Beyond the decisive contributions he made to the structuring of the Castilian language and his impressive literary work, Miguel de Cervantes is one of the most fascinating figures in history. The life of El Manco de Lepanto is as interesting as his literary creations.
His greatest work, The ingenious hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha, is the most read text in all history. Only the Bible exceeds it. As they say, Sigmund Freud learned to speak in Spanish, just for the pleasure of reading that book in its original language. However, Miguel de Cervantes barely earned income from this gigantic contribution to universal literature.
“Poetry may be enhanced by singing humble things.”
-Miguel de Cervantes-
Miguel de Cervantes, like other great writers of history, did not complete higher studies, nor did he have access to important teachers. Really little is known about his life, especially about his early years. On the other hand, thousands of analyzes and an incalculable amount of comments have been written about his work.
Miguel de Cervantes, the stutterer
The whole life of Miguel de Cervantes was marked by economic difficulties. It is surmised that he was born on September 29, 1547, in Alcalá de Henares. He was the son of Rodrigo de Cervantes, a man of modest life who practiced as a surgeon, without having completed the studies for it. The family went from here to there, always looking for better fortune. That made Miguel not have continuous training.
Miguel de Cervantes was stuttering. He did not regret his condition, but, on the contrary, joked about it. He was also a great theater enthusiast. He spent many evenings attending the works of Lope de Rueda, which were presented at the time.
It is believed that due to legal problems he left Spain for Rome, where he joined the military. This led him to participate in the battle of Lepanto, in 1571. It was part of a naval battle against the Turks, in which they wounded his left hand with an arquebus, for which that limb was rendered unusable. He then traveled throughout Italy and became familiar with local literature.
Cervantes the slave
During the return trip from Italy, where he had spent several years, to Spain, the ship he was on was attacked by Turkish pirates. They captured him and sold him as a slave, along with his brother Rodrigo who accompanied him. The two lived in slavery for five years in Algiers, until their family collected the money to pay the ransom and sent an emissary to carry out the management.
Shortly after returning to Spain, he married Catalina Salazar de Palacios. He also began to work in bureaucratic jobs of low draft, as his original family went through great economic hardships. From 1587, he began to act as general commissioner of supplies, a minor position that, in any case, put him in touch with picturesque town figures.
His marriage was actually unfortunate. Miguel de Cervantes never refers to his wife in his autobiographical notes. After two married years, and due to the trips that his position implied, they hardly saw each other. They had no children, although he did have a daughter with a married woman, whom he recognized when she was 16 years old.
The last years of genius
Miguel de Cervantes was imprisoned in 1597, accused of having appropriated public money. It was in prison that the seed of what would be Don Quixote was born. By then, several of his works had been published, particularly short novels and plays. Although his work was always well received, he did not report higher economic gains.
The only image that remains of Miguel de Cervantes is the drawing he made of himself, in the prologue of the exemplary Novels. There he describes himself as an aged and toothless man. Therefore, the images we know today are only an approximation to their true appearance.