The author Miguel de Cervantes is a poet, playwright, and novelist who is famously known for his two-part masterpiece “Don Quixote.” A true literary genius, he dabbled with all kinds of writings – despite the misfortunes he encountered along the way.
Miguel de Cervantes Facts
1. He is the author of “Don Quixote,” which is considered one of the world’s greatest literary works.
“Don Quixote” is a two-part novel published in 1605 and 1615, respectively. It is one of the Western world’s well-loved literary classics and is even considered the archetype of the modern novel. As the world’s first bestselling book, it made Cervantes popular not only in Spain, but also in Italy, France, and England as well.
The novel talks about the exploits of the titular character Don Quixote, whose fanaticism for knights had led him to seek adventure with a poor man-turned-squire Sancho Panza. With his trusty old horse, Rocinante, Don Quixote battled windmills – and eventually became the tragic hero he was meant to be.
An interesting fact about Miguel de Cervantes is that “Don Quixote” is so popular that it has been translated into roughly 60 languages, with the English translation being done by Thomas Shelton in 1612. It managed to transcend paper as it has also been adapted into film, TV, and theatre plays.
2. Despite Don Quixote’s bestselling status, it did not make Cervantes rich.
Today, bestselling authors rake in millions of dollars – but that was not the case during Miguel’s time. Writers like him did not earn royalties, even if his masterpiece “Don Quixote” amassed an international following. Even with his numerous fans, Cervantes was not able to make much out of the novel.
3. Unlike most Spanish writers during his time, Miguel de Cervantes did not receive higher education.
An interesting fact about Miguel de Cervantes is that ittle is known about his educational background. There are speculations that he studied under the Jesuits, while some surmise that he studied under Juan Lopez de Hoyos, an Erasmist intellectual. Despite his lack of formal education, Cervantes managed to become one of the most regarded writers of his time by becoming an avid reader of books.
4. He worked as a soldier.
While his calling was writing, Miguel de Cervantes’ profession was defending his mother country that is. While in Italy, he joined the Spanish army. In 1571, he fought at the Battle of Lepanto, where he became known for his bravery. He was sick then, but he refused to stay in the galley – he felt the need to fight alongside his brothers.
Cervantes suffered serious injuries against the Ottoman Turks. Despite a maimed hand and two chest wounds, he literally ‘soldiered on’ for two more years. He even engaged in battles in La Goleta and Tunis although he had a non-working left hand.
5. Miguel de Cervantes became a slave-prisoner under the Turkish command.
Ironically, he was captured by the Turks who he defeated in the Battle of Lepanto. In 1575 he sailed back to Spain in hopes of being promoted captain, unfortunately, the ship he was in was captured. He was sold by the Turks and became a slave-prisoner in Algiers for five years.
All his 4 escape attempts were futile, however, he was not subjected to torture or death by his captors. He was deemed valuable and this favor might have helped save his life. This treatment, however, led to the increase of his ransom payment. In 1580, he was finally freed by his Muslim slaveowners after his family (with the help of Trinitian friars) paid a handsome amount of 500 escudos.
6. Cervantes’ first works did not gain much traction.
Cervantes penned many literary works before Don Quixote, however, they were not met with the warm reception that he would have wanted.
His first novel – the pastoral romance La Galatea – was published in 1585 and was met with lukewarm reviews. He did, however, receive a good payment of 1,336 reales for it.
Miguel then shifted to writing plays, unfortunately, these too did not become popular. An interesting fact about Miguel de Cervantes is that out of the many dramas he wrote, only two have survived to this day – they are La Numancia and El Trato de Argel, which were both staged in the 1580s.
7. His stint in prison led to the development of the novel “Don Quixote.”
Down with his luck in writing, Cervantes decided to apply as a commissary for the Spanish Armada. His work involved amassing resources from the people, however, some refused to provide the supplies that the Armada needed. Though this was not Miguel’s fault, he was charged with maladministration and was imprisoned – although only for a few days.
In 1597, he was again jailed in Sevilla for the financial discrepancies he encountered some three years prior. Though this became a trying time in his life, his moment in lockup fueled him to write the bestselling book “Don Quixote.”
8. Miguel de Cervantes had one child – but she was illegitimate.
He married Catalina de Salazar in 1584, however, this union remained fruitless. Cervantes, however, sired a daughter with Ana Franca de Rojas, an actress with whom he had an affair with. His only heir – although illegitimate – is Isabel de Saavedra, who was born the same year before he married Salazar.
9. Cervantes’ last literary work remains unfinished.
Despite not cashing in on the popularity of “Don Quixote,” Cervantes continued to write. He penned “The Labors of Persiles and Segismunda,” which was left incomplete when he died on April 22, 1616. It was, however, published posthumously a year after his death.
10. No one knows where his remains are buried.
Unfortunately, no one knows where one can pay his respects for Miguel, as he was buried in an unmarked grave in the convent of the Discalced Trinitarians (along what is now known as Calle de Lope de Vega.) An interesting fact about Miguel de Cervantes is that there was no will as well, making his final resting site a guessing game for all.
Miguel de Cervantes led a life ridden with financial difficulties and jailtime. Despite these, he continued to write – eventually completing the novel that would make him popular around the world. Thanks to him, the novel “Don Quixote” continues to be a cult literary hit amongst children and adults alike.
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