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Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Portrait commonly said to be that painted[a] by Juan Martínez de Jáuregui y Aguilar (c. 1600). Modern scholarship does not believe this portrait, or any other graphic representation of Cervantes, to be authentic.
Born September 29, 1547 (1547-09-19)
Alcalá de Henares, Spain
Died April 23, 1616 (1616-04-24) (aged 68)
Madrid, Spain
Occupation Novelist, poet and playwright

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra[b] (Spanish pronunciation: [miˈɣel ðe θerˈbantes saˈβeðɾa]) was born in modern Spain; September 29, 1547 – April 23, 1616) he was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. His magnum opus, Don Quixote, often considered the first modern novel,[1] is a classic of Western literature and is regularly regarded among the best novels ever written[citation needed]. His work is considered among the most important in all of literature.[2] His influence on the Spanish language has been so great that Spanish is often called la lengua de Cervantes (The language of Cervantes).[3] He has been dubbed el Príncipe de los Ingenios - the Prince of Wits.

Cervantes was born at Alcalá de Henares, the fourth of seven children of Rodrigo de Cervantes, a surgeon born at Alcalá de Henares, and Leonor de Cortinas (native from Arganda del Rey). Cervantes' parents were married in 1543. The family's origins may have been of the minor gentry. Leonor died on October 19, 1593. The family moved from town to town, and little is known of Cervantes's early years.

In 1569, Cervantes moved to Italy where he served as a valet to Giulio Acquaviva, a wealthy priest who was elevated to cardinal the next year. By then, Cervantes had enlisted as a soldier in a Spanish Navy infantry regiment and continued his military life until 1575, when he was captured by Algerian pirates. He was ransomed from his captors by his parents and the Trinitarians. He returned to his family in Madrid.

In 1585, Cervantes published a pastoral novel, La Galatea. Because of financial problems, Cervantes worked as a purveyor for the Spanish Armada, and later as a tax collector. In 1597 discrepancies in his accounts of three years previous landed him in the Crown Jail of Seville. In 1605 he was in Valladolid, just when the immediate success of the first part of his Don Quijote, published in Madrid, signaled his return to the literary world. In 1607, he settled in Madrid, where he lived and worked until his death. During the last nine years of his life, Cervantes solidified his reputation as a writer; he published the Exemplary Novels (Novelas ejemplares) in 1613, the Journey to Parnassus in 1614, and in 1615, the Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses and the second part of Don Quixote. Carlos Fuentes noted that, "Cervantes leaves open the pages of a book where the reader knows himself to be written."[4]


Birth and early life

Miguel de Cervantes was born in Alcalá de Henares, a Castilian city about 15 miles from Madrid, probably on September 29 (the feast day of St. Michael) 1547. The probable date of his birth was determined from records in the church register. He was baptized on October 9.[2] Miguel's father Rodrigo was a barber-surgeon, who set bones, performed bloodlettings, and attended "lesser medical needs".[5] His mother was the third daughter of a nobleman, who lost his fortune and had to sell his daughter into matrimony. This led to a very awkward marriage and several affairs on the father's part.[6]

Little is known of Cervantes' early years. It seems that he spent much of his childhood moving from town to town with his family. During this time he met a young barmaid, Josefina Catalina De Parez. The couple fell madly in love and plotted to run away together. Sadly her father discovered their plans and forbade Josefina from ever seeing Cervantes again. It seems that, much like Dickens' father, Miguel's father was embargoed for debt. The court records of the proceedings show a very poor household. While some of his biographers argue that he studied at the University of Salamanca, there is no solid evidence for supposing that he did so.[c] There has been speculation also that Cervantes studied with the Jesuits in Córdoba or Sevilla.[7]

Military history and captivity

The Battle of Lepanto by Paolo Veronese (c. 1572, oil on canvas, 169 x 137 cm, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice)

The reasons that forced Cervantes to leave Castile remain uncertain. Whether he was a "student" of the same name, a "sword-wielding fugitive from justice", or fleeing from a royal warrant of arrest, for having wounded a certain Antonio de Sigura in a duel, is another mystery.[8] In any event, in going to Italy, Cervantes was doing what many young Spaniards of the time did to further their careers in one way or another. Rome would reveal to the young artist its ecclesiastic pomp, ritual, and majesty. In a city teeming with ruins Cervantes could focus his attention on Renaissance art, architecture, and poetry (knowledge of Italian literature is readily discernible in his own productions) and on rediscovering antiquity. He could find in the ancients "a powerful impetus to revive the contemporary world in light of its accomplishments".[9] Thus, Cervantes' continuing desire for Italy, as revealed in his later works, was in part a desire for a return to an earlier period of the Renaissance.[10]

By 1570 Cervantes had enlisted as a soldier in a regiment of the Spanish naval elite corps, Infantería de Marina, stationed in Naples, then a possession of the Spanish crown. He was there for about a year before he saw active service. In September 1571 Cervantes sailed on board the Marquesa, part of the galley fleet of the Holy League (a coalition of the Pope, Spain, the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Knights Hospitaller based in Malta, and others, under the command of King Philip II's illegitimate half brother, John of Austria) that defeated the Ottoman fleet on October 7 in the Gulf of Lepanto near Corinth, at great cost to both sides. Though taken down with fever, Cervantes refused to stay below, and begged to be allowed to take part in the battle, saying that he would rather die for his God and his king than keep under cover. He fought bravely on board a vessel, and received three gunshot wounds – two in the chest, and one which rendered his left arm useless. In Journey to Parnassus he was to say that he "had lost the movement of the left hand for the glory of the right" (he was thinking of the success of the first part of Don Quixote). Cervantes always looked back on his conduct in the battle with pride: he believed that he had taken part in an event that would shape the course of European history.

"What I cannot help taking amiss is that he[d] charges me with being old and one-handed, as if it had been in my power to keep time from passing over me, or as if the loss of my hand had been brought about in some tavern, and not on the grandest occasion the past or present has seen, or the future can hope to see. If my wounds have no beauty to the beholder's eye, they are, at least, honourable in the estimation of those who know where they were received; for the soldier shows to greater advantage dead in battle than alive in flight."

After the Battle of Lepanto Cervantes remained in hospital for around six months, before his wounds were sufficiently healed to allow his joining the colors again.[11] From 1572 to 1575, based mainly in Naples, he continued his soldier's life: he participated in expeditions to Corfu and Navarino, and saw the fall of Tunis and La Goletta to the Turks in 1574.[12]

On 6 or 7 September 1575 Cervantes set sail on the galley Sol from Naples to Barcelona, with letters of commendation to the king from the duke de Sessa.[13] On the morning of September 26, as the Sol approached the Catalan coast, it was attacked by Algerian corsairs. After significant resistance, in which the captain and many crew members were killed, the surviving passengers were taken to Algiers as captives.[14] After five years spent as a slave in Algiers, and four unsuccessful escape attempts, he was ransomed by his parents and the Trinitarians and returned to his family in Madrid. Not surprisingly, this period of Cervantes' life supplied subject matter for several of his literary works, notably the Captive's tale in Don Quixote and the two plays set in Algiers – El Trato de Argel (The Treaty of Algiers) and Los Baños de Argel (The Baths of Algiers) – as well as episodes in a number of other writings, although never in straight autobiographical form.[2]

"The pen is the language of the soul; as the concepts that in it are generated, such will be its writings." – Miguel de Cervantes at the National Library, Spain -

Literary pursuits

In Esquivias (Province of Toledo), on 12 December 1584, he married the much younger Catalina de Salazar y Palacios (Toledo, Esquivias –, 31 October 1626), daughter of Fernando de Salazar y Vozmediano and Catalina de Palacios. Her uncle Alonso de Quesada y Salazar is said to have inspired the character of Don Quixote. During the next 20 years Cervantes led a nomadic existence, working as a purchasing agent for the Spanish Armada and as a tax collector. He suffered a bankruptcy and was imprisoned at least twice (1597 and 1602) for irregularities in his accounts. Between 1596 and 1600, he lived primarily in Seville. In 1606, Cervantes settled in Madrid, where he remained for the rest of his life.

In 1585, Cervantes published his first major work, La Galatea, a pastoral romance, at the same time that some of his plays, now lost – except for El Trato de Argel (wherein he dealt with the life of Christian slaves in Algiers) and El Cerco de Numancia – were playing on the stages of Madrid. La Galatea received little contemporary notice; and Cervantes never wrote the continuation for it, which he repeatedly promised to do. Cervantes next turned his attention to drama, hoping to derive an income from that source, but the plays which he composed failed to achieve their purpose. Aside from his plays, his most ambitious work in verse was Viaje del Parnaso (1614) – an allegory which consisted largely of a rather tedious though good-natured review of contemporary poets. Cervantes himself realized that he was deficient in poetic talent.

If a remark which Cervantes himself makes in the prologue of Don Quixote is to be taken literally, the idea of the work (though hardly the writing of its First Part, as some have maintained) occurred to him in prison at Argamasilla de Alba in La Mancha. Cervantes' idea was to give a picture of real life and manners, and to express himself in clear language. 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.

The popularity of Don Quixote led to the publication of an unauthorized continuation of it by an unknown writer, who masqueraded under the name of Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda. Cervantes produced his own continuation, or Second Part, of Don Quixote, which made its appearance in 1615. He had promised the publication of a second part in 1613 in the foreword to the Novelas Ejemplares (Exemplary Novels), a year before the publication of Avellanda's book. Don Quixote has been regarded chiefly as a novel of purpose. It is stated again and again that he wrote it in order to satirize the romances of chivalry, and to challenge the popularity of a form of literature that had been a favorite of the general public for more than a century.

Don Quixote certainly reveals much narrative power, considerable humor, a mastery of dialogue, and a forceful style. Of the two parts written by Cervantes, the first is the more popular with the general public – containing the famous episodes of the tilting at windmills, the attack on the flock of sheep, the vigil in the courtyard of the inn, and the episode with the barber and the shaving basin. The second part is inferior in humorous effect, but shows more constructive insight, better delineation of character, improved style, and more realism and probability in its action.

In 1613, he published a collection of tales, the Exemplary Novels, some of which had been written earlier. On the whole, the Exemplary Novels are worthy of the fame of Cervantes. The picaroon strain, already made familiar in Spain through the Picaresque novels of Lazarillo de Tormes and his successors, appears in one or another of them, especially in the Rinconete y Cortadillo, which is the best of all. In 1614, he published the Viaje del Parnaso and in 1615, the Eight Comedies and Eight New Interludes. At the same time, Cervantes continued working on Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda, a novel of adventurous travel, completed just before his death, and appearing posthumously in January 1617.


Cervantes died in Madrid on April 23, 1616.[15] In honor of the date on which both Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died, UNESCO established April 23 as the International Day of the Book.[16] (Shakespeare and Cervantes, however, did not actually die on the same day, as the April 23 date for Shakespeare is Julian calendar (Old Style) and the April 23 date for Cervantes is Gregorian calendar (New Style) as those were the calendars in effect in England and in Spain, respectively, at that time. The Gregorian calendar was then ten days ahead of the Julian.)

The Encyclopedia Hispanica claims that the date widely quoted as Cervantes' date of death, namely April 23, is actually the date on his tombstone, which, in accordance with the traditions of the time, would be the date of his burial, rather than the date of his death. If this is true, then, according to Hispanica, it means that Cervantes probably died on April 22 and was buried on April 23, but the true date of his death is unknown.

Of his burial-place nothing is known, except that he was buried, in accordance with his will, in the neighboring convent of Trinitarian nuns. Isabel de Saavedra, Cervantes' daughter, was supposedly a member of this convent. A few years afterwards the nuns moved to another convent and carried their dead with them. Whether the remains of Cervantes were included in the removal or not no one knows, and the clue to their final resting place is now lost.

The statue of Miguel de Cervantes at the harbor of Nafpactos


Cervantes's novels, listed chronologically, are as follows:

  • La Galatea (1585): a pastoral romance in prose and verse, based upon the genre introduced into Spain by Jorge de Montemayor's Diana (1559). Its theme is the fortunes and misfortunes in love of a number of shepherds and shepherdesses, who spend their life singing and playing musical instruments.
  • El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (1605): First volume of Don Quixote.
  • Novelas Ejemplares (1613): a collection of twelve short stories of varied types about the social, political, and historical problems of Cervantes' Spain:
    • La Gitanilla (The Gypsy Girl)
    • El Amante Liberal (The Generous Lover)
    • Rinconete y Cortadillo (Rinconete & Cortadillo)
    • La Española Inglesa (The English Spanish Lady)
    • El Licenciado Vidriera (The Lawyer of Glass)
    • La Fuerza de la Sangre (The Power of Blood)
    • El Celoso Extremeño (The Jealous Man From Extremadura)
    • La Ilustre Fregona (The Illustrious Kitchen-Maid)
    • Novela de las Dos Doncellas (The Novel of the Two Damsels)
    • Novela de la Señora Cornelia (The Novel of Lady Cornelia)
    • Novela del Casamiento Engañoso (The Novel of the Deceitful Marriage)
    • El Coloquio de los Perros (The Dialogue of the Dogs)
  • Segunda Parte del Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha (1615): Second volume of Don Quixote.
  • Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda (1617). Los Trabajos is the best evidence not only of the survival of Byzantine novel themes but also of the survival of forms and ideas of the Spanish novel of the second Renaissance. In this work, published after the author's death, Cervantes relates the ideal love and unbelievable vicissitudes of a couple, who, starting from the Arctic regions, arrive in Rome, where they find a happy ending to their complicated adventures.

La Galatea

La Galatea, the pastoral romance, which Cervantes wrote in his youth, is an imitation of the Diana of Jorge de Montemayor and bears an even closer resemblance to Gil Polo's continuation of that romance. Next to Don Quixote and the Novelas Ejemplares, it is particularly worthy of attention, as it manifests in a striking way the poetic direction in which the genius of Cervantes moved even at an early period of life.

Don Quixote

Gustave Doré's first (of about 370) illustrations for Don Quixote

Don Quixote (spelled "Quijote" in modern Spanish) is two separate books that cover the adventures of Don Quixote, also known as the knight or man of La Mancha, a hero who carries his enthusiasm and self-deception to unintentional and comic ends. On one level, Don Quixote works as a satire of the romances of chivalry, which ruled the literary environment of Cervantes' time. However, the novel also allows Cervantes to illuminate various aspects of human nature, by using the ridiculous example of the delusional Quixote. Because the novel, particularly the first part, was written in individually published sections, the composition includes several incongruities. Cervantes himself however pointed out some of these errors in the preface to the second part; but he disdained to correct them, because he conceived that they had been too severely condemned by his critics. Cervantes felt a passion for the vivid painting of character. Don Quixote is noble-minded, an enthusiastic admirer of everything good and great, yet having all these fine qualities accidentally blended with a relative kind of madness. He is paired with a character of opposite qualities, Sancho Panza, a man of low self-esteem, who is a compound of grossness and simplicity.

Statues of Don Quixote (left) and Sancho Panza (right)

Don Quixote is cited as the first classic model of the modern romance or novel, and it has served as the prototype of the comic novel. The humorous situations are mostly burlesque, and it includes satire. Don Quixote is one of the Encyclopædia Britannica's Great Books of the Western World, and the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky called it "the ultimate and most sublime work of human thinking".[17] It is also in "Don Quixote" that Miguel de Cervantes first coined the popular phrase "the proof of the pudding is in the eating", which still sees heavy use in the shortened form of "the proof is in the pudding".

Novelas Ejemplares

It would be scarcely possible to arrange the other works of Cervantes according to a critical judgment of their importance, for the merits of some consist in the admirable finish of the whole, while others exhibit the impress of genius in the invention, or some other individual feature. A distinguished place belongs to the Novelas Ejemplares[18] ("Moral or Instructive Tales"). They are unequal in merit as well as in character. Cervantes doubtless intended that they should be to Spaniards nearly what the novellas of Boccaccio were to Italians. Some are mere anecdotes, some are romances in miniature, some are serious, some comic; all are written in a light, smooth, conversational style.

Four novelas are perhaps of less interest than the rest: El Amante Liberal, La Señora Cornelia, Las Dos Doncellas, and La Española Inglesa. The theme common to these is basically the traditional one of the Byzantine novel: pairs of lovers separated by lamentable and complicated happenings are finally reunited and find the happiness they have longed for. The heroines are all of most perfect beauty and of sublime morality; they and their lovers are capable of the highest sacrifices; and they exert their souls in the effort to elevate themselves to the ideal of moral and aristocratic distinction which illuminates their lives. In El Amante Liberal, to cite an example, the beautiful Leonisa and her lover Ricardo are carried off by Turkish pirates. Both fight against serious material and moral dangers. Ricardo conquers all obstacles, returns to his homeland with Leonisa, and is ready to renounce his passion and to hand Leonisa over to her former lover in an outburst of generosity; but Leonisa's preference naturally settles on Ricardo in the end.

Another group of "exemplary" novels is formed by La Fuerza de la Sangre, La Ilustre Fregona, La Gitanilla, and El Celoso Extremeño. The first three offer examples of love and adventure happily resolved, while the last unravels itself tragically. Its plot deals with the old Felipe Carrizales, who, after traveling widely and becoming rich in America, decides to marry, taking all the precautions necessary to forestall being deceived. He weds a very young girl – and isolates her from the world, by having her live in a house with no windows facing the street. But in spite of his defensive measures, a bold youth succeeds in penetrating the fortress of conjugal honour; and one day Carrizales surprises his wife in the arms of her seducer. Surprisingly enough he pardons the adulterers, recognizing that he is more to blame than they, and dies of sorrow over the grievous error he has committed. Cervantes here deviated from literary tradition, which demanded the death of the adulterers; but he transformed the punishment inspired, or rather required, by the social ideal of honour into a criticism of the responsibility of the individual. Rinconete y Cortadillo, El Casamiento Engañoso, El Licenciado Vidriera, and El Coloquio de los Perros, four works of art which are concerned more with the personalities of the characters who figure in them than with the subject matter, form the final group of these stories. The protagonists are, respectively, two young vagabonds, Rincón and Cortado, Lieutenant Campuzano, a student – Tomás Rodaja (who goes mad and believes himself to have been changed into a witty man of glass, offering Cervantes the opportunity to make profound observations) and finally two dogs, Cipión and Berganza, whose wandering existence serves to mirror the most varied aspects of Spanish life. El colloquio de los perros features even more sardonic observations on the Spanish society of the time.

Rinconete y Cortadillo is one of the most delightful of Cervantes' works. Its two young vagabonds come to Seville, attracted by the riches and disorder that the sixteenth-century commerce with the Americas had brought to that metropolis. There they come into contact with a brotherhood of thieves, the Thieves' Guild, led by the unforgettable Monipodio, whose house is the headquarters of the Sevillian underworld. Under the bright Andalusian sky, people and objects take form with the brilliance and subtle drama of a Velázquez.[citation needed] A distant and discreet irony endows the figures, insignificant in themselves, as they move within a ritual pomp that is in sharp contrast with their morally deflated lives. The solemn ritual of this band of ruffians is all the more comic for being presented in Cervantes' drily humorous style.

Los Trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda

Title page of Persiles and Segismunda.

Cervantes finished the romance of Persiles and Sigismunda, shortly before his death. The language and composition of the story exhibit simplicity combined with precision.[citation needed] The idea of this romance was not new and Cervantes appears to imitate Heliodorus.[citation needed] The work is a romantic description of travels, both by sea and land. Real and fabulous geography and history are mixed together; and in the second half of the romance the scene is transferred to Spain and Italy.


Some of his poems are found in La Galatea. He also wrote Dos Canciones à la Armada Invencible. His best work however is found in the sonnets, particularly Al Túmulo del Rey Felipe en Sevilla. Among his most important poems, Canto de Calíope, Epístola a Mateo Vázquez, and the Viaje del Parnaso (Journey to Parnassus – 1614) stand out. The latter is his most ambitious work in verse, an allegory which consists largely of reviews of contemporary poets. Compared to his ability as a novelist, Cervantes is often considered a mediocre poet, although he himself always harbored a hope that he would be recognized for having poetic gifts.

Viaje del Parnaso

Frontispiece of the Viaje (1614).

The prose of the Galatea, which is in other respects so beautiful, is occasionally overloaded with epithet. Cervantes displays a totally different kind of poetic talent in the Viaje del Parnaso, a work which cannot properly be ranked in any particular class of literary composition, but which, next to Don Quixote, is considered by a few the most exquisite production of its author. Many critics, however, would argue with that, citing the Novelas Ejemplares and the Entemeses as the finest examples of his work next to Don Quixote.


Comparisons have diminished the reputation of his plays; but two of them (El Trato de Argel and La Numancia – 1582) made a big impact and were not surpassed until Lope de Vega appeared. The first of these, El Trato de Argel, is written in five acts. Based on his experiences as a captive of the Moors, the play deals with the life of Christian slaves in Algiers. The other play, Numancia, is a description of the siege of Numantia by the Romans. It is stuffed with horrors, and has been described as utterly devoid of the requisites of dramatic art. Cervantes's later production consists of 16 dramatic works, among which are eight full-length plays:

  • El Gallardo Español,
  • Los Baños de Argel,
  • La Gran Sultana,
  • Doña Catalina de Oviedo,
  • La Casa de los Celos,
  • El Laberinto de Amor,
  • La Entretenida, a cloak and dagger play
  • El Rufián Dichoso,
  • Pedro de Urdemalas, a sensitive play about a picaro, who joins a group of Gypsies for love of a girl.

He also wrote eight short farces (entremeses):

  • El Juez de los Divorcios,
  • El Rufián Viudo Llamado Trampagos,
  • La Elección de los Alcaldes de Daganzo,
  • La Guarda Cuidadosa (The Vigilant Sentinel),
  • El Vizcaíno Fingido,
  • El Retablo de las Maravillas,
  • La Cueva de Salamanca, and El Viejo Celoso (The Jealous Old Man).

These plays and entremeses made up Ocho Comedias y Ocho Entremeses Nuevos, Nunca Representados (Eight Comedies and Eight New Interludes, Never Before Acted) which appeared in 1615. Cervantes' entremeses, whose dates and order of composition are not known, must not have been performed in their time. Faithful to the spirit of Lope de Rueda, Cervantes endowed them with novelistic elements, such as simplified plot, the type of description normally associated with the novel, and character development. The dialogue is sensitive and agile. Cervantes includes some of his dramas among those productions with which he was himself most satisfied, and he seems to have regarded them with self-complacency in proportion to their neglect by the public. This conduct has sometimes been attributed to a spirit of contradiction and sometimes to vanity. That the penetrating and profound Cervantes should have so mistaken the limits of his dramatic talent would not be sufficiently accounted for had he not unquestionably proved by his tragedy of Numantia how pardonable was the self-deception of which he could not divest himself.

Cervantes was entitled to consider himself endowed with a genius for dramatic poetry; but he could not preserve his independence in the conflict that he had to maintain with the Spanish public, who required certain conditions of dramatic composition; and when he sacrificed his independence, and submitted to rules imposed by others, his invention and language were reduced to the level of a poet of inferior talent. The intrigues, adventures, and surprises, which in that age characterized the Spanish drama (and which, we may assume, characterize all drama in every age) were ill suited to the genius of Cervantes. His natural style was too profound and precise to be reconciled to fantastical ideas, expressed in irregular verse; but he was Spaniard enough[citation needed] to be gratified with dramas which as a poet he could not imitate; and he imagined himself capable of imitating them, because he would have shone in another species of dramatic composition had the public taste accommodated itself to his genius.

La Numancia

Miguel de Cervantes in a late and idealized portrait of the 18th century (Retratos de Españoles Ilustres-Portraits of Illustrious Spaniards, 1791)

This play is a dramatization of the long and brutal siege of the Celtiberian town Numantia, Hispania, by the Roman forces of Scipio Africanus. Cervantes invented, along with the subject of his piece, a peculiar style of tragic composition; and, in doing so, he did not pay much regard to the theory of Aristotle. His object was to produce a piece full of tragic situations, combined with the charm of the marvellous. In order to accomplish this goal, Cervantes relied heavily on allegory and on mythological elements. The tragedy is written in conformity with no rules, save those which the author prescribed for himself, for he felt no inclination to imitate the Greek forms. The play is divided into four acts, jornadas; and no chorus is introduced. The dialogue is sometimes in tercets, and sometimes in redondillas, and for the most part in octaves – without any regard to rule.

Historical importance and influence

Cervantes: Image from a 19th century German book on the history of literature

Cervantes' novel Don Quixote has had a tremendous influence on the development of prose fiction. It has been translated into all major languages and has appeared in 700 editions. The first translation was in English, made by Thomas Shelton in 1608, but not published until 1612. Shakespeare had evidently read Don Quixote, but it is most unlikely that Cervantes had ever heard of Shakespeare.

Carlos Fuentes raised the possibility that Cervantes and Shakespeare were the same person (see Shakespearean authorship question). Francis Carr has suggested that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare's plays and Don Quixote.[19] Both possibilities are highly unlikely, especially the Shelton one. Shelton renders some Spanish idioms into English so literally that they sound nonsensical when translated — as an example he always translates the word dedos as fingers, not realizing that dedos can also mean inches. (In the original Spanish, for instance, a phrase such as una altura de quince dedos , which makes perfect sense in Spanish, would mean fifteen inches high in English, but a translator who renders it too literally would translate it as fifteen fingers high.)

Don Quixote has been the subject of a variety of works in other fields of art, including operas by the Italian composer Giovanni Paisiello, the French Jules Massenet, and the Spanish Manuel de Falla, a Russian ballet by the Russian-German composer Ludwig Minkus, a tone poem by the German composer Richard Strauss, a German film (1933) directed by G. W. Pabst, a Soviet film (1957) directed by Grigori Kozintsev, a 1965 ballet (no relation to the one by Minkus) with choreography by George Balanchine, and an American musical – Man of La Mancha (1965) – by Dale Wasserman, Mitch Leigh, and Joe Darion. Man of La Mancha was made into a film in 1972, directed by Arthur Hiller. Don Quixote's influence can be seen in the work of Smollett, Defoe, Fielding, and Sterne, as well as in the classic 19th-century novelists Scott, Dickens, Flaubert, Melville, and Dostoevsky, and in the works of James Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges. The theme of the novel also inspired the 19th-century French artists Honoré Daumier and Gustave Doré.

The Euro coins of €0.10, €0.20, and €0.50 made for Spain bear the portrait and signature of Cervantes. The Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes, a digital library, hosted by the university of Alicante, the largest digital archive of Spanish-language historical and literary works in the world, is named after Cervantes.

Ethnic and religious heritage

There is ongoing debate over Cervantes' family origins. While it was long assumed that Cervantes was an Old Christian, some modern scholars have suggested that he may have descended from a so-called converso background.[20]

Advocates of the New Christian theory, first set forth by Américo Castro, often suggest Cervantes' mother was a converso. The theory is almost exclusively supported by circumstantial evidence, but would explain some mysteries of Cervantes' life.[21] It has been supported by authors such as Anthony Cascardi and Canavaggio. Others, such as Claudio Sánchez-Albornoz (or Francisco Olmos Garcia, who considers it a "tired issue" and only supported by Américo Castro) reject the theory strongly.[22]


a. ^ The most reliable and accurate portrait of the writer to date is that provided by Cervantes himself in the Exemplary Novels (translated by Walter K. Kelly):[23]

This person whom you see here, with an oval visage, chestnut hair, smooth open forehead, lively eyes, a hooked but well-proportioned nose, and silvery beard that twenty years ago was golden, large moustaches, a small mouth, teeth not much to speak of, for he has but six, in bad condition and worse placed, no two of them corresponding to each other, a figure midway between the two extremes, neither tall nor short, a vivid complexion, rather fair than dark, somewhat stooped in the shoulders, and not very lightfooted: this, I say, is the author of Galatea, Don Quixote de la Mancha, The Journey to Parnassus, which he wrote in imitation of Cesare Caporali Perusino, and other works which are current among the public, and perhaps without the author's name. He is commonly called MIGUEL DE CERVANTES SAAVEDRA.
— Miguel de Cervantes, Exemplary Novels (Author's Preface)

b. ^ His signature spells Cerbantes with a b; but he is now known after the spelling Cervantes, used by the printers of his works. Saavedra was the surname of a distant relative. He adopted it as his second surname after his return from the Barbary Coast.[24] The earliest documents signed with Cervantes' two names, Cervantes Saavedra, appear several years after his repatriation. He began adding the second surname (Saavedra, a name that did not correspond to his immediate family) to his patronymic in 1586-1587 in official documents related to his marriage to Catalina de Salazar.[25]

c. ^ The only evidence is a statement by Professor Tomas González, that he once saw an old entry of the matriculation of a Miguel de Cervantes.[26] No subsequent scholar has been successful in verifying this statement. In any case, there were at least two other Miguels born about the middle of the century.

d. ^ "He" refers to the writer of a spurious Part II of Don Quixote (Second Volume of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha) known under the pseudonym Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda. Avellaneda had referred to Cervantes as an "old and one-handed" man.


  1. ^ "Harold Bloom on Don Quixote, the first modern novel | Books | The Guardian".,12084,1105510,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-18. 
  2. ^ a b c "Cervantes, Miguel de". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2002. 
  3. ^ (in Spanish) (PDF) La lengua de Cervantes. Ministerio de la Presidencia de España. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  4. ^ Fuentes, Carlos. Myself with Others: Selected Essays. (1988).
  5. ^ William Byron, "Cervantes. A Biography", Doubleday & Company: Garden City, NY, 1978, pp. 23-32.
  6. ^ Moorcock p 386
  7. ^ "Cervantes, Miguel de". The Encyclopedia Americana. 1994. 
  8. ^ 'The Enigma of Cervantine Genealogy, 118
  9. ^ F.A. de Armas, Cervantes and the Italian Renaissance, 32
    * F.A. de Armas, Quixotic Frescoes, 5
  10. ^ F.A. de Armas, Cervantes and the Italian Renaissance, 33
  11. ^ J. Fitzmaurice-Kelly, The Life of Cervantes, 9
  12. ^ M.A. Garcés, Cervantes in Algiers, 220
  13. ^ J. Fitzmaurice-Kelly, The Life of Cervantes, 41
  14. ^ M.A. Garcés, Cervantes in Algiers, 236
  15. ^ C. Calvo, Shakespeare and Cervantes in 1916, 78.
  16. ^ World Book and Copyright Day — April 23, 2006, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
  17. ^ "A Writer's Diary" (1873-1876)
  18. ^ . The Spanish title of novelas is misleading. In modern Spanish it means novels, but Cervantes used it to mean the shorter Italian novella. Read the Novel article for the terminological problem.
  19. ^ Francis Carr, Who Wrote Don Quixote? (London: Xlibris Corporation, 2004).
  20. ^ See for example, Rosa Rossi. Tras las huellas de Cervantes. Perfil inédito del autor del Quijote. Trans. Juan Ramón Capella. Madrid: Trotta, 2002 and Howard Mancing, The Cervantes Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2004 (2 vols).
  21. ^ Cervantes: A Biography by William Byron, Pg 32
  22. ^ Cervantes and His Postmodern Constituencies by Anne J. Cruz, Carroll B. Johnson, Pg 116
  23. ^ M. de Cervantes, The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Exemplary Novels of Cervantes
  24. ^ M.A. Garcés, Cervantes in Algiers, 191-192
    * C. Slade, Introduction, xxiv
  25. ^ M.A. Garcés, Cervantes in Algiers, 191-192
  26. ^ J. Fitzmaurice-Kelly, The Life of Cervantes, 9
    * J. Ormsby, About Cervantes and Don Quixote

Further information

  • Armas, Frederick A. de (2002). "Cervantes and the Italian Renaissance". The Cambridge Companion to Cervantes By Anthony Joseph Cascardi. Cambridge University. ISBN 0-521-66387-3. 
  • Armas, Frederick A. de (2006). "The Exhilaration of Italy". Quixotic Frescoes: Cervantes and Italian Renaissance Art. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-802-09074-5. 
  • "Cervantes, Miguel de". The Encyclopedia Americana. Grolier Incorporated. 1994. 
  • "Cervantes, Miguel de". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2002. 
  • Calvo, Clara (2004). "Shakespeare and Cervantes in 1916: The Politics of Language". Shifting the Scene: Shakespeare in European Culture By Ladina Bezzola Lambert, Balz Engler. University of Delaware Press. ISBN 0-874-13860-4. 
  • Fitzmaurice-Kelly, James (2005). "The Youth of Cervantes". The Life of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1-417-97000-6. 
  • Garcés, María Antonia (2002). "An Erotics of Creation". Cervantes in Algiers: a Captive's Tale. Vanderbilt University Press. ISBN 0-826-51470-7. 
  • Lokos, Ellen (1998). "The Politics of Identity and the Enigma of Cervantine Genealogy". Cervantes and his Postomodern Consituencies by Ann J. Cruz. Routledge (UK). ISBN 0-815-33206-8. 
  • Qualia, Charles B. (January 1949). "Cervantes, Soldier and Humanist". The South Central Bulletin (The Johns Hopkins University Press) 9 (1): 1+10–11. 

Online sources

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Miguel de Cervantes article)

From Wikiquote

Time ripens all things. No man is born wise.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (29 September 154723 April 1616), was a Spanish novelist, poet and playwright. He is best known for his novel Don Quixote, or Don Quijote de la Mancha, which is considered by many to be the first modern novel, one of the greatest works in Western literature, and the greatest of the Spanish language.



Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605-1615)

By a small sample we may judge of the whole piece.
This famous work has been translated into English by many authors, and an attempt will be made to source the translations which are used here.
  • A father may have a child who is ugly and lacking in all the graces, and the love he feels for him puts a blindfold over his eyes so that he does not see his defects but considers them signs of charm and intelligence and recounts them to his friends as if they were clever and witty.
    • Prologue
  • You are a king by your own fireside, as much as any monarch in his throne.
    • Prologue
  • I was so free with him as not to mince the matter.
    • Prologue
  • They can expect nothing but their labor for their pains.
    • Prologue
  • En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no hace mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor.
    • In some village in La Mancha, whose name I do not care to recall, there dwelt not so long ago a gentleman of the type wont to keep an unused lance, an old shield, a skinny old horse, and a greyhound for racing.
      • Part I, Book I, ch. 1
  • Which I have earned with the sweat of my brows.
    • Part I, Book I, ch. 4
Can we ever have too much of a good thing?
  • By a small sample we may judge of the whole piece.
    • Part I, Book I, ch. 4
  • Put you in this pickle.
    • Part I, Book I, ch. 5
  • Can we ever have too much of a good thing?
    • Part I, Book I, ch. 6
  • The charging of his enemy was but the work of a moment.
    • Part I, Book I, ch. 8
  • Those two fatal words, Mine and Thine.
    • Part I, Book II, ch. 3
  • The eyes those silent tongues of Love.
    • Part I, Book II, ch. 3
There's not the least thing can be said or done, but people will talk and find fault.
  • There's not the least thing can be said or done, but people will talk and find fault.
    • Part I, Book II, ch. 4
  • Without a wink of sleep.
    • Part I, Book II, ch. 4
  • No limits but the sky.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 3
Fear is sharp-sighted, and can see things underground, and much more in the skies.
  • To give the devil his due.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 3
  • You're leaping over the hedge before you come to the stile.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 4
  • Fear is sharp-sighted, and can see things underground, and much more in the skies.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 6
  • That's the nature of women ... not to love when we love them, and to love when we love them not.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 6
  • Ill luck, you know, seldom comes alone.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 6
  • Why do you lead me a wild-goose chase?
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 6
  • Experience, the universal Mother of Sciences.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 7
  • Let every man mind his own business.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 8
  • Those who'll play with cats must expect to be scratched.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 8
  • Raise a hue and cry.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 8
  • To withdraw is not to run away, and to stay is no wise action when there is more reason to fear than to hope. 'Tis the part of a wise man to keep himself today for tomorrow, and not venture all his eggs in one basket. And though I am but a clown, or a bumpkin, as you may say, yet I would have you to know I know what is what, and have always taken care of the main chance...
  • Within a stone's throw of it.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 9
  • The very remembrance of my former misfortune proves a new one to me.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 10
  • Absence, that common cure of love.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 10
  • From pro's and con's they fell to a warmer way of disputing.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 10
  • Thou hast seen nothing yet.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 11
  • My memory is so bad that many times I forget my own name.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 11
  • 'Twill grieve me so to the heart that I shall cry my eyes out.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 11
  • Ready to split his sides with laughing.
    • Part I, Book III, ch. 13
I must speak the truth, and nothing but the truth.
  • My honor is dearer to me than my life.
    • Part I, Book IV, ch. 1
  • Think before thou speakest.
    • Part I, Book IV, ch. 3
  • Let us forget and forgive injuries.
    • Part I, Book IV, ch. 3
  • I must speak the truth, and nothing but the truth.
    • Part I, Book IV, ch. 3
  • I begin to smell a rat.
    • Part I, Book IV, ch. 10
  • The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
    • Part I, Book IV, ch. 10
  • Let none presume to tell me that the pen is preferable to the sword.
    • Part I, Book IV, ch. 10
  • It is a common proverb, beauteous princess, that diligence is the mother of good fortune.
    • Part I, Book IV, ch. 19
  • The bow cannot always stand bent, nor can human frailty subsist without some lawful recreation.
    • Part I, Book IV, ch. 21
  • It is not the hand but the understanding of a man that may be said to write.
    • Part II (1615), Book III, Author's Preface
Every man is as Heaven made him, and sometimes a great deal worse.
  • When the head aches, all the members partake of the pains.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 2
  • History is in a manner a sacred thing, so far as it contains truth; for where truth is, the supreme Father of it may also be said to be, at least, inasmuch as concerns truth.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 3
  • Cada uno es como Dios le hizo, y aún peor muchas veces.
    • Every man is as Heaven made him, and sometimes a great deal worse.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 4
The pen is the tongue of the soul; as are the thoughts engendered there, so will be the things written.
  • Journey over all the universe in a map, without the expense and fatigue of traveling, without suffering the inconveniences of heat, cold, hunger, and thirst.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 6
  • The fair sex.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 6
  • A little in one's own pocket is better than much in another man's purse. 'Tis good to keep a nest egg. Every little makes a mickle.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 7
  • Remember the old saying, "Faint heart ne'er won fair lady."
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 10
  • Forewarned forearmed.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 10
  • As well look for a needle in a bottle of hay.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 10
  • Are we to mark this day with a white or a black stone?
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 10
  • I'll turn over a new leaf.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 13
  • La pluma es la lengua del alma: cuales fueren los conceptos que en ella se engendraren, tales serán sus escritos.
    • The pen is the tongue of the soul; as are the thoughts engendered there, so will be the things written.
      • Part II, Book III, ch. 16, as translated by Henry Edward Watts (1895)
  • Marriage is a noose.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 19
  • There are only two families in the world, the Haves and the Have-Nots.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 20
  • Love and War are the same thing, and stratagems and policy are as allowable in the one as in the other.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 21
  • A private sin is not so prejudicial in this world as a public indecency.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 22
Tomorrow will be a new day.
  • There is no love lost, sir.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 22
  • Tell me thy company, and I'll tell thee what thou art.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 23
  • Tomorrow will be a new day.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 26
Honesty is the best policy, I will stick to that.
  • Great persons are able to do great kindnesses.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 32
  • I was ever charitable and good to the poor, and scorn to take the bread out of another man's mouth. On the other side, by our Lady, they shall play me no foul play. I am an old cur at a crust, and can sleep dog-sleep when I list. I can look sharp as well as another, and let me alone to keep the cobwebs out of my eyes. I know where the shoe wrings me. I will know who and who is together. Honesty is the best policy, I will stick to that. The good shall have my hand and heart, but the bad neither foot nor fellowship. And in my mind, the main point of governing, is to make a good beginning.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 33, as translated by Pierre Antoine Motteux in The History of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha (1701)
    • Variant translations:
    • I'm kind-hearted by nature, and full of compassion for the poor; there's no stealing the loaf from him who kneads and bakes; and by my faith it won't do to throw false dice with me; I am an old dog, and I know all about 'tus, tus;' I can be wide-awake if need be, and I don't let clouds come before my eyes, for I know where the shoe pinches me; I say so, because with me the good will have support and protection, and the bad neither footing nor access. And it seems to me that, in governments, to make a beginning is everything; and maybe, after having been governor a fortnight, I'll take kindly to the work and know more about it than the field labour I have been brought up to.
    • Honesty's the best policy.
  • Time ripens all things. No man is born wise. Bishops are made of men and not of stones.
    • Part II, Book III, ch. 3
  • An honest man's word is as good as his bond.
    • Part II, Book IV, ch. 34
  • Good wits jump; a word to the wise is enough.
    • Part II, Book IV, ch. 37
  • Diligence is the mother of good fortune, and idleness — its opposite — never brought a man to the goal of any of his best wishes.
    • Part II, Book IV, ch. 38
  • What a man has, so much he's sure of.
    • Part II, Book IV, ch. 38
  • The pot calls the kettle black.
    • Part II, Book IV, ch. 38
  • Mum's the word.
    • Part II, Book IV, ch. 44
  • I shall be as secret as the grave.
    • Part II, Book IV, ch. 62
  • The ass will carry his load, but not a double load; ride not a free horse to death.
    • Part II, Book IV, ch. 71
  • He ... got the better of himself, and that's the best kind of victory one can wish for.
    • Part II, Book IV, ch. 72
  • Every man was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
    • Part II, Book IV, ch. 73
  • There is a strange charm in the thoughts of a good legacy, or the hopes of an estate, which wondrously alleviates the sorrow that men would otherwise feel for the death of friends.
    • Part II, Book IV, ch. 74
  • For if he like a madman lived,
    At least he like a wise one died.
    • Don Quixote's epitaph

unplaced as yet by chapter :

Fortune leaves always some door open to come at a remedy.
Take care, your worship, those things over there are not giants but windmills.
  • I am almost frighted out of my seven senses.
  • Well, now, there's a remedy for everything except death.
  • Didn't I tell you, Don Quixote, sir, to turn back, for they were not armies you were going to attack, but flocks of sheep?
  • The painter Orbaneja of Ubeda, if he chanced to draw a cock, he wrote under it, "This is a cock," lest the people should take it for a fox.
  • Many count their chickens before they are hatched; and where they expect bacon, meet with broken bones.
  • I find my familiarity with thee has bred contempt.
  • Delay always breeds danger.
  • Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be!
  • Fortune leaves always some door open to come at a remedy.
  • I never thrust my nose into other men's porridge. It is no bread and butter of mine; every man for himself, and God for us all.
  • Take care, your worship, those things over there are not giants but windmills.
  • A knight errant who turns mad for a reason deserves neither merit nor thanks. The thing is to do it without cause.
  • In me the need to talk is a primary impulse, and I can't help saying right off what comes to my tongue.
  • I can tell where my own shoe pinches me; and you must not think, sir, to catch old birds with chaff.
  • Let each man say what he chooses; if because of this I am criticized by the ignorant, I shall not be chastised by the learned.
  • "You are a villain and a scoundrel," said Don Quixote, "and you are the one who is vacant and foolish; I have more upstairs than the whore who bore you ever did."

La Gitanilla (The Little Gypsy)

  • Don't put too fine a point to your wit for fear it should get blunted.
  • My heart is wax molded as she pleases, but enduring as marble to retain.

Quotes about Cervantes

  • Cervantes, Don Quixote — I read that every year, as some do the Bible.
  • The biography of Cervantes provides an extremely typical example of what could befall a man living during the transition from romantic chivalry to realism. Without knowing this story it is impossible to appreciate Don Quixote sociologically. ... The parodying of chivalry was no new thing in his lifetime ... In Italy, where knighthood was represented to some extent by middle-class elements, the new chivalry did not take itself quite seriously. It was doubtless here, that Cervantes was prepared for his sceptical attitude, here in the home of liberalism and humanism, and it was to Italian literature that he probably owed the first suggestion for his epoch-making joke. His work was not intended, however, merely to take a rise out of the artificial and mechanical novels of fashion, nor to become merely a criticism of out-of-date chivalry, but also to be an indictment of the world of the disenchanted, matter-of-fact reality, in which there was nothing left for an idealist but to dig himself in behind his idée fixe. The novelty in Cervantes' work was, therefore, not the ironic treatment of the chivalrous attitude to life, but the relativizing of the two worlds of romantic idealism and realistic rationalism. What was new was the indissoluble dualism of his world-view, the idea of the impossibility of realizing the idea in the world of reality and of reducing reality to the idea. ... He wavers between the justification of un-wordly idealism and of worldy-wise common sense. From that arises his own conflicting attitude toward his hero. Before Cervantes there had only been good and bad characters, deliverers and traitors, saints and blasphemers, in literature; here the hero is saint and fool in one and the same person.
    • Arnold Hauser, in The Social History of Art (1951), as translated by Stanley Godman, p. 399

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