Quotes by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
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Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's Biography
Spanish novelist‚ playwright‚ and poet‚ the creator of Don Quixote‚ the most famous figure in Spanish literature. Although Cervantes' reputation rests almost entirely on his portrait of the knight of La Mancha‚ El ingenioso hidalgo‚ his literary production was considerable. William Shakespeare‚ Cervantes' great contemporary‚ had evidently read Don Quixote‚ but it is most unlike that Cervantes had ever heard of Shakespeare. In spite of his fame‚ Cervantes remained a poor man.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra lived an unsettled life of hardship and adventure. He was born in Alcalá de Henares‚ a small town near Madrid‚ into a family of the minor nobility. His mother was Leonor de Cortinas; she gave birth to seven children‚ Cervantes was the fourth. Rodrigo de Cervantes‚ his father‚ was an apothecary-surgeon. It has been argued that the family members were of converso origin‚ Jews who had converted to Christianity. Jews also appear as characters in several of Cervantes' plays and novelas.

Much of his childhood Cervantes spent moving from town to town while his father sought work. After studying in Madrid (1568-69)‚ where his teacher was the humanist Juan López de Hoyos‚ he went to Rome in the service of Guilio Acquavita‚ who became a cardinal in 1570. In the same year Cervantes joined a Spanish regiment in Naples. He took part in the sea battle at Lepanto (1571)‚ during which he received a wound that permanently maimed his left hand. Cervantes was extremely proud of his role in the famous victory and of the nickname he earned‚ el manco de Lepanto (the cripple of Lepanto). After recuperation in Messina‚ Sicily‚ he continued his military career.

In 1575 he set out with his brother Rodrigo on the galley El Sol for Spain. The ship was captured by pirates under Arnaute Mami and the brothers were taken to Algiers as slaves. Rodrigo was ransomed in 1577. The Moors though that Cervantes was more valuable captive because he had carried letters written by important persons. Cervantes spent five years as a slave until his family could raise enough money to pay his ransom. During this period he tried to escape several times without success. Cervantes was released in 1580‚ with the payment of 500 escudos raised by his family and the Trinitarian order. He returned to Madrid where he held several temporary‚ ill-paid administrative post. His first play‚ LOS TRATOS DE ARGEL (1580)‚ was based on his experiences as a Moorish captive. In 1584 he married 18 years younger Catalina de Salazar y Palacios‚ the daughter of a well-to-do peasant. The marriage was childless. He had also a daughter‚ Isabel de Saavedra‚ from an affair he had with an actress‚ Ana Franca de Rojas (or Ana de Villafranca). Isabel worked as a servant in the family but her way of life caused him much worries. The other members of the household included his mother and two unmarried sisters.

In the late 1580s Cervantes left his wife. During the next 20 years he led a nomadic existence‚ also working as a purchasing agent for the Spanish Armada and a tax collector. He suffered a bankruptcy and was imprisoned at least twice (1597 and 1602) because of fiscal irregularities. It is generally believed that Cervantes was honest‚ but a victim of a thankless task. For a period he was excummunicated for expropriating grain from Church stores.

Between the years 1596 and 1600 he lived primarily in Seville‚ and by 1604 he had moved to Valladolid‚ where Philip III had established his court. In 1606 Cervantes settled permanently in Madrid‚ where he spent the rest of his life. His economic situation remained difficult. When a nobleman‚ Gaspar de Ezpeleta‚ was mortally wounded on the street in front of Cervantes' house‚ and died there‚ Cervantes and the women in his household were jailed on suspicion of having had something to do with his death. After one Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda published a poor sequel to Don Quixote‚ Cervantes answered to the challenge and produced the second part‚ which appeared in 1615. He died on April 23‚ 1616. Three days before he had finished his novel The Exploits of Persiles and Sigismunda‚ dedicated to the Count of Lemos.

Cervantes started his literary career in Andalusia in 1580. Accroding to Cervantes‚ he wrote 20-30 plays‚ but only two copies have survived. His first major work was the GALATEA (1585)‚ a pastoral romance. It received little contemporary notice and Cervantes never wrote the continuation for it‚ which he repeatedly promised. He also mentions the book in Don Quixote‚ where the priest says to the barber: "His book exhibits some faculty of invention‚ but it proposes things and arrives at no conclusion. In the meanwhile let us wait for the continuation which he promises us; with better luck he may give us something that his wretched circumstances have hitherto denied him." In his play EL TRATO DE ARGEL‚ printed in 1784‚ Cervantes dealt with the life of Christian slaves in Algiers. Aside from his plays‚ his most ambitious work in verse was VIAJE DEL PARNASO (1614)‚ an allegory which consists largely of a rather tedious though good-natured reviews of contemporary poets. Cervantes himself realized that he was deficient in poetic gifts. Later generations have considered him one of the world's worst poets. NOVELAS EJEMPLARES (1613‚ Exemplary Novels)‚ a collection of tales‚ contained some of his best prose work about love‚ idealism‚ gypsy life‚ madmen‚ and talking dogs. At the time he wrote the work‚ the Spanish Moriscos (Muslims) were expelled from Spain.

Tradition maintains‚ that he wrote Don Quixote in prison at Argamasilla in La Mancha. Cervantes' idea was to give a picture of real life and manners and to express himself in clear language‚ "in simple‚ honest‚ and well-measured words‚" as he stated in the prologue to Part I of Don Quixote. 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. According to a story King Philip III of Spain once saw a man reading beside the road and laughing so much that the tears were rolling down his cheeks. The King said: "That man is either crazy or he is reading Don Quixote." However‚ Lope de Vega‚ the most influential playwright at that time‚ slaughtered Cervantes as a poet and novelist in a letter.

Don Quixote (part I; 1605; part II 1615) - Often called the first modern novel‚ originally conceived as a comic satire against the chivalric romances. The work has been interpreted in many ways since its appearance. It has been seen as a veiled attack on the Catholic Church or on the contemporary Spanish politics‚ or symbolizing the duality of the Spanish character. Cervantes himself had believed in uplifting rhetoric‚ fought for Spain‚ and when he returned to Madrid after slavery‚ he found out that the government ignored his services. The English writer Ford Madox Ford stated in The March of Literature (1938) that Cervantes did with his book to the world a disservice: "The gentle ideal of chivalry is the one mediaeval trait which‚ had it survived as an influence‚ might have saved our unfortunate civilization." Another major theme is the notion of quest‚ in this case not the Holy Grail‚ but reality. By traveling‚ Don Quixote is able to overcome his madness.

Neither wholly tragedy nor wholly comedy Don Quixote gives a panoramic view of the 17th-century Spanish society. Central characters are the elderly‚ idealistic knight‚ who sets out on his old horse Rosinante to seek adventure‚ and the materialistic squire Sancho Panza‚ who accompanies his master from failure to another. Their relationship‚ although they argue most fiercely‚ is ultimately founded upon mutual respect. In the debates they gradually take on some of each other's attributes.

Before the good Knight of La Mancha dubs himself Don Quixote‚ his name is Quijida or Quesada. His is a country gentleman‚ around fifty. During his travels‚ dressed in a old‚ black suit of armor‚ Don Quixote's overexcited imagination blinds him to reality: he thinks windmills to be giants‚ flocks of sheep to be armies‚ and galley-slaves to be oppressed gentlemen. Sancho is named governor of the isle of Barataria‚ a mock title‚ and Don Quixote is bested in a duel with the Knight of the White Moon‚ in reality a student of his acquaintance in disguise. Don Quixote is passionately devoted to his own imaginative creation‚ the beautiful Dulcinea. "Oh Dulcinea de Tobosa‚ day of my night‚ glory of my suffering‚ true North and compass of every path I take‚ guiding star of my fate..." The hero returns to La Mancha‚ and only at his deathbed Don Quixote confesses the folly of his past adventures. – Cervantes's influence is seen among others in the works of Sir Walter Scott‚ Charles Dickens‚ Gustave Flaubert‚ Herman Melville‚ Fyodor Dostoyevsky‚ also in the works of James Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges‚ who wrote a short story about an author‚ Pierre Menard‚ who undertook to compose Don Quixote – not another Quixote‚ but the Quixote. After studies of Spanish‚ history‚ and the Catholic faith‚ he writes the novel‚ word for word. " Cervantes's text and Menard's are verbally identical‚ but the second is almost infinitely richer. (More ambiguous‚ his detractors will say‚ but ambiguity is richness.)" - Borges in 'Pierre Menard‚ Author of the Quixote' - See also: Torquato Tasso‚ Anton Tammsaare
Some rights reserved Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto 2008