The Unfortunate Life and Posthumous Fame of Miguel De Cervantes
Everybody who has read classical literature knows the name, Miguel de Cervantes, the author who wrote the novel “El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha” in two parts, the first in 1605 and the second in 1615. It changed literature forever became that great masterpiece, which has been accredited as the primary literary work whose influences seem endless and unmatched. It is only second to the Bible in print which has sold more copies and translated into most languages around the globe. It might be surprising that with so much success, Cervantes led an unfortunate life, but his enormous fame for his novel spread quickly just before and after his death.
In 1605, Cervantes published the first part of Don Quixote tells the story of a man in his fifties who becomes so obsessed by the centuries’ old stories about brave knights that he seeks out his own adventures. He is dubbed a knight, but soon gets lost in his own fantasy world, believing he is an important knight. He convinces a poor peasant, Sancho Panza, to serve as his squire. Possibly the most famous scene in the novel, is when the deluded Don Quixote fights a windmill, which he believes is a giant. Cervantes created many other comical scenes in which the odd knight sees reality as a medieval fairytale. As the novel continues in the second book, Quixote finally regains his senses before the end of the novel.
Cervantes attempted writing novels, plays, sonnets, and short stories before 1613. However, his literary works were published but they never made him famous nor rich. He wrote many literary works which did not become successful until after his death. Even after he wrote and published “Don Quixote”, like most writers at the time, he received little or no money during his life for one of the world’s most famous literary production.
Cervantes was a soldier who fought the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, sustained serious injuries in the conflict. He suffered from two chest wounds and his left hand was completely maimed. Despite his disability, however, Cervantes continued to serve as a soldier for several more years.
Cervantes and Rodrigo, his brother, were captured during their voyage by a group of Turkish ships on their way home to Spain. Cervantes subsequently spent five years as an enslaved prisoner and made several failed yet daring attempts to escape his imprisonment. By 1580 he was finally able to return home after a ransom was paid for his release. When he returned to Spain, he worked as a supplier of goods needed by the Spanish Armada but failed to acquire the funds, which he could not help. As a result, he was put in jail, although it was not his fault.
In 1597, he was put in jail again for financial problems. Here he began collecting ideas for Don Quixote based on his life and its influences.
When Miguel de Cervantes died in 1616, his obituary would have summarized his life in this way: Cervantes was a financially poor soldier of misfortune. He served many years in several jails. He wrote and published literature that few people read. However, he wrote a novel that quickly became popular worldwide, known familiarly as “Don Quixote” or “El Quixote”. The name “Cervantes” became synonymous with Spanish “language” and “literature”. Every Spaniard recognizes the name, “Miguel de Cervantes”, and for many years, “Don Quixote de la Mancha” has been required reading in Spanish classrooms. If Cervantes’ life had continued beyond 1616, he would have been Spain’s most famous celebrity, as he is today.