No doubt one of the most well-known figures in Spanish literature, the author of Don Quixote was also a playwright and a poet. Despite his famous novel's success, however, Cervantes lived in poor lifestyle for most of his life. Much of his famous novel's content reflects his interests and difficulties at the time.
Although the exact date of Miguel's birth is unknown, it can be inferred that he was born on the 29th of September, the day of San Miguel. Regardless, he was most definitely born in the university town of Alcalá de Henares, baptized on October 9th, 1547, in the church of Santa María. His parents were Doña Leonor de Cortinas and Don Rodrigo de Cervantes, a surgeon who struggled to balance his work and his family. As a result of the latter, much of Miguel's childhood was comprised of traveling through Spain.
Thought to have attended school at Sevilla and Valladolid, it is known for sure that he went to the school of Juan Lopez de Hoyos, a Spanish humanist. Cervantes travelled to Italy in 1569 to serve an Italian nobleman, joining a Spanish Regiment in Naples the next year. He fought the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto, where he injured his left hand to the point of uselessness while aboard the Marquesa. Returning to the soldier's life in the next year of 1572, Miguel participated in numerous further battles with his brother Rodrigo and Manuel Ponce de León. In 1575, he and his brother left for Spain, but were captured by pirates and became slaves in Algiers. A little while after his brother was freed, Cervantes was also able to return.
Even though he had returned from Algiers, Miguel was still gravely in debt. Therefore, he decided to rejoin the army, in 1582 taking part in the battle of "Las Azores". It was the next year that he began writing his famous works of literature, returning home with the romance La Galatea and part of Persiles y Segismunda.
Upon marrying Doña Catalina de Palacios Salazara, Miguel Cervantes was able to get a job as a tax collector in Sevilla, where he was arrested twice. Therefore, the legend that he wrote the first half of Don Quixote in jail is well supported. Unfortunately, Miguel's luck in literature was not any better while in Sevilla, with most of his poems remaining unpublished. His song El entierro del Rey Felipe II en Sevilla received some attention, however.
While La gitanilla and Rinconete y Cortadillo are also among his most famous works, Cervante's most well known contribution to literature is his novel Don Quixote. While Miguel Cervantes quickly became a success after the first part was published, his problems with money were far from gone.
Miguel Cervantes also accomplished things while living in Madrid, from 1609 to 1616. During his first year there he became a member of "Los Esclavos del Santo Sacramento," a new fraternity, his wife entering the convent of the order of San Francisco. Cervantes joined the literature club "Academia Salvaje" in 1612. The next year, he wrote Novelas Ejemplares. The year after that, in 1614, Miguel also wrote two versions of his poem Viaje del Parnaso. Inspired by another author publishing the second part of Don Quixote, Cervantes continued his famous story in 1615.
In conclusion, Miguel Cervantes contributed vastly to modern literature, using his unique experience and adventures to create a body of works that have stood the test of time. In fact, upon his death he was laid to rest on April 23, 1616, the same time that Shakespeare was buried.