Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes

Don Quixote of La Mancha has been unanimously defined as the top work of universal literature and one of the greatest creations of human ingenuity. Also considered the start of the modern novel and conceived initially by Miguel de Cervantes as a parody of the books of chivalry, the Quixote is an externally comic book and intimately sad, a portrait of admirable ideals Burlescamente confronted to the miserable reality; There are few parallels that have been wanted to establish with the Imperial Spain of the Austrias, hegemonic power destined to govern the world in the sixteenth century and to collapse in the XVII, and with the life of its author, gloriously wounded in the triumph of Lepanto and then doomed To all sorts of unfortunates.

Unlike that of his contemporary Lope de Vega, who met from a young age as a playwright and poet and also as a seducer, the life of Cervantes was certainly an uninterrupted series of small domestic and professional failures, in which neither missed the Captivity, nor unfair prison, nor public affront. Not only did it not have income, but it was hard for him to attract the favours of patrons or protectors; To this was added a particular bad fortune that pursued him throughout his life. Only in his last years, after the success of the two parts of Don Quixote, he knew a certain tranquillity and could enjoy the recognition towards his work, but never to overcome the economic hardships.

Biography of Miguel de Cervantes

Fourth of the seven children of the marriage of Rodrigo de Cervantes Saavedra and Leonor de Cortinas, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was born in Alcalá (dynamic headquarters of the second Spanish university, founded in 1508 by Cardinal Cisneros) between September 29th (day of San Miguel) and on October 9, 1547, when he was baptized in the parish of Santa María la Mayor.

His father’s family knew prosperity, but his grandfather John, graduated in law by Salamanca and Judge of the Holy Inquisition, left home and began an erratic and dissipated life, leaving his wife and the rest of his children in indigence , so that Cervantes ‘ father was obliged to exercise his office as a barber surgeon, which turned the childhood of little Miguel into a tireless pilgrimage through the most populous Castilian cities. On the maternal side, Cervantes had a grandfather magistrate who became ephemeral landowner in Castile. These few data concerning the professions of the ancestors of Cervantes were the basis of the theory of Américo Castro on the origin convert (Jews obliged to become Christians since 1495) of both parents of the writer.

He left Alcalá to look for New horizons in the prosperous Valladolid, but suffered seven months in prison for defaults in 1552, and settled in Cordoba in 1553. Two years later, in that city, Miguel joined the new Jesuit school. Although not a person of great culture, Rodrigo cared about the education of his children; The future writer was a Precocísimo reader and his two sisters knew how to read, a very unusual thing at the time, even in the upper classes. Otherwise, the family situation was precarious.

Miguel de Cervantes

Miguel de Cervantes

In 1556 Leonor sold the only remaining servant and left for Seville in order to improve economically, because this city was the gateway of Spain to the riches of the Indies and the third city of Europe (after Paris and Naples) in the second half of the 16th century. At the age of seventeen, Miguel was a shy and stutterer teenager, who attended class at the Jesuit college and was distracted as a regular spectator of the representations of the popular Lope de Rueda, as he would later remember, in 1615, in the prologue to the edition of his own Comedies: «I remembered to have seen represent the great Lope de Rueda, a man distinguished in representation and understanding».

In 1551 the until then small and quiet villa of Madrid had been converted into capital by Felipe II, so in the following years the city Quintuplicaría its size and population; Born again by the eagerness to prosper, the Cervantes moved in 1566 to the new capital. It is not known for certain that Cervantes had attended the university, although in his works showed familiarity with the uses and customs students; Instead, his name appears in 1568 as the author of four compositions in an anthology of poems in praise of Isabella of Valois, third wife of Philip II, who died that same year. The book’s editor, the humanist Juan López de Hoyos (Cervantes ‘ probable introducer to the reading of Virgil, Horacio, Seneca and Catullus and, above all, to that of the humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam) refers to Cervantes as “our dear and beloved pupil”. Others venture, however, that in the circle or school of Hoyos, Cervantes had been a teacher and not a disciple.

Soldier of Lepanto

In the year of 1569 a Miguel de Cervantes was sentenced in Madrid to arrest and amputation of the right hand for injuring a certain Antonio de Segura. The penalty, current, was applied to anyone who dared to make use of weapons in the vicinity of the royal residence. It is not known if Cervantes left Spain that same year fleeing this sanction, but the truth is that in December 1569 was in the Spanish domains in Italy, provided with a certificate of old Christian (no ancestors Jews or Moors), and months later was Soldier in the company of Diego de Urbina.

But the great expectation of war was set in the campaign against the Turk, in which the Spanish Empire enciphered the continuity of its dominance and hegemony in the Mediterranean. Ten years before, Spain had lost in Tripoli forty two boats and eight thousand men. In 1571 Venice and Rome formed, with Spain, the Holy Alliance, and on October 7, commanded by the bastard half-brother of the King of Spain, John of Austria, the Spanish armies defeated the Turks in the Battle of Lepanto. It was the immediate glory, a glory that marked Cervantes, who would relate many years later, in the first part of Don Quixote, the circumstances of the struggle. In his course he received three wounds, one of which, if this hypothesis is accepted, he forever unused his left hand and earned him the nickname of “The Manco of Lepanto” as a timbre of glory.

Together with his younger brother, Rodrigo, Miguel de Cervantes came into battle again in Corfu, also under the command of Juan de Austria. In 1573 and 1574 he was in Sicily and in Naples, where he maintained loving relations with a young woman whom he called “Silena” in his poems and of which he had a son, promontory. It is possible that it passed by Genoa to the orders of Lope de Figueroa, since the city Ligurian is described in its exemplary novel The Licensed stained Glass, and finally it was directed to Rome, where frequented the house of the Cardinal Acquaviva (to whom the Galatea would devote), Known to him perhaps from Madrid, and by whose account he would have fulfilled some missions and commissions.

This was the time when Miguel de Cervantes proposed to obtain a higher social and economic situation within the militia by means of his promotion to the degree of captain, for which he obtained two letters of recommendation before Felipe II, signed by Juan of Austria and by the VI Rrey of Naples, in which his valiant performance was attested in the Battle of Lepanto. With this intention, Rodrigo and Miguel de Cervantes embarked on the schooner Sol, which departed from Naples on September 20, 1575, and what was to be an expedited return to the Fatherland became the beginning of a unfortunate and long adventure.

Captivity in Algiers

Shortly after sailing, the schooner was lost after a storm that separated it from the rest of the flotilla and was approached, at the height of Marseille, by three Corsairs Berber in command of an Albanian renegade named Arnaue Mommy. After fierce combat and the ensuing death of the Christian captain, the brothers fell prisoner. The letters of recommendation saved Miguel de Cervantes’s life, but would be, at the same time, the cause of the prolonged of his captivity: Mommy, convinced to be in front of a main person and of resources, made him his slave and kept him apart from the usual exchange of Prisoners and the traffic of current captives between Turks and Christians. This circumstance and his crippled hand exempted him from going to the galleys.

Algiers was at that time one of the richest trade centers of the Mediterranean. In him many Christians went from slavery to wealth giving up their faith. The traffic of people was intense, but the family of Cervantes was well away from being able to gather the necessary amount even for the rescue of one of the brothers. During his prison, Cervantes starred in four escape attempts. The first was a frustrated attempt to arrive overland to Oran, which was the closest point of Spanish domination.

The second, a year after that, coincided with the preparations for his brother’s release. Indeed, Andrea and Magdalena, the two sisters of Miguel de Cervantes, kept a lawsuit with a wealthy Spaniard named Alonso Pacheco Pastor, during which they showed that due to the marriage of this his earnings as Barragans would be depleted, and, according to Custom, they obtained gifts that were destined to the rescue of Rodrigo, who would leave Algiers on August 24, 1577. The brothers were able to say goodbye despite the failure of Miguel’s second attempt to escape, which was saved from the execution thanks to his owner as a “main man”.

The third attempt was much more dramatic in its aftermath: Miguel de Cervantes hired a messenger to bring a letter to the Spanish governor of Oran. Intercepted, the messenger was sentenced to death and impaled, while the writer was suspended the two thousand lashes to which he had been condemned and amounted to death. Once again, the presumption of wealth allowed him to conserve life and lengthened his captivity. This was happening in the early 1578.

Finally, a year and a half later, Miguel de Cervantes planned a flight in the company of a renegade of Granada, the Licentiate Girón. Betrayed by such a white of peace, Cervantes was chained and locked up for five months in the prison of Moors convicts of Algiers. He had a new owner, King Hassan, who asked for six hundred ducats for his ransom. Cervantes was terrified: he feared a transfer to Constantinople. Meanwhile, her mother, Doña Leonor, had initiated proceedings for her rescue. Pretending to be a widow, collected money, obtained loans and guarantees, was put under the patronage of two friars and, in September 1579, gave to the Council of the Crusades Four hundred seventy and five duchies. Hassan retained Cervantes until the last moment, while the friars negotiated and asked for alms to complete the amount. Finally, on September 19, 1580, he was released, and after a month in which to clear his name pleiteó against Blanco de Paz, he embarked for Spain on October 24th.

Return to the Motherland

Five days later, after a decade of captivity, Cervantes arrived in Denia and returned to Madrid. He was thirty three years old and had spent the last ten between war and prison; The situation of his family, impoverished and indebted to the Council of the Crusades, reflected in some way the deep general crisis of the Empire, which would worsen after the defeat of the Invincible Armada in 1588. When he returned, Cervantes renounced the military career, became enthusiastic about the prospects of prosperity of the Indian officials, tried to obtain a position in America and failed. Meanwhile, the fruit of his clandestine relations with a young married woman, Ana de Villafranca (or Ana de Rojas), was born a daughter, Isabel, raised by her mother and by the one who appeared as her putative father, Alonso Rodríguez.

At thirty-seven years old, Miguel de Cervantes married; His girlfriend, Catalina de Salazar and Palacios, was from a family of Esquivias, peasant village of La Mancha. He was only eighteen years old; However, it does not seem to have been a union marked by love. Months before, the writer had finished his first important work, the Galatea, a pastoral novel style put in vogue by the Arcadia of Jacopo Sannazaro eighty years ago. The editor Blas de Robles paid him 1,336 reais for the manuscript.

Miguel de Cervantes

This figure nothing negligible and the good reception and the relative success of the book encouraged Cervantes to devote himself to writing comedies, although he knew that evil could compete him, still respectful of the classical rules, with the new mode of Lope de Vega, absolute owner of the scene Spanish. The first two (the comedy of confusion and Treaty of Constantinople and death of Selim, written towards 1585 and disappeared both) obtained relative success in their representations, but Cervantes was defeated by the Lopesco Gale, and in spite of the twenty or thirty Works composed at this stage (of which we only know nine titles and two texts, the deals of Algiers and Numancia), around 1600 had ceased to write comedies, activity that would take again at the end of its days.

Between 1585 and 1600 Miguel de Cervantes fixed his residence in Esquivias, but he used to visit Madrid alone; There he alternated with the writers of his time, read his works and maintained a permanent complaint with Lope de Vega. In 1587 he joined the Academy of Imitation, Madrid’s first literary circle, and that same year he was appointed royal commissioner of Abastos (species collector) for the Invincible Armada. This fate was also adverse to him: in Écija he confronted the church for his excessive zeal and was excommunicated; In Castro del Río he was imprisoned (1592), accused of selling some of the requisitioned wheat. When his mother died in 1594, he left Andalusia and returned to Madrid.

But economic hardships continued to accompanying. Named tax collector, broke the banker who had given important sums and Cervantes gave with his bones in prison, this time in Seville, where he remained five months. In this time of extreme deprivation it probably began the writing of Don Quixote of La Mancha. Between 1604 and 1606, the family of Cervantes, his wife, his sisters and his hardened natural daughter, as well as his nieces, followed the court to Valladolid, until King Felipe III ordered the return to Madrid.

Don Quixote

In 1605, at the beginning of the year, the ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha appeared in Madrid. Its author was then a man enjuto, slender, of fifty and eight years, tolerant with his turbulent family, unskilled to make money, pusillanimous in peacetime and decided in the war. Fame was immediate, but the economic effects were barely noticeable. When in June of 1605 the whole Cervantes family, with the writer at the head, he went to jail for a few hours because of a murky affair that only tangentially touched them (the death of a gentleman assisted by the women of the family, occurred after being wounded to the P Uertas of the House), Don Quixote and Sancho already belonged to the popular acquis.

Its author, meanwhile, continued to pass narrowness. He offered no respite even the literary life: animated by the success of Don Quixote, he joined in 1609 in the Brotherhood of slaves of the Blessed Sacrament, which also belonged to Lope de Vega and Francisco de Quevedo. It was this custom of the time, which offered Cervantes the opportunity to obtain some protectorate.

Miguel de Cervantes

In that same year the decree of expulsion of the Moors was signed and the hardening of the Spanish social life was accentuated, subjected to the rigor inquisitorial. Cervantes saluted the expulsion with joy, while his sister Magdalena entered a religious order. They were years of writing of Testaments and sordid strife: Magdalena had excluded Isabel in favor of another niece, Constance, and Cervantes renounced his part of his brother’s estate also in favor of it, leaving out his own daughter, engaged in a Endless lawsuit with the owner of the house in which he lived and in which Miguel de Cervantes had been obliged to testify in favor of his daughter.

Despite not getting even (as neither did Góngora) be included in the entourage of his patron the Earl of Lemos, newly appointed new Viceroy of Naples (which, however, gave him concrete samples of his favor), Miguel de Cervantes wrote at an unstoppable rate : The exemplary novels saw the light in 1613; The journey to the Parnassus, in verse, in 1614. That same year surprised him the appearance, in Tarragona, of a second spurious part of Don Quixote written by a Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda, who proclaimed authentic continuation of the adventures of Hidalgo. Thus, sick and urged, and as he prepared the publication of the eight comedies and eight new hors d’oeuvres never represented (1615), he finished the second part of Don Quixote, which would be printed in the course of the same year.

At the beginning of 1616 he was finishing an adventure novel in Byzantine Style: the works of Persiles and Sigismunda. On April 19 he received the rites and the following day he wrote the dedication to the count of Lemos, an offering that has been considered as an exquisite display of his genius and poignant autobiographical expression: “Yesterday I got the rites and today I write this; Time is short, cravings grow, hopes dwindle, and with all this I lead life on the desire I have to live… ‘

Miguel de Cervantes

A few months before his death, Miguel de Cervantes had had a moral reward for his hardships and economic woes: one of the censors, the graduate Marquez Torres, sent him a recommendation in which he told a conversation held in February 1615 with Notable Knights of the French ambassador’s entourage: «Preguntáronme his age, his profession, quality and quantity. I was about obliged to say that he was old, soldier, Hidalgo and poor, to which one answered these formal words: “For such a man does not have Spain very rich and sustained by the public purse? “. Another of those knights came with this thought and with much sharpness: “If need must compel you to write, plague God who never has abundance, so that with his works, being he poor, make everyone rich “».

In fact, translations were already circulating in English and French since 1612, and it can be said that Miguel de Cervantes knew that with Don Quixote he created a new literary form. He also knew that he introduced the genre of the short novel in Castilian with his exemplary novels and undoubtedly guessed the unlimited reaches of the pair of characters he had conceived. His contemporaries, while recognizing the vividness of his ingenuity, did not glimpse the depth of the discovery of Don Quixote, the very foundation of the modern novel. Thus, between 22 and 23 April 1616, he died in his home in Madrid, assisted by his wife and one of his nieces; Wrapped in his Franciscan habit and with his face uncovered, he was buried in the convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians, at the then-called Cantarranas Street. At the beginning of 2015, a group of investigators who had proposed to locate his tomb found a coffin with the initials “M.C. “, but the examination of its contents revealed that it could not be that of the writer. In March of the same year, scholars concluded that their mortal remains were buried in the basement of the crypt, mixed after a transfer with those of sixteen other people.

The sources of Miguel de Cervantes ‘ art as a novelist are complex: on the one hand, Don Quixote and Sancho are parodies of the Knights-errant and their squires; On the other, they exalt fidelity to honor and the struggle for the weak. In Don Quixote, realism and fantasy converge, meditation and reflection on literature: The characters argue about their own entity of characters while the borders between delirium and reason and between fiction and reality are erased again and again. But the course of Cervantes, who attended both the imperial glories of Lepanto and the defeats of the invincible on the shores of England, only knew the distastes of poverty and Zozobras to power. Backwards than his character, he could never escape his destiny of Hidalgo, soldier and poor.

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