople, bound with "two chains and a cricket". Thanks to the 500 escudos so arduously collected, Cervantes was freed on September 19, 1580. On October 24, he finally returned to Spain with other ransomed captives. He arrived in Denia, from where he went to Valencia. In November or December he returned with his family to Madrid.

This experience will leave its mark on Cervantes, which we can see in El trato de Argel, La Galatea and Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda.

Return to Spain

In May 1581, Cervantes moved to Portugal, where the court of Philip II was then located, with the purpose of finding something with which to rebuild his life and pay the debts that his family had contracted to rescue him from Algiers. He was entrusted with a secret commission in Oran, since he had a great knowledge of the culture and customs of North Africa. For this work he received 50 escudos. He returned to Lisbon and at the end of the year he returned to Madrid. In February 1582, he applied for a vacant post in the Indies, but was unsuccessful.

It is very likely that between 1581 and 1583 Cervantes wrote La Galatea, his first literary work in volume and importance. It was published in Alcalá de Henares in 1585. Until then he had only published some compositions in other people's books, in romanceros and cancioneros, which brought together the productions of various poets. La Galatea appeared divided into six books, although he only wrote the "first part". Cervantes never lost his intention to continue the work; however, it was never printed. In the prologue, the work is described as an "eclogue" and Cervantes' fondness for poetry is emphasized. It belongs to the pastoral novel genre that had been established in Spain by Jorge de Montemayor's Diana. Reminiscences of the readings he made when he was a soldier in Italy can still be observed.

At that time, the writer had a love affair with Ana Villafranca (or Franca) de Rojas, married to Alonso Rodríguez, a tavern keeper. From their relationship a daughter was born, baptized as Isabel Rodríguez y Villafranca on April 9, 1584 in the Parish of Saints Justo and Pastor in Madrid. When Isabel was orphaned, she was taken in by Magdalena, Cervantes' sister. He recognized her as Isabel de Saavedra a year later, when she was sixteen years old. Father and daughter did not maintain a good relationship.

In mid-September 1584, Cervantes went to Esquivias, called by Doña Juana Gaytán, who wanted him to take charge of the publication of the Cancionero, a collection of poems by her late husband, Pedro Laínez. On September 22 of that year, and before the attorney Ortega Rosa, Juana Gaytán signed the power of attorney given to Cervantes. Three months later, on December 12, 1584, Cervantes married Catalina de Salazar y Palacios in the town of Esquivias, Toledo. Catalina was a young woman who was not yet twenty years old and who brought a small dowry. The marriage with his wife did not work out, and two years after their marriage, Cervantes began his extensive travels through Andalusia. The marriage did not produce any children. Cervantes never speaks of his wife in his many autobiographical texts, despite the fact that he was the one who premiered in Spanish literature the subject of divorce, then impossible in a Catholic country, with the entremés El juez de los divorcios (The Judge of Divorces). It is assumed that the marriage was unhappy, although in that entremés he maintains that "it is better the worst concert

Last years

In 1587, he traveled to Andalusia as commissioner of supplies for the Invincible Armada. During his years as commissioner, he traveled again and again the road from Madrid to Andalusia, passing through Toledo and La Mancha (present-day Ciudad Real). This is the itinerary of Rinconete y Cortadillo.

He settled in the city of Seville on January 10, 1588. He would travel through municipalities in the province of Seville such as Carmona, Ecija, Estepa, Arahal, Marchena and La Puebla de Cazalla collecting products such as olives, olive oil, wheat and barley as commissary of supplies for the royal ships. The seizure of church property led the Provisor of the Archbishopric of Seville to issue a sentence of excommunication against Cervantes and to order the vicar of Ecija to put the excommunicated man in splints. From 1594, he would be collector of back taxes (tercias and alcabalas), a job that would bring him numerous problems and disputes, since he was in charge of going house to house collecting taxes, most of which were destined to cover the wars in which Spain was involved. He was imprisoned in 1597 in the Royal Prison of Seville, between September and December of that year, following the bankruptcy of the bank where he deposited the collection. Supposedly Cervantes had appropriated public money and would be discovered after several irregularities were found in the accounts he kept. In prison he "engenders" Don Quixote de la Mancha, according to the prologue to this work. It is not known if by that term he meant that he began to write it while he was in prison or simply that he came up with the idea there.

Cervantes' other documented imprisonment was very brief, in Castro del Río (Córdoba) in 1592. There is no record that he was ever in the cave of the Medrano house in Argamasilla de Alba.

At that time Miguel de Cervantes began his dramatic career based on Renaissance and classicist postulates: respect for the three Aristotelian units and not mixing the tragic and the comic, as recommended by Horace in his Epistle to the Pisones or Poetic Art. We have already seen how Cervantes loved theater since his childhood (in Don Quixote there is an abundance of dialogue). He took risks with some innovations such as reducing the comedies to three acts or using allegorical characters and had some success until Lope de Vega triumphed with a more modern formula (expressed in 1609, when he spread his Arte nuevo de hacer comedias en este tiempo and everyone followed him, so that no theatrical impresario ("author" in the language of the time) wanted to buy Cervantes' comedies, which appeared outdated. Lope de Vega noted the resentment that Cervantes took for this fact, expressed in the classicist criticisms that his Don Quixote contains (I, 48) towards his theater, but later Cervantes reluctantly assumed the new formula ("the times change things

As a playwright Cervantes excelled in one genre: the entremés, as well as in the comedies in which he describes his personal experiences as a captive slave of the Muslims in Algiers: El trato de Argel, its recasting Los baños de Argel and La gran sultana, which fall within the subgenre called "comedia de cautivos" (comedy of captives). His tragedy El cerco de Numancia (1585) and the comedy El rufián dichoso can also be considered masterpieces. Recently a tragedy that was considered lost has been recovered, the Jerusalem, also quite remarkable.

In 1604 it was installed in Valladolid (at that time the Royal Court -since 1601- of Philip III). The same year 1604 Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas, Chronicler of the Indies and Censor of the work of Miguel de Cervantes, authorized the printing. And in January 1605 he published the first part of what would be his main work: The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha. This marked the beginning of realism as a literary aesthetic and created the literary genre of the modern novel, the polyphonic novel, of very wide subsequent influence, through the cultivation of what he called "an unleashed writing" in which the artist could show himself "epic, lyrical, tragic, comic" in the genuine melting pot of the parody of all genres. The second part did not appear until 1615: El ingenioso caballero don Quijote de la Mancha.

Both works earned him a place in the history of world literature and turned his author, along with Dante Alighieri, William Shakespeare, Michel de Montaigne and Goethe, into a canonical author of Western literature. A year earlier, an apocryphal sequel to Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda was published. A novel that could have been written, it has been proposed, by Lope de Vega's circle of friends or by the Aragonese Jerónimo de Pasamonte.

Between the two parts of Don Quixote appear in 1613 the Novelas ejemplares, a set of twelve short stories, some of them composed many years earlier. Their source is his own and original. In them, he explores different narrative formulas such as Lucianesque satire (El coloquio de los perros), the picaresque novel (Rinconete y Cortadillo), the miscellaneous (El licenciado vidriera), the Byzantine novel (La española inglesa, El amante liberal) or even the detective novel (La fuerza de la sangre). Of two of them, such as El celoso extremeño, there is a second edition, attested by the manuscript called Porras de la Cámara, discovered and soon destroyed in the 19th century. This collection of novels alone could have created a very prominent place for him in the history of Castilian literature.

Literary criticism was a constant in his work. It appears in the Galatea, in the Quixote and to it he dedicated the Viaje del Parnaso (1614), an extensive poem in chained tercets. In 1615, he published Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses nuevos nunca representados, but his most popular drama today, La Numancia, as well as El trato de Argel, remained unpublished until the 18th century.

One year after his death, the novel Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda appeared, whose dedication to Pedro Fernández de Castro y Andrade, VII Count of Lemos, his patron for years, and to whom the second part of Don Quixote and the Novelas ejemplares are also dedicated, and which he signed just two days before his death, is one of the most moving pages of Spanish literature:

Persiles is a Byzantine novel which, according to the author, was intended to compete with the classical Greek model of Heliodorus; it was successful, as it went through a few more editions in its time, but was forgotten and obscured by the undisputed triumph of his Don Quixote. Cervantes uses a group of characters as the main thread of the work, instead of two. He also anticipates the so-called magical realism by introducing some fantastic elements. In a way, he Christianizes the original model using the cliché of homo viator, reaching the climax at the end of the work with the anagnorisis of the two main lovers, called until then Periandro and Auristela, in the holy city of Rome:

In reality, Persiles is a novel of very complex structure and intentions that still awaits a satisfactory interpretation.

Cervantes' influence on world literature has been such that the Spanish language itself is often called the language of Cervantes.

The register of the parish of San Sebastian states that Cervantes died on April 23, 1616.

On April 23, the King and Queen of Spain presented the Cervantes Prize at the auditorium of the University of Alcalá.

Several scholars, such as the French Jean Canavaggio and the Spaniards Francisco Rico and Luis Astrana Marín affirm that he died on April 22 and that what appears in the registry is the date of the burial.

Cervantes died in Madrid at the age of 68 years of diabetes, in the well-known Casa de Cervantes, located on the corner of Calle del León and Calle Francos, in the aforementioned Barrio de las Letras or Barrio de las Musas, in the surroundings of the well-known Madrid de los Austrias. Cervantes wished to be buried in the church of the convent of the Trinitarias Descalzas, in the same neighborhood, since when he was taken prisoner in Algiers, the congregation of the Trinitarians helped, acted as intermediaries and collected funds so that he and his brother Rodrigo could be freed.

The present convent was built in different phases. At the time Cervantes was buried there, the convent had a small chapel with access from Huertas Street, but later a larger church was built on the same site and the people who were buried in the previous one were transferred to this new temple. The body of Cervantes was also moved but the exact location was unknown. In July 2011, news broke that the historian Fernando de Prado proposed to find the remains of Cervantes leading a group of experts, exploring the different parts of the convent, of 3000 square meters, to better investigate his physical appearance and the causes of his death.

On January 24, 2015, a team of archaeologists, led by forensic scientist Francisco Etxeberria, announced that they had found a coffin with the initials "M. C.", which was subjected to study to determine exactly whether the bones contained therein were those of the writer, although the next day the UAM epigrapher Alicia M. Canto recommended caution, since the letters could actually read "M. G.", and their type and technique correspond rather to the 18th century. The following day it was announced that "the scientific committee assembled at the excavations concluded that the bones do not correspond to those of the writer, since they would belong to people of a younger age". Finally, on March 17, 2015, the experts announced that "after the evidence of historical, archaeological and anthropological tests, it has been possible to narrow down the location of the remains in a concentration of bones, fragmented and deteriorated, corresponding to seventeen people, among which are possibly those of Cervantes and his wife", although there was no shortage of other critical opinions, such as that of Professor Francisco Rico who stated, "It is that there is no such finding. We know the same as we knew before".

Cervantes was portrayed in his time by the Sevillian painter Juan de Jáuregui.

In 1910 a portrait was discovered on which was written on the upper part "Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra" and on the lower part "Iuan de Iauregui Pinxit, year 1600". Francisco Rodríguez Marín, Alejandro Pidal y Mon and Mariano de Cavia defended its authenticity but Juan Pérez de Guzmán y Gallo, Ramón León Maínez, Raymond Foulché-Delbosc, James Fitzmaurice-Kelly, Julio Puyol y Alonso and others questioned it. The portrait was hung in the assembly hall of the Royal Spanish Academy, under a portrait of Felipe V.

After Cervantes' death, many other portraits have appeared, which are considered forgeries.

The only allusion to Jáuregui's portrait is found in the self-description that the author placed at the beginning of his Novelas ejemplares, which were published in 1613, when Cervantes was already 66 years old. The description reads as follows:

From a letter by Lope de Vega, it is also known that Cervantes used reading glasses, an instrument so expensive at the time that when his glasses broke, he did not want to repair them.

Cervantes is highly original. Parodying a genre that was beginning to perish, such as that of the books of chivalry, he created another extremely lively genre, the polyphonic novel, where worldviews and points of view are superimposed until they become confused in complexity with reality itself, even resorting to metafictional games. At the time, epic could also be written in prose, and with the precedent in theater of Lope de Vega's lack of respect for classical models, it fell to him to forge the formula of realism in narrative as it had been foreshadowed in Spain by a whole literary tradition since the Cantar del Mío Cid, offering it to Europe, where Cervantes had more disciples than in Spain. The entire realist novel of the nineteenth century is marked by this mastery. On the other hand, another great masterpiece of Cervantes, the Novelas ejemplares, demonstrates the breadth of vision of his spirit and his desire to experiment with narrative structures. In this collection of novels, the author experiments with the Byzantine novel (La española inglesa), the detective or crime novel (La fuerza de la sangre, El celoso extremeño), the Lucianesque dialogue (El coloquio de los perros), the miscellany of sentences and donaires (El licenciado Vidriera), the picaresque novel (Rinconete y Cortadillo), the narrative based on an anagnorisisis (La gitanilla), etc.


Miguel de Cervantes cultivated, but in his own original way, the usual narrative genres in the second half of the 16th century: the Byzantine novel, the pastoral novel, the picaresque novel, the Moorish novel, the Lucian satire, the miscellany. He renewed a genre, the novel, which was then understood in the Italian style as a short story, free of rhetoric and of greater transcendence.

Chronological order:

La Galatea was Cervantes' first novel, in 1585. It is part of the pastoral subgenre (an "eclogue in prose" as defined by the author), triumphant in the Renaissance. Its first publication appeared when he was 38 years old with the title Primera parte de La Galatea. As in other novels of the genre (similar to La Diana by Jorge de Montemayor), the characters are idealized shepherds who relate their troubles and express their feelings in an idyllic nature (locus amoenus).

The Galatea is divided into six books in which a main story and four secondary stories are developed, beginning at dawn and ending at dusk, as in the traditional eclogues, but in the same way as in Virgil's bucolic poems, each shepherd is actually a mask representing a real character.

It is the most important novel in Spanish language literature. Its first part appeared in 1605 and was very well received by the public. It was soon translated into the main European languages and is one of the most translated works in the world. The second part was published in 1615.

Initially, Cervantes' intention was to combat the boom that chivalry books had reached, satirizing them with the story of a nobleman from La Mancha who lost his sanity by reading them, believing himself to be a knight-errant. For Cervantes, the style of the novels of chivalry was lousy, and the stories they told were nonsensical. Nevertheless, as he progressed, his initial purpose was surpassed, and he was able to construct a work that reflected the society of his time and human behavior.

It is likely that Cervantes was inspired by the Entremés de los romances, in which a farmer loses his mind because of his fondness for the heroes of the Romancero viejo.

Between 1590 and 1612, Cervantes wrote a series of short novels (since the term novel was used at the time in the same sense as its Italian etymology, the novella, that is, what we now call a short novel or long story) which he would later bring together in 1613 in the collection of the Novelas ejemplares, given the great reception he received with the first part of Don Quixote. At first they were called Novelas ejemplares de honestísimo entretenimiento (Exemplary novels of most honest entertainment).

Since there are two versions of Rinconete y Cortadillo and El celoso extremeño, it is thought that Cervantes introduced some variations in these novels for moral, social and aesthetic purposes (hence the name "ejemplares"). The earliest version is found in the so-called manuscript of Porras de la Cámara, a miscellaneous collection of various literary works, among which is a novel usually attributed to Cervantes, La tía fingida (The Pretended Aunt). On the other hand, some short novels are also included in Don Quixote, such as "El curioso impertinente" or a "Historia del cautivo" which has autobiographical elements. In addition, allusion is made to another novel already composed, Rinconete y Cortadillo.

It is the last work of Cervantes. It belongs to the subgenre of the Byzantine novel. In it he wrote the dedication to Pedro Fernández de Castro y Andrade, VII Count of Lemos, on April 19, 1616, four days before his death, where he says goodbye to life quoting these verses:

The author clearly sees that he has little life left and says goodbye to his friends, he has no illusions. However, he wishes to live and finish the works he has in his mind, whose titles he writes: The Weeks of the Garden, The Famous Bernardo and a second part of La Galatea. In the genre of the Byzantine novel, Cervantes tells us, he dares to compete with the model of the genre, Heliodorus.

The novel, inspired by the chronicle of Saxo Gramático and Olao Magno and the fantasies of Antonio de Torquemada's Garden of Curious Flowers, tells the story of the pilgrimage undertaken by Persiles and Sigismunda, two Nordic princes in love who pretend to be brother and sister, changing their names to Periandro and Auristela. Separated by all sorts of vicissitudes, they embark on a journey from northern Europe to Rome, passing through Spain, with the purpose of atonement before marrying. The work is important because it represents a certain distancing of the author from the realist formulas he has cultivated so far, as there are events as strange as a woman jumping from a bell tower and escaping from crashing thanks to the parachute formed by her skirt, or characters who can tell the future. The main characters appear somewhat faded and in reality the work stars a group, including two Spaniards abandoned on a desert island, Antonio and his son, raised on the island as a kind of barbarian archer in contact with nature. The last passages of the book are not very well edited, since the author died before correcting them. The work had some success and was reprinted several times, but was forgotten in the following century.


Cervantes strove to be a poet, although he came to doubt his ability, as he himself said before his death in Viaje del Parnaso:

Almost all the verses that were not included in his novels or plays have been lost or have not been identified; although he is often called the inventor of the verses of cabo roto, in reality it was not him. Cervantes claims to have composed a large number of romances, among which he especially esteemed one on jealousy. In fact, around 1580 he participated with other great contemporary poets such as Lope de Vega, Góngora or Quevedo in the imitation of the old romances that gave rise to the Romancero nuevo, so called as opposed to the traditional and anonymous Romancero viejo of the 15th century.

He began his poetic work with the four compositions dedicated to Exequias de la reina Isabel de Valois. Other poems were: To Pedro Padilla, To the death of Fernando de Herrera, To the Austriada of Juan Rufo. As a poet, however, he stands out in the comic and satirical tone, and his masterpieces are the sonnets Un valentón de espátula y greguesco and Al túmulo del rey Felipe II, of which the last verses became famous:

The Epístola a Mateo Vázquez is a forgery written by the nineteenth-century scholar Adolfo de Castro, as is the prose pamphlet El buscapié, a vindication of Don Quixote also written by this scholar. He established some innovations in metrics, such as the invention of the stanza called ovillejo and the use of the sonnet with strambote.

Cervantes' only long narrative poem is Viaje del Parnaso (1614) composed in chained tercets. In it he praises and criticizes some Spanish poets. It is actually an adaptation, as the author himself says, of the Viaggio di Parnaso (1578) by Cesare Caporali di Perugia or Perugino. It narrates in eight chapters the journey to Mount Parnassus of the author himself aboard a galley led by Mercury, in which some praised poets try to defend him against the poetastros or bad poets. Reunited on the mount with Apollo, they emerge victorious from the battle and the protagonist returns home. The work is completed with the Adjunta al Parnaso, where Pancracio de Roncesvalles gives Cervantes two epistles of Apollo.


Given his economic hardships, the theater was Cervantes' great vocation, who declared that he had written "twenty or thirty comedies", of which the titles of seventeen and the texts of eleven are preserved, not counting eight entremeses and some others attributed to him. He writes that when he was a young man "his eyes used to wander" after the comedians' chariot and that he attended the austere performances of Lope de Rueda. However, his success, which he had, since his plays were performed "without offering cucumbers", as he says in the prologue to his Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses nunca representados, was short-lived in the face of the success of Lope de Vega's new dramatic formula, more audacious and modern than his own, which made businessmen reject Cervantes' comedies and prefer those of his rival. Cervantes' theater had a moral purpose, included allegorical characters and tried to submit to the three Aristotelian units of action, time and place, while Lope's broke with these units and was morally more shameless and unabashed, as well as better and more variedly versified. Cervantes was never able to cope with this failure and was displeased with the new Lopean theater in the first part of Don Quixote, whose theatrical character appears well established due to the abundance of dialogues and situations of the entremesil type which interweave the plot. Indeed, the entremés is the dramatic genre where Cervantes' dramatic genius shines in all its splendor, so that it can be said that together with Luis Quiñones de Benavente and Francisco de Quevedo Cervantes is one of the best authors of the genre, to which he contributed a greater depth in the characters, an inimitable humor and a greater depth and transcendence in the subject matter. That there was an interconnection between Cervantes' theatrical and narrative worlds is demonstrated by the fact that, for example, the theme of the entremés of El viejo celoso appears in the exemplary novel El celoso extremeño. Other times Sancho-Pancesque characters appear, as in the entremés of the Election of the Mayors of Daganzo, where the protagonist is as good a wine taster or "mojón" as Sancho. The baroque theme of appearance and reality is shown in El retablo de las maravillas, where the medieval tale of Don Juan Manuel (which Cervantes knew and had read in a contemporary edition) of the naked king is adapted and given a social content. El juez de los divorcios also touched Cervantes biographically, and in it he comes to the conclusion that "the worst concert is the best.

In his major plays Cervantes' theater has been unjustly underappreciated and under-represented, with some unperformed to date (2015), except for the one that represents the most finished example of imitation of classical tragedies: El cerco de Numancia, also titled La destrucción de Numancia, where the patriotic theme of collective sacrifice is staged before the siege of General Scipio the African and where hunger takes the form of existential suffering, adding allegorical figures that prophesize a glorious future for Spain. It is a work where Providence seems to have the same role as it had for Aeneas escaped from the burned Troy in Virgil. Similar patriotic inspiration is found in other comedies, such as The Conquest of Jerusalem, recently discovered. Other comedies of his deal with the theme, which the author suffered so directly and which is even alluded to in a passage of his last work, the Persiles, of captivity in Algiers, such as Los baños de Argel, El trato de Argel (also titled Los tratos de Argel), La gran sultana and El gallardo español, where it has also been found the denunciation of the situation of the former soldiers like Cervantes himself. Of a more novelistic theme are La casa de los celos y selvas de Ardenia, El laberinto de amor, La entretenida. Pedro de Urdemalas and El rufián dichoso have a picaresque character.

Cervantes collected his unperformed works in Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses nunca representados (Eight comedies and eight entremeses never performed); in addition, other works are preserved in manuscript: El trato de Argel, El gallardo español, La gran sultana and Los baños de Argel.

Cervantes mentioned on some occasions comedies of his that were successfully performed and whose texts have been lost, as well as other plays he was writing or was thinking of writing.

Among the unwritten or unfinished works are the second part of La Galatea, El famoso Bernardo (perhaps a book of chivalry referring to Bernardo del Carpio) and Las semanas del jardín. It is also possible that he may have thought of writing a continuation of the chivalric book Belianís de Grecia.

The lost plays that Cervantes lists are La gran Turquesca, La batalla naval, La Jerusalem, which today is believed to be the recovered La conquista de Jerusalén; La Amaranta o la del mayo, El bosque amoroso, La única, La bizarra Arsinda and La confusa, which was in the repertoire of the author Juan Acacio even in 1627. It was also his work a comedy called El trato de Constantinopla y muerte de Selim.

There are several works that have been attributed to Cervantes, with varied grounds. Among the best known are:

In 1992, the Italian Hispanist Stefano Arata published the text of a manuscript of the play The Conquest of Jerusalem by Godofre de Bullón, in his preliminary study Arata claims to have found Cervantes' The Lost Jerusalem. In his preliminary study, Arata claims to have found Cervantes' The Lost Jerusalem. This study was followed by another article in 1997 and has since been published virtually as an attributed work. In 2009 a critical edition appeared in print by Cátedra Letras Hispanas and in 2010 Aaron M. Kahn published a theory of attribution which demonstrates that, of all the candidates for authorship of this drama, Cervantes is certainly the most likely. Certainly this comedy stands out greatly among others of its time, but, without conclusive evidence, it remains attributable only to Cervantes.

It is often said that Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died on the same day. However, the deaths would not have coincided in time, since, although the date was the same, in Great Britain the Julian calendar was used, while in Spain the Gregorian calendar had already been adopted, and when Shakespeare died, in Spain it was May 3. This day, April 23, has been named International Book Day by Unesco in 1995.

What is known exactly is that Shakespeare read the first part of Don Quixote and wrote a play in which he takes up the character of Cardenio, who appears in the novel.

Cervantes not only knew the illustrious writers Francisco Quevedo and Lope de Vega, but they were neighbors in the same streets of the Barrio de las Letras in Madrid.

Don Quixote is a book that has marked many personalities. Orson Welles, who spent some time in Spain, was very interested in making a film entitled Don Quixote, and although he started it, he was unable to complete it, so it has been exhibited since 1992, edited and finished by the director and screenwriter Jesús Franco.

Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion learned Spanish so he could read Don Quixote in its original language, as did Russian poet, playwright and novelist Alexandr Pushkin.

Cervantes anti-system

For historian Emilio Sola, there are numerous indications in Cervantes' work that give him away as an anti-system and even libertarian writer. According to Sola, the most common readings of Cervantes' work have left a "neutralized" Cervantes in which "his most powerful deep charges" are hidden. These charges would be Cervantes' rejection of professional politics (Marcela's feminist protest) or his comparison of modern companies with corsair galleots (money and corruption would be the new gods).

Cervantes and religion

Due to the implicit consequences of the novel El curioso impertinente, included in Don Quixote, some authors have interpreted Cervantes as defending the "impossibility of religious debate or controversy between Christians and Muslims". This controversy between religions would be impossible because it cannot be carried out with "palpable, easy, intelligible, demonstrative, indubitable examples, with mathematical demonstrations that cannot be denied". Because of this difficulty, pointed out by Cervantes, of Christians and Muslims being able to convince each other, a "skeptical, tolerant or pacifying" position is attributed to him, which the author himself would have adopted "without any doubts and in spite of phrases or concrete formulations highlighted as a defense against possible suspicions".

For some Cervantists, the author of Don Quixote can be considered a "precursor" of 17th century iusnaturalism. This would be justified by the need, present in Cervantes, according to Emilio Sola, for a "right".

There are numerous awards, sculptures, buildings and institutions dedicated to the memory of Miguel de Cervantes.

Cervantes House

There are at least five Cervantes Houses: in Alcalá de Henares, in Valladolid, in Esquivias (Toledo), in Madrid, in Vélez-Málaga, in Alcázar de San Juan (Ciudad Real) and in Cartagena (Spain).


  1. Miguel de Cervantes
  2. Miguel de Cervantes
  3. Véase RAE: manco, -ca, que ha perdido un brazo o una mano, o el uso de cualquiera de estos miembros.[17]​
  4. a et b Le 23 avril, souvent cité comme la date de sa mort, est en réalité celle de son enterrement. Cette date a souvent été rapprochée de la date de mort de l'écrivain Shakespeare le 23 avril 1616. Cependant, outre que ce rapprochement nécessite de confondre la date d'enterrement de Cervantes et celle de sa mort, la coïncidence ne fonctionne que si une date est exprimée dans le calendrier julien et l'autre dans le calendrier grégorien, ce qui n'est pas le cas : en effet selon le calendrier grégorien, Shakespeare est mort le 3 mai.
  5. 1958 előtt már a kötet több elbeszélését is kiadták magyarul. A címek kicsit eltérőek, de a A bőkezű szerető azonos a kötetben szereplő Az önzetlen szeretővel, a Cornélia Di Bentivoglio története a Cornéliával, a La gitanilla Preciosa, a szép cigánylány története A cigánylánnyal. Ezenkívül a kötetben szerepel még Az üveg diák című mű is, ami azonos címen jelent meg korábban. Mindezekről lásd fentebb.
  6. ^ a b BeWeB, accesat în 5 februarie 2021
  7. ^ a b „Miguel de Cervantes”, Gemeinsame Normdatei, accesat în 9 aprilie 2014
  8. ^ a b Miguel de Cervantes, SNAC, accesat în 9 octombrie 2017
  9. ^ a b „Miguel de Cervantes”, Gemeinsame Normdatei, accesat în 30 decembrie 2014

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