Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
Article abstract: Poet, playwright, and novelist, Cervantes is Spain’s greatest writer, chiefly because of Don Quixote de la Mancha, the first real European novel and one of the supreme works of world literature.
In 1547, the year that Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born, Henry VIII of England and François I of France died, leaving Charles I of Spain (and V of the Holy Roman Empire) undisputedly the dominant ruler in Europe and the Spanish dominions the most powerful empire on earth. The sixteenth century is known in Spanish history as the siglo del oro (the golden century), partly because of Cervantes, who is the greatest of all Spanish writers. His parents were impoverished members of the gentry, and Miguel, the fourth of their seven children, was born in Alcalá de Henares, some twenty miles from Madrid. His father, Rodrigo, was an apothecary surgeon, who was usually in debt and was even sent to debtors’ prison. In 1551, he moved the family to Valladolid, and in 1553 to Córdoba, once the greatest city of Moorish Spain. There Miguel probably studied under Father Alonso de Vieras and later at the Jesuit College of Santa Catarina, where he is likely to have seen his first plays. For six years after 1558, the family’s whereabouts cannot be determined, but in 1564, they appeared in Seville, the major city of Andalusia. There Miguel attended the new Jesuit college and saw the great actor Lope...
(The entire section is 3235 words.)
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Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
In the most interesting of the eight comedies by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra published in 1615, Pedro the Artful Dodger, the title character dreams ambitiously of becoming all the great personages that a man can become—pope, prince, monarch, emperor, master of the world. After a career that is typical of a picaro or any other adventurous Spanish rogue of the time, Pedro finds his wishes realized when he becomes an actor and enters imaginatively into the ranks of the great. In much the same way, Cervantes’ great ambitions in life were never realized, and the only satisfaction he found was in a world he himself created.
In one sense, Cervantes’ greatest drama was his own life. Born in a small university city not far from Madrid, Cervantes traveled constantly with his family in his early years. His father, an impoverished and impractical man who attempted to earn a living as a surgeon, kept the family moving, from Valladolid to Córdoba, from Seville to Madrid. Cervantes learned the life of the road and the diversity of city life in Spain as a youth. The education he received was most likely from the Jesuits, and when he was in his twenties he journeyed to Italy. Perhaps fleeing from arrest as the result of a duel, he entered the service of Cardinal Aquaviva. In 1569, he enlisted in the Spanish army and went to sea. Cervantes was present at the sea battle of Lepanto in 1571. He served under the command of Don John of Austria in the...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Biography (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Scholars have begun to realize that the three greatest premodern Spanish writers were all of Jewish origin: They were conversos, in the ethnic jargon of the day—Jews converted to Christianity—and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was one of them. Many Jews had come to Spain with the Muslim conquerors of the Peninsula. In Spain, at first, they were well treated and often rose to positions of importance. From the Great Pogrom of 1391 in Spain onward, however, many had converted, nominally or in fact, to Christianity, realizing that once Spain was reconquered, they would be needed by neither the government nor the populace. All Jews still living in Spain and following Judaism were expelled in 1492 and dispersed to all parts of the Mediterranean, becoming the Sephardim. Only the conversos remained. The main problem for conversos in Cervantes’s lifetime was that their status as hidalgos might be questioned by the courts and the community. A hidalgo was not subject to arrest for ordinary (non-Royal) debt; Cervantes’s claims must have been deficient, for he and his father and his grandfather were arrested for debt many times. It was the attitude that conversos were somehow second-class citizens which probably accounts for all the illegitimacies among the Cervantes girls: They were considered fair game for sexual adventurers.
Miguel was one of seven Cervantes children of Rodrigo and Leonor de Cortinas, five...
(The entire section is 1050 words.)
Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Nothing is known of the first twenty years of Miguel de Cervantes (sur-VAHN-teez) Saavedra’s life except that he is believed to have been born on September 29, 1547, and christened on October 9, 1547, in the church of Santa Maria in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, a small university town a little more than twenty miles northeast of Madrid. His father was Rodrigo de Cervantes, a ne’er-do-well surgeon who moved frequently from town to town while his mother probably remained in Alcalá with the children. Rodrigo’s was an old family that had seen better days, claiming hidalgo rank but now heavily in debt. Cervantes’ education seems to have been limited. In 1568, he was a student in the City School of Madrid, but he may have interrupted his studies to serve in the army in Flanders.
In December, 1569, he traveled to Rome as chamberlain in the household of Cardinal Acquaviva. Restless, he soon applied for a certificate of legitimacy to prove that he came from “Old Christian stock” so that he might, with his brother Rodrigo, enlist as a soldier in the Spanish army under Don Juan of Austria, an experience that gave him a chance to visit Italian cities. He fought in the Battle of Lepanto (1571). Sick below with a fever on the battleship Marquesa, he insisted on being brought on deck. In command of a longboat with twelve men, he continued to...
(The entire section is 961 words.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
In the gallery of universal and eternal symbols, two figures were thrust into fame by the pen of the great writer of the Golden Age of Spain, Miguel de Cervantes (sur-VAHN-teez). These two figures, one sad and gaunt, the other chubby and jovial, are the gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha and his squire, Sancho Panza. “Thin, shriveled, fanciful, and full of various thoughts,” the first, and “a man of a good nature but with very little salt in the crown of his head,” the second—both constitute an inseparable duality typifying all aspects of humanity through the ages.
Cervantes, author of Don Quixote de la Mancha, was “more versed in misfortunes than in verses.” Born in Alcalá de Henares in 1547, probably on September 29, he was baptized on October 9 of the same year. Fourth son of a poor and deaf surgeon, Rodrigo de Cervantes, and Leonor de Cortinas, his wife, Cervantes was at a disadvantage from the beginning. The father followed his profession in Valladolid, and there Cervantes spent some years of his boyhood. Cervantes may have lived in Seville and Salamanca for a time, but the only known fact is that by 1567 he was studying in Madrid at the School of General Studies, later the University, under the instruction of Juan Lopez de Hoyos, a professor of humanities who called Cervantes “our dear and beloved pupil.” In 1569,...
(The entire section is 1147 words.)