Born in 1547--a very important year in European history. Frances I of france died, opening France to half a century of religious turmoil. (for Spain to exploit). Henry VIII died in England, only a year after Martin Luther (in mid-sermon), thus proving to Catholic Spain that God was enthusiastic to its religious cause by removing the two heretics!! Also, in 1547, Emperor Carlos V defeated the Protestant armies at Muhlberg. His explanation, "I came, I saw, and God conquered!"
As Hernan Cortes died in Seville, in the countryside around Alcala de Henares, on Oct. 9, 1547 in the converse quartger of Alcala (a university town 20 m. northeast of Madrid) was born Miguel de Cervantes--his father a barber-surgeon by trade. In his life, Cervantes would be poor, mostly self-educated, physically mutilated, a slave, a jailbird, a social outcast, throughout most of his life an obscure failure. From this life of hardship-enriched soil would come, late in life, books that would bring him fame.
Miguel de Cervantes was not famous when, in late 1604, Don Quixote, was published. He was old, poverty-stricken, maimed in his left hand and from other wounds incurred in the battle of Lepanto. He had written poems, plays, pastoral romances for 25 years without any real success. Yet he worked hard at his new trade that he acquired in his mid-thirties.
Cervantes had been refused a coveted post in the Indies, he had been appointed a tax-gatherer for the Crown, only to be thrown in jail for a shortage in his accounts.
In the 16th century romances of chivalry had enjoyed a tremendous vogue. He wrote a humorous parody of these high-flown chronicles. His original intent was to write a book for wide popular appeal, addressed not to the few of the Spanish Renaissance, but to the innkeepers, students, soldiers foremost. By 1610, the whole of Spain was laughing over the fantastic adventures of the windmill-tilting Don and the inimitable drolleries of Sancho Panza. Lope de Vega and the intellectuals were not enthusiastic about Cervantes. Cervantes was translated into Dutch, English, Flemish within a few years. Today, in 100 languages. One critic called it the "Bible of humanity." Another said, "of all the books, it is the most catholic." (Inspired Melville, Dostoevski (The Idiot) and S. Dali.)
Like Shakespeare's life, Cervantes is shrouded mostly in darkness. Mostly self-educated, fond of reading, drawn to poetry and drama. Had little knowledge of the classics, probably did not have an university education. Was in rome as chamberlain to Cardinal Acquaviva. Sent home certificate of "old Christian" stock (no Jewish blood in his veins). Enlisted in Spanish legion stationed in southern Italy and fought with distinction at Lepanto. In 1575, on route with brother Rodigo back to Spain was captured for five years by Algerian pirates--in December, 1580 back in Madrid (Captive Tale in Part I) Married a peasant girl Catalina...in 1584--they had no children,...