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Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra Essay Research Paper

Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra Essay, Research Paper

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was a great Spanish novelist, dramatist, and poet who lived in a period that spanned the

climax and decline of Spain’s golden age. He was known as the Father of The Novel and as the outstanding writer in Spanish

literature. His most famous masterpiece, Don Quixote, was ranked as one of the greatest novels of all time. During his life

Cervantes was a wounded veteran of a ferocious naval battle, and a captive of a eastern potantate. The incidents of his

captivity later became episodes in Don Quixote. His writings showed the influence of literary theory, pastoral novels, and

romances of chivalry.1

Cervantes was born on September 29?, 1547 in the university town of Alcala de Henares. His family lived at 2 Calle de la

Imagen, a street in a quarter of the city heavily settled by Maravos and Moriscos. Cervantes was the fourth son in a family

of seven children. He was the son of a surgeon and a daughter of the small landowners in nearby Arganda, but a surgeon in

16th century Spain was closer to a barber or a butcher than a doctor. For this reason poverty dogged the Cervantes family

throughout Miguel’s youth and also because none of the wealth or property acquired by his father’s family was shared with

Miguel’s family, who was looked upon as an incompetent provider.2

When he was twenty, Cervantes was in the retinue of the Cardinal Nuncio

Acquaviva and spent his service in Rome.3 Without the means for much formal education, he joined the army with his

brother, Rodrigo, in 1568. He fought in the battle of Lepanto where the Spanish established superiority of sea power

against the Turks. Cervantes was sick below deck during the battle and he insisted on joining the battle in a most exposed

position. He fought bravely, receiving two shots in his chest and a wound which rendered his left hand useless the rest of his

life which earned him the nickname the Miamed of Lepanto. Cervantes was lucky, however, and after six months he was will

enough to be discharged.4

In September 1575, Miguel and his brother Rodrigo, having secured permission from their commanders boarded the Sol

and in the company of three other galleys set out from Naples to return to Spain. A storm separated the Sol from the other

ships and on the night of September 26 Cervantes’ ship was attacked and overwhelmed by Barbary pirates. The pirates

returned to Algiers, where Cervantes was separated from his brother and was taken as a slave, He spent the next five

years on Algiers and attempted to escape several times. His first escape was in 1576 which Cervantes bribed a Moor to

act as guide and with eight others quietly went down to the edge of the city one night, and began the trek to to Oran. This

first attempt to escape failed because the guide deserted them.5

In August Cervantes’ brother was ransomed. Cervantes tried to escape again but he also failed this time because he was

betrayed. In 1578, Cervantes tried to escape the

third time but failed again. His fourth attempt to escape also failed in 1579 because he was betrayed again. In 1580,

Cervantes was finally ransomed by his family and a religious order.6

After obtaining his freedom, Cervantes reached Madrid in 1580, seeking employment to repay the cost of his ransom. He

hoped to continue his military career, but he obtained a job as a messenger instead.7 Cervantes later joined a circle of

writers, poets, and playwrights where he began to write verse and prose.8 During this period, Cervantes had an affair with

Ana Franca de Rojas, a Portuguese girl, and had a daugther, Isabel de Saavedra, who was left behind with him after she

deserted him. Shortly after that, Cervantes married Catalina de Salazar.9

In 1583, Cervantes published his first long work, La Galatea. Cervantes wrote many plays during the next 20 years, but he

found few producers who would present them.10 In 1605, his masterpiece, Don Quixote, was published and it became an

immediate best seller throughout the world, second in sales only to the Bible. The full

Spanish title is El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha.11

Don Quixote is about an aged and a poor gentleman, Alonso Quixada, from La Mancha, influenced by reading romances of

chivalry he travels through Andalucia in imitation of the knight-errant and venture forth to do good deeds by fighting giants,

rescue wench, and judge the approval of his so-called lady, Dulcinea del Toboso. On his journey to seek chivalrous

adventures in which he can gain honor and fame, he is accompanied by his fat and talkative squire, Sancho Panzo. In the

end Quixote is tricked by his friends and a scholar disguised as a knight. He returns home and wakens as an ordinary

country gentleman named Alsonso Quijano de Bueno, who soon dies a peaceful and contented death in bed.12

Most modern critics agreed that Don Quixote has another purpose besides humor, but a study of reality, or an examination

of the value of idealism. Many disagreed about the purpose of Don Quixote, but many thought it was a great novel.13 One

who thought this was Macauley, who said that Don Quixote is “the best novel in the world, beyond comparison.” This belief

was and certainly will be shared by lovers of literary excellence everywhere. Cervantes’ purpose was to ridicule the books of

chivalry, which enjoyed popularity even in his day, but he soared beyond this purpose in his wealth of fancy.14

“For my absolute faith in the details of their histories and my knowledge of their

deeds and their characters enable me by sound philosophy to deduce their features, their complexions and their statures,”

says Don Quixote, declared his expertise in knight errantry and also demonstrates both the literal and the symbolic levels of

the novel. The novel provides a cross-section of Spanish life, thought, and feeling at the end of the chivalric age.15

Cervantes became a minor celebrity and occasionally recognized in public after he wrote Don Quixote, but he publish

nothing else for the next eight years. In 1613, Cervantes’ Exemplary Stories appeared. It was ranked as Cervantes’ major

works after Don Quixote. In 1614, he published a long, peculiar poem entitled “Voyage to Parnassus. In 1615, he published

the second part of Don Quixote and Eight Comedies and Eight Entremeses, a collection of play. Cervantes’ last work was

Persiles and Sigismunda. He died four days before Persiles and Sigismunda was completed. Cervantes died on Saturday,

April 23, 1616 at the age of 69.16

Throughout Cervantes’ life, he led a life of hardship and disappointment. He was tempered by a small measure of

recognition from his contemporaries. At the end of his career, Cervantes was still dogged by poverty and he would never

know or profit from the worldwide acclaim Don Quixote would receive. Even though he lived a life of hardships, in the end he

still had good humor and faith which he said before he died. “Good-by, thanks; good-by, compliments; good-by, merry friends. I

am dying, and my wish is that I may see you all soon again, happy in the life to come.”

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