Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (sərvăn´tēz, Span. mēgĕl´ dā thĕrvän´tās sä´ävāŧħrä), 1547–1616, Spanish novelist, dramatist, and poet, author of Don Quixote de la Mancha, b. Alcalá de Henares.

Life

Little is known of Cervantes's youth. He went to Italy (1569), where, in the service of a cardinal, he studied Italian literature and philosophy, which were later to influence his work. In 1570 he enlisted in the army and fought in the naval battle of Lepanto (1571), receiving a wound that permanently crippled his left arm. While returning to Spain in 1575 he was captured by Barbary pirates and was sold as a slave; he eventually became the property of the viceroy of Algiers. After many attempted escapes, he was ransomed in 1580, at a cost that brought financial ruin to himself and to his family. As a government purchasing agent in Seville (1588–97), Cervantes proved less than successful; his unbusinesslike methods resulted in deficits, and he was imprisoned several times.

Works

His first published work was an effusive pastoral romance in prose and verse, La Galatea (1585). Between 1582 and 1587 he wrote more than 20 plays, only two of which survive. He was 58 when Part I of his masterpiece, Don Quixote (1605; Part II, 1615), was published. As a superb burlesque of the popular romances of chivalry, Don Quixote was an enormous and immediate success. A spurious Part II was published in 1614, probably spurring Cervantes to complete the work.

Don Quixote is considered a profound delineation of two conflicting attitudes toward the world: idealism and realism. The work has been appreciated as a satire on unrealistic extremism, an exposition of the tragedy of idealism in a corrupt world, and a plea for widespread reform. Whatever its intended emphasis, the work presented to the world an unforgettable description of the transforming power of illusion, and it has had an indelible effect on the development of the European novel.

Don Quixote is a country gentleman who has read too many chivalric romances. He and the peasant Sancho Panza, who serves as his squire, set forth on a series of extravagant adventures. The whole fabric of 16th-century Spanish society is detailed with piercing yet sympathetic insight. The addled idealism of Don Quixote and the earthy acquisitiveness of Sancho serve as catalysts for numerous humorous and pathetic exploits and incidents. Its panorama of characters, the excellence of its tales, and its vivid portrayal of human nature contribute to the enduring influence of Don Quixote.

In later years Cervantes wrote other works of fiction, including Novelas ejemplares (1613), 12 original tales of piracy, Gypsies, and human passions, drawn from his own experience and molded by his mature craftsmanship. Some of these stories in themselves prove him to be one of the world's great literary masters.

Bibliography

Among the most acclaimed translations of Don Quixote are those by S. Putman (1949), J. M. Cohen (1950), and E. Grossman (2003). See biographies by L. Astrana Marín (in Spanish, 7 vol., 1948–58), F. Díaz Plaja (tr. 1970), and W. Byron (1988); studies by L. Nelson (1969), A. K. Forcione (1982), J. G. Weiger (3 vol., 1979–88), and C. B. Johnson (1983); bibliography by D. B. Drake (1980).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Cervantes
Gary MacEoin.
Bruce Publishing, 1950
Don Quixote de la Mancha
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra; Charles Jarvis; E. C. Riley.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Exemplary Stories
Miguel de Cervantes; Lesley Lipson.
Oxford University Press, 1998
FREE! Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: A Memoir
James Fitzmaurice-Kelly.
Clarendon Press, 1913
Continental Humanist Poetics: Studies in Erasmus, Castiglione, Marguerite de Navarre, Rabelais, and Cervantes
Arthur F. Kinney.
University of Massachusetts Press, 1989
Cervantes and the Turks: Historical Reality Versus Literary Fiction in La Gran Sultana and El Amante Liberal
Ottmar Hegyi.
Juan De La Cuesta, 1992
Cervantes and the Renaissance: Papers of the Pomona College Cervantes Symposium, November 16-18, 1978
Michael D. McGaha.
Juan de la Cuesta-Hispanic Monographs, 1980
Cervantes in Russia
Ludmilla Buketoff Turkevich.
Princeton University Press, 1950
The Phantom Chapters of the Quijote
Raymond S. Willis Jr.
Hispanic Institute in the United States, 1953
Caribbean Knights: Quijote, Galahad, and the Telling of History
Reiss, Timothy J.
Studies in the Novel, Vol. 29, No. 3, Fall 1997
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Cervantes Encyclopedia
Howard Mancing.
Greenwood Press, vol.1, 2004
The Cervantes Encyclopedia
Howard Mancing.
Greenwood Press, vol.2, 2004
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